Why closed bridges on USN DDs?

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Admiral Beez

Oct 21, 2019
Toronto, Canada
I'm watching Greyhound…

View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QvGHvJ-Oe1Q&pp=ygUWZ3JleWhvdW5kIGJhdHRsZSBzY2VuZQ%3D%3D

… and wondering why the USN Fletcher-class destroyer has a closed bridge when His Majesty's destroyers, like HMCS Cayuga below, made for the North Atlantic have open bridges. Was it that British Empire destroyers did not have the same sensors as the USN, so needed more eyeballs?


Here's the bridge of the museum ship HMCS Haida.

Sometimes they'd put up a canopy, like HMCS Athabaskan below, but either way it must be wicked cold on the Murmansk run.

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A great movie BTW with good Canadian participation.

"Laco also got the crew to film scenery shots aboard HMCS Montreal for a week at sea in January 2018, to help depict the dramatic winter waves and sky of the North Atlantic in the story. CGI crews digitally added ships from the story into that footage. "In the film, whenever you see a bow wave or a wake or a ship turning, that's the computer-generated ship in the film with HMCS Montreal's wakes under her," Laco said."
I think the question has to be asked why the British didn't put covers on theirs! The North Sea and North Atlantic, Britain's primary theatre of operations gets pretty damn crappy weather-wise. This is a post-war Daring Class destroyer, HMAS Vampire on display in Sydney, Australia. Originally the Darings' tops was open but Vampire received a mid-life overhaul, which rectified this discrepancy. The lower images are of the World War Two-era HMS Cavalier, preserved at Chatham in the UK for comparison, an open bridge but with a shelter.



Cavalier i

Cavalier ii
I do not think it had anything to do with more or less sensors (unless you are talking about Mark 1 eyeballs). The role of the bridge personnel was slightly different between the two navies. Direct observation and communication amongst the bridge personnel, for spotting of attacking aircraft and ships, and for navigation, was given a higher priority in the RN than in the USN. Not that it was not important in the USN, just that the duty assignments and chain of communication were different. Trying to see out through windows, particularly at night and in bad weather (rain, snow, etc) is significantly more difficult than directly without the glass in the way. Spotting incoming aircraft was almost impossible from an enclosed bridge unless they were at low level. Some of the US bridges had windows that could be lowered or raised when desired.

All (I think) inter-war US built DDs (including I think the last of the WWI 'flush-deckers') had enclosed bridges, and since this was 20 years before radar I doubt that radar played a role.
As my memory serves the open combat bridge used at the British vessels was not only because of the tradition but also to make the commanding easier in air threat conditions etc .... IMHO the US Navy didn't follow the British Navy for many reasons. So I agree with ThomasP's opinion.
~6(?) years ago I ran across a RN WWII manual for bridge operations on HM's ships. It described the different personnel on the bridge and their duties, under different levels of threat and sailing conditions. It was online but I do not remember where it was. I have looked just now but can not find it - maybe someone else knows where it is?

Otherwise, I think in one of D.K. Brown's books he described the basic reason why the RN stayed with the open bridge as long as they did.
Model of the Titanic.

I doubt it was the first enclosed bridge. ;)
Note the two wing bridge shelters.
Also note the open lookout "crows nest" on the foremast for the lookouts.
That worked well.............................
HMS Wanderer in 1942

Commissioned 18 September 1919.
Note bridge, crows nest, scanty gun shields that don't even offer spray protection.
Most crew space was in the hull below A & B guns. The greatest hull motion, greatest slamming, and with water coming over the bow, one of the wettest berthing spaces on the ship.
Kitchen was aft and the food had to be carried along the main deck, at least to the break in the forecastle deck, no passage through the engine rooms.
Crew comfort was NOT high on the list of Navy requirements.
The open bridge was for observation and controls, especially against higher flying aircraft.

It was also better at night as the enclosed glass reflected internal lights and screens.

Steering and navigation was usually in a seperate enclosed area.

Radar solved the problems associated with enclosing bridges.

In either case other crew members on watch or manning smaller guns weren't enclosed either.
The books US Destroyers and US Cruisers by Norman Friedman go into the closed versus open bridges debate, the USS Helena had a prototype open arrangement as part of post Pearl Harbor repairs. The Cleveland square bridge changes. The Fletcher class changes seem more to be about weight reduction, at least initially. The RN requirements for DE built in the US had an influence.

An open bridge gives uninterrupted view of the surrounding area, good for spotting air threats and for convoy work, the more complex the local environment the better it seems to work. Apart from different bridge crew arrangements the US was developing the Combat Information Center away from the bridge. In WWII the information from radar etc. was transferred manually, post WWII it became automated.

HMS Suffolk had an enclosed bridge with steam heating during the Bismarck chase though the warmth tended to make men sleepy at times, until the cruiser needed to engage, blast from firing the main armament shattered many of the bridge windows.
The Daring class destroyers represent the last of the "old" classic destroyers in the RN. Designed in 1943/4, ordered 1945, with the first pair laid down towards the end of that year and completed 1952/3 (the Aussie ships were a few years later - ordered 1946 completed 1957-59). Their AS/AA escort equivalents were the Loch/Bay class frigates and the Black Swan class sloops.

When the 8 WW2 vintage Ca class destroyers were modernised in the mid/late 1950s, 4 (the earliest conversions) were given open bridges akin to the Daring class (including the now preserved Cavalier) and the other 4 closed bridges akin to the then new frigate classes (see below).

All the ships with open bridges had provision for them to be covered by canvas awnings for use in the tropics. In Cavalier's case, this seems to have been replaced by something a bit more substantial since she became a museum ship.

For the RN things began to change in the 1945-47 period for 2 reasons.
1. The need for improved command and control facilities, bringing information on surface, air and submarine threats together in a single place (the AIO, equivalent to the US CIC) in these smaller vessels i.e. smaller than cruisers etc which had gained them during WW2.
2. The advent of nuclear weapons and the prospect of blast & fallout rendering open bridges untenable.

Design of a new generation of frigates began in 1945 but was delayed by lack of funds in postwar Britain. Then in 1947 began the design of the conversion of the first WW2 era destroyers to dedicated AS frigates - the Type 15 with its enclosed bridge. That programme saw 23 R/T/U/V/W converted between Nov 1949 & May 1957 plus 2 RCN & 4 RAN ships. Some of the more austere Type 16 conversions (from O/P/T class destroyers) also received enclosed bridges. The conversion programme would have run to other ships (Types 18 & 62) but was terminated early in 1954 in favour of new construction.

At the same time the design of the new generation of AS/AA/AD frigates continued, emerging as the Types 12/14/41/61, ordered from 1951 as a response to the Korean War and commissioning from 1955 and these were all given enclosed bridges.

The Canadian St Laurent class were designed in parallel with the RN Type 12 (Whitby class), using the same machinery and by a British Naval Constructor, Sir Roland Baker on loan to the RCN, but with a more conservative hull shape. "Reportedly they told their RCNC constructor to make the ships distinctively Canadian" (Friedman British Destroyers and Frigates. The Second World War and After). They commissioned around the same time as the new RN frigate designs.

Again when it comes to considering WW2 era radar equipment the bulk of it needs to be noted. An early (1942) RN PPI radar scope was the size of a desk so couldn't just be fitted anywhere. And initially they lacked repeater screens. By early 1944 however bridge repeater units were starting to become available in RN ships adding to the information picture available on the bridge.

As to the benefits of the open bridge, there are stories from WW2 of RN COs lying on the deck of the bridge when under attack, judging when the best moment might be to swing the ship port or starboard to dodge an enemy dive bomber attack. Couldn't do that with a roof overhead!
The rounded deck edge was also a feature of the Types 12/41/61, just not so pronounced as in the Canadian ships. It was designed to minimise stress concentrations where sides met decks in welded ships as well as allowing water to flow off the deck before it could freeze. It continued into the Rothesay and Leander classes.

Ice accretion was a significant problem in arctic and North Atlantic waters during WW2. This was the old "four stacker" HMS Leamington (ex USS Twiggs).

Kitchen was aft and the food had to be carried along the main deck, at least to the break in the forecastle deck, no passage through the engine rooms. Crew comfort was NOT high on the list of Navy requirements.
I've toured HMCS Haida several times, and I recall that you had to traverse the open deck and the torpedo tubes between the aft superstructure and the forecastle. There was a catwalk one deck above, shown below.



I have read that the design of British type open bridge of the later war destroyers offered reasonable protection from wind and cold.
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