HMS Gurkha (F20)

HMS Gurkha was a Tribal-class destroyer that saw active service in the Norway Campaign in 1940, where she was sunk.

Gurkha in 1938
History
United Kingdom
Name: Gurkha
Namesake: Gurkha
Ordered: 10 March 1936
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited, Govan
Cost: £340,997
Laid down: 6 July 1936
Launched: 7 July 1937
Completed: 21 October 1938
Honours and
awards:
Norway 1940, North Sea 1940
Fate: Sunk, 9 April 1940 by bombers off Norway
Notes: The name Gurkha was reused by an L-class destroyer
Badge: On a Field Blue, two crossed Kukri proper
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Tribal-class destroyer
Displacement:
Length: 377 ft (115 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Draught: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 5,700 nmi (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 190
Sensors and
processing systems:
ASDIC
Armament:

Description

The Tribals were intended to counter the large destroyers being built abroad and to lend gun support to the existing destroyer flotillas and were thus significantly larger and more heavily armed than the preceding I class.[1] The ships displaced 1,891 long tons (1,921 t) at standard load and 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) at deep load.[2] They had an overall length of 377 feet (114.9 m), a beam of 36 feet 6 inches (11.1 m)[3] and a draught of 11 feet 3 inches (3.4 m).[4] The destroyers were powered by two Parsons geared steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by three Admiralty three-drum boilers. The turbines developed a total of 44,000 shaft horsepower (33,000 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph).[3] The ships carried enough fuel oil to give them a range of 5,700 nautical miles (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph).[4] The ships' complement consisted of 190 officers and ratings, although the flotilla leaders carried an extra 20 officers and men for the Captain (D) and his staff.[5]

The primary armament of the Tribal-class destroyers was eight quick-firing (QF) 4.7-inch (120 mm) Mark XII guns in four twin-gun mounts, designated 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Y' from front to rear. For anti-aircraft (AA) defence, they carried a single quadruple mount for the 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF two-pounder Mk II "pom-pom" AA gun and two quadruple mounts for the 0.5-inch (12.7 mm) Mark III machine gun.[6] The ships were fitted with a single above-water quadruple mount for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes.[5] The Tribals were not intended as anti-submarine ships, but they were provided with ASDIC, one depth charge rack and two throwers for self-defence, although the throwers were not mounted in all ships;[7] Twenty depth charges were the peacetime allotment, but this increased to 30 during wartime.[8]

Construction and career

On 10 March 1936, two Tribal-class destroyers were ordered from Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Gurkha (originally Ghurka) and Maori. Both ships were laid down at Fairfield's Govan, Glasgow shipyard on 6 July 1936, and Gurkha was launched on 7 July 1937.[9] Like many of the Tribals, completion of Gurkha, originally scheduled for February 1938, was delayed by late delivery of equipment, and she was not completed until 21 October 1938.[10]

On commissioning, Gurkha joined the First Tribal Flotilla (which was renamed the 4th Destroyer Flotilla in April 1939) as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. She was involved in exercises and port visits until the outbreak of war, suffering minor damage in a collision with sister-ship Sikh. In September 1939, Gurkha was one of a group of ships assigned to monitor Italian naval activity in the Red Sea. In October 1939 the flotilla was reassigned to the Home Fleet, on escort duty from Portland.[11] Gurkha, like many of the Tribals, suffered from mechanical defects including problem's with the ship's turbines and leaks in the reserve feed tanks, and underwent repair at Thornycroft's Southampton shipyard from December 1939 to January 1940, before rejoining her Flotilla, now based at Scapa Flow.[12]

On the night of 23/24 February 1940, Gurkha spotted the German submarine U-53 on the surface between the Faroe Islands and Orkney Islands. She attacked and sank the enemy south of the Faroe Islands on 23 February 1940. U-53 dived to avoid a ramming attempt by Gurkha. Gurkha responded with a series of depth charge attacks, sinking U-53 with the loss of all hands.[13]

On 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Norway, and Gurkha was part of a naval force (consisting of the cruisers Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, Sheffield and Aurora, together with the destroyers Afridi, Gurkha, Sikh, Mohawk, Somali, Matabele and Mashona) detached from the Home Fleet to attack Bergen, where a German cruiser was reported. The attack was cancelled by the British Admiralty, however, and the British force was attacked by 47 German Ju 88 and 41 He 111 bombers of Kampfgeschwader 30 and Kampfgeschwader 26.[14][15] In an attempt to obtain better firing conditions, Gurkha moved away from the mutual protection of the naval force. She then became an easy target for concentrated air attack and soon was stopped by a single bomb hit.[16] The crew were rescued by the cruiser Aurora and the destroyer Mashona, with Gurkha sinking with the loss of 16 of her crew.[12]

Notes

  1. Lenton 1998, p. 164.
  2. English 2001, p. 14.
  3. Lenton 1998, p. 165.
  4. English 2001, p. 12.
  5. Whitley 2000, p. 99.
  6. Hodges 1971, pp. 13–25.
  7. Hodges 1971, pp. 30–31, 40
  8. English 2001, p. 15.
  9. English 2001, p. 16.
  10. English 2001, pp. 14, 31.
  11. English 2001, pp. 31–32.
  12. English 2001, p. 32.
  13. Blair 2000, p. 141.
  14. Rohwer and Hümmelchen 1992, p. 16.
  15. Barnett 2000, p. 113.
  16. Vian 1960, p. 37.

References

  • Barnett, Correlli (2000). Engage the Enemy More Closely. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-141-39008-5.
  • Blair, Clay (2000). Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939–42. London: Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35260-8.
  • Brice, Martin H. (1971). The Tribals. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0245-2.
  • English, John (2001). Afridi to Nizam: British Fleet Destroyers 1937–43. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-64-9.
  • Friedman, Norman (2006). British Destroyers and Frigates, the Second World War and After. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-86176-137-6.
  • Haarr, Geirr H. (2010). The Battle for Norway: April–June 1940. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-051-1.
  • Haarr, Geirr H. (2009). The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-310-9.
  • Hodges, Peter (1971). Tribal Class Destroyers. London: Almark. ISBN 0-85524-047-4.
  • Lenton, H. T. (1998). British & Empire Warships of the Second World War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-048-7.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen; Hümmelchen, Gerhard (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945. London: Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-117-7.
  • Vian, Sir Philip (1960). Action This Day. London: Frederick Muller.
  • Whitley, M. J. (2000). Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Cassell. ISBN 1-85409-521-8.

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