HMS Saracen (1908)

HMS Saracen (1908) was a Tribal class destroyer that served with the Dover Patrol during the First World War, taking part in the early bombardments of the Belgian coast, and was close by twice during German raids without encountering the enemy.
HMS Saracen from the right
HMS Saracen
from the right

The Saracen had four funnels, serving six boilers. At first the forward funnel on the four funnel boats was too low, pouring smoke onto the bridge, but they were later raised to try and reduce the problem.

The Saracen was armed with two 4in guns and two 18in torpedo tubes. She was one of only two Tribal class destroyers ordered in the 1906-7 programme, both of which had the earlier 12-pounders replaced with 4in guns.

When she was launched the Saracen was the largest destroyer yet to be built at Cowes.

She was handed over the naval authorities on Thursday 24 June 1909 and moved to Chatham. She was immediately commissioned and ordered to take part in that year’s naval manoeuvres.  

Pre-War Career

The Saracen joined the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet, in June 1909, and served there until 1911.

On 30 August 1909 Warrant Officer William James Drew from the Saracen had been placed in charge of a naval patrol that was escorting a prisoner. However Drew appears to have been drunk, and the prisoner was able to escape. Drew was court martialed on Tuesday 14 September 1909 and found guilty of being drunk on shore, although not of negligence of his duties. As a result he was severely reprimanded, dismissed from the ship and lost one year of seniority.

On Saturday 5 September 1909 the Amazon and the Saracen escorted the King on the Royal Yacht Alexandra as he travelled from Calais to Dover on the way back from a visit to Marienbad.

On Friday 22 October 1909 the Saracen collided with the London steamer Surf, off Orfordness. The Saracen suffered severe damage to her bows, and her starboard engine was damaged by the effort of going astern, presumably while attempting to pull away from the Surf. However no water got into the Saracen and she was able to make her own way to Sheerness.

On 7 March 1910 the Saracen ran aground on South Shoeburyness sands while carrying out a steam trial in misty conditions. She remained on the sands for 24 hours but was then towed off without suffering any damage, although only after two tugs had failed at first and her fuel oil had been removed to lighten her.

On Wednesday 23 March 1910 Commander James William Guy Innes was court martialed for the stranding. He was found guilty of having stranded the ship by default, but acquitted of the more serious charge of stranding by negligence, and was severely reprimanded.

In 1911-1912 she was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet. The flotilla contained all twelve Tribal class destroyers.

In 1912-1914 she was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. She was fully manned in this role. The Flotilla was made up of all twelve Tribal class destroyers and eighteen Acasta or K class destroyers

In July 1914 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, made up of a mix of Tribal class and old 30-knotters.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of fifteen destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that had moved to its war base at Dover, where the flotilla was part of the Dover Patrol.

At the end of August 1914 she was chosen as one of six destroyers from the 6th Flotilla that were to support planned landings at Ostend to support the Belgians. The landings began on 27 August, but it was soon clear that the port couldn’t be defended, and British troops withdrew on 31 August.

In November 1914 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla but had arrived at Chatham for repairs on 14 October. Once they were over she was to be fitted with a submarine sweep.

In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.

In June 1915 she was one of part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, which contained all but one of the Tribal class ships and a large number of the older 30-knotters..

On 23 August 1915 the Saracen was one of the destroyers that supported a naval bombardment of Zeebrugge, forming No.2 Patrol with the Crusader. Their task was to protect the monitors that were to carry out the bombardment as the fleet gathered then to provide part of the screen for the force as it moved into place.

The Saracen took part in the bombardment of Ostend and Westende on 7 September 1915. She was part of No.3 T.B.D. Patrol, itself part of Division II, which was to carry out the bombardment of Westende. The results were somewhat disappointing, and were limited to some signs of fire damage.

In January 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

On 23 November 1916 the Germans carried out a raid on the Downs, using ten destroyers from the 9th Flotilla and three from the ‘Z’ Half Flotilla. The Saracen was one of three destroyer posted in the Downs that night, but even though the drifters patrolling near Broadstairs gave the alarm the destroyers weren’t able to react quickly enough, and the Germans withdrew.

In January 1917 she was still with the Sixth Flotilla, but she was one of twelve destroyers that were off station undergoing a refit.

The Saracen was once again posted in the Downs when the Germans carried out another raid on 17 March 1917, but didn’t play a part in the result night action.

On the night of 20-21 April 1917 the Saracen was one of six destroyers posted in Dover as a striking force. The Germans carried out another raid, and this time actually carried out a brief bombardment of Dover. The Saracen and her flotilla weren’t ordered to put to sea until the bombardment was actually over, and the Germans were long gone by the time they had left the harbour.

In June 1917 she was one of active twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Flotilla, which had been enlarged with a number of more modern ships.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, now with over forty destroyers, although ten were undergoing repairs.

In June 1918 she was one of twenty seven destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla.

In September 1918 all of the surviving Tribal class ships were given a part of two 14 torpedo-tubes mounted at the break of the forecastle, for use in close range combat.

In November 1918 she was part of the Sixth Flotilla but was undergoing repairs.

By February 1919 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

In July 1919 the Admiralty ordered that the Tribal class destroyers Afridi, Cossack, Saracen, Tartar, Viking and Zubian should all be sold out of the Royal Navy as being no longer required for service.

The Saracen received one battle honour, for the Belgian Coast in 1915.

Commander James William Guy Innes : -March 1910-
Lt & Commander F. Burges Watson: 7 September 1912-January 1914-
Lt Commander Arthur S.D. George: August 1914-January 1915-
Lt in Command Charles T. Beard: 8 July 1918-December 1918-
Lt in Command James Figgins: 20 November 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

33 knots


3-shaft Parsons steam turbines
6 White-Foster boilers




272ft 1 3/8in


26ft 1 1/8in


Two 4in/ 45cal BL Mk VI
Two 18in Torpedo Tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

12 July 1907


31 March 1908


June 1909



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 (11 June 2020), HMS Saracen (1908) ,

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