HMS Electra (1896)

HMS Electra (1896) was a C Class destroyer that served with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla throughout the First World War.

Thomson hadn’t been given any orders for the first batch of 30-knot destroyers, but she was given four in the second (1895-6) batch. The company produced a longer version of their 27-knotter design, with four Normand boilers in two stokeholds. The uptakes from boilers 2 and 3 were merged into a single large central funnel. They followed the standard design, with a turtleback foredeck leading to the conning tower, which had a combined bridge and 12-pounder gun platform on top. Two 6-pounder guns were alongside the bridge, one at the stern and the final two along the sides of the ship. Their mast was between the first and second funnels.

Pre-war career

On 29 January 1897 the Electra rammed the Caledonian steamer Meg Merilees near Largs while carrying out a trial trip. The Meg Merilees suffered damage to her saloon and bulwark, and was taken into shallow water in case she sank, but stayed afloat, and was even able to return to service later in the day. The Electra suffered damage to her bow, her first bulkhead was torn away, and the deck buckled. However neither ship took on any water, and nobody was injured.

A court of enquiry into the collision was held in mid-April 1897. It soon became clear that the fault was entirely with the Electra, but her pilot, Alexander MacMillan, blamed the steersman for not obeying his order to turn to port, while the steersman, Thomas Sponford, blamed the pilot for giving the order too late. The court of inquiry sided with Sponford, and Macmillan was blamed for taking the destroyer too close to the Meg Merilees.

The Electra reached Portsmouth on 17 November 1899 in the hands of a navigating party. She carried out a twelve hour coal consumption trial on Wednesday 24 January 1900.

On 8 November 1900 the Electra was formally inspected and passed into the Portsmouth Fleet Reserve.

In 1900-1905 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.

The Electra 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 Electra was part of a force of destroyers from Portsmouth 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 late October 1901 the Electra collided with another merchant ship, this time probably a local collier heading south. She had to go to Palmer’s dockyard for repairs.

On 11 June 1902 she was commissioned with the crew from the Recruit, joining the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla.

In early September 1903 the Electra was sent from Portsmouth to join her flotilla at Oban, but her engines broke down in the Irish Channel on 10 September and she suffered more damage when she hit a jetty while going into port for repairs. She underwent repairs at Glasgow, where her machinery and some damaged hull plates were repaired.

In 1905-1909 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, which now contained the older destroyers, while the newer ones were allocated to the main battle fleets.

In 1911-12 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, a patrol flotilla, and was based at Portsmouth.

From 1912 she was part of the Nore Local Defence Flotilla, with a reduced complement.

First World War

In July 1914 she was in active commission at Sheerness/ Chatham

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 June 1915 she was part of the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

On 17-18 November 1915 the Electra was one of nine Royal Naval ships that helped with the salvage of SS Athamas. In September 1917 her crew was awarded naval salvage money for their efforts.

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

On 31 March 1916 the Zeppelin L15 was shot down by the anti-aircraft guns on the Purfleet ranges and came down at sea. All but one of the crew were rescued, and the Electra attempted to tow the wreck to land, but without success. 

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 part of the Nore Local Flotilla.

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

The Electra was sold in April 1920.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




80 tons of coal (Brassey 1901, 1902)


214ft oa
210ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey 1901, 1902)

Laid down

18 October 1895


14 July 1896


July 1900

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 (11 April 2019), HMS Electra (1896) ,

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