|Name HMS Niger|
Laid down 17 September 1891
Launched 17 December 1892
Draft 8.2 m
Operator Royal Navy
|Ordered 5 February 1935|
Construction started 17 September 1891
Length 74 m
Commissioned 25 April 1893
|Builder Naval Construction & Armament, Barrow|
Fate 1914 torpedoed and sunk
Class and type Alarm-class torpedo gunboat
HMS Niger was a torpedo gunboat launched in 1892, converted to a minesweeper in 1909, and sunk in 1914 by U-12 near Deal.
The ship was ordered from Naval Construction & Armament, Barrow, and laid down 17 September 1891. She was launched 17 December 1892 and commissioned 25 April 1893.
Niger was the training ship for and tender to HMS Vernon.
In 1902 she had a major refit at the Palmers Shipbuilding Company, where she was fitter with new and larger engines, and with Reed water-tube boilers.
Sinking of HMS Niger
On the morning of 11 November a U-boat attack occurred off Deal. Around noon there was an explosion and black smoke rose from HMS Niger. Niger was at anchor about two miles off the pier at Deal when she was torpedoed and sunk before noon on 11 November 1914 by the German submarine U-12. Niger was the first ship sunk by U-boat commander Walther Forstmann. Forstmann was one of the most successful commanders of the Imperial Navy in the First World War. She was also the first Allied ship to be sunk by German submarines based at the newly captured Belgian naval bases.
Many who were tracking the fighting from onshore saw the explosion and the smoke. Even though there were high winds and huge waves, boats went to the sinking ship and were able to take the crew off. Some of Niger's sailors were eating lunch when the torpedo hit and so were only lightly dressed. All officers, but only 77 men of Niger crew survived the sinking, four people were injured. Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Thomas Muir, who commanded the ship remained on the bridge until the rest of the crew had left. He suffered serious injuries in the explosion. The injured were taken to the nearby Royal Naval Hospital.
When HMS Niger was attacked there were about 100 other ships nearby. One of these had a Dutch flag and was moored very close to Niger and then suspiciously disappeared after the attack. The British admiralty suspected it to be a German spy ship.
The commander of the naval squadron, that HMS Niger was a member of, was Geoffrey Spicer-Simson who would later become famous for commanding a small flotilla which defeated a superior German force during the Battle for Lake Tanganyika. At the time of the sinking of Niger, Spicer-Simson was visiting his wife and some of her lady friends at a nearby hotel. Albert Edward Butler, aged 20, Stoker, 1st Class was one of those who died. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Plot 4.