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HMS Racehorse (1900)
HMS Racehorse (1900) was a C class destroyer that served with the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover throughout the First World War, and that was at sea during several German raids into the area, without coming into contact with them.
The Racehorse was ordered as part of the July 1898 supplement to the 1898-99 naval construction programme.
Hawthorn Leslie built three destroyers in the 1898-9 programme. They had four Yarrow boilers in two stokeholds, with the second and third boilers sharing the central funnel. They were considered to be amongst the best of the 30-knotters. In 1900 John de Robeck, command of the Mediterranean destroyer force, recommended that all future destroyers follow the Palmer or Hawthorn Leslie pattern for accomdation.
On Tuesday 18 June 1901 a navigating part was sent from Chatham to the Tyne to collect the Racehorse.
She completed her steam trials on Tuesday 17 December 1901. During the trials she reached 30.354 knots over six runs on the measured mile and an average of 30.345 knots on the three hour run.
From 1902-1905 the Racehorse was part of the Nore Flotilla, one of three that contained all of the home based destroyers.
In November 1902 she was one of six destroyers that were chosen to escort the Kaiser when he arrived at Sheerness in the Hohenzollern .
On Friday 11 December 1903 she was forced to put into Dover after running into a storm in the Channel.
The Racehorse was part of a flotilla of destroyers that spent most of June 1904 cruising off the east coast of Scotland. This was over by mid-June, when the Racehorse was chosen to replace the Success in the fleet that escorted the King on a visit to Kiel.
In October 1904 the Racehorse was placed into the dock at Sheerness to have her machinery fixed, to prepare her for a fresh commission. The work was over by 1 November and she joined the Chatham Fleet Reserve awaiting her new commission.
In 1905-1906 she was part of the 2nd Division of the Channel Fleet Destroyer Flotilla, the first time home based destroyers were directly allocated to the battle fleet.
At the start of August 1905 the Racehorse was part of the sizable British fleet that gathered to greet the French fleet when it visited Portsmouth. This was part of the Entente Cordiale, the general improvement in Anglo-French relations that began with a treaty of the same name in April 1904.
In 1907-1909 she was part of the Channel Fleet Destroyer Flotilla, with a nucleus crew. By now the focus of attention was turning east towards Germany, and the Home Fleet now contained the more modern battleships.
In 1909-1911 she was part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla at the Nore, part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet. This contained the older battleships, and the Racehorse was partly manned in this role.
In late July 1909 she was present at Southend as part of a fleet visit. During the visit two men were drowned when their yacht capsized while they were viewing the fleet. The Racehorse lowered a boat and was able to rescue a third man, but not the first two, who drowned.
In 1911-1912 she was moved to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, still part of the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet.
From May 1912 onwards she was part of the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, one of the new patrol flotillas.
In July 1914 she was part of the Sixth Patrol Flotilla at Portsmouth, part of the Second Fleet of the Home Fleet.
First World War
In August 1914 she was one of six destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that were based at the Downs.
In November 1914 she was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, part of the Dover Patrol
In January 1915 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla, one of the Patrol Flotillas.
In May 1915 she was part of a force that took part in an bombardment of Westende Bains. She was used to communicate with the Nieuport observation station and set up arrangements to observe the fire of HMS Venerable. However these didn’t work. The Navy’s assumption was that the observation station would be in wireless contact with the Venerable, and when this didn’t happen the Racehorse was sent in to ask why not. Only then was it learnt that there was no radio at Nieuport, and the telephone link between that station and the nearest radio had been cut.
In June 1915 the Racehorse was one of twenty four destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla based at Dover.
In September 1915 she was part of the naval force that supported a bombardment of Ostend and Westend early in the month.
In January 1916 she was one of fifteen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.
In October 1916 she was one of twenty five destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.
When the Germans raided into the Dover Straits on 26 October 1916 the Racehorse was part of the general reserve of the Dover Force.
The Racehorse was awarded a battle honour for operations off the Belgian coast in 1915-16.
In January 1917 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.
On 20-21 April 1917 the Germans carried out a raid into the Dover Straits. During the day the Racehorse was at sea, carrying out a normal coastal patrol in the area west of Ramsgate (along with the destroyers Falcon and Crane, Torpedo Boat No.15 and P Boat No.50), but wasn’t involving in the fighting when the Germans attacked Dover and Calais.
In early May the Racehorse was one of the destroyers that supported a bombardment of Zeebrugge. She was used as part of a protective box around the main bombardment ships.
In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.
In January 1918 she was one of forty three destroyers in the Sixth Flotilla, and was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth.
The Racehorse was at sea when the Germans raided the Dover Straits on 15 February 1918, but she was to the south-west of the action and didn’t take part in the raid. She was posted between the Varne lightship and the Colbart. Her commander heard the sounds of the battle, but assuming it was the result of an air raid on Dover.
In June 1918 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla of the Dover Force.
In November 1918 she was one of seventeen destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.
The Racehorse was sold in March 1920.
One 12-pounder gun
23 October 1899
8 November 1900