HMS Lightning (1895)

HMS Lightning (1895) was an A class destroyer that served with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla early in the First World War, before being sunk by a submarine laid mine in June 1915.

The Lightning was one of three 27-knot destroyers ordered from Palmer as part of the 1893-94 programme. She carried the standard destroyer armament of one 12-pounder, five six-pounders and two 18in torpedo tubes. She had three funnels, and was considered to be one of the most seaworthy of the early destroyers. 

The Palmer 27 knotters had four Reed water-tube boilers in two boiler rooms, with the uptakes from boilers 2 and 3 trunked together to give the three funnel layout.

In 1912 she was one of the surviving 27-knotters that were designated as A class destroyers.

Pre-war service

The Lightning was laid down on 28 March 1894 and launched on 10 April 1895.

HMS Lightning c.1900
HMS Lightning c.1900

The Lightning was involved in a collision during a twelve hour fuel consumption trial. She left Chatham on the morning of Friday 8 November 1895, and at about 7pm rammed the collier Belvedere between the Tongue and Nore light ships. The Lightning hit the rear of the Belvedere, and suffered very heavy damage to her bow and stem. At first her crew feared that she would sink, but she stayed afloat and they attempted to get her back to port. However she ran aground on Maplin Sands at about 9-9.30pm. She remained stuck on the sands until she floated off at 4am on Saturday 9 November. She was still able to float, and managed to get back to Chatham at 8.30am, in need of urgent repairs.

Both her CO, Staff Commander William John Bulmore and Gunner Herbert Stevenson were put on court-martial for the collision in December 1895. Bulmore was charged with negligence and being drunk during the incident, and Stevenson for failing to take proper care of the ship after taking over from Bulmore. Bulmore was found guilty, lost five years seniority and was dismissed from his position at the shore establishment HMS Pembroke.

The Lightning was officially accepted into the Royal Navy in January 1896.

The Lightning took part in the 1896 naval manoeuvres, which were meant to simulate the unexpected outbreak of war. She was part of Fleet A based at Berehaven, one of two fleets available to Admiral Kerr’s Channel Fleet.

On 1 May 1898 the Lightning collided with a small steam ship sailed between London and Guernsey, in a thick fog of the Ranger Light Ship, 12 miles from Guernsey. Neither ship was significantly damaged, and the Lightning continued on her way to Gravesend, where she was outfitting.

HMS Lightning in 1912
HMS Lightning in 1912

The Lightning took part in the 1899 naval manoeuvres, where she was one of the destroyers allocated to the Reserve Fleet (as ‘B Flotilla), which was given the task of using slower capital ships and destroyers to protect a convoy against an attack by faster capital ships. Both fleets included large numbers of cruisers, and the aim was to learn more about how to integrate cruisers and battleships and how to use destroyers.

By 1900 she was Destroyer No.4 in the Navy’s single large destroyer flotilla. She was based at Portsmouth by 1900, and remained with the Portsmouth Flotilla until 1909.

By 1900 the 27 knot destroyers had been superseded by the 30 knotters, and the Lightning didn’t take part in that year’s naval manoeuvres.

In April 1904 she was one of three destroyers that took part in firing practice in Babbacome Bay before visiting Torbay.

In September 1904 she visited the north-east, and was reported in the Tyne in September.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Chatham, with a reduced complement.

In October 1912 the Porcupine and the Lightning visited the Humber to test the Humber defences. After the exercise they visited Grimsby to take on coal before continuing their voyage.

By March 1913 she was in commission with a nucleus crew at Sheerness/ Chatham on the Nore command, and was a tender to the shore establishment HMS Actaeon, with Lt Thomas C.C. Bolater in command.

By January 1914 she was back in active commission at Sheerness/ Chatham and she was still there in July.

First World War

By 5 August 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers serving with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In November 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers serving with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

In June 1915 she was one of eleven destroyers serving with the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

The Lightning was lost in June 1915 while searching for mines that had been reported early on 30 June by HMS Vulture. Lightning and Vulture were sent out to find the mines. By 20.00 they had destroyed three mines, but the Lightning then hit another mine. This caused a large explosion which lifted the destroyer out of the water and broke her back. The bow end of the boat sank, with the loss of 14 or 15 men, but the stern end remained afloat. Two trawlers, Javelin and Libra came alongside and supported the remains of the ship. They successfully reached Sheerness, but the Lightning wasn’t considered worth saving, so the remains were scrapped. The mines had been laid by UC-1 (under Egon von Werner) on the morning of 30 June, to the north of the Kentish Knock light vessel, and were some of the first mines laid by submarines. The light house keeper had spotted the mines and reported them.

1895: Staff Commander William John Bulmore
1896: Commander Ravenhill
12 December 1911-January 1914-: Lt and Commander Thomas L. Callaway

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Pendant Numbers

1914: N.23
1915: D.98

Top Speed

27 knots contract
22 knots deep load
27.94 knots on trial (Brassey 1900)


Four Reed water-tube boilers
2 screws
3,900ihp (4,343 managed on trials)


75 tons coal capacity
1470 miles at 11 knots


204.5ft oa
200ft pp




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

Crew complement

50 (Brassey 1900, 1915)

Laid down

28 March 1894


10 April 1895


January 1896


30 June 1915

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 (10 December 2018), HMS Lightning (1895) ,

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