HMS Mallard (1896)

HMS Mallard (1896) was a D class destroyer that spent much of the pre-war period in the Mediterranean, then served with the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla on the Firth of Forth, the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla and finally with the Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla during the First World War.

The Mallard  was one of three 30-knot destroyers ordered from Thornycroft as part of the 1894-5 programme. She was powered by Thornycroft’s own four cylinder compound engines and had two funnels (which placed her in the ‘D’ Class’ when the letter classes were introduced in 1912). This group of Thornycraft destroyers had a ‘semi-tunnel’ stern which made then impressively manoeuvrable, and kept their speed better than most, but were wet forward.

The Thornycroft 30 knot destroyers had three boilers in two rooms, with a single boiler in the forward room and two in the rear room. The uptakes from No.1 and No.2 boilers were trunked into a single funnel. This was the same arrangement as in their 27 knot (‘A Class’) destroyers, but using more powerful larger boilers.

The Thornycroft boats followed the standard basic layout with a turtleback foredeck, leading to the conning tower, which had the bridge and 12-pounder gun platform on top. The mast was between the forward funnel and the bridge. Two 6-pounders were mounted either side of the bridge, to allow three guns to fire forwards. One 6-pounder was on the port side close to the forward funnel, and another on the starboard side close to the aft funnel. Both of the torpedo tubes were carried between the rear funnel and the final 6-pounder, close to the stern. They had two map tables - one on the bridge and one between the funnels, and at least three wheels - on the bridge, in the conning tower and right at the stern. 

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 reported that she had averaged 30.201 knots over a three hour trial, with her engines producing 5,749 ihp at 397 rpm.

Pre-War Career

In November 1898 she went to Chatham for a refit.

The Mallard 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.

In 1900-1901 the Mallard was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.

Probably somewhat to their embarrassment, in January 1900 the crew of a boat from the Mallard who had set out to row ashore at Southend had to be rescued by a steamer Capulet and landed at Yarmouth, after they were swept out to sea. The boat’s crew of eight were led by Coxwain H. Hands, who had been heading ashore to buy provisions.

The Mallard took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Chatham 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 July 1901 the Mallard was forced to put in at Portsmouth, with leaking condensers. At the time she was heading to Portland to join the 1901 naval manoeuvres. After repairs were carried out she rejoined the fleet.

In October 1901 it was announced that the Mallard would be briefly decommissioned at Chatham, to have her boilers re-tubed, and other problems with her machinery fixed, so she could return to service.

From 1901 to 1913 the Mallard served with the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, where many of the destroyer tactics used during the First World War were first worked out.

In July 1908 the Mallard ran aground. She was soon floated but had to be towed to Malta. 

In April 1909 one of her crewmen, Stoker Shaddick, won the Championship of Malta boxing context, after winning five fights between 24 March and the final on 10 April. Sport was one of the main obsessions of the Navy during this period, so his success will have been popular onboard. In 1910 the same man won the Mediterranean Fleet boxing championship, while still serving on the Mallard, becoming a local celebrity on his return to the UK in 1911.

In 1913 she was briefly part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. Like all destroyers with the 3rd Division she was partly manned during this period.

In 1913 she joined the 8th Destroyer Flotilla at Chatham, one of the patrol flotillas.

First World War

In July 1914 the Mallard was one of thirteen destroyers in the Eighth Flotilla at Chatham.

In August 1914 the Mallard was one of three destroyers from the flotilla at their new war base in the Firth of Forth. The others were widely scattered.

In late September 1914 there was a submarine scare in the Firth of Forth. During 26 September a torpedo was reported to have been seen passing between the Mallard and the Cheerful, but this was a false alarm, as there were no U-boats in the area on that day.

In November 1914 she was part of the 2nd Division Outer Patrol of the Eighth, with the task of patrolling the area between St. Abb’s Head and Gregness.

In January 1915 she was part of the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla, a patrol flotilla

In June 1915 she was one of seven destroyers in the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth

In January 1916 she was one of six destroyers in the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla. All had been equipped with the submarine sweep anti-submarine weapon and were to operate in pairs – one pair patrolling off May Island, one pair on standby at Queensferry and one pair resting.

In October 1916 she was one of seven destroyers in the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla in the Firth of Forth.

In January 1917 she was one of seven destroyers in the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla.

At 4pm on 5 February 1917 the Mallard sighted a periscope, which turned out to be from U.C.29, on a mine laying mission off the east coast of Scotland. The Mallard moved towards the periscope and opened fire at 100 yards and dropped two 300lb depth charges, but without success.

At 8.30am on 4 May the Mallard sighted the periscope of a submarine that was about to attack the SS Devereux, probably U.B.21. The Mallard opened fire with her 12-pounder and 6-pounder guns and dropped a depth charge, but without success. She then escorted the merchant ship for the next five miles.

In June 1917 she was one of eleven destroyers in the Scapa Local Defence Flotilla, and was the only one based at Cromarty.

In January 1918 she wasn’t listed in the Pink List.

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

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

The Mallard was broken up in 1920.

20 February 1913-March 1913-: Commander Osmond H Prentis
14 November 1913-January 1914-: Chief Gunner Michael Horrigan in command (after return to Britain)

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots on trial
25 knots realistic sea speed


Four cylinder compound engines
Three boilers




210ft oa
208ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

13 September 1895


19 November 1896


October 1897

Broken Up


Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), Title,

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