HMS Lurcher (1912)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Lurcher.
HMS Lurcher (1912).jpg
HMS Lurcher
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Lurcher
Builder: Yarrow & Company, Scotstoun, Glasgow
Yard number: 1305[1]
Launched: 1 June 1912
Fate: Sold for scrapping on 9 June 1922
General characteristics
Class & type: Acheron-class destroyer
Displacement: 990 tons[2]
Length: 75 m (246 ft)
Beam: 7.8 m (26 ft)
Draught: 2.7 m (8.9 ft)
Installed power: 20,000 shp (15,000 kW)[2]
  • 2 × Parsons turbines
  • 3 × Yarrow oil-fired boilers
  • 2 × shafts[3]
Speed: 35 kn (65 km/h)
Complement: 70

HMS Lurcher was a modified Acheron-class destroyer, named after the lurcher-type dog, and the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name; when new she was the fastest ship in the Royal Navy.

Pennant numbers[edit]

Pennant Number[4] From To
H01 6 December 1914   1 January 1918
H65 1 January 1918 Early 1919
H90 Early 1919 10 October 1921


Sir Alfred Yarrow maintained that it was possible to build strong, seaworthy destroyers with a speed of 32 kn (59 km/h), and a contract for three such boats was placed with Yarrow & Company of Scotstoun, Glasgow. The "Firedrake Specials", "Special I class" or "Yarrow Specials" were a little larger than the rest of the class but carried the same armament. Lurcher, Firedrake and Oak were, however, distinctive in appearance and at least 4 knots faster than the rest of their class. They all exceeded their contract speed, Lurcher making over 35 knots (65 km/h); she became part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla.

World War One[edit]

At the start of World War I Lurcher and Firedrake were assigned to the Eighth Submarine Flotilla under the command of Commodore Keyes, and were based at Parkeston Quay, Harwich. Both ships were employed in escorting, towing and exercising with submarines of their flotilla, and the more notable episodes are detailed below:

The Battle of Heligoland Bight[edit]

On 26 August 1914 Commodore Keyes hoisted his broad pennant in Lurcher, leading Firedrake, two D-class and six E-class submarines eastwards into the North Sea. Also at sea were the destroyers of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt. The plan was to place elements of the High Seas Fleet between Royal Navy surface ships and bottomed Royal Navy submarines. Unknown to Keyes and Tyrwhitt, the Admiralty had added significant reinforcements at the last minute.

Keyes' despatch reads:

At midnight on the 26th August, I embarked in the Lurcher, and, in company with Firedrake and Submarines D2, D8, E4, E5, E6, E7, E8 and E9 of the Eighth Submarine Flotilla, proceeded to take part in the operations in the Heligoland bight arranged for the 28th August. the Destroyers scouted for submarines until nightfall on the 27th, when the latter proceeded independently to take up various positions from which they could co-operate with the Destroyer Flotillas on the following morning.

At Daylight on the 28th August, the Lurcher and Firedrake searched the area through which the Battle Cruisers were to advance for hostile Submarines, and then proceeded towards Heligoland in the wake of Submarines E6, E7 and E8, which were exposing themselves with the object of inducing the enemy to chase them to the westward.[5]

Battle was joined at 7:00 on 28 August in misty conditions. Due to lack of information about reinforcements sent by the Admiralty, great potential existed for fratricidal attacks; at 8:15 am Firedrake and Lurcher came close to attacking the cruisers Lowestoft and Nottingham.[6]

SMS Mainz sinking, with Lurcher and boats of Liverpool to the left of the picture

After the German cruiser Mainz was heavily damaged and disabled, Commodore Goodenough ordered his ships to cease firing on her at 12:55 pm and a rescue operation was undertaken. Liverpool, accompanied by Lurcher and Firedrake, manoeuvred close to Mainz in an effort to recover the surviving crew. Boats from Liverpool were deployed to retrieve those who had abandoned ship while Lurcher positioned alongside Mainz to transfer the crew who remained on board.[7] By 1:10pm the Royal Navy ships withdrew as the height of tide was high enough to allow larger German Navy units to enter the area. Although the operation had been something of a shambles in the mist, the results were clear: Three German light cruisers and a destroyer sunk against no Royal Navy losses.

Submarines in the Baltic[edit]

On 22 September 1914 Firedrake and Lurcher towed the submarines E1 and E5 towards the Skagerrak.[6] This was the first act in a long saga that culminated in a British submarine flotilla in the Baltic.

Raid on Scarborough[edit]

By 14 December 1914 the Admiralty had advance warning of the intended raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby through signals intelligence. Commodore Keyes was ordered to send eight submarines and his two command destroyers, Firedrake and Lurcher, to take stations off the island of Terschelling to catch the German ships should they turn west into the English Channel. On 16 December, as the situation developed, the submarines were ordered to move to the Heligoland Bight in order to intercept returning German ships. They failed, although one torpedo was fired at SMS Posen by HMS E11, which missed. As a last-ditch attempt to catch Hipper, the Admiralty ordered Keyes to take his two destroyers and attempt to torpedo Hipper as he returned home around 2 am. on 17 December. Keyes himself had considered this and wanted to try, but the message was delayed and failed to reach him until too late.[8]

Search for HM Submarine C31[edit]

On 7 January 1915 both Lurcher and Firedrake carried out a search for the missing submarine C31, to little avail; it transpired later that she had been mined off the Belgian coast on 4 January.

Battle of Jutland[edit]

Lurcher sailed from Harwich on 30 May in company with HM Submarines E31, E53 and D6 to patrol positions between Southwold and the Dutch coast,[9] but were not involved in the Battle of Jutland, which occurred further to the East.

Collision with HM Submarine C17[edit]

In May 1917 Lurcher collided with and sank HM Submarine C17, which was later repaired and returned to service.[10][11]

Rescue of HM Submarine C25[edit]

At about noon on 6 July 1918 a squadron of five German seaplanes returning from a daylight raid on Lowestoft and Walmer came across HM Submarine C25 on the surface 15 miles (24 km) miles east of Orford Ness. Their machine-gun attack killed the commanding officer and four other men, as well as mortally wounding the Coxswain. The steering gear, compasses and radio were all damaged. The first lieutenant, Sub Lieutenant Cobb, attracted the attention of HMS E51 at about 12:45, and a tow was established. The seaplanes carried out further attacks on both submarines between 3:18 and 3:45pm, and it wasn't until the arrival of Lurcher that the enemy seaplanes were driven off.[12][13]


Lurcher survived the war and was sold to J Cashmore[4] of Newport for breaking on 9 June 1921.[4]

Commanding officers[edit]

From To Captain
29 October 1912 13 December 1913 Commander Claude Lionel Cumberlege RN[14]
1914 1915 Commander Wilfred Tomkinson RN[15]


  1. ^ "HMS Lurcher at Clydeside Shipbuilders". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  2. ^ a b "HMS Oak at the Clyde Built Database". Retrieved 2008-07-04. 
  3. ^ "Miscellenia". The Engineer 114: p. 39. 12 July 1912. "The vessel is 255ft. long by 25ft. 7in. beam, and is propelled by Parsons turbines driving two shafts, steam being supplied by three Yarrow water-tube boilers fitted with the firm's latest feed-heating devices" 
  4. ^ a b c "Arrowsmith List: Royal Navy WWI Destroyer Pendant Numbers". Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  5. ^ Despatch of Commodore Keyes, HMS Maidstone, 17 October 1914
  6. ^ a b Submarines at War 1914-18, Richard Compton-Hall, Periscope Publishing Ltd., 2004,ISBN 978-1-904381-21-1
  7. ^ The Battle of Heligoland Bight, Eric W Osborne, Indiana University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-253-34742-8, pp91-2
  8. ^ Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea, Robert Massie, Jonathan Cape, London, 2004, ISBN 0-224-04092-8, p. 354
  9. ^ "Battle of Jutland - Order of Battle". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  10. ^ "Submariners Association (Barrow in Furness Branch) - Submarine Losses". Retrieved 2008-08-19. [dead link]
  11. ^ "C17 at website". Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  12. ^ "SeaWaves Today in History 6 July 2008". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  13. ^ "The life and death of William Barge". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  14. ^ "Cumberbatch Family History". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  15. ^ "Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives - Survey of the Papers of Senior UK Defence Personnel, 1900-1975". Retrieved 2008-08-29.