HMS Recruit (1896)

HMS Recruit (1896) was a C Class destroyer that was part of the Nore Local Defence Flotilla at the start of the First World War, but was sunk by UB-6 near the Galloper Light Vessel on 1 May 1915.

HMS Recruit from the left
HMS Recruit from the left

Thomson hadn’t been given any orders for the first batch of 30-knot destroyers, but she was given four in the second (1895-6) batch. The company produced a longer version of their 27-knotter design, with four Normand boilers in two stokeholds. The uptakes from boilers 2 and 3 were merged into a single large central funnel. They followed the standard design, with a turtleback foredeck leading to the conning tower, which had a combined bridge and 12-pounder gun platform on top. Two 6-pounder guns were alongside the bridge, one at the stern and the final two along the sides of the ship. Their mast was between the first and second funnels.

Plans for a steam trial on 15 February 1900 had to be postponed due to bad weather.

She carried out a steam trial on 20 March 1900.

On 3 April 1900 the Wizard bumped against the Recruit as she was preparing for another steam trial. The Recruit’s propeller guard was wrenched out, creating a series of holes in the hull, and her deck railing was also damaged.

On Tuesday 8 May 1900 she suffered from an engine failure during a steam trial. Two hours into the trial the studs on the low pressure eccentric strap came out, allowing the balance piston to knock out the end of the balance piston cylinder. Nobody was injured, and she was able to return to harbour under her own power.

On Monday 4 June 1900 she carried out a successful torpedo trial at Portsmouth.

A steam trial took place on Monday 18 June 1900, but the results were unsatisfactory. Another trial followed on 21 June 1900.

On 18 September 1900 she carried out circle trials outside Portsmouth Harbour.

Pre-War Career

In 1900-1902 she was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.

The Recruit was chosen to take part in the 1901 naval exercises, but late on Tuesday 16 July 1901 she ran into the Brambles Shoal, off Calshot Light, and suffered too much damage to be able to continue. Her crew were transferred to the destroyer HMS Havock, which was then in the reserve, and used her instead in the manoeuvres.

From 1902-1905 she was part of the Devonport Flotilla, the second of the three home flotillas.

On 9 May 1902 she left Spithead to head to Kingstown, Ireland, for a cruise which was to end with a return to Portsmouth on 31 May.

At 4am on 27 May 1902 the Recruit ran aground on the Verick Rock, a mile off Cape Cornwall, St. Just, while on her way from Douglas on the Isle of Man to Plymouth, and began to sink. It was clear that she was in serious trouble, and the emergency rockets were fired. Her crew were ordered to take to their boats, but it soon became clear that the ship was firmly stuck on the rocks. Her crew went back onboard, although 15 soon went ashore (at the time of the collision she had 65 men onboard, although her official complement was 58). A series of warships, including the cruiser Hyacinth, destroyer Vigilant and several tugs were sent to help her.

At first it was feared that the Recruit couldn’t be saved, but the damage wasn’t quite as bad as first believed, and she was successfully towed off the rocks at 1pm. She was got into Falmouth Harbour under her own steam, then to Penzance, where some repairs were carried out. These repairs were completed by 29 May when she was taken out of the floating dock and moored on the Extension Pier, ready to be towed to Devonport. She left for Devonport at 11.30am on the same day, accompanied by two tugs and with portable pumps onboard in case of problems. She reached Plymouth on 30 May, by which time she was being towed, and Devonport later on the same day.

When the damage could be examined properly a 9in wide hole was found in the hull, which was damaged along a 15-16ft stretch. Both propellers were also damaged. The bottom was also damaged along a 4in wide stretch. While she was being repaired the chance was taken to strengthened her decks.

The accident came at a bad time for the Portsmouth Flotilla, which was meant to have eight boats, but was now reduced to two seaworthy ships – the Bullfinch and the Zebra.

By early June it had been decided to use the Recruit’s crew to bring the Electra back into service to take her place in the Portsmouth Instructional Flotilla.

Commander Cecil Rooke was court martialed for the incident at Devonport on 20 June 1902. In his defence it was stated that the fog had come on very quickly, no fog signals were heard, and the Recruit’s speed was reduced. Rooke was found guilty of hazarding his command, and severely reprimanded.

During Rooke’s court martial it was claimed that the Recruit didn’t handle well below 10 knots. This was demonstrated on 18 December 1902 when she hit the pilings alongside the dockyard jetty at Portsmouth on 18 December 1902, twisting her bow and suffering considerable damage.

During 1904 her engines required repairs, and were tested at Portsmouth Dockyard on 21 November 1904.

In 1905-1907 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Channel Fleet

In April 1907 the Recruit was rammed by a barge while moored at Sheerness, and suffered damage to her stem which required her to be docked for repairs.

In 1909-1911 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, built around the older battleships. In 1911-12 she was with the 6th Destroyer Flotilla of the 3rd Division, and was based at Chatham.

From 1912 she was part of the Nore Local Defence Flotilla, with a reduced complement.

On 12 May 1912 she was used to rescue the naval aviator Commander Samson’s seaplane after he was forced to land at Westgate-on-Sea by a faulty carburetor. The locals brought Samson some food, and eventually the Recruit arrived and towed his ship back to Sheerness, over three hours after he had landed.

In July 1914 she was in active commission at Sheerness/ Chatham

First World War

On 4 August 1914 she was hit by the German steamship Occident of Flensburg while on patrol off the coast. The collier made a hole level with the wardroom and only a rapid turn to starboard prevented the Recruit from being cut in two.

In August 1914 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

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

On 1 May 1915 the Recruit was sunk by UB-6 near the Galloper Light Vessel. At the time the Recruit was on a routine patrol as part of the normal duties of the Nore Defence Flotilla. The Recruit’s crew had spotted the U-boat and were heading towards her when they were hit by a torpedo. She broke in half, the two halves reared up and sank. Four officers and 22 men were saved by a Dutch steamer, but 39 of the crew were killed.

UB-6 dived to avoid any counterattack, allowing the minesweeping gunboat HMS Daisy to rescue the survivors from the Recruit. Four destroyers from Harwich (Laforey, Leonidas, Lawford and Lark) were sent to try and find the submarine, but without success. However they did manage to sink two German torpedo boats, A.2 and A.6, after firing 737 shells.

- 27 May 1902 - : Commander Cecil E. Rooke

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots




80 tons of coal (Brassey, 1904)


218ft oa
214ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey, 1904)

Laid down

18 October 1895


22 August 1896


October 1900


1 May 1915

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 April 2019), HMS Recruit (1896),

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