HMS Landrail (1914)

HMS Landrail (1914) was a Laforey class destroyer that was based at Harwich from 1914-March 1917, fighting at Heligoland, Dogger Bank and Jutland, then at Dover in 1917, Portsmouth in 1917-January 1918 and in the Firth of Forth from March-December 1918.

The Landrail was laid down at Yarrow on 24 July 1912, launched on 7 February 1914 and commissioned in June 1914. She was originally to have been named Hotspur, but became Landrail when it was decided to give the entire class names beginning with L.

HMS Landrail from the left HMS Landrail from the left

In July 1914 she was one of thirteen Laforey or L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, part of the First Fleet of the Home Fleet, the formation that contained the most modern battleships.

In August 1914 she was one of sixteen L class destroyers in the Third Flotilla, now part of what was about to become the Grand Fleet. She would be based at Harwich until March 1917, although would spend some of this time on escort duties from ports in the south-west.

On 4 August 1914 she took part in the first British naval action of the war, the sinking of the German mine layer Konigin Luise. She and the Lance were the first destroyers to give chase, later joined by the Lark and Linnet. However on the following day the light cruiser HMS Amphion was sunk by one of the mines laid by the Konigin Luise before she was caught.

The Landrail fought at the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), where she was part of the 2nd Division of the Third Flotilla (Lark, Lance, Linnet, Landrail). She was caught up in the battle between the cruisers Arethusa and Frauenlob, drawing some German fire early in the engagement. She also fired a torpedo at the Mainz, and was one of four destroyers to claim at least one torpedo hit, although it appears that only one actually hit in total.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla.

Early on 2 November 1914 Aurora, Lark, Lawford and Laverock left Harwich to search for U-boats in the Broad Fourteens. The Landrail was meant to have been with them but had been unable to leave port on time. She joined the division during the afternoon after Lawford suffered from leaky condensers and had to return to base. Early on 3 November the three destroyers were detached to search for submarines, with orders to rejoin the Aurura at 8am. The plan was for them to stay at sea all day, then for the three destroyers to protect a group of minelayers as they worked on the night of 3-4 November. However this plan had to be abandoned, as on 3 November the Germans raided Yarmouth. The Aurora and her destroyers took part in the attempt to catch the Germans as they withdrew, but missed a key order and ended up five hours behind them.

On 26 November Miranda, Lance, Lennox, Landrail, Leonidas, Linnet, Louis and Laforey were ordered from Harwich to Dover, to carry out anti-submarine patrols to the west of the area covered by the Dover Patrol. This was in response to the cruise of U-21, which was then operating in the Channel and had sunk several ships near the French coast. On 27 November the British destroyers swept the area from Dover to the Needles. That night U-21 passed Dover heading east, evading an attack by three French destroyers. On 28 November the British destroyers were ordered to repeat their patrol to the Needles, but there was no longer anything to find.

1915

The Landrail was part of the 1st Division of the Third Flotilla at the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915), but the bulk of the action involved the British battlecruisers chasing their German opponents, so the destroyers had little to do.

On 30 January U.21 sank a series of ships close to Liverpool. In response the Admiralty ordered the Commodore (T) to send a light cruiser and twelve destroyers to the Irish Channel to deal with the new threat, and he chose to send the Undaunted (Capitan F.G.St. John) and eight (soon increased to twelve) L class destroyers (Laforey, Liberty, Landrail, Lysander, Lawford, Lydiard, Lucifer, Lookout, Loyal, Laurel, Laertes and Llewellyn). This force left Harwich at 10.50pm on 30 January, and by the morning of 31 January reached Milford Haven. At about the same time U.21 had clashed with the armed yacht Vanduara and been forced to submerge. Captain St John sent four of his destroyers to the position reported by the Vanduara, but the report didn’t reach him for an hour, and the yacht had reported her position incorrectly, so they found nothing. The Captain then set up a patrol scheme for his four divisions of destroyers (the 12 L class and four from Scapa Flow). On each day one division would rest at Milford, one would patrol Liverpool Bay, one would sweep from Liverpool to Milford and the last from Milford to Liverpool. This routine was carried out into February, and the flotilla reported that up to nine submarines were active in the Irish Sea. However there had only ever been one, U.21, and she returned home after the clash with the Vanduara, so there were none to find.

Captain St. John’s force was still partly based at Milford Haven when the Canadian Division was transported to France from Avonmouth, and he was given the task of escorting it on the first stage of the trip. The Laetes led a division of destroyers in a sweep of the Bristol Channel on 7 February to cover a planned sailing on the night of 7-8 February, but that was cancelled. On 8 February her division swept both sides of the Bristol Channel and reported three submarines (once again none were operating in the area). The first batch of transport ships sailed that night, and an escort of eight destroyers was assigned to them, but the weather was so poor that the two groups of ships never managed to find each other, and the troop transports safely made their way to France without any escort. Three more transports sailed on 9-10 February, this time with an escort. On the night of 10-11 February a batch of five ships sailed, escorted by the Laertes division, and a final batch of six on 12-13 February, this time escorted by the Laertes and Laforey divisions, a total of eight destroyers. Once they were past the danger zone the destroyers left the troop transports to head for Portsmouth, at the start of the trip back to Harwich. 

The Landrail went in a different direction, heading to Glasgow for a refit.

On 23 March the Landrail sailed with a force that was planning to support an air raid on a German wireless station at Norddeich (Operation T.W.). However on 24 March the force ran into a fogbank at the position where they were planning to launch the aircraft and the attack had to be abandoned. During a turn the Undaunted collided with the Landrail, badly damaging her bows. The Landrail had to be towed home for repairs, and the planned air raid was abandoned for the moment. The Naval Staff Mongraph makes it clear that this raid and the collision occurred on 24 March, although some sources date it to 24 April, and others even include both dates. However the next attempts to carry out the raid didn’t come until May, and it was then abandoned.

On 1 June 1915 the Landrail was part of a force that was guarding paddle steamers which were sweeping a German minefield on Dogger Bank. On 2 June this force was spotted by a Zeppelin, which was itself protecting a force of German minesweepers working north of Heligoland. The Zeppelin was driven off, but reported the sighting. However she got the position wrong, so all but one of the German aircraft sent out failed to find the British. One did find them, and in response the Admiralty ordered the Harwich Force to move west. On 3 June the paddle sweepers had to return to port as they were running short of coal, and at 6pm the Harwich Force left the area. 

In late July 1915 at least part of the flotilla (Leonidas, Legion, Laurel,  Landrail and Liberty) was sent to Devonport to take over the task of escorting transports on the first stage of their voyage to the Dardanelles.

At the start of August 1915 the Leonidas, Legion, Laurel, Fury, Landrail and Liberty were sent to join the Laverock and Louis at Queenstown, to serve under Admiral Bayly while he hunted for two U-boats that were known to be heading past the Fastnet rock on their way to the Mediterranean. This gave Bayly eight destroyers. Four were used to patrol an area west of Fastnet, patrolling in line abreast supported by the cruiser Adventure, the other four and the cruiser Tipperary operated in a series of individual boxes to the south-west of Fastnet. The first group were in place by 6pm on 8 August and the second by midnight. They remained in place until 1pm on 9 August then returned to port, without sighting either U-boat. In fact the intelligence had been good but the timing poor, as U-35 passed through the exact same area on 10 August on her way south, and two more passed through the area just after the destroyers had returned to port.

1916

In January 1916 she was one of eighteen L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich, but was one of a number of ships from the flotilla that were on escort duty at Devonport. The flotilla was filled out with the flotilla leader HMS Lightfoot, the light cruiser HMS Undaunted and the depot ship HMS Dido.

When the Germans raided Lowestoft in April 1916 the Landrail was in the middle of a refit.

Jutland

On the eve of Jutland the Landrail was one of four destroyers from the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla that were with the battlecruiser fleet at Rosyth. She sailed with the fleet on 30 May.

The combined flotilla was made up of two Talisman class destroyers, two M class destroyers and four Laforey class destroyers.

The flotilla was part of Admiral Beatty’s battle cruiser fleet. That fleet put to sea late on 30 May, and moved towards a rendezvous position about seventy miles to the south of the main Grand Fleet.

During the advance east across the North Sea the destroyers were used to guard the flanks of the battle cruiser fleet, while the light cruisers advanced ahead of the fleet. At 2.25pm on 31 May, just after the first contact between Beatty’s cruisers and the German cruisers, the destroyers were ordered to form an anti-submarine screen heading S.S.E. He then followed with his capital ships, in the hope of cutting off the retreat of the German cruisers that had been spotted. The German battlecruisers turned south, and retreated towards the main High Seas Fleet.

During the battlecruiser action, the four Laforey class destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla attempted to get into position to attack the Germans, but in doing so ended up getting between the Princess Royal and Tiger and their targets. In an attempt to reach maximum speed they produced a great deal of smoke and obscured the view from the battle cruisers, but their commander decided to stay where it was in the vague hope of launching a torpedo attack.

At about 4pm Beatty ordered the Thirteenth Flotilla to launch an attack on the German battlecruisers. Turbulent, Termagant, Morris and Moorsom all joined this attack. German destroyers came out at the same time, originally with the aim of attacking the fast battleships of the British Fifth Battle Squadron. The result was a rather confused melee, in which the German destroyers V-27 and V-29 were sunk, but so were the Nomad and Nestor. This destroyer battle ended at 4.43 when Admiral Beatty recalled the destroyers after the German battleships of the High Seas Fleet were sited to the south. Beatty was forced to turn north and begin his own retreat back towards Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet.

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 key moment of the night actions came at around 11.30, when the High Seas Fleet finally attempted to pass behind the Grand Fleet and ran into the British destroyers. The Germans would make contact with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which was towards the right of the British line. There was then a seven mile gap to the 13th Flotilla, with the 9th and 10th Flotilla close by, and the 12th Flotilla to their rear.

In a series of clashes the Germans inflicted heavy damage on the 4th Flotilla, but instead of rushing to their aid, the 13th Flotilla, which was next in line, believed they were the target of the gunfire, and that there were friendly ships between them and the Germans preventing a torpedo attack. The flotilla leader Captain Farie ordered the flotilla to turn away to the east to get out of range, but he failed to signal the move, so only two of the flotilla followed him. His move also forced the 9th and 10th Flotillas and the 12th Flotilla to turn to port to get out of the way. As a result the British destroyers were no longer in the correct place when the High Seas Fleet passed behind the Grand Fleet. As a result the Germans were able to move past almost without being detected and the one clash that did occur was with two cruisers so didn’t cause any alarm. 

By the time this confusion ended the remaining seven boats from the 9th and 10th Flotillas had been joined by one ship from the 4th and five from the 13th. This force of twelve destroyers was led south-west in an attempt to find the German van, but most of his force passed in front of the Germans without spotting them. Two boats from the 13th, the Pelican and Petard did spot the Germans, but the Petard had fired all of her torpedoes, so was unable to take advantage, while the Pelican was out of position for an attack.

After Jutland

On 5 August 1916 Laertes, Lydiard, Landrail and Lochinvar left Harwich to search for a U-boat that had been spotted passing Dover a few days early, before sinking nine ships between Cherbourg and Portland. They didn’t find the U-boat, but there was a gap in sinkings until 9 August.

On 29 September the Landrail supported an aerial reconnaissance mission that was carried out as part of the preparation for a possible attack by coastal motor boats in the Schillig Roads. However the weather was poor, and the seaplane was recalled. She had to land near the Landrail to refuel, but the destroyer collided with her and destroyed her port wing. The seaplane could no longer fly, so an attempt was made to tow her to safety. However the line parted four times, and at about midnight the aircraft sank.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, along with the Lightfoot and Undaunted. This was the old Third Flotilla, but with a new number. She would remain at Harwich with this flotilla into March 1917.

On 13 December 1916 the Landrail attacked a U-boat off the Goodwin Sands. This is often said to have been UB-29¸ but that boat has been found off the coast of Belgium. It is still possible that she survived the initial class with the Landrail, but was badly damaged and was lost before she could reach safety.

1917

On 25 February 1917 the Lance, Landrail, Lochinvar, Laverock and Laurel were patrolling around the buoys on the Dover Barrage when the Germans raided into the Dover Straits. The Lochinvar clashed with one German destroyer from a force that was hoping to bombard Dover, and with any chance of surprise gone this part of the German force retired.

In April-May 1917 the Landrail was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

In May 1917 the Landrail was part of the force that took part in an operation to bombard Zeebrugge using monitors. After several delays the operation took place on 12 May, but it had little impact on the operations of the port.
 
From June 1917 to January 1918 the Landrail was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth. In June 1917 she was one of six L class destroyers in the flotilla, which make up just under half of its strength.

On 7 July 1917 the Landrail was one of four destroyers that were escorting five ships from Convoy HH4 (from Hampton Roads) up the Channel. As they were passing Beachy Head a torpedo passed in front of the Landrail and hit HMS Ettrick, which was cut in half. The bows sank quickly, but the rear part of the ship stayed afloat and was towed into Portsmouth.

1918

In January 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth. They were now the only destroyers in the flotilla, which also included the former submarine HMS Swordfish, now converted into a patrol vessel.

In February 1918 she was based in the Firth of Forth.

From March to December 1918 she was part of the Methil Convoy Flotilla, based at the north-eastern end of the Firth of Forth. This flotilla was used to escort the Scandinavian convoys heading across the North Sea, which were sometimes a target for German attack.

During the last sortie of the High Seas Fleet in April 1918 the Landrail was on escort duty, protecting the Scandinavian convoys that the Germans were planning to attack. On 24 April, when the British began to realise something was happening, she and the Ursula were about to sail with the outward bound convoy from the Firth of Forth. However the Germans were delayed by problems with the Moltke, which eventually had to be towed home, and the operation was cancelled.

In June 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the Methil Convoy Flotilla.

In November 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the Methil Convoy Flotilla.

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Portsmouth reserve.

The Landrail was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914), Dogger Bank (25 January 1915) and Jutland (31 May 1916).

War Service
July 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
April-May 1917: 6th Flotilla, Dover
June 1917-January 1918: 1st Flotilla, Portsmouth
February 1918: Firth of Forth
March-December 1918: Methil Convoy Flotilla

Displacement (standard)

965t-1010t

Displacement (loaded)

1150t-1300t

Top Speed

29 knots

Engine

2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines
3 Yarrow boilers (Yarrow boats)

Range

 

Length

268ft 10in oa

Width

27ft 8in

Armaments

Three 4in/ 45 cal QF Mk IV guns
1 0.303in Maxim Machine Gun
Four 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

73

Laid down

24 July 1912

Launched

7 February 1914

Completed

June 1914

Sold for break up

December 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 (pending), HMS Landrail (1914) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Landrail_1914.html

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