Treaty Navies - Colonial Sloops and Gunboats

pikeshot1600

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Jul 2009
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There is a thread on the navies of Sept., 1, 1939. These navies are essentially the treaty navies of the 1920s and 30s. Some navies were not part of the Washington Treaty of 1922, but still took their lead from Great Britain, France and the US up until the late 1930s. The Washington treaty was followed by the London Treaty of 1930 which attempted to extend restrictions on warship construction, and to refine some understandings of ship types.

In 1930, the world was still accustomed to the presence of colonial powers (Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and to some degree the US and Italy). These naval powers had need of replacing or adding certain types of warships to their fleets which served the requirements of their colonial responsibilities. At least one attendee, the USN Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. William V. Pratt, argued for a surface combatant that was not specifically addressed in the prior negotiations.

According to Wiki:

"In 1930, at the London Naval Conference, Admiral William V. Pratt, successfully argued for an additional class of naval surface combatant that would not be limited in number that could be constructed. Defined as a sloop, per Article VIII(b) of the treaty, the ships could neither exceed 2,000 tons displacement nor a maximum cruising speed of 20 knots and their armament was limited to up to four guns....not to exceed 6.1 (155 mm) in caliber, and they could not mount torpedo tubes."

I am not aware of other navies' arguments in regard to such a ship type, but the other colonial powers likely had a similar interest. As it happened, France (8), Portugal (1) and the Netherlands (2) built modern ship types with similar characteristics, and the US built two as "patrol gunboats" (PG). US economic austerity in the 1930s, and Adm Pratt's retirement in 1933 may have cooled the navy's enthusiasm for more of the ships.

The argument in favor of these ships was probably best made by France, which commissioned eight of the ten planned. (One was scuttled incomplete in 1940, and one was never laid down.) The Bougainville class "aviso" (literally a dispatch boat) was intended for colonial service abroad in "austere conditions." Dependable ships with substantial endurance were essential as they would be distant from sophisticated dockyard facilities most of the time. Living conditions for the crews were also a major consideration in hot, humid climates. According to one source (J.Jordan, "Colonial Sloops of the Bougainville Class" [2016] ) the ships were air conditioned throughout, and with insulated living quarters (in the early 1930s!). At least some of the eight had room to embark a "company of infantry."

Bougainville class: 2,001 T standard displacement; speed 15.5 kt; 3 x 1 5.5" guns.

All the ships had provision for a flag officer and staff as they would sometimes be used as flagships. The ships were armed with three 5.5" (138.6 mm) guns, AA guns, and each carried a seaplane without catapult. They were equipped with mine-sweeping para vanes and they could carry 50 mines. Two of these ships, Dumont d'Urville and Amiral Charner, participated in the battle of Koh Chang during the brief Franco-Thai War of January, 1941. The unlucky Bougainville (Vichy), the lead ship, was unfortunate enough to be wrecked by gunfire of a sister ship, Savorgnan de Brazza (FNFL), when the two found themselves on opposite sides at Libreville, Gabon in November, 1940.

The US navy completed two Erie class gunboats (laid down 1934; commissioned 1936). The funding for the two had been problematic as mentioned due to austerity, and then the realization that funds would be needed for larger warships in the not-distant future. No more were provided for.

The Eire class (PG) were intended after commissioning as patrol craft that also could work in-shore to provide gunfire support with four 6" guns. They also were fitted with mine warfare equipment, and with depth charges for ASW work. One Kingfisher float plane was carried without catapult. Convoy escort duty, as well as search and rescue, were intended as well. As the Erie class were envisioned as tactical control command vessels for submarines, they possibly were fitted out as flagships, perhaps in minimal form (?). The ships also were intended as survey ships, and in peace time to "show the flag" when needed.

Erie class: 2,032 T standard displacement; speed 20 kt; 4 x 6" guns (a single mount not replicated in other USN ships AFAIK)

USS Erie was torpedoed in Nov., 1942 and was beached. She capsized during recovery operations a month later. USS Charleston served throughout the war operating mostly from Dutch Harbor AK. She escorted convoys and provided gunfire support in the Attu-Kiska campaign. Decommissioned after the war, she was then the training ship for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy from 1948-1959.

This is an interesting ship type of which I was only slightly aware.
 
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Oct 2015
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The "Treasury" class US Coast Guard Cutters were based on the Erie class design, with a lighter armament (2 x 5"/51 vice 4 x 6"/47). Several gave good WW2 service as North Atlantic convoy escorts and amphibious force flagships. USCGC Hamilton was sunk by a U-boat in January 1942. The survivors (Spencer, Ingham, Campbell, Duane, Bibb and Taney) remained in Coast Guard service well into the 1980's.
 
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pikeshot1600

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Jul 2009
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The "Treasury" class US Coast Guard Cutters were based on the Erie class design, with a lighter armament (2 x 5"/51 vice 4 x 6"/47). Several gave good WW2 service as North Atlantic convoy escorts and amphibious force flagships. USCGC Hamilton was sunk by a U-boat in January 1942. The survivors (Spencer, Ingham, Campbell, Duane, Bibb and Taney) remained in Coast Guard service well into the 1980's.
The WW II role of the US Coast Guard would be a thread in itself. For non-US members, the USCG is incorporated into the navy in time of war.

Treasury class:

Displacement 2,200-2,400 T
Speed 20 kt
Armament 2 x 1 - 5" (127 mm) guns and subsidiary weapons (AA, etc.). One Grumman or Curtiss-Wright float plane. (Float plane removed; addition of depth charges during WW II.)

Planned - 10
Built - 7
Lost -1 as mentioned by Dentatus above
 
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pikeshot1600

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The most famous class of sloops during WW2 was probably the RN Black Swan class.
Yes, that was a very successful ASW vessel of WW II. Although not intended as colonial sloops, they were excellent escort ships.

Black Swan class:

Displacement 1,300 T (1,400 T modified)
Speed 19 kt (modified type 20 kt)
Armament 3 x 2 high angle 4" guns and substantial AA weapons; 40 depth charges (110 modified type)

Planned - 42
Built - 37 (12 as designed; 25 modified with different power plant and more ASW weapons)
Lost - 6
Cancelled - 5
 
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Apr 2018
753
India
Yes, that was a very successful ASW vessel of WW II. Although not intended as colonial sloops, they were excellent escort ships.

Black Swan class:

Displacement 1,300 T (1,400 T modified)
Speed 19 kt (modified type 20 kt)
Armament 3 x 2 high angle 4" guns and substantial AA weapons; 40 depth charges (110 modified type)

Planned - 42
Built - 37 (12 as designed; 25 modified with different power plant and more ASW weapons)
Lost - 6
Cancelled - 5
Yes. But in a sense they later became true colonial sloops. Four were given to the Royal Indian Navy and two to Royal Pakistani Navy along with one Folkestone class.

Also, Royal Navy always maintained a handful of sloops in the fleet. In small numbers though, almost exclusively for colonial service. And as they kept on replacing older ships with newer classes, the number didn't go up until WW2.

Weird thing is, if we consider Hunt class minesweepers to be sloops, then the number probably becomes greater than all other sloops that came later combined (probably again).
 
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Oct 2015
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Virginia
Royal Navy sloops:

5 or 6 1915-16 "Flower" class sloops were still extant in the RN and RIM in1939.

Post 1922:
2 Bridgewater class (1928) 1045 tons (standard) 2 x 4"/45, 16.5 kts
4 Hastings class (1930) ditto
Hindustan (1930) Indian Navy, 1190 tons, 2 x 4"/45, 16.25 kts
8 Shoreham class (1930-32) 1060-1105 tons, 2 x 4"/45, 16.5 kts
8 Grimsby class (1933-36) 990 tons, 2 x 4.7"/45, 16.5 kts
4 RAN Grimsby class (1935-40) ditto
Indus (1934) Indian Navy 1190 tons, 2 x 4.7"/45, 16.25 kts

43 Bittern, Egret and Black Swan classes (6 Indian Navy) followed (1934-46) faster, heavier AA armament.
 
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pikeshot1600

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I have no argument with the comments made above concerning Black Swan and Hunt class vessels. I would emphasize however that these were utilized more as Atlantic and Mediterranean convoy escorts than as colonial station ships. The French Bougainville class, the Dutch Johan Maurits van Nassau and van Kinsbergen, and the Portuguese Albuquerque class "avisos" (there were two rather than the one I mentioned) were true, purpose-built colonial duty ships. Royal Navy ships that were similar were the three Egret class sloops, but they were quite a bit smaller than the other colonial navies' sloops.

The two Erie class gunboats were not specifically intended for "colonial" duty but were more similar to the European colonial ships than to the numerous British escorts. Just an observation as the OP was in regard to "colonial sloops and gunboats."

The exceptional Flower class (Corvette) and Hunt class (destroyer, or DD escort) were built in large numbers, but they were too small to accommodate crews for extended periods or to be modified for much other than their ASW purpose.

The larger sloops were versatile, were adapted to roles that the small escort vessels could not provide, particularly heavier gunfire support, and their endurance was substantial, having been an important part of their design requirements. I wanted to mention this ship type as a thread topic, both because it was not previously one I was very familiar with, and because I think it deserved a mention for all us navy nerds.
 
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