"Tribal" Class, British Destroyers

Photograph of Tribal-class destroyer

Wikipedia Commons


Tonnage 1854 tons standard displacement
2519 tons fully loaded
Dimensions 377' by 36'6" by 9'
114.9m by 11.1m by 2.75m
Maximum speed       36 knots
Complement 190
Armament 3x2 4.7"/45 guns
1x2 4"/45 DP guns
1x4 2 pdr
2x1 40mm Bofors AA guns
4x2 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
1x4 21" torpedoes
Depth charge tracks (46 depth charges)
2-shaft Parsons geared turbine (44,000 shp)
3 Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Bunkerage 524 tons fuel oil
Range 5700 nautical miles (10,600 km) at 15 knots
Type 285 fire control radar
Type 291 air search radar
Type 293 fire control radar
Type 124 sonar

Surface and air warning radars were added.

The new limits on cruisers imposed by the London Treaty of 1930 left the British Navy deeply concerned about its ability to provide an adequate force of fleet cruisers. At the same time, the powerful Japanese Fubukis clearly outclassed existing British destroyer classes. The British briefly considered a Scout Cruiser class, but chose instead to design a powerful destroyer leader initially known as the "V Leader." This eventually became "Tribal" class, so named because the ships were named after various indigenous peoples of the British Empire. Early design documents also identify it as the "Support Destroyer."

The "Tribals" were designed to be the most powerful ship that could be built within the destroyer leader treaty limit of 1850 tons standard displacement. They emphasized gun armament at the expense of torpedoes, duplicating the twin turret gun armament of the Fubukis. The ships also carried good communications equipment and sophisticated fire control in the form of a director tower. The design was much liked by the Naval Staff and the commander of Home Fleet, but disliked by the commander of Mediterranean Fleet, who wanted the antiaircraft firepower of a real cruiser. After much debate, the design was adopted and sixteen units ordered for 1935 and 1936.

As with most other warships of the Pacific War, the "Tribals" received numerous improvements to their antiaircraft defenses. The original 4.7" guns could only be elevated to 40 degrees, which the navy optimistically believed was still sufficient to engage approaching bombers for a useful period of time. This proved not to be the case, and by the time the first "Tribals" arrived in the Far East, one of the 4.7" turrets had been replaced with a 4" turret having real antiaircraft capability. Numerous light antiaircraft guns had also been shipped to supplement the original four-barrel pom pom and replace the almost useless quadruple 0.50 machine gun mounts.

The most distinctive feature of the ship was a new bridge structure giving a lower silhouette, which was thought important in night combat

Because of the relatively light torpedo armament and heavy gun armament of these ships, Friedman (2006) has described them as "not really destroyers." In some respects they reflected the original concept of scout cruisers, but with no armor protection.

The "Tribals" proved one of the most successful British destroyer designs, seeing so much action that only four survived into 1945. However, these remained in service until 1948, unlike most destroyers designed before the war.

Units in the Pacific:


Arrived 1945-2-7 (Trincomalee)
Arrived 1945-3-23 (Trincomalee)
Arrived 1945-4-12


Brown (2000)

Friedman (2006)

Whitley (1988)

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