Sentinel scout class cruisers

The two Sentinel scout class cruisers were built to operate with the increasingly important Destroyer Flotillas, to act as scouts, lead attacks and take on enemy Destroyers. They were part of a larger order for eight scout cruisers, split between four dockyards, each of which designed their own ships to match the Admiralty’s specification, which was for a cruiser capable of reaching 25kts, carrying ten 12 pounders, 8 3 pounders and two torpedo tubes.

The result was four classes of slightly different ships with very similar capacities (Adventure, Forward, Pathfinder and Sentinel Classes). The Sentinel class cruisers were built by Vickers at Barrow. All eight ships were sometimes known as the Sentinel class, as HMS Sentinel was the first to be laid down, first to be launched and first to be completed.

The initial armament was quickly upgraded. Two extra 12 pounder quick firing guns were added, and the 3 pounders were upgraded to 6 pounders. Finally, in 1911/12 the 12 pounders were replaced by nine 4 inch guns.

HMS Sentinel began her career with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean, before being recalled to join the Channel Fleet, and then the Home Fleet (from 1907). In 1910 she was leader of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Chatham, then in 1913 moved to lead the 9th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth.

At the outbreak of the First World War she moved to lead the 8th Destroyer Flotilla on the Forth. In May 1915 five of the seven surviving “sentinel” class ships, including both Sentinel and Skirmisher became part of the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron, stationed in the Humber to guard against Zeppelin raids.  Both ships were in the Mediterranean from 1916, serving in the Aegean in 1918. On 12 November 1918 the Sentinel was part of the squadron sent through the Dardanelles to undertake duties in the Black Sea, where Britain was becoming involved in the Russian civil war.

After the war the Sentinel served as Mechanic’s Training ship at Chatham (1920-1922), before being sold off in 1923

HMS Skirmisher began as leader of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet, based at Dover (1907). She then moved to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (1909), 4th Destroyer Flotilla (1910) and finally the 7th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth from July 1913.

In December 1914 she was based in the Humber, commanding two divisions from the 7th Flotilla (eight torpedo boats), under the overall command of Admiral Ballard, Admiral of Patrols.

On 16 December the Germans raided the Yorkshire Coast. When the first news reached him, Ballard put to see on the Skirmisher, at the head of the flotilla. Heavy seas forced him to send the torpedo boats back to the Humber, but Ballard continued on alone up the Yorkshire coast. By midday he was off Flamborough Head, just south of Scarborough. From there he signalled that there were no ships between him and the Humber (12.40 pm). He then continued north, and was able to report that the enemy had left the vicinity of Whitby and Filey Bay (at the northern and southern ends of the North York Moors), at 9 a.m. and had not been seen since. This signal reached Admiral Beatty at 1.18 p.m., during his unsuccessful attempt to catch the German battlecruisers that had carried out the raid.

Like the Sentinel the Skirmisher served in the Mediterranean (1916) and Aegean (1918). She then returned to Britain, and was stationed back at Immingham in the Humber, before being sold off in 1920

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed




Armour – deck

1 ½- 5/8in

 - conning tower




Armaments – as built

Ten 12pdr quick firing guns
Eight 3pdr quick firing guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes above the water

Armaments – as modified 1911/12

Nine 4in guns
Six 6pdr guns
Two 18 torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Sentinel
HMS Skirmisher

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 September 2007), Sentinel scout class cruisers ,

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