In common with the United States Navy, the Royal Navy had come out of World War One with a large number of new destroyers. Because of the large quantity of the V & W ships, there was no need for new construction for most of the 1920s. One experimental prototype was laid down in 1924 Amazon and 1925 Ambuscade, just to test technical and construction advances. It was finally decided to start a new construction program to replace obsolescent ships from World War One.
In 1928 the eight destroyers of the A Class were laid down. This design, bigger and heavier than the V & Ws, established the pattern of British destroyer designs for the next eight years. In incrementally improved designs, each year saw the laying down of another eight destroyer program, usually with an additional, larger leader. In 1936, along with the eight ships of the I Class, the Royal Navy went to something different, the large Tribals. The next fleet destroyer design, the J Class, took more from the Tribal design than the preceding fleet design of the I Class. Thirty feet longer and almost 600 tons heavier, the J Class used six twin mounts of the Tribals but with an increased torpedo fit.
For some time the Imperial Japanese Navy had used fully enclosed gun mounts on their destroyers and the USN followed suit. A gun crew protected from the elements could obviously operate with more efficiency than one exposed to rain, sleet and rough seas. The 1937 proposal called for a destroyer design with higher speed and enclosed gun mounts. Two initial design theories were originally considered. One was a very heavy destroyer of 2,500 tons (3,265 tons deep load) mounting three twin 5.25-inch gun turrets of the type selected for the Dido Class light cruisers. The other was an improved J Class. After much discussion the improved J Class design was selected. Because of additional machinery for the higher speed, the resulting L Class design, although only six feet longer than the J Class, was 230 tons heavier. Between October 1938 and March 1939, the eight ships of the class were laid down. Their arrival with the fleet was desperately needed, as they entered service from December 1940 to October 1942.
Because of production difficulties with the new turrets, the first four of the class to be completed were designated as AA destroyers with four twin 4-inch turrets instead of the three twin 4.7-inch turrets. The first four formed the 13th Destroyer Flotilla and were sent to the Mediterranean. The final four, with their twin 4.7-inch mounts formed the 19th Destroyer Flotilla and were also sent to the Mediterranean. The L Class suffered heavy losses in that theater. Six of the eight were lost with only Lookout and Loyal surviving the war. The M Class, which were built to the L Class design, were winterized for duty in the Arctic. Only two of the eight in that class were lost.
HMS Laforey was the leader of the L Class and was built with the three twin 4.7-inch turrets. Laid down March 1, 1939, she was launched February 15, 1941 and commissioned August 26, 1941. In her three-year career, Laforey was very successful. During the Salerno landings she was hit five times by shore batteries. She assisted in sinking the Italian submarine, Ascianghi. In her final action, north of Sicily on March 30, 1944, she assisted in sinking the U-223 but not however, before the U-Boat managed to fire three torpedoes that struck and sank the Laforey. The flotilla captain, nine officers and 172 men were lost. (History from Destroyers of World War Two by M.J. Whitley and British Destroyers by Edgar J. March)
H-P Models has a resin model of the Laforey, class leader of the L Class. The model does not come with any photo-etched parts, so a fret from WEM or GMM would add to the finished model. With this kit, the modeler can add a substantial chapter in the evolution of the British destroyer.
Pacific Front Hobbies (Phone: 541-464-8579, Fax: 541-957-5477, E-Mail Shipguy@internetcds.com) is the exclusive distributor in the United States for the Laforey as well as the rest of the extensive H-P Models line of 1:700 waterline kits.