HMS Basilisk (1910)

HMS Basilisk (1910) was a Beagle class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean for most of the First World War, taking part in the Gallipoli campaign. She was one of the last to remain in the Mediterranean, but was back in home waters by June 1918 to join the large convoy escort forces.

The Basilisk was launched at White’s shipyard at East Cowes on Wednesday 9 February 1910. She was handed over to the Admiralty off Cowes on Friday 16 September 1910.

HMS Basilisk in 1910 HMS Basilisk in 1910

After entering service the Beagle class destroyers joined the First Destroyer Flotilla, and were part of that unit until the autumn of 1911. At the time the Navy was planning to form a new Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and there may have been some thought of filling it with the Beagles. The Seventh Flotilla was formed in November 1911, so it is possible that the Beagles were briefly part of it, before moving to the Third Flotilla in May 1912. 

In 1912-1913 all sixteen of them were part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet.

In the 1912 battle practise the Basilisk came top of her class (Beagle class) with 127 points.

Late in 1913 the entire class moved to the Mediterranean, where they formed the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

In January 1914 she was part of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean, and was commanded by Lt. Edwin. A. Homan.

First World War

On 27 July 1914 she was part of the Second Division of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (Foxhound, Racoon, Mosquito and Basilisk). This squadron was split between Alexandria, Malta and Durazzo, and the Mosquito and Basilisk were at Alexandria.

By 9 August nine of the Beagles – Scorpion, Wolverine, Basilisk, Racoon, Renard, Beagle, Scourge, Mosquito and Foxhound were at Zante, off the north-west coast of Greece, partly because of an erroneous message that Britain was at war with Austria and partly to try and intercept the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau. They took on coal, and continued to operate around the entrance to the Adriatic, but by this point the Germans had already slipped away to the east, and soon entered the Dardanelles.

On 21 August she was one of four destroyers (Foxhound, Mosquito, Racoon and Basilisk) that arrived at Port Said from Malta to help protect the Suez Canal.

On 25 October the Racoon and Basilisk were ordered to move from Port Said to the Gulf of Suez, at the southern end of the canal, to guard against any Turkish attempt to lay mines in the area in an attempt to block the passage of troop convoys. 

By November it had been decided to replace the Beagle class destroyers with seven River class destroyers from the China station, so that the Beagles could return to home waters. The first step was to move the six Beagle class destroyers in Egyptian waters to the Dardanelles, to allow eight destroyers from the Dardanelles to return home. The Racoon, Basilisk, Savage and Scourge left Port Said on 19 November, followed by the Foxhound and Mosquito on 21 November, all heading for Tenedos, the British supply base just to the south of the Dardanelles.

Not all of the Beagles came home. The January 1915 Navy List lists eight of them – Basilisk, Grampus, Grasshopper, Mosquito, Racoon, Renard, Scorpion and Wolverine – as ‘Ships Joining Squadrons’, attached to the destroyer depot ship HMS Blenheim, which was based in the Mediterranean. By March 1915 all eight had returned to the Fifth Destroyer Squadron. In January that flotilla had contained the seven River class destroyers from the China station.

Dardanelles and Gallipoli

The Basilisk was part of the fleet that supported the first attempt to destroy the Turkish forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles on 26 February 1915. She was posted at the mouth of the Mendere River, to support operations upstream. During the attack she bombarded the bridge over the Mendere, but was unable to bring it down.

On the night of 1-2 March 1915 the Basilisk, Grasshopper, Racoon and Mosquito supported the trawlers attempting to sweep the Turkish minefields in the Dardanelles. The trawlers came under fire, and the destroyers had to dash into action to help their escape.

On 4 March she supported the third attempt to land troops to demolish some of the Turkish forts. The overall attack was unsuccessful, and the Scorpion, Basilisk, Renard, Wolverine and Grampus were all called on to bombard the Turkish trenches at Yeni Shehr to cover the retreat.

On 25 April the Grasshopper and Basilisk were detached by Admiral Wemyss to support the landings at Cape Hellas, during the Gallipoli campaign.

On 28 June 1915 she was one of four destroyers that shielded the Talbot as it bombarded Turkish positions during the Allied attack on Gully Ravine (Beagle, Bulldog, Basilisk and Racoon).

In the autumn of 1915 the Beagle, Basilisk and Scorpion were assigned to a British squadron that was being prepared for a possible war with Greece, as tensions rose after the Allied landings at Salonika in October. However this fleet was never needed.

On 20 December 1915 she supported the retreat from Anzac and Suvla, escorting the Chatham as she fired on some of the abandoned camps at Suvla.

The Basilisk was awarded one battle honour, for the Dardanelles 1915-16.

Mediterranean 1916-1918

In January 1916 she was one of eight G Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, where she was serving alongside a mix of other types

In October 1916 she was one of thirty three destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet, which now contained all sixteen G class destroyers.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the entire G class.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Mediterranean, along with the entire G class. However towards the end of the year part of the class was recalled to British waters. The Basilisk was one of the last ones to leave.

In December 1917 there were six Beagle class destroyers left in the Mediterranean – Basilisk and Scorpion were with the Malta Flotilla, while Grampus, Pincher, Rattlesnake and Renard were with the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla

In January 1918 she was one of twenty eight destroyers in the Mediterranean, one of only five G class ships left in the area. On 20 January she was detached from the Aegean squadron and was at Alexandria. In February 1918 she was listed with the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

On 8 May 1918 the Basilisk was part of the escort for a convoy sailing from Bizerte to Gibraltar. A German submarine sank the merchant ship Ingleside, and the Basilisk and the converted yacht USS Lydonia carried out a short depth charge attack that was credited with sinking UB-70. That submarine last made contact on 5 May and was operating in the right area, so its destruction can probably be assigned to the Basilisk and Lydonia. The crew of the Basilisk retrieved the ship’s bell from the U-boat, which was later put on display in Britain.

Home Waters

Her time in the Mediterranean was about to come to an end, and in June 1918 she was one of two G Glass destroyers in the large Second Destroyer Flotilla at Londonderry (alongside the Grampus). Until recently this had contained more of her sisters, but by June those that had been there early in 1918 had moved to Devonport. The Basilisk remained with the 2nd Flotilla for the rest of the war, operating on anti-submarine and convoy escort duties. In August the Renard was about to join them, having remained in the Mediterranean for even longer and by November 1918 the Basilisk  was one of six G Class destroyers in the Second Destroyer Flotilla at Londonderry.

The Basilisk was one of only three members of the class (Basilisk, Foxhound and Mosquito) to end the war with both of her torpedo tubes. The other members of the class had lost the rear tube and gun to make space for more depth charges. Presumably her late return from the Mediterranean explains why she wasn’t modified in the same way.

In November 1919 she was in the Reserve at the Nore, in the hands of a care & maintenance party. Like all of the surviving members of the class, she was scrapped soon after the end of the war.

Commanders
Commander Harry R. Godfrey: 1 February 1913-January 1915-

Career Summary
First Destroyer Flotilla: 1910-1011
Third Destroyer Flotilla, First Fleet: May 1912-October 1913
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: November 1913-May 1918
Second Destroyer Flotilla, Buncrana, Ireland: June 1918-November 1918-

 

Displacement (standard)

945t (average)

Displacement (loaded)

1,100t

Top Speed

27 knots

Engine

3-shaft Parsons turbines
5 White-Forester boilers
14,300shp

Range

 

Length

263ft 11.25in pp

Width

26ft 10in

Armaments

One 4in/ 45cal QF Mk VIII gun
Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

96

Laid down

 

Launched

9 February 1910

Completed

September 1910

Sold for break up

November 1921

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 (6 August 2020), HMS Basilisk (1910) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Basilisk_1910.html

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