HMS Tartar (1907)

HMS Tartar (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, the battle of the Dover Straits, and surviving being mined, before ending the war with the XI Submarine Flotilla of the Grand Fleet at Blyth

The Tartar was one of five Tribal class destroyers that were ordered in the 1905-6 programme.

HMS Tartar from the right
HMS Tartar from the right

The Tartar had four funnels, serving six boilers – the first and sixth boilers had a funnel each, the middle four were paired into wider 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 Tartar had an unusual hull, with a high bow leading to a turtleback foredeck. This ended in a short forecastle raised slightly above the level of the turtleback, which carried the side by side 12-pounder guns mounted forward.

The Tartar was built with three 12-pounder quick firing guns. In 1909 she was given another pair of guns, giving her a total of five.

On Tuesday 17 December 1907 she carried out trials on the Maplin measured mile. Her average speed on six runs over the measured mile was 35.672 knots, and she averaged 35.363 knots during her six hour trial. She also averaged 37.037 knots, about 44mph, on one of the measured mile runs, which at the time was a world record. This was well above her contract speed of 33 knots, and as a result Thorneycroft were awarded a £12,000 bonus.

In January 1909 the Tartar achieved an even higher speed, reaching 40.3 knots over a measured mile over the Barrow Deep in the North Sea. At the time this was reported as regained her the world record, which was believed to have been taken by the special destroyer HMS Swift. However the Swift never really reached her ambitious speed targets, so the Tartar probably never lost her record in the first place!

Pre-War Career

In April 1908 the Tartar was commissioned into the Fleet Reserve.

In 1908-1909 the Tartar 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.

Sam Hughes on HMS Tartar
Sam Hughes on HMS Tartar

Despite their small size, these early destroyers still kept some of the traditional comforts for their officers, although clearly not always successfully. In September 1908 Percy C. Hollingdale, the officer’s steward on the Tartar was arrested for forging a cheque in the name of her commandeering officer, Commander V.E.B. Phillimore! 

In November 1908 the Tartar 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 Tartar 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 August 1909 the flotilla visited Scottish waters, led by the cruisers Boadicea and Patrol. The Tartar was the only Tribal class ship in the flotilla.

On Saturday 28 November 1909 the Tartar and the Amazon escorted the King of Portugal on the Royal Yacht Alexandra from Dover to Calais as he left Britain after a Royal visit.

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

First World War

In July 1914 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth.

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.

At the end of August 1914 she was chosen as one of six destroyers from the 6th Flotilla that were to support a planned landing at Ostend to support the Belgians. The landings began on 27 August, but it was soon clear that the port couldn’t be defended, and British troops withdrew on 31 August.

In November 1914 she was undergoing repairs at Chatham. By this point she had been equipped with a modified sweep.

On 28 December the Tartar opened fire on what she believed was a U-boat, but at the time the nearest submarine was U-24, which was resting on the seabed to avoid stormy weather.

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

On 19 February 1915 the Tartar sighted a submarine and forced it to dive into the Allied minefield, but the submarine survived.

On 31 March 1915 she rescued the only two survivors from the steamer Emma, which had been sunk by U-28.

In June 1915 she was 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 September 1915 the Tartar 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.

On the night of 8 September 1915 the Leven collided with a troop ship and suffered damage to her bow. She was found drifting towards Boulogne, and towed back to Dover by the Viking aided by the Tartar and the tug Lady Crundall.

The Tartar took part in the bombardment of Zeebrugge of 23 August 1915, forming part of Destroyer Patrol No.6 (with the Mermaid).

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.

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 Tartar, 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 Viking, Mohawk and Tartar stayed together, and early on 27 October sighted the Germans. However Commander Oliphant, on the Viking, wasn’t sure if they were friend of foe and issued the standard identification challenge. The Germans responded by steaming past the starboard side of the British formation and opening fire. The Mohawk was hit, and her helm jammed. Her commander decided to fall out of the formation to port, and the Tartar followed, in the belief that she was actually second in the line, behind the Viking. The Viking attempted to follow the Germans, but almost ran into the Mohawk and had to take evasive action. Once the confusion was sorted out, the Viking attempted to find the Germans, but without success.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla. At this point the Navy decided to convert a number of ships into minelayers for the new H mines. The Tartar was considered, but was considered to be too weakly built. 

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

On 17 or 24 June 1917 (sources differ) the Tartar was damaged when she hit a mine in the Dover Straits. Forty-three men were killed. The mine had been laid by UC-65 on 16-17 June, and the Tartar struck one while moving from Calais to Boulogne. She was following the Afridi, which was judged to have been outside the swept channel, and her captain was actually court martialed for endangering his ship, but acquitted. Amongst the dead was her newly appointed captain, Lt Guy Twiss. The Tartar stayed afloat and was towed back to Dover.

In the November 1917 Navy List she was listed as part of the XI Submarine Flotilla. She wasn’t listed in the October list, so presumably her repairs weren’t completed until November.

In January 1918 she was one of two destroyers supporting the XI Submarine Flotilla of the Grand Fleet at Blyth.

In 18 February 1918 the Tartar collided with the SS Ardgantock off West Hartlepool. The Ardgantock was sunk in the collision, but nobody was lost on either ship.

In June 1918 she was one of two destroyers supporting the XI Submarine Flotilla of the Grand Fleet at Blyth

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 two destroyers supporting the XI Submarine Flotilla of the Grand Fleet at Blyth

In February 1919 she was still with the XI Submarine Flotilla.

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 Tartar received one battle honour, for the Belgium Coast in 1914-16.

Commander V.E.B. Phillimore: -September 1908-
Lt & Commander Nigel K.W. Barttelot: 4 January 1912-January 1914-
Lt in Commander Herbert R.L. Edwards: 14 August 1914-January 1915-
Lt in Commander Noel L. Vercsmith: 9 November 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

33 knots


3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
6 Thornycroft boilers




207ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

13 November 1905


25 June 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 (28 May 2020), HMS Tartar (1907) ,

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