HMS Sunfish (1895)

HMS Sunfish was an A class destroyer that served with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla during the First World War.

HMS Sunfire from the left
HMS Sunfish
from the left

The Sunfish was one of three 27-knot destroyers ordered from Hawthorn Leslie as part of the 1893-4 programme. They were all sturdy three funnelled destroyers that survived the First World War.

The Hawthorn Leslie ships had eight Yarrow water-tube boilers organised in pairs. Each pairs had a shared uptake, and the uptakes from pairs 2 and 3 were trunked together to produce the three funnel layout.

The Hawthorn Leslie ships carried one torpedo tube between the second and third funnels and one towards the rear, just in front of the aft gun position.

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.

Pre-War Career

The Sunfish ran her second preliminary trial on Thursday 1 August 1895. With a full load on board she averaged 27.25 knots over six mile runs.

In 1896 the Sunfish accompanied the Channel Squadron on its visit to Scotland.

In October 1897 the Sunfish was part of an instructional flotilla based at Devonport. In October she was at sea with the Lynx and the Thrasher when those two ships ran aground off Dodman Point. The Sunfish escaped intact from this disaster.

In 1900 the Sunfish was modified to give her higher funnels.

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

In the autumn of 1903 she took part in a fleet visit to Scotland, putting in at Aberdeen and Montrose.

Until March 1904 she was part of the Medway Flotilla, but in that month her crew were transferred to the Bittern, which replaced her on active duty.

From 1905 to 1907 she was with the Nore Flotilla, by now a reserve formation after the more modern destroyers were directly allocated to the Channel and Atlantic Fleets.

From 1907 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, by then seen as a local defensive force.

From 1911 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. This was a reserve formation that was split between three ports. The Sunfish was still based at Devonport.

From 1912 she was one of three old destroyers allocated to the Devenport Local Defence Flotilla, with a reduced complement.

In March 1913 she was in commission with a nucleus crew and was based at Devonport, where she was a tender to HMS Vivid, the Navy barracks at Devonport. She was commanded by gunner John D. Sumner.

By July 1914 she was back in active commission at Devonport, but she wasn’t mentioned in the August 1914 Pink List (the Admiralty’s record of ship locations), when there were no destroyers mentioned as being based there.

First World War

In November 1914 she was one of four destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla. This formation had a very active war, carrying out local patrols, searching for U-boats and mines, escorting individual ships and many other activities, but sadly few details are in the public domain.

In June 1915 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1916 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, although three of the others were undergoing repairs.

In October 1916 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, along with a force of torpedo boats.

On the evening of 17 December 1916 the Sunfish was three miles to the south-west of the Eddystone Lighthouse when her crew heard a humming noise and spotted a dark object 400-500 yards off their starboard bow. This was probably the German submarine UC.17, which was laying mines in the area. The Sunfish attempted to ram her, but the submarine submerged before she could reach her.

In January 1917 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, again along with a force of torpedo boats. In addition the Second Destroyer Flotilla was based at Devonport, just before the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans.

In February 1917 the Sunfish was once again patrolling around the Eddystone Lighthouse. On 11 February the Bittern spotted a mine seven miles south of the Devonport breakwater. The port was closed, and Bittern and Sunfish were ordered to divert shipping. The Sunfish was able to divert the transport Durham Castle to Falmouth at 7.15pm. At 5am on the morning of 12 February she intercepted the SS Sondenia and diverted her to Falmouth. However fifteen minutes later the SS Afric was hit by a torpedo twelve miles to the S.S.W. of Eddystone, and a second torpedo half an hour later. The crew of the Afric fired twelve rockets, but they were clearly missed by the Sunfish, as the submarine was able to come to the surface and question the master of the ship. Luckly only five of the 153 people on-board were killed, and the rest were rescued between 10-11am.

In June 1917 she was one of four active destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, along with the normal force of torpedo boats.

In January 1918 she was one of four destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, although two of the others were undergoing repairs.

In June 1918 she was one of three destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Defence Flotilla, still with the force of torpedo boats.

In July 1918 the Sunfish was detected during the third attempt that month to catch a U-boat using hydrophones. On the night of 24 July the Devonport M.L. Hydrophone Flotilla picked her up at a range of five miles, and also managed to detect a submarine, although an attack failed.

In June 1918 she was one of three destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Flotillas.
 
On 11 November 1918 she was one of three destroyers serving with the Devonport Local Flotillas.

From 16 December 1918 she was commanded by Lt Hubert G.D. Merrett.

On 7 June 1920 she was sold to J. Kelly to be scrapped.

Commander:
-May 1896-: Lt Lafone
-September 1903-: Commander Marcus Hill
16 December 1918-February 1919-: Lt Hubert G.D. Merrett

Displacement (standard)

310t

Displacement (loaded)

340t

Pendant No.

1914: D.47
September 1915: D.2A
January 1918: D.81

Top Speed

27 knots (contract)

Engine

Eight Yarrow water-tube boilers
2 screws
4,000ihp

Range

60 tons coal capacity

Length

204ft oa
200ft pp

Width

19ft

Armaments

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

Crew complement

50 (Brassey)

Laid down

29 August 1894

Launched

28 May 1895

Completed

February 1896

Sold to be broken up

June 1920

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 January 2019), HMS Sunfish (1895) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Sunfish_1895.html

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