HMS Leven (1898)

HMS Leven (1898) was a C class destroyer that served with the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover during the First World War, and that sank UB-35 off Calais on 26 January 1918.

The Leven was one of only six destroyers ordered in the 1897-8 programme, and the only one ordered from Fairfield. She was a repeat of the early Gipsy, which had not yet reached 30 knots, but was expected to do so.  

While she was under construction she was visited by a party from the British Medical Association, during a wider trip to Fairfield’s Shipyard.

In 1899 the Leven took part in speed and fuel efficiency trials. She reached 30.201 knots at 6,210 ihp, consuming 2.095 pounds of coal per iHP per hour and 30.383 knots at 6,189 ihp. On a low speed run she reached 13.101 knots at 464ihp at 1.407 pounds of coal per iHP per hour. These results were later published in Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1900. These figures were only just over her target speed of 30 knots.

Pre War Career

At the end of February 1900 the Leven was commissioned into the Devonport Instructional Flotilla, in order to replace the Bat, which had suffered damage to her machinery.

In 1900-1905 the Leven was part of the Devonport Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.

The Leven took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Devonport 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 April 1901 she was one of eight destroyers from the Devonport command that paid a visit to Manchester, travelling to the city up the Ship Canal. As would be expected, there was a great deal of public interest in the visit, and crowds came to watch the ships as they moved up the canal, and as they were moored in Manchester. The Leven was the ship of Commander Lloyd, commander of the flotilla.

In May 1901 she was one of three destroyers that visited Douglas, on their way from the Clyde to Kingstown, Ireland.

The Leven 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 Leven was part of a force of destroyers from Devonport that joined Fleet X. 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.

At the end of January 1902 she had to be placed into quarantine due to an outbreak of measles on board.

On 3 November 1903 two of her crew suffered serious injuries during a steam trial. Stoker Patrick Ward got his head trapped in the reversing gear and suffered to large wounds to his scalp. Stocker Richard A. Davey got his left hand caught in the link gear and lost his middle finger. Both men had to be transferred to HMS Impregnable to receive medical attention.

In April 1904 the Leven was part of the flotilla that escorted the King and Queen to Ireland. After her return to Devonport at the end of the month she collided with a ferry that ran across the Hamoaze, causing damage to both ships. The ferry was able to continue her run, the Leven was only damaged above the waterline and had to enter the dockyard. The repairs meant that she missed the Royal Party’s return trip from Ireland. The damage turned out be more severe than expected, and in May she had to go to Sheerness for repairs.

In August 1904 it was announced that the Leven was to replace the Thorn as part of the Devonport torpedo-boat instructional flotilla.

On Tuesday 22 November 1904 the Leven collided with HMS Britannia in a storm at Devonport. Both ships suffered damage to their bows, and the Leven had to move to Plymouth for repairs.

In January 1905 she was replaced in the Devonport Instructional Flotilla by the Bittern. The Leven was then recommissioned as a tender to HMS Vivid, a depot ship allocated to the navy barracks of the same name.

In 1905-1907 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, which supported the older battleships of the Home Fleet.

In 1907-1909 she was part of the Channel Fleet Destroyer Flotilla, which then contained the older battleships. The Leven was manned by a nucleus crew during this period.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, made up of the older battleships. Once again she had a reduced complement.

On Saturday 14 May 1910 her Engineer-Lieutenant, Alfred Gores, was court martialed on charges of irregularity in forwarding engine room returns and exceeded his wine allowance. He was found guilty, severely reprimanded and dismissed from the ship.

The Leven was awarded a battle honour for operations off the Belgian coast in 1915-16.

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

From May 1912 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the new Patrol Flotillas.

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 was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, part of the Dover Patrol

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

On 4 March the Viking, one of the Dover destroyers, spotted a submarine. This triggered a large scale submarine hunt, in which the Leven was involved. At 2.17pm the Kangoroo spotted a buoy moving fast, as if it was being towed by a submerged U-boat. However the Kangaroo didn’t have a modified anti-submarine sweep, so the Leven and Nubian, which did, were ordered to close on the possible submarine. However the submarine was sunk three miles to the south by HSS Ghurka.

On 9 March 1915 the Leven was one of six destroyers allocated to escort HMS Venerable as she carried out a bombardment of Nieuport in support of the army. The bombardment was carried out in 11-13 March, but with limited impact.

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

On the night of 8 September 1915 the Leven collided with a troop ship and suffered damage to her bow. She was found drifting towards Boulogne, and towed back to Dover by the Viking aided by the Tartar and the tug Lady Crundall.

In January 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

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

In January 1917 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla, but was off station undergoing a refit.

On 26 May 1917 the British attempted to bombard the lock gates at Zeebrugge, but the attack had to be abandoned. The Germans detected the attack, and sent out four boats to investigate. This force ran into the 12in monitor HMS General Wolfe and two small monitors, escorted by the Leven, carrying out experimental firing off Ratel Bank. The Germans attacked from too long range, and their torpedoes all missed. The Leven attempted to track them on their way home, but was soon outpaced.

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

In January 1918 she was one of forty three destroyers in the Sixth Flotilla, although a sizable number were undergoing repairs. 

On 26 January 1918 the Leven sank UB-35 off Calais. At the time the destroyer was being used to run a mail and ferry service between Dover and Dunkirk. Her captain, Lt Commander A.P. Melsom, had carried out extra training and had obtained extra depth charges. UB-35 was heading home at the end of her patrol, and on the previous day had been forced to dive while attacking a Greek steamer off the Isle of Wight. At about 10.30am the Leven spotted her periscope while she was six miles north of Calais. The Leven attacked and sank the U-boat. Seven of her crew came to the surface and one man was rescued, identifying the U-boat before he died of his wounds. In January 1920 her crew were awarded prize money for their efforts.

In June 1918 she was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Dover Force.

In November 1918 she was one of seventeen active destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla of the Dover patrol.

The Leven was sold in July 1920.

-April-June 1901-: Commander P.A. Lloyd
-January 1918-: Lt Commander A.P. Melsom

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




60 tons coal capacity (Brassey)






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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey)

Laid down

24 January 1898


28 June 1898


July 1899

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 (5 June 2019), HMS Leven (1898) ,

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