HMS Amazon (1907)

HMS Amazon (1907) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, and was used as Admiral Hood’s flagship during the early bombardments of the Belgian coast, and that was at sea during three of the German destroyer raids into the Dover Straits, but only encountered the enemy once, during the battle of the Dover Straits.

HMS Amazon in the Solent
HMS Amazon
in the Solent

The Amazon had four funnels. At first the forward funnel on the four funnel boats was too low, pouring smoke onto the bridge, but they were later raised to try and reduce the problem. She had six boilers, with the first and last having a funnel each and the middle four being paired. She was also a very heavy user of fuel, once needing 9.5 tons of fuel just to raise steam for a 6 mile return trio from Harwich to Felixstowe.

The Amazon was one of only two Tribal class destroyers ordered under the 1906-7 programme. The 12-pounder guns used on the first batch of Tribal class ships were replaced with two 4in guns on the centre line. She also carried the standard set of two 18in torpedo tubes.

In July 1908 Engineer Lieutenant Francis Charlton, who had been superintending the construction of the Amazon, died after a freak road accident. While driving his motorbike he swerved to avoid a dog, and was impaled on the shaft of a tradesman van. He survived the accident, but died soon afterwards. The Amazon was launched on Wednesday 30 July 1908, just a few days after Charlton’s death.

In October 1908 she reached 33.5 knots on her trial trip.

Pre-War Career

The Amazon joined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet, in April 1909, and served there until 1911.

HMS Amazon during the First World War
HMS Amazon during
the First World War

In late April 1909 the Amazon was part of a fleet that carried out fleet exercises off the Orkneys.

In May 1909 Warrant Officer Hext. a gunner on the Amazon was court martialed for drunkenness and disrespect to a superior officer. He was found guilty, lost six months seniority and was dismissed from the ship.

On Saturday 5 September 1909 the Amazon and the Saracen escorted the King on the Royal Yacht Alexandra as he travelled from Calais to Dover on the way back from a visit to Marienbad.

On Saturday 28 November 1909 the Tartar and the Amazon escorted the King of Portugal on the Royal Yacht Alexandra from Dover to Calais as he left Britain after a Royal visit.

On Tuesday 16 August 1910 the Afridi and Amazon escorted the Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia as she crossed from Dover to Calais after staying with Queen Alexandria at Sandringham.

In 1911-1912 she was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet. The flotilla contained all twelve Tribal class destroyers.

In 1912-1914 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. She was fully manned in this role. The Flotilla was made up of all twelve Tribal class destroyers and eighteen Acasta or K class destroyers

In May 1912 the Amazon was ordered to pay a four day visit to Manchester, travelling up the Ship Canal to reach the city. She was part of a flotilla that included the Mohawk, Nubian and Zulu, and eventually the cruiser Bristolafter her masts had been lowered to let her under a bridge at Runcorn. An impressive 80,000 people visited the dockyard on the Saturday of their visit and 100,000 on the Sunday!

In late July 1912 she was used to test out a new floating dock for submarines at Sheerness.

During 1913 the Amazon was one of four Tribal class destroyers temporarily moved to the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, after its existing ships were moved to the Mediterranean to form the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

On Saturday 15 March 1913 the Amazon’s cable parted in heavy weather and she drifted onto the rocks west of Ballinakilla Pier on Bere Island, off the coast of Cork. She was pulled off the rocks by the cruiser HMS Falmouth on Sunday 16 March, and no serious damage was found.

In January 1914 she was part of the Third Destroyer Flotilla, and was commanded by Lt Henry G. L. Oliphant.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, made up of a mix of Tribal class and old 30-knotters.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of fifteen destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that had moved to its war base at Dover, where the flotilla was part of the Dover Patrol.

HMS Amazon from the left
HMS Amazon from the left

In October 1914 the Amazon was used as Admiral Hood’s flagship while he commanded the British flotilla that was helping the Belgians. At the start of the operation one of her lieutenants was attached to Belgian HQ to maintain a radio link with the fleet. On 18 October she took part in a bombardment of German positions on the Yser, to help the Belgian and French troops. On 20 October Hood used the Amazon to attack German gun emplacements in the sand dunes along the coast, but eventually the Germans got the range of the British ships and the Amazon was badly damaged (although suffered no casualties). Even so she remained off the Belgium coast as the Belgians were forced to retreat behind the Yser, which would remain the front line for most of the war. On the night of 21-22 October Hood shifted his flag to the Foresight, and the Amazon was able to return home for repairs.

In November 1914 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth which were expected to be complete by 29 November.

In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

On 24 February 1915 the Harpalion was torpedoed near Beachy Head by U-8. The first destroyer on the scene was the Syren, which attempted to intercept the submarine, then rescued her crew. The Amazon then arrived, and was ordered to stay with the Harpalion, which was still afloat. However they lost contact in the night, and despite an attempt to tow her to safety she sank on the following day.

In June 1915 she was one of part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, which contained all but one of the Tribal class ships and a large number of the older 30-knotters.

The Amazon was part of the support forces for the bombardment of Zeebrugge on 23 August 1915, operating alongside the Ure as Destroyer Patrol No.4.

The Amazon took part in the bombardment of Ostend and Westende on 7 September 1915. She was part of No.3 T.B.D. Patrol, itself part of Division II, which was to carry out the bombardment of Westende. The results were somewhat disappointing, and were limited to some signs of fire damage.

In January 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

On 24 March 1916 UB-29 sank the Dungeness to Boulogne passenger ship Sussex, despite a German promise not to attack passenger ships. When her S.O.S. was received the Amazon was dispatched to find her, although her sister ship Afridi was first on the scene.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, which was largely filled with Tribal class boats and older 30-knotters.

In late October 1916 the Germans carried out a raid into the Dover Straits. The British were expecting some sort of attack, but had no information about its target, so Admiral Bacon left six Tribal class destroyers, including the Amazon, at Dover to act as a striking force. The raid itself began on 26 October, and at 10.50pm the Tribal class destroyers were ordered to sea.

The Tribal flotilla didn’t perform particularly well during the raid. Its commander, on the Viking, decided to send them out of Dover by two entrances, and the two sub-divisions didn’t find each other for the rest of the night. The Amazon, Nubian and Cossack began the night together but soon got separated. The Cossack fell behind and was the only one of the six not to encounter the enemy. The Nubian was the first to get into action, but suffered heavy damage.

The Amazon had got separated from the Nubian before her fight. At about 12.45am on 27 October she ran into the German 17th Half Flotilla. Unsure if they were friend or foe, the Amazon’s captain issued the identification challenge. All this achieved was to confirm to the Germans that his ship was British and they opened fire. The Amazon’s captain was convinced that the Germans were actually the formation of L class destroyers known to be in the area, and replying by repeated the challenge. The Germans passed him at high speed, each of them firing at the Amazon. Their fire was accurate, and she was hit twice. One hit knocked out the aft gun and the other two boilers in the aft boiler room.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla. At this point the Navy decided to convert a number of ships into minelayers for the new H mines. The Amazon was considered, but was considered to be too weakly built. 

The Amazon was once again at sea when the Germans carried out a raid towards Calais and Dover on 20 April 1917, but didn’t encounter the Germans. During the day she had been patrolling along the Dover barrage, and on the night of 20-21 April she took up her night position on the Calais side of the straits. At 11.20 GMT she went to action stations, but otherwise all her log reports is the loss of a Webley revolver overboard! The German destroyers passed by well to their north, and the famous action between them and the Swift and the Broke was some distance to their north-west.

In June 1917 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but she was undergoing a refit on the Thames.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, now with over forty destroyers, although ten were undergoing repairs. The Amazon was undergoing repairs on the Thames.

On the night of 14-15 February 1918 the Amazon was at sea with a four-boat division led by the Termagant, when the Germans carried out a successful raid on the Dover Barrage, sinking a number of the barrage’s support ships. The Amazon sighted the Germans as they were on their way home, but even though the Germans repeatedly failed to respond to the identification challenge her crew believed they were British. They reported sighting a force of British destroyers to the Termagant, but by the time the message arrived it was too late, and the Germans had escaped.

Lt. A Fergusson of the Amazon was court martialed for his actions during the raid on 6-8 March 1918.

In June 1918 she was one of twenty seven destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla.

In September 1918 all of the surviving Tribal class ships were given a part of two 14 torpedo-tubes mounted at the break of the forecastle, for use in close range combat.

In November 1918 she was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

The Amazon received one battle honour, for the Belgian Coast in 1915-16. She was sold for scrap in 1919.

Commanders
Henry G.L. Oliphant: 17 January 1911-January 1914-
Henry G.L. Oliphant: 29 July 1914-January 1915-
Lt In Commander Reginald W. Lawrence DSC: 12 November 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)

970t

Displacement (loaded)

1,200t

Top Speed

33 knots

Engine

3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
6 Thornycroft boilers
14,000shp

Range

 

Length

280ft 4in pp

Width

26ft 7.5in

Armaments

Two 4in/ 45cal BL Mk VI
Two 18in Torpedo Tubes

Crew complement

68

Laid down

24 June 1907

Launched

29 July 1908

Completed

April 1909

Sold

1919

British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Norman Friedman. A very detailed look at the design of British destroyers from their earliest roots as torpedo boat destroyers, though the First World War and up to the start of the Second World War, supported by vast numbers of plans and well chosen photographs [read full review]
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 June 2020), HMS Amazon (1907) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Amazon_1907.html

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