USS Aulick
DD 258 (Clemson Class)

contributed by: Alec Bowman

Builder:        Bethlehem Steel, Quincy
Laid Down:      December 3, 1918
Launched:       April 11, 1919
Commissioned:   July 26, 1919
Decommissioned: May 22, 1922
Recommissioned: June 18, 1939
Fate:           To Britain October 9 1940, 
                renamed HMS Burnham; Stricken 01/08/41

We are seeking information on the USS Aulick and her crews. Files and photos may be emailed to us and we will incorporate them into this page. When enough information has been assembled we will then build the ship her own section.

The E-mail:


My Father, Milton Mathews, coxswain, was on the shake down cruise for USS Aulick #258 from out of New York Naval Yard and then to the west coast where he was discharged in May 1920.

Any other info you have would be appreciated. I have a copy of his discharge if you would like one. Thanks,

Carl Mathews,


Hi Mark,

I’ve read your instructions this time so no Word.doc and picture is now 300kB!

Attached is a copy of the Postcard type photo of the USS Aulick. The original looks as though it stayed in my late Father-in-Law’s wallet as it was heavily creased etc. I think I have made a reasonable repair attempt!

The only other photos I have are from her service during WW2 as HMS Burnham. I assume that you are not interested in these.

On the back of the Postcard are the names and addresses of four men, possibly members of the hand-over crew. They appear to be as follows although the writing isn’t easy to read in some areas:

    M.Sellers, 1320 Wood Ave, Summer, Wash.
    G. W. Clark, 314, Lark St., Ocean View, Norfolk, Va.
    Les Layson, 28, Moore St., Lowell, Mass.
    Ray Fitzmartine, 1336 1/2W.23rd St., Los Angeles, Cal.

I’ve also included below for interest, a draft of a letter that my Father in Law sent to James Forrestal. It obviously isn’t finished but he did send a letter as we have an acknowledgement from Mr Forrestal, dated the 12th October 1945. I guess that the actual letter is probably still in the files somewhere and it would be great to get a copy for my wife.

Hope the above is of interest and please get in touch about any of the above

Alec Bowman

E.R.A’s Mess,
H.M.S. Balfour
c/o G.P.O.London

Sept 16th 1945

Dear Mr Forrestal,

You may think it very presumptuous of me writing to you, but the truth is that I am a very disappointed Chief Engineroom Artificer on board the above ship. But I think you will agree that I have a small claim to write to you having had the unique privilege of using and serving in Ex US and American built ships for the last five years.

On Oct. 8th 1940 I had the privilege of being present at Halifax, Nova Scotia, when “Old Glory” or the Stars and Stripes was hauled down on board USS Aulick and I along with others walked on board and ran up the White Ensign and so commissioned HMS Burnham, one of the 50 over age destroyers.

Previous to this I had lived on board in the C.P.O.’s mess whilst as one of the key ratings I was working with the American crewmen getting to know the running of the machinery in the enginerooms, firerooms and other spaces.

Well Sir, I was on board the Burnham for over 2 years and 2 months and can assure you, that she did yeoman service in the North Atlantic on convoy escort duty. In fact we were credited along with a corvette with the destruction of one U-Boat, the survivors of 11 sunken merchantmen, 91 officers & men, 50 of them Chinese, we took to Iceland. During this trip the hunt for the Bismarck was on and she actually passed us one night about 17 miles from us and we carried on to Iceland where we arrived very short of fuel about 20 tons were all that we had on board. So you can well imagine we could not have even run from her had we been attacked.

Now it was plain to see that the convoys would have to be escorted all the way across the Atlantic, so along with HMS Churchill we were sent from Iceland to St Johns Newfoundland to open up a base, from here we convoyed back to Iceland and we kept on this job all through the long wintry seas of the North Atlantic, and I am quite sure if you care to examine the records, you will no doubt find that we were among the top in mileage covered by the Ex US destroyers.

During my stay on board we were twice refitted in American navy yards; at South Boston in Sept – Oct 1941 before you were involved in the war, and at Charleston S.C. in April 1942 where we had good attention and enabled us to keep our ship running.

After we left Charleston S.C. we were given a big job. We dashed up to New York at 25 knots and you know what was happening on your eastern seaboard at that time, passing newly sunken wrecks etc and we were actually machine gunned by a C.A.P. pilot who must have mistaken us. However he managed to drop the correct colour flare before he was shot at.

We oiled in New York and took on tropical clothing for the crew and were leaving New York with our convoy of 3 tankers after a stay of only 2 hours in harbour.

This convoy we took down into the tropics, the temps of the fireroom and enginerooms reaching 130°F, the tankers went up the Orinoco to load up their cargo of Venezuelan oil whilst we lay at Port of Spain, Trinidad, as Venezuela was neutral in those days and so was barred to ships of the Royal Navy. When ready we left for Halifax, stopping at Bermuda to oil and so on to Halifax N.S. where this convoy was welcomed as the stocks of fuel were getting low. We were congratulated on the safe delivery of our convoy as no doubt you will recall the U-Boat menace in the Caribbean and along your eastern seaboard during May and June 1942.

Next we were based at Halifax N.S. running out from there with the newly assembled outward convoy and after seeing them on their way we handed them over to British based escorts off Newfoundland. Then we took over the inward convoys and took them to Cape Cod after which we would tie up at the Commonwealth Pier Boston where we would lay for a day or so before proceeding back to Halifax.

During those days in Boston it was a pleasure to relax and enjoy ourselves with some real an true friends, friends I had made amongst the machinists and workmen who had refitted my ship in South Boston Navy Yard.

After a spell of this triangular run we returned to our old job of convoying all the way across the Atlantic from St John’s Newfoundland to the Western Approaches at Liverpool. Another distinction we had whilst convoying in the North Atlantic was that Mr. Churchill and a distinguished number of British and American politicians and naval and military on board the HMS Prince of Wales fresh from signing the Atlantic Charter at Argentia Newfoundland passed through a convoy led by the Burnham and her consort of corvettes, showing that our great wartime Premier and leader trusted the Royal Navy to hid safe passage and delivery. He saw for himself that the old almost worn out and over age Ex USS destroyers were doing a great job on the broad wastes of the Atlantic by ensuring that the much needed U.S. supplies, lend-lease etc were being safely shepherded across the Atlantic from their US producers to the British, American and Russian users.

On being relieved on board by a younger rating as we senior engineering ratings were urgently required to take diesel courses on Gray Marine or General Motors diesels for what was a “hush hush job”. Can you imagine my great surprise when I was taken across the Atlantic and on arriving in the USA was sent to Boston to take over a Diesel D.E. But after awaiting at Frazier Barracks, Boston Navy Yard for a ship, I was suddenly hustled down to the Bethlehem Yard at Higham to take over a Turbo Electric D.E.

The first time I saw her on Monday morning she was doing her basin trials and on the following Thursday Oct 3 of that week she was commissioned with a British Naval crew. So you can imagine I was extremely busy and I had a young and in-experienced crew. She was mine and I had only 3 days in which to familiarise myself with a new and revolutionary type of propulsion for a Naval vessel. However after losing around 30 pounds in weight in the first two months, the result of dashing up and down engineroom and fireroom ladders to prevent disasters happening in those compartments due to the greenness and extreme youth of the crew most of whom have never been to sea before, we managed to settle down and lick the job and turned into a great team in the black gang of this ship.

Details on Balfour’s effort.

Well Sir as I have mentioned before I have been privileged to attend two unique and historic ceremonies; seeing the Stars and Stripes hauled down on USS Aulick and the White Ensign run up on HMS Burnham, Oct 8 1940, and the commissioning of a British Naval ship built in an American ship building yard on Oct ? 1943.

So now I come to the story of my disappointment, we have just got the signal to proceed to Rosyth where we will hand back HMS Balfour to the U.S.N. That will complete the cycle for me to see the Stars and Stripes hauled down and the White Ensign run up, then the White Ensign hauled down and the Stars and Stripes run up but in a British base. To my everlasting disappointment it means that the hopes I had of taking her back to the U.S.A. and telling my Navy Yard friends of our exploits etc during our two years in commission in the dangerous waters of the Atlantic and English Channel are doomed to disappointment.

DD 258 -
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