HMS Flying Fish (1897)

HMS Flying Fish (1897) was a C class destroyer that served with the Cromarty Patrol of the Grand Fleet for most of the First World War, before joining East Coast Convoys on the Humber in 1917 and then the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

The Flying Fish 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.

The Flying Fish was laid down on 9 August 1896 and launched on 4 March 1897, the same day as the cruiser HMS Pegasus.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 reported that she had achieved 30.371 knots on a three hour trial, and her engines had produced 6,454ihp at 393rpm.

The Flying Fish conducted successful gun mounting trials on Wednesday 30 March 1898 at Portsmouth.

Pre-war career

The Flying Fish was commissioned at Portsmouth on Thursday 3 November 1898, although by October she was already considered to be part of A Division of the Reserve Fleet, ships practically ready for sea.

HMS Flying Fish in Victorian Livery
HMS Flying Fish
in Victorian Livery

The Flying Fish 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.

The Flying Fish took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Portsmouth division of Fleet B, the defensive fleet. Fleet A was smaller, but was expecting reinforcements from the Mediterranean, suggesting that the potential enemy at this stage was France.

In 1900-02 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.

On 7 January 1901 the Star replaced the Flying Fish as a tender to the Vernon torpedo school.

On 22 November 1901 she underwent a steam trial alongside No.2 basin at Portsmouth, after her machinery had been given an extensive overhaul. She then carried out a three hour speed trial on 26 November.

On 16 December 1901 she was commissioned at Portsmouth as a tender to the battleships Royal Oak, in the Mediterranean. Her crew were given Christmas at home, and were then to move to Devonport to prepare for the move. However the move was delayed for a few weeks. When she did finally begin the journey she ran into heavy weather in the Bay of Biscay in February 1902, had to put into Brest and then Cherbourg and then return to Plymouth on 19 February for repairs, in particular to her machinery.

The repairs were soon over, and she departed for Gibraltar in convoy with the cruiser Pactolus on Wednesday 26 March 1902. They arrived at Gibraltar by 8 April.

In 1902-1905 she was part of the Mediterranean Fleet, where many destroyer tactics were worked out.

The Flying Fish took part in the Mediterranean Naval Manoeuvres of 1902, which saw the Channel and Mediterranean Fleets join up for exercises in the Mediterranean. She was part of ‘B Fleet’, one of two that were to try and blockade ‘X Fleet’. Individually the two blockading fleets were inferior to ‘X Fleet’, but combined they were superior. During the manoeuvres, which weren’t terribly well run, the Flying Fish was one of six destroyers from B Fleet that were judged to have been sunk.

In 1905-February 1906 she was allocated to the Atlantic Fleet, before that unit was disbanded.

In 1906-7 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, marking her move away from the main battle fleet. On 31 August 1906, soon after making the move, she was used by Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas, the officer in command at Portsmouth, to convoy him to Dover for a formal visit.

In 1907-9 she was part of the 1st or 3rd Flotilla, part of the Channel Fleet, with a nucleus crew.

In 1909-12 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older battleships.

In 1912-13 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, a patrol flotilla based at Portsmouth.

In 1913 she joined the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla, another patrol flotilla, this time based at Chatham.

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

First World War

At the start of the First World War the Flying Fish  was based at Dales Voe having been detached from the 8th Destroyer Flotilla to form the Shetlands Patrol (with Bat, Fairy and Star). At 5pm on 1 August German transport ships were detected moving out of the Great Belt, heading north from Kiel. The Admiralty suspected that this might be the start of a German raid on Shetland, and so ordered the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the four destroyers to move to the Shetlands. The destroyers reached Lerwick at 8pm on 3 August, but the raid scare soon passed.

HMS Flying Fish from the right
HMS Flying Fish from the right

In September the Flying Fish, Bat, Fairy and Star were detached from the Shetland patrol and sent to reinforce the patrol in the Moray Firth, arriving on 18 September.

In November 1914 she was one of eighteen destroyers to Admiral Jellicoe in his role as C-in-C of the Grand Fleet.

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet.

In June 1915 she was serving with the Grand Fleet as part of the Cromarty Patrol.

In January 1916 she was one of five destroyers attached to Admiral Jellicoe and based at Cromarty. She had been equipped with a modified sweep, an early anti-submarine weapons.

In October 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers attached to the Grand Fleet but not allocated to any particular formation.

In January 1917 she was one of five destroyers in the Cromarty Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber, formed as part of the general introduction of convoys in response to the success of unrestricted submarine warfare.

On 6 July 1917 the Flying Fish was part of the escort of a Scandinavian convoy of three ships that was moving to Lerwick, when a German submarine (probably U-99) torpedoed the destroyer HMS Itchen seventy miles to the east of the Pentland Firth. The Itchen sank and the submarine escaped, although was probably sunk on the following day.

In January 1918 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla based on the Humber, the organisation briefly replaced by the East Coast Convoys, Humber formation.

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 Flying Fish was sold in August 1919.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

Four boilers
30 knots






220ft oa
215ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

9 August 1896


4 March 1897


June 1898

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 (4 April 2019), HMS Flying Fish (1897) ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy