HMS Zulu (F18)

The second HMS Zulu was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was built in Glasgow by Alexander Stephen and Sons. Her keel was laid down on 10 August 1936. She was launched on 23 September 1937 and commissioned on 7 September 1938. She was sunk by German or Italian aircraft on 14 September 1942, off Tobruk.[1] Some sources credit Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bombers from StG 3 with her sinking.[2][3] The ship's commanding officer testified that the ship was sunk by a combination of Ju 87s and Junkers Ju 88s.[4]

United Kingdom
Name: Zulu
Namesake: Zulu people
Ordered: 10 March 1936
Builder: Alexander Stephen and Sons, Linthouse
Cost: £351,135
Laid down: 27 August 1936
Launched: 23 September 1937
Completed: 6 September 1938
Identification: Pennant number: L18, later F18
Fate: Sunk by German aircraft off Tobruk, 14 September 1942
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Tribal-class destroyer
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:


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.[5] The ships displaced 1,891 long tons (1,921 t) at standard load and 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) at deep load.[6] They had an overall length of 377 feet (114.9 m), a beam of 36 feet 6 inches (11.1 m)[7] and a draught of 11 feet 3 inches (3.4 m).[8] 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).[7] 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).[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] The ships were fitted with a single above-water quadruple mount for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes.[9] 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;[11] Twenty depth charges were the peacetime allotment, but this increased to 30 during wartime.[12]

Wartime modifications

Heavy losses to German air attack during the Norwegian Campaign demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the Tribals' anti-aircraft suite and the RN decided in May 1940 to replace 'X' mount with two QF 4-inch (102 mm) Mark XVI dual-purpose guns in a twin-gun mount. To better control the guns, the existing rangefinder/director was modified to accept a Type 285 gunnery radar as they became available. The number of depth charges was increased to 46 early in the war, and still more were added later.[13] To increase the firing arcs of the AA guns, the rear funnel was shortened and the mainmast was reduced to a short pole mast.[14]

Construction and career

On 4 August 1942, Zulu — together with Sikh, Croome and Tetcott — sank the German submarine U-372 off Haifa. Zulu's commanding officerCommander R.T. White, D.S.O.* — was Mentioned in Despatches for his efforts in sinking U-372.

In September 1942, Zulu participated in Operation Agreement, a commando raid at Tobruk, together with cruiser Coventry and destroyer Sikh. She had the task of scuttling Coventry after she was damaged in an air raid. Zulu was sunk by enemy aircraft on 14 September 1942, after bombarding Tobruk, following the rescue of Sikh. Shore batteries hit Sikh which began to sink. White manoeuvred his ship to try to rescue Sikh and her crew, attaching lines to her to drag her out of danger, having laid a smokescreen. Sikh eventually sank but Zulu succeeded in saving the lives of a number of her crew. Aircraft continued to attack Zulu and she finally succumbed, sinking the following day. Zulu took forty casualties from these attacks: twelve killed, twenty-seven missing, and one member of the crew was wounded. The attack, according to her commanding officer, was carried out by Ju 88s and Ju 87s—12 Ju 87s belonging to III./Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 formed part of the attack.[4]


  1. Rohwer, Hümmelchen & Weis 2005, p. 196.
  2. de Zeng, Stankey & Creek 2009, p. 109.
  3. Weal 1998, p. 65.
  4. Smith 2011, p. 281.
  5. Lenton, p. 164
  6. English, p. 14
  7. Lenton, p. 165
  8. English, p. 12
  9. Whitley, p. 99
  10. Hodges, pp. 13–25
  11. Hodges, pp. 30–31, 40
  12. English, p. 15
  13. Friedman, p. 34; Hodges, pp. 41–42
  14. Whitley, p. 116


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  • English, John (2001). Afridi to Nizam: British Fleet Destroyers 1937–43. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-64-9.
  • de Zeng, H.L.; Stankey, D.G.; Creek, E.J. (2009). Dive-Bomber and Ground-Attack Units of the Luftwaffe, 1933–1945: A Reference Source, Vol. 1. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978-1-9065-3708-1.
  • 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.
  • Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.
  • Weal, John (1998). Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-722-1.

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