HMS Cynthia (1898)

HMS Cynthia (1898) was a D class destroyer that served with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla throughout the First World War.

HMS Cynthia was one of three ships in the second batch of 30-knot destroyers ordered from Thornycroft, as part of the 1896-7 programme. She was similar to the earlier ‘Desperate class’, with Thornycroft’s own four cylinder compound engine and two funnels, but had improved lines that made her five feet longer.

HMS Cynthia from the right
HMS Cynthia
from the right

The Thornycroft 30 knot destroyers had three boilers in two rooms, with a single boiler in the forward room and two in the rear room. The uptakes from No.1 and No.2 boilers were trunked into a single funnel. This was the same arrangement as in their 27 knot (‘A Class’) destroyers, but using more powerful larger boilers.

The Thornycroft boats followed the standard basic layout with a turtleback foredeck, leading to the conning tower, which had the bridge and 12-pounder gun platform on top. The mast was between the forward funnel and the bridge. Two 6-pounders were mounted either side of the bridge, to allow three guns to fire forwards. One 6-pounder was on the port side close to the forward funnel, and another on the starboard side close to the aft funnel. Both of the torpedo tubes were carried between the rear funnel and the final 6-pounder, close to the stern. They had two map tables - one on the bridge and one between the funnels, and at least three wheels - on the bridge, in the conning tower and right at the stern. 

The three ships in the 1896-7 order were slightly longer than the earlier Thornycroft 30 knotters, but were otherwise similar.

The press reported that the  Cynthia was launched on Saturday 10 September 1898 and the naming ceremony was carried out by Mrs. A.B. Ward.

On Thursday 26 October 1899 she carried out a full power trial in the North Sea, performing as required.

In 1899 the Cynthia took part in speed and fuel efficiency trials. She reached 30.126 knots at 5,857 ihp, consuming 2.381 pounds of coal per iHP per hour and 30.205 knots at 5,494 ihp


The Cynthia took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Chatham division of Fleet B, the defensive fleet. Fleet A was smaller, but was expecting reinforcements from the Mediterranean, suggesting that the potential enemy at this stage was France.

From 1900-1905 the Cynthia was allocated to the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla. This was where many of the tactics for using destroyers with a fleet were worked out, as the destroyers couldn’t operate from their home ports and had to work with the fleet as it moved around the Mediterranean.

Normal service on these destroyers could be dangerous. On 29 July 1900 Bernard Borrell, a torpedo instructor on the Cynthia broke his back when a heavy chain snapped and smashed into him while he was helping to coal the ship, and died in hospital in early August. This was clearly before the ship moved to the Mediterranean, as his inquest was carried out at Pembroke Dock.

In April 1901 the Cynthia was reported to have collided with the Dasher, which had to port into Portsmouth for urgent repairs.

In August 1901 it was reported that she had developed serious defects and was thus unable to take her place in the Mediterranean. The Lee was to be send instead.

At the end of April 1902 the Cynthia completed a refit at Sheerness, and on 5 June was transferred from the Medway Fleet Reserve to the Mediterranean Station. She was ordered to be commissioned at Sheerness on 14 May and replace the Skate in the Mediterranean. This was part of a complex series of movements – the Cynthia was to be paid off when she arrived at Malta, and her crew used to commission the Banshee. The former crew of the Banshee were then to bring the Skate back to Britain.

The Cynthia took part in the Mediterranean Naval Manoeuvres of 1902. She formed part of Fleet X, which was given the task of escaping from two blockading fleets that were smaller individually, but larger when operating together.

In 1905 the Cynthia was part of the Atlantic Fleet, based at Gibraltar, but that force was disbanded in February 1906.

In 1906-7 the Cynthia served with the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of three that supported the Home Fleet battleships.

She remained with the Portsmouth Flotilla in 1907-9, but the flotilla was now a local defence force.

On Thursday 8 August 1907 she had to be towed into Portsmouth after suffering damage to her rudder that left her unable to steer. The damage was caused by heavy seas.

In 1909-11 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. This contained the older battleships and the destroyers were partly manned.

In 1911-12 she moved to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, still part of the 3rd Division.

On 17 June 1914 she was used to tow the damaged destroyer Vulture into Sheerness, after she had been damaged in a collision with a merchant ship during night exercises.

In July 1914 the Cynthia was one of twelve destroyers in active commission at Sheerness/ Chatham.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In November 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla. In mid-month they were to escort a force of monitors to Dunkirk.

In June 1915 she was one of eleven destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

On 10 June 1915 the torpedo boat TB.12 (originally known as the Cricket class coastal destroyer HMS Moth) hit a mine while patrolling off the Thames estuary. At first a trawler attempted to tow her to safety, but the Cynthia soon joined in. Despite their efforts TB.12 slowly settled, eventually sinking at 10.55 on the morning of 11 June. 

In January 1916 she was one of ten destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In October 1916 she was one of eight destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1917 she was one of nine destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of seven destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1918 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla,

In June 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla

In January 1920 she was listed being for sale.

Artif. Eng Edward C. Farmer: - March-April 1913- (borne in HMS Pembroke)
Lt & Commander Christopher J.F. Eddis: 14 August 1913-January 1914-
Lt. Ben Moss: 21 October 1918-December 1918-
Acting sub-lieut Ian NcNeill (acting): - February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots in theory


Four cylinder compound engines
Three boilers


215.5ft oa
208ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

16 July 1896


8 January 1898


June 1899

Broken Up


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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 October 2019), HMS Cynthia (1898) ,

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