HMS Acasta (1912)

HMS Acasta (1912) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet, fighting during the Yorkshire raid of December 1914 and at Jutland, then moved to the Humber and the South Coast to take part in the battle against the U-boats, ending the war attached to the torpedo school, HMS Vernon.

The Acasta was laid down at Brown on 1 December 1911, launched on 10 September 1912 and commissioned in November 1912. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name King was chosen for her, but it was never used.

In January 1914 she was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, and was commanded by Lt John O Barron.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla of the First Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. The flotilla contained all twenty Acasta or K Class destroyers.

In August 1914 she was one of twenty K destroyers in the Fourth Flotilla of what was becoming the Grand Fleet. At the outbreak of war all but the Porpoise were at sea. Over the next two years five members of the class were sunk, while the surviving members of the class remained with the Flotilla into July 1916.

Yorkshire Coast Raid

When the Germans raided the Yorkshire Coast in December 1914 the Acasta was one of seven Acasta class destroyers that were with Admiral Warrender’s 2nd Battle Squadron when it was sent out to try and intercept them. During the night of 15-16 December the destroyers were posted ten miles to the port of the battle squadron, with orders to close in on them at daylight. The Acasta was part of the 2nd Division of the Fourth Flotilla during this sortie.

HMS Acasta from the right HMS Acasta from the right

At about 5.15am the Lynx, at the head of the flotilla, spotted a destroyer that failed to answer the identification correctly. The Lynx opened fire and turned to port to give chase. The German retreated north, while the rest of the British destroyer flotilla followed the Lynx. The Hardy was in the middle of the column, and sighted more German destroyers off to port. A gun battle developed between these destroyers and the rear of the British column, but the Lynx then suffered a fault with her steering and turned further to port. The rest of the flotilla followed, and the second set of German destroyers disappeared to the east. The original target soon followed them.

The Lynx then turned to the south-west to close up with the battle squadron, but only three minutes later, at 5.58, a German cruiser was sighted about 600-700 yards to the port of Hardy and Shark. The cruiser switched on recognition lights, which identified her as German. A gun battle then developed between the cruiser and the Hardy and the Shark. The Hardy was soon taking heavy damage and was forced to steer to the starboard. The destroyers behind her followed, while the Lynx and Unity at the head of the column continued on their original course and were soon out of the battle.

The Hardy quickly turned back onto a parallel course with the cruiser, followed by the rest of the flotilla. However by 0600 she had been so badly damaged that her captain had to take her out of the line. Her steering gear was badly damaged, but luckily her captain had ordered an emergency system to be set up, and he was able to steer with his engines. However at this point the cruiser, which was only 500 yards away from her, turned on her searchlights and opened fire again. At this point the Hardy’s gunner fired a torpedo, which exploded very close to the cruiser. Everyone on the British side was convinced they’d scored a hit, but German records suggest they narrowly missed. Even so this was enough to convince the German cruiser to turn off her lights and retreat.

The Hardy was still under control, and was able to take up a position at the rear of the 2nd Division. This was now all that was left of the flotilla, with Lynx and Unity having lost contact, and Ambuscade having to retire damaged. The formation was now led by the Shark, followed by Acasta, Spitfire and Hardy.

The clash had been with the light cruiser Hamburg and several of the German destroyers, which were part of the screen for Admiral von Ingenohl and the High Seas Fleet, which were there to protect the forces actually carrying out the raid. News of the clash with British destroyers convinced von Ingenohl to withdraw, as part of his orders were not to risk losses

At about 6.50 the Shark sighted smoke to the south-east, and by 7.00 could make out five German destroyers. The flotilla gave chase, and were soon able to open fire. However a few minutes later they spotted a heavy cruiser, which they believed to be the Yorck class cruiser Roon. By now the Germans were retiring, so the Roon didn’t open fire open fire, and the four British destroyers were able to shadow her for some time. By 7.30 they had alerted Admiral Warrender, who moved east to try and catch the cruiser. Admiral Beatty with the battlecruisers also arrived on the scene, but didn’t join the chase until just before 8.20. By this point the situation for the destroyers had changed. Visibility had got worse, and at about 7.40 the destroyers had been forced to get closer to the Roon to keep her in sight. At this point the Germans sent three light cruisers to chase them off. The British destroyers turned north in an attempt to lure the Germans into a trap, but by about 8.35 the Germans had turned back to rejoin the fleet. The destroyers then found the British light cruisers and joined with them.

In January 1916 nineteen K class destroyers were in the Fourth Flotilla, based at Scapa. The Acasta had been equipped with a modified sweep.

In April 1916 Admiral Jellicoe asked for eight of the class to have one of their 4in guns converted to a high angle gun by placing it on a trap door that could tilt up to fifty degrees. The Acasta was one of the ships selected to be converted.

Jutland

The Acasta fought at Jutland with the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla. She formed part of the escort for the battlecruisers attached to the Grand Fleet, and put to sea with Admiral Jellico and the main body of the Grand Fleet by 10.30pm on 30 May.

As the Grand Fleet advanced into contact with the High Seas Fleet, part of the flotilla was with the British 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Shark, Acasta, Ophelia and Christopher), forming an anti-submarine screen ahead of Admiral Hood’s capital ships. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron was some way ahead of the main battleship force and was thus the first part of the Grand Fleet to get into action when it was sent ahead to support Beatty’s battlecruisers. The destroyers found themselves on the port flank of Hood’s battlecruisers, in a position to attack a force of German cruisers. However they soon became engaged in a battle with German destroyers which left the Shark crippled, but stopped the Germans attacking Hood’s battlecruisers.  The Acasta offered to tow the Shark to safety, but the offer was refused as it would have exposed her to danger. The Shark was later sunk by more German destroyers

Soon after leaving the Shark, the Acasta had a chance to fire a torpedo into a German cruiser, which at the time was believed to be the Seydlitz, but was actually the Lutzow. At the time the Acasta was credited with a hit, but the torpedo actually missed. She then escaped from the scene, after suffering heavy damage.

The Acasta was now out of the battle, but she was still just about underway when she was found by the Nonsuch from the 12th Destroyer Flotilla, who took her under two. On the eveing of 1 June a trawler unit and a tug took over, and the Acasta reached Aberdeen at 9pm on 2nd June. Despite suffering heavy damage, her casualties were relatively low, with one officer and five men killed and one man wounded. She was repaired at Aberdeen, and the work was done by 18 July (according to the Naval Staff Monograph) or 2 August (in the official history of the war at sea). In their initial report on the battle, issued on 2 June, the Germans claimed to have sunk the Acasta

The Acasta was judged to have been hit by two small projectiles. Her repairs were completed by 2 August.

After Jutland

From August to November 1916 the Fourth Flotilla, by now containing the fifteen surviving members of the class, moved to form the Humber Force. The flotilla had suffered heavy losses at Jutland, and with newer destroyers entering service it wasn’t rebuilt after the battle but was instead moved to a new location. For the rest of the war the flotilla largely focused on the battle against the U-boats, and its ships were often found a long way from their official base.

In December 1916 the Acasta and the Fourth Flotilla moved again, and was now based at Portsmouth. It had also been reduced in size once again, and now contained ten K class destroyers (and the light cruiser HMS Active). The remaining five members of the class moved to the Sixth Flotilla at Dover.

On 17 December the Acasta and Midge were hunting submarines off Cherbourgh.

In early January 1917 the Acasta and Christopher were hunting submarines off Portsmouth, and may have prevented UB-23 from attacking as it passed through that area.

On 6 January she was patrolling between St. Alban’s Head, the Owers and the Channel Islands.

In March 1917 the Fourth Flotilla moved to Devonport. It now contained ten Acasta class destroyers and six Laforey or L class destroyers. In April the five ships from Dover rejoined the flotilla at Devonport.

On 11 May 1917 the first convoy from Gibraltar set sail, heading for the UK. On 16 May UC-17 attacked the Hermitte, heading from Falmouth to Australia. The Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth sent the Achates and one other destroyer out to sweep that area, then meet up with the convoy. They were due to meet early on 18 May, but the convoy was east of its expected position, so they didn’t join up until 18 May. On 19 May the Hardy, Laurel, Porpoise, Spitfire and Acasta joined the convoy, which reached the UK safely. This was the first experimental convoy, and was judged to have been a great success. 

On 25 May 1917 a U-boat (possibly UB-38) opened fire on the fishing vessel Competitor off Berry Head and her crew abandoned ship. The Acasta and Achates rushed to the sound of the gunfire, and attempted to use their paravanes to catch the submarine. The U-boat escaped, but the Competitor was saved and taken back into Brixham.

On 22 December 1917 the Acasta was damaged in a collision with the SS Clan Cameron in the English Channel and three of her crew were killed.

In January 1918 she was one of forty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, which was now made up of a mix of various types. She was undergoing repairs.

Early in 1918 her high angle gun and torpedo tubes were removed, and replaced with two twin torpedo tubes.

In May 1918 the Acasta moved to Portsmouth, where she was attached to the torpedo school, HMS Vernon. In June she was one of three destroyers attached to the school. She remained there for the rest of the war.

The Acasta was sold for scrap on 9 May 1921

The Acasta was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

War Service
August 1914-July 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
August-November 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Humber Force
December 1916-January 1917: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth
March-April 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
May-August 1918: Attached to HMS Vernon

Displacement (standard)

1,072t

Displacement (loaded)

1,300t

Top Speed

29 knots

Engine

2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines
4 Yarrow boilers
24,500shp

Range

 

Length

267ft 6in

Width

27ft

Armaments

Three 4in/ 45cal BL Mk VIII
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

73

Laid down

1 December 1911

Launched

10 September 1921

Completed

November 1912

Sold for break up

May 1921

 

British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Norman Friedman. A very detailed look at the design of British destroyers from their earliest roots as torpedo boat destroyers, though the First World War and up to the start of the Second World War, supported by vast numbers of plans and well chosen photographs [read full review]
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 December 2021), HMS Acasta (1912) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Acasta_1912.html

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