HMS Whiting (1896)

HMS Whiting (1896) was a C class destroyer that was allocated to the China Station soon after being commissioned, and that spent the rest of her career in eastern waters, remaining on active duty throughout the First World War.

The Whiting was ordered on 23 December 1895, alongside the Star, both from Palmers. She was laid down on 13 April 1896.

HMS Whiting on a speed trial
HMS Whiting on
a speed trial

The Palmer ships had four boilers feeding three funnels. Their machinery was considered to be the best of the 30-knotters by the engineering officers. The crew accommodation was also highly rated, and in 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow that pattern or that of the Hawthorn Leslie boats.

By the time she was launched on 26 August 1896 six more destroyers had been ordered from Palmers. She was christened by Miss Elsie D McLaren, the daughter of Mr C.B.B. McLaren, MP, a director of Palmers. At the time she was the 711th ship to be launched at Howdon and Palmer’s other yard.

The Whiting carried out builders trials on 27 February 1897. She reached an average speed of 30.1 knots during the three hour continuous trials, and 30.2 knots on six runs over a measured mile.

The Whiting arrived at Portsmouth on Wednesday 28 April 1897.

Her official trials came on 10 May 1897 at Portsmouth. This time she reached 30.167 knots over the three hour trial and a top speed of 32.846 over the measured mile. This briefly made her the faster ship in the world.

On Wednesday 26 May 1897 she carried out trials of her gun mountings.

At first the Whiting was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, and she left Portsmouth on Saturday 14 August 1897 to join the Channel Fleet at Portland. She was then to accompany the Channel Fleet on her voyage to Gibraltar. However the disturbed state of China convinced the Admiralty to move her to the China Station, along with HMS Foam and the cruiser HMS Edgar. This small fleet reached Singapore on Monday 20 December 1897.

In April 1898 there was some concern for her, after she was caught at sea heading for Hong Kong during a fierce storm and lost contact with the Fame. She arrived safely, but with two of her bow plates stoved in.

In October 1898 she put to sea to pursue a fast mail steamer which was carried two naval deserters who were wanted at Hong Kong. She was able to raise steam very quickly, and successfully intercepted the mail ship and collected the deserters.

In April 1899 she ran onto some rocks while moving at high speed in a fog and damaged her bows.

In May 1899 she was reported to have been carried ashore after taking Major-General Gascoigne and a party of troops to Mirs Bay, but she got of without problems, and her commander was exonerated of all blame.

The Whiting was part of the British naval force that assembled at Taku in 1900 during the Boxer Revolt. Parties from the destroyers Whiting and Fame captured four Chinese destroyers that were protecting the Taku forts. This expedition was led by the young Roger Keyes, and encouraged his daring approach to this sort of raid (later to be repeated at Zeebrugge in 1918. During the expedition she was hit by one shell that struck one of her boilers, but didn’t explode. She went to Nagasaki to have the damage repaired. She was back in China by late July when she was used to carry Admiral Seymour up the Yangtze to inspect the river ports. In September she visited Shanghai, before returning to northern China late in the month. In November she returned to Shanghai once again, departing late in the month to escort Admiral Seymour and Mr Pelham Warren, the British Consul-General at Shanghai, on a visit to the Yangtze Ports.

In the aftermath of the campaign Lt Colin MacKenzie, who commanded the Whiting during the attack on the Taku Forts, was awarded with the DSO.

In late July 1908 the Whiting ran into another storm, and was driven ashore off Lei Yye Mun, the channel between Hong Kong and Kowloon, by a typhoon. She was badly damaged but was able to be re-floated after her stores and guns were removed, and moved into dry dock at Hong Kong.

In July 1914 the Whiting wasn’t listed in the Pink List, the Admiralty’s working record of warship locations.

First World War

In August 1914 she wasn’t listed.

In November 1914 she wasn’t listed.

In June 1915 she was active again, and was one of four destroyers and two sloops on the China Station.   

In January 1916 she was undergoing repairs at Hong Kong, which were expected to be completed by 8 January.

In October 1916 she was one of nine destroyers on the China Station, including a sizable group from the Royal Australian Navy.

In January 1917 she was one of three active destroyers on the China Station. The Australian ships had gone to join the Australian fleet. However when the German raider Wolf entered Asian waters early in 1917 during her successful cruise the Whiting was in the dry dock at Hong Kong. She was out of dry dock when the Wolf reappeared in Asian waters later in the year, but didn’t come close to the German raider.

In June 1917 she was one of three destroyers on the China Station.

In January 1918 she was one of three destroyers on the China Station based at Hong Kong. 

In June 1918 she was one of three destroyers on the China Station.

In November 1918 she was one of three destroyers on the China Station

The Whiting was sold at Hong Kong in November 1919.

1897: Lt and Commander Ion Plunket Barton
-May 1899-1900-: Lt and Commander Kelly

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


Three-crank triple expansion engines
Four Reeds water-tube boilers


91 tons of coal (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)


220ft oa
215ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)

Laid down

13 April 1896


26 August 1896


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 (25 March 2019), HMS Whiting (1896) ,

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