HMS Osprey (1897)

HMS Osprey (1897) was a C class destroyer that served with the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla on Firth of Forth in 1914-1917, was part of the East Coast Convoys organisation in 1917 and ended the war with the North Channel Patrol based at Larne.

Fairfield built three destroyers in the 1896-7 programme. They had four Thornycroft boilers in two stokeholds, with the second and third boilers sharing the central funnel.

In October 1897 the Osprey was reported to have reached 31.2knots on trials.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1898 reported that she had reached 30.6 knots at 6,544ihp, with her engines running at 394rpm.

In late May 1898 a Naval crew under Lt Charles S. Wills collected the Osprey at Greenock and sailed her to Devonport. However the voyage began badly, when the Osprey hit the sea wall while leaving the basin at Greenock, suffering damage that had to be repaired after her arrival in the south. Despite the damage she reached Devonport on Thursday 2 June 1898.

Early in 1900 she collided with the destroyer Fairy in Falmouth Harbour, suffering some minor damage. In late March she suffered a more embarrassing incident, when her own bow anchor came adrift during a steam trial and knocked a hole in her hull! She had to be repaired at Devonport. During the trial, which was carried out with the ship fully equipped, she had reached 28.2 knots in heavy seas.

In June 1900 it was discovered that there were some serious problems with her machinery, which meant it was unlikely that she could take part in that years naval manoeuvres.

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

In March 1901 she collided with the surveying ship Research, suffering heavy damage on the port side close to the engine room. The damage caused severe leaking and her pumps had to be run at full power to prevent her from becoming waterlogged. She reached Portsmouth on 22 March for repairs. These were over by 2 April when she departed for Plymouth.

At the end of April 1901 the Osprey was paid off from the Devonport Instructional Flotilla and placed into the B Division of the Fleet Reserve at Devonport.

The Osprey 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 Cheerful 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

In March 1902 it was announced that she was to be given a £2,500 refit, with most of the money going on her engines. During the work more faults were found, and their completion was delayed into late July.

In July 1903 the Osprey was part of a flotilla that escorted the King as he sailed from Holyhead to Ireland. Early on 21 July she was sent out from Holyhead to make sure that the weather at sea was suitable for the Royal yacht, which then departed from Holyhead at 5am.

In August 1904 it was announced that the Osprey was to replace the Contest as part of the Devonport torpedo-boat instructional flotilla. On Thursday 1 September 1904 she was commissioned as an emergency vessel in the Devonport torpedo-boat instructional flotilla.

On the night of 15-16 September 1904 the Osprey and the Devonport Flotilla had been forced by rough weather to take shelter in Falmouth Harbour. Just after midnight on Thursday 16 September she was rammed by the schooner Mary Waters, which was entering the harbour. The Osprey lost her forward funnel and suffered other damage, but luckily all of it was above the waterline. Later in the day she was able to return to Devonport under her own power where repairs were carried out.

On Tuesday 22 November 1904 the destroyer Leven accidently rammed the training ship HMS Britannia in a snow storm. The Leven suffered heavy damage to her bows and had to be escorted back to Plymouth by the Osprey.

In 1905-1906 she was part of the 3rd Division, one of three that were directly attached to the Channel Fleet, at this point the main part of the battle fleet in home waters.

In 1907-1909 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, while more modern destroyers were used with the main fleets.

On Friday 12 April 1907 the Osprey and the Ferret collided in the Channel, and the Osprey suffered serious damage.

In 1909-1912 she was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, built around the older battleships. In this role she carried a reduced complement.

On 5 July 1911 the destroyers Bonetta and Osprey collided, while preparing to leave port. The Bonetta suffered damage to her bows and had to be towed to Portsmouth for repairs.

In 1912-13 she was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the new patrol flotillas, again with a reduced complement.

In 1913 she moved to another of the patrol flotillas, the Eighth Patrol Flotilla at Chatham.

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

First World War

In August 1914 she had moved to the Eighth Patrol Flotilla’s new base on the Firth of Forth.

In November 1914 she was one of eighteen destroyers attached to Admiral Jellicoe in his role as C-in-C of the Grand Fleet.

In June 1915 she was part of the Grand Fleet, and served with the Cromarty Patrol.

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet.

In January 1916 she was one of five destroyers based at Cromarty that were attached to Admiral Jellicoe in his role as C-in-C of the Grand Fleet

In October 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers attached to the Grand Fleet but not allocated to any particular formation.

In January 1917 she was one of five destroyers in the Cromarty Local Defence Flotilla.

On 9 May 1917 the SS Malda was narrowly missed by a torpedo while attempting to catch up with a north bound convoy off the coast of Northumberland. The Osprey, which was escorting the convoy, was sent back to collect her, and escorted her safely back into the convoy.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber, formed as part of the general introduction of convoys in response to the success of unrestricted submarine warfare. By July 1917 she was recorded as being part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla (East Coast Convoys), based at Immingham on the Humber.

In January 1918 she was one of four destroyers in the North Channel Patrol, based at Larne. 

In June 1918 she was operating on patrols on the Grand Fleet area and was one of four destroyers from the North Channel Patrol based at Larne.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the North Channel Patrol.

The Osprey was sold in November 1919.

May 1898: Lt Charles S. Wills

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




80 tons coal capacity (Brassey)






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

Crew complement

60 (Brassey)

Laid down

14 November 1896


7 April 1897


July 1898

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 (14 May 2019), HMS Osprey (1897) ,

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