HMS Earnest (1896)

HMS Earnest (1896) was a B class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean until 1906 and then in home waters, serving with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the east coast in 1914-17, the Nore Local Defence Flotilla at the start of 1918 and the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla for most of 1918.

The Earnest was ordered as part of the second batch of Laird-built 30-knot destroyers. Like the first batch, the second batch of Laird 30-knotters were enlarged versions of their 27-knotters (HMS Banshee, HMS Contest and HMS Dragon), which were in turn enlarged version of their first generation destroyer prototypes (HMS Ferret and HMS Lynx). They had four Normand boilers in two stokeholds, with the uptakes at each end, the boilers next to them and the working space in the middle. The engine room was placed between the fore and aft stokeholds. The 30-knotters used four cylinder triple expansion engines, with two low pressure cylinders. They were criticized in service for their large turning circles, but were considered to be strongly built. All six served throughout the First World War.

One torpedo tube was carried between the second and third funnels, and the second between the rear funnel and the aft 6-pounder gun. They were built with a chart table and compass platform between the first and second funnels and a chart table on the 12-pounder 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 Earnest was laid down on 2 March 1896 and launched on 7 November 1896.

On 19 May 1897 the Earnest averaged 30.38 knots in her speed trials on the measured mile on the Clyde. She also reached 30.1 knots during her three hour trial.

The Earnest was accepted into the Royal Navy in November 1897.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 published the results of a trial in which she reached 30.12 knots on her three hour trial.

The Earnest soon moved to the Mediterranean, where she was based until 1906.

In 1906-1907 the Earnest was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the Channel Fleet,

In 1907-1909 the Earnest was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Home Fleet, with a full complement.

In 1909 the Earnest underwent a refit at Chatham. The chart table on the 12-platform was removed, as was the combat platform and chart table between the first and second funnels and the ready-service ammo containers.

In 1909-1911 the Earnest was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, allocated to the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet, still with a full complement.

From 1912 she was part of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, one of the newly formed Patrol Flotillas. This marked the end of her time with the main battle fleet.

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

First World War

In July 1914 the Earnest was part of the large Seventh Flotilla based at Devonport.

In August 1914 the Earnest was one of eleven destroyers from the Seventh that were at the flotilla’s war base on the Humber.

In November 1914, when the Germans raided Yarmouth, the Earnest was one of six patrol destroyers based there as part of No.5 Patrol of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla. Their task was to patrol the area from Cromer Knoll to Yarmouth. When the Germans attacked the Earnest was resting in port at Lowestoft. She put to sea, but by the time she reached the scene of the fighting the Germans had gone.

In January 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

Her duties sometimes took her some way from the Humber, as on 19 February 1915 she was recorded leaving Harwich as part of the escort for the ammunition ship Wenning.

In June 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber.

In January 1916 she was one of eight active destroyers from the Flotilla to be based on the Humber. Others were on the Tyne or undergoing repairs.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

In January 1917 she wasn’t listed in the Pink List.

In June 1917 she was probably part of the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber force, which inherited most of the Seventh Flotilla.

By January 1918 she had been transferred to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1918 she was serving with the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla and was one of five destroyers based at Kingstown.

In November 1918 she was one of five destroyers from the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla based at Kingstown.

In February 1919 she was one of a large number of destroyers temporarily based at Devonport.

The Earnest was sold for break up in July 1920.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


218ft oa
213ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

 2 March 1896


7 November 1896


November 1897

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 (9 January 2019), HMS Earnest (1896) ,

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