HMS Crusader (1909)

HMS Crusader (1909) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, and was used by Admiral Hood during the early bombardments of the Belgian coast.

HMS Crusader at Dover
HMS Crusader
at Dover

The Crusader was one of five Tribal class destroyers built in the 1907-8 programme, the last members of the class. White was asked to submit their own design for the 1907-8 programme. They suggested a repeat of HMS Saracen, with the same boilers, but more powerful turbines, generating 15,500shp. The Crusader had four funnels, serving six boilers. 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 Crusader was armed with two 4in guns and two 18in torpedo tubes, after the 12-pounders of the first batch of Tribal class destroyers was judged to be insufficient.

During her trials the Crusader produced 61% more power than she had been designed for. This was a trend amongst destroyers of the period, but the Crusader was the most impressive example. On Tuesday 28 July 1909 she reached 34.78 knots during official preliminary steam trials on Maplin Sands. On Thursday 12 August 1909 she averaged 34.833 knots on a six hour run and reached an average speed of 35.216 knots on the measured mile during her official trials off Sheerness.

Pre-War Career

On 12 August 1909 the Crusader reached an average of 34.833 knots on a six hour official trial run.

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.

The Crusader may havejoined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet, in October 1909, and served there until 1911.

On Sunday 6 March 1910 the Crusader and the Mohawk escorted the King as he sailed from Dover to Calais on the Royal Yacht Alexandra.

HMS Crusader from the left
HMS Crusader from the left

In mid-November 1910 the Crusader and the Maori took part in a test of an early anti-submarine weapon, the explosive sweep. This was a long cable that was towed behind a destroyer, and held underwater by a kite. If a submarine was detected an explosive could be released down the cable, hopefully hitting and damaging the submarine. The two destroyers carried out a series of sweeps at speeds of up to 17 knots. However attempts to hit the modified submarine HMS A1 failed - on one occasion she even split the cable.

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 July 1911 the Crusader was used to try out a new single sweep, in which the charge was towed. This time the tests involved an attempt to detonate a sweep below the submarine HMS Holland 2, which was anchored on the surface. On the fourth attempt the submarine was damaged. As a result on 27 October 1911 permission was granted to fit sweeps to two destroyers in each of the four fleet flotillas.

In August 1912 Victoria Eugenia, Queen of Spain, her mother Princess Henry of Battenberg (the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria) and other members of a Royal party visiting Osborne Cottage went for a cruise on her, crossing the Solent to accompany the King of Spain on the first stage of his journey home.

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

During 1913 the Crusader was one of four Tribal class destroyers temporarily moved to the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, after its existing ships were moved to the Mediterranean to form the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

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.

In October 1914 she took part in operations off the Belgian coast to support the Allied armies. On one of these operations she was sent to examine Ostend harbour. When she came under fire from German field guns she returned fire, hitting the restaurant at the Hotel Majestic.

On 31 October 1914 the converted seaplane carrier HMS Hermes was sunk by U-27 in the straits of Dover.. The Crusader was one of a number of destroyers that rescued most of her 300 crew before she sank.

In November 1914 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla and had been chosen to be one of the next two ships to get a modified sweep.

On 4 November 1914 she carried Admiral Hood as he attempted to carry out a bombardment of the German lines using four destroyers. This was foiled by a thick fog, but Hood used the chance to visit the Belgian HQ at Furnes. There he was told that they were relying on naval gunfire to support any possible advance. As a result of this request he asked to have the older battleship HMS Revenge posted to Dover to support future bombardments.

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.

On 12 December she was used to carry Admiral Hood to the Continent to discuss plans for another bombardment. This was carried out on 15-16 December, but wasn’t a great success and the bombarding ships themselves came under attack.

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

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

In March Admiral Hood was ordered to patrol the area north-east of the minefield across the Straits of Dover, to prevent U-boats from crossing on the surface. The Crane and the Crusader were given this task, and on 28 March observed a large explosion within the minefield. At the time it was believed that this was probably caused by the destruction of a U-boat.

On 7 May 1915 her sister ship Maori hit a mine and sank. There were no fatalities, but most of her crew were taken prisoner. In addition thirteen men from the Crusader were taken prisoner while trying to rescue the crew of the Maori. The Crusader had lowered a boat, but then came under heavy gunfire and her captain decided the risk of staying in place was too great.

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. She was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth

On 23 August 1915 the Crusader was one of the destroyers that supported a naval bombardment of Zeebrugge, forming No.2 Patrol with the Saracen. Their task was to protect the monitors that were to carry out the bombardment as the fleet gathered then to provide part of the screen for the force as it moved into place.

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 attack itself took place on 7 September 1915, and only caused limited damage.

In January 1916 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth. Their completion date was uncertain. She had been equipped with a modified sweep.

On 13 March 1916 it was agreed to fit the Crusader with paravanes to protect her against German mines.

On 24 April 1916 she was Admiral Bacon’s flagship during a large scale minelaying expedition. As a result a double line of miles 15 miles line was laid outside Ostend and Zeebrugge in an attempt to stop or at least slow down the U-boats based in those ports.

In June 1916 the Germans decided to move their 2nd Destroyer Flotilla to the Belgium coast, to reinforce the smaller boats that had been there earlier. The Crusader was the first British boat to report the new arrivals, spotting three German destroyers off Ostend on 8 June. As a result part of the Harwich Force moved to Dover to reinforce the Dover Patrol.

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.

On 24 September 1916 the Crusader suffered minor damage from a near miss during a German bombing raid on Dunkirk. One man was killed in the attack and a second died of his injuries.

On 23 November 1916 the Germans carried out a raid on the Downs, using ten destroyers from the 9th Flotilla and three from the ‘Z’ Half Flotilla. The Crusader was one of three destroyer posted in the Downs that night, but even though the drifters patrolling near Broadstairs gave the alarm the destroyers weren’t able to react quickly enough, and the Germans withdrew.

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

In June 1917 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but was undergoing a refit at Chatham.

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 Crusader was in the Downs when the Germans raided into the Dover Straits on the night of 14-15 February 1918, but didn’t encounter the enemy.

In June 1918 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, but was undergoing repairs.

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 one of a large number of destroyers that were temporarily based at Portsmouth.

By January 1920 she was listed as ‘To be Sold’ in the Navy List.

The Crusader was given one battle honour, for the Belgian Coast in 1914-16.

Commander Apsley D.M. Cherry: 1 August 1911-April 1913-
Lt & Commander Julian H Woodbridge: 3 December 1913-January 1914-
Lt Commander George L.D. Gibbs: 16 August 1914-January 1915-
Lt in Commander Mark P. C. Kerr: 13 August 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

33 knots


3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
6 White-Foster boilers




272ft 1 3/8in


26ft 1 1/8in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

22 June 1908


20 March 1909


October 1909



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 (18 June 2020), HMS Crusader (1909) ,

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