The Tribal class destroyers of 1938 were large and powerful destroyers remarkably different from previous British classes and still different from those coming after. Their origins lie in a combination of the constraints imposed by naval treaties and responses to the ships of other navies.
The interwar British Empire suffered very much competing objectives, spending limits clashed with the requirements for a numerous fleet to cover the vast expanse of ocean over which British trade might move. Initial treaties limited individual ships, later treaties bound total numbers and fleet displacements. The British had a theoretical trade-protection and fleet requirement of 75 cruisers, a number made unattainable by treaty and cost, though studies into a range of very small cruisers or large destroyers generated Design V a large, heavily armed destroyer without armor but which was attractive to parts of the Admiralty and ripe to develop further. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 limited destroyers to 1,500t with an exception that 16% could be ‘destroyer leaders’ of up to 1,850t. Redesigning the V, with the leader tonnage generated the V Leader which ultimately became the Tribal Class Destroyer. This new design might be more of a competitor for ships such as the Japanese Fubuki and following Special Type destroyers, French La Fantasque’s and to a lesser degree maybe something Italian and the US Porter class which were lain down in 1933.
The main distinguishing feature of the Tribal class was adoption of the twin 4.7in/45 gun, with 4 mountings in superfiring A-B-X-Y positions. This gun firepower doubled that of the preceding ‘Interwar Standard’ type destroyers which typically had 4 single 4.7in mounts, or 5 on Flotilla Leaders. The Tribal class were the first British destroyers to carry a quad 2-lb ‘pom-pom’ autocannon, the first production class with twin gun mounts, the first with 12ft wide rangefinders instead of 9ft, the joint first to use a new, lower silhouette bridge design and the first for some time to have a torpedo broadside of only 4 tubes. They were designed with a 3 boiler room, 2 engine room layout, 2 funneled, with 2 shafts being driven by 44,000 SHP for a maximum speed at standard load of 36kt. Boasting about 15% greater length and 43% greater displacement than the G, H and I class the Tribals were a big step up.
The intended fighting unit of Tribal class destroyers was a 4-ship division, 2 divisions making a flotilla. Orders in the 1935 and 1936 programmes amounted to 2 flotillas, with those British ships completing in 1938 and early 1939 they would be the Royal Navy’s most powerful destroyers at the outbreak of WWII. Following orders would add 8 Canadian and 3 Australian Tribal class to the Commonwealth navies, commissioning in 1942-1948.
Major modifications to the Tribal class (or at least those surviving) included substitution of a twin 4.7in with a twin 4in HA mount in X position to improve anti-aircraft utility, additional 20mm Oerlikons to replace and supplement the original 0.5in machine guns, addition of various radar installations, replacement of the tripod foremast with a lattice mast and removal of the mainmast.
Cossack was the second Tribal class destroyer to be completed, entering service in mid-1938 slightly behind her sister ship Afridi. Her pre-war career was typical including…non-intervention patrols off Spain, fleet exercises and ‘show the flag’ visits. She was assigned to the 1st, later re-numbered the 4th Destroyer Flotilla.
Come September 1939 Cossack was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, but given the quiet nature of that theater she was redeployed to the Home Fleet in October, and celebrated her arrival with an unfortunate collision with a merchantman, requiring some time under repair. After repairs though, Cossack would deploy to Norway under the command of Captain Vian and earn her crew 12 medals (plus 4 for embarked crew of other ships) in the first famous event of her career.
saw HMS Cossack intercept, board and liberate British merchant seamen from the German Auxiliary Tanker Altmark, so far sounds fairly par for the course? Well, the Altmark Incident involved flagrant breaches of neutrality, possibly cutlasses, certainly annoying the Norwegians, possibly (though not really) precipitated the German invasion of Norway (and Denmark) and made the ship and her Captain household names in the rather dreary Phony War period. The Altmark had accepted approximately 300 prisoners from the Graf Spee in 1939 and was attempting to run back to Germany using Norwegian territorial waters as cover. A Norwegian inspection should have identified and released the prisoners, but didn’t and on 16 February 1940 Cossack went in and did it ‘manually’ chasing the Altmark into Jossingfjord, Norway, boarding her and liberating the 300 prisoners on board. The British were super-pleased, the Norwegians were upset and the Germans were also upset. Altmark went on her way, while Cossack returned triumphantly to the UK. In the aftermath Germany, (correctly) believing Britain would not honor Norwegian neutrality on a larger scale invaded Denmark(…) and Norway on 9 April. Oops. To be fair, while Cossack may have been the spark, Germany examined the concept of invading Norway as early as 27 September 1939, Herr Hitler met arch-Traitor (and founding father of the pejorative named for him) Vidkun Quisling on 14 December 1939 before OKW conducted Studie Nord and then the Krancke study in December-January 1940.
Cossack would be back to sweep up a small part of the mess she (may) have made. Captain Sherbrooke (who would later win a Victoria Cross for his leadership at the Battle of the Barents Sea) had temporarily taken over in early 1940. The Second Battle of Narvik on 13 April 1940 followed (duh) the First Battle of Narvik on 10 April. In the first battle a flotilla of British destroyers had raided the Norwegian port of Narvik which had been occupied by troops supported 10 German destroyers, the resulting battle saw the British trade two destroyers lost and one damaged for two lost and four variably damaged while also sinking a gaggle of merchant ships and cheekily sinking the German’s supply ship on the way out. The remaining eight German destroyers, representing 1/3 the Kriegsmarine’s fleet found themselves isolated over 1,000 nautical miles from Germany, but only 800 nautical miles from Scapa Flow and blocked in by British reinforcements. Cossack, three of her Tribal sisters, five other destroyers and
some fairly famous battleship went up the fjord to engage them. The Tribal class were in the vanguard of the force and suffered significant damage from the dug-in, though low on ammunition German ships. Cossack’s sister Eskimo lost her bow to a torpedo, though she survived and Punjabi took a pummeling but also made it home. Cossack engaged in a short-range duel with the Eric Giese and the immobile Diether von Roder taking a series of 5in hits in exchange for spitting out significant punishment.
Eight or nine 5in hits, including one to the boiler room disabled Cossack and killed 11 of her crew and she went aground, still firing. Sherbrooke received the DSO (damned silly officer) award for his part in the action. Floating off at high tide Cossack returned to the UK for a month under repair during which her pennant number changed to G03 from F03 and her ‘X’ 4.7in mount was traded in for a twin 4in mount – a needed upgrade given Afridi and Gurkha had already been lost to air attack. Unfortunately this does mean that aside from stealing
Matabele’s camouflage, Cossack in-game has a pennant number incompatible with her 8x 4.7in configuration.
Following the repair and refit and with Captain Vian back in command the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of Cossack, Maori, Sikh, Zulu and the Polish ORP Piorun was assigned as part of the cover for convoy WS8B, a fast(ish) troop convoy of 7 ships intended to reinforce the Far East via South Africa and Freetown. The convoy sailed from the Clyde on 22 May 1941, until on 25 May the fast fleet destroyers left the convoy to search for the dastardly Bismarck which had destroyed Hood the day before. On 26 May they were ordered to join HMS King George V but instead managed to intercept Bismarck the next day, maintaining radio silence (taking a very broad interpretation of Admiralty standing instructions probably justifies that).
From about 2300 on 26 May to 0700 on 27 May the Cossack had her cohort harassed the Swordfish-crippled Bismarck, launching torpedoes, firing starshell and generally making a nuisance of themselves – a nuisance that was responded to with accurate main and secondary battery gunfire from the perturbed German battleship and her increasingly exhausted crew. No results were scored by the destroyers (which might have been better served by heavier torpedo and lighter gun armament) in a tangle in variably awful sea conditions. Poor visibility, Force 8 winds and heavy seas forcing the destroyers to go as slow as 18kt all made for an unpleasant night for everyone involved. Come daybreak the destroyers withdrew as the big guns of Rodney and King George V, torpedoes from Dorsetshire and scuttling charges saw Bismarck sink. Cossack’s sistership Maori attempted to rescue survivors but abandoned the effort after thinking she was under U-boat attack, and the Tribals escorted King George V back to Scotland. Sadly for the Tribal class as a whole, on the return voyage Mashona was bombed and sunk west of Ireland.
Although assigned to the Home Fleet and carrying out several convoy escort movements, Cossack did get a break from the North Atlantic and North Sea. The British Home Fleet acted in part as a strategic reserve and in July Cossack participated in Operation Substance, a convoy run to Malta during which she tangled unsuccessfully with some Italian MAS (PT/MTB) boats and an Italian air attack which sank the destroyer HMS Fearless. Running back through the Mediterranean Cossack would return in August as part of operation Style to bombard Sardinia as part of another Malta convoy cover. In September Cossack made a second round-trip to Malta as part of Operation Halberd.
Returning to the Atlantic Cossack was the lead escort of Convoy HG75 from Gibraltar to Liverpool, a heavily defended formation of 18 merchant ships destined for a run-in with the 6 U-boats of the Breslau wolf pack. After a possible ASDIC contact was cleared Cossack had dropped back to the tail of the convoy when at 2238 on 24 October 1941 she was struck by one of two torpedoes fired by U-563 commanded by Oblt.z.S Klaus Bargsten. The torpedo hit abreast ‘B’ gun mounting, probably detonating the forward magazine. A large fire was ignited, Boiler Room 1 was flooded, and Room 2 abandoned. Her Captain, E. L. Berthon and 158 men were killed – British destroyers carried significant accommodation in the fo’c’s’le and Cossack apparently had a number of passengers embarked.
Command fell to the injured Lt. Moth who ordered the ship abandoned, though with help from destroyer Legion and corvette Carnation the fires were doused, and after the damaged bow broke away the ship was re-boarded and over the next two days
efforts were made to tow her to Gibraltar to no avail. Cossack finally sank in rising seas in the morning of 27 October 1941.
So, what’s she like in game?
Cossack can be summed up in a Venn diagram with no overlap, ships Cossack outguns v. ships Cossack outspots. With 163,200 DPM on a hull with 5.5km best-build concealment Cossack has similar shell output to Benson, while having 0.3km better concealment, in fact she’s only outspotted by the low output, poor gun-traverse Japanese destroyers. With 20°/s traverse you don’t out-turn your turrets and ergonomically Cossack is simply a joy.
I would summarize Cossack as an extremely stealthy, highly maneuverable, short-rapid smoke and RN destroyer hydro equipped murder machine. Her core shortcomings are lowish HP at 15,200, a single torpedo launcher reducing her torpedo alpha, mediocre ballistics on her 4.7in guns and generally poor gun firing arcs.
How to play the Cossack:
Advanced users may be familiar with the exploit known as ‘pressing Tab at battle start to assess the enemy fleet’. Cossack is a particularly important ship to abuse that exploit, you need to assess enemy fleet composition and determine ‘prey’ (e.g. Japanese destroyers, any lower tier destroyers), potential predators (e.g. radar cruisers) and opportunities (e.g. poor concealment but nasty destroyers you may be able to hit-and-run). Matchmaking makes a tremendous difference to Cossack but many otherwise bad scenarios can be overcome through good decision making. Once in battle, Cossack has main roles of cap contester (per Maple syrup NA it has the 10th highest base capture points in the game) and destroyer killer. Her attributes of RN destroyer speed retention in turns, plus uniquely the Engine Boost consumable, good stealth, defensive hydro, good DPM and the short cooldown smoke lend her to a pattern of cap contest with option to hit-and-run trade with red destroyers before smoking up. As a consistent cap menace, Cossack is hard to beat. Caps are a priority, red destroyers are a priority, but WG will throw a curve ball with Standard Battle or 6 red radar cruisers from time to time. In those circumstances exploiting Cossack’s fairly potent 10km, though sparse torpedo fit and 8% fire chance on 96 RPM with option to chain-together short duration but short cooldown smokes gives you opportunities to ‘help’ (or as the cynics might say, damage farm for) your team.
Carriers can pose a significant threat to low-HP, stealth-dependent Cossack and the best thing I can say about her AA is that with only 2.5km range matching her good 2.5km by-air detection you might as well leave it on all the time. I have killed planes with Cossack’s AA, but I’m pretty sure they were fighters dropped by a T6 carrier over my smoke. Your main counters to carriers are stealth and maneuverability plus rapid smoke cooldown, entering a fight with a red DD supported by a carrier is a great way to chew through your limited HP pool. You can’t win against a carrier, but you can draw if you’re good which is… ok I guess?
The main question with the captain build for the ship is one of ‘IFHE or RDF’. IFHE allows you to damage 25mm plating with your HE shells, meaning T6-T7 battleships and some T8-T10 cruisers. RDF allows you to know the location of the nearest red ship, be it a potential corner ambusher, some other DD in need of pursuit or an angry Worcester out to get you, all in advance. Personally I believe that the 8% fire chance and ability to hit superstructures, plus 10km torpedoes with great reload allows you options without IFHE, while in some T10 battles the value of penetrating 25mm plating drops to almost nothing. Sure, in the top tier game farming that poor sod in the New Mexico might be fun, but you’re a T8 destroyer, go murder their Kagero and take 2 caps!
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