HMS Rattlesnake (1910)

HMS Rattlesnake (1910) was a Beagle class destroyer that spent most of the First World War in the Mediterranean, where she took part in the Gallipoli campaign. She returned to home waters briefly over the winter of 1914-15 to escort troop ships to France, and was the last member of the class to return home in 1918, arriving not long before the Armistice. 

HMS Rattlesnake from the left HMS Rattlesnake from the left

The Rattlesnake was launched at the London and Glasgow Shipbuilding Company’s yard on the Clyde on Monday 14 March 1910. It was reported that she was the first ship of her type to be launched with her boiler and turbines already in position.

In August-September 1910 the Rattlesnake was reported to be part of the Second Destroyer Flotilla, and took part in exercises in the Orkneys.

After entering service the Beagle class destroyers joined the First Destroyer Flotilla, and were part of that unit until the autumn of 1911. At the time the Navy was planning to form a new Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and there may have been some thought of filling it with the Beagles. The Seventh Flotilla was formed in November 1911, so it is possible that the Beagles were briefly part of it, before moving to the Third Flotilla early in 1912. 

In 1912-1913 all sixteen of them were part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet.

In 1913 the entire class moved to the Mediterranean, where they formed the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

War Service

In July 1914 she was one of sixteen destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, then part of the Mediterranean Fleet. At this point the flotilla contained all sixteen Beagle or G Class Destroyers.

General Sir Ian Hamilton on HMS Rattlesnake at Gallipoli General Sir Ian Hamilton on HMS Rattlesnake at Gallipoli

On 27 July 1914 she was part of the Fourth Division of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla. Within the division Savage, Pincher and Rattlesnake were at Alexandria and Grampus was at Malta.

On 5 August the Pincher, Savage and Rattlesnake were part of a fleet that was ordered to concentrate off Pantellaria after news arrived of the declaration of war. Savage and Rattlesnake remained with the fleet as it patrolled along a line between Africa and Sardinia, to protect the French troop movements. On 7 August the Savage and Rattlesnake were ordered to take a captured German prize into Bizerta. They then joined with the Pincher and on 8 August departed for Malta.

On 10 September the Rattlesnake left the Dardanelles carrying Admiral Troubridge on the first stage of his voyage home to face a Court in Inquiry into the escape of the Goeben and Breslau.

Home Service 1914-1915

In November 1914 it was decided to move the Beagle class destroyers back to home waters to help protect the shipping routes between Britain and France. On 17 November the Beagle, Bulldog, Pincher and Rattlesnake were ordered home. They arrived at Plymouth on 29 November and were sent on to Portsmouth, with orders to protect the transport route and patrol the Channel.

By February 1915 eight of the Beagle class destroyers were based at Portsmouth (Beagle, Bulldog, Foxhound, Harpy, Pincher, Rattlesnake, Savage and Scourge) and were kept very busy escorting troop ships to France

In March it was decided to replace the Beagles with a similar number of River class destroyers. On 26 March the Beagle class destroyers were ordered to move to the Dardanelles as soon as they had been replaced, and the change was made by the end of the month.

Gallipoli

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, which now contained all sixteen G Class destroyers and five River class boats.

On the night of 18-19 December 1915 she used her searchlight to try and blind any Turkish troops who might have been looking towards Anzac Cove from Gaba Tepe, as part of the successful operation to withdraw from Gallipoli. Unsurprisingly this meant that she came under fairly heavy fire, and had to change position several times.

In January 1916 she was one of eight G Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, where she was serving alongside a mix of other types

The Basilisk was awarded one battle honour, for the Dardanelles 1915-16.

Mediterranean 1916-1918

In October 1916 she was one of thirty two destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet, which now contained fifteen G class destroyers (the Scourge wasn’t listed),

On 10 November 1916 the Rattlesnake was heavily damaged in a collision with another destroyer, although no casualties were reported.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the entire G class.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Mediterranean, along with the entire G class

In December 1917 there were six Beagle class destroyers left in the Mediterranean – Basilisk and Scorpion were with the Malta Flotilla, while Grampus, Pincher, Rattlesnake and Renard were with the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla

In January 1918 she was one of twenty eight destroyers in the Mediterranean, one of only five G class ships left in the area. On 20 January she was at Gibraltar undoing a refit.

In the January 1918 Navy List she was listed as being about to join the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Northern Division in Irish Waters, with its base at Buncrana. At this point ten members of the class were already listed as part of the division. However this move didn’t take place at this date, and the April 1918 list had her with the Fifth Flotilla once again.

In June 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Brindisi, and was one of only two G class destroyers in the formation (Rattlesnake and Renard). By August the Renard had also left for home, leaving the Rattlesnake as the last G class destroyer in the Mediterranean.

Home Waters 1918

By November 1918 she had finally moved home, and was one of six G Class destroyers in the Second Destroyer Flotilla at Londonderry.

By the end of the war the home based Beagles were allocated two depth charge throwers and thirty depth charges, surrendering their aft gun and torpedo tube to make space.

In November 1919 she was in the Reserve at Portsmouth, in the hands of a care & maintenance party.

Career Summary
First Destroyer Flotilla: 1910-1011
Third Destroyer Flotilla, First Fleet: May 1912-October 1913
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: November 1913-November 1914
Portsmouth Escort Flotilla: November 1914-March 1915
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: March 1915-June 1918-
Second Destroyer Flotilla, Buncrana, Ireland: -November 1918-

Displacement (standard)

945t (average)

Displacement (loaded)

1,100t

Top Speed

27 knots

Engine

3-shaft Parsons turbines
5 Yarrow boilers (most ships)

Range

 

Length

263ft 11.25in pp

Width

26ft 10in

Armaments

One 4in/ 45cal QF Mk VIII gun
Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

96

Laid down

29 April 1909

Launched

14 March 1910

Completed

August 1910

Sold for break up

May 1921

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 (15 October 2020), HMS Rattlesnake, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Rattlesnake_1910.html

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