HMS Christopher (1912)

HMS Christopher (1912) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, fighting at Jutland, before moving to the Humber then the South Coast, before ending the war with the  Northern Patrol at Dundee.

The Christopher was laid down at Hawthorn on 16 October 1911, launched on 29 August 1912 and commissioned in November 1912. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name Kite was chosen for her, but it was never used.

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.

HMS Christopher from the left HMS Christopher from the left

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 February 1915 the 1st Canadian Division was ready to be transported from Avonmouth to St. Nazaire. On 7 February Faulknor, Christopher, Contest, and Hardy were sent to act as an escort for the first two ships, but they didn’t sail as planned and instead joined the second group of ships. The Faulknor’s division were then used to escort the third batch of ships, which sailed on 9-10 February. At 5pm on 10 February the transports were judged to be safe, and the Faulknor’s division headed north to Barrow where they replaced the Laurel’s division before heading north to rejoin the Grand Fleet. They reached Barrow on 13 February, but as they were approaching the narrow entrance channel sighted the signal forbidding entrance because another vessel was coming out. Christopher, Contest and Owl all ran aground while attempting to turn around and stayed aground until the following day. The Christopher and Contest had to go into the Clyde for repairs, and didn’t reach Invergordon until 22 February.

On 23 September 1915 she collided with the armed boarding vessel King Orry in thick fog in the North Sea, and the Christopher was damaged.

In January 1916 nineteen K class destroyers were in the Fourth Flotilla, based at Scapa. She 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 Christoper was one of the ships selected to be converted.

Jutland

On the eve of Jutland the Ambuscade was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Scapa Flow, and the flotilla contained sixteen Acasta class destroyers and one Repeat M class destroyer. The flotilla put to sea with Admiral Jellicoe 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. As a result the Christopher didn’t take part in the night destroyer battles, which took place behind the main part of the Grand Fleet. After the battle she was detached to look for the Broke, and returned to Rosyth on 3 June.

Post Jutland

On 8 August 1916 Admiral Jellicoe was at Cromarty to meet with the Prime Minister and Chancellor when a U-boat attacked the steamer Glenravel off Kinnaird Head. The Christopher was nearby, and arrived while the Glenravel was sinking and just before the Swedish Malmland sank. She opened fire but the submarine was out of range and submerged.

In August 1916 the Fourth Flotilla was relegated from the Grand Fleet, and now formed the Humber Force. It contained fifteen of the K class destroyers, but as their actions show their range of activity wasn't limited to the east coast.

On 27 November 1916 the Christopher, Contest and Spitfire were hunting submarines in the area between the Isle of Wight and Beachy Head.

On 29 November the Christopher, Cockatrice, Hardy and Midge were hunting submarines in the Portsmouth area, but without success.

In December 1916 the Christopher 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.

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 18 January 1917 the Christopher and the Hardy were hunting for submarines fifty miles to the north-west of the Scillies.

On 31 January 1917 U-55 sank the SS Dundee off the south coast of Ireland. An armed trawler, the airship C.2 and HMS Christopher and Orford all attempted to find the submarine, but without success. On 1 February they continued to chase U-55, and were able to save the Norwegian SS Ramsholm, which had already been abandoned by her crew. The Orford dropped four depth charges, but once again U-55 escaped.

On 14 February the Christopher arrived at Holyhead from Queenstown, to help the Contest hunt a submarine that was active in the area. The Orestes was also due to join them, but by 16 February the submarine in question was already off Cornwall heading home.

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.

In mid-March 1917 the Germans had three submarines, U-53, UC-47 and UC-66 operating off the south coast of Ireland. The Christopher, Contest, Hardy and Orestes were sent from Devonport to hunt for them, but without success.

On 12 March the Q ship Q.19 sank another submarine, U-85. However the Q-ship was also badly damaged. The Christopher arrived on the scene at 4.25pm and picked up some of the crew. The Orestes arrived soon after, and took Q.19 under tow. However her bulkheads gave way as she was entering Plymouth and she sank in sight of safety.

On 15 May she joined the hunt for a submarine on the route from Portsmouth to Havre, but her explosive paravanes actually disrupted the hunt with hydrophones.

On 21 May she was ordered to Ushant to hunt for a submarine that had been attacking the French Coal Trade route.

On 3 June 1917 the Q-Ship HMS Mavis was torpedoed by a U-boat. The Christopher soon arrived on the scene and took off most of her crew, and on the following morning the armed trawler Whitefriars took her under tow. However the Mavis had to be beached in Cawsand Bay after she began to sink.

Between 27 June and 7 July she reported spotting U-boats six times, but was never close enough to attack. On 3 July she spotted one on the horizon. On 4 July she saw one five miles away.

On 15 July she received a message from the SS Cayo Bonito saying she was under attack, but not giving her course or speed! The Christopher ordered the three steamers she could see to leave the danger area, but the Torcello was torpedoed within sight of the destroyer. The Christopher was able to rescue her crew of 28 and single passenger.

On 8 August 1917 the Q-Ship HMS Dunraven was involved in an action with the German submarine UC-71 off Ushant. The Dunraven was badly damaged in the attack, and the Christopher (which was on her way to patrol in the western approaches)and Attack went to her assistance. Despite their best efforts, the Dunraven sank on 10 August.

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

In April 1918 she lost both of her torpedo tubes and the high angle gun added in 1916 but gained depth charges and paravanes on her quarter deck.  This included a depth charge rail with 20 charges, and throwers with three reloads

In November 1918 she was one of three K class destroyers in the Northern Patrol Force at Dundee.

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Nore Reserve.

The Christopher was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

The Christopher was sold for scrap on 9 May 1921.

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-August 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
November-December 1918: Northern Patrol Force

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

16 October 1911

Launched

29 August 1912

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 (13 January 2022), HMS Christopher (1912) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Christopher_1912.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies