HMS Usk (1903)

HMS Usk (1903) was a River class destroyer that was on the China station at the outbreak of war and took part in the siege of Tsingtau. Late in the year she moved to the Mediterranean, where she spent the rest of the war. She took part in the Gallipoli campaign, supporting the landings at Anzac cove.

The Usk was built to the original design, with her forward 6-pdr guns on sponsons on either side of the forecastle. This made them rather wet in some seas, and they were lifted to a higher position on ships from the 1902/3 batch and later.

The Usk was launched on Saturday 25 July 1903 at the Yarrow yard.

The Usk was one of three River class destroyers ordered from Yarrow in the 1901-1902 batch. They all had four funnels, in two pairs.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1904 published the results of her 1903 trials. On her four hour speed trial she averaged 25.873 knots at 7,633ihp. On her four hour coal consumption fire she averaged 25.372 knots at 7,789ihp, using 1.79lb of coal per ihp per hour.

By 1912 Brassey’s Naval Annual listed her as being armed with four 12-pounders, after the 6-pounders were found to be ineffective.

Pre-War Service

In February 1903 the press reported that the Usk had been ordered to go to Chatham to join the Medway Fleet Reserve once she had been completed.

On 2 May 1904 the Bittern was paid off, and her crew joined the newly delivered Usk. The Usk was then commissioned into the Medway Instructional Flotilla. She was then ordered to Felixstowe to take part in a night exercise off the Essex coast. 

On Monday 30 May 1904 the Usk was the flagship of a destroyer flotilla (Usk, Greyhound, Racehorse, Roebuck, Salmon, Hardy and Snapper) that left Felixstowe at the start of a month’s cruiser along the east coast of Scotland.

In 1904-1905 the Usk was one of six River class destroyers that were part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers. The River class boats were all based at Felixstowe.

On 24 September 1904 Joseph Dobson, described as a ‘2nd Class Domestic’ onboard the Usk was charged with deserting the ship and remanded in custody at South Shields.

HMS Usk from the left
HMS Usk from the left

In late October 1904 the Usk was ordered to join the Home Fleet, in the aftermath of the attack on the Hull fishing fleet by the Russian Baltic Fleet early in its long voyage to the Far East to fight the Japanese.

In 1905-1906 the Usk was one of four River class destroyers in the 2nd Division of the Channel Fleet.

In August 1905 the Usk was part of the large fleet that gathered at Portsmouth to visit the first major French fleet to visit a British fleet for many years.

In 1907-1909 the Usk was part of either the 2nd or 4th Destroyer Flotillas, part of the Home Fleet, which was becoming the main battleship force.

In August 1908 a crew from the Usk came second in the Four-oared race at the Invergordon Regatta.

In 1909-1911 the Usk was one of four River class destroyers in the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth. This was part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, which contained the older battleships. The destroyers were partly manned.

On 5 May 1910 the Usk escorted the Royal Yacht Alexandra as she carried Queen Alexandra to Dover after a trip to the Continent. The queen was returning urgently because King Edward VII was seriously ill, and he died on 6 May 1910.

In March 1913 the Usk was one of ten destroyers on the China station, one of three River class boats.

In April 1913 the Usk was one of eight destroyers on the China station, one of three River class boats.

In Janiuary 1914 there were still eight destroyers on the China station, but seven were now River class boats, with all but one of the older ships removed.

First World War

In July 1914 the Usk was one of eight destroyers on the China Station. At the end of July the squadron was at Wei-hai-wei, but on 31 July the Minotaur, Hampshire and four of the destroyers left for Hong Kong. The Usk was left behind to act as a wireless link between the UK and the fleet, but only for a day, and she caught up with the rest of the fleet at Hong  Kong on 5 August.

In August 1914 the Usk was one of five River Class destroyers on the China Station, all of which reported to be ‘at sea’ at the outbreak of war.

After declaring war on Germany, the Japanese prepared to attack Tsingtau, the German base in northern China. The British attached the Triumph and the Usk to this fleet, to help blockade the coast around Tsingtau. Tsingtau surrendered on 7 November, but the British ships had to remain there for some time to help with the embarkation of the British force that had taken part in the attack.

In November 1914 she was one of eight destroyers on the China Station based at Hong Kong. She arrived at Hong Kong on 23 November and entered the shipyard. By now Admiral Jerram, commander on the China station, had been ordered to send his River class destroyers to Egypt, but the Usk and Ribble weren’t able to leave Singapore heading west until 17 December.

The Usk and Ribble arrived at Port Said on 11 January 1915. She then joined the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

In early march 1915 the Usk was used by Admiral Guepratte, commander of a squadron of old French battleships that joined the Allied fleet outside the Dardanelles, to inspect the north coast of the Gulf of Zeros (to the north of Gallipoli),

HMS Usk at Mudros, 1915 HMS Usk at Mudros, 1915

On 25 April 1915 the Usk took part in the landings at Anzac Cove, one of eight destroyers involved in the action. Six of the destroyers carried troops and used their ship’s lifeboats to land them on the beach. Most of the ships involved in the action came under heavy machine gun fire. At least one man on the Usk was ‘dangerously wounded’ on 26 April according to an Admiralty casualty list.

On 2 May 1915 the Colne and the Usk were used to support a force of New Zealanders who carried out a successful raid on an observation point at Nibrunesi Point at Sulva Bay, destroying the position and capturing most of its garrison.

Two days later, on 4 May, the Usk, Colne, Chelmer and Ribble were used to support a similar raid, this time on an observation base at Gaba Tepe. However this time the attackers ran into stronger defences, and had to be withdrawn under the protection of the destroyer’s guns.

In June 1915 she was one of three River Class destroyers that were at Malta. On 13 June one of her crew, Frederick William Morgan, died of his wounds in the Royal Naval Hospital at Malta.

In January 1916 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the sizable destroyer forces in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Usk was awarded the Dardanelles battle honour.

In October 1916 she was one of seven River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet.

In January 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In June 1917 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In January 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers allocated to the Mediterranean fleet, but she was undergoing repairs at Devonport.

By 1918 the Usk was operating on Atlantic convoy escort duty and was based at Gibraltar. In late April she helped escort a convoy of 28 ships west through the danger zone from Gibraltar. On 23 April the escorts left the outbound convoy and joined a convoy of 14 ships heading east. On 24 April the convoy escort attacked a U-boat without success. On the following day the escort ship HMS Cowslip was torpedoed and sunk by UB-105. The submarine escaped, and Usk, along with HMS Chrysanthemum and the American destroyer USS Dale (DD-4) returned to base on 25 April. On the same day Usk, Dale and USS Decatur put back to sea to patrol the straits of Gibraltar, returning to dock on the following day.

Australians moving from HMS Usk to HMS London Australians moving from HMS Usk to HMS London

In June 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla based at Brindisi.

In the August 1918 she was one of eight River class destroyers listed as being at Malta (a much larger force was listed at Brindisi).  

In November 1918 she was one of eight River Class destroyers in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla based at Mudros.

By January 1920 she was listed as to be sold in the Navy List.

Commander Charles F. Corbett: - May 1904-
Lt & Command Wellwood G.C. Maxwell: 21 October 1912-April 1913-
Lt in Command David J.R. Simson: 17 March 1918-December 1918-
Lt in Command Albert J. Foley: November 1918-February 1919-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



Yarrow boilers




231.25ft oa
225ft pp




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

Crew complement


Laid down

30 July 1902


25 July 1903


March 1904

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 (30 January 2020), HMS Usk (1903) ,

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