HMS Colne (1905)

HMS Colne (1905) was a River class destroyer that was on the China station at the outbreak of war in 1914, but moved to the Mediterranean late in the year. She took part in the Gallipoli campaign, and spent the rest of the war in the Mediterranean.
HMS Colne from the left
HMS Colne from the left

The original River class boats carried their forward 6-pdr guns on sponsons on either side of the forecastle, but this made them too low and rather wet in some circumstances. From the 1902/3 batch onwards the forward guns were thus moved to a higher position alongside the 12-pdr gun.

The Colne was one of two boats ordered from Thornycroft in the 1903/4 batch. Both had two funnels. Their hull shape was based on that of TB 98, but enlarged and with a modified stern.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1906 published the results of her four hour speed trial. She averaged 25.57 knots at 7,884 ihp.

By 1912 Brassey’s Naval Annual listed her as being armed with four 12-pounders, after the 6-pounders were replaced across the River class as they were no longer felt to be effective

Pre-War Career

In 1906-1907 the Colne was one of six River class destroyers in the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet,

In 1907-1909 the Colne was one of fourteen River class destroyers in the 1st or 3rd Destroyer Flotillas of the Channel Fleet, which was now becoming less important. As a result its destroyers only had nucleus crews.

In 1909-1913 the Colne was part of the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, one of six River class destroyers that served there for at least part of that period.

In 1913 the Colne was one of four River class destroyers that moved to the China Station, joining three other River class boats that had been there since 1911.

In July 1914 the Colne was one of eight destroyers on the China Station.

During 1914 the Colne took part in gunnery trials that included a total of 125 destroyers, and was rated as one of the five best ships.

First World War

In August 1914 the Colne was one of five River Class destroyers on the China Station, all of which reported to be ‘at sea’ at the outbreak of war. When the preliminary warning telegraph reached the China Squadron on 28 July they had just returned to Wei-hai-wei after a cruise

In November 1914 she was one of eight destroyers on the China Station based at Hong Kong.

When the German raider Emden attacked the Cocos Islands on 8-9 November 1914 the Colne was one of three destroyers that were moved to the Sunda Strait from Singapore. The Emden was caught by HMAS Sydney on the day after this move was ordered.

A few days later, on 17 November, Admiral Herram was ordered to send all of his River class destroyers to Egypt. The Colne  docked at Singapore, before departing for the Mediterranean, where they were to replace eight modern destroyers that had been ordered home from Gallipoli. She reached Suez on 28 December and was ordered to go to Malta to dock.

The Colne served at Gallipoli andwas awarded the Dardanelles battle honour.

On 18 March 1915 the Allies carried out a disastrous attempt to force the narrows, using battleships to bombard the shore forts while the minesweepers cleared the way. However three battleships, the French Bouvet and the British Irresistible and Ocean were all lost. The Ocean hit a mine while attempting to rescue the Irresistible. It quickly became clear she was going to sink, and her captain ordered the Colne, Jed and Chelmer to come alongside and rescue his crew. The Ocean was then allowed to drift in the hope that she would end up out of danger.

On 25 April 1915 the Colne  took part in the landings at Anzac Cove, one of eight destroyers involved in the action. Six of the destroyers carried troops and used their ship’s lifeboats to land them on the beach. Most of the ships involved in the action came under heavy machine gun fire.

The Colne was apparently involved in the fighting on 26 April, as on that date able seaman G Graham was slightly wounded.

Early on 5 May 1915 the Colne was one of four destroyers (Colne, Chelmer, Usk and Ribble) were used to support a landing party that attempted to raid an observation station at Gaba Tepe, but surprise was lost and the party ended up being pinned down close to the beach, from where they had to be rescued under cover of the destroyer’s guns.

On 25 May the Colne and Chelmer landed fifty troops who demolished an observation post on Nibrunessi Point. Later on the same day the battleship HMS Triumph was sunk by a U-boat.

After two battleships were sunk by the same U-boat in May 1915 the role of providing on-demand fire support for the troops was passed to the destroyers. The Chelmer and the Colne were posted off Anzac Beach.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty two destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, supporting operations at Gallipoli.

On 21 July she was assigned a dedicated station and areas of fire in case the Ottomans launched a large scale offensive on 23 May – the Allied High Command expected an attack during Ramadan, but this didn’t occur.

At the start of August the Colne played a part in the successful re-capture of a British post that had been lost to the Turks. For several days before the planned attack she carried out a bombardment of the post at around 9pm and another from 9.20-9.30pm. After a few days of this the garrison tended to take shelter just before 9. On the night of 6-7 August a force of New Zealanders took advantage of the cover of this bombardment to capture the empty trenches! The Colne was then used to support the attack on ‘Table Top’, the main target of that day’s attack.

In January 1916 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the sizable destroyer forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. Early in the month she helped cover the evacuation from Gallipoli, just about the best planned and executed part of the entire battle.

In October 1916 she was one of seven River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet.

In January 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In June 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In late 1917 the Colne took part in trials carried out by the Mediterranean Hydrophone Flotillas to see if destroyers could be stopped to allow them to use their hydrophones without damaging the engines. The Colne carried out the same five minute test four times, lowering the hydrophones 45 seconds after stopping the engines and getting a bearing 2 minutes 30 seconds later. The circulator could be stopped for five minutes, without causing damage to the condensers, and the other engines could be stopped for 15 minutes without losing too much pressure. The conclusion was that destroyers could stop long enough to get a hydrophone bearing and get back up to speed without too many problems.

In January 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Mediterranean.

In late January, when the two German ships in Turkish service made their last sortie, the Colne was part of the 5th Detached Squadron, based at Syra and Trebuki in the central Aegean.

In June 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla based at Brindisi.

In November 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Firth Destroyer Flotilla based at Mudros.

Lt & Commander Hugh T. England: 31 December 1909-April 1913-
Lt & Commander M. Brock Birkett: September 1913-January 1914-
Lt in Command Thomas A Benskin: 14 October 1918-December 1918-
Ch Artif Eng James R. Phillips: -February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed







225ft oa
220ft pp


23ft 10.5in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

21 March 1904


21 May 1905


July 1905

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 (16 April 2020), HMS Colne (1905),

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