River Class Destroyer (1903)

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A total of thirty-six of the River Class destroyers entered service in the Royal Navy between 1904 and 1909. Their displacement (about 550 tons) was much greater than the 350 or so tons that had characterised the 27 and 30 knotters, and which had contributed to their poor handling in anything but a glassy sea. The "Rivers" also dispensed with the turtleback hulls of their predecessors and offered a greater radius of action.

Of the "Rivers", Eden, Stour and Test had turbine propulsion; the remainder retained the proven V.T.E. engines.

The ships were re-designated the "E" Class in 1912.[1]



Originally carried the same armament dating back to the "B" class:

  • One 12-pdr 12 cwt on a P. I mounting. The gun recoiled 12 inches and the mounting and its sights were capable of 30 degree elevations (9500 yards).[2]
  • Five Q.F. 6-pdr on Mark I* mountings recoiling 5 inches. The mounting could elevate 30 degrees, but the sight only 25 degrees (4000 yards). By 1920, two 6-pdrs had been removed.[2]

In 1906 and 1907, the 6-pdrs had been replaced by three additional 12-pdr 8 cwt guns.[3] An order from March 1913 that special sights provided for these be returned indicates that the 8cwt guns were on G. I* mountings and had telescopic sights.[4] Sometime during the war, some of the ships landed two of these 8 cwt weapons to offset the weight of depth charges.[5]

In late-1913, the 12-pdr mountings were equipped with percussion firing gear.[6]

By 1920, the twenty-nine remaining ships had also been fitted with a Q.F. 12-pdr 8 cwt on a converted H.A. mounting.[2]


Reload tray for River class.[7]
  • two single 18-in tubes, on the centreline.

From 1907, the decision was made to standardise the Rivers and the "A" through "D"s with torpedoes set for short range. In the case of the Rivers, the torpedo was to be the Mark VI S.R..[8]

In 1909, as heater torpedo supplies were still growing, these ships were to receive a handsome allotment of six each: Mark VII, Mark VII* or Weymouth Mark Is.[9]

Arrangements were made in 1909 to equip the ships with chocks (for 21-inch Mark I or Mark II torpedoes, curiously) or fixed loading trays (for 18-inch torpedoes) for deck storage of a spare torpedo per tube in time of war. This may have forecast hopes to switch to 21-inch torpedoes, as Waveney was testing an experimental 21-inch tube (weight: 2744 pounds), derrick and winch that same year before transferring the equipment to Rocket, the then-tender to Vernon.[10]

In 1916, the torpedo in use was the 18-in Mark VII.[11]

Other Weapons

During the war, along with "A" to D" classes, these ships were given depth charges. A pair of 12-pdr 8cwt guns were landed in some cases to maintain stability.[12]

Fire Control

By 1915, at least, these ships had fixed voice pipes installed between decks with the last lengths being flexible (one voice pipe for gunnery, one for torpedoes) fitted between bridge and guns, torpedo tubes, and searchlights.[13]

The Technical History and Index indicates that destroyers prior to the Acorn class relied on a visual system for transmitting fire control information.[14]

By mid-1918, these destroyers were among several earlier classes for which "alarm circuits" were to be fitted.[15]

Torpedo Control

In 1907, the ships were to be equipped with Fore Bridge Firing Gear.[16][17] At least some had this upon completion or prior to 1911, though it may have been removed in some later.[18]

In 1917, it was approved that "D" through "G" class destroyers should receive firing gongs at the tubes, operated from the bridge.[19]


The River class were the last British destroyers to use a single searchlight.[20]


In 1907 it was decided that all the Rivers (except Test and Stour, which were not yet in hand) would be among 42 destroyers (primarily Tribals and Rivers) and Swift to receive radio equipment fixed to the "D" tune of 700 feet wavelength for transmission and with a Mark II receiver tunable to 8,300 feet. One P.O. telegraphist would be allowed each ship. All ships had their mast fitted with a 12 foot yard 60 feet above the water and received the aft end of the aerial by the awning station, but the placement of the wireless office varied as follows. Liffey, Foyle, Arun, Ouse, Itchen, Moy, Blackwater, Chelmer, Colne, Jed, Kennet, Wear, Rother, Ure, Exe, Swale, Erne, Ettrick, Dee, Cherwell, Nith, Ness, Waveney, Doon, Boyne, Kale, Derwent and Eden had the office on the bridge with an extended chart house, whereas Welland, Gala, Ribble, Teviot, Garry and Usk had their offices on the upper deck between the mast and fore funnel.

The short wavelength meant the sets worked less well during the day than at night, and tests between Portsmouth and Portland showed strength 8 by night and 6 by day. Practical tests with Usk showed the following strengths over 50 miles of water:[21]

Signal Strengths from/to
Large Ship Scout T.B.D.
D -/6 -/6 6/6
R 8/- 6/- -/-
S 7/- 6/- -/-
T 7/- 5/- -/-
U 6/- 5/- -/-

In 1909, Kale and Colne were definitely reported to receive their equipment.[22]

See Also


  1. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Technical History and Index Vol. 4, Part 34, p. 15.
  3. The Technical History and Index, Vol. 4, Part 34. p. 10.
  4. Admiralty Weekly Orders. 7 Mar, 1913. The National Archives. ADM 182/4.
  5. The Technical History and Index, Vol. 4, Part 34. p. 14.
  6. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 430 of 1 Aug, 1913.
  7. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Plate 15.
  8. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. p. 32.
  9. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. p. 14.
  10. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. p. 32.
  11. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1916. p. 87.
  12. The Technical History and Index, Vol. 4, Part 34. p. 14.
  13. Manual of Gunnery, Vol. III., 1915., p. 150.
  14. The Technical History and Index, Vol. 4, Part 34. pp. 15-16.
  15. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1917. p. 232.
  16. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. p. 31.
  17. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1906. p. 28. offers further design detail.
  18. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1916. p. 31.
  19. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1917. p. 211. (A.L. G. 57852/17; C.I.O. 1705/17.).
  20. Manual of Gunnery, Vol. III., 1915., p. 161.
  21. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. Wireless Appendix pp. 32-34.
  22. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 25.


River Class Destroyer
Erne Ettrick Exe Ribble Teviot
Usk Derwent Eden Foyle Itchen
Kennet Jed Welland Cherwell Dee
Arun Blackwater Waveney Chelmer Colne
Gala Garry Ness Nith Swale
Ure Wear Liffey Moy Ouse
  Boyne Doon Kale  
  Rother Stour Test  
<– "D" Class Destroyers (UK) Tribal Class –>