HMS Achates (1912)

HMS Achates (1912) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, fighting with the Grand Fleet at Jutland before moving to the Humber then the South Coast to take part in the battle against the U-boats.

The Achates was laid down at Brown on 15 January 1912, launched on 14 November 2012 and commissioned in March 1913. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name Knight 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 Frederick P. Loder Symonds.

HMS Achates, 1914 HMS Achates, 1914

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.

In late October the Achates, Ardent, Ambuscade and Fortune were attached to Admiral Moore’s Cruiser Force K, which was to support a seaplane attack on a Zeppelin base that was believed to be at Cuxhaven. Admiral Moore’s force was at seat by 22 October, but the raid was delayed until 25 October, and was a total failure, with none of the six seaplanes involved getting anywhere near to the target. Cruiser Force K protected the main attack force as it retired from the area.

On 1 February 1915 the armed yacht Vanduara clashed with U-21 north-west of Fishguard, during a cruise that had halted shipping in the Irish Sea. The Admiralty dispatched reinforcements to the area, including the cruiser Faulknor and the destroyers Achates, Owl, Hardy and Ambuscade from Scapa. They arrived at Milford Haven on 2 February, and were used to patrol the area between there and Liverpool for part of February.

On 11 March 1915 the armed merchant cruiser Bayano was torpedoed and sunk off Corsewell Point, having just left the Clyde, with the loss of all but 50 of her crew. In response Jellicoe sent the Faulknor and six destroyers from the 4th Flotilla (Achates, Ambuscade, Ardent, Fortune, Paragon and Porpoise) to patrol the area between Oversay and the North Channel into the Irish Sea. They reached Larne on 13 March and spent the next week patrolling the area between Belfast, the Clyde and the North Channel. However the submarine in question, U-27, had left the area heading north on 13 March and was back in German home waters by 16 March.

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

Jutland

The Achates was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Jutland, which contained sixteen Acasta class destroyers and one Repeat M class destroyer. The flotilla 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. 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 two main fleets finally came together at about 6.30pm on 31 May. By this point the battleships of the German High Seas Fleet were heading north, while the battleships of the Grand Fleet were forming a line running roughly east to west in front of them. For a few minutes the British were able to concentrate their fire on the leading ships of the German line, but the Germans then carried out their famous sixteen point turn, and within a few minutes were heading away south into the North Sea mist. However Admiral Scheer then mis-judged the British movements, and turned back east in the hope that he could pass behind the main British force. Just after 7pm the Germans found themselves steaming straight towards Jelicoe’s battleships, and by 7.15 the bulk of the Grand Fleet was finally able to open fire on the Germans. Once again Scheer was forced to reverse course. During this phase of the battle the destroyer flotillas struggled to keep up with the fast moving battleships and rather disappear from the narrative. After more confused manoeuvres the two fleets came into range of each other for a third time after 8pm, but the Germans turned away for a third time, and disappeared into the mists by 8.35.

HMS Achates from the left HMS Achates from the left

Jellicoe was unwilling to risk a night battle, and at 9.17 ordered the fleet into its night cruising formation. The battleships formed up into lines in their divisions, with the destroyers following behind. The entire formation began to move south in an attempt to keep between the Germans and their home bases. By 10pm the destroyer flotillas were in line, with the 12th Flotilla at the eastern (left) end of the line, then the combined 9th and 10th Flotillas, 13th Flotilla, 4th Flotilla and finally the 11th Flotilla at the western (right) end of the line.

The 4th Flotilla was now split into three. Ophelia and Christopher were with Beatty’s battlecruisers off to the south-west. Owl, Hardy and Midge were with the armoured cruisers. That left ten destroyers and two flotilla leaders with the main part of the flotilla.

At about 10.10pm four German destroyers were sighted to the rear of the flotilla. They fired torpedoes, which missed, and the British fired a few rounds before the Germans disappeared once again.

The key moment of the night actions came at around 11.30, when the High Seas Fleet finally attempted to pass behind the Grand Fleet and ran into the British destroyers. The Germans would make contact with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which was towards the right of the British line. There was then a seven mile gap to the 13th Flotilla, with the 9th and 10th Flotilla close by, and the 12th Flotilla to their rear.

The 4th Flotilla first spotted ships approaching from their right at about 11.20, but couldn’t be sure who they were. The flotilla’s commander Captain Wintour waited until the Germans were within 1,000 yards before issuing the challenge of the day. The Germans immediately opened fire, killing Wintour and wrecking his flagship, Tipperary. However the German cruisers were forced to turn away, and the Elbing was rammed by the battleship Posen while they were attempting to pass through the German battle line. Soon after this the Spitfire actually rammed the German battleship Nassau, and stayed afloat. The German briefly turned to starboard before Scheer ordered it back onto its course.

The rest of the 4th Flotilla briefly turned east, once again coming into contact with the Germans, although the worst damage at this point was done by a collision between the Sparrowhawk, Broke and Contest. During the resulting melee one torpedo from the flotilla hit the Rostock, which later had to be scuttled by her own crew. The flotilla was now scattered, with the Fortune sunk and all but the Ardent knocked out of the battle. She attempted to find friendly ships, but instead ran into four German battleships and was sunk at around 12.19am on 1 June. Not only had the flotilla been unable to stop the Germans, the fighting had also failed to alert the Grand Fleet, where the action was mis-interpreted as a failed German attack on the British rearguard.

After Jutland

In August 1916 the Fourth Flotilla, which had suffered heavy losses at Jutland, was relegated from the Grand Fleet, and now formed the Humber Force. It contained fifteen of the K class destroyers.

On 16 December 1916 UB-38 attacked the schooner Englishman close to the Cornish coast. The armed yacht Venetia was close by and opened fire, forcing the submarine to submerge. The Achates, Owl and Contest were ordered to the area, bu didn’t arrive until nearly four hours had passed. However an armed trawler reported having just spotted a submarine submerging three miles to the north-west so the destroyers attempted to hunt it. After no success in the original area, a second hunt was started seven miles to the north-west. This time one paravane did explode, but UB-38 had probably already left the area, and on the following day she sank a Spanish ship carrying iron ore.

On 20 December the Achates, Owl and Contest were sent to patrol an area off Ushant after U-70 passed through the area. During the patrol they didn’t find any submarines.
 
In December 1916 the Achates 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 13 January 1917 the Achates reported spotting a periscope off Alderney, probably from UB-38, which was in the area at the time. The Achates arrived in time to prevent the submarine from sinking the Japanese steamship Hakata Maru.

On 17 February 1917 the Achates was involved in a collision in which two of her crew were killed.

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.

At the start of July 1917 she was part of the escort for convoy HH4, heading across the Atlantic. Towards the end of the voyage the convoy split, and the Achates’s commander F.E. Strong became the senior officer of the remaining escorts. On 6 July the oiler Wabasha was torpedoed, and the Achates dropped ten depth charges in the area. The Wabasha stayed afloat and reached port. The Achates and the Devonport destroyers then had to take the convoy up the Channel as the Portsmouth destroyers that were meant to replace them never appeared. The Achates then returned west to escort convoy HH5 into port.

On 16 December 1917 the Achates lost her bridge and funnel in heavy seas, although nobody was killed.

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

Early in 1918 the Achates lost both of her torpedo tubes. She was also allocated a heavier than normal depth charge armament, and her rear guns were to be removed to save weight. She was still in this configuration in October 1918.

In May 1918 the Achates was part of the escort of a convoy, along with HMS Lawford, HMS Michael, USS Balch (DD-50), USS Cummings (DD-44) and USS Fanning (DD-37). On 12 May a U-boat attacked the trailing ship from the convoy. The escorts attempted to attack the U-boat, but without success.

In November 1918 she was one of forty destroyers at Devonport.

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Nore Reserve. She was sold to be broken up in May 1921.

The Achates 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-December 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport

Commander
-May June 1916-: Commander R.B.C. Hutchinson

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

15 January 1912

Launched

14 November 1912

Completed

March 1913

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 (9 December 2021), HMS Achates (1912), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Achates_1912.html

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