HMS Jackal (1911)

HMS Jackal was an Acheron class destroyer that served with the First Destroyer Flotilla, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then with flotillas based at Portsmouth, Devonport and Ireland from late 1916 to the summer of 1918, before ending the war in the Mediterranean. 

The Jackal was laid down at Hawthorn on 6 October 1910, launched on 9 September 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.

HMS Jackal from the left HMS Jackal from the left

On Tuesday 7 October 1913 the Jackal was involved in a collision with the battleship Thunderer that she was lucky to survive. The fleet was carrying out exercises off May Island in the Firth of Forth. The Jackal was taking part in torpedo practice when she became trapped between the oncoming battleship and another destroyer. The captain of the Thunderer realised what was going on in time to order his engines into reverse, which reduced the force of the blow. The Thunderer’s bow hit the port side of the Jackal sixteen feet back from the bows, and only her reduced speed saved the destroyer from being cut in two. As it was the upper and lower mess decks were almost destroyed and the hull twisted, damaging the starboard side. A handful of crewmen were in their quarters, but amazingly none were injured.

Luckily enough of her internal bulkheads remained watertight to prevent her sinking. The Thunderer remained on the scene to offer assistance, and the Alecto was sent out from the Tay. The Alecto took the Jackal in tow, and towed her into the Tay stern first. By the time they reached safety they were only moving at 2.5 knots. 

The Jackal was repaired by the Dundee Shipbuilding Company, which had to almost rebuild her bows from scratch. The main repairs took place in the Graving Dock at Dundee, and she wasn’t refloated until late January 1914. She then moved to the Victoria Dock for the final touches. The repairs even attracted the attention of Winston Churchill, then serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, who visited Dundee to inspect the Jackal in mid October.

The Jackal was finally able to leave Dundee early in February 1914, after three months of repairs. She was send south to Portsmouth to join the First Flotilla.

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 joined the Harwich Force, which meant the Jackal could operate with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea and take part in the battle against German submarines in the Channel and Western Approaches. 

She was part of the 4th Division of the 1st Flotilla during the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), where her division (Badger, Beaver, Jackal and Sandfly) was detached to accompany the battlecruisers based on the Humber. As a result she didn’t as much action as some of her sister-ships, as the arrival of the battlecruisers ended the small ship part of the battle.

In early September the Jackal was one of eight destroyers that took part in a patrol against minelayers operating north of the Dogger Bank. On 6 September she reporting spotting a U-boat heading to the south-east, probably either U-20 or U-21, both of which were heading home through that area at the time. The submarine was too far off to attack.

In January 1915 she was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet, which was commanded by the admiral in command of the Third Battle Squadron.

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). 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. 

On 8 February 1915 the Jackal and Sandfly left the Thames escorting an ammunition ship west down the Channel. The Jackal soon had to leave the convoy and put into Portsmouth because of leaky condensers. She then departed for Harwich on 11 February.

On 15 February 1915 it was decided to move the 1st Destroyer Flotilla from Harwich to Rosyth, where it was to come under the command of the Vice-Admiral commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron. This would allow eight Grand Fleet destroyers currently based at Rosyth to return to Scapa, which would in turn allow seven older River or ‘E’ class destroyers to move from Scapa Flow to the south coast to be used to escort transport ships across the Channel. The first batch of destroyers from the flotilla (Acheron, Ariel, Attack, Badger, Beaver, Jackal, Lapwing and Sandfly, led by the cruiser Fearless) reached Rosyth on 18 February.

On the eve of Jutland the Jackal was with the part of the First Destroyer Flotilla that was with the battlecruiser fleet at Rosyth, but she was in dockyard hands and missed the battle.

The Jackal remained with the First Destroyer Flotilla into October 1916, but the Acheron class ships were then split up, and the Jackal joined the Escort Flotilla at Portsmouth, which was largely made up of older River class boats.

On 17 April 1917 UB-40 sank the hospital ship Lanfranc as she was heading from Havre to Southampton carrying 234 British wounded and 167 Germans. However a this point in the war the Germans had already made it clear that they would be attacking hospital ships in the Channel and the Admiralty had decided to run the Southampton ships as ‘wounded carriers’, painting in naval grey and escorted by warships. The Lanfranc was still marked as a hospital ship, but the Germans had already officially been told that she no longer had that status. Thirty four men were killed in the attack, but the Badger, Jackal, P.37 and the French patrol vessel Roitelet rescued 570 survivors.

Later on the same day the Jackal and Liffey were escorting the Donegal, with another 610 wounded onboard, when she was sunk by UC-21. Once again most of the men onboard were rescued.

From June-August 1917 the Jackal was part of the large 2nd Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport.

In September-October 1917 the Jackal was part of the Northern Division on the Coast of Ireland Station.

Towards the end of the war the surviving members of the Acheron class moved to the Mediterranean. The Jackal had made the move by November 1917 when she was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean.

In January 1918 she was part of the destroyer force in the Mediterranean. When the Goeben and Breslau made their final sortie on 19-20 January she was at Alexandria, under the command of the Senior Naval Officer Egypt.

The Jackal was damaged during an attack by five Austrian destroyers on the Otranto barrage on 22 April 1918. The Austrians caught the Jackal and Hornet isolated at the western end of the barrage and concentrated their fire on the Hornet, which was quite badly damaged. The Jackal was hit twice and her mainmast brought down, but when the Austrians turned back north to avoid being caught by any Allied reinforcements she was still able to give chase. However she was unable to keep up with the Austrians and although more Allied ships soon joined the chase they were unable to catch them. Two men were killed in the battle.

In June, July and August she was recorded as being with the Fifth Flotilla at Brindisi.

In November-December 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Mudros.

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Portsmouth Reserve. She was sold to be broken up in September 1920.

The Jackal was awarded battle honours for Heligoland and Dogger Bank

War Service
August 1914-September 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
November 1916-May 1917: Escort Flotilla, Portsmouth
June-August 1917: 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
September-October 1917: Coast of Ireland, Northern Division
November 1917-June 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean
July-August 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
December 1918: Aegean Squadron

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines
3 Yarrow boilers




246ft oa


25ft 8in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

6 October 1910


9 September 1911


January 1912

Sold for break up

September 1920


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 (5 August 2021), HMS Jackal (1911),

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