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)
  • 2 or 3 shaft steam turbines, 12,500 shp (9,300 kW)
  • ca.200 tons oil
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.


Seven ships to the Admiralty specification were originally envisaged, but only five vessels were ordered and built under the 1905-06 Programme, all to their builders' own designs.

Name Builder Laid down Launch date Commissioned Fate Image
Afridi Armstrong Whitworth, Newcastle upon Tyne 9 August 1906 8 May 1907 7 September 1909 Sold on 9 December 1919 for breaking up Afridi-1909.jpg
Cossack Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 13 November 1905 16 February 1907 12 March 1908 Sold on 12 December 1919 for breaking up HMS Cossack (1907) IWM Q 021123.jpg
Ghurka Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Newcastle upon Tyne 6 February 1906 29 April 1907 17 December 1908 mined and sunk off Dungeness Buoy on 8 February 1917 HMS Ghurka 1907.jpg
Mohawk J Samuel White, Cowes 1 May 1906 15 March 1907 June 1908 Sold on 27 May 1919 for breaking up  
Tartar J I Thornycroft, Woolston 13 November 1905 25 June 1907 9 April 1908 Sold on 9 May 1921 for breaking up HMS Tartar (1907).jpg

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

Name Builder Laid down Launch date Commissioned Fate Image
Amazon J I Thornycroft, Woolston 24 June 1907 29 July 1908 April 1909 Sold on 22 October 1919 for breaking up HMS Amazon IWM Q 020942.jpg
Saracen J Samuel White, Cowes 12 July 1907 31 March 1908 25 June 1909 Sold on 22 October 1919 for breaking up  

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

Name Builder Laid down Launch date Commissioned Fate Image
Crusader J Samuel White, Cowes 22 June 1908 20 March 1909 21 October 1909 Sold on 30 June 1920 for breaking up HMS Crusader WWI IWM Q 018253.jpg
Maori William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton 6 August 1909 24 May 1909 11 November 1909 Mined and sunk off Wirlingen Light Ship, Zeebrugge, on 7 May 1915  
Nubian J I Thornycroft, Woolston 18 May 1908 21 April 1909 24 August 1909 Torpedoed and damaged by German destroyers in action off Folkestone, on 27 October 1916  
Viking Palmers, Jarrow 29 June 1910 11 June 1908 14 September 1909 29 June 1910 Sold on 12 December 1919 for breaking up HMS Viking 1910.jpg
Zulu Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Newcastle upon Tyne 18 August 1908 16 September 1909 19 March 1910 Mined and damaged off Dover on 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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