HMS Griffon (1896)

HMS Griffon (1896) was a B class destroyer that served in the Mediterranean in 1900-6 and then in home waters, forming part of the Seventh Flotilla on the east coast at the start of the First World War, before spending most of the war in the local patrol force at Scapa Flow. She ended the war with the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla.

The Griffon 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 service

The Griffon was laid down on 7 March 1896 and launched on 21 November 1896.

The Griffon completed her official trials on the Clyde on 1 June 1897, reaching a speed of 30.2 knots at 370 revolutions on the measured mile and averaging 30.15 knots during three hours continuous steaming. 

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

The Griffon reached Malta on 12 November 1899.

By 1900 the Griffon was part of the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, and remained there until 1906.

The Griffon took part in the combined Mediterranean, Channel and Cruiser Squadron Manoeuvres which took part in the Mediterranean in the autumn of 1902, which were intended to test out the problems of conducting a close blockage of an enemy fleet in port. She and the Boxer formed part of A Fleet, one of the blockading forces. During the exercise the blockading fleets suffered from a lack of proper control, after the various admirals in command were pulled out of place by false information. The Griffon was used to send one of the erroneous signals, a rocket that was to be fired if battleships escaped from port, when only ‘enemy’ cruisers had been seen. She then found herself attempting to find the missing admirals, without much success. By the time the blockading commanders discovered that their opponents had left port, it was took late to catch them.

In 1906-1907 the Griffon served with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in the Channel Fleet.

In 1907-1908 the Griffon served with the Nore Flotilla.

In 1909-1912 the Griffon served with the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport.

During 1910 she must have spend some time at Chatham, as in August one of her bluejackets, Robert Stables, and Mary Haines, a laundress, were convicted of stealing a pair of binoculars, some bunting and other minor objects while the Griffon was docked at the Chatham dockyard.

In 1913 the Griffon was still with the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, but with a reduced complement. She then transferred to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, also at Devonport.

In January 1914 the Griffon was involved in the loss of the submarine HMS A7. On the morning of 16 January the submarines A7 and A9, with the gunboat HMS Pigmy and the Griffon left Devonport to carry out their daily exercises. This included a mock attack on the Pigmy, but the A7 never made her attack, and failed to surface. The Pigmy was used to take the news to shore, while the Griffon escorted A9 back to harbour. Despite a major rescue effort, the crew were all lost and the submarine couldn’t be salvaged. 

Wartime Service

The Griffon was not listed in the July 1914 Pink List, the Admiralty Record of warship locations.

In August 1914 she was part of the Seventh Flotilla, which had moved to its war base on the Humber. However the Griffon was then based at Pembroke, on the opposite side of the country.

In November 1914 she was part of the Seventh Flotilla and was one of two destroyers based at No.4 Patrol Base, Grimsby.

On 7 November 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers that the Admiralty ordered to move from the east coast patrol flotillas to Scapa Flow, and she departed for her new base on 8 November. The boats in the Scapa Patrol were used for local patrols around Scapa Flow, and later in the war provided some of the escorts for convoys heading to and from neutral Scandinavia. The exact status of this formation changed over the years, ending as the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet.

In June 1915 she was one of ten destroyers in the Scapa Patrol, then counted as one of the Grand Fleet Destroyer Flotillas.

In January 1916 she was one of ten destroyers based at Scapa and attached to Admiral Jellicoe.

In October 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers attached to the Grand Fleet.

From 12 October 1916 she was commanded by Alexander Grant.

In January 1917 she was one of ten destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of eleven destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla.

In January 1918 she was one of six active destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla, while the other destroyers were all undergoing repairs.

In March 1918 Lt Grant was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in Destroyer and Torpedo Boat Flotillas in the period ending 31 December 1917.

At some point in the first few months of 1918 the Griffon was moved to the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, a new formation that reinforced the Navy’s presence in the south of Ireland. 

On 19 May 1918 the dirigible Z-51 reported sighting a periscope below the surface west of Bardsey off the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula (North Wales). A sizable force of surface vessels soon arrived on the scene, starting with USS Patterson. The Griffon was one of three British destroyers to arrive on the scene, but despite a series of heavy attacks no U-boat was sunk.

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

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

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

The Griffon was sold for break up in July 1920.

12 October 1916-February 1919-: Lt Alexander Grant, DSC

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

 7 March 1896


 21 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 (7 January 2019), Title,

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