HMS Thrasher (1895)

HMS Thrasher was a B class destroyer that served with the Seventh Patrol Flotilla on the Umber and the Nore Local Defence Flotilla during the First World War, sinking UC-39 in 1917.

The first batch of Laird 30-knotters were enlarged versions of their 27-knotters (HMS Banshee, HMS Contest and HMS Dragon), which were in turn enlarged version of their first generation destroyer prototypes (HMS Ferret and HMS Lynx). They had four Normand boilers in two stokeholds, with the uptakes at each end, the boilers next to them and the working space in the middle. The engine room was placed between the fore and aft stokeholds. The 30-knotters used four cylinder triple expansion engines, with two low pressure cylinders. They were criticized in service for their large turning circles, but were considered to be strongly built. Three of the four survived into the First World War.


The Thrasher was laid down on 30 May 1895 and launched on 5 November 1895.

On Monday 17 August 1896 the Thrasher reached an average speed of 30.38 knots during trials in Liverpool Bay, with a top speed of 30.84 knots on her last pair of runs.

Her official full power coal consumption trials were made on the Clyde on 1 December 1896. She reached an average speed of 29.78 knots during three hours of continuous steaming, and 30.36 knots during six runs along a measured mile. The trials took part in bad weather, and the results were considered to be encouraging.

Her full speed trial was carried out in the Clyde on 13 January 1897. This time she averaged 30.34 knots on the six runs along the measured mile and 30.04 knots during three hours of continuous steaming. This completed the official trials of the first batch of four 30-knotters built by Lairds.

The Thrasher was accepted into the Royal Navy in June 1897, but she didn’t have a terribly auspicious start to her service career.

On 19 August 1897 the Thrasher collided with the cruiser HMS Phaeton. Both ships were damaged and a petty officer killed. Lt Commander De Satge, commander of the Thrasher was one of four officers from the two ships court martialed for the collision. In the aftermath of the incident the Thrasher needed large scale repairs, which were carried out in one of the Royal dockyards. 

The Thrasher was allocated to an instructional flotilla, operating in the south-west. On 29 September 1897 she was at sea with the Lynx and the Sunfish, when she ran aground off Dodman point, between Plymouth and Falmouth. The collision caused an explosion in one of the stokeholds, caused by a breach in one of the steam pipes, and stokers Hannaford, Nicholls, Kennedy and Paull were killed. Stoker Lynch was badly injured, while attempting to rescue Paull. He was later awarded the Albert Medal for his efforts, but sadly he later died of his injuries.

Commander Travers, commander of the Thrasher and Devonport instructional flotilla, was cleared of any responsibly for the accident or the deaths at an inquest in early October at Falmouth, and the accident was considered to be due to an unexpectedly strong tide. The Thrasher was badly damaged in the incident, especially around the bows. The Thrasher was pulled from the rocks by the tug Triton and taken to Falmouth.

On 13 October Commander Travers was court-martialed onboard HMS Defiance at Devonport. This time he was less lucky, and was severely reprimanded for his part in the disaster.

In April 1900 Albert Norrish, a torpedo instructor on the Thrasher was killed when he was pulled under a train near Kingswear, after disembarking from his own train.

The Thrasher took part in the 1900 naval manoeuvres, when she formed part of the Devonport 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.

Until 1902 the Thrasher served with the Devonport Flotilla, one of the three destroyer flotillas in the Home Fleet.

From 1902 until 1906 the Thrasher served with the Mediterranean Destroyer Flotilla, where many of the destroyer tactics used during the First World War were first developed.

In May 1902 the Thrasher was damaged in a collision with another destroyer, arriving at Malta with damage reported to her starboard bows.

In 1907-1909 she served with the Home Fleet, in either the 2nd or 4th destroyer flotillas, both of which were kept at a full crew complement and then with the Nore Flotilla.

In the summer of 1907 she took part in a cruise along the east coast, during which her officers were treated to a formal dinner at Bridlington.

In 1909-1911 she was in full commission with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.

In 1912-1914 she served with the Seventh patrol Flotilla at Devonport, with a reduced complement.

In September 1912 the Thrasher lost a torpedo while operating off Grimsby. The Admiraly offered a reward of £5 for anyone who found the missing weapon!

In January 1914 she took part in the search for the submarine HMS A7, lost with all hands during a training exercise. On 20 January, soon after the operation her CO, Commander Douglas W. Hamilton-Gordon, was found dead in his bunk. He was later judged to have died of heart disease combined with double pneumonia.

First World War

In July 1914 she was serving with the Seventh Patrol Flotilla, based at Devonport as part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.

In  August 1914 she was still with the Seventh Patrol Flotilla, now containing twelve destroyers and seven torpedo boats, and it had moved to what became its wartime base on the Humber.

The Thrasher wasn’t listed in the November 1914 Pink List. At that time the flotilla was scattered along the east coast, covering the area from Scarborough to Harwich.

In June 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber, now containing thirteen destroyers

In January 1916 she was one of twenty destroyers officially part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, although several were undergoing repairs and eight were on the Tyne.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber.

In January 1917 she was one of eighteen destroyers and one P-boat in the Sevnth Destroyer Flotilla, all now on the Humber. 

On 8 February 1917 the Thrasher sank UC-39 with depth charges off Flamborough Head on the east coast. Seventeen of her crew survived and were rescued by the Thrasher. In August 1920 her crew were awarded prize money for their success.

In  June 1917 she was one of six destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, but this force was about to be transferred to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla

By January 1918 the Thrasher had been transferred to the Nore Local Defence Flotilla, one of twelve older destroyers in the flotilla. Her old flotilla, the Seventh, was now largely filled with the more seaworthy River class destroyers,

From 30 April 1918 she was commanded by Lt. Walter H. Poole.

In June 1918 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Nore Local Flotillas.

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers serving with the Nore Local Flotillas.

By February 1919 she was one of a large number of warships temporarily based at the Nore.

The Thrasher was sold to be broken up in November 1919.

-18 August 1897-: Lt Commander O.V. De Satge
-October 1897-: Commander R.H. Travers
-May 1902-: Lt Cecil D. S. Raikes
-May 1907-: Lt Commander G. Johnson
To 20 January 1914: Commander Douglas W. Hamilton-Gordon
30 April 1918-February 1919-: Lt Walter H. Poole

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots


Four-cylinder triple expansion engines
Four Normand boilers
2 screws


80 tons of coal capacity


218ft oa
213ft pp




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

Crew complement

58 (Brassey)

Laid down

30 May 1895


5 November 1895


June 1897

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 (3 January 2019), HMS Thrasher (1895) ,

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