HMS Beagle (1909)

HMS Beagle (1909) was the name ship of the Beagle class of destroyers, and spend most of the First World War in the Mediterranean, where it took part in the Gallipoli campaign. She also spent the winter of 1914-15 in home waters escorting troop ships to France, then moved to Ireland late in 1917 to join the large anti-submarine and convoy escort forces.

In June 1910 it was announced that the Beagle and the Grasshopper were to replace two River class destroyers in the first destroyer flotilla, then based on the East Coast. She would be commanded by Lt Commander J.G. Anderson, who until then had commanded the Ure..

HMS Beagle from the right HMS Beagle from the right

After entering service the Beagle class destroyers joined the First Destroyer Flotilla, and were part of that unit until the autumn of 1911. At the time the Navy was planning to form a new Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and there may have been some thought of filling it with the Beagles. The Seventh Flotilla was formed in November 1911, so it is possible that the Beagles were briefly part of it, before moving to the Third Flotilla early in 1912. 

In 1912-1913 all sixteen of them were part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet.

In 1913 the entire class moved to the Mediterranean, where they formed the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

In January 1914 she was part of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean, and was commanded by Commander Harry R. Godfrey.

In July 1914 she was one of sixteen destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, then part of the Mediterranean Fleet. At this point the flotilla contained all sixteen Beagle or G Class Destroyers.

Wartime Service

On 27 July 1914 she was part of the Third Division of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (Beagle, Bulldog, Harpy and Grasshopper) and was at Alexandria.

In August 1914 she was part of the 3rd Division of the Fifth Flotilla, which still contained all of the G Class destroyers, and was based at Malta

On 3 August the division was briefly ordered to join the cruiser Black Prince and reinforce the squadron at the mouth of the Adriatic, but the order was cancelled because it wasn’t possible to ensure they would have enough coal.

On 6 August the Dublin, Beagle and Bulldog left Malta to join the hunt for the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau. At about 1am on 7 August the small flotilla found one of the German cruisers, possibly the Breslau, but they were unable to get close enough to attack. During the chase one boiler tube blew out, and the Beagle could only use four of her five boilers, but she was still able to keep up with the Dublin.

By 9 August nine of the Beagles – Scorpion, Wolverine, Basilisk, Racoon, Renard, Beagle, Scourge, Mosquito and Foxhound were at Zante, off the north-west coast of Greece, partly because of an erroneous message that Britain was at war with Austria and partly to try and intercept the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau. They took on coal, and continued to operate around the entrance to the Adriatic, but by this point the Germans had already slipped away to the east, and soon entered the Dardanelles.

Home Waters 1914-15

In November 1914 it was decided to move the Beagle class destroyers back to home waters to help protect the shipping routes between Britain and France. On 17 November the Beagle, Bulldog, Pincher and Rattlesnake were ordered home. They arrived at Plymouth on 29 November and were sent on to Portsmouth, with orders to protect the transport route and patrol the Channel.

By February 1915 eight of the Beagle class destroyers were based at Portsmouth (Beagle, Bulldog, Foxhound, Harpy, Pincher, Rattlesnake, Savage and Scourge) and were kept very busy escorting troop ships to France. In February her fires were lit on 26 days.

In March it was decided to replace the Beagles with a similar number of River class destroyers. On 26 March the Beagle class destroyers were ordered to move to the Dardanelles as soon as they had been replaced, and the change was made by the end of the month.

Gallipoli

On 25 April 1915 the Beagle, Bulldog and Foxhound were part of the Second Squadron, which supported the landings at Anzac Cove at the start of the Gallipoli campaign.

Australian Troops on HMS Beagle, Gallipoli Australian Troops on HMS Beagle, Gallipoli

On the night of 12-13 May 1915 she was one of five G class destroyers (Beagle, Bulldog, Pincher, Scorpion and Wolverine) that were on guard duty off the Dardanelles when the Turkish destroyer Muavenet-i-Miliet managed to slip out and torpedo the battleship Goliath, which sank after being hit by three torpedoes. The Turkish destroyer managed to slip past the Beagle and Bulldog on her way out of the straits.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, which now contained all sixteen G Class destroyers and five River class boats.

On 28 June 1915 she was one of four destroyers that shielded the Talbot as it bombarded Turkish positions during the Allied attack on Gully Ravine (Beagle, Bulldog, Basilisk and Racoon).

On 6-7 August 1915 she was one of three destroyers (Beagle, Bulldog and Grampus) that supported the disastrous landings at Suvla Bay. The landings didn’t go well, and the Beagle’s men were last to reach shore, with the last not landed until 5am on 7 August.

In the autumn of 1915 the Beagle, Basilisk and Scorpion were assigned to a British squadron that was being prepared for a possible war with Greece, as tensions rose after the Allied landings at Salonika in October. However this fleet was never needed.

The Beagle helped support the retreat from Gallipoli on 20 December 1915, taking part in the operation at Anzac beach, although she didn’t fire her guns.

The Beagle was awarded one battle honour, for the Dardanelles 1915-16.

Mediterranean 1916-1917

In January 1916 she was one of eight G Class destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, where she was serving alongside a mix of other types

In October 1916 she was one of thirty two destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet, which now contained fifteen G class destroyers (the Scourge wasn’t listed),

In January 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the entire G class.

On 9 January 1917 the Beagle was escorting the battleship Cornwallis from Mudros to Malta when she was hit by a torpedo from U-32 only sixty miles east of Malta. The torpedo hit at 7.58, and by 8.30 the Beagle had to take off most of the battleship’s crew. This was completed at 9.15, just as a second torpedo hit the Cornwallis. The battleship sank at 9.45am, with the loss of 13 men. The Beagle attempted to depth charge the submarine after the second hit, but without success.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Mediterranean, along with the entire G class

Home Waters 1917-1918

Late in 1917 there was a change in the use of the G class destroyers, as some of them returned to home waters to join the Second Destroyer Flotilla at Londonderry. In the October 1917 Navy List six had join the flotilla – Beagle, Foxhound, Grasshopper, Harpy, Scourge and Wolverine.

HMS Beagle from the left HMS Beagle from the left

By January 1918 that had risen to ten, despite the loss of the Wolverine on 12 December 1917. In January the Beagle was undergoing repairs at Belfast.

By June 1918 she was part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, which contained around fifty destroyers of various types including ten members of the G class. However at least two- the Beagle and Foxhound were on detached duty in July, when they were serving with the Northern Patrol, to the north of Scotland.  

On 13 July 1918 a division from the Northern Patrol led by HMS Syringa detected a submarine on their hydrophone in the Fair Island passage, and forced it to the bottom near Tangesvaag in the Faroe Islands. The hunt was joined by HMS Beagle and another division from the patrol, and they operated in the same area from 11:50pm on 13 July to 6pm on 14 July, dropping a large number of depth charges. At the time the attackers believed they had sunk a U-boat, but none were lost in that area at the time.

The Beagle was still listed as being at Devonport in August 1918, but by the end of the war she was one of six G Class destroyers that were back in the Second Destroyer Flotilla at Londonderry.

By the end of the war the Beagle and Scourge were both equipped with four depth charge throwers and fifty charges, while most other surviving members of the class had two throwers.

The Beagle was scrapped soon after the end of the war.

Career Summary
First Destroyer Flotilla: 1910-1011
Third Destroyer Flotilla, First Fleet: May 1912-October 1913
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: November 1913-November 1914
Portsmouth Escort Flotilla: November 1914-March 1915
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: March 1915-June 1917-
Second Destroyer Flotilla, Buncrana, Ireland: October 1917-January 1918-
Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport: - June-August 1918-
Second Destroyer Flotilla, Buncrana, Ireland: -November 1918-

Commanders
Lt Commander J.G. Anderson: June 1910-
Lt Commander Henry M. Coombes: - January 1917-

Displacement (standard)

945t (average)

Displacement (loaded)

1,100t

Top Speed

27 knots

Engine

3-shaft Parsons turbines
5 Yarrow boilers (most ships)

Range

 

Length

263ft 11.25in pp

Width

26ft 10in

Armaments

One 4in/ 45cal QF Mk VIII gun
Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

96

Laid down

17 March 1909

Launched

16 October 1909

Completed

June 1910

Sold for break up

November 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 (13 August 2020), HMS Beagle (1909) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Beagle_1909.html

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