HMS Humber

HMS Humber was the name ship of the Humber class of monitors, a class of ships originally built for Brazil but taken over by the Royal Navy at the start of the First World War. She was ready for British service by 25 August 1914, reaching Dover on 29 August. She and her sister ships first saw service in October and November 1914, on the Belgian coast during the Race to the Sea and the battle of the Yser.

On 10-12 October all three ships were ordered to Ostend, to cover the re-embarkment of the Naval Division and the evacuation of British personnel based at Ostend. They were then placed at the disposal of General Rawlinson, who was worried that he might have to evacuate by sea. In the event, his troops (the 7th Division and 3rd Cavalry Divison) were able to join up with the rest of the BEF around Mons. They were then ordered back to Ostend (12 October) to help the Belgian government evacuate to Dunkirk, but didn’t arrive in time to take part in that operation.

On the night of 16-17 October all three ships were ordered back to the Belgian coast, from their base at Dover, to help the Belgian army fighting on the Yser. The monitors showed their limitations that night, being unable to leave port until the end of the day, arriving off the Belgian coast on 18 October. They were heavily involved on the Belgian coast on 18-20 October. They then had to be sent to Dunkirk to collect fresh ammunition, but were back in place by 22 October. By now Admiral Hood, commanding off the Belgian coast, was beginning to worry about winter storms that had the potential to sink the monitors, but HMS Mersey and HMS Humber remaining in place until early November. HMS Severn had to be sent home on 24 October to shift her guns. The threat from the weather was demonstrated again on 25 October when the two remaining ships became trapped in Dunkirk.

The monitors provided vital artillery support during the fighting on the Yser. The retreating Belgian army had lost much of its heavy artillery, and so relied on the naval forces to provide some firepower. If not always hugely effective, the naval guns did provide a vital boost to morale on the ground and on 28 October they played a key role in repelling a German attack that took place after the lock gates on the Yser had been opened to flood the area but before the floods had risen.

In early November HMS Humber remained off the Belgian coast, while the Mersey returned to Dover. The Humber’s guns were in better condition than those on her sister ships and she was the only member of her class to retain the twin gun turret. In December 1914, after the operations off the Belgian coast were over, she was given an extra Mk VII 6in gun on her quarter deck.

In March 1915 all three of the monitors were ordered to the Dardanelles. They were not expected to take part in the operations around the Dardanelles, but in further operations on the Danube, confidently expected to begin once the navy had forced its way past the Turkish defences of the straits! All three monitors would eventually pass through the Dardanelles, but not until 1919.

The Humber reached Malta on 29 March 1915 after a difficult journey. She did not arrive at Gallipoli until 4 June, by which time the original optimistic plan was long forgotten. The Humber’s first duty was to bombard guns hidden an olive grove at Axmah ravine. She was later used to bombard guns on the Asian shore that were bombarding the Allied positions, and finally she supported the evacuation from the Anzac beachhead.

In January 1916 she underwent a refit, getting new guns to replace her worn out originals. She remaining in the eastern Mediterranean, serving as guardship at Akaba from August 1917 to February 1918.

In October 1918 all three Humber class monitors came together at Mudros. After the Turkish surrender, she passed through the Dardanelles, spending three months at Istanbul. After her return to Britain she was sent out to Murmansk (May 1919) to take part in the British intervention in Russia. In September 1919 she was towed back from Archangel. In the following year she was sold to a Dutch salvage firm. She survived until at least the start of the Second World War.

Displacement (loaded)

1,520

Top Speed

9.5kts

Range

 

Armour – belt

3in-1.5in

 - bulkheads

1.5in

 - barbette

3.5in

 - turret face

4in

Length

266ft 9in

Armaments as built

Two 6in guns
Two 4.7in howitzers
Four 3pdr guns
Six 7mm Hotchkiss machine guns

Crew complement

140

Launched

17 June 1913

Completed

November 1913

Sold

1920

Captains

Commander A. L. Snagge

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 October 2007), HMS Humber , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Humber.html

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