USS Twiggs (DD-127)/ HMS Leamington

USS Twiggs (DD-127)/ HMS Leamington was a Wickes class destroyer that served in four different navies - the US Navy, the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Soviet Navy, and ended her life as a film star.

The Twiggs was named after Levi Twiggs, an officer in the Marine Corps during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

The Twiggs was laid down on 23 January 1918, launched on 28 September 1918 and commissioned on 28 July 1919. She joined Division 16, Squadron 4, Pacific Fleet in October 1919, and was based at San Diego until the spring of 1922. The future Admiral William M. Callaghan served on her between 12 August and 11 October 1921. She was decommissioned on 24 June 1922.

USS Twiggs (DD-127), 1930s
USS Twiggs (DD-127), 1930s

The Twiggs was recommissioned on 20 February 1930 and became the flagship of Destroyer Division 14. She served with the Battle Fleet until the spring of 1931, when after that year's fleet exercises she was transferred to the Scouting Fleet (soon renamed the Scouting Force). She was based at Charleston, and served as the flagship of Destroyer Division 7 until the spring of 1933.

In the spring or early summer of 1933 (probably the early summer) the Twiggs moved back to the Battle Force, becoming part of Destroyer Division 6, Destroyer Squadron 2. She served with this unit until 1 November 1933 when she joined the Rotating Reserve. She was reactivated as part of Destroyer Division 4, Destroyer Squadron 2 on 1 July 1934, and served with the Battle Force against until late in 1936. She was decommissioned once again on 6 April 1937.

After the outbreak of the Second World War the Navy decided to recommission 77 destroyers and light minelayesr to help form the 'neutrality patrol'. The Twiggs was recommissioned on 30 September 1939, and served as the flagship for Destroyer Division 64, Destroyer Squadron 32. In early December the division passed through the Panama Canal to begin operations. Her first two operations were both aimed at Allied ships - first the British destroyer HMS Hereward and then the Australian cruiser HMAS Perth, which was attempting to prevent the German liner Columbus from escaping to Germany. The Twiggs spent most of the rest of the summer of 1940 on a mix of neutrality patrols and training missions.

HMS Leamington (G.19)

The Twiggs was one of the destroyers chosen to go to Britain as part of the 'destroyers for bases' deal. She arrived at Halifax on 16 October 1940, and was decommissioned from the US Navy on 23 October. On the same day she was handed over to the Royal Navy, where she became HMS Leamington. Her first British commadner was Comdr W.E. Banks, D.S.O. The Leamington departed from St. John's, Newfoundland, on 4 November, heading for Britain. On the following day the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay was sunk while attempting to prevent the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer attacking Convoy HX-84 (32 of the 37 ships in the convoy escaped). The Leamington and her fleet passed through the scene of the battle, and spent some time searching for survivors, but with no luck.

The Leamington reached Portsmouth on 15 November, and then joined the 2nd Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, based at Londonderry. During 1941 she was used to escort convoys across the Atlantic. On 11 September, while escorting Convoy SC-48, she and HMS Veteran sank U-207 off the east coast of Greenland.

In March 1942 the Leamington formed part of the escort for the Middle Eastern troop convoy WS-27. On 27 March she joined with three other destroyers to sink U-587. By way of contrast in the summer she was operating in the Arctic, where she formed part of the escort for the doomed convoy PQ-17. When the Tirpitz was reported to be at sea the convoy was ordered to scatter, and in the resulting chaos 23 of the 34 ships in the convoy were sunk by U-boats and aircraft. The Tirpitz herself didn’t take part in the attack.

After a refit that landed from August to November 1942 the Leamington resumed convoy escort duties. On 25 November she rescued seventeen survivors from the merchantship SS Buchanan, sunk by U-224 on 12 November.

In October 1942 the Leamington joined her third navy, when she was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. The RCN used her to escort shipping in the western Atlantic, where the main enemy was the dreadful weather. At its worst she could be coated with up to 10ft of ice during bad storms. On 14 May 1943 she was damaged when she collided with the Albatross (AM-71). The repairs took her out of action until September. In December the RCN returned her to Royal Navy control.

On 16 June 1944 she joined her fourth navy, when she was loaned to the Soviet Union, where she became the Zhguchi ('scorcher' or 'fiery'). She served with the Soviets until 1949, and was returned to Britain in 1950.

In 1951 she was spotted by film producers in a Welsh harbour, and was chosen to play the part of her sister ship HMS Campbeltown, in the film Gift Horse. She officially played the fictional HMS Ballantrae, but her final mission was clearly based on the St. Nazaire raid. For this role she had two of her funnels removed, and was modified to resemble a German patrol vessel, the same modifications that were done to the Campbeltown.

The Leamington was sold on 26 July 1951, and arrived at Cashmore, Newport, to be scrapped, on 3 December 1951.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid Down

23 January 1918


28 September 1918


28 July 1919

Sold for scrap

26 July 1951

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 September 2017), USS Twiggs (DD-127)/ HMS Leamington ,

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