HMS Albatross (1898)

HMS Albatross (1898) was a C class destroyer that was originally ordered as a 33-knot special, but that failed to achieve her target speed in normal service. During the First World War she served with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber from 1914-1918 and the Lowestoft Local Flotilla in 1918.

The Albatross was ordered as one of three 33-knot ‘specials’ in the 1896-7 programme. They were ordered in response to the 31-knots that the French torpedo boat Forban was reported to have achieved on trial in 1895, but this was an unrealistically fast result, and none of her sister ships achieved the same speed.

HMS Albatross during the First World War
HMS Albatross
during the
First World War

The Albatross was longer and heavier than Thornycroft’s 30-knotters. She had four Thornycroft boilers, with the second and third boilers sharing a single funnel, unlike the company’s 30-knotters, which had two funnels. The engines were placed behind the boiler rooms. She shared the same basic layout as the 30-knotters, with a turtleback foredeck, a conning tower at the back of the turtleback, with a 12-pounder gun platform and bridge on top. She carried the same armament as the 30-knotters - one 12-pounder, five 6-pounders and two torpedo tubes. Both torpedo tubes were carried behind the rear funnel, the standard Thornycroft layout, but one that the Admiralty felt placed them too close together.

Her expected speed made the Albatross the target of press interest. She was mentioned in the Brassey Naval Annual of 1896 as being under construction at Thornycroft, with a top speed of 32 knots. No other details were known at the time, but Brassey estimated that she would come in at 300 tons and need 8,000hp to reach her estimated speed. When completed she was much heavier than Brassey had estimated, with less powerful engines.

In trials the Albatross failed to reach her target speed of 33 knots. Thornycroft spent a great deal of money between October 1898 and July 1900 attempting to reach 33 knots, but only managed to get to 31.5 knots reliably, while her best speed was 32.29 knots on trials. Despite not reaching her target speed, the Albatross was still the fastest ship in the world until the turbine powered destroyer HMS Viper began her trials in 1900.

The Albatross was delivered to the Medway Dockyard Reserve Authorities on Wednesday 28 December 1898, to be equipped with her armament of four 12-pounder and five 6-pounder guns. However this appears to have been over-optimistic, and work instead resumed on getting her up to speed.

She was reported as reaching a top speed of 34.286 knots in early April 1899, but only when running with the tide and a wind of 20-30 knots blowing her along, and this was the trial on which she averaged 32.29 knots.

The Albatross was delivered to the Medway Dockyard Reserve Authorities for the second time, once again to have her guns installed on Saturday 27 January 1900.

On Monday 26 March 1900 the Albatross carried out a full powered trial in the North Sea, under the commander of officers from Chatham Dockyard. The results were said to be satisfactory.

By 17 April 1900 she had been equipped with her guns, and she was ordered to leave Sheerness on that day to begin her final trials. These were reported as being completed on Thursday 19 April 1900.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1901 published the results from two of her 1900 trials. In these she reached 31.552knots at 7,732ihp using 2.26lb of coal per ihp per hour, and 31.5 knots at 7,678ihp, neither of them amongst her better results.

When the older destroyers were lumped into the lettered classes in 1912, the Albatross was placed in the C Class, with the three funnel 30-knotters.

She had four boilers

In 1900-1902 the Albatross was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all home based destroyers.

HMS Albatross in Mediterranean Colours
HMS Albatross in Mediterranean Colours

The Albatross was commissioned into the Medway Destroyer Instructional Flotilla at Chatham in late August 1900, ready to take part in a cruise in the North Sea.

The Albatross 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 Albatross was part of a force of destroyers from Chatham that joined Fleet X. 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.

The Albatross was paid off on Thursday 29 August 1901 at Chatham, and her crew given a week’s leave before they were used to bring the Chamois back into commission. The original plan had been to send the Albatross to the Mediterranean, but her machinery needed too much work, so the Chamois was to be send instead.

1901 also saw plans to carry out comparative trials between the Albatross and the new turbine powered destroyers. However these had to be abandoned after the Viper was lost early in 1901 and the Cobra in September 1901, leaving no active turbine powered destroyer to be used.

The Albatross was finally ready for the Mediterranean early in 1902, and she was commissioned at Chatham on Monday 24 February 1902, under Commander E. S. Alexander Sinclair. She was to replace the 27-knot HMS Sunfish in the Mediterranean fleet.

She didn’t depart immediately – on 4 March 1902 she had to abandon an experimental trial in the North Sea due to thick fog. Her departure was scheduled for April.

From 1902-1913 the Albatross was part of the Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean Fleet, where many destroyer tactics were first worked out. This was where British destroyers first began to operate with the main battle fleet for long periods of time, as their bases at Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria were too far from their potential enemies for the destroyers to operate from them.

The Albatross took part in the combined Mediterranean Fleet, Channel Fleet and Cruiser Squadron exercises in the Mediterranean in the autumn of 1902. She was part of a flotilla of destroyers allocated to the ‘X Fleet’, the largest of three forces. Its role was to escape a blockade by two forces that were individually smaller, but larger if combined.

In early 1905 the Albatross lost one of her torpedos. In September 1906, eighteen months later, the missing torpedo was handed by an Austrian torpedo boat as the Mediterranean Fleet was leaving Fiume. This was at quite a distance from where the torpedo had been lost…

In mid-October 1906 the Albatross along with the battleship HMS Implacable and the cruiser HMS Carnarvon were sent to Bizerta to offer assistance to the French,

On Sunday 20 January 1907 the crew of the Albatross saved the schooner Eliza Maria near Naples. The Albatross was described as suffering from slight damage, including having her bridge swept away! It was expected to take two weeks to repair the damage.

On 13 May 1909 the Albatross visited Brindisi to formally salute the Kaiser and King Victor of Italy during the Kaiser’s visit to Italy.

On 18 May 1909 the Albatross was part of the escort for the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, as she carried the Queen from Corfu to Venice.

In 1912 the Albatross joined the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the patrol flotillas.

In January 1914 she was part out of commission at Portsmouth, but was about to be recommissioned for service with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla. 

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 August 1914 she was one of eleven destroyers from the flotilla that had moved to the flotilla’s new base on the Humber, others were scattered along the east coast. 

In November 1914 she was undergoing a refit at Immingham, which included giving her wireless equipment. This was expected to be complete by 8 November, at which point she was to replace the Leopard in the No.5 Patrol of the Seventh Flotilla, based at Yarmouth.

In January 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

On 19 February 1915 she departed from Harwich as part of the escort for the ammunition ship Wenning.

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

On 27 November 1915 she suffered a boiler explosion while operating in the North Sea. Four stokers were killed in the explosion, of whom three were buried at Immingham,

In January 1916 she was part of the Seventh Flotilla, but she was paid off at Hull having her boilers retubed, and her date of return to service was uncertain.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

In January 1917 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber

In June 1917 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber, but was about to be transferred to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In early July 1917 the Fairy and the Albatross were escorting a north-bound convoy that was attacked by U-52. On 9 July the submarine torpedoed SS Prince Abbas and missed the SS Rigmor. The two destroyers didn’t have much luck, and on 12 July the same submarine attacked a south bound convoy they were escorting and sank SS Frederika. The Albatross sighted a periscope, attempted to ram the submarine and dropped a depth charge. At the same time she was missed by a torpedo.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

In June 1918 she was one of four destroyers serving with the Lowestoft Local Flotilla.

In November 1918 she was one of four destroyers from the Patrol and Escort forces based at Lowestoft.

The Albatross was sold in June 1920.

February 1902-: Commander E. S. Alexander Sinclair
-January 1907-: Lt Commander Cumberlege

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



Four Thornycroft boilers at 240psi


100 tons coal capacity (Brassey)


232.75ft oa
225.5ft pp




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

Crew complement

68 (Brassey)

Laid down

27 November 1896


19 July 1898


July 1900

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 (31 July 2019), HMS Albatross (1898) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy