Shirakumo-class destroyer

Japanese destroyer Shirakumo during commissioning, England, 1902
Class overview
Name: Shirakumo class
Builders: John I. Thornycroft & Company Chiswick, England
Operators:  Imperial Japanese Navy
Preceded by: Akatsuki class
Succeeded by: Harusame class
In commission: February 1902 April 1923
Completed: 2
Retired: 2
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement: 322 tons normal, 428 tons full load
  • 65.89 m (216 ft 2 in) pp
  • 67.51 m (221 ft 6 in) overall
Beam: 6.34 m (20 ft 10 in)
Draught: 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: 2-shaft reciprocating engines, 4 boilers, engine output 7,000 hp (5,200 kW)
Speed: 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)
Complement: 62

The Shirakumo-class destroyers (白雲型駆逐艦 Shirakumogata kuchikukan) was a class of two torpedo boat destroyers (TBDs) of the Imperial Japanese Navy.[1]


The Shirakumo-class destroyers were ordered under the 1900 fiscal budget as a follow-on to the earlier Murakumo class. Both were ordered from the yard of John I. Thornycroft & Company in Chiswick, England.[2] These were amongst the last destroyers purchased by Japan overseas; most subsequent destroyers in the Imperial Japanese Navy were either prizes of war, or were built in Japan.[3]


Substantially identical to the previous Murakumo class, the Shirakumo class was slightly larger in displacement with a slightly more powerful engine. The main difference externally between the vessels was in the design of their rudders. With the previous class, the rudder was semi-balanced, and had a portion exposed above the waterline. This made the vessel vulnerable to disablement by stray gunfire.

The design of the Shirakumo-class destroyers was similar to that of the two-stack torpedo boat destroyers produced by Thornycroft for the Royal Navy; (from 1913 these were grouped as the D class), also known as the “Thirty Knotters”. Both vessels had a flush deck design with a distinctive "turtleback" forecastle that was intended to clear water from the bow during high speed navigation, but was poorly designed for high waves or bad weather. The bridge and forward gun platform were barely raised above the bow, resulting in a wet conning position. More than half of the small hull was occupied by the boilers and the engine room. With fuel and weaponry, there was little space left for crew quarters.

All were powered by triple expansion steam engines for 7,000 shp (5,200 kW) and had coal-fired water-tube boilers. Armament was one QF 12 pounder 12 cwt gun on a bandstand on the forecastle, five QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss (two sited abreast the conning tower, two sited between the funnels and one on the quarterdeck) and 2 single tubes for 18-inch (460 mm) torpedoes.[4]

Operational history

Both Shirakumo-class destroyers arrived in Japan in time to be used in combat service during the Russo-Japanese War of 19041905 and were assigned to the 4th Destroyer Squadron under Admiral Dewa Shigeto. Both played an especially distinguished role in the crucial Battle of Tsushima.[5]

On 28 August 1912, both vessels were re-classified as third-class destroyers and were removed from front line combat service. They were converted to auxiliary minesweepers on 1 April 1922, but were used for only a year until converted to unarmed utility vessels.[6]


Kanji Name Builder Laid down Launched Completed Fate
白雲 Shirakumo
"White Cloud"
Thornycroft, Chiswick, UK 1 February 1901 1 October 1901 13 February 1902 auxiliary minesweeper 1 April 1922; utility vessel 1 April 1923; sold 21 July 1925
朝潮 Asashio
3 April 1901 10 January 1902 4 May 1902 auxiliary minesweeper 1 April 1922, utility vessel 1 April 1923; sold 5 April 1926


  1. Jentsura, Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 18691945
  2. Lyon, the First Destroyers, pp. 50
  3. Nishidah's Materials of the IJN
  4. Cocker, Destroyers of the Royal Navy
  5. Howarth, The Fighting Ships of the Rising Sun
  6. Nishida, Imperial Japanese Navy


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