Tribal Class (1938) DD

By the mid-1930's it was clear that the standard A to I class destroyers were becoming outclassed by newer larger destroyer designs which were built or building for some foreign navies  In particular, Japan, France, Italy and the USA.

While the USA and France were not considered future enemies, and Italy a possible but not serious enemy. Japan was another matter. Twenty four large Fubuki class, destroyers had been built by 1932, and more were building. She was engaged in ongoing conflict in China, had a modern and powerful fleet, and Britain no longer had treaty links with her. So with the British Empire still sprawled over the Far East, Japan had to be considered as a potential enemy.

To counter this specific threat a large gun-armed destroyer was needed. This resulted in the Tribal Class, which was in addition to the normal 1935 destroyer construction program.

This was one of the few times the Admiralty purposely developed a design to match a foreign design, and it is ironic that the two types never met in action.

Seven ships were ordered on 10-Mar-1936, with nine repeats in June. All except Bedouin were laid down before the end of the year.

Early on it became necessary to stiffen the hull because of leaking problems, and anti-aircraft armament had to be augmented.

Later as WW2 progressed the survivors had further modifications to anti-aircraft and radar fits. As was usual during wartime.

As the 16 Tribal's were commissioned, they were formed into two flotilla's.

The 4th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean, and the 6th Flotilla with the Home Fleet.

When it became clear that Italy would not be joining hostilities during Sep-1939, the 4th Flotilla was among the Mediterranean ships ordered to reinforce the Home Fleet.

The Tribal's, served in Home waters, the Norwegian Campaign, and the Hunt for the Bismarck,

During 1941/42 all 6th Flotilla ships served mostly in Arctic Waters on Russian convoy duties.

Meanwhile Nubian and Mohawk had moved to the eastern Mediterranean, and were joined by other ships of the 4th Flotilla later.

But by 20-Sep-1942 when Somali foundered during a rising gale while under tow, having so far survived a torpedo hit by U703. There were only four survivors from the original 16 ships.

By mid 1944 all four surviving ships were back in home waters and formed part of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla. They saw considerable action in the Channel, before, during and after the Normandy landings..

With the end of the war in Europe nearing, 10th Flotilla was sent to the East Indies, operating in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Malaya. There they saw action against light Japanese forces. But as they had been fitted for Arctic service they were very unpleasant to live in, in Tropical conditions.

All four were broken up soon after the war ended.


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This page last edited - 01 May, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.