The steel destroyer HMS Success was launched from the yard of William Doxford and Sons of Sunderland on 21st March 1901. She measured 214.5′ x 21.0’x 10.8′ and displaced385 tons. Her vertial triple expansion steam turbines generated 6000 ihp. She was armed with 1 @ quick firing 12 pounder gun, 3 @ 6-pounder guns 3 @ 18 inch torpedo tubes.
It can hardly have been a surprise for Lieutenant William Pennefather, commander of HMS Success, to hear the conclusion of the court of enquiry held aboard HMS Zealandia on 2nd January, 1915. They quickly concluded that he was totally to blame for the loss of his ship off Kingsbarn beach on 27th December, 1914.
At 03:20am Pennefather made the decisive course change. Believing himself to be 6.5 miles south 45 degrees east of Bell Rock, having allowed three nautical miles drift for the tide, he altered course to south 76 degrees west. They were in fact four mile closer to the rock – an error which was to prove disastrous. At 04:30am he made another smaller course change to south west and hauled in the patent log to enable his echo sounder to be started. The log showed 51.9 miles since it had been deployed at 11:00pm. Ten minutes later land was sighted off the bow. Pennefather thought that the land was May Island and swung south east, intending to round the island to the south. Ten minutes later Pennefather was astonished to see breakers ahead.
He ordered engine full speed astern and helm hard to starboard but it was too late. The engines were stopped and the ship and her crew put at collision stations while an investigation party went below to assess the damage. They found that water was flooding the after stokehold and also the engineer’s storeroom which was towards the bow of the ship but they were in no real immediate danger. The propellers had fouled so no attempt could be made to pull her off. Pennefather did try this later as the tide rose but it was useless – Success was well and truly aground. The crew cast her ordered anchors to avoid her being pushed further ashore and settled down to await rescue.
Pennefather had signalled their position and situation immediately they struck and, with HMS Mallard standing by, the awaited the arrival of the lifeboat to take them off. At 09:00am the Crail lifeboat arrived and took fourteen of the crew ashore while the St Andrews lifeboat arrived soon after and took of the captain and the remaining twelve crewmen. Over the next few days the munitions, guns and valuable fittings were removed from the ship then she was abandoned, deemed to be too far ashore to be refloated.
The ship was heavily salvaged at a later date so little remains at the site today. Local reports indicate part of her keel is visible in the shallows in position 56° 18.327’N, 002° 38. 590’W (WGS84) off Kingsbarns.