HMS Vixen (1900)

HMS Vixen (1900) was a C class destroyer that served with the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla on the Humber from 1914 to 1917, with the East Coast Convoys formation in 1917 and the Nore Local Defence Flotilla in 1918.

The Vixen was ordered as part of the July 1898 supplement to the 1898-99 naval construction programme.

The Vickers 30-knotters had four Thornycroft boilers in two stokeholds, with the second and third boilers sharing a single funnel. They followed the standard general layout, with a turtleback foredeck, with a conning tower with gun platform and bridge above just behind the turtledeck. Two 6-pounder guns were on either side of the conning tower, two on the sides of the ship and one on the stern.

The Vixen was launched on Thursday 29 March 1900 at Barrow.

The Vixen was given ‘Vickers Express’ water tube boilers, and during her speed trials on the Clyde reached 30.8 knots, encouraging results that encouraged the Navy to fit similar boilers in two new cruisers

On HMS Vixen one torpedo tube was positioned between the second and third funnels, and the second behind the third funnel.

The Vixen was reported to have completed her trials on the Clyde by the end of July 1901, after suffering from ‘many mishaps’.

The Vixen arrived at Devonport on Friday 2 August 1901, after her delivery voyage from Barrow. She was to be fitted wither armament on Monday 5 August.

Brassey’s Naval Annual of 1902 published two trial results from 1901. In the first, for a three hour full power coal consumption trial, she averaged 29.389 knots at 6,758 ihp, consuming 2.41lb of coal per ihp per hour. In a three hour full speed trial she reached 29.797 knots at 6,961 ihp.

Pre-war service

From 1902-1905 the Vixen was part of the Devonport Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based British destroyers.

In late April 1902 two of her crew had to be landed at Devonport after they went down with small pox. At the time she was in service with the Devonshire Instructional Flotilla.

Early in March 1904 the Vixen collided with a picket boat from the cruiser Edgar in Devonport Harbour, and Stoker John Rundle and one other man from the Edgar were killed. At an inquest in mid March 1904 the coroner’s jury found the command of the Vixen guilty of an error of judgment, but not culpable negligence. Lt Commander Simson of the Vixen’s defence was that if he had turned to avoid the picket boat, he would have rammed the battleship Magnificent, and probably sunk his own boat.

On Monday 11 April 1904 the Vixen was one of three destroyers from the Portsmouth Flotilla that engaged in firing practice in Babbacombe Bay.

At the start of September 1904 the Vixen was commissioned to replace the Fairy in the Devonport Instructional Flotilla. Soon afterwards the flotilla left for a cruise in Scottish water, heading for Oban, Strome, Ferry and the Clyde.

In 1905-1906 the Vixen was part of the 3rd Division of the Channel Fleet Flotilla, the main battleship force in Home Waters.

In early May 1905 the Vixen collided with the Lee at Portland – the Lee was moving backwards to get into her moorings and the Vixen attempted to pass behind her, hitting the Lee on the starboard side. The Lee was undamaged, but the Vixen damaged her bows and had to be paid off for repairs. She reached Portsmouth on Thursday 4 May, ready to enter the dockyard.

In August 1905 the Vixen was part of the fleet that assembled at Portsmouth to greet the French fleet, which was paying a visit that formed part of the Entente Cordiale.

In November 1906 the Navy used the abandoned HMS Montagu as target practice for modern explosives, placing three different charges on her remaining armour. The cruiser Doris and the Vixen took part in the tests, but the weather was so bad that the results couldn’t be seen!

In 1907-1909 the Vixen was part of the Devonport Flotilla, now seen as a local defence force, while more modern destroyers were attached to the main fleets.

On 8 September 1908 the Vixen rammed Lord Ailsa’s steam yacht Parole while the destroyer was leaving Troon harbour. The yacht, which was empty at the time, was almost cut in half, and sank within half an hour, leaving only her masts above the water! Soon after the incident the Vixen put out to sea! The accident was caused when the Vixen’s engines briefly failed.

In 1909-1912 the Vixen was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, supporting the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet, with a reduced crew complement.

In the autumn of 1909 the Vixen visited Irish waters. She departed from Queenstown in mid October to return to her home base, but suffered problems with her engines and had to return to Queenstown on 20 October 1909.

In 1912 the Vixen moved to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, also at Devonport. This was now seen as a Patrol Flotilla.

On Friday 16 February 1912 the Vixen collided with a ferry steamer in South Shields harbour. Both ships were badly damaged, and the Vixen suffered extensive damage to her bows.

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

First World War

In August 1914 the Vixen was one of two destroyers from the Seventh Flotilla that were based at Gorleston, to patrol part of the east coast.

In November 1914 she was one of six destroyers that formed No.5 Patrol, based at Yarmouth, with the task of patrolling the coast between Yarmouth and Cromer Knoll.

In November 1914, when the Germans raided Yarmouth, the Vixen was one of six patrol destroyers based there. Their task was to patrol the area from Cromer Knoll to Yarmouth. When the Germans attacked the Vixen was resting at Lowestoft, and was at four hour’s notice to move, so was unable to take part in the attempt to intercept the raiders.

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

In June 1915 she was part of the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, based on the Humber.

In January 1916 she was one of twelve destroyers from the Seventh Flotilla that were based on the Humber, while a similar number were on the Tyne.

In October 1916 she was one of nineteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, which was based on the Humber and under the command of the Rear Admiral Commanding, East Coast of England.

In January 1917 she was one of eighteen destroyers in the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty three destroyers in the newly formed East Coast Convoys, Humber, formed as part of the general introduction of convoys in response to the success of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In January 1918 she was one of twelve destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

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

In November 1918 she was one of six destroyers in the Nore Local Defence Flotilla.

The Vixen was sold in March 1921.

March 1904: Lt Commander Simson

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

30 knots






214.25ft oa
210ft pp


20 ft


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

Crew complement


Laid down

 7 September 1899


29 March 1900


March 1902

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 (2 July 2019), HMS Vixen (1900),

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