USS Williams (DD-108)/ HMCS St. Clair

USS Williams (DD-108) was a Wickes class destroyer that was completed too late for service in the First World War, but that saw extensive use as a convoy escort as HMCS St. Clair during the Second World War.

The Williams was named after John Foster Williams, an officer in the Massachusetts and Continental Navies during the War of Independence

USS Williams (DD-108) in the Mediterranean, 1919
USS Williams (DD-108)
in the Mediterranean, 1919

The Williams was laid down at the Union Iron Works, San Francisco on 25 March 1918, launched on 4 July 1918 and commissioned on 1 March 1919 with Commander Matthias E. Manly in command.

After a brief shakedown cruise the Williams and USS Belknap (DD-251) left Newport, Rhode Island to cross the Atlantic. They reached the Azores on 11 June, and the Williams then moved on to Gibraltar. She was then used to deliver information on the remaining minefields in the Adriatic to the Commander, Naval Forces, Eastern Mediterranean. She had a brief tour of the Mediterranean, visiting Spalato in Yugoslavia, Gallipoli and finally Trieste, where she joined the US flotilla monitoring the tense situation in that port, which was claimed by Italy and Yugoslavia. The Williams was only in the area for a few weeks, and arrived at New York on 1 August 1919.

The Williams was then assigned to the Pacific Fleet, and operated from San Diego for the rest of her first period of service. She was decommissioned at San Diego on 7 June 1922 and placed into the reserve.

At some point during the early 1920s, after her return from the Mediterranean, her aft 4/50 gun was moved onto the top of an enlarged aft deckhouse.

The Williams was one of 77 old destroyers and light minelayers that were recommissioned after the outbreak of the Second World War to bolster the neutrality patrols. The Williams was re-commissioned at San Diego on 6 November 1939, with Lt Commander Louis N. Miller in command. She had a refit at the Mare Island Navy Yard and then spent a short time operating around San Diego. On 5 February 1940 she departed for Panama, along with the USS Welles (DD-257) and USS Bailey (DD-269). She passed through the Panama Canal on 16 February, and then paused at Balboa, and she was present on 18 February when President Roosevelt inspected the defences of the Canal Zone. She them continued on her way with the Bailey, reaching Naval Operating Base Key West on 27 February 1940.

The Williams joined the Atlantic Squadron. She was based at Key West, and carried out quite a varied range of tasks. She was used on neutrality patrols, training cruises, battle practice and ship handling drills. In March 1940 she carried out an astronomical survey in the Bahamas. In April she transported a survey party to Palmetto Island in the British West Indies.

In the summer of 1940 the Williams moved to New York, arriving on 4 June. She carried out two training cruises for the Naval Reserve, before she was chosen as one of the 50 destroyers that were to be given to Britain as part of the Destroyers for Bases deal. She underwent a refit at the Boston Naval Yard, then left Charlestown, Mass, on 18 September, heading for Canada, where she was to join the Royal Canadian Navy.

As HMCS St. Clair

The Williams reached Halifax on 20 September 1940. After a brief familiarization cruise for her new crew she was decommissioned from the US Navy and handed over to Canada on 24 September. She was struck off the US Navy List on 8 January 1941.

The Williams was renamed HMCS St. Clair, taking her name from the river that formed the border between Michigan and Ontario. She was prepared for convoy escort duties, and then departed for Britain on 30 November, along with HMCS St Croix (USS McCook DD-152) and HMCS Niagara (USS Thatcher, DD-162).

The St. Clair operated with the Clyde Escort Force during the first half of 1941, escorting convoys through the western approaches. She was also involved for the hunt for the Bismarck in late May. This brought her into dangerous waters, and on 28 May she was caught in a major German air attack in which the Tribal class destroyer HMS Mashona was sunk. The St. Clair also came under attack, and claimed to have shot down one German aircraft, with a second probable.

During the second half of 1941 the St. Clair operated with the Newfoundland Escort Force, operating between Newfoundland and Iceland. She then underwent repairs at St. John, New Brunswick, before joining the Western Local Escort Force early in 1942. She operated with this force for most of 1942-1943, escorting coastal convoys.

Late in 1943 the St. Clair was withdrawn from frontline service due to her increasingly poor condition. In December 1943 she became a submarine depot ship at Halifax, but this only lasted until August 1944, when she was judged to be unfit for further duty in any capacity.

The St. Clair was then used as a fire fighting and damage control hulk into 1946. She was handed over to the Canadian War Assets Corporation on 6 October 1946, and broken up for scrap.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
34.81kts at 27,350shp at 1,236t on trial (Kimberly)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
27,000shp design


2,500nm at 20kts (design)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4.5in


30ft 11.5in


Four 4in/ 50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedo tubes in four triple mountings
Two 1-pounder AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


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

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 June 2017), USS Williams (DD-108)/ HMCS St. Clair ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy