HMS Avon (1896)

HMS Avon (1896) was a C class destroyer that served with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1914-1917, before moving to the North Channel Patrol at the northern entrance to the Irish Sea in 1918. However she was soon ‘borrowed’ by the Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool, where she spent most of 1918.

The Vickers 30-knotters had four Thornycroft boilers in two stokeholds, with the second and third boilers sharing a single funnel. They followed the standard general layout, with a turtleback foredeck, with a conning tower with gun platform and bridge above just behind the turtledeck. Two 6-pounder guns were on either side of the conning tower, two on the sides of the ship and one on the stern. On the three ships of the 1985-6 programme one torpedo tube was between the first and second funnel and the second behind the rear funnel. They were built with the chart table on the front of the bridge/ gun platform. By 1906 the chart table on the Avon had been moved to a new position on the lower part of the mast, where it could be used from the back of the bridge platform.

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 Avon was laid down on 17 February 1896 and launched on 10 October 1896.

HMS Avon from the right
HMS Avon from the right

In April 1897 the Avon suffered a serious accident during a trial trip. While steaming at 27 knots the port propeller A bracket had come off, leaving the shaft vibrating wildly at high speed. This opened a hole in the hull plating, and the rear part of the ship began to flood. Water got into the aft lower deck and the wardroom, and at first it was feared that the ship would sink. After emergency repairs she got back to Barrow using her starboard engine alone, where repairs were carried out.

On 5 September 1898 the Avon was at sea in the Channel when she was forced to put into Dover because of the fog.

On Tuesday 6 September the Avon reached Sheerness, at the end of her voyage from Barrow. Once there she was armed, ready for her trials.

At the start of November 1898 she left Sheerness to carry out her final steam trials in the North Sea. They were followed on 7 November by gunnery trials.

By the end of November 1898 the Avon had completed her trials, and was ready to join the Medway Fleet Reserve in a ‘ready for commission’ state. She was officially accepted into the Navy in February 1899.

On Wednesday 14 June 1899 the Avon was used to rescue the passengers from the Dutch mail package Willem, Prins van Oranje, which had suffered a mechanical breakdown while off the Girdler Lightship, on her way from Queenborough to Flushing.

In 1900-1904 the Avon was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of the three flotillas that contained all of the home based destroyers.

At the start of June 1900 the Avon damaged her propeller at Spithead, and required repairs.

On 21 June 1900 the Avon had to return to port at Chatham, after fouling her mooring at Granton and suffering damage. At the time she was part of the Medway Instructional Flotilla.

The Avon 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.

The Avon 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 Avon 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.

In November 1901 she was part of the Medway Instructional Flotilla, and was one of four of the eight destroyers in the flotilla that took part in a three week long cruise.

At the end of April 1902 she handed her crew over the Swordfish, which was to replace her in the Medway Instructional Flotilla.

On Tuesday 3 February 1903 the Avon was forced to abandon steam trials in the North Sea due to fog.

In 1904-5 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla.

In 1905-1907 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, which now contained the older destroyers, while newer boats went into new flotillas directly connected to the battle fleet.

In August 1905 she was part of a sizable fleet that greeted the French fleet on their formal visit to Portsmouth, part of the overall improvement of relations between Britain and France.

On the evening of Friday 12 January 1906 the crew of the Avon helped to fight a fire at the Torbay Paint Company at Dartmouth, but the building was still destroyed by the fire.

In 1907-1909 she served with the 1st or 3rd Destroyer Flotillas, part of the Channel Fleet, with a nucleus crew.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older battleships.

On Thursday 27 May 1909 the Avon set a record during gunnery practice carried out by the Devonport Division of the Home Fleet. Petty Officer Owens managed to score 12 hits out of 12 with the 12-pounder gun on a 6ft by 8ft target while the ship was moving at full speed.

In 1912 she joined the 7th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, one of the Patrol Flotillas, with a reduced complement.

In January 1914 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas, and was commanded by Lt. Frederic A. H. Russel.

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

First World War

In August 1914 she had moved to the Seventh Flotilla’s war base on the Humber, and was one of twelve destroyers from the flotilla that were in the Humber, while the rest were scattered along the east coast.

On 19 August 1914 the Outer Dowsing light vessel reported sighting a German cruiser but by Friday 21 August the Avonwas able to report that this was in error, and the vessel had actually been the torpedo gunboat HMS Speedy.

In November 1914 she was part of No.6 Patrol of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and was one of seven flotilla destroyers based at Harwich

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, a patrol flotilla based on the Humber. At this point the flotilla had been reduced somewhat in size, and only contained twelve destroyers.

In January 1916 she was one of twelve destroyers from the Seventh that were based in the Humber, with more posted to the Tyne.

In October 1916 she wasn’t listed in the Admirably Pink List

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

In June 1917 she was one of seven destroyers that were still in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, but they were about to be transferred to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla as part of a general reorganisation of the destroyer forces on the east coast.

In January 1918 she was officially part of the North Channel Patrol, based at Larne, but she had been ‘borrowed’ by the Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool, along with the Dove.

In June 1918 she was serving with the patrols that supported the Grand Fleet, and was one of two destroyers from the North Channel Patrol to be based at Liverpool.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers from the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla that were based at Holyhead.

The Avon was sold in July 1920.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




80 tons of coal (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)


214.25ft oa
210ft pp


20 ft


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

Crew complement

60 (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)

Laid down

17 February 1896


10 October 1896


February 1899

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 (12 March 2019), HMS Avon (1896),

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