HMS Taku (1898)

HMS Taku (1898) was originally built in Germany for China, where it entered service as the Hai Nju. When she was being built her estimated performance figures caused something of a scandal in Britain, where they appeared to outclass contemporary British designs, but in reality her performance was much lower than claimed.

In 1900 raiding parties from the Fame and Whiting, led by Roger Keyes, captured four Chinese destroyers without suffering any casualties, during the attack on the Taku forts. These were modern German-built destroyers, and the British gave one each to their allies at the time Russia, Germany and France, and kept the last, which became HMS Taku.

The Taku was a modern destroyer built by Schichau at Elbing in Germany for China and launched in 1898. She had entered Chinese service as the Hai Nju just before being captured. She thus differed from her new British fleet mates in several ways, and was generally considered not to be very impressive. The quality of accommodation was poor. Although it was claimed that she had reached 32 knots at full draught with her coal bunkers full and 35 knots fully equipped and with half of her coal onboard, she was much slower in practice, and was somewhat underpowered compared to her British rivals. This came as something of a relief to the British destroyer builders, who had been accused of underperforming when the original performance claims were made!

In British service she was considered to be rather too lightly built, and her captain in 1904 was unwilling to run at more than 24 knots in smooth water.

When the letter class system of destroyers was introduced in 1912 she was placed in the ‘D Class’, for 30 knot destroyers with two funnels, the only one of the class not to be built by Thornycroft. She was armed with six 47mm (1.85in) guns, which didn’t compare well to the one 12-pounder (3in) and five 6-pounder (57mm) guns of British destroyers. Even her torpedoes were less powerful - 14in compared to the 18in in British use.

The Taku was posted on the China station after her capture by the British.

In September 1906 a major typhoon hit Hong Kong. The Taku was one of many ships that suffered damage in the storm.

At the start of June 1907 she was dispatched to Pakhoi (modern Beihai) in response to an urgent telegram requesting aid.

In January 1914 she was listed as to be sold.

The Taku was probably decommissioned soon after the outbreak of the First World War, to free up her crew for service on more useful ships. She was sold to be broken up in October 1916.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

Under 30 knots




194ft pp




Six 47mm guns
Two 14in torpedo tubes

Crew complement




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 (27 October 2019), HMS Taku (1898) ,

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