Allied Warships

HMS Zulu (F 18)

Destroyer of the Tribal class

HMS Zulu during the Second World War

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantF 18 
Built byA. Stephen & Sons Ltd. (Glasgow, Scotland) 
Ordered10 Mar 1936 
Laid down10 Aug 1936 
Launched23 Sep 1937 
Commissioned7 Sep 1938 
Lost14 Sep 1942 
Loss position32° 00'N, 28° 56'E

Pennant numbers:
L 18 July 1938 - December 1938
F 18 January 1939 - Autumn 1940
G 18 Autumn 1940 - September 1942.

There was always something different about HMS Zulu. Perhaps being launched with boilers and funnels in place makes a happy ship. Perhaps her crew were determined that their ship, alphabetically last, should not be the least in her class. Zulu started as a happy and contented ship and remained so. After completing sea trials, Zulu sailed for the Mediterranean and arrived at Malta on 18 November 1938. There she joined HMS Afridi and the 1st Tribal Destroyer Flotilla. The 1939 spring exercises at Gibraltar were followed by independent cruising in the Western Mediterranean.

When war broke out, Zulu joined up with her sister ships to begin convoy escort duties and contraband control. In February 1940, she developed turbine trouble and had to be dry-docked for repairs at Leigh, England. She was also degaussed and returned to service on 9 March. Zulu was given a part to play in Plan R4 - the projected landing in Norway that would forestall German reaction to Operation Wilder. As it happened, Germany invaded Norway first and the Home Fleet put to sea.

In early 1941, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh and HMS Zulu were mainly employed in escorting convoys in and out of the Western approaches. They were escorting such a convoy on 26th May when they were ordered to join the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C). The 4th Destroyer Flotilla thus shared in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck. After the excitement of the chase, the 4th D.F. returned to Home Fleet work and Western Approaches escort duties.

In June 1941, Zulu sailed for Falmouth, England to begin her refit. Her after funnel was cut down and her mainmast was fitted with a high frequency direction finding (Huff-Duff) outfit. Two, single 2 pounder guns were mounted on the bridge wings. Radar was installed and the depth charge throwers were re-located. The refit was completed by July.

For the better part of 1942, Zulu was attached to Force H at Gibraltar, striking against Axis supply convoys. HMS Zulu (Cdr. Richard Taylor White, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Sikh's final operation together was the attack on Tobruk, Libya on 13/14th September 1942. As a result of shelling from coastal batteries, Zulu was hit but she could still make 30 knots. Her crew had been at full watch since dusk on the 13th and daylight on the 14th did not bring any rest. In spite of surviving multiple bomb attacks during that day, Zulu was mortally wounded at 1600hours. A bomb from an enemy aircraft had pierced her side and exploded in the engine room, thus flooding it along with #3 Boiler Room and the Gear Room. She stopped dead in the water and settled two feet deeper. HMS Croome came along side to take off any remaining personnel except for a towing party. Zulu was taken in tow by HMS Hursley. By 1900hours, and only a hundred miles from Alexandria, Egypt, she was sinking fast. The towing party was rescued after a strafing pass by an enemy aircraft. Suddenly, Zulu rolled to starboard and sank in position 32º00'N, 28º56'E. In both attacks, twelve men had been killed, twenty seven went missing and one was wounded.


Commands listed for HMS Zulu (F 18)

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1Cdr. John Stuart Crawford, RN15 Feb 193814 Jan 1941
2Cdr. Harry Robert Graham, DSO, RN14 Jan 194128 Apr 1942
3Cdr. Richard Taylor White, DSO, RN28 Apr 194214 Sep 1942

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Notable events involving Zulu include:

23 Nov 1939
Sinking of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi;

Around midday on 21 November 1939 the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, escorted by the light cruisers Köln and Leipzig and the destroyers Z 11 / Bernd von Arnim, Z 12 / Erich Giese and Z 20 / Karl Galster, departed Wilhelmshaven for a raid into the North Atlantic, this was to relieve the pressure of the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee operating in the South Atlantic. Late on the 21st the escorts left the battlecruisers.

Just after 1500 hours on 23 November the British armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi (Capt. E.C. Kennedy, (retired), RN) sighted the Scharnhorst. Rawalpindi was part of the British Northern Patrol and was stationed south-east of Iceland in the Iceland-Faroes gap. Captain Kennedy tried to outrun the German ship and reported to the Admiralty that he sighted the German pocket battleship Deutschland, still believed to be operating in the North Atlantic. Just after 1600 hours, Rawalpindi came within range of the Scharnhorst and was quickly reduced to a flaming wreck. During this engagement Scharnhorst was hit by a 6? shell from Rawalpindi causing only light damage. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau together picked up 27 survivors from Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi finally sank around 2000 hours.

The British light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt J. Figgins, RN), that was also part of the Northern Patrol, picked up Rawalpindi?s signal and closed the scene. She sighted the Gneisenau but the Germans managed to escape in the fog.

The Admiralty also thought the ship sighted by Rawalpindi and Newcastle was the Deutschland that was trying to return to Germany. In response to the sighting and destruction of the Rawalpindi the Admiralty took immediate action;
The battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN with Admiral Forbes aboard) HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) departed the Clyde to patrol of Norway to cut off the way to Germany for the Deutschland.

The light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Creswell, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. F.R. Parham, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN) and HMS Isis (Cdr. J.C. Clouston, RN) departed Rosyth to patrol between the Orkney and Shetland islands.

Light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) was sent from Loch Ewe to the last known position of the German ship(s).

On northern patrol, south of the Faroes were the light cruisers HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clark, RN), HMS Cardiff (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN) and HMS Colombo (Capt. R.J.R. Scott, RN). These were joined by HMS Dunedin (Capt. C.E. Lambe, CVO, RN) and HMS Diomede (Capt. E.B.C. Dicken, RN).

Of the ships of the Denmark strait patrol, the heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk (Capt. J.W. Durnford, RN) and HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, MVO, DSO, RN) were ordered to proceed to the Bill Bailey Bank (to the south-west of the Faroes)

The light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN) were already at sea patrolling north-east of the Shetlands were to be joined by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Imogen (Cdr. E.B.K. Stevens, RN) .

Despite the British effort to intercept the German ships, both German battlecruisers returned to Wilhelmshaven on the 27th.

25 May 1941
The 4th Destroyer Flotilla comprising the British destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, DSO, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) and the Polish destroyer Piorun (Cdr. E. Plawski, Polish Navy) was escorting convoy WS-8B when they received an order to leave the convoy and take part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. (1)

4 Aug 1942
German U-boat U-372 was sunk in the Mediterranean south-west of Haifa, in position 32°28'N, 34°37'E, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Sikh Capt. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN) and the British escort destroyers HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN) and HMS Tetcott (Lt. R.H. Rycroft, RN) and by depth charges from a British Wellington aircraft (221 Sqdn.).

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British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman

Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.


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