Banff-class sloop, HMS Walney (Y04)
Design And Service History:
Intially designed for the United States Coast Guard as one of 10 lake-class cutters, under the name USCGC Sebago, after Lake Sebago the second largest and deepest lake in Maine. The cutter was laid down on that the General Engineering and Drydock at Oakland, California and launched on the 12th of April 1930. From this point it entered service without issue and would perform 11 uneventful years of service in the USCG, before being transfered to the Royal Navy as part of Lend-Lease on the twelfth of May 1941 under the name HMS Walney, after Walney island in south Cumbria. This transfers took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the newlyrechristened Banff-class sloops would be initially manned for transport to Britian by personnel from the damaged battleship Malaya which was under repair there after suffering damage from a torpedo attack off Trinidad. The sloops were initally used as part of convoy defence, and served as a component of the Western Approaches command were they were used to escort convoys such as the SL convoys from Sierra Leone to Liverpool.
To preform this role their Armament was modified from when they were in service with the USCG, as the armament of 2 × 5"/51 caliber guns, 3 × 3"/50 caliber guns and 2 × 6-pounder (57 mm) hotchkiss guns was deemed unsuitible for Submarine defense. Because of this the Armament was modified on the sloops was modified to allow them to better forfill their new role, which included the addition of 20mm anti air defense guns, removal of the obselete Hotchkiss guns, the addition of 16 depth charges mounted in two 8 charge racks, and the obligatory lewis guns, that found their way onto every small vessel under the admiralty at this time. The changes and placmenet of cannons were not standardized though, and varried quite drastically between vessels, with HMS Walney retaining 1 x 5"/51 caliber gun, 3 × 3"/50 caliber guns, and gaining 4 20mm guns at the expense of the 2 hotchkiss guns, along with the 16 depth charges previosuly mentioned.
HMS Walney briefly served in its original american designation when joined the Londonderry Sloop Division in June of 1941, where she was assigned to escort Atlantic convoys on the western approaches. This was swiftly changed in July when she underwent refit and modifications at Liverpool shipyard to render her fit for service as an escort. With this done she returned to service on the Western Approaches before being swiftly reassigned to screening convoys as required, including those from Gibaltar, Gambia, Freetown. during this time she had several additional refits to improve her equiptment, including the addition of Huff-Duff High-frequency direction finding equptment. This escorting of convoy’s was breifly interupted on march 3rd of 1942 when HMS Walney was involved in a minor collision with the SS Empire Dolphin. Thankfully the damage was above the waterline, and HMS Walney remained operational, and was deployed the next day to escort OS-21, a convoy of 54 merchant vessels on passage from West Africa to Liverpool. During this escort mission she was detached to instead protect SL-104, a different convoy of 30 merchant vessels also heading to liverpool. Upon arriving on april 12th, HMS Walney underwent another refit at Chatham Dockyard, which repaired the damage, and lasted until the 20th of July, upon which she returned to convoy protection under the 41st group based at Londonderry. During Walney’s deployment in this period no merchant vessels were lost under her protection, earning her and her recognition from the admiralty, which awarded her the battle honour “Atlantic 1941–42”.
This career would soon change upon her return to Londonderry though, as she was, along with her 8 surviving sister ships nominated for special duties during the planned North African landings (Operation Torch). She was assigned the task of breaking into Oran harbour, than under the control of the Vichy french, to prevent the sabotage of the port, before allied forces could take it. This plan involved multiple small flotillas attacking ports along the algerian coast. She shared this role in operation Reservist with HMS Hartland, another Banff-class sloop she had served along side with for most of her Royal Navy career. The operation commenced on 8 November, but the situation rapidly turned into a shambles, as both Walney and Hartland entered the harbour and nearly instantly came under heavy fire from the French shore defences and warships. Walney managed to ram both the outer and inner booms, but was eventually sunk when coming under basically point blank fire from the French minesweeper Surprise. The ship swiftly began to sustain heavy damage, and before long her boiler room was breached, causing her to lose all power and being capsizing. The ship managing to reach the jetty, though she was unable to deply her cargo of 200 men from the American 2nd Battalion 6th Armored Infantry Regiment and a 35-strong US Naval contingent, with six US Marines. The ship would at this point rapidly begin to sink, with only 14 of the crew (The captain and 13 ratings) managing to make it to shore, before being captured by the french garrison. 81 of her crew and most of the troops being carried went down with the ship, as they joined the 90% or so allied participants who were casulties of this little excursion. The POW’s were soon liberated by the main force of Operation torch upon their arrival forcing a french surrender, and for his efforts Cpt Peters was awarded the Victoria cross, though he would never receive it in person, as during his return to England via Short Sunderland the plane crashed in fog off Plymouth Sound, and died in the arms of the Aircrafts pilot while awating rescue.
Displacement:1,546 long tons (1,571 t; 1,732 short tons)
Length: 250 ft (76.20 m) o/a
Beam:42 ft (12.80 m)
Draught: 16 ft (4.88 m)
Propulsion: Two oil-fueled Babcock & Wilcox boilers, Curtis turbine generator, Single shaft electric motor producing 3,200 ihp (2,400 kW)
Speed: 16 knots (29.6 km/h,18.4125 mp/h )
Range: 7,542 nautical miles (13,968 km) at 12 knots (22.2 km/h)
Armament: 1 × 5"/51 caliber gun
3 × 3"/50 caliber guns
4 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
4 × .303" (twin)
16 x depthcharges in two 8 charge racks
Additional Historical Pictures:
Two images showing HMS Walney capsized in Oran Harbour:
Painting depicting HMS Walney when under fire in Oran Harbour:
- Banff-class sloop - Wikipedia (Overview of the class)
- USCGC Sebago (1930) - Wikipedia (overview of HMS Walney)
- HMS Walney, cutter (Complete service history of HMS Walney)
- OVERLORD'S BLOG: Terminal Reservist (Overview of operation Reservist, in which HMS Walney was lost)
- Reddit - Dive into anything (Source of the battle painting showing HMS Walney being lost in Oran)
- Blueprints > Ships > Ships (UK) > HMS Walney (Sloop) (USS CGC-51 Sebago) (1942) (source of the Blueprint for HMS walney)
- https://picryl.com/media/hms-walney-uss-sebago-lying-on-its-side-by-the-inner-breakwater-of-oran-harbour-03b362 (source of the other image of HMS Walney capsized in Oran harbour)