HMS Albacore (1906)

HMS Albacore (1906) was a B class destroyer that was attached to the Grand Fleet from 1914 until the spring of 1918, then joined the Irish Sea Flotillas, part of the battle against the final period of unrestricted U-boat warfare.  

The Albacore was one of two modified 30-knotters laid down on spec by Palmers on 1 September 1905, with no obvious purchaser in mind. They were built to a somewhat modified design, which Palmers claimed made them superior to the original ships. In particular Palmers focused on four features. The turtleback foredeck had been modified, so that the top of the deck was horizontal, raising the height of the bow to make her dryer. She had an extra forty-five tons of strengthening. Her crew accommodation was larger, on the same scale as on the River class boats. Her stern had been redesigned so that it overhung the rudder and propellers better than on the earlier boats. They were also turbine powered.

The two boats were first offered to the Navy on 5 December 1907. A series of criticism were made by various departments. Their Reed water tube boilers were of a type no longer used by the Navy, which couldn’t use oil and had a shorter life than Thornycroft and Yarrow boilers. The extra weight meant that they rode deeper in the water, reducing the freeboard. The deck structure had been rejected in earlier Palmer proposals. On 15 February 1908 the two boats were rejected.

In April 1909 two destroyers, the 30-knotter HMS Tiger and the River class HMS Gala were lost. On 5 May 1909 the Navy decided to buy the two Palmer ships after all, as long as they passed their trials. Both boats had to undergo trials with a full fuel load, so reached just under 27 knots on trials, slower but more realistic than the 30 knotters. The trials were acceptable, and the two boats were purchased on 3 March 1909.

The modified foredeck also affected the forward gun platform and bridge. On the earlier ships the gun platform had been quite narrow, allowing two 6-pounder guns mounted to the sides of the conning tower to fire forward. On these ships the gun platform was the full width of the ship, and was separated from the turtleback by a breakwater. The larger area was used to carry two 12-pounder guns, and a third 12-pounder was carried at the stern.

Both boats had four boilers in two boiler rooms, each with its own funnel, giving them four funnels. The middle two were very close together. One torpedo tube was mounted between the third and fourth funnels, and the second towards the rear of the boat. When the 30-knotters were grouped into classes, the Albacore and Bonetta both became B class destroyers.

Pre-war Service

From 1909-1911 the Albacore was part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla on the Nore, which was part of the Third Division of the Home Fleet.

In June 1909 she accompanied a cruiser squadron that visited Scarborough. However the weather was poor, and a gale meant that the planned activities couldn’t take place. The cruisers were able to anchor just off Scarborough, but the Albacore and Bonetta had to seek shelter further north.

In early July the same flotilla carried out a mock battle off the Yorkshire Coast, in which a small force of torpedo boats and submarines was judged to have sunk the cruisers and destroyers of the ‘observation squadron’.

In July 1909 she accompanied a cruiser squadron that visited Aberdeen. When the squadron left port, the Albacore was left behind to pick up any stragglers from their crews.

In July 1909 the Bonetta and Albacore took part in an exercise off the East Coast, to mimic an attack by a torpedo flotilla with submarine support against a cruiser squadron. The destroyers were part of the cruiser force, but were unable to stop the attackers, and every ship in their force was judged to have been sunk.

On Friday 18 February 1910 the Albacore had to rescue Torpedo Boat No.18, which had run into trouble while moving from Torbay to Devonport. However the tow ropes snapped, and the torpedo boat had to be collected by the gunboat Sharpshooter.

In the March and April 1913 and January 1914 Navy Lists she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla

On Monday 6 April 1914 three of her crew were killed when one of her water tubes exploded while she was moving from Chatham to Sheerness to take on ammo. Stoker Reginald James was killed almost immediately, while Stokers George Ballard and Walter Witham Hewit died soon afterwards after suffering severe burns. At the inquest it was suggested that a nut which held the water tube in place was forced from its thread, allowing the tube to burst.

The Albacore reached 26.75 knots on her pre-sale trials.

In January 1914 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, and was commanded by Lt Lawrence DO Bignell.

In July 1914 she was part of the Eighth Patrol Flotilla at Chatham.

First World War

In August 1914 she was still at Chatham, although most of the Eighth Flotilla had moved to the Firth of Forth. She doesn’t appear to have rejoined the flotilla, as by November 1914 she was one of eighteen destroyers attached to Admiral Jellicoe in his role as C-in-C of the Grand Fleet.

From November 1914 until March 1918 she was mentioned in the Navy List as part of the group of Attached Destroyers of the Grand Fleet. The Pink Lists giving the detailed location of British warships list her as part of the Scapa Patrol or the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla, the force tasked with patrolling the waters around the Grand Fleet’s wartime base, leaving the main fleet flotillas free to concentrate on major operations.

In June 1915 she was one of ten destroyers in the Scapa Patrol.

In January 1916 she was one of ten destroyers attached to Admiral Jellicoe.

In October 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers attached to the Grand Fleet.

In January 1917 she was one of ten destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla.

HMS Albacore after hitting a mine HMS Albacore after hitting a mine

On 9 March 1917 the Albacore was damaged by a mine while operating in Inganess Bay, east of Inganess Bay in the Orkneys. Eighteen men were lost and her bows were blown off. The mine had been laid by UC-44 in mid-February.

In June 1917 she was one of eleven destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla.

The March 1918 Navy List is the last to place her with the Grand Fleet.

By May 1918 she had moved to the Irish Sea Flotilla, as a tender to Vanessa II. This was a requisitioned yacht that had been loaned to the Government in 1914, when her entire crew volunteered to serve on her, and used as an auxiliary patrol vessel. By 1918 she was probably based at Holyhead on Anglesey, as that is where one of her crew is buried. The Albacore was officially recorded as being based at Holyhead in June 1918, and with the Irish Sea Flotilla in the August 1918 Navy List.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the North Channel Patrol, which had been created in an attempt to defend the narrow gap between Northern Ireland and the coast of south-western Scotland.

The Albacore was sold to Maritime Recovery Ltd to be scrapped at Penzance. Her voyage there was surprisingly eventful – she was being towed from Pembroke Dock when a storm forced her back to port. Late on Thursday 15 July 1920 she was anchored at Milford when she was struck by a submarine, which damaged the destroyer’s bows! After temporary repairs she reached Penzance on Saturday 17 July, ready to be scrapped. Before being broken up she was put on display to raise money for charity, and a total of £14 12s 1d was raised.

Wartime Career
-July-August 1914-: Eighth Flotilla, Chatham
-November 1914-March 1918-: Attached to Grand Fleet, serving in Scapa Patrol, Scapa Local Defence Flotilla etc
May-August-1918-: Irish Sea Flotilla
-November 1918-: North Channel Patrol

Artif. Eng Henry Guilford: - July 1914-
Lt-in-Commander Arthur F. E. Palliser: August 1914-October 1914-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

26.5 knots


2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 Reed water tube boilers (250 psi)




215ft 6in pp




Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down



19 September 1906



Sold for break up

August 1919


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 (10 December 2020), HMS Albacore (1906),

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