HMS Dee (1903)

HMS Dee (1903) was a River class destroyer that served with the Grand Fleet in 1914, the North Channel Patrol in 1915, at Liverpool in 1915-17, and with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1917-18, escorting convoys in the North Sea.

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 Dee was one of two River class destroyers ordered from Palmers in the 1902/3 batch (the second batch of River class boats). They both had four funnels, in two pairs.

The Dee was launched in September 1903, and was christened by Miss Gladys M. Palmer, the daughter of one of the directors of Palmer’s shipyard.

The Dee carried some of her trials in early February 1904, when she was recorded on the Tyne on the 9th, 15th and 23rd.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1905 reported that she had achieved an average speed of 25.5 knots at 7,306ihp during a four hour speed trial, and 25.51 knots at 7,206ihp during a four hour coal consumption in which she consumed 2.28lb of coal per ihp per hour.

Pre-war Career

In August 1904 the Dee, Thorn and Zephyr were all paid off into the Reserve at Portsmouth. In September she was recommissioned to act as a temporary tender to the gunnery establishment at HMS Excellent. In mid-October she was commissioned once again, and on 27 October she and the Itchen was commissioned for service in the Mediterranean. This was despite the crisis caused by the diplomatic outrage caused by the Dogger Bank incident, in which the Russian Baltic Fleet, at the start of its long voyage to the Far East (and destruction at Japanese hands) fired on the Hull trawlers, killing two fisherman.

The Dee served on the China Station from 1904-1906.

After her return to Home Waters she joined the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of the Channel Fleet, the main battleship force at the time.

In 1907-1909 she was with either the 2nd or 4th Flotillas, both part of the Home Fleet, and fully manned as this was now the main fleet.

In 1909 she was part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla at the Nore, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. This contained the older battleships and her destroyers were only partly manned. However in November 1909 the press reported that she was to move from the First Destroyer Flotilla to the Second, after being replaced with the new destroyer HMS Maori, and she was described as being with the 2nd Flotilla in reports of the 1910 collision.

On Tuesday 25 May 1909 there was an explosion onboard, after a seaman entered the coal bunker with a naked flame. The seaman was badly burnt and had to be taken to the Arrogant for treatment. At the time she was being used to escort the Royal Yacht across the Channel.

On Thursday 10 February 1910 she collided with HMS Moy suffering damage to her bow, but she was able to return to port under her own power (although it did take until Saturday 12 February for her to reach Portsmouth for repairs).

From May 1912 until 1914 she was part of the 9th Destroyer Flotilla at the Nore, one of the new patrol flotillas. She was listed with the 9th Flotilla in the January 1914 Navy List. She took part in the 1912 Naval Manoeuvres, where she worked with submarines.

In June 1914 she was one of eight River class destroyers that were attached to the First Fleet, but not allocated to one of the Destroyer Flotillas.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of five destroyers that formed part of the First Battle Squadron of what soon became the Grand Fleet, and was based at Scapa Flow.

In November 1914 she was one of eighteen destroyers directly under the control of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, Admiral Jellicoe.

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet and was part of a large force of ‘Attached Destroyers’ that weren’t part of the regular flotillas.

On 16 February the Garry, Thorn and Dove left Scapa to form the new North Channel Patrol. They were joined a few days later by the Dee, which had been in dock at Glasgow on the 16th.

On 20 February 1915 she took part in the hunt for a submarine in Liverpool Bay. This was triggered by the sinking of the steamer Cambank at 11am on 20 February 10 miles to the east of Point Lynas on Anglesey by U-30. The Dee and the Dove were sent from the North Channel Patrol to try and find the submarine. However the submarine achieved another success before heading home around the northern end of Scotland. The Dee reached Liverpool on 21 February, and the senior naval officer at Liverpool then ordered her to patrol off the Calf of Man (in an area between the Calf of Man, the Skerries (near Dublin) and the Bar Light Ship in the Mersey Estuary.). The Dove and Dee were retained in Liverpool waters well into April, when a newly appointed Admiral at Larne attempted to get them back.

On 11 March U.20 attacked the steamer Helen, eight miles outside the Bar lightship. The U-boat fired a torpedo, which missed. The Helen blew her whistle, which summoned help from a ship of the Liverpool Auxiliary Patrol. This in turn summoned the Dee, which was only two miles away. She raced to the scene and opened fire on the U-boats periscope at 800 yards. The submarine submerged when the destroyer was only 50 meters away, and began its voyage home.

In June 1915 she was one of four destroyers allocated to the North Channel Patrol Flotilla, and officially based at Larne, but in reality she was still at Liverpool.

By the time the October 1915 supplement to the Navy List was produced, the Dee and Dove were recorded as part of the Mersey local defence flotilla, acknowledging the real situation.

In January 1916 she was listed as being part of the North Channel Patrol, but under the authority of the Senior Naval Officer at Liverpool and was based in Liverpool Bay.

In April 1916 the Dove and Dee helped cover the movement of troops from England back to Ireland to deal with the Easter uprising. By this point she was described as a ‘Liverpool destroyer’, suggesting that the commander at Larne had failed to get her back. The Onslow, Nicator and Ossory from the Grand Fleet also helped with the escort.

In October 1916 she and the Dove were officially based in the Mersey.

In January 1917 she and the Dove were part of the North Channel Patrol, but both based at Liverpool.

In the January, March, April, May and June 1917 Navy Lists the Dee and Dove were listed as the Local Defence Flotilla for the Mersey.

In June 1917 she and the Dove were based at Liverpool.

On 15 July 1917 the Garry and the Dee were ordered to move from Larne to the Humber, to help escort the Scandinavian Convoys. They were needed to reinforce the existing force of 30 knotters, which weren’t expected to be able to cope with the winter weather in the North Sea. For the rest of 1917 she was listed with the Seventh Flotilla in the Navy List.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber. The Avon had replaced her as a North Channel Patrol ship based at Liverpool.

In June 1918 she was still with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber, but was undergoing a long refit at Portsmouth.

In November 1918 she was still with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and was back on the Humber.

She was still recorded as being part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla in the February 1919 Navy List.

Lt & Commander Gordon McL. Cameron: 7 September 1912-April 1913-
Lt & Commander Francis W.D. Twigg: 5 November 1913-January 1915-
Lt in Command: Max A Chapman: 29 October 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (loaded)

550t light load
620t full load

Top Speed







230ft oa
225ft pp



Armaments as built

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

Armament in service

Four 12-pounder guns

Crew complement


Laid down

5 March 1903


10 September 1903



Sold to be 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 (19 November 2019), HMS Dee (1903),

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