Tribal-class destroyer (1905)

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HMS Crusader WWI IWM Q 018253.jpg
Class overview
Name: Tribal (or F)
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: River class
Succeeded by: Beagle (or G) class
Built: 1905–1908
In commission: 1907–1920
Completed: 12
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement: 860 - 940 tons
Length: 275 ft (84 m)
Beam: 28 ft (8.5 m)
Draught: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)

The Tribal or F class was a class of destroyers built for the Royal Navy. Twelve ships were built between 1905 and 1908 and all saw service during World War I, where they saw action in the North Sea and English Channel as part of the 6th Flotilla and Dover Patrols.


The preceding River- or E-class destroyers of 1903 had made 25.5 knots (47.2 km/h; 29.3 mph) on the 7,000 ihp (5,200 kW) provided by triple expansion steam engines and coal-fired boilers, although HMS Eden was powered by steam turbines.[1] In November 1904, the First Sea Lord "Jackie" Fisher proposed that the next class of destroyers should make at least 33 knots (61 km/h) and should use oil-fired boilers and steam turbines as a means of achieving this.[2] This resulted in a larger ship to provide the required doubling of installed power over their predecessors, but also pushed the design to the limits of capability of contemporary technology. As a result, the Tribals were severely compromised and a somewhat retrograde step after the excellent River class; they were lightly built and proved to be fragile in service.[citation needed] More alarmingly however, they were only provided with 90 tons of bunkerage, and with high fuel consumption resulting from the unheard of power of 12,500 shp (9,300 kW), they were very uneconomical and had a severely limited radius of action; Afridi and Amazon once used 9.5 tons of oil each simply to raise steam for a three-mile (5 km) return journey to a fuel depot.

Design details were left to the individual builders, as was Royal Navy practice at the time for destroyers. As a result, no two were alike[3][4] and there was considerable heterogeneity of detail and appearance, Most noticeably the number of funnels varied from three, in Cossack and Ghurka, to six in Viking; the latter, with two single and two pairs of funnels becoming the only six-funneled destroyer ever built. With a light mainmast aft, they were the first British destroyers to have two masts.

The first five ships were designed with the armament of three QF 12-pounder guns, an improvement from the single 12-pounder and five 6-pounder guns that the River class was completed with, while the number of torpedoes remained at two 18-inch (457 mm) tubes.[5][6] From the sixth ship (Saracen) onwards, however, the armament was again increased, to a pair of BL 4-inch (102 mm) guns, with one gun mounted forward and another on the quarterdeck.[7] From October 1908, the first five ships were modified by adding another pair of 12 pounder guns.[8]

The shift towards the larger Tribals also created a requirement for a complementary class of smaller “Coastal” destroyers giving rise to the Cricket class of small TBD, of which 36 were built between 1905 and 1908. The result of this experiment was not ideal and for the following class of destroyers (the 'G', or Beagle, class) the Admiralty reverted to a single, more uniform design for the 1908-9 programme.


Five vessels were ordered and built under the 1905-06 Programme.

Name Builder Launch date Fate Image
Afridi Armstrong Whitworth, Newcastle upon Tyne 8 May 1907 sold for breaking up 1919 Afridi-1909.jpg
Cossack Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 16 February 1907 sold for breaking up 1919 HMS Cossack (1907) IWM Q 021123.jpg
Ghurka Hawthorn, Newcastle upon Tyne 29 April 1907 mined and sunk off Dungeness Buoy 8 February 1917 HMS Ghurka 1907.jpg
Mohawk J S White, Cowes 15 March 1907 Sold for breaking up 1919  
Tartar J I Thornycroft, Woolston 25 June 1907 sold for breaking up 1921  

Five more vessels were proposed, but only two were ordered and built under the 1906-07 Programme.

Name Builder Launch date Fate Image
Amazon J I Thornycroft, Woolston 29 July 1908 sold for breaking up 1919 HMS Amazon IWM Q 020942.jpg
Saracen J S White, Cowes 31 March 1908 sold for breaking up 1919  

A final five vessels were ordered and built under the 1907-08 Programme.

Name Builder Launch date Fate Image
Crusader J S White, Cowes 20 March 1909 sold for breaking up 1920 HMS Crusader WWI IWM Q 018253.jpg
Maori William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton 24 May 1909 mined and sunk off Wirlingen Light Ship, Zeebrugge, 7 May 1915  
Nubian J I Thornycroft, Woolston 21 April 1909 torpedoed and damaged by German destroyers in action off Folkestone, 27 October 1916  
Viking Palmers, Jarrow 14 September 1909 sold for breaking up 1919 HMS Viking 1910.jpg
Zulu Hawthorn, Newcastle upon Tyne 16 September 1909 mined and damaged 27 October 1916 HMS Zulu 1910.jpg

Following the damage to Nubian and Zulu in October 1916, it was proposed on 8 November 1916 that the two undamaged 'ends' might be joined together, which was completed at Chatham Royal Dockyard 7 June 1917 by joining the undamaged fore section of Zulu and the rear section of Nubian respectively. The resulting destroyer was commissioned on 7 June 1917 as Zubian, which was sold for scrapping 1919.


  1. ^ Chesneau and Kolesnik 1979, p. 99.
  2. ^ Friedman 2009, pp. 106–107.
  3. ^ Janes p75
  4. ^ Cocker p27
  5. ^ Gardiner and Gray, 1985, pp. 71–72.
  6. ^ Friedman 2009, pp. 89–90, 107–108.
  7. ^ Friedman 2009, pp. 108–109.
  8. ^ Friedman 2009, p. 108.


  • Chesneau, Roger and Kolesnik, Eugene M. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5.
  • Cocker, Maurice. Destroyers of the Royal Navy, 1893-1981. Ian Allan, 1983. ISBN 0-7110-1075-7
  • Friedman, Norman. British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84832-049-9.
  • Gardiner, Robert and Gray, Randal. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Preston, Anthony. Destroyers. Bison Books, 1977. ISBN 0-86124-057-X

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