Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, March 7, 2024

HMS Zulu + HMS Nubian = HMS Zubian

HMS Zubian at Sea

By James Patton

On the night of 26-27 October 1916, the 6th Flotilla destroyer HMS Nubian had her bow severely damaged by a German torpedo that struck just forward of the bridge during the action later called the Battle of the Dover Strait. Three crewmen died, but she remained afloat and was taken in tow but broke loose in heavy seas to drift aground near Dover.

On 8 November 1916, another 6th Flotilla destroyer, HMS Zulu, was crossing the Channel from Dover to Dunkirk when she struck a German mine recently laid by UC-1 that blew off her stern, killing 15 men and wounding several others. Although the engine room was destroyed, she didn’t sink and was towed into Calais by a French destroyer. 

HMS Zulu

As their names imply, these destroyers were sister ships of the "Tribal" or F-class, built to the same specification. Nubian was launched in April 1909 at Thorneycrofts in Woolston, near Southampton, while Zulu was built by Hawthorn Leslie at Hepburn, Tyneside, and launched in September 1909,the last of the 12 members of the class to be built. 

These destroyers were to be 285 feet long, with a beam of 27 feet and draught of 9 feet 4½ inches, displacing 1,017 tons, but there were difference in construction technique that resulted in a ten-inch difference in draught and a six-inch difference in beam. Plus, Zulu had six oil-fired boilers while Nubian had four. As a result Nubian displaced 18 tons less than Zulu. Both had three Parsons steam turbines and a rated top speed of 33 knots, and their main armament were two 4 inch Mark VII guns and two 18 inch torpedo tubes.  

HMS Nubian Run Aground

Instead of scrapping both hulls, it was decided to join the surviving sections of the two ships together to make a new one.  Zulu was towed from Calais to Chatham Dockyard in Kent, but in order to re-float the stern of Nubian a channel had to be dug in the shoreline with explosives in order to get the water behind the ship 

Although there was the difference in beam, it was a function of shape, and at the point where the two halves were to be joined it was only three and a half inches. The Chatham shipwrights were able to weld the two halves together, and overall the ship lost five feet in length. In addition, the engine room was updated to the Zulu standard and the armament was changed to the more modern 4-inch QF naval gun. The draught was increased to 9 feet 9 inches and the displacement to 1,040 tons. The result was a "new" ship, fittingly called the HMS Zubian, which rejoined the 6th Flotilla on 7 June 1917. 

Nubian at the Chatham Shipyard

A high point in her service was the sinking by depth charge of the German mine-laying submarine UC-50 on 4 February 1918. She also took part in the first Ostend Raid on the night of 23–24 April 1918, escorting the six big-gun monitors that were to bombard the German coastal batteries at Ostend.

At the end of the war, all of the nine surviving Tribal Class destroyers were sold for scrap, and HMS Zubian was broken up in December 1919.

HMS Zubian During Her War Service

A new, larger Tribal Class of destroyers was constructed in the 1930s, and two of these were named Nubian and Zulu. The new HMS Zulu was sunk by enemy aircraft at Tobruk on 14 September 1942. The new Nubian survived WWII and was scrapped in 1949. 

In the late 1950s, construction of the Type 81 frigate was begun, including another HMS Nubian. It was sunk as a target in 1987. There was also a Type 81 frigate named HMS Zulu, launched in 1964. It was sold to Indonesia in 1984 and scrapped in 2000. 

The name Zubian has not been reused—as may be fitting as it was truly one of a kind. 

Sources include The Western Front Association and the Imperial War Museum


A Big Thank You to Our Contributor James Patton for His 100th Article (at least) at Roads to the Great War

Jim and Winston Churchill at
Ploegsteert on the Western Front

If you're a regular reader, I'm sure you've grown to appreciate Jim's tremendous range of interests from weaponry to the remarkable personalities of the war to its scientific aspects to the Great War's forgotten legends and improbable episodes.  A couple of details about him might also interest you.  Jim was a major contributor to the WWI centennial commemorations of the state of Kansas and Kansas University.  He is also a founding member of the "Old Contemptibles",  that fellowship of regular travelers who joined me almost annually when I was leading tours of the battlefields in Europe. Jim and the other Old Contemptibles were great traveling mates. Please keep the articles coming, Jim.   MH

1 comment:

  1. Something similar happened in World War II when the undamaged ends of the USS Holder and the USS Menges were welded together to make one destroyer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Nothing fancy with the name though: the new ship was named the USS Menges because the larger part of the new ship came her namesake.