HMS Angler (1897)

HMS Angler (1897) was a D class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean in the pre-war period and with the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla throughout the First World War.

The Angler was one of two 30-knot destroyers ordered from Thornycroft as part of the 1895-6 programme, and was a copy of the Desperate, the first of Thornycroft’s 30-knot destroyers. She was powered by Thornycroft’s own four cylinder compound engines and had two funnels (which placed her in the ‘D’ Class’ when the letter classes were introduced in 1912). She had a ‘semi-tunnel’ stern which made then impressively manoeuvrable, and kept their speed better than most, but were wet forward.

HMS Angler at Sea
HMS Angler at Sea

The Thornycroft boats followed the standard basic layout with a turtleback foredeck, leading to the conning tower, which had the bridge and 12-pounder gun platform on top. The mast was between the forward funnel and the bridge. Two 6-pounders were mounted either side of the bridge, to allow three guns to fire forwards. One 6-pounder was on the port side close to the forward funnel, and another on the starboard side close to the aft funnel. Both of the torpedo tubes were carried between the rear funnel and the final 6-pounder, close to the stern. They had two map tables - one on the bridge and one between the funnels, and at least three wheels - on the bridge, in the conning tower and right at the stern. 

The Thornycroft 30 knot destroyers had three boilers in two rooms, with a single boiler in the forward room and two in the rear room. The uptakes from No.1 and No.2 boilers were trunked into a single funnel. This was the same arrangement as in their 27 knot (‘A Class’) destroyers, but using more powerful larger boilers.

The Angler was the basis of the Murakomo class of destroyers, built for the Japanese by Thornycroft.

Pre-War Career

On 24 March 1898 she officially joined the Navy when she was delivered to the Medway Reserve officials.

On Saturday 23 April 1898 her chief gunner, Henry Shaddock Wyatt, was found guilty at a court martial of having been drunk in charge of the ship. The Angler had returned to port after her preliminary steam trials, and her captain, Lt Commander W. H. Oliver, placed Wyatt in charge while he went ashore. On his return, Wyatt was found drunk slumped on the deck above the Commander’s cabin. His defence suggested that Wyatt might have suffered from a fit, but he was found guilt, dismissed from the ship and lost eighteen months seniority.

On 10 May 1898 she left Chatham to go to Sheerness to carry out her official trials.

On Friday 3 June 1898 she achieved a speed of over 30 knots during her three hour full-speed triails. During the trials her engines produced 5,820hp while operating at 212lb/ sq in.

On Friday 10 June 1898 she reached an average speed of 30.559 during six runs on the measured mile, the final official trials of her machinery.

On 11 August 1898 she was commissioned as the senior officer’s vessel in the Medway torpedo-boat flotilla. She was manned by a crew transferred from the Desperate and commanded by Commander J. M. De Robeck. The flotilla was then ordered to carry out a training cruise to Plymouth, Falmouth, Salcombe and Dartmouth.

In November 1898 she went to Chatham for a refit.

On 29 June 1899 she was part of flotilla of destroyers that visited Grimsby (Angler, Dasher, Mallard, Janus and Contest).

The Angler  took part in the 1899 naval manoeuvres, where she was one of the destroyers allocated to the Reserve Fleet (as ‘B Flotilla), which was given the task of using slower capital ships and destroyers to protect a convoy against an attack by faster capital ships. Both fleets included large numbers of cruisers, and the aim was to learn more about how to integrate cruisers and battleships and how to use destroyers.

In February 1900 she had to return to Sheerness to have a fault with her machinery repaired, but she was able to leave to rejoin the Medway Instructional Flotilla on 20 February 1900.

The Angler took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Chatham 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.

On 10 March 1900 it was reported that the Angler had to return to port at Chatham after a collision that caused damage to her stem and bow plates.

On 5 October 1901 the Angler was taking part in steam trials with the Medway Destroyer Instructional Flotilla when she collided with the Salmon. Despite an attempt by the Salmon to avoid the collision her stern swept across the Angler’s after deck and the Angler’s propellers were driven through the side of the Salmon. Both ships took in water, but were both able to reach Sheerness. The Angler had cracked plates along three feet just to the rear of her wardroom.

A Court of Inquiry was held on Monday 7 October 1901 at Chatham.

On 31 October 1901 the Angler was involved in a second collision in the same month. This time a strong gale was considered to be responsible for the clash between the Angler and the Great Eastern Railway Company’s steam Suffolk, which struck the Angler on her bow close to Felixstowe Pier. Initial reports suggested that the Angler’s stem was badly damaged.

In November 1901 she was part of the Medway Instructional Flotilla, and was undergoing repairs that prevented her from taking part in a three week long cruiser (probably caused in the collision with the Angler). Only four of the eight destroyers in the flotilla were actually fit to take part in this cruise.

Until 1902 the Angler was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all home based destroyers.

In November 1903 she was commissioned to replace the Falcon in the Devonport Instructional Flotilla, ending a period with the Fleet Reserve.

From 1906 to 1913 the Angler was part of the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, where many destroyer techniques that were used during the First World War were worked out.

Soon after her arrival she helped support the visit of Queen Alexandria and Princess Victoria to Italy. On 8 May the Royal party left Livorno escorted by the cruiser Berwick, while the Angler waited to collect the mail.

In September 1906 she suffered an accident in the engine room while cruising off Corfu (at the time she was supporting the Third Cruiser Squadron). A bolt from the port intermediate crank head sheared, wrecking the engine and cylinder. Three of her crew – James Henry Gibson, Arthur John Rice and Patrick Mulcahy were seriously injured.

A rather less naval incident befell Lt Commander Jelf (presumably her commander), in October 1907 when he fractured his collar bone while playing Polo on Malta. He was out of action for three weeks as a result.

In 1911-12 the Angler was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. This contained the older battleships, and the destroyer flotillas were partly manned.

From 1912 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the new Patrol Flotillas.

In January 1914 she was based at Portsmouth where she was serving as a tender to the gunnery training base HMS Excellent. She was commanded by the chief gunner, Frederick. E. C. Hurst.

In July 1914 she wasn’t listed in the Pink List.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of six destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

One of her first tasks was to form part of a life saving patrol that stretched across the Channel from Southampton to Havre to support the passage of the BEF across the Channel. The Patrol was active twice, from 8/9 August-17 August to cover the first convoys and again on 22 August to cover the passage of the 4th Infantry Division. The patrol’s services were never required, as all of the troop transports got across the channel safely.

In November 1914 she was one of six destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

On 2 December 1914 three of her crew drowned.

In January 1916 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In October 1916 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla, which had now lost its River class destroyers.

In January 1917 she was one of eight destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla

In June 1917 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla

In January 1918 she was one of nine destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1918 she was one four destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

In December 1918 she was one of four active destroyers in the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla.

By January 1920 she was listed as an obsolete vessel to be sold, and she was broken up later in the same year.

Lt. Commander W. H. Oliver: - April 1898-:
Commander J. M. De Robeck: 11 August 1898-
Lt & Commander Thomas K. Maxwell: January 1913-April 1913-
Ch Gunner: Frederick E. C. Hurst: December 1913-January 1914-
Lt Herbert K. Case, DSC: 30 March 1918-February 1919-
Ch Gunner Sperry J. D. Blockley: - November 1919- (temporary)

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots on trial
25 knots realistic sea speed


Four cylinder compound engines
Three boilers




210ft oa
208ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

21 February 1896


2 February 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 (11 September 2019), HMS Angler (1897) ,

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