HMS Bat (1896)

HMS Bat was a C class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean in 1902-5 and in home waters for the rest of her career. During the First World War she was attached to the Grand Fleet from 1914-1917, mainly serving with the Cromarty Patrol. In 1917 she formed part of the East Coast Convoys organisation, before joining the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1918.

The Bat was ordered on 9 January 1896, part of a second batch of four Palmer destroyers ordered as part of the 1895-6 order. 

HMS Bat at Portsmouth
HMS Bat at Portsmouth

The Palmer ships had four boilers feeding three funnels. Their machinery was considered to be the best of the 30-knotters by the engineering officers. The crew accommodation was also highly rated, and in 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow that pattern or that of the Hawthorn Leslie boats.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 reported that she had achieved an average speed of 30.299 knots on a three hour trial, and her engines had produced 6,189ihp at 400rpm. 

The Bat took part in the 1899 naval manoeuvres, where she formed part of the ‘B’ flotilla, attached to the Reserve Fleet (Fleet ‘B’). The aim of this exercise was to see if a powerful but slow squadron of warships could defend a convoy against a faster but less powerful attacking force. The Bat was part of the slower, stronger, force. At the end of July she was chased into Port Erin on the Isle of Man, leaving on the following day.

In April 1901 she was one of eight destroyers from the Devonport command that paid a visit to Manchester, traveling to the city up the Ship Canal. As would be expected, there was a great deal of public interest in the visit, and crowds came to watch the ships as the moved up the canal, and as they were moored in Manchester.

The Bat took part in the 1901 naval manoeuvres, which began in late July. These involved two fleets – Fleet B began in the North Sea, and had the task of keeping the English Channel open to trade. Fleet X began off the north coast of Ireland, and had the task of stopping trade in the Channel. The Bat was part of Squadron C, a force of destroyers from Devonport that joined Fleet B. This was the first time both sides in the annual exercises had been given an equal force of destroyers. The exercises ended with a victory for Fleet X. The destroyer forces didn’t live up to expectations, either in torpedo attack or as scouts.

In 1902-1905 she was part of the Mediterranean Fleet, where many of the destroyer tactics later used in home waters were developed.

In June 1904 the Bat was reported to have been sunk in a collision in the Mediterranean. She was said to collided with the Stag while on night manoeuvres and sunk in deep water. Her crew were said to have been rescued. The story was disproved when the Bat arrived at Malta on 19 June 1904.

In 1905 the Bat probably became the first British destroyer to be given a search light on a raised platform.

In 1905 to the start of 1906 she was one of eleven destroyers attached to Atlantic Fleet, which was disbanded in February 1906.

From 1907-1909 she was attached to the Channel Fleet, with the 1st or 3rd Destroyer Flotillas, based at Portland.

In July 1907 she was part of a flotilla of destroyers that paid a formal visit to Hull. She was the last to leave, after developing a slight defect.

In 1909-1911 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older battleships.

In 1911-1912 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, with a reduced complement

In 1913-1914 she was part of the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla at Chatham, one of the patrol flotillas.

In January 1914 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

In July 1914 she was part of the Eighth Patrol Flotilla at Chatham, part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

In July 1914 the Bat was part of the large Eighth Patrol Flotilla, based at Chatham as part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

First World War

By the start of the First World War the Bat was based at Dales Voe, having been detached from the 8th Destroyer Flotilla to form the Shetlands Patrol (with Star, Fairy and Flying Fish). At 5pm on 1 August German transport ships were detected moving out of the Great Belt, heading north from Kiel. The Admiralty suspected that this might be the start of a German raid on Shetland, and so ordered the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the four destroyers to move to the Shetlands. The destroyers reached Lerwick at 8pm on 3 August, but the raid scare soon passed.

In September the Flying Fish, Bat, Fairy and Star were detached from the Shetland patrol and sent to reinforce the patrol in the Moray Firth, arriving on 18 September.

In November 1914 she was one of eighteen destroyers attacked to Admiral Jellicoe in his role as C-in-C of the Grand Fleet.

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet.

In June 1915 she was one of five destroyers in the Cromarty Patrol, one of the Grand Fleet Destroyer Flotillas.

In January 1916 she was one of five destroyers based at Cromarty and attached to the Grand Fleet. She had been given a modified sweep anti-submarine weapon, and was undergoing a refit that was expected to end on 10 January.

On 18 March 1916 the neutral Dutch steamer Palembang was torpedoed close to the Galloper Lights in the Thames estuary, straining relations between the Dutch and Germans. An enquiry into the incident suggested that the second of three torpedoes might have been fired at the Bat, which was near by at the time.

In October 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers attached to the Grand Fleet.

In January 1917 she was one of five destroyers in the Cromarty Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1917 she had been moved to the east coast, and was part of the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber, formed to cope with the introduction of the convoy system in response to the U-boat war.

Two men from the Bat were drowned on 29 October 1917.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber.

On 3 May 1918, while engaged in an anti-submarine patrol in the North Sea, the Bat and the Ouse opened fire on a submarine which unfortunately turned out to be the British C.10. One man was killed and another wounded, but the submarine escaped intact.

In June 1918 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the East Coast of England, based in the Humber.

In November 1918 she was twenty seven destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

The Bat was sold in August 1919.

In November 1919

-April 1901-: Commander A.P. James

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

Four boilers 30 knots


Four boilers


91 tons of coal (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)


220ft oa
215ft pp




One 12-pounder gun
Five 6-pounder guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement

60 (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)

Laid down

28 May 1896


7 October 1896


August 1897

Broken Up


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 (27 March 2019), HMS Bat (1896) ,

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