Naval History Homepage - and Site Search





by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HUNT-class Escort Destroyers - General Information

the damaged HMS Eridge entering Alexandria (Navy Photos/Michael Pocock, click to enlarge)

return to Contents List 


G e n e r a l    I n f o r m a t i o n

One of the lessons learned at the expense of many lives and the loss of many merchant ships was that the survival of Great Britain in war depended on the safe passage of shipping to and from the United Kingdom. This requirement was satisfied when after much reluctance the convoy system was introduced in 1917. Ships in convoy then had to be escorted by warships able to counter the threat of submarines and surface craft. By 1938 it was clear that the Royal  Navy did not have sufficient suitable ships to meet this obvious threat, to which a third dimension had been added. The use of aircraft by any enemy to attack shipping simply made the matter of even greater importance.    


HMS Mendip, Type I (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham)


For this reason, amongst the re-armament measures introduced when the possibility of war with Germany had reluctantly been recognised, was the authorisation of the build of a new class of  Escort Destroyers. These ships were needed to be available for service without an inordinate delay and had to be armed to deal with the submarine, surface and air threat. They were originally designed to carry three twin 4in gun mountings capable of dealing with the submarine, surface and aircraft threats. For anti-submarine attacks the design called for 60 depth charges with two throwers and two sets of rails. The speed requirement called for in the build specification was between 28 and 30 knots.    


HMS Cowdray, Type II (Navy Photos/Michael Pocock)


Tenders for build were issued in December 1938 for the first 10 of a new Class of Escort which were known as the HUNT-Class and named after Foxhunt Hunts mainly in the British Isles (one was in Gibraltar). A class of minesweeping sloops built at the end of WW1 had also been given these names. The new ship design ships displaced 1,380 tons at full load, but before the first ships had been completed several design problems arose which resulted in construction being stopped. As a result of investigations related to the stability of these ships it was decided to reduce top-weight and to fit only two twin 4in mountings in the first 20 ships. These became known as Type I HUNT-Class. By increasing the beam by 18in it was possible to return to the original design  in the subsequent ships which became the Type II HUNTS. The change in design increased the displacement to 1,490 tons. In order to fit torpedo tubes in ships ordered under the 1940 Programme  their main armament had to be reduced to two 4" mountings. These became Type III HUNTS and had the same displacement as the Type II. Two other ships built to a modified commercial design  were designated Type IV and had many improved features but proved more costly and had increased  displacement of 1,590 tons. No other Type IV were built.    


HMS Easton, Type III (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham)


In all 86 HUNT Class were built and apart from the differences in gun and torpedo fits had the  same type of propulsion machinery with a shaft horsepower of 19,000 driving two shafts. A  larger complement of 168 was required in the ships with three twin mountings or with the torpedo  tubes.  


HMS Brissenden, Type IV (Navy Photos)


Once in service the HUNT Class played a vital part in sea operations. Their 4in armament with a  dual purpose AA and surface capability made them effective escorts. All Types did however have the disadvantage of requiring frequent fuelling during long voyages, as for example when used for  escort of Russian convoys. They were not comfortable ships and their accommodation was cramped.  The first ships completed were used for coastal convoy escorts but as more became available the  HUNT-Class were deployed in the Mediterranean and in the Arctic. They participated in the sinking  of 21 submarines and in many actions in defence of UK coastal shipping. Thirteen were manned by allied  navies some of whom retained them after May 1945. A heavy price was paid for the contribution  made. Nineteen ships were lost in action and a further six damaged beyond economic repair with no  less than 17 others being out of operational use due to action damage which needed many months  under repair.    


After the end of hostilities, apart from 19 which were transferred to foreign navies and two which  were retained for special trials, all the remainder were placed in Reserve.       






Our thanks to those contributors who have sent in corrections/additional material for the Hunt-class escort destroyers, including Jon Summers


back to Contents List
or Naval-History.Net

revised 12/8/11
further editing is required


if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net