HMS Hornet (1911)

HMS Hornet (1911) was an Acheron class destroyer that served with the Harwich Force, fighting at the battle of Dogger Bank, then supported the 3rd Battle Squadron into 1917, before being officially based at Portsmouth for the rest of the year, then moving to the Mediterranean during 1918.

The Hornet was laid down at Brown on 7 January 1911, launched on 20 December 1911 and commissioned in March 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.

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 became part of the Harwich Force, a swing force that could support the Grand Fleet in the North Sea, or operate in the English Channel.

She was one of the few members of the class not present at the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914).

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

One of her roles was to escort military transports heading to France. On 24 November the Hornet was the senior officer’s boat when her division of the flotilla was used to escort five transports to Le Havre, after a U-boat had been detected in the area (U-21). This was achieved safely, and she then returned to Harwich, only to be ordered back west to carry out an anti-submarine sweep on 26 November. No U-boats were found.

Early on 1 January 1915 the battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed and sunk by U-24 while returning to port from gunnery exercises. The Hornet and the 4th Division of the flotilla were ordered out to sea to patrol in an area bounded by the line Brighton-Cape Antifer in the east and Cherbourg-Anvil Point in the west. Unsurprisingly no real submarines were spotted, but the Hornet reported being attacked just after 10.30am on 4 January, and an impressive array of U-boats were spotted over the next few days, even though none were actually operating in the channel at the time. The Hornet’s division returned to Harwich on 6 January.

At the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) she was part of the 4th Division of the First Flotilla (Hornet, Tigress, Sandfly and Jackal). However this battle was dominated by the battlecruisers, and the destroyers had little to do.

Immediately after the battle U-boats were detected in the channel once again. On 29 January the Hornet, Jackal, Sandfly and Acheron were sent from Harwich to Portland to act as escort ships. They weren’t there for long, and departed for Harwich on 3-4 February.  

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the First Flotilla at Rosyth, made of the original I class boats and one flotilla leader. The flotilla had been moved there earlier in the year to support the 3rd Battle Squadron, but moved in small batches. The Hornet wasn’t part of the first batch to move north, and it isn’t clear when she made the move, or how long she stayed there.

On 13 November 1915 she was sent to sea at the head of a force of eight destroyers to try and find a U-boat that had sunk two fishing smacks near Yarmouth.

In June 1916 eight of the Acheron class destroyers, including the Hornet, were moved from the 1st Destroyer Flotilla to become the destroyer flotilla attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron, a force of older destroyers that had been moved to the Thames to guard against any further German raids on the East Coast.  This arrangement lasted until November 1916.

In the August 1916 Pink List of warship locations the Defender was still officially part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, but she was detached at Devonport.

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 (Beaver, Druid, Forester, Hind and Hornet on 3 September).

In November 1916 the ships that had remained with the original 1st Destroyer Flotilla were split up, and the title was passed onto the eight ships with the 3rd Battle Squadron, including the Hornet. 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. At about 9.30am the Hornet rescued the S.V. Wellholme, which had been stopped by UB-18, forcing the submarine to submerge and abandon the attack.

During February the Forester, Defender, Hornet, Beaver and Druid were based at Portsmouth, where they were used to hunt submarines, normally operating wit two out hunting at any one time.

In April 1917 the Hornet, and the rest of the First Destroyer Flotilla, lost their connection to the 3rd Battle Squadron, and moved to Portsmouth.

On 10 April 1917 the Hornet escorted the hospital ship Salta across the Channel to Havre. Unfortunately, soon after handing her over to the French, the Salta hit a mine and sank, with heavy loss of life.

In September 1917 the Hornet was one of four Acheron class destroyers that moved from Portsmouth to join the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, following three of her sister ships who had moved in the previous month.

In January 1918 she was part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, but was undergoing repairs at Chatham.

Towards the end of the war most of the class moved to join the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean. The Hornet made the move by February 1918.

The Hornet was damaged during an attack by five Austrian destroyers on the Otranto barrage on 22 April 1918. She was attacked by at least three of the Austrian ships, and suffered several hits, including one by a complete salvo. The shellfire started fires in the forward shell room and forward magazine, set off a cordite explosion that wounded or killed the supply parties and 12-pounder gun crews, shot down the mast, wounded her CO and jammed her tiller. Four men were killed in the battle and two later died of their wounds.

In June-August 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Brindisi.

In November 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Mudros and in December 1918 she was part of the Aegean Squadron.

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 Hornet was awarded battle honours for Dogger Bank

War Service
August 1914-May 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet, based at Harwich then Rosyth.
June-October 1916: Destroyer Flotilla with 3rd Battle Squadron
November 1916-March 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, 3rd Battle Squadron
April 1917-August 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth
September 1917-December 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
February-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

3-shaft Parsons turbines
3 Yarrow 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 January 1911

Launched

20 December 1911

Completed

March 1912

Sold

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 (22 July 2021), HMS Hornet (1911) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Hornet_1911.html

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