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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS COSSACK (i) (L 03) -  Tribal-class Destroyer including Convoy Escort Movements 

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Tartar, sister ship (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

TRIBAL-Class Fleet Destroyer ordered on 10th March 1936 under the 1935 Build Programme. The contract for the hull and engines was placed with Vickers-Armstrong at Newcastle and the ship was laid down on 9th June 1936. Launched on 8th June 1937, she was the 6th RN warship to carry the name, which had been introduced in 1806 when the 6th Rate PANDOUR was renamed. It was last used for a destroyer built in 1907 by Cammell Laird which was sold in 1919.  Build of this destroyer was completed on 7th June 1938 and she commissioned for service in the 1st Tribal Destroyer Flotilla and served with the Flotilla in the Mediterranean. The ship took part in patrols during the Spanish civil war and in Mediterranean Fleet exercises and visits programmes before the outbreak of war with Germany.1939. In April that year the Flotilla identity was changed to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla. Her Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes was L03 when she commissioned but this was changed in December 1938 to F03. In the early months of 1940 her name became renowned when her exploits in boarding the German tanker ALTMARK to rescue British seamen received national acclaim. In January 1942 her successor was “adopted ”by the  civil community of Esher and Claygate, Surrey after a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in January 1942, but it is believed that a relationship with this ship existed before her loss in October 1941.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

BALTIC 1835 - DOVER PATROL 1914-19 - NARVIK 1940 - NORWAY 1940 - ATLANTIC 1940-41 - BISMARCK Action 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941 - KOREA 1950-53*

(* Awarded to HMS COSSACK (ii))

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, riding in water barry wavy. White and Blue,

a mounted Cossack proper.



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)



1 9 3 9


August              Deployed with 4th Flotilla in the Mediterranean.

               2nd     Visited Istanbul with HM Battleship WARSPITE.

                          Took-up war station later.


September         Nominated for convoy escort in Mediterranean..

                          (Note: Mediterranean Fleet ships also carried out patrols to enforce

                                      blockade to prevent landing of cargoes destined for Germany.

                3rd      Deployed for escort of convoys between Marseilles and Mediterranean



October              Nominated for return to Home waters with ships of Flotilla..

               2nd      Took passage to join Home Fleet for convoy defence.


November          Deployed in North Sea for convoy defence and patrol.

               7th       Sustained damage in collision with ss BORTHWICK off May Island,

                            Firth of Forth during escort duty. Four of the ship’s company were

                            killed and ship was withdrawn from duty for repair.

                8th      Passage to Leith for repair by Robb’s shipyard.

                9th      Under repair including repairs to turbine blades.

                            (Note: Replacement of these items were also found necessary in other

                                       ships of the Class. See AFRIDI TO NIZAM by J English and

                                       BRITISH DESTROYERS by E J March.)


December          Under repair at Leith.


1 9 4 0



                9th      Resumed Home Fleet duties with Flotilla in North Sea.


February            Took part in search for German tanker ALTMARK known to be on

                            return passage to Germany and believed to be carrying British personnel

                            from merchant ships captured by German battleship GRAF SPEE

                            during her commerce raiding activities in 1939-40. Deployed with HM

                            Cruiser ARETHUSA, HM Destroyers SIKH, NUBIAN, INTREPID and


              16th       After interception of ALTMARK by HMS INTREPID and HMS

                            IVANHOE boarded German ship in Joessing Fjord. Norway and

                            released the 299 British seamen held on board.

                            (For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and The

                            Naval Staff History.)

                            Sustained slight structural damage to bows during boarding.

              17th       Released prisoners were landed at Leith with substantial press coverage.

              22nd      Taken in hand for repair at Leith in same shipyard.

              23rd      Resumed Home Fleet duties.


March                  Home Fleet deployment in continuation.


April                  Planning for Home Fleet operation R4 to lay mines off Norway in hand.

                           (Note: This ship was not part of screen for minelayers or for Fleet major

                                       units providing cover.

                                       For details of all naval activities following execution of R4 and

                                       in support of allied military operations in Norway see NAVAL

                                       OPERATIONS OF THE CAMPAIGN IN NORWAY (HMSO).)

                 7th    Sailed from Forth with HM  Destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA (i), SIKH

                          MOHAWK, ZULU, KASHMIR, KELVIN, Polish destroyers ORP

                          GROM, BLYSKAWICA and BURZA as screen for HM Cruisers

                          ARETHUSA and GALATEA to carry out interception sweep northward

                          from position 58.30N  3.30E.

                          (Note: German warships had been reported by aircraft as being on

                                       passage in North Sea. Part of planned minelay in R4 was

                                       cancelled and Home Fleet ships deployed to find the enemy.

                                       Ship did not take part in Home Fleet operations after the

                                       sinking of HM Destroyer GLOWWORM.)

                 8th    HM Destroyers SOMALI, MATABELE, MASHONA and TARTAR

                          joined screen.

                 9th    Following collision between HMS KELVIN AND HMS KASHMIR

                          Detached from screen with HMS ZULU during passage of cruisers

                          to join assembly of Home Fleet units

                          Deployed for tow of HMS KASHMIR to Leith for repair.

                          (Note: HMS: :This ship did not take part in 1st Battle of Narvik.)

                12th   Rejoined Home Fleet units off Narvik.

                          Deployed with HM Destroyers ESKIMO, PUNJABI. HERO,

                          ICARUS, KIMBERLEY, FORESTER and FOXHOUND as screen

                          for HM Battleship WARSPITE and took passage to enter Vest

                          Fjord to provide cover for entry of destroyers into Narvik harbour.

                13th   Deployed as screen for HMS WARSPITE in Vest Fjord with HM

                          Destroyers HERO, FOXHOUND and FORESTER, joined later by

                          HM Destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, KIMBERLEY and


                          Detached from HMS WARSPITE and deployed to enter harbour at

                          Narvik with HMS FOXHOUND and HMS KIMBERLEY covered

                          by HMS WARSPITE gunfire. 2nd Battle of Narvik. Engaged and

                          sank German destroyer ERIC GIESE with HMS FOXHOUND.

                          Engaged crippled German destroyer DIETHER VON ROEDER with

                          the other two Home Fleet destroyers and hit by nine 5in shells in

                          return fire before enemy destroyer sank

                          Sustained serious damage with 11 killed and 23 of ship’s company

                         wounded. One shell exploded in forward structure killing all of

                          the ammunition supply party for “A” gun. Other hits in Boiler

                          Rooms and consequential damage disabled ship which grounded

                          as then unable to manoeuvre.

                           (Note: One sources records that the German destroyer was scuttled.)

                           Came under shore fire after damage..

                 14th   Ship refloated on rising tide and took passage under stern way

                            to Skelfjord, escorted by HMS KIMBERLEY.

                            (See ESCORT COMMANDER by P Gretton, NARVIK by D

                            Macintyre and above reference for details of 2nd Battle of Narvik.)

                 16th    Under temporary repair,.

                 26th    Deployed as escort for tanker BRITISH LADY during passage to

                             Scapa Flow

                 29th    Passage to Portsmouth for permanent repair.

                 30th    Taken in hand for repair.


May                         Repair arranged at J I Thornycroft shipyard at Southampton

.                               Taken in hand for repair

                                Pennant Number for visual signalling purposes changed to G03.

                                (Note: Refit work included:

                                             Installation of Radar Type 286, which was an RAF

                                             air/surface equipment modified for naval use and the

                                             first radar outfit to be fitted in RN destroyers. For

                                             details of the development and use of radar equipment

                                             in the Royal Navy see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)

                                             Twin 4.7in mounting in X position was replaced by twin

                                             4in HA mounting and modifications were made to other

                                             ship services.



                15th         Carried out post repair trials and prepared for return to Home

                                Fleet duties as Leader of 4th Flotilla.

                                (Note: Replaced HMS AFRIDI lost in air attack off Namsos

                                             on 3rd May 1940)

                                On completion of post refit trials took passage to Clyde for special


                 24th          Deployed as escort for HM Cruiser EMERALD with HM Destroyer


                                  (Note: The cruiser was taking gold bullion and securities from UK

                                              to Canada for safe keeping.)

                  25th         Detached from escort owing to extreme weather conditions and

                                  returned to Clyde.

                                  Passage to Scapa Flow to resume Flotilla duties in Home Fleet.



                    7th         Deployed with screen for Home Fleet major warships during an

                                  unsuccessful for search for HM Submarine SHARK which was

                                  known to be in difficulties during patrol off Norway.

                                  (Note: HMS SHARK was sunk by German minesweepers after

                                              damage by air attacks.)

                                              Home Fleet ships took part in anti-invasion patrols in North

                                              Sea as well as in screening of Home Fleet major warships

                                              during interception patrols in NW Approaches to deter

                                              passage of enemy warships and commerce raiders.



                  11th         Deployed with HM Destroyers MAORI, SIKH and DUNCAN as

                                  part of escort for ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during the lay

                                  mines in northern section of East Coast Miner Barrier.

                                  (Operation SN13)


September                 Home Fleet deployment in continuation.

                                  (Note: For details of Home Fleet activities including ant-

                                              invasion contributions for defence of UK see The

                                              Naval Staff History and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE


                 28th          Under repair at Rosyth

                                  (Note: The result of damage sustained during high speed operations

                                               in rough weather.)


October                     Carried out post repair trials and resumed Flotilla duties with Home


                  14th         Took part in attack on convoy off Egersund and sustained damage.

                                  (Home Fleet operation MD).

                  15th         Under repair to rudder damage.



                    4th          Resumed Flotilla duties in Home Fleet.

                                   (Note: Deployed with screen for major warships during search

                                                operations in NW Approaches for German warships

                                                attempting break-out into Atlantic for attacks on convoys.)


December                   Home Fleet duties in continuation


1 9 4 1


January                       Withdrawn from operational duties for repairs and refit.

                                   Passage to Southampton.

                    7th          Taken in hand for repair and refit by J I Thornycroft.

                                   (Note: Repair included docking for structural work on plating

                                                and modification of accommodation in view of the

                                                increase in complement to 236 because of changes in

                                                equipment fit.

                                                Type 286 radar modified to allow use of a rotating

                                                aerial unit. See above reference.)



                   20th         On completion of post refit trials resumed duties with Flotilla

                                   in Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow.



                   11th         Deployed with HM Destroyers ST MARY'S, ZULU and

                                   MAORI as escort for ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron during

                                   mine lay in Northern Barrage (Operation SN6B)

                                   (Note: Cover was provided by HM Cruisers EDINBURGH and



April            6th          Deployed with HM Destroyers ANTHONY, LANCASTER

                                   and ST MARY'S as escort for ships of 1st Minelaying Squadron

                                   during minelay in Northern Barrage (Operation SN8.)


May                            Nominated for escort of military convoy in NW Approaches

                                   because of perceived threat of attack by German battleship

                                   BISMARCK, believed to be preparing for sortie into Atlantic

                                   for attacks on convoys.

                   22nd        Joined Convoy WS8B in Clyde which was taking passage to

                                   Indian Ocean with troop reinforcements.

                                  (Note: Escort included HM Destroyers ERIDGE, MAORI,

                                                     OTTAWA (RCN), SIKH, ZULU, RESTIGOUCHE

                                                     (RCN) and Polish ORP PIORUN with HM Cruiser

                                                     deployed to provide AA defence and HM Cruiser

                                                     SCYLLA as Ocean Escort during passage to Freetown.)

                   25th              Detached with HM Destroyers MAORI, SIKH, ZULU and

                                        ORP PIORUN of Flotilla to join Home Fleet ships in search

                                        for German battleship BISMARCK which had sunk HM

                                        Battlecruiser HOOD and evaded shadowing cruisers.

                   26th              Ordered to join  HM Battleship KING GEORGE V with

                                        HMS SIKH and HMS ZULU, but after BISMARCK had

                                         been sighted by CATALINA aircraft attempted to intercept

                                         German ship.

                   27th               Delayed by weather conditions and sighted HM Cruiser


                                         Took part in torpedo attacks on BISMARCK with HMS

                                         MAORI and HMS ZULU without success.

                                         (See BATTLESHIP BISMARCK by Mullenheim Rechhberg,

                                         The Naval Staff History and PURSUIT by L Kennedy for

                                          details of the action.)

                    28th               Passage to Loch Ewe as escort for HMS KING GEORGE V

                                          with HMS ZULU.


June                                   Resumed Home Fleet duties with Flotilla at Scapa Flow.

                    17th               Deployed as escort for HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS

                                          from Gibraltar after providing air cover during passage of

                                          Malta relief convoy (Operation TRACER

                     20th              On arrival in Clyde detached and took passage to resume

                                          Home Fleet duties at Scapa Flow.


July                                    Nominated for escort of military convoys and took passage

                                           to Clyde.

                       3rd               Joined Convoy WS9A as Local Escort during passage

                                           in NW Approaches with HM Cruiser CAIRO, HM Destroyers

                                           MAORI, OTTAWA (RCN), RESTIGOUCHE (RCN),

                                           RAMSEY, RICHMOND, SIKH, VANQUISHER, ZULU

                                           and WINCHELSEA. HM Cruiser BIRMINGHAM was

                                           deployed as Ocean Escort for passage to Freetown.

                        7th              Detached with Local Escort and returned to Clyde.

                        12th              Deployed with HM Battleship NELSON, HM Cruisers

                                            MANCHESTER and ARETHUSA, HM Destroyers MAORI,

                                            LIGHTNING, NESTOR (RAN) and SIKH for escort of

                                            Convoy WS9C and took passage from Scapa Flow to join

                                            convoy during passage in NW Approaches.

                                            (Operation SUBSTANCE – Malta relief convoy. For details

                                            see MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman, The Naval

                                            Staff History ,ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                                            and THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D

                                            Macintyre for details.)

                        15th             Remained with WS9C when Local Escort detached.

                        17th             Detached from WS9C with HMS ARETHUSA and HMS

                                            SIKH as escort for troopship LEINSTER into Gibraltar.

                        20th             Embarked reinforcement troops for passage to Malta.

                                            (Note: Convoy to Malta re-identified as GM1.)

                                                        Cover during passage to western entry to the

                                                         Sicilian Narrows was to be provided by HM

                                                         Battleship NELSON and ships of Force H based

                                                         at Gibraltar. These were HM Battlecruiser

                                                         RENOWN, HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL,

                                                         HM Cruiser HERMIONE and screen of eight Fleet


                                                         Home Fleet ships detached for SUBSTANCE. were

                                                         designated Force X and were to provide escort for

                                                         GM1 through Narrows to Grand Harbour, Malta

                        21st             Took passage from Gibraltar with LEINSTER to join GM1.

                                            When LEINSTER ran aground on departure this ship was

                                            deployed as part of  destroyer screen for HM Cruisers

                                            EDINBURGH, MANCHESTER, ARETHUSA and

                                            MANXMAN with HM Destroyers MAORI, SIKH, NESTOR

                                            (RAN), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE,

                                            ERIDGE, AVON VALE and FARNDALE. deployed as

                                            Force X

                       22nd             Refuelled from RFA BROWN RANGER.

                                             (Note: HM Destroyer ENCOUNTER which had escorted

                                                          the tanker from Gibraltar joined screen.)

                                             Convoy under attack by Italian submarine DIASPRO which

                                             failed when convoy was alerted. See references.

                       23rd               Under aiir attacks during which HMS MANCHESTER was

                                              hit by a torpedo and had to return to Gibraltar. HMS

                                              FEARLESS, also hit and disabled, had to be sunk by

                                              another of the Force H destroyers, HMS FORESTER.

                                              Detached from covering Force with HMS HERMIONE

                                              and joined Force X to replace these two ships.

                                              In last air attack HMS FIREDRAKE disabled  and had to

                                              be withdrawn under tow of HMS ERIDGE.

                                              See references.

                        24th               Under night attack by Italian motor torpedo boats and

                                            . engaged enemy craft. Missed by one torpedo. ss SYDNEY

                                              STAR was hit by torpedo but managed to

                                               reach Grand Harbour covered by HMAS NESTOR.

                                               Detached on arrival of WS9C in Malta and took passage

                                               to rejoin ships of Force H which had covered passage to

                                               Narrows and were deployed west of Pantellaria to await

                                               return of Force X.

                                               (For details of passage of SUBSTANCE convoy see the

                                               above references.)

                                               Took passage with ships of Force X to rejoin Force H after

                                               arrival of GM1

                        25th                Met Force H ships off Bone and took passage to Gibraltar.

                        28th                Retained at Gibraltar for planned operation and joined

                                               Force H.

                        30th                Sailed from Gibraltar with HMS MAORI as escort for

                                               HM Cruisers ARETHUSA, HERMIONE and MANXMAN

                                                taking personnel previously embarked in ss LEINSTER

                                                to Malta. (Operation STYLE - COSSACK and MAORI may have

                                                sailed from Gibraltar on this date to create a diversion for STYLE,

                                                instead of as escort)



                          1st                 Detached from escort with HMS MAORI and carried out

                                                bombardment of Alghero, Sardinia.

                                                (Note: This was followed by air attacks from HMS ARK

                                                             ROYAL which had been part of Force H cover for

                                                             STYLE. See references.)

                          4th                 Returned to Gibraltar after deployment HM Destroyers

                                                with HM Destroyers MAORI, NESTOR (RAN) and

                                                AVON VALE in Group III as screen for HMS RENOWN

                          8th               Passage to UK to resume Flotilla duties with Home Fleet.

                                              Nominated for escort of military convoy after arrival at

                                              Scapa Flow and took passage to Clyde.

                         31st               Deployed with HM Destroyers HIGHLANDER, LEGION,

                                              LIVELY, WINCHELSEA and ZULU, Dutch destroyer

                                              ISAAC SWEERS, Polish destroyers ORP GARLAND and

                                              ORP PIORUN as Local Escort of military convoy WS11

                                              during passage from Clyde in NW Approaches.

                                              (Note: HM Cruiser CAIRO was deployed with Local

                                                           Escort to provide AA defence and Ocean Escort

                                                           by HM Battle cruiser REPULSE*, HM Armed

                                                           Merchant Cruiser DERBYSHIRE, HM Destroyers

                                                           ENCOUNTER* and NESTOR (RAN)*.HM Sloop

                                                           SUTLEJ (RIN), HM Cutters SENNEN and

                                                           TOTLAND during Atlantic passage to Freetown.

                                                           * - On passage to join Eastern Fleet.)


                          2nd              Detached from WS11 and took passage to Gibraltar to join

                                              Force H for planned Malta relief operation.

                          20th             Deployed at Gibraltar with HM Destroyer HEYTHROP

                                              to carry out search for submarines after attack on ships at

                                              at Gibraltar by Italian human torpedo weapons

                                              See MALTA CONVOYS by R Woodman

                          25th             Part of destroyer screen for HM Battleship NELSON,

                                              HMS ARK ROYAL and HM Cruiser HERMIONE of

                                              Force H with HM Destroyers ZULU, FORESIGHT,

                                              LAFOREY and LIGHTNING. Identified as Force A

                                              (Note: Force A was providing cover for passage of

                                                          the Convoy identified asGM2 after arrival at

                                                          Gibraltar as WS11X. See above references for

                                                          details of passage.)

                          26th             Detached from Force A screen to refuel from RFA

                                              BROWN RANGER

                          27th             Under air attack during which HMS NELSON was hit by

                                              a torpedo and despite serious damage remained with the

                                              covering force.

                                              Evaded torpedo during these attacks.

                                              Detached from Force A screen and joined HM Destroyers

                                              FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, LAFOREY, ORIBI,

                                              ZULU, FARNDALE and HEYTHROP as part of Force X

                                             (Note: Force X also included HM Cruisers EDINBURGH

                                                         EURYALUS, HERMIONE, KENYA and

                                                            SHEFFIELD as Close Escort for GM2 during the

                                                            passage to Grand Harbour, Malta through the

                                                            Sicilian Narrows.

                          28th             Arrived in Malta with GM2 ships and Force X.

                          29th             Passage through Sicilian Narrows with Force X to rejoin

                                               Force A west of Narrows.



                            1st              Arrived at Gibraltar with combined Force A and X ships.

                                               Remained at Gibraltar for further deployment with Force

                                               H during planned Malta support operation.

                          16th              Joined screen for HMS RODNEY, HMS ARK ROYAL

                                               and HMS HERMIONE with HM Destroyers SIKH,

                                               ZULU, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY and LEGION

                                               to provide cover for delivery of aircraft to Malta from

                                               HMS ARK ROYAL (Operation CALLBOY)

                          19th              Returned to Gibraltar with Force H ships.

                          20th              Nominated to join escort for Convoy HG75 during passage

                                               to UK. HG75. Departure had been delayed due to ENIGMA

                                               information about six U-boats assembling west of Gibraltar

                                               specifically for attacks on this convoy.

                                               See HITLER'S U-BOAT WAR Volume 1 by C Blair and

                                               U-BOATS DESTROYED by P Kemp.

                                               (Note: One source records that ship took part in anti

                                                          -submarine operations against this Group with HM

                                                            Sloop ROCHESTER, HM Corvettes MALLOW,

                                                            CARNATION and BLUEBELL during which U204

                                                            was sunk. This has to be confirmed.)

                          22nd             Sailed from Gibraltar as part of escort for Convoy HG75

                                               with HM Destroyers VIDETTE and DUNCAN, HMS

                                               ROCHESTER, HM Corvettes CARNATION , MALLOW

                                               and five other corvettes.

                          23rd              Under attacks by submarines of BRESLAU Group during

                                               which ship was hit by torpedo from U563 in position

                                               35.36N  10.04W whilst stationed astern of convoy.

                                               Structure forward of bridge demolished killing the

                                               Captain and 158 of ship’s company. Survivors abandoned

                                               ship which remained afloat.

                                               Later ship survivors returned and carried out extensive

                                              damage control to enable stern way until HM Tug

                                               THAMES arrived to take ship in tow to Gibraltar with

                                                escort by HM Corvette JONQUIL

                          27th               Weather worsened and personnel taken on board HMS

                                                 JONQUIL before ship sank at 1043 in position 35.12N


                                                 See above references and AFRIDI TO NIZAM by J



Special Note


Further information on the famous service of this ship is available in THE TRIBALS by H Brice.







by Don Kindell


This convoy list has not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived


















HN 010B





HN 011





ON 015/1





HN 015





ON 018/1





ON 019/1





HN 019





HN 021





HN 023A





OB 297





WS 008B





TC 011





HG 070










HG 075








(Note on Convoys)


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