Description: destroyer, Clemson Class, steel.
Dimensions: length 314.3 ft, width 31.7 ft, draft 9.8 ft.
Tonnage: gross 1060, other displacement - 1215.
Propulsion: steam, propeller.
Cargo: Not Applicable.

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: July 14, 1945.
Cause: collision.
Location: Buzzards Bay, 2 miles off Acoaxet, near Westport.
Coordinates: latitude 41° - 27' - 42" N; longitude 71° - 06' - 20" W.
Loran: 14307 and 43964.6.

One of the 50 "Lend-lease" destroyers the United Kingdom received in exchange for land base leases on British soil, HMCS St. Francis served in rescue, escort and anti-submarine duties throughout the WWII. Replaced by more modern warships, it functioned as a training vessel until the end of the war, when in June of 1945 it was sold to Boston Metals Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

On July 14, 1945, the old destroyer was under tow of the tug Peter Norman, and bound for Baltimore to be broken up for scrap. After passing through the Cape Cod Canal, the vessels encountered a thick fog, which enshrouded Buzzards Bay. Near the entrance to the bay the collier Windward Gulf collided with the old destroyer opening a hole in its hull. The Peter Norman tried to ground the destroyer, but it was taking on water too quickly and soon sank on an even keel in 60 feet of water approximately 2 miles off Acoaxet with no loss of life.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 58.
Visibility in feet: average.

Declared a menace to navigation the destroyer was flattened with dynamite almost even with the bottom. Although approximately 30 feet of the bow is recognizable, sitting upright on a sandy bottom, St. Francis is little more than an underwater scrap heap with portions of mangled wreckage separated by open stretches of sand.

Historical Background

Constructed: 1919, at Quincy, Massachusetts by builder Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.
Construction details: Refitted in 1940, its bridge and pilot house were enclosed.
Owners: United States Navy (1919 - 1940), Royal Canadian Navy (1940 - 1945), Boston Metals Company (1945).
Former Name(s) and date(s): U.S.S. Bancroft (1919).
Official number: Country: Canada.
Other Comments: HMCS St. Francis was launched as the USS Bancroft (DD-256) and commissioned June 30, 1919. It took part in Atlantic Fleet operations off the East Coast until November 20th, when it was placed in reserve commission. The destroyer was decommissioned at Philadelphia, PA, July 11, 1922.

Recommissioned December 18, 1939, Bancroft served with the Atlantic Squadron off the East Coast until decommissioned at Halifax, Nova Scotia. September 24, 1940 the Bancroft she was transferred to Great Britain. Allocated to the Canadian Government its name was changed to HMCS St. Francis and it was refitted for escort duty. During the refit one of its boilers was removed to increase fuel capacity, its four inch deck guns were replaced with anti-aircraft weapons and its torpedo tubes were replaced with depth charge projectors. Ordered to Scotland it joined the 4th Escort Group, January 26, 1941. May 20th it rescued survivors from the steamer Starcross, which had been torpedoed. In July St. Francis joined the Newfoundland Escort Force. Between 1941 and 1943 St. Francis escorted numerous Atlantic convoys and made several attacks on submarines. In June of 1943 it joined Escort Group C.2, and then was transferred in August to the 9th Escort Group (RCN), operating out of Londonderry, Ireland. The following month St. Francis re-joined the Western Local Escort Force at Halifax. Replaced from active service by more modern vessels, St. Francis functioned as a training ship from 1944 until April 1945, out of Digby, Nova Scotia. On April 1, 1945 it was declared surplus and decommissioned on June 11th.

Salvage

Boston Metals Company formally abandoned St. Francis to the United States Government. As a menace to navigation the vessel was blasted away and portions were removed by salvors. In 1953, hard hat diver Bill George blasted open the engine room and removed most of the machinery for scrap.

Sources:

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. I; Navy Dept., 1963
Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles; Coleman & Soares, 1989
New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks; Keatts, 1988
Ten Years at Ten Fathoms; Luther