HMS Rifleman (1910)

HMS Rifleman (1910) was an Acorn class destroyer that served with the Second Destroyer Flotilla with the Grand Fleet in 1914-15 and at Devonport late in 1915, before moving to Malta at the start of 1916. She served there until June 1918 then joined the main Fifth Destroyer Flotilla for the rest of the war.

HMS Rifleman from the left HMS Rifleman from the left

The Rifleman was laid down by White on the Isle of Wight on 21 December 1909, launched on 22 August 1910 and completed in March 1911.

From 1911-14 the Redpole, along with the entire Acorn class and the Laferoy class destroyer HMS Lark formed the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, a fully manned flotilla that was part of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet until 1912, then part of the First Fleet from 1912-1914. At the outbreak of war in 1914 the First Fleet became the Grand Fleet.

On Saturday 1 July 1911 seven members of the class (Acorn, Alarm, Rifleman, Nemesis, Lyra, Nymphe and Larne) carried out high speed trials off Berehaven, where they were all said to have reached 28 knots. However the weather was rough, and when they reached Portland on Tuesday 4 July they were all said to have been leaking, with some water getting into the oil bunkers. Repairs had to be carried out by divers at Portland.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Second Flotilla, part of the First Fleet of the Home Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. The Second Flotilla contained the entire Acorn or H class of destroyers.

First World War

After the outbreak of war in August 1915 the Rifleman  and the entire class formed the Second Flotilla of the Grand Fleet. By November 1914 they had been joined by the flotilla leader Broke. On 19 February 1915 her sister ship Goldfinch was wrecked, leaving the nineteen survivors in the flotilla. By June 1915 the flotilla contained all nineteen of the Acorn class boats and the M class destroyer HMS Moon.

On 23 August 1914 the Comet collided with the Rifleman in fog. The Comet was said to be ‘considerably damaged’, but there were no casualties.

Later in the war a big problem was the inability to spot submarines when they were present, but early on the problem was quite the opposite. In early November a series of reports reached the Grand Fleet of submarines around the Scottish islands. On 12-13 November firm reports came in from the Hebrides, so the Rifleman and Larne was sent to investigate. On their return they reported having found clear evidence that German submarines were indeed using the western Hebrides. Whatever this evidence was, it had nothing to do with the U-boats, which weren’t actually in the area at the time!

In February 1915 the Rifleman’s division (Cameleon, Larne, Rifleman and Ruby) was sent from Scapa Flow into the Irish Sea to help defend against a U-boat raid and were posted at Barrow-in-Furness. However this was a short-lived posting. They remained at Barrow for a few days, then escorted the battleship HMS Conqueror south to Liverpool on her to Devonport for repairs after suffering damage in a collision. They arrived at Liverpool on 14 February, and then began the voyage back to Scapa. This didn’t go terribly well – the Larne was the only one to reach Scapa without problems. Ruby and Riflemen was found to be leaking when they reached the Clyde and had to dock, while the Cameleon ran into the harbour wall at Greenock! The Ruby reached Scapa on 18 February, the Cameleon and Rifleman on 24 February!

On 22 May 1915 the Rifleman and several other destroyers were carrying out contraband control duties to the east of the Pentland Firth, replacing the armed boarding steamers that normally carried out that task because of a possible threat from U-boats. The Rifleman ran aground in fog, and had to be docked for repairs.

During the second half of 1915 the Second Flotilla began to move south to Devonport. Rifleman was still with the Grand Fleet in October 1915, but had moved south to Devonport by November 1915.

In December 1915 the Acorn, Minstrel, Rifleman and Sheldrake were sent to join the forces under the command of Admiral Limpus at Malta. During the voyage from Britain they were also used to escort troop transports to Malta.  All four remained together at Malta from then until February 1918 (although the Minstrel was transferred to the Japanese Navy by September 1917, becoming the Sendan). At first they were considered to be part of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, but were listed as serving as tenders to Egmont, the shore base on Malta, but from May 1917 they were listed as part of a separate Malta Flotilla.

The Rifleman must have reached Malta by 28 December 1915, because on that date she was sent out to patrol to the east of the Island. From then until March 1917 the original four of four destroyers formed the Malta detachment. In April 1917 they were joined by four of their sister ships (Cameleon, Nereide, Larne and Nemesis) that had previously been serving with the British Adriatic Squadron, supporting the Italian fleet.

In January 1916 she was based at Malta, but had left on 28 December 1915 to carry out a patrol to the east of the island.

She wasn’t listed in the August and September Navy Lists, often a sign that repairs or a refit were being carried out.

In June 1917 she was one of six H class destroyers at Malta, but one (Comet) was there for repairs.

By July 1918 the ships in the Malta Flotilla had joined the Fifth Flotilla, which was based at Brindisi. In addition they had finally been joined by the Brisk, which had disappeared from Ireland in June, and arrived in the Mediterranean in July. This was the first time since June 1915, when the first ships left the Grand Fleet to move to Devonport, that all of the surviving Acorn class ships still in British service had been gathered in the same formation. It didn’t last for long, as by August 1918 Lyra had been moved to Gibraltar.

In November 1918 she was one of fourteen H class destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, now at Mudros.

In the February 1919 Navy List she was part of the destroyer flotilla at Malta.

In November 1919 she was one of three H class destroyers in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Portsmouth reserve.

Wartime Career
-August 1914-October 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
November 1915-December 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
January 1916-April 1916: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Malta (not in Navy List August-September 1916)
May 1917-June 1918: Malta Flotilla
July 1918-August 1918-: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
-December 1918-February 1919-: Aegean Squadron, Mudros

Lt-Commander Arthur G. H. Bond: 31 July 1912-October 1914-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines (most in class)
4 White-Forester boilers




246ft oa


25ft 3in to 25ft 5.5in


Two 4in BL Mk VIII guns
Two 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

21 December 1909


22 August 1910


February 1911

Sold for break up

May 1921

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 (6 May 2021), HMS Rifleman (1910),

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