HMS Ardent (1913)

HMS Ardent (1913) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla and was sunk by four German battleships at Jutland.

The Ardent was laid down at Denny on 9 October 1912, launched on 8 September 1913 and commissioned in February 1914. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name Kenric was chosen for her, but it was never used. She was a ‘Denny Special’, and has three boilers, giving her two funnels instead of the normal three for the rest of the class.

In January 1914 she was being completed by Denny Bros of Dumbarton, and her senior officer was Engineering Lieutenant Arthur E. Shillcock.

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.

In November 1914 all twenty K class destroyers were in the Fourth Flotilla, part of the Grand Fleet. She had been equipped with a submarine sweep.

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.

On 11 October 1915 the Ardent was at sea with the Grand Fleet, heading for the northern North Sea. However the weather was so poor that the destroyers were ordered to return home. On the way the Ardent and Fortune collided, and the Ardent was damaged.

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

On the night of 23-24 April she was taking part in a Grand Fleet sortie when she collided with the Ambuscade and Garland and had to be taken into tow, stern first.

Jutland

The Ardent was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Jutland, when it 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.

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 the four leading German battleships and was sunk at around 12.19am on 1 June. A total of four officers and 74 men were killed, and only two men survived from the Ardent, including her commander, Lt Commander A. Marsden, who was rescued by the Marksman.

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..

The Ardent was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

War Service
August 1914-June 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
June 1916: Sunk at Jutland

Displacement (standard)

1,072t

Displacement (loaded)

1,300t

Top Speed

29 knots

Engine

2-shaft Parsons 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

9 October 1912

Launched

8 September 1913

Completed

February 1914

Sunk

1 June 1916

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 (6 January 2022), HMS Ardent (1913) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Ardent_1913.html

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