HMS Wolf (1897)

HMS Wolf (1897) was a B class destroyer that served in home waters for her entire career. She was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla based on the Humber in 1914-17, the Nore Local Defence Flotilla in 1917 and the North Channel Patrol at Larne in 1918.

HMS Wolf from the left
HMS Wolf from the left

The Wolf was ordered as part of the second batch of Laird-built 30-knot destroyers. Like the first batch, the second batch of Laird 30-knotters were enlarged versions of their 27-knotters (HMS Banshee, HMS Contest and HMS Dragon), which were in turn enlarged version of their first generation destroyer prototypes (HMS Ferret and HMS Lynx). They had four Normand boilers in two stokeholds, with the uptakes at each end, the boilers next to them and the working space in the middle. The engine room was placed between the fore and aft stokeholds. The 30-knotters used four cylinder triple expansion engines, with two low pressure cylinders. They were criticized in service for their large turning circles, but were considered to be strongly built. All six served throughout the First World War.

One torpedo tube was carried between the second and third funnels, and the second between the rear funnel and the aft 6-pounder gun. They were built with a chart table and compass platform between the first and second funnels and a chart table on the 12-pounder platform.

By 1914 the Wolf had a tall topmast and a smaller mainmast, probably supporting radio equipment.

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 Wolf was laid down at Lairds on 12 November 1896 and launched on 2 June 1897. The christening ceremony was carried out by Mrs Catherine Bevis, the wife of Retsal Ratsey Bevis, the managing director of Lairds.

HMS Wolf in Victorian Livery HMS Wolf in Victorian Livery

On 4 December 1897 her builders took her out for preliminary trials on the Clyde. She reached a top speed of 30.72 knots over the measured mile, and averaged over 30 knots over a series of runs.

On Thursday 6 January 1898 she carried out her official full power coal consumption trials on the Clyde. She averaged 30.31 knots over six runs on the measured mile and 30.11 knots at 370 hours over three hours of continuous steaming.

The Wolf completed her official full power speed trials on the Clyde on Wednesday 9 March 1898. She averaged 31.2 knots over six runs on the measured mile and over 30.25 knots over the three hour trial.

The Wolf was accepted by the Navy in July 1898.

In 1900-1905 the Wolf was part of the Devonport Flotilla, one of the three big flotillas that contained all home-based destroyers. In 1905 she was briefly part of the Atlantic Fleet.

The Wolf  took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of thhe Devonport division of Fleet B, the defensive fleet. Fleet A was smaller, but was expecting reinforcements from the Mediterranean, suggesting that the potential enemy at this stage was France. During the manoeuvre the Locust, Seal and Wolf were judged to have captured the torpedo gunboat Speedwell. However a claim by the Wolf to have torpedoed the protected cruiser HMS Prometheus was disallowed by the judges.

In April 1901 she was one of eight destroyers from the Devonport command that paid a visit to Manchester, travelling to the city up the Ship Canal. As would be expected, there was a great deal of public interest in the visit, and crowds came to watch the ships as the moved up the canal, and as they were moored in Manchester.

The Wolf took part in the 1901 naval manoeuvres, which began in late July. These involved two fleets – Fleet B began in the North Sea, and had the task of keeping the English Channel open to trade. Fleet X began off the north coast of Ireland, and had the task of stopping trade in the Channel. The Wolf was part of Squadron C, a force of destroyers from Devonport that joined Fleet B. This was the first time both sides in the annual exercises had been given an equal force of destroyers. The exercises ended with a victory for Fleet X. The destroyer forces didn’t live up to expectations, either in torpedo attack or as scouts.

In October 1902 the Wolf was used for surprisingly destructive tests on her structure, in the aftermath of the loss of the Cobra. These tests began on 28 November, and were designed to test the impact of waves on the structure of the lightly build destroyers. On 9 December she was placed in the drydock at Portsmouth with supports under her bows and stern. The water was then let out, to test her strength. Unsurprisingly her decks buckled slightly amidships, at which point the experiment was ended. The Committee on Torpedo-Boat Destroyers that was carrying out the tests reported that she was stronger than expected.

In 1905-1906 the Wolf was part of the 2nd Division of the Channel Fleet, increasingly seen as the most important part of the fleet, as the Germans became a potential enemy.

In August 1905 she was part of a large fleet that gathered at Portsmouth to receive a visiting French fleet. This came in the year after the Entente Cordiale, a series of agreements that greatly improved the relationship between Britain and France.

In 1906-1907 she was part of the Nore Flotilla, at this point part of the Home Fleet, with seven battleships at a level of reduced readiness.

In 1907-1909 she was part of the Nore Flotilla. By this point now this had become an increasingly important post, as more modern battleships were moved into the North Sea, and two flotillas of front line destroyers (2nd and 4th) were based here. The Wolf was part of the local defence force. 

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, part of the reserve formation of the Home Fleet, along with a changing force of pre-dreadnought battleships.

On 6 September 1907 three of her crew were drowned after their boat capsized outside Granton Harbour.

From 1912 she joined the 7th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, one of the newly formed patrol flotillas, with a reduced complement. This saw her finally leave the main battle fleet.

In July 1914 she was part of the Seventh Patrol Flotilla at Devonport, part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

First World War

In July 1914 the Wolf was part of the massive Seventh Patrol Flotilla at Devonport.

In August 1914 the Wolf had moved to Aldeburgh, as the Seventh Flotilla was scattered along the east coast to guard against any possible German invasion or raid.

In November 1914 the Wolf was one of seven destroyers from the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla based at No.6 Patrol Base, Harwich, with the task of patrolling the coast north from Harwich to Yarmouth.
In January 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

In June 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla based on the Humber.

In January 1916 the Wolf was one of eight destroyers from the Seventh that was based on the Tyne.

In October 1916 the Wolf was one of nineteen destroyers from the Seventh based on the Humber.

In January 1917 the Wolf was one eighteen destroyers from the Seventh based on the Humber.

In June 1917 the Wolf was about to transfer to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla, as part of a wider reorganisation of the destroyer forces on the east coast.

The Wolf didn’t stop on the Nore for long, as by January 1918 she was one of four destroyers of the North Channel Patrol based at Larne, to the north of Belfast.

In June 1918 she was serving on patrols to support the Grand Fleet, and was one of four destroyers from the North Channel Patrol based in Larne.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the North Channel Patrol.

By February 1919 she was commanded by Gunner William Cashman.

The Wolf was sold for break up in July 1921.

-April 1901-: Lt and Commander Bernard Long
-February 1919-: Gunner William Cashman

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


6,000 ihp




218ft oa
213ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

12 November 1896


2 June 1897


July 1898

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 (17 January 2019), HMS Wolf (1897) ,

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