HMS Forester (1911)

HMS Forester was an Acheron class destroyer that served with the Harwich Force, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then supported the 3rd Battle Squadron, before taking on more anti-submarine duties. She ended the war in the Mediterranean, along with the other surviving members of her class.

The Forester was laid down at White on 7 September 1910, launched on 1 June 1911 and commissioned in January 1912.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the First Flotilla of the First Fleet, which contained the more modern battleships. At the time the Flotilla contained all of the Admiralty, Yarrow, Thornycroft and Parsons types of the Acheron or I class of destroyers.

First World War

In August 1914 she was one of twenty I class destroyers in the First Flotilla of what was about to become the Grand Fleet, and was at sea when war broke out. The flotilla was allocated to the Harwich Force, which was a swing force that could support the Channel Fleet or the Grand Fleet. As a result the Forester could be found supporting the fleet in some of the major naval battles of the war, and also on anti-submarine duty along the south coast.

Heligoland Bight

The Forester  took part in the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914). She was part of Division 3 of the First Flotilla (Ferret, Forester, Druid and Defender).

At the start of the battle the Forester’s flotilla, lead by the cruiser Fearless, were second in the British line, behind Commodore Tyrwhitt in the Arethusa (leading the Third Destroyer Flotilla). The fighting began when Tyrwhitt detached some of his destroyers to chase down a German destroyer, before joining in the chase with the rest of his flotilla. However the Germans were aware of the British plan, and had set a trap of their own. Tyrwhitt soon found himself under attack by two German cruisers, Stettin and Frauenlob. The Fearless and her flotilla reached the scene just after 8am, and the Stettin began to withdraw to the east.Fearless and the First Flotilla gave chase, but soon afterwards the German guns on Heligoland began to fire, and Tyrwhitt gave the order to begin the second part of the British plan, a sweep to the west. The Fearless and her destroyers received the order at 8.12am, and turned west, leaving the Stettin alone.

HMS Forester from the left HMS Forester from the left

At 8.15 the flotilla sighted the German destroyer V-187. Fearless opened fire, and Division 5 was ordered to give chase. However a few minutes later the order was cancelled in the mistaken belief that V-187 was actually the Acasta class destroyer Lurcher , which was in the area working with her submarine flotilla. At 8.25 V-187 was sighted again and Division 5 moved to attack. V-187 attempted to escape to the south, only to run into the cruisers Nottingham and Lowestoft. She attempted to turn east, but found her route blocked by Forester and the rest of Division 3. V-187 then attempted to escape by turning north to run through the 5th Division, but was caught and knocked out of action. At 8.50 Divisions 3 and 5 were left to finish her off, while the Fearless rejoined the rest of the flotilla, still moving west. In the belief that the battle was over the British destroyers lowered their boats to begin a rescue attempt, but the Germans had not yet surrendered, and in the belief that they were about to be boards opened fire with one remaining gun. The British opened fire again, and V-187 sank at 9.10. The rescue attempt was then resumed, but the German cruiser Stettinthen appeared and opened fire. 

At about 11am, early in the third phase of the battle, the damaged cruiser Arethusa became involved in a battle with the German cruiser Stralsund. The Fearless and the entire First Flotilla were ordered to launch a torpedo attack on the German cruiser, which withdrew in the face of such a large attack. The Arethusa, Fearless and their destroyers then turned back west. However a few minutes later the German cruiser Stettin appeared from the east, and another fight began, this time between the Stettinand the two British cruisers. At 11.20 the Acheron received an order to lead the 1st divisionin a torpedo attack on the German cruiser and turned back to head towards the last known location of this fight.

At about the same time the rest of the flotilla sighted another German cruiser, the Mainz, which appeared to their south-west, heading north across their course on her way to help the Stralsund. The 2nd Division turned north to try and engage her. The 3rd (Ferret, Forester, Druid and Defender) and 5th Divisions followed her, and a long range gun battle followed. However after twenty minutes the Mainzturned though 180 degrees and began to run to the south, after sighting Commodore Goodenough’s four light cruisers coming from the north. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions turned west to join up with the light cruisers, while the 5th Division turned south to try and keep up with the Mainz.

After Heligoland Bight

In November 1914 she was part of the First Flotilla, which now contained nineteen I class boats and three new M class boats.

In November the Forester was one of eight destroyers that were sent from Harwich to support the four Duncan class battleships when they bombarded Zeebrugge on 23 November,

At the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) she was part of the 2nd Division of the First Flotilla (Ferret, Forester, Defender and Druid). This was the same group of ships that had formed the 3rd Division at Heligoland Bight. However this battle was dominated by the battlecruisers, and the destroyers had little to do.

On 9 February 1915 the Attack, Defender, Druid, Forester, Goshawk, Lapwing, Ferret and Phoenix replaced a group of M class destroyers on escort duty, covering minelayers that were laying a new mine field across the Dover Straits, in an attempt to stop German submarines operating so freely in the English Channel.

On 24 February the Defender, Druid, Ferret and Forester were chosen to escort the transports carrying the Royal Naval Division on the first stage of their voyage from Avonmouth to the Dardanelles. They were to reach Avonmouth by 27 February, but it was soon realised that in the winter weather the destroyers were unable to keep up with the transports, so most of them sailed without escort. The destroyers remained at Avonmouth until the start of march, when they were replaced by other destroyers from Harwich.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the First Flotilla which at that point were at Rosyth, at the northern end of their area of operation, made of the original I class boats and one flotilla leader.

On the night of 27-28 March 1916 the Badger, Beaver, Forester and Defender were sent out toescort the damaged Arethusa class cruiser HMS Undaunted, which had collided with HMS Cleopatra during an attempted air raid on a Zeppelin base at Hoyer, back to port. However the Forester suffered a breakdown in poor weather and couldn’t accompany the other three destroyers.. On the following day the Undaunted reached Newcastle

In June 1916 the flotilla was split in half. The Forester was one of eight destroyers that were attached to the Third Battle Squadron (led by HMS Dreadnought). This was a force of older battleships that was moved to the Thames to guard against the danger of any further German raids on the East Coast.

The 3rd Battle Squadron operated over quite a wide area – at the start of September 1916 the squadron and its associated destroyers were as far west at Portland.

In November 1916 the ships that had remained in the original 1st Destroyer Flotilla were dispersed, and the Forester and her sisters with the Third Battle Squadron became the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. This arrangement lasted into March 1917.

At the start of February 1917 Beaver, Defender, Druid, Forester and Hornet were all based at Portsmouth, from where they were hunting U-boats.

On 1 February 1917 the Forester and Hornet carried out an anti-submarine patrol off Cape Antifer (Normandy), where they may have helped prevent UB-23 and UB-18 from carrying out any attacks,

On 18 February 1917 the SS Berrima was torpedoed while on her way from Devonport to London. The Forester was sent out to help, and was able to get her safely to Portland.

On 27 February 1917 her crew spotted the conning tower of UC-65 at a distance of a mile and a half. The Forester dropped her two depth charges but the submarine escaped unscathed. As a result of this attack it was suggested that destroyers should carry more depth charges.

On 11 March 1917 the Forester came to the aid of the Q Ship Q-20 after she was badly damaged in a gunnery dual with U-85 and UC-66.

In April 1917 the connection to the Third Battle Squadron ended, and the First Destroyer Flotilla was moved west to Portsmouth. This reflected how they had often been used before this date, as they could often be found on anti-submarine hunts or escorting important ships.  This lasted into July 1917.

July 1917 also saw her take part in the new convoy system – on 7 July she was escorting part of a convoy east towards London when HMS Ettrick was torpedoed and sunk.

From August 1917 to March 1918 the Forester was part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, based at Devonport.

From May 1918 the Forester was part of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean.

In June-August 1918 the Forester and the rest of the flotilla were based at Brindisi.  

In November-December 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Mudros, also known as the Aegean Squadron.

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

The Forester was awarded battle honours for Heligoland and Dogger Bank

War Service
August 1914-May 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
June-October 1916: Destroyer Flotilla with 3rd Battle Squadron
November 1916-March 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, 3rd Battle Squadron
April 1917-July 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth
August 1917-March 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
May-June 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean
July-August 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
December 1918: Aegean Squadron

Displacement (standard)

778t

Displacement (loaded)

990t

Top Speed

27 knots

Engine

Admiralty Type:
3-shaft Parsons turbines
3 White-Forester boilers
13,500shp

Range

 

Length

246ft oa

Width

25ft 8in

Armaments

Two 4in BL Mk VIII guns
Two 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes

Crew complement

70

Laid down

7 September 1910

Launched

1 June 1911

Completed

January 1912

Sold

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 (1 July 2021), HMS Forester (1911) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Forester_1911.html

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