Levi Twiggs was born in Richmond County, Ga., on 23 May 1793 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on 10 November 1813. During the War of 1812, he saw action on board President and was captured when that frigate was taken, after a gallant defense, by a squadron of four British warships. After being imprisoned at Bermuda, he was freed when word of the Treaty of Ghent reached that island. Over two decades later, he took part in the Indian Wars in Florida and Georgia in 1836 and 1837. When the war with Mexico opened, Major Twiggs requested an active part in the fighting and was attached to the Marine Battalion which left New York in June 1847. He was felled by enemy fire as he led a storming party in the assault on Chapultepec before Mexico City on 13 September 1847.
The first Twiggs (Destroyer No. 127) was laid down on 23 January 1918 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 28 September 1918; sponsored by Miss Lillie S. Getchell, the granddaughter of Major Twiggs; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 28 July 1919, Comdr. Isaac C. Johnson, Jr., in command.
Following shakedown, the destroyer joined Division 16, Squadron 4, Pacific Fleet, late in October 1919 and operated out of San Diego, Calif., on training cruises through the spring of 1922. While performing this duty, Twiggs was classified DD-127 on 17 July 1920 during the Navy-wide assignment of alphanumeric hull numbers. A combination of factors (increased operating costs, manpower shortages, and the general anti-military climate which followed World War I) resulted in a reduction of the Navy's active Fleet. Accordingly, Twiggs was decommissioned at San Diego on 24 June 1922.
After almost eight years of inactivity, Twiggs was placed in commission again on 20 February 1930 at San Diego, Lt. Comdr. Thomas S. King II in command. She became flagship of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 14 and conducted operations out of San Diego with the Battle Fleet until late in the year. Early in February 1931, she headed south from San Francisco with the Battle Fleet to participate in the annual Fleet concentration with the Scouting Fleet. At the end of the exercises on 15 March 1931, Twiggs was reassigned to the Scouting Fleet, soon to be redesignated the Scouting Force as a result of the Fleet Reorganization of 1 April 1931. Twiggs' new home port was Charleston, S.C., whence she operated as flagship of DesDiv 7 until late in the spring of 1933. Sometime between 1 April and 1 July 1933, she rejoined the Battle Force destroyers on the west coast as a unit of DesDiv 6, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 2. The destroyer was completely active until 1 November 1933 when she joined Rotating Reserve DesRon 20 at San Diego. She remained there in a caretaker status, with a minimum crew on board, until 1 July 1934 when she returned to fully active duty with DesDiv 4, DesRon 2. She operated out of San Diego with the Battle Force destroyers until late in 1936 when she began preparations for decomissioning. On 6 April 1937, Twiggs was placed out of commission and berthed at San Diego once again.
Towards the end of the destroyer's sojourn in San Diego's "red lead row," Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. To augment the "neutrality patrol" which President Roosevelt had placed around the eastern seaboard and Gulf ports, the Navy quickly set the wheels in motion to recommission 77 destroyers and light minelayers which had lain in reserve at either Philadelphia or San Diego. As part of this operation, Twiggs was recommissioned at San Diego on 30 September 1939, Comdr. Lyman K. Swenson, who was later killed in Juneau (CL-52) at Guadalcanal in November 1942-in command.
As flagship for DesDiv 64, DesRon 32, Twiggs initially operated out of San Diego on shakedown and training cruises through November. In company with eight of her sister ships, she transited the Panama Canal early in December. Soon after reaching her new base at Key West, Fla., Twiggs got underway to shadow the British destroyer HMS Hereward. Later in the month, she joined sister ship Evans (DD-78) and Vincennes (CA-44) in keeping a close watch on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth as the British man-of-war prowled the Gulf of Yucatan on the alert to intercept the German liner Columbus which was attempting to slip through the Royal Navy to safety in Germany. The Americans maintained such a close surveillance of the Australian ship that her exasperated commander, Capt. F. B. "Fearless Freddie" Farncomb, was heard to remark: "Queer idea of 'neutrality' these Americans have! "
During her subsequent operations with DesDiv 64, Twiggs conducted neutrality patrols, training cruises for Naval Reserve contingents, battle practices, and exercises through the summer of 1940.
Meanwhile, by the spring of 1940, the Allied cause had taken a decided turn for the worse, as Norway fell after a disastrous British-Norwegian defense, and France and the Low Countries crumbled under the German blitzkrieg. In addition, German submarines, preying upon the convoys which served as England's lifeline, began taking heavy tolls on merchantman and escort alike. After the fall of France, Britain found herself very much alone in her struggle to prevent German hegemony in Europe.
With British destroyer forces in bad shape (the beatings taken in Norway, in the Atlantic convoy lanes, and in the Dunkirk evacuation had cut deeply into the Royal Navy list of escort ships) Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to the United States for aid. By the summer of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt hit upon a solution to the problems respectively facing the United States and Great Britain. Accordingly, he and the Prime Minister reached the "destroyers for bases" agreement, whereby the United States transferred 50 overage, flush-decked, four-piped destroyers to the British in return for 99-year leases on strategic base sites in the Western Hemisphere.
As the summer of 1940 gave way to fall, Twiggs began preparation for her transfer to the United Kingdom. She arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, the turnover point for the "50 ships that saved the world," on 16 October 1940. The destroyer was decommissioned on the 23d, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1941.
Turned over to the Royal Navy on 23 October 1940, the flush-decker became HMS Leamington (G.19), with Comdr. W. E. Banks, a holder of the Distinguished Service Order, in command. She shifted to St. John's, Newfoundland, whence she departed on 4 November as part of the 4th "Town" Flotilla, bound for the British Isles. En route to Belfast, Northern Ireland, she and her sister ships passed through the scene of the action fought on the 5th by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, in defense of the homeward-bound Convoy HX-84, against the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer. Jervis Bay's gallant delaying action enabled 32 of the 37 ships in the convoy to escape, although she herself was sunk in the action. Leamington searched for survivors but could find no signs of life.
Proceeding via Belfast, Northern Ireland, Leamington arrived at Plymouth, England, on 15 November. There, the destroyer was allocated to the 2d Escort Group, Western Approaches Command, based at Londonderry. She conducted convoy escort missions across the Atlantic into 1941. While in the screen of Convoy SC-48, as it was being attacked by German U-boats for more than a week, Leamington teamed with the destroyer HMS Veteran in sinking U-207 off the east coast of Greenland on 11 September.
On 27 March 1942, Leamington added another "kill" to her record when she and three other destroyers sent U-587 to the bottom as the U-boat threatened Middle East-bound troop convoy WS-27. That summer, as the flush decker steamed toward North Russia in the screen of the ill-fated convoy, PQ-17, the powerful German battleship Tirpitz (sister to the famed Bismarck which had been sunk on 28 May 1941) was reported on the prowl. Since the massed convoy would present too easy pickings for such a powerful adversary, the ships were scattered. However, such tactics exposed the Allied ships to the attacks of German U-boats and aircraft. As a result, 23 of the 34 ships in PQ-17 were sunk. No other Russian convoy during the entire war suffered so severely.
Leamington was refitted at Hartlepool, England, between August and November 1942 and then resumed convoy escort missions in the Atlantic. On 12 November, the Panamian registry merchantman SS Buchanan was torpedoed by U-224. Thirteen days later, Leamington, assisted by aircraft, located the last of the freighter's four lifeboats and took aboard its 17 uninjured Sailors.
In October 1942, the Royal Navy transferred Leamington to the Royal Canadian Navy, who employed her in the defense of shipping in the western Atlantic over the next 14 months. She experienced extremely bad weather, with extensive icing conditions, while operating in the North Atlantic in late 1942 and early 1943. At one point, the ship reached Halifax after a severe gale on 22 January 1943, coated from bridge to focsle deck with ice varying from 2 to 10 feet thick.
On 14 May 1943, Leamington collided with Albatross (AM-71) and was docked at Halifax for repairs but managed to be seaworthy again by the end of the month. She then sailed south to Norfolk, which she reached on 27 June, and underwent permanent repairs there until September.
Departing Halifax on 22 December, Leamington returned to the British Isles and reverted to Royal Navy control. After a period of service based at Rosyth, Scotland, the flush-deck destroyer was placed in reserve at the Tyne. However, on 16 June 1944, the British loaned the ship to the Russians, who renamed her Jgoochyi or Zhguchi (meaning "scorcher"). She served under the Russian flag through 1949 and was returned to Great Britain in 1950. She was subsequently broken up for scrap at Newport, England, on 26 July 1951.