HMS Quail (1895)

HMS Quail (1895) was a B class destroyer that served on the North American and West Indies Station in 1897-1903, the Mediterranean in 1905-6 and in Home waters from 1906, and with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber during the First World War.

The first batch of Laird 30-knotters were enlarged versions of their 27-knotters (HMS Banshee, HMS Contest and HMS Dragon), which were in turn enlarged version of their first generation destroyer prototypes (HMS Ferret and HMS Lynx). They had four Normand boilers in two stokeholds, with the uptakes at each end, the boilers next to them and the working space in the middle. The engine room was placed between the fore and aft stokeholds. The 30-knotters used four cylinder triple expansion engines, with two low pressure cylinders. They were criticized in service for their large turning circles, but were considered to be strongly built. Three of the four survived into the First World War.

Pre-war Service

The Quail was laid down on 28 May 1895 and launched on 24 September 1895.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1896 reported that she had achieved 30.385 knots at 374rpm during six runs over the measured mile and 30.039 knots over the three hour trial.

HMS Quail in Victorian livery
HMS Quail in
Victorian livery

In January 1897 she carried out her trials on the Clyde. She reached an average speed of 30.09 knots on her six runs along the measured mile, and 30.64 knots on the fast run. Over the three hour trial she averaged 30.12 knots. She was the first of the Laird 30-knotters to complete her official trials.

The Quail was accepted into the Royal Navy in June 1897.

From 1897-1903 the Quail was on the North America and West Indies Station, and was based at Bermuda.

In 1901 she nearly collided with HMS Ophir, an ocean liner that was then served as the Royal yacht during the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s tour of the British Empire (the future King George V and Queen Mary). The Ophir failed to slow down as the two ships were approaching each other to exchange mail, and only the skill of Quail’s commanding officer, Lt. Morant, avoided a collision that would probably have sunk his ship.

In December 1902 a crisis developed after President Castro of Venezuela refused to pay foreign debts incurred during a recent civil war. The British, Germans and Italians imposed a naval blockade on Venezuela, which lasted until the despite was solved by negotiation in February 1903. In early December the Quail was part of a British squadron (along with the cruisers Charybdis and Indefatigable, and the sloops Alert and Fantome) that seized the Venezuelan gunboat Bolivar at Port of Spain on Trinidad. She then moved to the Venezuelan port of La Guaira, but was back in Trididad by January 1903, before leaving for the Orinoco delta.

HMS Quail from the left
HMS Quail from the left

In February 1903 she ran aground near Port Barima, damaging her propellers. She had to be towed to Port of Spain, Trinidad, for repairs. 

The Quail and her fellow destroyer Rocket returned to home waters in 1903, in convoy with a larger vessel.

In 1905-1906 she served with the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, joining the flotilla with eight River class destroyers and three other 30-knotters (Angler, Lively and Sprightly). Her arrival in the Mediterranean hadn’t gone entirely smoothly. On 3 December 1904 one of her crew, Sub-Lieut Teed, was arrested for being drunk, creating a disturbance and assaulting the police was onshore at Gibraltar. He was court-martialed, and found guilty of all but the charge of being drunk.

In 1906-1907 the Quail served with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in the Channel Fleet.

In 1907-1909 she served with the Nore Flotilla.

On 7 August 1907 she collided with the scout cruiser HMS Attentive during night exercises off Portland. The Quail was part of the defensive force and the Attentive the attacking force. The Attentive was making 20 knots when she rammed the Quail 40ft behind her bows. Several sailors were trapped in their quarters in the bows, and had a fairly dramatic escape. When the Attentive managed to pull back, the bow part of the Quail sank. Reinforced bulkheads kept the water out of the remains of the ship, and she was towed to Spithead by the cruiser HMS Adventure. In the aftermath of the incident the Quail was given a new bow. Luckily none of the crew of either ship was killed in the collision.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 5th Flotilla, based at Devonport in 1910.

In May 1910 the Quail rammed a fishing boat in Falmouth Bay during exercises. The boat, from Flushing, was cut in two and sank. Three of her crew of five drowned, and a fourth, her owner Richard Barron, died on the Quail soon after being rescued. At an inquest held on the following day Lt Commander Tudor of the Quail was acquitted of any blame, as at the time he was dazzled by the searchlight of HMS Patrol, once again during night exercises.

In 1912 she moved to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, also at Devonport.

Wartime Service

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

In August 1914 she was part of the Seventh Patrol Flotilla, which by now had moved to its wartime base on the Humber. Its ships were scattered along the east coast, and the Quail was posted at Aldeburgh. After the outbreak of war she was given the task of checking a swept channel that ran south from the Outer Dowsing Light Vessel to the Downs, a rather ambitious role for a single destroyer!

In November 1914 she was part of the Seventh Patrol Flotilla and was one of seven destroyers based at No.6 Patrol Base, Harwich.

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

In June 1915 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Seventh Flotilla.

In January 1916 she was one of eight destroyers from the Seventh Flotilla based on the Tyne, while the main flotilla base was on the Humber.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

In January 1917 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the new East Coast Convoys, Humber command, which included the more able destroyers from the Seventh, while the older ones moved to the Nore.

From 3 September 1917 she was commanded by Lt Charles J. White.

In January 1918 the Quail was back with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

In June 1918 she was serving with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the East Coast of England, based on the Humber.

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

The Quail was sold to be broken up in July 1919.

-March-October 1901-: E.R. Morant
-May 1910-: Lt Commander Tudor
-September 1910-: K.F. Sworder
-January 1914-: Cdr F.A. Clutterbuck
3 September 1917-February 1919-: Lt Charles J. White

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


2 screws


90 tons of coal capacity (Brassey)


218ft oa
213ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey)

Laid down

28 May 1895


24 September 1895


June 1897

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 January 2019), HMS Quail (1895) ,

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