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USS Conyningham (DD58)

(Tucker Class, 1915)

Wartime photo of USS Conyngham (Location not identified)


On the 4th of May, 1917, the first squadron of United States destroyers arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland. The group consisted of USS Wadsworth, Conyngham, Porter, McDougal, Davis, and Wainwright.  Queenstown was the centre for anti-submarine forces, on the Western Approaches, under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayley, Commander in Chief , Coast of Ireland. The Conyngham commenced operations the following week.

Initially there was uncertainty as to the most effective use of  destroyers. At first they were given patrol areas which they would scout, singly or in pairs. Any stray incoming merchantmen seen, were to be escorted to near their destinations. This was a most ineffective use of the force, as the chances of coming across, and destroying a lone submarine in the vastness of the Western Approaches was virtually nil.

By Summer 1917, under the urging of commanders such as Admiral Sims, Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, the convoy system was initiated. Groups of merchantmen were escorted through the war zone by flanking destroyer screens. This had the dual effect of reducing the amount of targets for German u-boats, and allowing destroyers and sloops to attack the harassing submarines.  The priorities of the destroyers were to:

Destroy Submarines.

Protect and escort Merchantmen.

Save the crews and passengers of torpedoed ships.

Anti-submarine patrols did continue also for the duration of the war, especially in the Irish Sea and close to the coast of France, where u-boats would try to sink merchantmen as the convoys dispersed.  In 1918, any destroyer in the Irish Sea, which was not actively convoying, came under the orders of The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell VC based in Holyhead, Wales.  US destroyers  were also used to patrol the west coast of Ireland to hunt suspected gun-running ships, for Irish Republicans.

The destroyers , initially, were ill-equipped to fight submerged submarines. When they arrived in Europe they were armed with guns and torpedoes. The only undersea weapons supplied were single hand-launched 50lb depth charges which were particularly ineffective. It was the later fitting of dual depth charge racks on the sterns of the ships, Thornycroft depth charge throwers, and Y shaped charge throwers that turned them into a dangerous force. These were capable of dropping and firing a continuous patterned barrage  of 200lb, charges around a submarine's suspected position. Most of the retro-fitting of these armaments was done at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead, England.

On the 12th of May, 1917, USS Conyngham met and escorted the incoming SS Adriatic.  

On the 20th of May,1917, in pos 51.23N, 10.00W, USS Conyngham sighted a submarine which submerged.  

On the 29th of May, 1917, in pos.51.30N, 10.30W, USS Conyngham sighted a submarine which submerged,  

In the week of the 9th of June 1917, USS Conyngham, Benham, Ericsson and Cummings safely escorted HMS Olympic to Liverpool.  

On the 11th of June, 1917, in position 51.28N, 14.56W, the Q-Ship HMS Zylpha was torpedoed by enemy submarine, Ship was totally disabled. USS Warrington proceeded to her assistance and stood by until 2pm, the 13th, when she had to return for fuel. Whilst waiting for arrival of USS Drayton and two tugs. Zylpha made one and a half knots under sail. She was picked up by HMS Daffodil ato noon on the 14th and taken in tow, escorted by USS Conyngham, USS Drayton, and HMS Zinnia. The tugs arrived on the 15th, but the Zylpha sank at 11.20pm on the 15th in pos 9 miles ENE of the Great Skelligs.

On the 12th of July, 1917, at 5pm, USS Drayton picked up SS Phidias and SS Patani in pos 50.00N, 15.56W. The SS Navarino joined them at 5.30pm. Later sighted two more steamers who also joined the convoy at 7.30pm. At 11pm Conyngham and McDougal joined. Later again USS Patterson who was escorting SS Kansas City joined the other ships. At this point there was a convoy of 6 merchant ships escorted by four US destroyers. Admiral Bayley Commander in Chief, Coast of Ireland, praised the innovative skills of the destroyers in forming up this ‘ad-hoc’ convoy

From July 20th to 25th, 1917,USS Conyngham, Cummings, Winslow, Tucker and Warrington escorted an outbound convoy of 17 merchant ships.

On the 1st of August, 1917, in pos 51.50N, 07.05W, the SS Karina was sunk by enemy submarine. HMY Beryl picked up 130 survivors including 14 women. USS Conyngham picked up 39. All were landed at Queenstown.  

On the 9th of August, 1917, USS Conyngham and USS Allen were on route to Queenstown.  When off the Lizard, a radio warning was received from a British Blimp of enemy in sight. Two British destroyer, HMS Lennox and HMS Victor joined Conyngham and Allen. The Blimp dropped two bombs and one of the British destroyers dropped two depth charges. No results were seen.

On the 19th of October, 1917, HMS Orama was torpedoed and sunk, in pos 48.00N, 09.20W. USS Conyngham picked up 50 survivors and USS Jacob Jones picked up 305. Conyngham chased after submarine and dropped depth charge on her. Admiral Bayley, Commander in Chief, Coast of Ireland reported - The picking up of those survivors alongside a sinking ship at night was a fine feat of seamanship.

On the 3rd of November, 1917,  Conyingham was escorting outward Queenstown convoy OQ17. Conditions were rough and Conyngham narrowly missed a serious collision with SS Highland Laddie. The Conyngham's bow rose on a swell and mashed into one of the lifeboats of the Highland Laddie. Two of the destroyers stancions were bent.

On the 9th of November, 1917, USS Conyngham, in company with Jacob Jones, escorted SS St Paul from Westward to Liverpool. Then until the 13th of November, Conyngham and Jacob Jones, formed a hunting flotilla on the Irish sea and south of Ballytotton.  

On the 22nd of November, 1917, USS Conyngham rescued 30 crew from the sunken SS Hartland.

On the 11th of December, 1917, in pos 51.37N, 05.20W, USS Cummings and USS Conyngham saw suspicious patch of oil. Both ships dropped depth charges, but no results seen.  

On the 20th of January, 1918, in pos 50.55N, 09.28W, USS Conyngham sighted submarine on surface which submerged immediately. Dropped depth charge, which failed to explode. There was no further sighting of submarine.

On the 15th of July, 1918, USS Davis, Allen. Cassin, Conyngham,Sampson, escorted HMS Mauretania from Liverpool to 15.00W.  

On the 17th of July, USS Davis, Cassin, Allen, Conyngham escorted HMS Aquitania from 15.00W to Liverpool.  

On the 25th July 1918, USS Conyngham, Beale, escorted oiler Kanawha from Queenstown to 14.00W.