4th of her name

The Chronology of HMS COSSACK

1907 – 1919

The fourth of the name

Battle Honour

 Belgium Coast Operations

 [as known at April 2017]

First oil fueled destroyer in the Royal Navy.

Information on HMS Cossack is detailed on the reverse.
Postcard series: WHS – Kingsway Real Photo, Kingsway Real Photo Series
Series number: S 7468

HMS Cossack was one of five Tribal-class destroyers also known as the “F” class, ordered as part of the 1905–06 shipbuilding programme and launched at 1225 pm on Saturday 16 February 1907. While the Admiralty laid down the basic requirements of an oil-fuelled, steam turbine-powered ship with a speed of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph), a range of 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km; 1,700 miles) at cruising speed and an endurance of eight hours at full speed, the details of the design of individual ships was left to the builders, which meant that individual ships of the class differed significantly from each other. Cammell Laird’s design was powered by steam turbines rated at 14,000 shaft horsepower (10,000 kW) fed by five boilers to drive three propeller shafts, and had three large funnels. Armament was the specified three 12 pounder 3 inch, (76 mm) 12 cwt guns, two side by side on the ship’s forecastle and one aft, with two 18 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes.

After successfully undergoing trials where she reached a speed of 34.619 knots (64.114 km/h; 39.839 mph) COSSACK was commissioned in April 1908.

Shortly after COSSACK entered service; it was decided to strengthen the armament of the first batch of Tribals by adding another two 12 pounder guns, this being done in 1909. Cossack was considered by her Captain to be a poorer sea boat than destroyers, but a better gun platform.

April 1909.  COSSACK formed part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, 1st Division, Home fleet

23 June 1911. At Spithead for Fleet Review

6 March 1912 Recommissioned at Sheerness. Captain H.F.P. Sinclair in command. Flagship of Rear Admiral CFG Cradock

8 March 1912. Sailed Sheerness for Bantry Bay for calibration.

1 May 1912. 4th Destroyer flotilla (Portland)

3 July 1912. Sailed Sheerness for Portsmouth Captain E.H. Grafton in Command.

5 July 1912. Arrived Sheerness for commissioning

8 July 1912. Attended Fleet Inspection for MPs at Spithead

31 July 1912. Reduced to nucleus crew at Sheerness

1913 COSSACK had joined the 4th Destroyer Flotilla based at Portsmouth. In October that year, the Tribals were officially designated the F class, and as such the letter “F” was painted on COSSACK’s bows.

During the First World War she served in the North Sea and the English Channel with the 6th Destroyer Flotilla.

 August 1914 6th Destroyer flotilla

23 August 1914, Cossack was involved in a collision with her sister Tribal-class destroyer, Ghurka.

17 October – 8 November 1914  Belgium Coast Operations

October 1914 COSSACK was one of a number of warships of the Dover Patrol that were deployed to help support Belgian ground forces during the Battle of the Yser, with all available ships being used to carry out shore bombardment operations. At one stage, on 20 October 1914, after the destroyer Amazon was damaged by German shellfire, Rear Admiral Horace Hood transferred his flag to COSSACK.

6 December 1914 Pendant number H 09

1 September 1915 Pendant number D02

26/27 October 1916, During the night of German torpedo boats of their Flanders Flotilla carried out a large scale raid into the English Channel, hoping to attack the drifters watching the anti-submarine nets of the Dover Barrage, and to sink Allied shipping in the Channel. Cossack was one of six Tribal-class destroyers waiting at readiness in Dover Harbour, and when the Germans attacked the drifters and sank the supporting destroyer HMS Flirt, they were ordered to intervene. The six destroyers became separated, and while several of them encountered groups of the German torpedo boats on their return leg, with HMS Nubian being badly damaged by a German torpedo and Amazon and Mohawk sustaining lesser damage from German gunfire, COSSACK did not engage the German ships.

1 July 1917 COSSACK collided with the transport SS The Duchess near Eastbourne. Cossack’s depth charges exploded as a result of the collision, sinking The Duchess and blowing off COSSACK​s stern. COSSACK was towed to Dover for repair.

EVEREST. Henry James Fireman Mercantile Marine SS ‘Duchess’ Lost when the ship was in collision with its escort HMS ‘Cossack’ 1st July 1917 off Beachy Head. Aged 35. Resident of 7 Hampden Gardens, South Heighton. Born in Ardingly Son of Eliza Everest. Included on Newhaven War Memorial. No record with CWGC.

1 January 1918.  Pendant number D19

Monday 16 September 1918  HMS Glatton (5000 ton monitor with 9.2 and 6inch guns) blew up as fire reached the cordite charges unobserved.  Hot clinker and ash had piled up against the bulkhead of the 6inch gun magazine. The heat burned through the cork insulation and then ignited the wooden lining. Since it was only a matter of time before the fire reached the after magazine, Keyes ordered the destroyer COSSACK to sink Glatton with a torpedo to protect a nearby ammunition ship. COSSACK fired two torpedoes at Glatton, one of which failed to detonate, while the second failed to defeat Glatton‍ ’​s anti-torpedo bulge.

In the end, Glatton was sunk by 21 inch torpedoes from the destroyer HMS Myngs (See article below from the Dover War Memorial Project)

The “Glatton”


On September 16, 1918, a calamity occurred in Dover Harbour, which might have resulted in immense losses amongst naval ships, to the harbour works, and to the town. An explosion took place on the monitor, HMS Glatton. To save further disaster, Sir R. Keyes ordered the ship to be torpedoed. Captain Pearce, who writes the following heart-rending account of the tragedy, commanded the Admiralty tug Lady Brassey, from which Sir Roger Keyes directed operations.

Ever since the first day of the war, Dover had been a naval base of great importance.  But on this early autumn evening of 16 September 1918 there was even greater stir than usual. Next day a bombardment of the enemy-occupied Belgian coast was to be attempted.  An electric tension hung in the air.

I stood on the deck of the Lady Brassey , a tug which was to support the raiding vessels in the morrow’s offensive, and looked northeastwards across the harbour.  Every conceivable craft was moored there, from armed trawlers to hospital ships. Side by side stood four newly-commissioned monitors Marshall Soult, General Wolrfe, Gorgon, and Glatton the two latter recently acquired from the Norwegian government.

I saw the collier ship steam away from the Glatton, when suddenly the September night was torn by the roar of an explosion that reverberated against the towering cliffs and shook the town to its foundations, sending my tug, berthed against the Prince of Wales pier, rocking crazily. Dense white smoke rose from the Glatton, great flames leaped heavenwards in a pillar of yellow light.

In less than five minutes we were alongside the blazing ship. On the Glatton’s deck were dozens of officers and men, terribly wounded. Some were lying prostrate, others writhing in agony from burns. The ship was burning fiercely, for her oil fuel had caught alight. Then someone shouted, “For God’s sake flood the magazines!”

With a thrill of horror I realised the awful peril. Fore and aft were two magazines of live ammunition, and if the fire reached them the very town of Dover would be blown to smithereens. There was scarcely a ship in the harbour that wasn’t carrying a deadly load, ammunition, depth charges, and mines. Another explosion aboard the Glatton might easily detonate the whole lot.

Running out a length of fire hose we scrambled aboard the Glatton, but instantly fell back. It was almost as though the heat had hit us a blow. How we ever found our way through the scorching suffocating barrage of smoke to the fore end of the ship, where many ratings were trapped, I shall never know.

Vague figures kept looming up wounded men struggling to escape, officers and ratings who had come aboard to join in the work of rescue. For by now many small craft from the other ships were swarming round the Glatton. There were many grim scenes as such wounded as could be reached were borne away.

A band of ratings had volunteered to flood the fore magazine, or to open the stopcocks and sink the ship. This end of the ship was full of gas; it drove the men back choking and spluttering.

I returned to the Lady Brassey to fetch more fire-fighting appliances. At that moment, a small pinnacle came alongside with Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, the Port Commodore, and several other officers. The Admiral came aboard to gain the Glatton, and shouted for our boat to clear the danger area.

I withdrew, but ten minutes later received a message to go alongside again, as Admiral Keyes wished to go ashore. As I reached the Glatton for the second time, there was a terrific explosion; a piece of burning debris had fallen on an anti-aircraft ammunition dump.

The fore magazine had been successfully flooded, but the flames were spreading, and there was still the after magazine. The fire was burning too fiercely for us to reach the aft.

Admiral Keyes ordered all ships in the vicinity of the Glatton to move out of the harbour. It was only a matter of how long before she blew up. We had to leave behind many poor men trapped in the forepart of the ship. I could hear groans of anguish as we left. I saw a petty officer staggering about the deck, shrieking incoherently.

Admiral Keyes made the painful decision to sink the Glatton by torpedoing her. The vast surging crowd that was ranged from end to end of the esplanade to watch the grim drama was herded by the soldiers to the back of the town and comparative safety.

The Admiral hurried aboard our boat again and indicated the station he wanted us to take up. The destroyer, Myngs, moved slowly into position.  As I saw the chain of bubbles that marked the track of the torpedo unfolding in the direction of the still blazing vessel, I instinctively covered my eyes.

There was the dull shatter of crumpling steel, the swirl of rushing water, and I saw the flames of the Glatton leap higher. The wounded ship heeled over to port. Masses of glowing smoke rose high into the air, casting an eerie light on the water. Suddenly she gave a tremendous lurch. In another moment the waters had closed over her. Blackness was all around, and nothing to mark the spot on which this brave ship had been sacrificed, and with her ninety tortured souls, to avert greater disaster.

Next morning, when the tide ebbed, the Glatton was just visible above the water. And there she remained for eight years until efforts were made to raise her. The remains of 57 bodies were recovered during salvage operations, and these were conveyed to Gillingham in Kent, near the naval base of Chatham, and buried in one large grave, following an impressive funeral service with full military honours.      

This article is from the WWI ephemera at Dover Museum. The date of original publication and the source is unknown.

Captain, later Lieutenant William Pearce became a casualty during World War II. He is commemorated in the Book of Remembrance, and more about him is here

illustrations: William Pearce, courtesy Bernard Chappell the Glatton Memorial (foreground) in the Naval section at Gillingham (Woodlands) cemetery

(Kemp, Paul, The Admiralty Regrets British Warship Losses of the 20th Century, p. 79)

(Navy News September 2009.)

November 1918. 6th Destroyer Flotilla. Dover Patrol

3 March 1919. Lt Cdr T.W Young in command

12 December 1919 Scrapped: at Ward, Preston

Little Java (pictured above) was a Thames Steam Tug built in 1905 by Cochrane & Sons of Selby and owned by W.Watkins Ltd. In 1915 she was transferred to Ramsgate and operated under Royal Naval Command as H.M.S. Carcass in the Dover Patrol’s Downs Boarding Flotilla. Java was involved in a number of ship rescue incidents, including one in connection with the destroyer H.M.S. Cossack. She was also involved in towing at least two other ships out of dangerous minefields.

Research sources:

Dave Cross   dave_cross57@yahoo.co.uk

Kemp, Paul, The Admiralty Regrets British Warship Losses of the 20th Century, p. 79

Royal Naval Museum Portsmouth

The National Archives

Navy News September 2009.

Wirral Archives

The internet (sources not guaranteed)