HMS Desperate (1896)

HMS Desperate (1896) was a D class destroyer that spent the entire First World War with the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

The Desperate was one of three 30-knot destroyers ordered from Thornycroft as part of the 1894-5 programme. She was powered by Thornycroft’s own four cylinder compound engines and had two funnels (which placed her in the ‘D’ Class’ when the letter classes were introduced in 1912). This group of Thornycroft destroyers had a ‘semi-tunnel’ stern which made then impressively manoeuvrable (placing the two screws between the two under slung rudders), and kept their speed better than most, but were wet forward.

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 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 Desperate just reached her 30 knots speed on trials, reaching 30.006 knots at 5,901ihp at a weight of 276.6 tons, well below her service weights.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1896 reported that she had reached an average speed of 30.428 knots over six runs on a measured mile and a mean speed of 30.018 knots over three hours.

Pre-War Service

On 18 March 1899 Able Seaman Frederick Hoggett of the Desperate was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s medal for gallantry for rescuing a man who had fallen into the Thames from a dinghy off Greenhithe on the night of 4 February.

On Tuesday 10 April 1900 six men from the Desperate were drowned at Brighton, when the whaler they were using to row the 250 yards from the boat to the West Pier was swamped. Twelve men were in the boat, and in early reports four men were listed as drowned and two missing. The Desperate, Bittern, Mallard and Cheerful , all then part of the Chatham division, had arrived in the port that morning, and the boat was launched at 5pm to take seven liberty men ashore, but was swamped close to the pier. The lifeboat rescued six of the twelve men, and four were washed ashore.

The Desperate was allocated to the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla in 1900, and remained on that station until 1911.

The Desperate took part in the Mediterranean Manoeuvres of 1902, where she formed part of the B Fleet, one of two that were given the task of blockading the X Fleet. She was considered to have been knocked out during a night battle on 2-3 October, but the rules used for the exercise were rather chaotic, and the overall conclusions were thus rather invalid.

In 1906 Seaman A. J. Evans achieved the best shooting score on the Mediterranean Station, scoring 13 hits out of 15 shots from a six-pounder in 55 seconds, an example of the Mediterranean’s fleets emphasis on gunnery.

In 1911-1912 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. She was partly manned during this period.

In July 1914 the Desperate was one of ten destroyers in active service at Portsmouth.

First World War

In August 1914 the Desperate was one of six destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

One of her first tasks was to form part of a life saving patrol that stretched across the Channel from Southampton to Havre to support the passage of the BEF across the Channel. The Patrol was active twice, from 8/9 August-17 August to cover the first convoys and again on 22 August to cover the passage of the 4th Infantry Division. The patrol’s services were never required, as all of the troop transports got across the channel safely.

In November 1914 the Desperate was one of six destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1915 the Desperate was one of seventeen destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla, which had been expanded, in part by giving it eight River class destroyers.

In January 1916 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In October 1916 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla, which had now lost its River class destroyers.

In January 1917 she was one of eight destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla

In June 1917 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla

In January 1918 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1918 she was one four destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In December 1918 she was one of four active destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

The Desperate was sold to be broken up in 1920.

Displacement  (standard)

310t

Displacement (loaded)

350t

Top Speed

30 knots on trial
25 knots realistic sea speed

Engine

Four cylinder compound engines
Three boilers
5,700ihp

Length

210ft oa
208ft pp

Width

19.5ft

Armaments

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

Crew complement

63

Laid down

1 July 1895

Launched

15 February 1896

Completed

February 1897

Sold to be Broken Up

May 1920

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 (20 August 2019), HMS Desperate (1896) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Desperate_1896.html

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