HMS Cossack (1907)

HMS Cossack (1907) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, taking part in the early bombardments of the Belgian coast and surviving very serious damage after hitting a mine.

The Cossack was one of five Tribal class destroyers that were ordered in the 1905-6 programme. The Cossack had three large funnels serving five boiler rooms.

The Cossack was built with three 12-pounder quick firing guns. In 1909 she was given another pair of guns, giving her a total of five. This work was completed by Monday 25 October 1909, when she was released from the dockyard at Sheerness.  

The Cossack was launched on Saturday 16 February 1907, and was christened by Mrs Liversage, wife of her engineer, Commander E.W. Liversage, R.N.

The Cossack’s trials were a bit disappointing. She reached 33kts during a 6 hour trial, but with higher than expected fuel consumption. In her trials the Cossack reached 34.619 knots. One of her commanders considered her to be dry, but not as dry as the best of the River class ships, not quite as buoyant, but a steadier gun platform than the Rivers. She joined the fleet a year later than expected.

Pre-war Career

In 1908-1909 the Cossack 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.

HMS Cossack in 1913
HMS Cossack in 1913

In November 1908 the Cossack was part of an impressive fleet that was gathered to escort the King and Queen of Sweden as they arrived in Britain at the start of a Royal visit. The destroyers joined the escort on the section between the Nab Lightship and Portsmouth.

The Cossack 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 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 the Cossack took part in a gunnery contest as part of the fleet exercises, producing the best results of any Tribal class destroyer armed with 12-pounder guns.

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 the 1912 battle practise the Cossack came top of her class (Tribal class with 12-pounder guns) with 102 points.

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.

On 20 October the Cossack was part of a small flotilla that arrived at Dunkirk to support a bombardment of the northern end of the German line, where they faced the Belgians across the Yser River.

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

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.

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

From 10-13 March 1915 the Cossack was one of six destroyers that supported HMS Venerable during a bombardment of the German positions around Nieuport. None of the ships were damaged, but poor weather prevented them from achieving much.

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 Cossack was part of the fleet that carried out a bombardment of Zeebrugge on 23 August 1915. She began the operation as part of the escort for the monitors Sir John Moore, Lord Clive and Prince Rupert, joining them in the Middle Deep. The fleet came together late on 21 August, after a number of delays. On 22 August the Cossack was used to lay buoys on Thornton Ridge to mark the correct location for the fleet. Unfortunately the seabed under the existing marker buoys for the ridge didn’t match the most recent chart (from 1840!), and the Cossack’s buoys were thus placed out of position. The bombardment itself, on 23 August, was only moderately effective, and two of the monitors suffered from problems with their guns.

In September 1915 the Cossack was part of a fleet that was to attack Ostend and Westende. She formed part of No.1 T.B.D. Patrol, itself part of Division I, which once again was built around a number of monitors. The Cossack was given the task of laying a buoy to mark observation station No.1. which was to be used to spot the gunfire for the attack on Ostend. The attack itself took place on 7 September 1915, and only caused limited damage.

In January 1916 she was at Portsmouth undergoing repairs. She was in the hands of a care and maintenance party, and the date of completion of the repairs was unclear, but not before 6 February.

On 24 March 1916 UB-29 torpedoed the steamship Sussex, the regular passenger ship that travelled between Folkestone and Dieppe. This was at a time when the Germans were officially not sinking passenger ships, and the submarine’s commander initially claimed he had mistaken her for a troopship, and later for a new type of minelayer. At the time she was carrying 880 passengers, many of whom were killed in the initial blast. However she stayed afloat, and was able to get off an S.O.S. signal. The Cossack was the first British ship to find her, although by the time she arrived a French trawler was already on the scene and helping to rescue survivors. Around 370 survivors were rescued.

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 late October 1916 the Germans carried out a raid into the Dover Straits. The British were expecting some sort of attack, but had no information about its target, so Admiral Bacon left six Tribal class destroyers, including the Cossack, at Dover to act as a striking force. The raid itself began on 26 October, and at 10.50pm the Tribal class destroyers were ordered to sea.

The Tribal flotilla didn’t perform particularly well during the raid. Its commander, on the Viking, decided to send them out of Dover by two entrances, and the two sub-divisions didn’t find each other for the rest of the night. The Cossack soon fell behind and didn’t get into combat. This was perhaps fortunate, for those Tribal class boats that did encounter the Germans all failed to act promptly, and suffered accordingly.

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

On the night of 20-21 April 1917 the Cossack was anchored in the small Downs during a German destroyer raid into the Channel, which included an attack on Dover.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine active destroyers in the Sixth Flotilla, which had been enlarged with a number of more modern ships.

On 1 July 1917 the Cossack collided with the SS The Duchess three miles off the Royal Sovereign Light Ship. The Cossack’s depth charges exploded and her stern was destroyed down to the water level. Remarkably nobody was killed, and the Cossack was towed back into Dover.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, now with over forty destroyers, although ten were undergoing repairs. The Cossack was being repaired at Sheerness.

The Cossackplayed a minor role in the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April 1918. At the time she was based at Dunkirk, and during the raid she was used to patrol off Ostend.

In June 1918 she was one of twenty seven destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla.

In September 1918 all of the surviving Tribal class ships were given a part of two 14 torpedo-tubes mounted at the break of the forecastle, for use in close range combat.

In November 1918 she was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

By February 1919 she was listed as part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in the Navy List.

In July 1919 the Admiralty ordered that the Tribal class destroyers Afridi, Cossack, Saracen, Tartar, Viking and Zubian should all be sold out of the Royal Navy as being no longer required for service.

By December 1919 she was listed as ‘To be Sold’ in the Navy List.

The Cossack received one battle honour, for operations off the Belgium Coast in 1914-16.

Commander Albert M H Phillips: 1 May 1912-January 1914-
Lt-Commander Gerald C. Harrison: 29 July 1914-January 1915-
Lt in Command Ralph Kerr: 30 April 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

33 knots


3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
5 Laird boilers




207ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

13 November 1905


16 February 1907


April 1908



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 (7 May 2020), HMS Cossack (1907) ,

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