||Conway Maritime Press
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At 11:35 on 28 March 1942, at St Nazaire, France, the air was suddenly shattered by a thunderous explosion in the bows of an old destroyer lodged in the caisson of Normandie Loск. The forward half of the vessel, and a large number of unfortunate German soldiers inspecting her, were vapourized. The caisson was breached and what remained of the old destroyer was washed into the lock by the resulting inrush of water, effectively eliminating St Nazaire as a repair facility for Tirfntz. So ended the career of HMS Campbeltown (former USS Buchanan). HMS Campbeltown was one of fifty obsolete flush-decked destroyer vessels which were transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for leases on some British bases along the Atlantic seaboard. In May 1940, Prime Minister Churchill made his first request for destroyers to President Roosevelt. The Royal Navy's destroyer forces were essential to ensure the flow of materials to the island nation, but had suffered heavy losses in the first months of the World War II. Although the RN had 433 destroyers in service at the end of the World War I, it began the Second with only 184 available. Despite the construction of 21 new destroyers during the first year of the new war, heavy losses, particularly those associated with the evacuations of Norway and Dunkirk, had brought this number down to 171. At first, Roosevelt was reluctant to countenance the transfer. There were several reasons for this...