B-class destroyer flotilla leader, HMS Keith (D06) (1940)

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B-class destroyer flotilla leader, HMS Keith (D06) (1940)


Design History:

HMS Keith was the the flotilla leader for the standard interwar B class destroyers, and was similar to the other B class destroyers in configuration though she was of an enlarged design. Due to monatary issues, she was built upon the same hull as her sisters in order to both save money and make her tactically identical to her flotilla mates. To forfill the role of a destroyer leader, she was initially proposed to have an enlarged aft deckhouse to make room for the Captain and his staff at the expense of the “Y” gun and TSDS gear. This idea was soon scrapped though and the gun was reinstated to the design while she was under construction at the Vickers-Armstrong dock in Barrow-in-Furness. Because of this the ship ended up being too small to accommodate the entirety of the staff, forcing the ship HMS Blanche to be fitted out as a divisional leader to carry the surplus staff. The end results of this modification was that HMS Keith was 40 long tons heavier than the other ships in her class at standard load, and nearly 100 long tons heavier at full load, giving her a full load weight of 1.821 long tons (1,850 t) and carried an additional 19 additional officers and ratings when compared to the other B class destroyers.

This gave the ship the overall length of 323 feet (98.5 m), a beam of 32 feet 3 inches (9.8 m) and a draught of 12 feet 3 inches (3.7 m). The destroyer was powered by two Parsons steam turbines driving two shafts, which delivered a total of 34,000 shaft horsepower (25,000 kW) giving a maximum top speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph). The steam for the turbines was provided by three Admiralty 3-drum boilers, which were powered by the 390 long tons (400 t) of fuel oil carried on board, which gave HMS Keith a range of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). Due to its roll as a Destroyer leader, HMS Keith had a larger compliment, coming to 175 officers and men in war time conditions.

In terms of armament, HMS Keith was equipt with the same standard weapony as any other B-class destryoer, that being four 45-calibre QF 4.7-inch Mk IX guns in single mounts, which offered up to 30 degrees of elevation. This was supplimented by a pair of 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF 2-pounder Mk II AA guns mounted on a platform between her funnels for AA defence. HMS Keith was also fitted with a pair of above water quadruple torpedo tube mounts for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes, and one depth charge rail and two throwers were fitted; 20 depth charges were originally carried, but this increased to 35 shortly after the war began.

Service History:

HMS Keith was ordered, on 22 March 1929 from Vickers-Armstrongs at Barrow, under the 1928 Naval Programme and was the the first ship of her name to enter commission in the Royal Navy. The destroyer was laid down on the 1st of October 1929 and launched on the 10th of July 1930. Her build did not see any issues and she was completed on the 20th of march 1931, to the cost of £219,800, though this sum excluded items supplied by the admiralty, such as communications equiptment, ammunition and guns. After commissioning, she was assigned to the 4th destroyer flotilla, as the flotilla leader. HMS Keith fulfilling this role as part of the Mediterranean fleet until 1936, with only one short departure for a refit at Chatham Dockyard between the 4th of september to the 18th of october 1933.

The destroyer would suffer a mishap when she collided with the Greek steamship, Atonis G. Lemos, in the english channel during thick fog on the 24th of august 1936 while en route from Gibraltar to portsmouth for another refit. Because of this damage her refit would not be completed until the 13th of febuary 1937. Due to this damage her crew was reassigned, and as such she proceded to spend six months in reserve at Sheerness, before the ship was recommissioned on the 14th of august 1937 where she replaced HMS Faulknor as the flotilla leader of the 6th destroyer flotilla. This was due to HMS Faulknor sustaining damage from a collision of her own, causing HMS Keith to perform her duties until she was repaired. One of these duties was several months spend deployed off the Spanish Biscay coast during the Spanish civile war, after which she was based in Gibraltar. With Faulknor repaired, HMS Keith returned to Sheerness on november 4th and was again placed on the reserve list. This would again change when she underwent refit at Chatham from may 9th to june 16th of 1938, after which she rejoined the 4th destroyer flotilla now assigned to the home fleet. In january of 1939 she took on the crew of HMS Electra, and transported them to the 5th destroyer flotilla in Gibraltar. The ship remained with the 5th flotilla for a time, before returning to the uk for a refit that lasted from mid may to mid july of 1939 at which point she was again placed in reserve. This short stint in reserve would not last long though, and she was soon recommissioned and assigned to the 17th destroyer flotilla of the home fleet.

This meant that she was swiftly transferred to the western approaches command for anti submarine patrols when war was declared, and one of her first roles was escorting a convoy carring the british expeditionary force to france. The need for flotilla leaders resulted in HMS Keith being tranferred to the 22nd destroyer flotilla on october 29th, and in december she underwent propeller repairs at HM Dockyard devonport that lasted until the 10th of january. Due to restructuring she was then assigned to the 19th destroyer flotilla, where she escorted her sister ship HMS Boadicea while she towed the damaged oil tanker John F. Meyer to Southampton, after which she returned to her escort and patrol duties until the german attack that would lead to the fall of france. The attack on may 10th 1940 changing plans, as they launched their blitzkreig of france and the low countries. HMS Keith seeing action that day when she and her sister HMS Boreas escorted the Arethusa light cruisers HMS Arethusa and HMS Galatea, as they carried a large amount of bullion from the Dutch port of IJmuiden to the United Kingdom to stop it falling into german hands. This run was repeated 2 days later when on the 12th of may Keith returned to the Hook of Holland to evacuate allied troops. The ship making one more return to the Dutch coast when the W-class destroyer Whitley ran aground after receiving heavy damage from german aircraft on may 19th, forcing Keith to scuttle her. On may 21st HMS Keith then formed a flotilla of 4 destroyers that evacuated 468 civilians from France. Two days later she made her way to Boulogne-sur-Mer, to load British troops in need of evacuation, when she was suddenly hit by a mortar bomb and raked with machine gun fire that killed her captain and wounded many others forcing HMS Keith to flee to the uk immediately afterwards.

This did not keep her out of the fight long though, and on the night of 30/31 May, the ship joined Operation Dynamo when she successfully helped to evacuate 992 Allied troops to Dover. This luck would not hold though, and when she returned later that morning to De Panne and became flagship of Rear-Admiral Frederic Wake-Walker, commander of the evacuation. This painted a target on the ship, and she was swiftly attacked by aircraft later that morning, with the first hit damaging her steering gear, leaving her vunerable to the second, when a bomb went down the aft funnel and exploded directly in boiler no. 2 causing a catastrophic explosion that killed everyone in the section and starting a massive fire. With no power available the ship began to founder, as with her anchor down there was no way to attempt to tow and recover her forcing the Rear-Admiral to order all hands to abandon ship. Keith soon sank from her damage at 0945 at 51°04′46″N 02°26′47″E with the loss of Three officers and 33 ratings. Other ships in the vicinity helped to rescue survivours, and eight officers and 123 crewmen were saved. The rear admiral himself swiftly commandeering MTB 102, in order to continue the evacuation, the story of which can be found in my previous suggestion for the vessel which can be found here:

Vehicle specification:


Displacement: 1,400 long tons (1,400 t) (standard)
1,821 long tons (1,850 t) (deep load)

Length: 323 ft (98.5 m) o/a

Beam: 32 ft 3 in (9.8 m)

Draught: 12 ft 3 in (3.7 m)

Installed power: 34,000 shp (25,000 kW)
3 × Admiralty 3-drum boilers

Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × Parsons geared steam turbines

Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)

Range: 4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)

Complement: 175

Sensors and processing systems: Type 119 ASDIC

Armament: 4 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mk IX guns
2 × single QF 2-pounder (40 mm) Mk II AA guns
2 × quadruple 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
35 × depth charges, 1 rail and 2 throwers

Additional Historical Images:

Photo of HMS Keith’s wreck site off Dunkirk:

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Photo showing HMS Keith Underway circa 1931:

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