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HMS Gurkha was a Tribal-class destroyer that saw active service in the Norway Campaign in 1940, where she was sunk.

HMS Gurkha 1938.jpg
HMS Gurkha in 1938
United Kingdom
Name: Gurkha
Namesake: Gurkha
Ordered: 10 March 1936
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited, Govan
Cost: £340,997
Laid down: 6 July 1936
Launched: 7 July 1937
Completed: 21 October 1938
Honours and
Norway 1940, North Sea 1940
Fate: Sunk, 9 April 1940 by bombers off Norway
Notes: The name Gurkha was reused by an L-class destroyer
Badge: On a Field Blue, two crossed Kukri proper
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Tribal-class destroyer
Length: 377 ft (115 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Draught: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 5,700 nmi (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 190
Sensors and
processing systems:



On 10 March 1936, two Tribal-class destroyers were ordered from Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Gurkha (originally Ghurka) and Maori. Both ships were laid down at Fairfield's Govan, Glasgow shipyard on 6 July 1936, and Gurkha was launched on 7 July 1937.[1] Like many of the Tribals, completion of Gurkha, originally scheduled for February 1938, was delayed by late delivery of equipment, and she was not completed until 21 October 1938.[2][3]

Gurkha was 377 feet (114.91 m) long overall and 355 feet 6 inches (108.36 m) between perpendiculars. The ship's beam was 36 feet 6 inches (11.13 m) and draught 9 feet (2.74 m). Displacement was 1,854 long tons (1,884 t) standard and up to 2,519 long tons (2,559 t) under full load.[4] Three Admiralty boilers raising steam at 300 pounds per square inch (2,100 kPa) and 620 °F (327 °C) fed Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines that drove two propeller shafts, generating 44,000 shaft horsepower (33,000 kW) at 350 rpm. This was sufficient to give a speed of 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph). 525 tons of oil fuel were carried, giving a range of 5,700 nautical miles (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) and 3,200 nautical miles (5,900 km; 3,700 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).[5] The ship's crew consisted of 190 officers and men.[4]

The Tribals, including Gurkha had a main gun armament of eight 4.7-inch (120mm) QF Mark XII guns in four twin power-driven mounts. Separate Low-Angle and High-Angle gun directors were fitted for anti-ship and anti-aircraft fire, although the guns could only elevate to 40 degrees, which was judged to be sufficient for long-range anti-aircraft in defence of a fleet. High level air-attack was not judged to be a threat against fast and manoeuvrable ships like destroyers. Close-in anti aircraft armament consisted of a quadruple 2-pounder "pom-pom mount and two quadruple Vickers .50 machine guns.[6][7] Torpedo armament consisted of a power-operated quadruple bank of 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes. Anti-submarine armament consisted of two depth charge throwers and one rack, with a total of 30 depth charges carried.[8]


On commissioning, Gurkha joined the First Tribal Flotilla (which was renamed the 4th Destroyer Flotilla in April 1939) as part of the Mediterranean Fleet. She was involved in exercises and port visits until the outbreak of war, suffering minor damage in a collision with sister-ship Sikh. In September 1939, Gurkha was one of a group of ships assigned to monitor Italian naval activity in the Red Sea. In October 1939 the flotilla was reassigned to the Home Fleet, on escort duty from Portland.[3][9] Gurkha, like many of the Tribals, suffered from mechanical defects including problem's with the ship's turbines and leaks in the reserve feed tanks, and underwent repair at Thornycroft's Southampton shipyard from December 1939 to January 1940, before rejoining her Flotilla, now based at Scapa Flow.[3][10]

On the night of 23/24 February 1940, Gurkha spotted the German submarine U-53 on the surface between the Faroe Islands and Orkney Islands. She attacked and sank the enemy south of the Faroe Islands on 23 February 1940. U-53 dived to avoid a ramming attempt by Gurkha. Gurkha responded with a series of depth charge attacks, sinking U-53 with the loss of all hands.[11]

On 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Norway, and Gurkha was part of a naval force (consisting of the cruisers Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, Sheffield and Aurora, together with the destroyers Afridi, Gurkha, Sikh, Mohawk, Somali, Matabele and Mashona) detached from the Home Fleet to attack Bergen, where a German cruiser was reported. The attack was cancelled by the British Admiralty, however, and the British force was attacked by 47 German Ju 88 and 41 He 111 bombers of Kampfgeschwader 30 and Kampfgeschwader 26.[12][13] In an attempt to obtain better firing conditions, Gurkha moved away from the mutual protection of the naval force. She then became an easy target for concentrated air attack and soon was stopped by a single bomb hit.[14] The crew were rescued by the cruiser Aurora and the destroyer Mashona, with Gurkha sinking with the loss of 16 of her crew.[3][10]


  1. ^ English 2001, p. 16.
  2. ^ English 2001, pp. 14, 31.
  3. ^ a b c d Mason, Geoffrey B (2002). "HMS GURKHA (i) (L 20) – Tribal-class Destroyer including Convoy Escort Movements". Service Histories of Royal Navy Warships in World War 2. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  4. ^ a b Whitley 2000, p. 114.
  5. ^ Lenton 1970, p. 115.
  6. ^ Whitley 2000, pp. 115–116.
  7. ^ English 2001, p. 8.
  8. ^ English 2001, pp. 15, 17.
  9. ^ English 2001, pp. 31–32.
  10. ^ a b English 2001, p. 32.
  11. ^ Blair 2000, p. 141.
  12. ^ Rohwer and Hümmelchen 1992, p. 16.
  13. ^ Barnett 2000, p. 113.
  14. ^ Vian 1960, p. 37.


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  • Whitley, M. J. (1988). Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-326-1.
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Coordinates: 59°13′0″N 4°0′0″E / 59.21667°N 4.00000°E / 59.21667; 4.00000