HMS Zulu (1909)

HMS Zulu (1909) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, until she was badly damaged by a mine late in 1916. Her bow was then combined with the stern of the Nubian to produce a new destroyer, HMS Zubian.

Launch Party for HMS Zulu
Launch Party for HMS Zulu

The Zulu was one of five Tribal class destroyers built in the 1907-8 programme, the last members of the class.

The Zulu had four funnels. At first the forward funnel on the four funnel boats was too low, pouring smoke onto the bridge, but they were later raised to try and reduce the problem.

The Zulu was armed with two 4in guns and two 18in torpedo tubes.

The Zulu was launched at Hebburn on Thursday 16 September 1909 but the launch didn’t go entirely to plan. She clearly entered the water faster than expected as she crossed the river and collided with a jetty on opposite bank, doing ‘considerable damage’, although the press reports don’t make it clear if that was to the jetty or the boat. She was then moored at the builder’s yard.

Pre-War Career

In July 1909 the Afridi, Nubian, Crusader, Maori, Zulu and Viking were all ordered to join the First Destroyer Division as soon as they were commissioned, to replace River class boats.

HMS Zulu from the left HMS Zulu from the left

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

On Thursday 14 April 1910 the Afridi and Zulu escorted the Queen and Princes Victoria as they sailed from Dover to Calais on the Royal Yacht Alexandria, at the start of a trip to the Mediterranean.

The Zulu took part in the 1910 naval manoeuvres, which always attracted a great deal of press attention. On Monday 18 July 1910 she was reported to have put into Queenstown, Ireland, after running short of fuel.

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 May 1912 a flotilla made up of the cruiser Bristol and the destroyers Zulu, Amazon, Hope and Nubian visited Manchester, using the ship canal to reach the city.

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

On 21 November 1914 she was one of six destroyers from the Dover patrol that escorted Admiral Hood, in HMS Crusader, along with HMS Revenge and HMS Bustard as they moved to Dunkirk as part of a plan to bombard Zeebrugge. Eventually the bombardment was carried out by the four Duncan class battleships of Admiral Nicholson’s division of the 3rd Battle Squadron.

HMS Zulu from the left HMS Zulu from the left

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.

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.

In November 1914 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla and had been equipped with a modified sweep.

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

On 21 February 1915 the Zulu was attacked by a German seaplane while patrolling north of the British submarine nets, off the Thames Estuary. Four bombs were dropped, but none hit.

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..

In January 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

On 26 October 1916 the Zulu was patrolling the area from Dungeness to Beachy Head when the Germans raided into the Dover Straits, but wasn’t caught up in the resulting battle.

On 8 November 1916 the Zulu hit a mine in the Dover Straits. Three men were killed and the stern blown off. The French destroyer Capitaine Mehl found the Zulu and towed her to Calais. She was then taken to Chatham, where she was combined with the stern of the Nubian to form a new destroyer, Zubian.

It took some time for the Navy’s records to decide how to deal with the Zulu. In January 1917 she was still listed with the Sixth Flotilla, but she was one of twelve destroyers that were off station undergoing a refit. By June the Zubian had replaced her on the list, but was still undergoing a refit!

In May 1917 Engine Room Artificer Michael Joyce and Petty Officer Walter Kimber were awarded the Albert Medal (second class) for rescuing Stoker Petty Officer Smith from the rapidly flooding engine room.

After the war the Navy produced an official list of their losses, including 64 destroyers. The Zulu and Nubian were listed together as the loss of a single vessel.

The Zulu was awarded one battle honour, for the Belgian Coast in 1915-16.

Commander Hugh B. Mulleneux: 1 August 1912-January 1914-
Lt Commander Lawrence D O Bignell: 6 September 1914-January 1915-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

33 knots


3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
6 Yarrow boilers




280ft 1.25in




Two 4in/ 45cal BL Mk VI
Two 18in Torpedo Tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

18 August 1908


16 September 1909


March 1910

Joined with Nubian to form Zubian


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 (16 July 2020), HMS Zulu (1909) ,

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