HMS Lark (1913)

HMS Lark (1913) was a Laforey class destroyer that served at Harwich in 1914-16, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then briefly at Dover in April 1917, at Portsmouth into 1918 and on the Firth of Forth from February 1918 onwards.

The Lark was laid down at Yarrow on 28 June 1912, launched on 26 May 1913 and commissioned in November 1913. She was originally to have been named Haughty, but became Lark when it was decided to give the entire class names beginning with L.

HMS Lark from the left HMS Lark 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. At the outbreak of war the flotilla was at Harwich. The Lark would be based at Harwich until March 1917, although the flotilla changed number to the Ninth in October 1915.

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. The action was begun by the destroyers Lance and Landrail, soon 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. When the Amphion exploded one of her shells fell onto the Lark, killing three men, all of whom had been rescued - two from Amphion and one from Koningin Luise.

The Lark 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). By 1252 she reported that she’d fired all her torpedoes and only had half a dozen rounds of ammo left, and at 1405 she asked for permission to take on ammo from another destroyer. This was granted and she took 100 rounds from the Leonidas. After the battle she reported firing 350 rounds of ammo and four torpedoes.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, now part of the Harwich Force. She had been equipped with a modified sweep.

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 Aurora 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 16 December she was part of the force that was ordered to put to sea to help counter the raid on the Yorkshire coast, but fouled a buoy on the way out of harbour and was left behind.

1915

The Lark was part of the 4th Division of the Third Flotilla at the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915), but this was mainly a clash between battlecruisers and the destroyers had little to do.

On 1 May 1915 the Germans attacked a group of Royal Navy trawlers off North Hinder. They sank one trawler with a torpedo then became engaged in a gun battle with the other three. However four destroyers from Harwich, Laforey, Leonadis, Lawford and Lark had been sent out to hunt for a submarine that had sunk the destroyer Recruit earlier in the day, and they now came on the scene. The two German torpedo boats A.2 and A.6 attempted to escape but they were sunk by gunfire from the four destroyers.

In June she was on escort duty in the South-west Approaches. On 16 June she met the inbound Amphitrite and escorted her to Portsmouth. On the following day she was ordered back to Harwich and departed on the same day.

In October 1915 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. The Lark remained with the Ninth Flotilla into March 1917.

1916

In January 1916 she was one of eighteen L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich, but was undergoing a refit at Chatham. The flotilla was filled out with the flotilla leader HMS Lightfoot, the light cruiser HMS Undaunted and the depot ship HMS Dido.

On 20 February 1916 the Lightfoot and eight L class destroyers put to sea to screen a group of minesweepers, but the Lark and Llewellyn collided before they had left the exit channel and had to return to port escorted by the Loyal, leaving five destroyers to continue with the mission.

On 22 April eight L class destroyers (Laforey, Lennox, Lark, Lookout, Lance, Laurel, Llewellyn and Lucifer) were sent from Harwich to Sheerness to escort minelayers that were to take part in an upcoming barrage operation along the Flanders coast. A large barrage of mined nets was laid off Zeebrugge on the morning of 24 April.

However British plans were soon to be disrupted, first by the news of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and then by reports that the High Seas Fleet was about to sortie. This was indeed true, and marked the start of the Lowestoft Raid. The British reacted by ordering the Grand Sea to fleet, and deploying the Harwich Force to defend the east coast while the fleet was on its way south. Plans to patrol the newly laid barrage had to be abandoned. Late on 24 April the eight destroyers that had escorted the minelayers were ordered to leave the Nore to join the rest of the Harwich flotilla, but they were given an outdated rendezvous point and as a result when the Germans attacked Lowestoft, the eight were just leaving the Thames. They were then ordered to head north, and did at least force UB-18 to abandon a possible attack on three British light cruisers and dive. However at 8.50am they were ordered to return to base, after playing a very limited role in the day’s actions.

At the start of May 1916 the Grand Fleet carried out a combined mining and air raid operation over the German coast. The only contribution made by the Harwich Force came from the Lark and Lucifer, which were sent north to the Humber to escort the minelayer Princess Margaret. They sailed at 8.30am on 3 May and the Princess Margaret laid a minefield north of Borkum having left her escort behind then returned to the Humber safely.

On the night of 26-27 October 1916 a force of German destroyers carried out a raid into the Channel. The Lance, Lawford, Lochinvar and Lark were off Deal at the time of the attack. During the raid the Germans badly damaged the destroyer Nubian, but her stern remained afloat. The Lark attempted to tow the remains to safety, but without success and the Nubian was forced ashore. She was later salvaged, and attached to the bow of the Zulu to form a new destroyer, the Zubian.

On 3 September a submarine was detected operating between Beachy Head and Cap d’Antifer. Lark and Laurel were ordered to hunt for her, but with orders to reach Portsmouth by 4pm on the following day, ready for their next duty. Neither ship spotted anything during their brief hunt.

On 5 September 1916 the Lark and Laurel came from Harwich to escort the Princess Victoria from Cherbourg to Portsmouth with a cargo of part of a shipment of £40 million work of gold, being shipped from France to the United States. Once that duty was over they were ordered to join the Newhaven destroyers in another hunt for submarines.

1917

In January 1917 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla, along with the Lightfoot and Undaunted.

On 25 February 1917 the Germans carried out a raid on the Downs. The raid didn’t achieve anything, but the British were also unable to respond to it effectively, as by the time the Germans had been detected they were already about to return home. Several of the L class destroyers were part of the ‘stand-by’ force at Dover (Laertes, Lawford, Lark, Llewellyn, Laforey, Lucifer and Liberty, along with the Lapwing, Broke and Faulknor), but although they put to see at 11.20pm this was ten minutes after the Germans had begin to withdraw.

On the night of 17-18 March 1917 the Germans attacked the destroyers on the Dover Barrage, sinking the Paragon and damaging the Llewellyn. The Lark wasn’t involved in the main part of the clash, but was sent out to reinforce the surviving destroyers once it was clear that the damage had been done by German destroyers rather than submarines or mines. By the time she arrived the German attackers were well on their way home.

On 23 March the Lark, Melpomene, Laertes and Laforey were returning to port after escorting transports from Folkestone to Dieppe when the Laforey hit a mine. She sank very quickly, with the loss of 57 men including her commanding officer. The Lark and Laertes lowered boats and rafts and saved 4 officers and 14 men.

In April 1917 the Lark was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

From May 1917 to January 1918 the Lark was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth.

On 27 May 1917 the Lark spotted a submarine and dropped four depth charges during a hunt that lasted over two hours, although without success.

In June 1917 she was one of six L class destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, making up just under half of the flotilla.

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. The Lark was undergoing repairs.

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

From March to December 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the Methil Convoy Flotilla, based on the east coast of Scotland, to the north-east of Edinburgh at the entrance to the Firth of Forth. One of her main duties here was to escort the Scandinavian convoys across the North Sea, running a risk of attack by German surface vessels.

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

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

The Lark was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914) and Dogger Bank (25 January 1915)

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 1917: 6th Flotilla, Dover
May 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

28 June 1912

Launched

26 May 1913

Completed

November 1913

Sold

January 1923

 

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 (14 July 2022), HMS Lark (1913) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Lark_1913.html

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