HMS Bonetta (1907)

HMS Bonetta (1907) was a B class destroyer that served with submarine flotillas during the First World War, supporting the Ninth Submarine Flotilla on the Clyde until the end of 1915, then the Sixth and Second Flotillas at Blyth (near the Tyne) for the rest of the war.

The Bonetta 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.

HMS Bonetta from the right HMS Bonetta from the right

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

The Bonetta reached 26.75 knots on four-hour trials.

Service Record

From 1909-11 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, which was part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet and was split between the three home ports. The Bonetta was based at Devonport.

HMS Bonetta from the left HMS Bonetta from the left

In July 1909 she accompanied a cruiser squadron that visited Aberdeen.

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.

From 1911-12 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, still part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet.

In April 1911 the Bonetta was hit by the naval special service vessel Harlequin, which hit and damaged her bows. The Bonetta had to be towed into Portsmouth for repairs.

On 5 July 1911 the destroyers Bonetta and Osprey collided, while preparing to leave port. Once again the Bonetta suffered damage to her bows and had to be towed to Portsmouth for repairs.

From 1912-1913 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the new patrol flotillas.

In the 1912 battle practise the Bonetta came top of her class (Albacore and Bonetta class) with 103 points.

In the March and April 1913 Navy List she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla.

In April 1913 the Bonetta hit the wall of the Granville Dock at Dover while entering to take on coal. The bow was badly damaged, and she had to go to Portsmouh for repairs.

In the 1913 battle practise the Bonetta came top of her sub-class (B class destroyers with three 12-pounders), scoring 129 points. Her sister ship Albacore came second, with 75 points.

In the January 1914 Navy List she was listed as being about to join the Lamlash Submarine Flotilla, on the Isle of Arran. This was based on the approaches to the Clyde, and was part of the defence force for that river with its major ports and ship building industry. Soon afterwards this was redesignated as the Ninth Submarine Flotilla, but it remained at Lamlash, and that was where Bonetta was posted in July 1914. During her time with the flotilla it was never very large, and consisted to the Bonetta, a depot ship and three submarines.

First World War

In August 1914 she was attached to the Ninth Submarine Flotilla, which had now moved north to Ardrossan, on the eastern shore of the Firth of Clyde. The role of these submarines was to defend the Clyde against any German surface raiders.

In November 1914 she was attached to the Ninth Submarine Flotilla at Ardrossan.

In June 1915 she was attached to the Ninth Submarine Flotilla on the Clyde.

She was still part of the Ninth Submarine Flotilla in the October and December 1915 Navy Lists

In January 1916 she was ordered to move from the Ninth Flotilla to the Sixth Flotilla, on the Tyne. She left Scotland heading for Portsmouth on 1 January. By February 1916 she was listed as part of the Sixth Submarine Flotilla, and she remained on the east coast for the rest of the war. Her role was to support the submarines when they were at sea. The Sixth Submarine Flotilla was based at Blythe, just north of the mouth of the Tyne, and the British official history of the war at sea sometimes refers to it as the Blyth Submarine Flotilla. This was one of a number of defensive flotillas based around the British coast, originally created to defend against any possible invasion.

The Bonetta and her submarines were sent out to sea during the Lowestoft Raid of April 1916, but were ordered back into the Tyne at 10.36 on 25 April, after it was clear that they wouldn’t be able to intercept the German raiders.

At some point around September 1916 the Sixth Submarine Flotilla on the Tyne and the Second Submarine Flotilla at Portsmouth had swapped names, but not ships or submarines. As a result the Bonetta was now attached to the Second Submarine Flotilla, but this contained the same submarines as it had before the switch.

For the rest of the war the Bonetta remained with the Second Submarine Flotilla. This was generally reported as being on the Tyne, although from June 1918 it was listed as being at Blyth, a few miles up the coast from the mouth of the river.

On 3 May 1917 the Bonetta may have attacked U-94, which reported being attacked by a destroyer early on 3 May, off Peterhead. The Bonetta is the only British warship to have reported sighting a U-boat on that day, although the times don’t match.

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.

After the war the older destroyers were soon disposed of. The Bonetta was sold for scrap on 7 June 1920.

Wartime Career
February 1914-December 1915: Ninth Submarine Flotilla, Clyde
January 1916-c.September 1916: Sixth Flotilla, on the Tyne or nearby at Blyth
c.September 1916-November 1918-: Second Submarine Flotilla, Blyth (near Tyne) – same flotilla as above with new name

Lt in Commander George Mascull, CSC: 13 May 1914-October 1914-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

26.5 knots


2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 Reed boilers




215ft 6in pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down



14 January 1907



Sold for break up

June 1920

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 (17 December 2020), HMS Bonetta (1907) ,

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