HMS Attack (1911)

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HMS Attack (1911).jpg
HMS Attack flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Beatty at the Battle of Dogger Bank
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Attack
Builder: Yarrow & Company, Scotstoun
Yard number: 1297[1]
Launched: 12 December 1911[2]
Fate: Torpedoed or mined, 30 December 1917[2]
General characteristics
Class and type: Acheron-class destroyer
Displacement: 770 long tons (780 t)
Length: 250 ft (76 m)
Beam: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Draught: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Installed power: 16,000 shp (12,000 kW)
Speed: 31 kn (57 km/h)[3]
Complement: 70
Armament: 2 × BL 4 in (100 mm) L/40 Mark VIII guns, 2 × QF 12-pounder guns, 2 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Destroyers of the Harwich Flotilla

HMS Attack was an Acheron-class destroyer built in 1911, which served during the First World War and was sunk in 1917 in the Mediterranean by a German U-Boat. She was the third ship of the name to serve in the Royal Navy.


She was laid down at the Yarrow & Company yard in Scotstoun, Glasgow, and was launched on 12 December 1911.

Attack and Archer used steam at higher pressures than the other Acheron-class destroyers and consequently were faster than the standard Admiralty-designed members of their class. Achieving 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)[3] on trials, she carried two 4 in (100 mm) guns, other smaller guns and 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes and had a complement of 70 men.

Pennant Numbers[edit]

Pennant Number[4] From To
H14 6 December 1914 1 September 1915
H86 1 September 1915 Sunk 30 December 1917


As part of the First Destroyer Flotilla, she was attached to the Grand Fleet in August 1914, and then to the Third Battle Squadron from the spring of 1916.[2]

Battle of Heligoland Bight[edit]

As part of the Harwich Force, the First Destroyer Flotilla took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914.[5]

Battle of Dogger Bank[edit]

On 24 January 1915, Attack, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Cyril Callaghan,[6] took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank as part of the First Destroyer Flotilla. In the final stages of the battle, at 11:20, with his flagship — the battlecruiser Lion — seriously damaged, Vice Admiral Beatty called Attack to come alongside. He shifted his flag into her at 11:34, and used her to rejoin the rest of the battlecruisers, shifting again into Princess Royal at 12:20.[7]

Sinking of U-12[edit]

On 10 March 1915, in company with her sisters Ariel and Acheron, Attack was searching for a German submarine reported by the trawler Man Island[8] near Aberdeen. At 10:10, Attack sighted U-12 and opened fire. Ariel[9] sighted the submarine at 10:12 at about 2 nmi (2.3 mi; 3.7 km) and all three destroyers turned towards it. U-12 dived and raised her periscope, which Ariel sighted at a distance of 200 yd (180 m). She turned to ram, sighting the conning tower under the water in the final moments before she struck the submarine at a fine angle.[8] Within two minutes, the submarine had returned to the surface so that the crew could escape, but they found the conning tower hatch jammed, and most of the survivors managed their escape via the other hatches. The destroyers opened fire as the submarine lay on the surface, killing and injuring some of the escaping sailors. At 10:30, U-12 sank at about 56°15′N 1°56′W / 56.250°N 1.933°W / 56.250; -1.933. 19 men were killed; the destroyers rescued 10 survivors.[10][11] The damage to Ariel's bows was so serious that she had to be towed into port.[8]

U-12 shown with seaplane on deck

Battle of Jutland[edit]

Attack took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. Commanded by Lt Cdr C H N James,[12] she formed part of the First Destroyer Flotilla, led by Fearless.[12][13]

HMS Dunraven[edit]

On 8 August 1917, Attack went to the aid of Dunraven, a Royal Navy Q-ship which had been seriously damaged in a battle with UC-71. Despite the aid of several Royal Navy and US Navy ships, Dunraven sank at 01:30 early on 10 August 1917.[14]

Mediterranean Service[edit]

In 1917, the Third Battle Squadron was sent to the Mediterranean.


Attack settling on 30 December 1917

On 27 December 1917, Attack and two Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers escorted two transport ships, HMT Aragon and SS Nile, from Malta to Egypt. The convoy weathered a gale,[15] and off the Egyptian coast at daybreak on Sunday 30 December it divided.[16] Nile and the two Japanese destroyers proceeded to Port Said, while Aragon and Attack made for Alexandria.[16] Aragon and Attack were in Alexandria Roads[17] about 8 miles (13 km)[16] or 10 miles (16 km) outside the port, awaiting permission to enter, when at about 1100 hrs[16] the German Type UC II submarine SM UC-34 torpedoed Aragon,[18][19] which rapidly began to sink.[18][20]

Attack and the armed trawler HMT Points Castle came to the rescue.[18] Attack drew right alongside Aragon to take survivors aboard as quickly as possible,[15] helped by lines cast between the two ships.[15][16] About 17[20] to 20 minutes after being hit Aragon went down, and she suffered a second explosion as the cold seawater reached her hot boilers.[16] Some of her boats were left upturned in the water.[16]

Attack was now crowded with 300 to 400 survivors:[21] some naked, some wounded, many unconscious and dying.[15] One soldier, Sergeant Harold Riddlesworth of the Cheshire Regiment, repeatedly dived from the destroyer into the sea to rescue more survivors.[22] He survived and was decorated with the Meritorious Service Medal.[22][23]

Then a torpedo struck Attack[24] amidships and blew her into two pieces,[20] both of which sank with five to seven minutes.[16] The explosion ruptured Attack's bunkers, spilling tons of thick, black bunker fuel oil into the sea as she sank.[15] Hundreds of men were in the water, and many of them became covered in oil or overcome by its fumes.[15] Aragon's surviving lifeboats now ferried hundreds of survivors to the two trawlers and other trawlers came out to assist.[15]

Ten seamen from Attack and 600 men from Aragon were killed.[25][26] The wrecks of both ships now lie in an approximate position of 31°18′N 29°49′E / 31.300°N 29.817°E / 31.300; 29.817Coordinates: 31°18′N 29°49′E / 31.300°N 29.817°E / 31.300; 29.817.[27]


  1. ^ Cameron, Stuart. "HMS Attack". Clydebuilt ships database. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c "Old Acheron Class". Destroyers Before 1918. Cranston Fine Arts. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "British Navy – Destroyers, 21 "I" class". Jane's Fighting Ships. P Benyon via Rootsweb. 1919. p. 112. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Part 3, The "Acheron" class or "I" class (1911-13)". "Arrowsmith" List: Royal Navy WWI Destroyer Pendant Numbers. The World War I Document Archive. 27 January 1997. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  5. ^ Milford, Darren. "Battle of Heligoland Bight Order of Battle". World War 1 Naval Combat. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  6. ^ New York Times Current History; The European War, Vol 2, by W F Giese (Editor)
  7. ^ Despatch from Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty, KCB MVO DSO, commanding the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, reporting the action in the North Sea on Sunday, 24 January 1915
  8. ^ a b c Messimer, Dwight R (2002). Verschollen: World War I U-boat Losses. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-55750-475-3.
  9. ^ Perkins, J David (10 September 1999). "German Submarine Losses From All Causes During World War One". The World War I Document Archive. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  10. ^ "After 90 years, sea gives up secret of sunken sub". The Scotsman. Johnston Press. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  11. ^ "Divers discover U-boat wreckage". BBC News. 14 January 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  12. ^ a b Hawes, Richard; Jørgensen, Steffen Boel; Leinau, Peter; Wright, Bruce. "Order of Battle, Jutland / Skagerrak, 31 May to 1 June 1916". NavWeaps: Naval Weapons, Naval Technology and Naval Reunions. Tony DiGiulian. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  13. ^ "Battle of Jutland - Forces Involved". Bob Henneman. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  14. ^ "HMS Attack and HMS Dunraven". Warbird Photo Album. Retrieved 26 October 2008.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g MacDonald, Lyn (1984) [1980]. The Roses of No Man's Land (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Papermac. ISBN 014017866X.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "1914–1926". Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. Merchant Navy Officers. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  17. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit during WWI: Aragon". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  18. ^ a b c "Aragon". North Coast Shipwrecks. Shipwrecks of Egypt. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  19. ^ Lettens, Jan (9 November 2009). "SS Aragon [+1917]". The Wreck Site. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  20. ^ a b c Jones, Maureen (November 2007). "Poems of the First World War". The War Poetry Web Site. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  21. ^ "Last Song on Doomed Ship". The Northern Star. Lismore, New South Wales: National Library of Australia. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Amazing tale of 'luckiest soldier'". Macclesfield Express. Trinity Mirror. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  23. ^ "His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Meritorious Service Medal to the undermentioned". The London Gazette. 8 March 1918. p. 5037. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  24. ^ "World War I Naval Combat - Major Warship losses in 1917". Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  25. ^ "British Destroyers – Part 1 of 2". World War 1 at Sea. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  26. ^ Kindell, Don (22 February 2011). "1st–31st December 1917, in date, ship/unit & name order". Royal Navy Casualty List. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
  27. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit during WWI: HMS Attack". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 25 October 2008.


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