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Burnham-on-Sea
Mon Nov 12, 2018

History of HMS Burnham

The story behind the destroyer HMS Burnham

In the mid-1940s, the number of destroyers in the UK was critical with 20 ships under repair following Dunkirk, 40 kept in home waters to guard against possible invasion, and 24 lost to the ravages of war.

Apart from those under refit or required for fleet duties, this left only a handful for escort duties.

So the transfer of 50 aged destroyers from the USA to the Royal Navy – one of which was the HMS Burnham, pictured here – was essential and filled a vital role until war reconstruction could begin.

The outstanding feature of these ‘gift horses’ was their flush decked hulls and four funnels. Never intended for use in the North Atlantic, they would lurch, shudder and roll – and their flimsy bridges were often stove in by the force of the sea while mess decks were often awash.

Seven of the ships were torpedoed and one was mined. But HMS Burnham – which was named after both Burnham-On-Sea in the UK and Burnham in Pennsylvania – spent the better part of four years escorting convoys across the Atlantic.

In 1942, HMS Burnham was fomerly adopted by Burnham-On-Sea in Somerset, UK and woollen comforts were gratefully received by the crew onboard the ship (pictured left) from time to time. In 1944 a contingent of the ship’s company visited the town and were very well entertained.

The HMS Burnham was certainly a powerful destroyer:

Displacement: 1,190 tons
Speed: 35kts
Complement: 146
Armament: One 4 inch anti-aircraft gun, one 3 inch anti-aircraft gun, four 20mm anti-aircraft guns and three 21 inch torpedo tubes.

Plaque unveiled remembering the HMS Burnham:

A plaque dedicated to the wartime destroyer HMS Burnham was unveiled in Burnham-On-Sea on Thursday October 21st, 2004 – exactly 60 years after the crew of the vessel marched through the streets to cheering crowds. Mr Ron Giles, president of the former HMS Burnham Association, unveiled the plaque along with various other dignataries.

Read more about the commemoration ceremony here.