Tribal-class destroyer (1905)

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.

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 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 successful River class; they were lightly built and proved to be fragile in service. More alarmingly however, they were only provided with 90 tons of bunkerage, and with high fuel consumption resulting from a high power output of 12,500 shp (9,300 kW), they were highly 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
AfridiArmstrong Whitworth, Newcastle upon Tyne9 August 19068 May 19077 September 1909Sold on 9 December 1919 for breaking up
CossackCammell Laird, Birkenhead13 November 190516 February 190712 March 1908Sold on 12 December 1919 for breaking up
GhurkaHawthorn Leslie and Company, Newcastle upon Tyne6 February 190629 April 190717 December 1908mined and sunk off Dungeness Buoy on 8 February 1917
MohawkJ Samuel White, Cowes1 May 190615 March 1907June 1908Sold on 27 May 1919 for breaking up 
TartarJ I Thornycroft, Woolston13 November 190525 June 19079 April 1908Sold on 9 May 1921 for breaking up

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
AmazonJ I Thornycroft, Woolston24 June 190729 July 1908April 1909Sold on 22 October 1919 for breaking up
SaracenJ Samuel White, Cowes12 July 190731 March 190825 June 1909Sold 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
CrusaderJ Samuel White, Cowes22 June 190820 March 190921 October 1909Sold on 30 June 1920 for breaking up
MaoriWilliam Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton6 August 190924 May 190911 November 1909Mined and sunk off Wirlingen Light Ship, Zeebrugge, on 7 May 1915 
NubianJ I Thornycroft, Woolston18 May 190821 April 190924 August 1909Torpedoed and damaged by German destroyers in action off Folkestone, on 27 October 1916 
VikingPalmers, Jarrow 29 June 191011 June 190814 September 190929 June 1910Sold on 12 December 1919 for breaking up
ZuluHawthorn Leslie and Company, Newcastle upon Tyne18 August 190816 September 190919 March 1910Mined and damaged off Dover on 27 October 1916

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.

Name Builder Laid down Launch date Commissioned Fate Image
HMS ZubianChatham Royal Dockyard7 June 1917Sold on 12 December 1919 for breaking up 


  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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