HMS Crane (1896)

HMS Crane (1896) was a C class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean in 1902-5, and with the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover from 1914-18 then the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1918.

The Crane was ordered on 9 January 1896, part of a second batch of four Palmer destroyers ordered as part of the 1895-6 order. 

The Palmer ships had four boilers feeding three funnels. Their machinery was considered to be the best of the 30-knotters by the engineering officers. The crew accommodation was also highly rated, and in 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow that pattern or that of the Hawthorn Leslie boats.

Pre-war career

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 reported that she had averaged 30.347 knots on a three hour trial, and her engines had produced 6,267hp at 397.4rpm.

HMS Crane from the right
HMS Crane from the right

The Crane took part in the 1899 naval manoeuvres, where she formed part of the ‘B’ flotilla, attached to the Reserve Fleet (Fleet ‘B’). The aim of this exercise was to see if a powerful but slow squadron of warships could defend a convoy against a faster but less powerful attacking force. The Star was part of the slower, stronger, force. At the end of July she was chased into Port Erin on the Isle of Man, leaving on the following day.

In 1900-1902 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of the three flotillas that contained all of the home based destroyers.

The Crane 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 Crane was part of a force of destroyers from Portsmouth that joined Fleet B. 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.

These early destroyers were very lightly built, and the disastrous loss of HMS Cobra raised concerns about their safety. On Tuesday 8 October 1901 the Crane put to sea with the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla heading for Portland, but the flotilla ran into heavy seas. After some time her crew noticed that her deck plates were buckled and bent in amidships, and fearing a repeat of the loss of the Cobra she returned to Portsmouth. On 9 October it was decided to pay her off, transfer her crew to another destroyer, and put her in drydock.

From 1902-05 she was part of the Mediterranean Fleet, where many destroyer tactics were developed.

In March 1903 the Crane was commissioned out of the reserve at Malta to replace the Orwell, which had been badly damaged in a collision. The Orwell’s commander, Lt P.A. Roberts and her crew were used to man the Crane, along with extra men from the receiving ship at Malta.

In August 1903 two of her crewmen were court martialed in the Mediterranean, Samuel Whipman for striking a superior officer and Able Seaman Martin for prevaricating in his evidence. Both men were found guilty and jailed.

In 1905-6 she was part of the Atlantic Fleet, until that fleet was disbanded in February 1906.

In 1906-7 she was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Channel Fleet.

In 1907-9 she was part of the Channel Fleet with a nucleus crew.

In 1909-11 she was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet. This was one of the main battle squadrons, and she was fully manned.

On Thursday 17 March 1910 the Crane was rammed by the steamer Princess Margaret while moored in Portsmouth Harbour. Her bows were badly damaged and pumps had to be used to keep her afloat while she was moved into the Portsmouth dockyard for repairs.

In 1911-12 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older battleships.

From May 1912 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, a patrol flotilla based at Portsmouth.

In July 1914 she was part of the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of four destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that were still at Portsmouth, although most of the flotilla had moved to its wartime base at Dover. 

In November 1914 she had joined the rest of the flotilla at Dover

In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas, based at Dover.

On 10-14 March 1915 the Crane was one of six destroyers that took part in a naval demonstration off Nieuport, based around the battleship HMS Venerable. The force arrived off Nieuport on 10 March, but was ordered not to fire until the following day. On 11 March thick fog limited the bombardment to two rounds of 12in shell. More firing was done on 13 March, before the squadron withdrew on the night of 13-14 March, with the destroyers returning to Dover.

In March 1915 the Crane and the Crusader were ordered to patrol to the north-east of the British minefield protecting the straits of Dover against U-boats. On 28 March they witnessed a large explosion in the minefield, which was believed at the time have to been caused by a U-boat.

In June 1915 the Crane was one of twenty four destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover.

In September 1915 the Crane was part of a detached force made up of the seaplane carrier Riviera, seven minesweepers, the destroyers Kangaroo and Crane and Torpedo Boat No.4. This time the targets were Westende and Ostend, in use as German naval bases. The destroyers were to escort the minesweepers as they attempted to clear the fighting positions to be used by the main bombardment force. Once again only a limited bombardment could be carried out, before in this case the heavy guns of the Tirpitz battery forced the British to withdraw.

In January 1916 the Crane was on the Clyde undergoing repairs, which were expected to end on 23 January.

In June 1916 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

On 20-21 April 1917 the Germans carried out a raid into the Dover Straits. During the day the Crane was at sea, carrying out a normal coastal patrol in the area west of Ramsgate (along with the destroyers Falcon and Racehorse, Torpedo Boat No.15 and P Boat No.50), but wasn’t involving in the fighting when the Germans attacked Dover and Calais.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, which was now rather scattered with ships undergoing repairs at ports from Portsmouth to the Humber.

In June 1918 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the East Coast of England, based in the Humber.

In November 1918 she was one of twenty seven destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

The Crane was sold in June 1919.

-October 1901: Lt Commander M. H. Hodges
March 1903-: Lt P.A. Roberts

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


Four Reed boilers


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


220ft oa
215ft pp




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

Crew complement

60 (Brassey, 1900, 1901, 1902)

Laid down

2 August 1896


17 December 1896


April 1898


June 1919

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 (1 April 2019), HMS Crane (1896) ,

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