HMS Kennet (1903)

HMS Kennet (1903) was a River class destroyer that was on the China station at the outbreak of war in 1914, but moved to the Mediterranean late in the year. She took part in the Gallipoli campaign, and spent the rest of the war in the Mediterranean.

The original River class boats carried their forward 6-pdr guns on sponsons on either side of the forecastle, but this made them too low and rather wet in some circumstances. From the 1902/3 batch onwards the forward guns were thus moved to a higher position alongside the 12-pdr gun.

The Kennet was one of two boats ordered from Thornycroft in the 1902/3 batch. Both had two funnels. Their hull shape was based on that of TB 98, but enlarged and with a modified stern.

The Kennet was launched on Friday 4 December 1903 at Chiswick.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1905 published the results of her trials. On her four hour speed trial she averaged 25.66 knots at 7,445ihp. On her four hour coal consumption trial she averaged 25.99 knots at 7,543ihp and used 2.39lb of coal per ihp per hour.

By 1912 Brassey’s Naval Annual listed her as being armed with four 12-pounders, after the 6-pounders were replaced across the River class as they were no longer felt to be effective

Pre-War Career

In 1905-1906 the Kennet was one of the three River class destroyers in the 3rd Division, part of the Channel Fleet, the main battleship force at the time.

In August 1905 the Kennet was part of the large British fleet that gathered to meet the French fleet at Portsmouth, during the first large scale French naval visit to a British port for many years.

HMS Kennet from the right
HMS Kennet from the right

In July 1906 the Kennet took part in the failed attempts to save the battleship Montagu, which had run ashore on Lundy. Her main role was to carry messages between Lundy and Ilfracombe, but she was also used to carry some of the supplies needed in the operation.

In April 1907 she had been fitted with a wireless set that could send and receive messages at up to 125 nautical miles. The main equipment was in the charthouse, and tests proved that it didn’t interfere with the nearby magnetic compass.

In 1907-1909 the Kennet was one of fourteen River class destroyers in the 1st or 3rd Destroyer Flotillas of the Channel Fleet, which was now becoming less important. As a result its destroyers only had nucleus crews.

On Wednesday 19 August 1908 the Kennet snapped her cable while moored in Torbay and was driven onto the Arun. The Kennet suffered the most damage, and had a hole smashed in her starboard side near the engine room.

In 1909-1913 the Kennet was part of the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, one of six River class destroyers that served there for at least part of that period, although it would appear that she didn’t depart very promptly.

On Tuesday 6 April 1909 the Kennet left Portland to move to Portsmouth, but she soon suffered a problem with her port air pump, taking one engine out of use. She had to return to Portland, and then moved to Devonport on one engine for repairs.

The Cornishman newspaper reported that one of her crew, First Class Stoke William John Retallack, drowned at Devonport on Friday 18 December 1910.

The Kennet was certainly in the Mediterranean in March 1913 when she accompanied HMS Inflexible as she carried Admiral Milne to Athens to attend the funeral of the King of Greece.

In 1913 the Kennet was one of four River class destroyers that moved to the China Station, joining three other River class boats that had been there since 1911.

In July 1914 the Kennet was one of eight destroyers on the China Station.

First World War

In August 1914 the Kennet was one of five River Class destroyers on the China Station, all of which reported to be ‘at sea’ at the outbreak of war. When the preliminary warning telegraph reached the China Squadron on 28 July they had just returned to Wei-hai-wei after a cruise

On 20 August the majority of the British squadron moved to Tsingtau, where they captured four German steamers. On the night of 22 August, after the Japanese declaration of war, the British squadron began to withdraw to avoid any possible accidental clash with them. On the evening of 22 August the Kennet spotted the German destroyer S.90 which was heading into Tsingtao from the east. The Kennet attempted to catch the S.90, but came under heavy fire. The Kennet fired 136 rounds and one torpedo without scoring any hits, but the Kennet was hit. One gun was put out of action, three men were killed on the day and one or two more died later.

In November 1914 she was one of eight destroyers on the China Station based at Hong Kong.

On 17 November 1914 the Admiral Jerram was ordered to send all of his River class destroyers to Egypt. The Kennet was undergoing a refit at Hong Kong, but was soon able to join the Colne, Jed, Chelmer and Welland at Singapore. The flotilla left for Egypt on 30 November. They arrived at Suez on 28 December 1914 and were ordered to Malta for docking.

The Kennet took part in the final naval attempt to force the narrows during the naval campaign at the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915. She was one of four River class destroyers that took part in rescue operations, coming under heavy gunfire, but without suffering many casualties.

In mid-April 1915 the Kennet was part of a force posted at Port Trebuki, Skyros, to guard the route being used by Allied shipping carrying troops towards the Dardanelles. On 16 April an Ottoman torpedo boat, the Demir Hissar, slipped out of Smyrna and stopped the troop transport Manitou. The moment the news reached Skyros, the Kennet and the Jed were ordered to sea to try and intercept the raider. They soon spotted her smoke and began to overhaul her. The Kennet was able to open fire, but soon afterwards the Demir Hissar ran into the Wear, coming from the other direction. Her captain realised that she was trapped, and beached his ship in Kalamuti Bay, and the crew were interned by the Greeks. In 1916 the crews of the Kennet, Jed and Wear shared £175 of bounty for sinking the Demir Hissar.

On the night of 24 April the Kennet carried the young Bernard Freyberg during the exploit that won him the DSC. In an attempt to district the Turks from the Allied attack further south at AMZAC Cove, he swam ashore from the Kennet and placed flares in the Gulf of Saros. He then swam back out to sea and was picked up, despite having come under heavy fire.

In May 1915 the French warship Dupleix was sent to see if the port of Bodrum was being used by Ottoman military shipping. When the Dupleix sent in boats to search the shipping found in the port, they came under heavy fire. As a result the Bacchante and the Kennet were sent to sink the shipping. They attacked on 28 May, sinking the shipping in the port and also firing on the castle and barracks.

The Kennet was awarded the Dardanelles battle honour.

In June 1915 she was one of three River Class destroyers that were at Malta.

In January 1916 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the sizable destroyer forces in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In October 1916 she was one of seven River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet.

In January 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In June 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In January 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Mediterranean.

When the two German ships in Ottoman service made their last major sortie late in January the Kennet was part of the Aegean squadron, but was in dock.

In June 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla based at Brindisi.

On 25 June 1918 the Kennet formed part of the escort of Convoy HG 86, with 21 ships, from Gibraltar (along with USS Dale (DD-4), HMS Rule and HMS Kilkeel). The escorts didn’t stay with the convoy for long, and soon moved north to meet Convoy OM 78. They met the incoming convoy at 5am on 27 June, and escorted it into port at Gibraltar on 28 June.

In November 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Firth Destroyer Flotilla based at Mudros.

In November 1919

Lt & Commander Charles F. Ballard: November 1911-April 1913-
Lt & Commander Edye K. Boddam-Whetham: December 1913-January 1914-
Lt in Command Bryan ff. Wingfield: 27 September 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



Thornycroft Boilers




225ft oa
220ft pp


23ft 10.5in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

5 February 1902


4 December 1903


January 1905

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 (7 April 2020), HMS Kennet (1903) ,

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