B-class destroyer, HMS Bulldog (H91) (1945)

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B-class destroyer, HMS Bulldog (H91) (1945)

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Design History:

HMS Bulldog was one of 9 B-class standard Destroyers laid down as part of the 1928 naval program. These ships were the second wave of standard destroyers ordered by the royal navy, which intended to have all destroyers in service be identical in terms of tactical capacity. Because of this HMS Bulldog was initially identical to all other B class destroyers, in terms of amament and specification. Like all other B-class destroyers bar the flotilla leader HMS Keith, she displaced 1,360 long tons (1,380 t) at (standard load) and 1,790 long tons (1,820 t) at deep load. The vessel had an 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 ship was powered by a pair of Parsons geared steam turbines, driving two shafts, to a total shaft horsepower of 34,000 (25,000 kW), giving a top speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph). The steam to power these turbines was provided by the at the time standard three Admiralty 3-drum boilers, that were fueled by 390 long tons (400 t) of fuel oil, giving the ship a range of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). HMS Bulldog had a complement of 134 officers and enlisted during peace time, though this would be increased to 142 during wartime service.

The armament of this ship is often miss-reported, due to the some what obscure nature of convoy escorts, as they simply lacked the photogenic appeal of battleships and heavy cruisers. Because of this sources often miscite the armament carried, even when it conflicts directly with historical photos of the ship, thankfully due to her role in liberating Gurnsey from german occupation at the end of the second world war there are several high quality images of the ship, allowing its configuration during the end of the war to easily be discerned. Her initial configuration is well known though, and consisted of four quick-firing (QF) 4.7-inch Mk IX guns in single mounts, though they differed for a time from other members of her class by being mounted on C XIII mounts which were capable of 60-degree elevation for testing purposes. These were supplimented by two 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF 2-pounder Mk II AA guns on a platform between her funnels for AA defense. In addition to this the ship was fitted with a pair of above-water quadruple torpedo tube mounts for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes. The ship was also equipt with limited anti submarine equiptment, totallying one depth charge rail and two throwers with a total of 20 depth charges carried, though with the outbreak of the war this was quickly increased to 35. Like all B-class destroyers HMS Bulldog was fitted with a Type 119 ASDIC set to detect submarines through sound waves that would reflect off the submarine.

This layout would change as the war progressed though, and by april of 1941 the ship’s AA armament was increased when a 3-inch (12-pounder) AA gun, in exchange for the loss of the rear torpedo tubes. In late 1941 in order to facilitate its new role as an escort destroyer, HMS Bulldog exchanged its “A” gun with a Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar, and was one of the first 3 ships in royal navy service to be equipt with one. The theme of losing her main armament continued, when in early 1943 she had her "Y’ gun removed in order to increase her depth charge storage to 70 charges, additional depth charges in turn replaced the 12 pounder as it was deemed unfit for use. At some point the 2-pounder pom poms were replaced by Oerlikon 20 mm cannons with four more following later as a pair were added to the wings of the forward superstructure along with two more behind the remaining torpedo mount giving a total of 6. This was finally supplimented in 1944 by a modern Mark VIII 2 pounder Pom pom mount on the tip of the bow to combat german e-boats, though this is often missidentified as a QF 6-pounder gun even if the two look nothing alike.

Service History:

HMS Bulldog was ordered on 22 March 1929 from Swan Hunter at Wallsend, along with the other 9 B-class destroyers as part of the 1928 Naval Programme. She was laid down on the 10th of august 1929, and was launched on the 6th of december 1930 as the 6th Royal Navy ship to carry this name. Bulldog would be completed on april 8th of that next year at the cost of £221,408, which excluded items provided by the admiralty such as guns and communications equiptment. After commissioning she was assigned to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla stationed in the Mediterranean, until september of 1936, when she was transferred to the home fleet. During her stint in the Med, Bulldog aided survivors of the 1932 Lerissos earthquake and patrolled southern Spanish waters during the first month of the Spanish Civil War without incident. Her service in the Mediterranean involved 2 refits at Gibraltar, in 1932, 1935 and at Malta in 1936.

Upon returning to Birtian, Bulldog found herself under nearly continious repair or refitting at Chatham dockyard, until the 9th of january 1937. The vessel remained with the 4th flotilla until January of 1939 during which she made multiple deployments along the coast of spain to enforce the arms embargo until the 31st of march 1938 when she was again refitted this time at Sheerness Dockyard. During the Munich crisis Bulldog escorted the battleship Resolution to scarper flow, after which she was assigned to the Gibraltar Local Flotilla in January 1939, until she was again reassigned to be a plane guard for the aircraft carrier Glorious in the Mediterranean in March. The ship begining a career as an escort, when in october she was deployed with Glorious, Malaya and the destroyer Daring, as part of a hunting group in the indian ocean based at socotra. She stuck with Glorious when she returned to Malta in january of 1940 for refit, and then shifted roles again as a plane guard for HMS Ark Royal in march of that year. In april though repair was required for Bulldog’s feed water heater, leaving her laid up in Devonport until may 3rd after which she was assigned to the home fleet as part of a force consisting of HMS Birmingham and 13 destroyers. This force set off in search of german minelayers off the mouth of the Skagerrak. The ships were not located, but a force of German E-boats were spotted, though they managed to flee before they could be intercepted. One of the E-boats launched a spread of torpedos that hit the destroyer Kelly causing serious damage, though it would not prove fatal, and HMS Bulldog was able to tow Kelly to hebburn for repairs, though she did sustain damage in the process, which required Bulldog herself to be repaired by Swan Hunter from the 13-21st of may. After repairs, Bulldog would only be action for a couple of days, before damaging her propellers on the 27th of may, requiring her to go for repairs Chatham Dockyard until 4 June, after which she was transferred to the 1st Destroyer Flotilla.

With them she sailed for Le Havre, on the 9th of June, to assist in the evacuation of British expeditionary force troops during Operation Cycle, where she found herself under attack, and she was severely damaged by three hits from german aircraft that knocked out her steering gear. This damage was partially negated through effective temporary repairs and she reached Portsmouth dockyard the following morning. Whilst under repair the germans attacked again and she was further damaged by splinters from an air raid on august 24th, which delayed her repairs from being completed until the 2nd of september. With repairs completed she rejoined her flotilla, until january 2nd 1941, where she underwent refit at Cammell Laird, and was reassigned to the 3rd escort group for convoy escort duties to and from iceland. It was during one of these missions escorting convoy OB 318 that would change the course of the war, as the ramshackle flottila encountered two german uboats in the space of only a few days. The first was pretty text book, with Bulldog along with the destroyer Amazon and the sloop Rochester damaging U-94 forcing it to retreat and disengage from its anti shipping mission. The second though was more important though, as the corvette Aubritetia depth-charged U-110 during an attempted attack forcing the submarine to surface. Sensing opertunity Bulldog and her sister ship Broadway fired upon the stricken uboat, holing her and preventing her from escaping. With blood in the water they proceded to charge down the crippled submarine, whose crew were frantically abandoning. In the confusion Sub-Lieutenant David Balme of Bulldog led a boarding party that sucessfully seized the submarine, allowing the enigma coding machine and various codebooks to be safely extracted from the flooding vessel. This act of gallantry would prove invaluable to the war effort, as the books and machine allowed the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park to crack the German naval codes, an action that is estimated to have knocked two years off the war.

With the submarine seized, she was taken under tow as a war prize, though unfortunately she sank the following morning from the damage sustained during the battle. Secure in its role, Bulldog remained on the Atlantic convoy duties until October, after which she sailed to Fairfields in Govan, for additional modifications to improve her role as an Escort Destroyer, which took until february of 1942. Part of this conversion included the addition of a Type 271 target indication radar, which would be further supplimented by a Type 290 short-range surface search radar in 1944. Bulldog became an unattached escort ship of the western approaches command from 10th of february 1942, and aided the destroyer Richmond after she had collided with the American merchant ship SS Francis Scott Key on the 31st of March, during convoy PQ 14 from eban scotland to Reykjavík, Iceland. On april 12th she rejoyed the convoy en rout to Murmansk, arriving a week later, before joining the returning convoy QP 11 with the same ships. HMS Edinburgh joined the convoy 2 days later, only to be hit by a pair of torpedos from U-456, resulting in HMS Bulldog becoming the flagship of the convoy, as the the heavily damaged cruiser began to limp back to Murmansk.

On the 1st of may the convoy was then attacked by a flotilla of three german destroyers who had been sent to destroy the crippled Edinburgh. Z7, Z24 and Z25, prompting the captain of the Bulldog, Commander Maxwell Rchmond to challange the germans in a three hour battle with his four outdated destroyers (HMS Amazon, HMS Beverley and HMS Beagle), during the engagement Amazon was severly damaged, and Bulldog was damaged by shell splinters, but they managed to drive off the german force who instead went in search of easier prey. After that excitement, the rest of the convoy’s journey was uneventful, and HMS Bulldog underwent repairs from teh 2nd of june to the 14th of august, before being assigned to the Greenock Special Escort Division, where she would be involved in the allied landings in north africa. On december 20th, Bulldog would be assigned to escort the convoy JW 51B, but had to return home for repairs to damage caused by incliment weather on the 28th of december. After these repairs were completed she returned to escorting convoys between iceland and the UK for the next 2 months, before sailing to Freetown for additional escort duties between Lagos, freetown and Gibraltar. After this Bulldog returned home in october for a lengthy refit at Portsmouth Dockyard that lasted between the 8th of november 1943 to the 24th of may 1944, as the aging vessel was givien a complete overhaul. With this done she returned to her convoy duties between the river Clyde and the Faeroe Islands, where she sank U-719 with her hedgehog on the 26th of june. The submarine was lost with all 52 hands.

On the 20th of august Bulldog was again badly damaged, this time after a collision with the Loch-class frigate Loch Dunvegan in Gourock Bay. her repairs took place at Ardrossan, and they lasted until the 4th of september, after which she returned to her convoy duties, until requiring major machinery repairs in November. The ship basically running on gaffertape and glue at this point, though the repairs were completed on the 30th of January 1945, allowing the destroyer to preform convoy duties between Plymouth and various irish ports for the remainder of the war. The final highlight of its career would come on the 9th of may 1945, when she sailed for Guernsey in order ot participate in the Liberation of the German-occupied Channel Islands. The german officers officially surrendering to British representatives onboard the ship, marking the end of the occupation of Guernsey. After this Bulldog was placed in Category ‘B’ reserve on 27 May at Dartmouth, before being transferred to Rosyth on the 27th of november and reduced to catagory ‘C’ reserve on the 13th of December. Because the state of the ship was haggard after going through the war, she was deemed surplus to requirements and approved for scrapping on the 22nd of december. She would then be turned over to Metal Industries, Limited on 17 January 1946 and scrapped in that year, marking the end to the ships interesting career.

Vehicle Specification:

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Displacement: 1,360 long tons (1,380 t) (standard)
1,790 long tons (1,820 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 × 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: 142

Sensors and processing systems: Type 119 ASDIC, Type 290 short-range surface search radar and Type 271 target indication radar

Armament: 2 × single 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns

6 x Oerlikon 20 mm cannon in single mounts

1 x Mark VIII 2 pounder Pom pom mount on the tip of the bow

1 × quadruple 21 in (533 mm) torpedo torpedo tubes

1 x Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar

2 x depth charge rails holding 6 charges and 4 x depth charge throwers with a total of 70 depthcharges

Additional historical pictures:

Photo showing HMS Bulldog in her original configuration:

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Another photo showing her during interwar service:

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Images showing HMS Bulldog during the altercation it had with U-110 that resulted in her capturing an enigma machine, an action that is thought to have shortened the war by two years:

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Sources: