Naval History and Heritage Command

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Crowninshield (Destroyer No. 134)

1919-1941 

Benjamin Williams Crowninshield, born on 27 December 1772 in Boston, Mass., was a member of the well-known family of Salem shipowners and seafarers, and commanded a merchant ship before he was 20. He served in the Massachusetts State Senate in 1811, and was Secretary of the Navy from 1814 to 1818. A Presidential elector in 1820, Crowninshield later served again in his State's Senate, and was a Member of Congress from 1823 to 1831. He died on 3 February 1851.

(Destroyer No. 134: displacement 1,090; length 314'5"; beam 31'8"; draft 8'8"; speed 35 knots; complement 100; armament 4 4-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Wickes)

Crowninshield (Destroyer No. 134) was laid down on 5 November 1918 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 24 July 1919; sponsored by Miss E. C. Davis, great-great-grandniece of Benjamin W. Crowninshield; and commissioned on 6 August 1919, Lt. Cmdr. Ralph E. Sampson in command.

Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Crowninshield conducted operations along the eastern seaboard and into the Caribbean, participating in 1921 in the fleet concentration in the Canal Zone and Cuban waters. During this exercise she carried Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels from Key West to Guantanamo Bay for fleet maneuvers. From 14 November 1921 Crowninshield operated with 50 percent complement until placed out of commission in reserve at Philadelphia on 7 July 1922.

Recommissioned on 12 May 1930, Crowninshield arrived at San Diego, Calif., on 4 April 1931 to join the Battle Force. She took part in fleet problems and exercises on the west coast, in Hawaiian and Caribbean waters; operated with Aircraft, Battle Force; conducted practice cruises to Canadian and Alaskan ports for members of the Naval Reserve; and spent from 15 July to 17 December 1934 in the Rotating Reserve. She lay at San Diego between 30 October and 2 November 1935, for the Presidential Fleet Review and attended the ceremonies opening the San Francisco Bay Bridge in November 1936. Crowninshield was decommissioned at San Diego on 8 April 1937.

Recommissioned 30 September 1939 less than a month after the start of hostilities in Europe following the German invasion of Poland, Crowninshield sailed from Mare Island on 25 November and arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 10 December for duty with the Neutrality Patrol in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. On 9 September 1940 she was decommissioned at Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the first eight "flush-deckers" to be delivered to British authorities in the destroyers-for-bases agreement. She was commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Chelsea, Lt. Cmdr. Richard D. H. S. Pankhurst, RN, commanding, the same day. She was assigned the pendant number I-35.

Chelsea reached Devonport, England, on 28 September 1940. Assigned to the Sixth Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, Liverpool, for Atlantic convoy duty, she fought the double menace of submarine and air attacks on vital supply lines. On 6 April 1941, she rescued 29 survivors of Olga S. which had been sunk by an air attack.

Chelsea joined the corvette HMS Arbutus (K.86) on 5 February 1942 to hunt for a submarine sighted from their convoy, ON-63. Two hours later,Arbutus was torpedoed by U-136 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Zimmermann, commanding). Chelsea opened fire on the surfaced submarine and made three depth charge attacks after she dived but contact was lost and she returned to pick up the survivors from Arbutus. Chelsea rescued the 33 survivors (42 men went down with the ship when she sank, broken in two), nine of whom had suffered critical injuries, and set course for Londonderry, transferring eight badly wounded men ashore for treatment on 7 February, one of the wounded having died during the night. The destroyer then set course for Liverpool, where she put ashore the rest of Arbutus’ survivors on the 9th.

In November 1942, Chelsea was lent to the Royal Canadian Navy and until the end of 1943 operated in the mid and western Atlantic Ocean escorting convoys to and from Great Britain. She returned to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on 26 December 1943 and early in 1944 was reduced to reserve in the Tyne. On 16 July 1944 she was transferred to Russia and renamed Derskyi.

Published: Wed May 22 20:32:17 EDT 2019