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Aaron Ward

 

Aaron Ward was born on 10 October 1851 in Philadelphia, Pa. Following graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1871, he was ordered to California on the Pacific station. He next served in Brooklyn in the West Indies from 1873 to 1874, before reporting to Franklin on the European station.

 

Ward served a tour of duty at the Naval Academy from 1876 to 1879. Next he served with the Constitution training squadron in 1879 through 1882. Ward was occupied with various professional duties at the torpedo station in Newport, R.I., and the New York Navy Yard through 1885. From 1885 to 1888 he was stationed in Hartford and Monongehela on the Pacific station. Between 1889 and 1894, Ward served as naval attaché in Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. He sailed with New York in the West Indies and Brazil until 1894, and in San Francisco in the Mediterranean through 1896.

 

During the Spanish-American War, Ward commanded Wasp. Commended for gallantry, he was advanced to lieutenant commander for conspicuous service at the Battle of Santiago. He then commanded Panther for a year in the West Indies, followed by service as chief of staff to the Asiatic station commander. From 1901 to 1908, Ward commanded Yorktown, Don Juan de Austria, and Pennsylvania successively. He served for one year as supervisor of the harbor at New York before becoming an aide to the Secretary of the Navy in 1909. In 1910 Ward was promoted to rear admiral. In 1911 he became second in command of the Atlantic Fleet. Rear Admiral Ward retired on 10 October 1913. He died on 5 July 1918, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

I

 

(Destroyer No. 132: dp. 1,090 (n.); l. 314'4"; b. 30'6"; dr. 8'8"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 159; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt; cl. Wickes)

 

The first Aaron Ward (Destroyer No. 132) was laid down on 1 August 1918 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 10 April 1919; sponsored by Mrs. Washington Lee Capps, the daughter of Rear Admiral Aaron Ward and the wife of Rear Admiral Capps; and commissioned on 21 April 1919, Comdr. Raymond A. Spruance in command.

 

Upon commissioning, the destroyer reported for duty with Division 13, Squadron 2, Atlantic Fleet. She performed her first significant service for the Navy at Trepassy Bay in May 1919 when she served as one of the pickets for the transatlantic flight attempt by three Navy-Curtiss flying boats. One of the boats, NC-4, completed the flight successfully, Aaron Ward continued to serve with Atlantic Fleet until September, at which time she was transferred to the Pacific. Her first assignment there consisted of a month of salvage operations in Angeles Bay, Mexico, to recover a sunken Army plane and the bodies of its crew. At the conclusion of that mission, she began training operations with the Battle Fleet. On 17 July 1920, the Navy adopted the alphanumeric system of hull designations, and Aaron Ward became DD-132. Her work with Battle Fleet was interrupted early in 1921 by two rescue missions near the Canal Zone. Between January and March of that year, she cruised the waters along the coast of the Canal Zone searching for the flying boat, NC—6, which had crashed in the vicinity. In February, she turned from that mission to pursue another errand of mercy, the rescue of survivors from Woolsey (DD—77), which had sunk after a collision with the merchant vessel SS Steel Inventor on 26 February. Aaron Ward resumed normal duty with the Battle Fleet in March 1921 and continued that duty until she was decommissioned on 17 June 1922 and berthed with the Reserve Fleet at San Diego.

The destroyer remained inactive for almost eight years and then was recommissioned at San Diego on 24 May 1930. After active service until mid-1932, she entered the Rotating Reserve in which she alternated active periods at sea with intervals of inactivity at pierside with a minimal crew embarked. The ship continued in that status until December 1934 when she returned to full activity. On 1 April 1937, the destroyer once more was placed out of commission and returned to the Reserve Fleet. On 30 September 1939, Aaron Ward came out of reserve for the final time. Recommissioned on that day—in response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's establishment of the Neutrality Patrol following the outbreak of war in Europe at the beginning of the month—she became flagship of Destroyer Division 65, Pacific Fleet. In December, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and, on the 11th, arrived at Key West, Fla. For the remainder of her United States Navy career, she conducted neutrality patrols in the Gulf of Mexico and in the West Indies.

 

On 9 September 1940, Aaron Ward was decommissioned at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Transferred to Great Britain as one of the overage destroyers traded to that nation in return for the right to establish American bases on British possessions in the western hemisphere, she was commissioned in the Royal Navy that same day as HMS Castleton, Comdr. F. H. E. Skyrme, R.N., in command.

 

Though her name was not struck from the United States Navy list until 8 January 1941, HMS Castleton began service with the Royal Navy almost immediately. She arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 26 September and at Devonport, England, two days later. There, she was assigned to the 8th Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, based at Liverpool, for convoy escort duty. On 21 November, the destroyer rushed to the aid of survivors of two merchant ships from Convoy OB-244, SS Day-dawn and SS Victoria, which had been sunk by U-boat torpedoes. In February 1941, she became a unit of the 17th Destroyer Division and supported the operations of the 1st Minelaying Squadron off the west coast of Scotland. However, in between minelaying support missions, she continued to provide convoy escort services.

 

On 19 November 1941, she suffered damage as a result of an explosion and returned to Greenock. She then entered the yard at Newport in Monmouthshire where she remained until 20 April 1942. Repairs completed, HMS Castleton resumed mining and convoy escort duty. When an American flying boat sank U-464 about half way between Scotland and Iceland, HMS Castleton and another former American destroyer HMS Newark (ex-Ringgold (DD-89)) rushed to the scene,.captured 51 of the submarine's 53-man crew who had taken refuge in an Icelandic trawler, and took the prisoners into Iceland. Castleton then resumed her former duties.

 

On 4 August 1943, she participated in another rescue operation when a Sunderland aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force's No. 423 Squadron sank U-489 but also fell victim to the U-boat's antiaircraft fire. HMS Castleton rescued six of the 11 crewmen of the Sunderland and 54 of the submarine's crew. HMS Orwell assisted her in that operation. During 1944 and 1945, the former American destroyer served with the Rosyth (Scotland) Escort Force and operated frequently as a target ship for aircraft assigned to the northern air stations. She was placed in reserve at Grangemouth, in the Firth of Forth, on 13 March 1945. The warship was ultimately scrapped at Bo'ness, Scotland, on 3 April 1947.