HMS Ghurka (1907)

HMS Ghurka (1907) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, helping to sink U-8 before she was sunk by a mine early in 1917.

The Ghurka was one of five Tribal class destroyers that were ordered in the 1905-6 programme. The Ghurka had three low funnels. The Ghurka was built with three 12-pounder quick firing guns. In 1909 she was given another pair of guns, giving her a total of five.

The Ghurka was launched on Saturday 29 April 1907. At the time she was expected to reach 33 knots, which would have made her the fastest ship in the Royal Navy. On her builders trials the Ghurka averaged 34.9 knots, making her one of the fastest ships then afloat.

Pre-War Career

In 1908-1909 the Ghurka was one of four Tribal class destroyers that served with the 2nd or 4th Destroyer Flotillas, part of the Home Fleet. This was the main battle fleet at the time, and its destroyers were all fully manned.

On Thursday 9 January 1908 the steamer Hartley struck the Ghurka at Hepburn. The Hartley was apparently undamaged and continued on her way, but the Ghurka suffered serious damage on her port quarter.

HMS Ghurka from the right
HMS Ghurka from the right

The Ghurka served with the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet, from 1909. Five of the Tribal class destroyers joined the flotilla in 1909, and two in 1910.

In December 1909 three crewmen from the Ghurka had a narrow escape during a fierce gale. They were attempting to return to their ship after going ashore at Harwich, but were caught by the gale and blown out to sea. They were rescued off Felixstowe by HMS Blenheim, but not until they had been missed on the Ghurka and a full scale rescue operation mounted.

In 1911-1912 she was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet. The flotilla contained all twelve Tribal class destroyers.

In 1912-1914 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. She was fully manned in this role. The Flotilla was made up of all twelve Tribal class destroyers and eighteen Acasta or K class destroyers

In July 1914 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, made up of a mix of Tribal class and old 30-knotters. 

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of fifteen destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that had moved to its war base at Dover, where the flotilla was part of the Dover Patrol.

HMS Ghurka from the left
HMS Ghurka from the left

In August 1914 the Ghurka seized the German steamship Franz Horn at sea, as part of the naval blockade of Germany. At the start of November the Franz Horn was judged to have been a valid target by the Prize Court, and was ordered to be sold.

In November 1914 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla and was one of two destroyers chosen to be fitted with a modified sweep next.

In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

On 23 February the Ghurka was ordered to sea to join the Maori to hunt for a possible submarine off Beachy Head. However they were unable to stop U-8 sinking five ships in the area on 23-24 February.

Launch of HMS Ghurka
Launch of HMS Ghurka

On 4 March 1915 U-8 ran into one of the British anti-submarine nets and was forced to surface soon after the Ghurka exploded her sweep. She came to the surface close to HMS Ghurka and HMS Maori, who both opened fire. U-8’s crew scuttled her and surrendered. Her crew were later awarded prize money for U-8.

The Ghurka had another close encounter with a U-boat on 10 March, and once again exploded her sweep.  At the time she was credited with a ‘probable loss’, but the U-boat survived to return home.

In June 1915 she was one of part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, which contained all but one of the Tribal class ships and a large number of the older 30-knotters.

The Ghurka was part of the support forces for the bombardment of Zeebrugge on 23 August 1915, operating alongside the Viking as Destroyer Patrol No.5.

In January 1916 she was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth, with an uncertain end date. By this point she had been given a modified sweep.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, which was largely filled with Tribal class boats and older 30-knotters.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla.

The Ghurka hit a mine in the English Channel on 8 February 1917, while just to the west of Dungeness in a fierce gale. The mine detonated amidships at 19.45, while most of the officers were eating their evening meal, and she soon broke in two. She sank with the loss of seventy-five men, including her commanding officer. Only five survivors were rescued. The mine had probably been laid on the previous day by UC-47. One of the survivors was Commander Francis H. Lewin, who had only come on board for a single night to examine her gunnery arrangement.

The Ghurka received one battle honour, for the Belgium Coast in 1914-1916.

Commanders
Lt & Commander Loftus W. Jones: 15 December 1910-April 1913-
Lt & Commander Hubert E. Gore-Langton: 20 December 1913-January 1914-
Lt Commander Robert W. Richardson: 6 September 1914-January 1915-
Lt Commander Harold Woolcombe-Boyce: to 8 February 1917

Displacement (standard)

872t

Displacement (loaded)

1,000t

Top Speed

33 knots

Engine

3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
5 Yarrow boilers
14,000shp

Range

 

Length

255ft pp

Width

25ft 6.75in

Armaments

Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt QF
Two 18in Torpedo Tubes

Crew complement

68

Laid down

6 February 1906

Launched

29 April 1907

Completed

December 1908

Mined

8 February 1917

British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Norman Friedman. A very detailed look at the design of British destroyers from their earliest roots as torpedo boat destroyers, though the First World War and up to the start of the Second World War, supported by vast numbers of plans and well chosen photographs [read full review]
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 May 2020), HMS Ghurka (1907) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Ghurka_1907.html

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