Did you know that Merthyr adopted its very own warship in the Second World War?
Between 1941 and 1942, the concept of National Savings was introduced by the British government. Each region in the country was provided with a savings target to achieve. This was based on the region’s population, with each general level of savings having a class of warship assigned. This became known as ‘Warship Week’. In one such ‘Warship Week’ in February 1942, Merthyr Tydfil raised the amazing sum of £57,000, the highest amount raised during the period, and was thus ‘awarded’ a ship – HMS Beverley.
HMS Beverley, was actually an old American ship – USS Branch, a Clemson-class destroyer that entered service in 1920. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding, the ship was laid down on 25 October 1918 and launched on 19 April 1919. Commissioned on 3 April 1920 for service in US Navy, she was held in Reserve in 1939 until she was transferred to the Royal Navy under the Lend Lease Agreement on 8 October 1940 and commissioned at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
HMS Beverley was assigned to convoy escort duties, and during 1941 escorted several Atlantic convoys, attacking U-boats on three separate occasions, and escorted several convoys to Malta.
In April 1942 she was an escort for Convoy PQ 14 en route to North Russia. On the journey the convoy was attacked by a superior force of enemy destroyers, which had approached unobserved during a snow storm and fired several torpedoes at a range of 9,000 yards. One merchant ship was sunk. The enemy returned four times and took part in short gunnery duels, but did not close the range below 8,000 yards. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, HMS Beverley and the other escorts outfought the German opposition.
Following a refit, HMS Beverley returned to Atlantic Convoy duties, and would soon see her finest hour, taking part in the one of the most bitterly fought convoy actions of the entire Battle of the Atlantic: the defence of convoys HX-229 and SC-122. The convoys were attacked by over 40 U-boats, and despite heavy losses to the merchant ships, the U-boats were beaten off by HMS Beverley and her fellow escorts.
On her next voyage across the Atlantic, whilst escorting Convoy ON-176, some 360 miles southeast of Greenland, HMS Beverley collided with the merchantman, SS Cairnvolona on 9 April 1943. The incident, occurring in “thick weather,” severely handicapped the destroyer. Two days later, U-188 chanced across her and torpedoed her. The old ship went down quickly, leaving only four survivors. 139 men, including her commanding officer, went down with the ship.
For more information on HMS Beverley please check out the following links: