HMS Hyacinth (1898)

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HMS Hyancinth circa. 1915
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: Highflyer class cruiser
Name: HMS Hyacinth
Builder: London and Glasgow Shipbuilding Company, Glasgow
Laid down: January 1897
Launched: 27 October 1898
Commissioned: September 1900
Decommissioned: August 1919
Fate: Sold 11 October 1923 for scrapping
General characteristics
Displacement: 5,600 tons
Length: 350 ft (110 m) (p/p), 372 ft (113 m) (o/a)
Beam: 54 ft (16 m)
Draught: 22 ft (6.7 m)
Propulsion: Two 4 cylinder triple expansion engines driving twin propellers
10,000 ihp
Speed: 20 knots
Range: Carried 500 tons coal (1,120 tons max)
Complement: 450
Armament: As built
  • Eleven x 6 in quick firing guns
  • Nine x 12pdr quick firing guns
  • Six x 3pdr quick firing guns
  • Two x 18 in torpedo tubes
Armour: conning tower: 6 inch
deck and machinery spaces: 3 inch
engine hatches: 5 inch

HMS Hyacinth was one of the Highflyer class cruisers of the Royal Navy. She was built by the London and Glasgow Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow, being laid down in January 1897, launched on 27 October 1898 and commissioned in September 1900.


Pre 1914

In 1904 Hyacinth was commanded by Captain the Hon. Horace Hood as the flagship of Rear-Admiral George Atkinson-Willes. Hyacinth was part of a squadron of three ships which took part in the Somaliland Campaign. On 20 April HMS Hyacinth and HMS Fox arrived off the Gulluli River after dark, and on the following day a small landing party went ashore, commanded by Captain Hood. One hundred and twenty-five men of the Royal Hampshire Regiment accompanied the sailors. The brigade captured Fort Illig and subsequently cleared the village and some caves at the bottom of the cliffs. The enemy left between 60 and 70 dead, and the British re-embarked with a loss of three killed and eleven wounded. Fort Illig was then reduced, and the British ships withdrew. At various dates the Hyacinth, while commanded by Captain J.D Dick and flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.J.W. Slade, was employed in the prevention of the gun-running traffic in the Persian Gulf.

In 1913 she relieved her sister, HMS Hermes as flagship of the Cape and East Africa station, and in August 1914 was the flagship of Rear-Admiral King-Hall. In the period immediately before the outbreak of the war, he took his squadron to visit Zanzibar, with orders to track any German cruisers he encountered. On 31 July he sighted the SMS Königsberg outside Dar-es-Salaam, but none of his ships were quick enough to catch her.

Wartime service

In September Hyacinth was used to escort the troopships carrying the regular soldiers of the Cape garrison home. In October she was called back to the Cape to provide support against the Boer rebels. She was still at the Cape when news arrived of the battle of Coronel. The Cape squadron was reinforced by the cruisers HMS Minotaur and HMS Defence, and Admiral King-Hall transferred his flag to the Minotaur. After the battle of the Falklands, the two more powerful cruisers were recalled, and the admiral swapped back to the Hyacinth, before transferring out again, this time to the Goliath.

At the start of January 1915 Hyacinth was supporting the invasion of German South West Africa. She was then sent around to East Africa, to join the force blockading the Königsberg in the Rufiji delta. On 7 March Admiral King-Hall arrived in the Goliath, but on 25 March she was ordered away, and once again he transferred his flag to the Hyacinth. In April it became clear that the Germans were about to try to get supplies to their troops in East Africa. The ship chosen was a captured British merchantman, the Rubens. Lacking any more suitable ships, Admiral King-Hall undertook the hunt himself, in the Hyacinth. On 14 April he sighted the Rubens, and gave chase, but the Hyacinth’s starboard engine then broke down. This gave the German crew of the Rubens time to beach her in Manza Bay. When the Hyacinth finally arrived, the Rubens was set alight, but most of her supplies were in her flooded cargo hold, and after the Hyacinth sailed away it was salvaged.

The Hyacinth stayed on the Cape and East Africa station until the end of the war. On 26 March 1916 she sank the German merchant ship Tabora. In January 1917, she was stationed off Tanganyika, where she was the base for members of the RNAS. On 6 January, Sqd. Ldr. Edwin Moon was on a reconnaissance flight with Cdr. Richard Bridgeman as observer, when they were forced to land with engine trouble and came down in a creek of the Rufiji River delta. Moon and Bridgeman wandered for days in the river delta before eventually building a makeshift raft which was swept out to sea. Bridgeman died of exposure but Moon was blown back to shore where he was taken into captivity. Moon was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Service Order for the display of "the greatest gallantry in attempting to save the life of his companion",[1] together with the Royal Humane Society's silver medal for his attempts to save Bridgeman's life and The Legion of Honour – Croix de Chevalier.[2] Bridgeman's body was recovered from the sea and is buried in Dar es Salaam CWGC Cemetery.[3]

Hyacinth was paid off in August 1919 and sold for scrapping on 11 October 1923 to Cohen, of Swansea.