HMS Ness (1905)

HMS Ness was a River class destroyer that served with the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla in 1914-15 and the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla from 1915-19, spending the entire First World War operating along the East Coast

The original River class boats carried their forward 6-pdr guns on sponsons on either side of the forecastle, but this made them too low and rather wet in some circumstances. From the 1902/3 batch onwards the forward guns were thus moved to a higher position alongside the 12-pdr gun.

The Ness was one of two River class boats ordered from Whites in the 1903/4 programme, the only two ordered from that company. Both had two funnels.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1906 published the results of her four hour speed trial. She averaged 25.62 knots at 7,168 ihp.

In 1907-8 the Ness was one of a number of River class destroyers that had their five 6-pounders removed and replaced with three 12-pounder 8cwt guns, two replacing the forward 6-pounders and one on the centreline aft.

By 1912 Brassey’s Naval Annual listed her as being armed with four 12-pounders, after the 6-pounders were replaced across the River class as they were no longer felt to be effective

Pre-War Career

In 1906-1907 the Ness was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Channel Fleet, which was then the Royal Navy’s main battleship force.

On Thursday 7 September 1906 stoker William King suffered a serious injury when his hand became caught in the machinery, and had to be take to Dundee Infirmary.

In June 1907 one of her lifebuoys was found floating at sea fifty miles off Scurdyness in Scotland by the fishing boat Joseph Johnston.

On Saturday 12 January 1907 the Ness was caught up in a near-disaster. The destroyer Wear collided with the West Hartlepool steamer Etna off Beachy Head, and lost thirty feet of plating off her starboard side. Almost immediately afterwards, the Wear collided with the Ness, which was coming to her aid, but luckily neither ship suffered any serious damage. The Wear was able to reach port under her own power, mainly because the sea was very still.

In 1907-1909 the Ness was part of either the 2nd or 4th Destroyer Flotillas, part of the Home Fleet, which was becoming the main battleship force.

In January 1908 a Wells patent flare light exploding while a work crew were fitting a new propeller shaft on the Ness. This triggered an oil fire, and four men were injured – Cotter, Green, Morrison and Larraman. Cotter and Morrison had to go to hospital. The fire spread to timber on the nearby dock, but was soon put out by a combination of sailors and policemen.

In 1909-1911 the Ness was one of seven River class destroyers in the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet. This was a front line force and its destroyers were fully manned.

In 1912-14 the Ness was one of twenty five River class destroyers that formed the 9th Destroyer Flotilla on the Nore, one of the new Patrol Flotillas.

An interesting insight into the relative informality of life on the destroyers is given by an incident at Dundee on Monday 9 February 1914. The Nith was moored in King William Dock, with the Ness outside her, connected by a plank. A seven year old newspaper boy decided to try and sell some of his papers to their crews, and crossed to the Ness. On his way back he fell off the plank into the water between the two ships, and had to be rescued by crewmen from both ships.

In July 1914 she was one of sixteen River class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla at Chatham.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of six destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla that were reported to be at sea at the outbreak of war.

In November 1914 she was one of four destroyers in the 3rd Division of the 9th Flotilla on the Tyne.

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

This flotilla consisted of the Pathfinder class scout cruiser Patrol and twelve destroyers, and was normally split into four divisions. One would be at Immingham in the Humber, having their boilers cleaned. The other three, each of three destroyers, were based on the Tyne and Tees, with the task of patrolling the area between St Abb’s Head in the north and Flamborough Head in the south. In March this force had to cope with the appearance of German U-boats off the east coast.

In June 1915 she was one of ten River class destroyers in the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla on the Tyne.

By October 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, which was centred on the Humber.

In January 1916 she was one of twelve destroyers from the Seventh Flotilla that were based in the Humber. A similar number were then based in the Tyne. She was undergoing repairs that were expected to be complete by 31 December 1915.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Flotilla, a mix of River class boats and older 30-knotters.

On 11 December 1916 the merchant ship SS Nora, carrying a load of timber, hit a newly laid mine off Flamborough Head. The explosion was witnessed from the Ness, and her commander ordered the Test to head north and the Panther to head south to divert any oncoming traffic from the new minefield. The Nora continued to burn for some time, and was eventually sunk by the Ness.

In January 1917 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Seventh Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty three destroyers in a new formation, East Coast Convoys, Humber, which was formed around the Seventh Flotilla to help run the new convoy system.

On 30 June 1917 the Ness and the Cheerful were escorting a convoy north into Lerwick when the Cheerful hit a mine and broke in two. Forty of her crew were lost.

In January 1918 she was one of twenty seven destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber.

In June 1918 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber, a mix of River class and 30-knotters.

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

Lt & Commander Henry P. Boxer: 31 May 1913-January 1914-
Richard E.W. Kirkby: 28 June 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed





229.5ft oa
224.5ft pp


23ft 10in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

5 May 1904


5 January 1905


August 1905

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 (21 April 2020), HMS Ness (1905) ,

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