HMS Mermaid (1898)

HMS Mermaid (1898) was a C class destroyer that served with the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover in 1914-1918, taking part in a series of bombardments of the Belgian coast, but ended the war with the Seventh Flotilla on the Humber.

Hawthorn Leslie built three destroyers in the 1896-7 programme. They had four Thornycroft boilers in two stokeholds, with the second and third boilers sharing the central funnel. They were considered to be amongst the best of the 30-knotters. In 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow the Palmer or Hawthorn Leslie pattern for accommodation. In the same year Commander Mark Kerr, of the Medway Instructional Flotilla, described them as ‘by far the best sea boats’

At the start of September 1898 she achieved a top speed of 30.875 knots and an average of 30 knots for an hour on her first trip to sea, at the time believed to be a record speed for a first test.

The Mermaid was delivered to Sheerness on 25 March 1899. She was then given her armament of one 12-pounder and five 6-pounders, which were then to be tested by the staff of the Sheerness School of Gunnery.

In 1899 the Mermaid took part in speed and fuel efficiency trials. She reached 30.149 knots at 6,468 ihp, consuming 2.67 pounds of coal per iHP per hour and 30.833 knots at 6,578 ihp. These results were later published in Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1900.

In April 1899 she carried out a three hour full power coal consumption trial, averaging 30.14 knots.

In May 1899 she achieved an average speed of 30.9 knots over six runs on the measured mile, the highest yet achieved by any of the 30 knot destroyers.

In August 1899 the Mermaid was made the senior officer’s destroyer in the Medway instructional flotilla, ready for a three weeks’ cruise in the North Sea, to begin on 5 September 1899. She was to be commanded by Commander J. M. de Robeck (later the commander of Allied Naval Forces in the Dardanelles during the First World War, retiring with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet).

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

In January 1900 the Mermaid, Coquette, Mallard, Sturgeon, Cygnet, Ariel and Angler carried out a cruise to Felixstowe and back to Southend.

The Mermaid took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Chatham 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 October 1900 she collided with the Cynthia while operating in the North Sea. She was taken to Leith for temporary repairs and then moved to Chatham for full repairs.

The Mermaid was still the flagship of the Medway Instructional Flotilla on Thursday 13 June 1901, when Commander J.F.E. Green (Captain of HMS New Zealand at Jutland) replaced Commander Mark Kerr (a future Admiral and supporter of aircraft carriers) as her commander and commander of the flotilla.

The Mermaid 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 Mermaid was part of a force of destroyers from Chatham that joined Fleet X. 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 1905-1906 she was part of the 2nd Division, which was directly attached to the Channel Fleet, at this point the main battle fleet in home waters.

In 1906-1907 she was part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla of the Channel Fleet.

At the start of February 1906 she was involved in a collision off Dover and her crew transferred to another destroyer while she underwent repairs in the dry dock at Chatham.

In 1907-1909 she was still with the 3rd Flotilla of the Channel Fleet, but the balance of British naval power was moving to the Home Fleet and the North Sea, and the Channel Fleet destroyers now had nucleus crews.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, which was part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, built around the older destroyers. She was partly manned.

From May 1912 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of a series of new Pastrol Flotillas, and had a reduced crew complement.

On Saturday 1 March 1913 the merchant ship Lizard hit the Mermaid on the port side close to the engine room while she was at Dover, denting the side and forcing her to be move into the Granville Dock for temporary repairs. An inquiry into the collision found that both ships were waiting to go into the Granville Dock when the incident happened. The Mermaid had been first in line, but the dock authorities decided to let the Lizard in first as she needed more depth of water. The Mermaid obeyed the signal to pull back, but the Lizard appears not to have noticed she was reversing, causing the collision.

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 she was one of six destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that were based at the Downs.

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 May 1915 the Navy carried out a bombardment of Westende Bains. The Mermaid, Syren and Falcon escorted the Venerable , which was to carry out part of the bombardment, from Dover to Dunkirk early on 10 May 1915.

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

In August 1915 she supported a bombardment of Zeebrugge. She was part of one of the destroyer patrols that were used to protect the bombardment force, which took place on 23 August. She began the operation from Dover, along with three other destroyers. During the raid one of her tasks was to drop a marking buoy to the west of the monitor’s anchorage, then to show lights to guide the monitors into the right place.

In September 1915 the Mermaid was part of No.1 TBD Patrol during a bombardment of Ostend and Westende (2-7 September).

In January 1916 she was still with the Sixth Flotilla but she was undergoing repairs and was in the hands of a care and maintenance party. The work was expected to be done by 10 February.

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

The Mermaid was part of the general reserve of the Dover Force when the Germans raided into the channel on 26 October 1916.

The Mermaid was close by when the Germans carried out a raid on the Downs on 23 November 1916. The Germans were discovered by a drifter, which sent up a warning flair. The Mermaid, Crusader and Saracen all put to sea to try and intercept the raiders, but the Germans had gone by the time the British destroyers reached the scene.

In January 1917 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but was undergoing a refit off station.

In May 1917 she was one of the destroyers allocated to the force that supported a bombardment of Zeebrugge. The destroyers were used to provide a screen around the main bombarding vessels.

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

The Mermaid was awarded a battle honour for operations off the Belgian coast in 1914-1917.

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 part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla of the Dover Force, but was undergoing repairs.

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

The Mermaid was sold in July 1919.

-August 1899-: Commander J. M. de Robeck
-June 1901: Commander Mark Kerr
June 1901-: Commander J.F.E. Green

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




82 tons coal capacity (Brassey)


215ft oa
210ft pp




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

Crew complement

62 (Brassey)

Laid down

7 September 1896


22 February 1898


June 1899

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 (29 April 2019), HMS Mermaid (1898) ,

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