USS Welles (DD-257 )/ HMS Cameron

USS Welles (DD-257)/ HMS Cameron was a Clemson class destroyer that served with the neutrality patrols after the outbreak of war in 1939 before going to Britain under the Destroyers for Bases deal. She didn’t survive for long in British service, as she was badly damaged by a German bomb at Portsmouth in December 1940 and never returned to service.

The Welles was named after Gideon Welles, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy during the Civil War and under President Johnson.

The Welles was laid down by Bethlehem at Quincy on 13 November 1918, launched on 8 May 1919 (when she was sponsored by Miss Alma Freeman Welles, the Secretary’s grand-daughter) and commissioned on 2 September 1919.

USS Welles (DD-257) dressed with flags
USS Welles (DD-257)
dressed with flags

Like many of her sister ships the Welles had a short career in US service. She joined Squadron 2, Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet, based at San Diego, but was decommissioned on 15 June 1922. She remained out of commission until the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, and was then recommissioned on 6 November 1939 (slightly behind the first wave of destroyers, recommissioned in September).

The Welles needed a spell at the Mare Island Navy Yard that lasted from late December 1939 into early 1940 before she was ready for service. On 5 February she and the Williams (DD-108) left San Diego heading for the Panama Canal. She passed through the canal, and arrived at Guantanamo Bay on 25 February 1940. She spent the next two weeks patrolling the area outside the bay, as part of Destroyer Division 67 (Welborn C. Wood (DD-195), Abel P. Upshur (DD-193), and division flagship Herndon (DD-198)). In mid-March the division moved to Norfolk, Virginia. On 6 April she departed for San Juan, Puerto Rico, arriving on 10 April. She spent the next week on a mix of patrols and exercises with the cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) before returing to San Juan. She spent a few days patrolling near San Juan. The first half of May was spent in the Virgin Islands before she returned to San Juan.

In June she departed for Cuba. Later in June she paid a visit to Great Bahamas, bringing 57 men from the Crowninshield (DD-134) back to Guantanamo Bay. She remained in Cuba until 27 July when she departed for the Panama Canal. In August she passed through the canal twice, carrying out exercises during the brief time she was on the Pacific coast.

By this point she had been selected as one of the destroyers to go to Britain under the Destroyers for Bases deal. She moved to the east coast where she was prepared for the exchange. On 5 September she departed for Halifax, arriving on the following day. She took on a party of six officers and 120 men from the Royal Navy, who were given some training in their new ship and then on 9 September she became one of the first eight ships to be transferred.

As HMS Cameron (I.05)

The Cameron had a very short career in British service. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 8 or 9 September 1940, but she then needed repairs to a generator which delayed her departure for Britain. She finally departed in October 1940, arriving on 8 November. She then moved to Portsmouth, and on 20 November she entered the Royal Dockyard for a major overhaul to make her suitable for British service. It is possible that she was to be converted into a long range escort ship by having one of her boilers replaced with extra fuel storage.

On 5 December 1940 the Germans bombed Portsmouth. The Cameron was vulnerably exposed to damage in Dry Dock No.8, and she was hit by a high explosive bomb which set her oil fuel on fire and lifted her off the supporting blocks. She suffered more damage when she was flooded by the fire fighting effort. That week’s Weekly Resume of the war assumed that she was a total writeoff.

The Cameron was too badly damaged to be worth returning her to active service. She was refloated on 23 February 1941 and later redesigned as a hulk. However she did still find a useful purpose. Experts from the US Navy examined her to learn how to improve the damage control measures in use on the remaining members of the class, and considered her to be the most badly damaged hull seen before Pearl Harbor. The British also found a use for her – between July 1942 and September 1943 she was subjected to shock tests by the Admiralty Committee on Shock in Ships. This committee helped develop a number of methods for reducing the damage caused by shock, including placing absorbent pads between the main machinery and the ship’s hull, which reduced the damage to engines caused by bombing.

The Cameron was paid off on 5 October 1943 and towed to Falmoth to be scrapped in November 1944.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35.51kts at 24,890shp at 1,107t on trial (Preble)


2-shaft Westinghouse geared tubines
4 boilers
27,000shp (design)


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 10.5in


Four 4in/ 50 guns
One 3in/23 AA gun
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple mountings
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement



8 May 1919


2 September 1919

Paid off

5 October 1943

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 (22 January 2020), USS Welles (DD-257 )/ HMS Cameron ,

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