HMS Nith (1905)

HMS Nith 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.

HMS Nith from the right
HMS Nith from the right

The Nith 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 25.69 knots at 7,177 iph.

In 1907-8 the Nith 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

At some point during the First World War she was fitted with the bulky equipment needed to produce anti-submarine smoke screens. This worked by mixing acid and other chemicals to produce a thick white smoke, and took up so much space that some destroyers were converted into dedicated ‘smokers’.

Pre-War Career

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

On Tuesday 11 September 1906 crews from the Nith and the Seal took part in a boat race on the Tay. The team from the Nith won by ten boat lengths.

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

In 1909-1911 the Nith 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 Nith was one of twenty five River class destroyers that formed the 9th Destroyer Flotilla on the Nore, one of the new Patrol Flotillas.

HMS Nith escorting a convoy
HMS Nith escorting a convoy

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.

On Friday 1 May 1914 five men from the Shingle Street Coastguard Station on the Suffolk coast were drowned when their boat capsized while they were returning from Aldeburgh, where they had collected their stores and pay. The Nith came out from Harwich to join the rescue efforts, but to no avail.

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 three River Class destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla that were still at Chatham, while most of the flotilla was either at sea or in the Tyne.

In November 1914 she was one of four destroyers in the 3rd Division of the 9th Flotilla on the Tyne. She had been damaged in a collision, but her repairs were expected to have been completed by 30 October.

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 eight destroyers from the Seventh Flotilla that were based on the Tyne, north of the Flotilla’s main base on the Humber. She was paid off while undergoing repairs, which were expected to be complete by the end of February.

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

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

On 7 February 1917 the Nith was off Hartlepool when she received news of the sighting of a submarine off Whitby from the Waveney. The Nith moved to intercept the submarine, and at 4.30pm spotted the conning tower of a submarine. The submarine submerged, but the Nith was able to drop one depth charge, and begin an anti-submarine sweep. After the depth charge exploded a patch of oil appeared, and later the sweep was exploded over the same spot. An unknown object came to the surface, possibly part of the diving tank of UB-35, which reported suffering depth charge damage at about this time.

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

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 was one of twenty seven destroyers serving with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, which included ten River Class destroyers that were part of the flotilla and two borrowed from Portsmouth.

Lt & Commander Claude B. Evans: 27 March 1913-January 1914-
Lt Commander John Willits: 11 October 1918-December 1918-

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


7 March 1905


October 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 (23 April 2020), HMS Nith (1905),

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