HMS Star (1896)

HMS Star (1896) was a C class destroyer that was part of the Shetlands Patrol at the start of the First World War, served with the Cromarty Patrol from 1915-1917 and then with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber in 1918.

The Palmer 30-knotters shared the same basic layout with the other ships of this type. They had a turtleback foredeck, with a conning toward at its rear. The bridge and 12-pounder gun platform were above the conning tower. Two 6-pounders were mounted on either side of the conning tower, two along the sides of the ship and one at the stern.

The Palmer ships had four boilers feeding three funnels. Their machinery was considered to be the best of the 30-knotters by the engineering officers. The crew accommodation was also highly rated, and in 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow that pattern or that of the Hawthorn Leslie boats.

Pre War Service

The Star was ordered on 23 December 1895, alongside the Whiting. The Star was laid down on 23 March 1896

HMS Star at sea
HMS Star at sea

The Star was launched on Tuesday 11 August 1896 at Palmer’s yard. She was named by Mrs Cleveland, the wife of Admiral Cleveland, one of the director’s of Palmer’s, in front of a sizable audience.

At the end of March 1897 a navigating party was sent Portsmouth to Jarrow to collect the Star. Her official steam trials were to begin on Monday 5 April.

The high speed trial on 5 April had to be abandoned after she developed a slight problem with her machinery. Before the trial had to be abandoned, she covered one knot in 1m 54sec, a speed of 31.5 knots.

During her high speed trials in 1897 the Star reached a speed of 31.05 knots over three hours of continuous steaming, making her the faster ship then afloat. However the trials didn’t go without problems. On Thursday 29 April 1897 her starboard low pressure engine broke down, allowing hot steam to get into the engine room. Four of her crew (John Bingham, John Wilson, William Earl and John Jeffreys) were burnt, but not as badly as at first appeared. All four were from the crew provided by Palmers. A court of enquiry was held on Friday 30 April 1897 and a fault with bolt heads on the cylinder was blamed. 

The Star underwent extensive repairs to her engines, and then resumed her trials in late December 1897, carrying out a satisfactory trial on 22 December.

The Star was commissioned at Portsmouth on Thursday 3 November 1898.

One criticism of the early destroyers was the position of the Captain’s cabin right at the stern, where it was difficult to reach while at sea. A tragic event on the Star at some point on 31 December 1898-1 January 1899 suggests that they weren’t used much in port either. At some point between last being seen at around 4pm on Saturday 31 December and 11.30am on Sunday 1 January First Class Petty Officer Robert Bowman shot himself in the Captain’s Cabin, probably at around 7pm on 31 December. He wasn’t missed until the following morning, and his body was found when Gunner Collins went to the Captain’s cabin.

The Star took part in the 1899 naval manoeuvres, where she formed part of the ‘B’ flotilla, attached to the Reserve Fleet (Fleet ‘B’). The aim of this exercise was to see if a powerful but slow squadron of warships could defend a convoy against a faster but less powerful attacking force. The Star was part of the slower, stronger, force. At the end of July she was chased into Port Erin on the Isle of Man, leaving on the following day.

On 20 November 1899 the Star was hit by the Violet at Portsmouth, after escorting the Kaiser to Britain. A hole was knocked in the Star’s port side, but her crew were quickly able to patch the gap with their collision mat, and the Star was still able to operate on the following day, while the Violet was laid up with a damaged rudder.

In February 1900 the Star entered the dry dock at Portsmouth to have some defective hull plates replaced, presumably including those damaged in the collision.

On 6 April 1900 the Star hit the wharf while docking at Portsmouth, and suffered severe damage to her bows. She had to return to dry dock for more repairs.

The Star took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Portsmouth division of Fleet B, the defensive fleet. Fleet A was smaller, but was expecting reinforcements from the Mediterranean, suggesting that the potential enemy at this stage was France.

In mid-October 1900 the Star escorted the Fawn back to Portsmouth, after her high pressure slide-value broke, leaving her unable to operate at top speed.

On 31 December 1900 the Star was paid off at Portsmouth and her crew transferred to the Electra.

On 7 January 1901 the Star replaced the Flying Fish as a tender to the Vernon torpedo school. In her new role she was fitted with a wireless telegraph apparatus to be used in experimental work with similar equipment at Vernon.

On Monday 2 September 1901 one of her valves gave out while she was leaving Portsmouth Harbour.

On 15 September 1901 she hit the entrance while entering Albert Harbour at Greenock, twisting her stem. 

Between 1902 and 1904 the Star served in the Nore and then Portsmouth Flotillas, two of the three that contained all home based destroyers.

In April 1903 the Star was used to test out the impact of bilge-keels on speed and stability. Initial tests carried out on 12 April involved fifty men running from one side to the other to tip her, and they were judged to have been satisfactory. By the end of May the trials had been completed, and it was judged that bilge-keels improved the stability of destroyers, reducing their tendency to roll, without significantly reducing speed. As a result all destroyers were to be given bilge keels.

At the end of April 1903 the Star was commissioned using the officers and crew of the Flirt. She was then used to tests of a special patent fuel, taking 40 tons on board.

The Star took part in the 1903 Naval Manoeuvres, before being paid off at Portsmouth in mid August, and replaced in commission by the Teazer. She was then sent for a refit at White and Company of Cowes.

In 1904 the Star had her boilers re-tubed, but the process didn’t go well, and it took some time for her new boilers to be judged satisfactory. She arrived at Sheerness to have the work carried out at the end of March, and wasn’t judged as ready for commission until late October.

The Star returned to Sheerness after an unsuccessful sea trial on 30 August 1904, for repairs to her machinery.

On 26 September 1904 the Star was meant to be carrying out machinery trials, but a thick fog meant she was unable to leave Sheerness, where she had been undergoing repairs. She was finally able to leave on 28 September. However her initial trials didn’t go well, and it took five attempts before she produced satisfactory results. She returned to Sheerness after the fifth trial on 20 October.

On 29 October 1904 the Star was inspected at Sheerness at the end of her refit by Rear-Admiral Supt Graham and passed as ready for commission. 

In 1904-1905 the Star served with the Nore Flotilla.

On Thursday 11 May 1905 the Star reached Gibraltar, escorted by the cruiser HMS Blake, where she was to reinforce the Atlantic fleet.

In 1907-1909 the Star was part of the Portsmouth Flotilla, which now contained older destroyers while the newer boats were directly attached to the battle fleet.

In 1909-1912 the Star was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older destroyers.

In 1912-1913 the Star was part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the patrol flotillas.

On the morning of 27 September 1912 the Star was caught by a southerly wind while mooring at Dover and ran aground. It took an hour for a tug and another destroyer to refloat her.

In 1913 the Star moved to the 8th Destroyer Flotilla at Chatham, one of the patrol flotillas.

In July 1914 she was listed in the Pink List as part of the Eighth Patrol Flotilla at Chatham, part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

First World War

At the start of the First World War the Star was based at Dales Voe having been detached from the 8th Destroyer Flotilla to form the Shetlands Patrol (with Bat, Fairy and Flying Fish). At 5pm on 1 August German transport ships were detected moving out of the Great Belt, heading north from Kiel. The Admiralty suspected that this might be the start of a German raid on Shetland, and so ordered the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron and the four destroyers to move to the Shetlands. The destroyers reached Lerwick at 8pm on 3 August, but the raid scare soon passed.

In September the Flying Fish, Bat, Fairy and Star were detached from the Shetland patrol and sent to reinforce the patrol in the Moray Firth, arriving on 18 September.

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

In January 1915 she was attached to the Grand Fleet.

In June 1915 the Star was one of five destroyers in the Cromarty Patrol, one of the Grand Fleet Destroyer Flotillas.

In January 1916 the Star was one of five destroyers at Cromarty, and had been fitted with a Modified Sweep, an early anti-submarine weapons.

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

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

In June 1917 she was one of twenty-three destroyers in the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber, a new formation created after convoys were introduced in response to the U-boat threat.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber, but was undergoing repairs at Immingham.

In June 1918 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

On 4-5 July 1918 the Star helped with the salvage of the Norwegian barque Mentor. In September 1919 her crew was awarded naval salvage money for their efforts.

On 29 September 1918 the Star was one of a large force of British warships, supported by the airship R.29 that sank UB-115. In August 1920 her crew were awarded prize money for their role in the action.

In November 1918 she was twenty seven destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

The Star was sold in June 1919.


Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


Four boilers


91 tons of coal (Brassey, 1901, 1902)


220ft oa
215ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey, 1901, 1902)

Laid down

23 March 1896


11 August 1896


September 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 (20 March 2019), HMS Star (1896) ,

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