HMS Fawn (1897)

HMS Fawn (1897) was a C class destroyer that served with the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover in 1914-1918 and the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1918.

The Fawn was launched at Palmer’s Howdon Yard on Tuesday 13 April 1897. She was named by Miss Norah Gulon, daughter of the Secretary of Palmer’s.

HMS Fawn passing HMS Victory
HMS Fawn
passing HMS Victory

On 12 September 1898 a navigating party was sent from Portsmouth to Jarrow to take charge of the Fawn. The same crew was then to carry out her sea trials, in which she was expected to reach 30 knots and 6,000hp. The Fawn was delivered to Portsmouth on Thursday 15 September 1898.

On Tuesday 28 September 1898 the Fawn carried out a three hour trial on the measured mile, ut this had to be abandoned half way through due to problems with her machinery. At the time she had reached a top speed of 33.39 knots. After the problems developed she had to return to Chatham for repairs.

On Wednesday 5 October 1898 the Fawn took part in unsuccessful coal consumption trials in the North Sea. She finally passed her coal consumption trials one week later, on Monday 10 October.

By mid October 1898 she had she had achieved an average of 30.5 knots on a three hour speed trial (probably on Friday 14 October 1898), and consumed 2.24lb of coal per ihp per hour while running at 30 knots. On Wednesday 26 October she carried out her gun mounting trials at Portsmouth. Towards the end of October 1898 she carried out her torpedo trials.

On 4 November 1898 she carried out the last stage of her trials from Sheerness.

Pre-War Service

On 7 June 1899 the Chamois was paid off and her crew transferred to the Fawn, which was commissioned for service in the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla.

The Fawn took part in the 1899 Naval Manoeuvres. She was part of the destroyer flotilla attached to the Reserve or ‘B’ Fleet, under Vice Admiral Sir Compton Domvile. The exercise involved three forces – a convoy heading from Halifax to Milford Haven, the ‘A’ Fleet, which was to start at Belfast and try and intercept the convoy, and the ‘B’ Fleet, which had slower but more powerful ships and was to try and defend the convoy. The A fleet was given torpedo boats, the B fleet destroyers. The exercises ended as a success for the B fleet.

On 23 October 1899 the troopship Malta was delayed in the Solent by fog while heading out to South Africa. The Fawn was used to cheer up the troops by bringing out the daily newspapers, which contained news of the battles around Ladysmith. These must have been rather inaccurate early accounts, as this was the fighting that became known as Mournful Monday!

In 1900-1902 the Fawn was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of three that contained the home based destroyers.

The Fawn took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Portsmouth 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.

In late June a report from Shanghai claimed that the Fawn had been sunk by Chinese gunfire at the mouth of the Pei-ho River, but at the time she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, so the Chinese shooting would have been truly remarkable!

In mid-October 1900 one of the high pressure slide valves on the Fawn broke, preventing her from operating at full speed. She had to be escorted back to Portsmouth from Portland by the Star to undergo repairs.

On Tuesday 5 November 1901 the Fawn was paid off and her crew transferred to the Flirt, which replaced her in the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla.

The Fawn 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 Fawn 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 1902-1905 she served with the Mediterranean Fleet.

Her departure to the Mediterranean had to be posted more than once. First she damaged her bows in a collision while leaving port. At the start of May the problem was a cracked cylinder cover which was discovered during her commission trial. She carried out a two hour steam trial on 16 May, so the damage didn’t take long to repair.

The Fawn took part in the combined Mediterranean Fleet, Channel Fleet and Cruiser Squadron exercises in the Mediterranean in the autumn of 1902. She was part of a flotilla of destroyers allocated to the ‘B Fleet’, one of two blockading forces that were attempting to blockade the ‘X Fleet’, which was larger than either of the other two, but smaller than their combined forces. During the exercises the B Fleet was judged to have lost its entire destroyer force, including the Fawn.

In late December 1903 she had to return to Malta from Syracuse, where she had accidently been rammed by the steamer Prince Amedee while at anchor, suffering damage to her starboard side. The Italian General Steam Navigation Company, which owned the steamer, offered £150 in compensation, but the Commander of the Fawn was reported to have ‘courteously refused’ the offer.

In 1905-1906 she was part of the destroyer flotilla of the Atlantic Fleet, based at Gibraltar. This formation was disbanded in 1906, and the Fawn moved back to home waters to join the 1st Destroyer Flotilla of the Channel Fleet. She was with the Channel Fleet in mid-August 1906 when a boat carrying her captain, chief steward and two seamen capsized in a squall during a visit to Scottish waters. All four men were rescued safely.

In 1906-1907 she moved to the Nore Flotilla, which supported the Home Fleet battleships.

In 1907-1908 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, now a local defence force.

On Friday 24 May 1907 the Fawn had to go into the dry dock at Pembroke after she began to leak. The problem turned out to be a leaky inlet, which had to be replaced.

By March 1909 she had moved to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet, and she remained with that unit until 1910.

In 1911-12 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, built around the older battleships.

From May 1912 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the patrol flotillas.

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

First World War

In August 1914 the Fawn was part of the Sixth Patrol Flotilla, but was at Haulbowline, a naval bases at an island on the coast of Cork in the south of Ireland.

On 6 October 1914 she was escorting a transport ship heading to Zeebrugge when HMS Kangaroo reported a submarine attack on her. However this appears to have been in error.

In November 1914 she was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, part of the Dover Patrol

In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

In June 1915 the Fawn was one of twenty four destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover.

In January 1916  the Fawn was part of the Sixth Flotilla but was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth, with no clear date for their completion. She had been equipped with a modified sweep, an early anti-submarine weapon.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In January 1918 she was one of forty three destroyers in the Sixth Flotilla, although a sizable number were undergoing repairs. 

In June 1918 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

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

The Fawn was awarded a battle honour for operations off the Belgian coast in 1914-1918.

The Fawn was sold in July 1919.

In November 1919

Commanders
- October 1899: Lt Commander John K. Laird

Displacement (standard)

390t

Displacement (loaded)

440t

Top Speed

30 knots

Engine

6,200ihp

Range

91 tons coal capacity (Brassey)

Length

220ft oa
215ft pp

Width

20.75ft

Armaments

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

Crew complement

60 (Brassey)

Laid down

 5 September 1896

Launched

13 April 1897

Completed

December 1898

Broken Up

1919

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 (29 May 2019), HMS Fawn (1897) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Fawn_1897.html

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