HMS Roebuck (1901)

HMS Roebuck (1901) was a C class destroyer that began the First World War as par of the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla, but spent most of the war with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

The Roebuck was ordered as part of the July 1898 supplement to the 1898-99 naval construction programme.

Hawthorn Leslie built three destroyers in the 1898-9 programme. They had four Yarrow 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 accomdation.

By April 1918 she had the approved depth charge armament of two throwers and eighteen charges, with the aft gun and the torpedo tubes removed to compensate for the extra weight.

On Wednesday 18 September 1901 she was delivered to the Medway Dockyard Reserve authorities at the end of a voyage from Newcastle that had only begun on the previous day.

On 27 September 1901 the Roebuck conducted a coal consumption trial outside Chatham. She averaged 30.436 knots over six runs on the measured mile, and 30.346 knots over the three hour trial. Her boiler ran at 246lb per square in pressure, her starboard engine produced 3,295hp and her port engine 3,242hp for a total of 6,637hp. Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1902 published this result, alongside one from a three hour full power speed trial in which she averaged 30,181 knots at 6,591ihp.

On Tuesday 15 October 1901 she carried out a full power steam trial in the North Sea, reaching her target speed of 30 knots at 6,000hp.

Pre-war career

From 1902-1905 she was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all home based destroyers.

In May 1903 she was one of four destroyers that paid a visit to Dundee, lasting from 21-25 May.

In July 1903 she was part of the Medway Instructional Flotilla when the fleet assembled at Dover to greet the President of the French Republic, who was then playing a visit to the country.

In early September 1903 the Roebuck had to enter the dockyard at Sheerness to have her propeller repaired. By mid September the work was completed and she was ordered to move to Scotland to resume her duties as Senior Officer’s ship in the Medway Flotilla. Although based along the south coast, many of these flotillas could often be found on tours of other parts of the British Isles, in this case probably a training cruise.

In mid June 1904 she completed a refit at Sheerness and was ordered to move to Felixstowe to join the squadron that was about to escort the King to Kiel.

On 15 October 1904 the Roebuck went into the dockyard at Sheerness for a refit to prepare her for a period of active service.

In 1905-1906 she was part of the 2nd Division of the Channel Fleet Destroyer Flotilla, the first time that destroyers were directly attached to the fleet.

In August 1905 she was one of the destroyers in the fleet that met the French fleet during its official visit to Portsmouth, part of the general improvement in Anglo-French relations of the period.

In 1906-1907 she moved to the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, still with the Channel Fleet. 

In 1907-1909 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, which was then a local defence force.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla at the Nore, with a reduced complement. This flotilla was part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, built around the older battleships.

From 1912 she was part of the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla, with a reduced complement.

A rather telling incident was reported in the Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette in July 1912. At the time the future King George VI, then known as Prince Albert, was coming towards the end of his training in the Royal Navy. In July he was serving on the Roebuck when she docked off the Langstone Cliff at Dawlish Warren (on the south coast of Devon) to allow the Prince and a golfing party to row ashore and take tea at Mount Pleasant. Prince Albert did go on to have a serious naval career, and was mentioned in despatches at Jutland, but this suggests that parts of his training were rather more relaxed! 

In July 1914 she was in active commission at Portsmouth.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of six destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

One of her first tasks was to form part of a life saving patrol that stretched across the Channel from Southampton to Havre to support the passage of the BEF across the Channel. The Patrol was active twice, from 8/9 August-17 August to cover the first convoys and again on 22 August to cover the passage of the 4th Infantry Division. The patrol’s services were never required, as all of the troop transports got across the channel safely.

In November 1914 she was one of four destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1915 she was part of the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1916 she was one of six destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In October 1916 she was one of six destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1917 she was one of six destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of four active destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In mid-December 1917 she was part of a force that put to sea to try and hunt for a submarine that had just sunk a series of merchant ships off the south-west coast. This included three destroyers, five motor launches, four drifters and two trawlers. The plan was to spread the force out across the routes across Lyme Bay and try and locate the U-boat using hydrophones. Despite the fairly sizable effort, no signs of the German were found, mainly because it had already moved into the eastern half of the Channel.

In January 1918 she was one of four destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, but was undergoing repairs.

In June 1918 she was one of three destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Flotillas.

In November 1918 she was one of three destroyers in the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

The Roebuck was broken up at the Portsmouth Dockyard in 1919.

Displacement (standard)

385t

Displacement (loaded)

430t

Top Speed

30 knots

Engine

Four Yarrow boilers
6,000ihp

Range

90 tons of coal capacity (Brassey)

Length

214.5ft oa
210ft 11in

Width

21ft 1in

Armaments

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

Crew complement

60 (Brassey)

Laid down

2 October 1899

Launched

4 January 1901

Completed

March 1902

Broken Up

1919

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 (26 June 2019), HMS Roebuck (1901) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Roebuck_1901.html

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