Forward class scout cruisers

The two Forward class scout cruisers were the Fairfield dockyard’s contribution to the series of eight scout cruisers built in 1903-1905. These ships were constructed in pairs by four different dockyards, following an Admiralty specification for a cruiser capable of reaching 25 knots, to operate with destroyer flotillas. The eight ships were sometimes known as the Sentinel class, after the first to be completed (see Sentinel class article for more details), but although their statistics were similar, each pair was slightly different.

The Forward class was equipped with belt armour around the vital machinery spaces, and deck armour fore and aft. Like all of these ships, their armament was upgraded, once soon after they were built, and again in 1911/12, when they were given nine 4in guns as their main armament.

HMS Foresight was in the reserve of the Portsmouth Division of the Home Fleet from completion until 1909, when she joined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla as its leader. In 1910 she joined the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, then in 1911 the 6th Flotilla at Dover.

At the start of the First World War she was joined the Dover Patrol, then the 8th Destroyer Flotilla, still at Dover. In this role she took part in the operations off the Flanders coast during October 1914 that helped to protect the Allied flank during the battle of the Yser.

In May 1915 she was one of five of the Sentinel class ships that was sent to Humber to form the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron, guarding against Zeppelin raids on the east coast. She then went to the Mediterranean, serving in the Aegean from July 1916 until the end of the war.

HMS Forward joined the Channel Fleet in 1907, became leader of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in 1909, joined the 4th Flotilla in October 1909, the 3rd Flotilla at the Nore in 1910, becoming its leader in June 1913. At the start of the war she was part of the 9th Destroyer Flotilla, on the Shetland Patrol.

On 15 December 1915 she was at Hartlepool, along with HMS Patrol and the 3rd division of the 9th Flotilla, while the 4th division was patrolling of Whitby. On the morning of 16 December Hartlepool was the subject of a German raid, led by the battlecruisers Seydlitz and Moltke and the cruiser Blücher. Hartlepool was a tidal harbour, and at low tide it was difficult for the cruisers to get out to sea. That morning the destroyers (Doon, Waveney, Test and Moy) had been sent out at 5.30 am, and had reported that the conditions made it risky for the cruisers to come out.

At 8 am, the German ships appeared off Hartlepool and opened fire on the town. Their initial targets were the two gun emplacements that protected the harbour, but they soon opened fire on the docks and harbour entrance. While the Patrol was able to get out to sea (where she was hit and badly damaged), the Forward was delayed by the German barrage. When she did finally get out of Hartlepool, the German battlecruisers had already turned east to make their escape.  The Forward was ordered to keep in touch with them, but they soon escaped into the mist.

After the raid the Forward was sent to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla in the Humber. In May 1915 she was one of five of the seven surviving Sentinels to make up the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron, whose duties were to guard the east coast against Zeppelin raids. This squadron was soon broken up as newer ships became available, and the Forward was sent to the Mediterranean. From June 1916 to the end of the war she served in the Aegean, before being sold off in 1921.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed




Armour – deck

1 1/8 to 5/8 inch

 - conning tower


 - belt




Armaments – as built

Ten 12pdr quick firing guns
Eight 3pdr quick firing guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes above the water

Armaments – as modified 1911/12

Nine 4in guns
Six 6pdr guns
Two 18 torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Foresight
HMS Forward

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 September 2007), Forward class scout cruisers ,

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