HMS Legion (1914)

HMS Legion (1914) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the 3rd then 9th Flotilla at Harwich, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then became a minelayer in 1917, serving at the Nore, Dover and Immingham over the remaining months of the war.

The Legion was laid down at Denny on 19 September 1912 and commissioned in July 1914. She was originally going to be called Viola, but became Legion when the entire class got L names.

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. She was based at Harwich until March 1917.

HMS Legion from the right HMS Legion from the right

On 8 August the Legion was one of a number of destroyers posted between the Galloper and the West Hinder in the entrance to the English Channel, to watch for any attempt by the German High Sea Fleet to interfere with the crossing of the first BEF to France. In the event no such attempt was made.

The Legion fought at the battle of Heligoland (28 August 1914) where she was part of the 1st Division of the Third Flotilla (Lookout, Leonidas, Legion and Lennox). During the battle she fired 70 shells and two torpedoes, one against the Strassburg and one against the Mainz.

The Legion took part in a clash with German torpedo boats off the island of Texel on 17 October 1914, when she was serving with the Harwich Force. A force consisting of the light cruiser HMS Undaunted and the destroyers Loyal, Legion, Lance and Lennox spotted the torpedo boats while patrolling in the area and gave chase. By the end of the action all four torpedo boats had been sunk. The Legion fired 254 shells during the action. During the action the Legion had two men wounded.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, now part of the Harwich Force.

On the night of 2-3 November 1914 the Laurel, Legion, Lennox and Lysander, led by the Undaunted, were at sea after a patrol off Terschelling, and passed just behind the German raiding force heading for Yarmouth, but were too far off to detect the Germans. However once the Germans were detected the Undaunted and her destroyers were ordered to intercept, and at about 9.05am they spotted Admiral Hipper’s light cruisers. The British turned north to escape from the more powerful force, and was then ordered to try and follow the Germans. However by this point the two forces had lost touch with each other, although they were both heading east on parallel courses. By noon the Undaunted’s division was the only British force anywhere near the Germans, and were only fifteen miles to their north-west, but once again they failed to come into contact, and at 12.37 the British turned back. 


The Legion 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.

In February 1915 a U-boat (U-30) was operating in the Irish Sea, threatening the approaches to Liverpool. The Lance, Legion, Lennox and Loyal were dispatched from Harwich on 20 February, under the command of the captain of the Lance. Their base was to be Pembroke while they were hunting submarines. On 21 February two transports carrying horses from America to Liverpool put into Queenstown, Ireland, to await escort. Legion and Loyal were sent and safely escorted the two transports into Liverpool. By this point U-30 was operating in the northern part of the sea, and on 22 February she set began her voyage home, heading north around Scotland.

On 5-6 March the Legion and Loyal escorted the Megantic on the final stage of her voyage across the Atlantic, taking her from Queenstown to Liverpool.

On the night of 16-17 March 1915  the Laverock, Lawford, Legion, Lennox, Loyal, Louis and Lydiard were all needed to escort four transports carrying the first contingent of men from the 29th Division as they departed for the Mediterranean. On 17-18 March the same seven ships and the Lookout escorted the second batch of four transports. Two more transports sailed on 18-19 March. The following night was a day of rest, before on 20-21 March the Laverock escorted the Tintoretto, Legion and Lennox escorted the Arcadian, Lydiard and Lawford escorted the Manitou and Lookout and Louis escorted the Campanello. On 21-22 March seven escorts were needed. On 22-23 March only one troop ship sailed, escorted by Lydiard and Lawford. On 23-24 March the final two troop transports left. On the same day the newly refitted Cornwall departed for Sierra Leone, escorted on the first stage of the voyage by Lydiard and Lawford. With the move of the 29th Division completed, four of the L class destroyers were recalled to Harwich, but four were left to prepare to escort the 2nd Mounted Division as it moved to the Mediterranean.

In early May 1915 the Lawford, Legion, Linnet and Lucifer were ordered from Harwich to Devonport to help escort two artillery brigades and reinforcements on the first stage of the voyage to the Mediterranean.

In late July 1915 at least part of the Third 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.

On 23 August 1915 twelve of the Harwich destroyers (Laurel, Lydiard, Legion, Linnet, Lookout, Morris, Murray, Moorsom, Milne, Melpone, Minos and Manly) were attached to the Dover Patrol for a bombardment of Zeebrugge by a force of monitors. At the time it was believed that this operation had destroyed the first lock on the canal to Bruges and destroyed two U-boats, but in fact it did little damage.

On 11 September 1915 Loyal, Legion, Lysander, Lucifer and Linnet were used to support a minelaying operation on Amrum Bank. They were the only members of the flotilla available at Harwich, as the rest were all at Devonport on escort duty.

In October 1915 the Third Flotilla became the Ninth Flotilla, but it kept the same ships and remained at Harwich. The Legion was based at Harwich into March 1917.

On 31 October 1915 the Legion remained on call at Harwich while Commodore Tyrwhitt took most of his destroyers on a sweep across the Heligoland Bight.


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.

Early on 24 April two divisions of destroyers (Loyal, Laertes, Linnet, Lochinvar, Legion, Lassoo, Miranda and Lysander) led by the cruiser Nimrod left Harwich in response to the German raid on Lowestoft. They moved north along the coast and joined Commodore Tyrwhitt at about 3.20. Half an hour later the German raiding force came into view, with at least four battlecruisers and six light cruisers. Tyrwhitt’s response was to head south at full speed in an attempt to draw the Germans into a chase. They ignored him, and instead soon opened fire on Lowestoft. Tyrwhitt turned back north to keep in touch with the Germans, although his force of three light cruisers and eighteen destroyers wasn’t powerful enough to risk an attack on the Germans. The German light cruisers then moved south and came into range, but withdrew after the British opened fire. The German battlecruisers responded by ending their bombardment and heading south to support their light cruisers. At 4.37am the light cruisers briefly opened fire at very long range. The British returned fire, but at 4.45 the German battlecruisers reached the scene and opened fire. The light cruiser Conquest was hit and damaged, and the Laertes was hit by fragments from a near miss. The destroyers were ordered to head south away from the action then scatter and make smoke. At this point the Germans had a real chance to destroy the Harwich Force, but their battlecruisers turned away after ten minutes and retired to the east. The light cruisers attempted to follow them, but this effectively ended the destroyer’s part in the fighting. 

In October 1916 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, along with the Lightfoot and Undaunted.

On 27 October Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to send a flotilla leader and four destroyers to Dover. The Lightfoot, Legion, Loyal and Lysander moved on 28 October and the Leonidas on 29 October.

On 10 November 1916 the Legion struck a German mine that had been laid along the patrol route by the Dover barrage. This disabled her engines and did a significant amount of damage aft, although only one man was killed. She had to be towed back into Dover by the Leonidas and Lightfoot.


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

Early in 1917 the Legion was converted into a minelayer. She was able to carry thirty-eight mines. The work was completed on 16 May 1917.

From April-June 1917 the Legion was part of the Fourth Flotilla at Devonport.

In June 1917 she was serving as a minelayer in the Nore command, although she started the month at Portsmouth.

From July-December 1917 the Legion was a 7th Flotilla Minelayer.

On 14 July 1917 the Legion was taking part in a minelaying mission off the Belgian coast, carrying 40 mines. Just after the mines had been laid the Tarpon hit a German mine and had to be towed back to Dunkirk.


In January 1918 she was serving as a minelayer at Dover and in February she was listed with the 7th Flotilla. However the plan was to form a special minelaying squadron in the Humber, based around the Abdiel, Legion, Ferret, Ariel and three V-class destroyers, and by March the Legion was part of the 20th Flotilla, based at Immingham on the south bank of the Humber.

In June 1918 she was one of eleven destroyer-minelayers in the Twentieth Destroyer Flotilla at Immingham.

In November 1918 she was one of eleven destroyer-minelayers in the Twentieth Destroyer Flotilla at Immingham.

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

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

War Service
August 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
April 1917-July 1917: 4th Flotilla, Devonport
June 1917: Minelayers, Nore
July-December 1917: 7th Flotilla Minelayer (Nore?)
January 1918: Minelayer, Dover
February 1918: 7th Flotilla Minelayer (Nore?)
March-December 1918: 20th Flotilla, Immingham

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29 knots


2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 Yarrow boilers




268ft 10in oa


27ft 8in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

19 September 1912


3 February 1914


July 1914

Sold for break up

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 (24 August 2022), HMS Legion (1914) ,

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