HMS Cossack

Without question, the most famous Destroyer of the Second World War. The story of HMS Cossack could easily have come out of the pages of 'Boys Own'. Joining the Meditteranean Fleet in July 1938, one of the Cossacks first voyages was to rescue the British Consul from the beseiged city of Barcelona. The elderly Gentleman unfortunately breaking his leg as he boarded Cossack's cutter, requiring a rapid diversion to get him to hospital at Marseilles.

By the outbreak of war, Cossack was back in England with the 4th Destroyer Flottilla based at Rosyth. During the phoney war she was mostly employed in escorting coastal convoys, but soon was heavily involved in mine-laying duties and intercepting German Iron ore ships in the Skaggerat. On the 15th February 1940, Captain Philip Vian received information that the 13,580 ton German supply vessel Altmark had been sighted off Trondheim. It was further reported that the Altmark was carrying 300 British prisoners (captured by the Admiral Graf Spee during her rampage across the Souh Atlantic in 1939). On the next day the Altmark was sighted by Arethusa, Intrepid and Ivanhoe. A warning shot fired across her bows only resulted in the German vessel turning into the neutral Norwgian Jossingfiord, with the RN warships being hindered from following by the Norwegian torpedo boats Trygg and Kjell and their patrol boat Firern.

Cossack arrived ar dusk. Captain Vian conferred with the Norwegians who assured him that the Altmark had been searched with no prisoners or contraband found. Unconvinced, Vian signalled to the First Lord of the Admiralty (Winston Churchill), who replied that if an offer to help the Norwegians to escort the German vessel to Bergen for another search was refused, then the Altmark should be boarded by force. At 2200 hrs, having received no satisfactory response from the Norwegians, Vian took Cossack into the fiord. A boarding party of three officers, led by Lt. Commander Bradwell Talbot Turner, and thirty ratings leapt across and after a brisk action, in which four German were killed and five wounded, the Altkark was secured with 299 of her captives sucessfully released.

On the 13th April 1940, Cossack took part in the heroic 2nd battle of Narvik, but suffered serious damage in this engagement and ran aground. She didn't get underway again until the following dawn, making a slow return to Portsmouth, arriving there on the 30th April. During the repairs X turret was replaced by twin 4 in AA guns (the Norwegian campaign having revealed the vulnerability of British Destroyers to air attack).

By the 15th June she was back in the war again (with some dockyard repair men still on board) on a very important mission. She had to escort the cruiser Emerald which was transporting £130 billion of gold and securities across the Atlantic. Bad weather however soon caused the little Destroyers of 4DF to turn back to Scapa leaving the faster Emerald to make the voyage unsupported. On the way back they were relentlessly attacked by German bombers. For much of the rest of the year the 4DF were routinely involved in searching for German convoys off Norway, U-boats off Ireland, and capital ships off Iceland.

On the 26th of May 1941, the Cossack leading the 4DF was ordered to join with the Home Fleet battleships searching for the Bismarck. The Fleet's own Destroyers were running short of fuel and needed to be relieved as a matter of urgent priority. That night the HMS Piorum sighted the Bismarck and at 2200 hrs Vian ordered his Destroyer flotilla into the attsck. Despite being seriously outgunned Cossack managed to launch three torpedoes from 6,000 yards at 0140 hrs. Two hits on the mighty German battleship being recorded. The other Destroyers made similar atttacks and kept the Bismarck engaged until the Royal Navy Battlesips arrived at dawn to finally finish off the job.

Cossack and her sisters next joined Force H at Gibraltar seeing much activily on defending convoys to Malta from U-boat and E-boat attack, as well as escorting the capital ships Ark Royal, Nelson and Renown.

Sadly on the 23rd Octiober 1941, HMS Cossack received a hit from a torpedo fired by the U-boat U-563. this killed Captain Berthon and 158 officers and men (with another 29 injured). Remarkably Cossack did not sink immediately and soon the fires went out. Seeing that Cossack was still very bouyant, she was reboarded , the engine started and, going astern, tried to make the long voyage back to Gibraltar. For a night and a day they kept the Cossack moving, but ultimately all was in vain, and the gallant little Cossack finally slipped beneath the waves on the following day.

Country of origin: United Kingdom

Ship Class: Tribal-class Destroyer

Builder: Vickers-Armstrong, High Walker Yard, Tyne

Ordered: 10 March 1936

Laid Down: 9 June 1936

Launched: 8 June 1937 (by Mrs S.V. Goodall)

Commissioned: 14 June 1938

Sunk: 23 October 1941

Displacement: 2,030 tons (at Trials); 1,959 tons (standard); 2,519 tons (full load)

Length: 377 feet (overall); 364 ft 8 in (waterline); 355 fv6 in (between perpendiculars)

Beam: 36 ft 6 in

Draft: 13 feet

Machinery: Parsons geared turbines driven by three Admiralty (300-Lb/sq in) 3 drum boiles; 2 shafts

Power Output: 44,430 SHP

Speed: 36.2 knots (at Trials)

Complement: 219

Armament: Eight 4.7 in (4x2)
Four 2-pdr (1x4)
Eight 0.5In MG (2x4)
Four 21 in Torpedo Tubes (1x4)
One Depth Charge shute
Two Depth Charge throwers

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