HMS Lizard (1911)

HMS Lizard (1911) was an Acheron class destroyer that fought at Heligoland Bight and Jutland, then served at Devonport and on the Coast of Ireland Station, before ending the war in the Mediterranean.

The Lizard was laid down at Laird on 23 February 1911, launched on 10 October 1911 and commissioned in June 1912.

In July 1914 the Goshawk and the Lizard was used to test out a modified sweep, an anti-submarine weapon that involved towing a long wire that was kept underwater by kites. The wire had a series of explosive charges along its length, and if any collision with a submerged object was detected they could be set off from the boat. The trials were considered to have been a success, and the destroyers were able to operate the sweep at speeds between six and twenty knots. 

HMS Lizard from the left HMS Lizard from the left

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 was allocated to the Harwich Force, a ‘swing’ force that could operate with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea, and take part in the struggle against German U-boats and surface raiders in the Channel and Western Approaches.

On 18 August 1914 the Lapwing, Lizard, Phoenix and Goshawk, making up the 5th Division of the 1st Flotilla, were patrolling on the Broad Fourteens. The Germans sent out a raiding force to attack this patrol, and at some point just after 5.40am the German light cruiser Stralsund found the division and opened fire. The Lizard was the first of the destroyers to spot the Stralsund, and reported sighting a member of the Karlsruhe class (similar to the Stralsund).

At about 6.10am the Fearless and the first reinforcements from the rest of the flotilla found the fight and called for more reinforcements. Captain Blunt in the Fearless believed the Stralsund to be the armoured cruiser Yorck, so ordered his forces to retreat south-west. Given that the Stralsund and Yorkwere rather similar visually, with four funnels between similar looking fore and aft superstructures, and the light cruiser was actually slightly longer, this wasn’t a difficult mistake to make, especially as Blunt could only see her masts and funnels.

At about 7am the Stralsund broke oft the action and turned north. The British flotilla came together, and her commanders came to the conclusion their foe had been the light cruiser Rostock (a very similar looking light cruiser). Blunt ordered his flotilla to turn back to the north to try and catch the German, but by this point she had escaped.

She was part of Division 5 of the First Flotilla during the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914).

At the start of the battle the Lizard’s flotilla, lead by the cruiser Fearless, were second in the British line, behind Commodore Tyrwhitt in the Arethusa (leading the Third Destroyer Flotilla). The fighting began when Tyrwhitt detached some of his destroyers to chase down a German destroyer, before joining in the chase with the rest of his flotilla. However the Germans were aware of the British plan, and had set a trap of their own. Tyrwhitt soon found himself under attack by two German cruisers, Stettin and Frauenlob. The Fearless and her flotilla reached the scene just after 8am, and the Stettin began to withdraw to the east.Fearless and the First Flotilla gave chase, but soon afterwards the German guns on Heligoland began to fire, and Tyrwhitt gave the order to begin the second part of the British plan, a sweep to the west. The Fearless and her destroyers received the order at 8.12am, and turned west, leaving the Stettin alone.

At 8.15 the flotilla sighted the German destroyer V-187. Fearless opened fire, and Lizard and the rest of Division 5 was ordered to give chase. However a few minutes later the order was cancelled in the mistaken belief that V-187 was actually the Acasta class destroyer Lurcher , which was in the area working with her submarine flotilla. At 8.25 V-187 was sighted again and Division 5 moved to attack. V-187 attempted to escape to the south, only to run into the cruisers Nottingham and Lowestoft. She attempted to turn east, but found her route blocked Division 3. V-187 then attempted to escape by turning north to run through the 5th Division, but was caught and knocked out of action. At 8.50 Divisions 3 and 5 were left to finish her off, while the Fearless rejoined the rest of the flotilla, still moving west. In the belief that the battle was over the British destroyers lowered their boats to begin a rescue attempt, but the Germans had not yet surrendered, and in the belief that they were about to be boards opened fire with one remaining gun. The British opened fire again, and V-187 sank at 9.10. The rescue attempt was then resumed, but the German cruiser Stettinthen appeared and opened fire. 

At about 11am, early in the third phase of the battle, the damaged cruiser Arethusa became involved in a battle with the German cruiser Stralsund. The Fearless and the entire First Flotilla were ordered to launch a torpedo attack on the German cruiser, which withdrew in the face of such a large attack. The Arethusa, Fearless and their destroyers then turned back west. However a few minutes later the German cruiser Stettin appeared from the east, and another fight began, this time between the Stettin and the two British cruisers. At 11.20 the Acheron received an order to lead the 1st division in a torpedo attack on the German cruiser and turned back to head towards the last known location of this fight.

At about the same time the rest of the flotilla sighted another German cruiser, the Mainz, which appeared to their south-west, heading north across their course on her way to help the Stralsund. The 2nd Division turned north to try and engage her. The 3rd and 5th Divisions (Goshawk, Lizard, Lapwing and Phoenix) followed her, and a long range gun battle followed. However after twenty minutes the Mainz turned though 180 degrees and began to run to the south, after sighting Commodore Goodenough’s four light cruisers coming from the north. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions turned west to join up with the light cruisers, while the 5th Division turned south to try and keep up with the Mainz. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions then joined up with Admiral Beatty’s battlecruisers, which were about to enter the battle.

On 20 October the Lapwing found a lifebuoy from U-8 in the middle of the Dover Straits. The U-boat was operating in the area at the time and must had accidently lost one of its lifebuoys, as it wasn’t attacked at the time.

On 21-22 October the Lapwing was part of a naval force that bombarded German positions at Lombartzyde on the Belgian coast. This helped prevent the Germans crossing the Yser River near the coast.

The Lizard took part in an attempted seaplane attack on the German airship sheds at Cuxhaven on 25 October 1914. She was one of ten destroyers (Faulknor, Acheron, Archer, Ariel, Badger, Beaver, Hind, Hydra, Lapwing and Lizard) that were used to carry out a diversion off the Ems, which flows into the North Sea close to the German-Dutch border. The destroyer force was ignored by the Germans, and the entire raid ended in failure as the seaplanes were unable to reach their targets.

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.

Early on 1 January 1915 the battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed and sunk by U-24 while returning to port from gunnery exercises. The Lizard was one of ten destroyers 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. Poor weather forced them into harbour on 1 January, but they soon resumed the patrol. 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 Lizard’s division returned to Harwich on 6 January.

Destroyers were often in great demand. On 26 February 1915 Hydra and Lizard arrived at Portsmouth escorting the ammunition ship Race Fisher. Admiral Meux, at Portsmouth, was briefly given permission to detain them for use as escorts for the cross channel troop ships, but they were then immediately ordered to escort their convoy on to Devonport. At Devonport they were ordered to escort a ship carrying the Mediterranean Armoured Car Squadron until it was 100 miles out to sea, then to go to Liverpool, from where they were to escort an auxiliary warship to Rosyth, which was now the flotilla’s base.

On the eve of Jutland the Lizard was with the part of the First Destroyer Flotilla that 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. This chase lasted until around 4.30, when the British spotted the German battleships of the High Seas Fleet, and Beatty was forced to abandon his attack and turn north to run towards the battleships of 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 Lizard was still with the battlecruisers, away from the main fleet and saw little action in the night.

In October 1916 she was one of eleven destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.

Until June 1916 the entire class had been part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. In June the class was split, with some remaining with the flotilla and others joining the 3rd Battle Squadron, which had been moved south to the Thames. This arrangement lasted until November, when the ships that were still with the 1st Flotilla were split – two went to Dover, two to Portsmouth and the rest, including the Lizard to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport. She remained with the 2nd Flotilla into August 1917.

In late March 1917 Ariel, Goshawk, Archer, Acheron and Lizard were used to escort the battleships of the London or Prince of Wales class to Portsmouth and Dover.

On 7 July the Lizard was escorting the S.S. Condesa on the last stage of a voyage from Montevideo to Falmouth carrying frozen meat. The Condesa was torpedoed by U-84. The Lizard dropped her depth charges but the U-boat got away. The Condesa stayed afloat for some time, but sank on the following day.

In September 1917 the Lizard was part of the Northern Division on the Coast of Ireland station, but she was only recorded there for about a month.  

On 2 October the cruiser Drake was hit by a torpedo after dispersing a convoy just to the north of Ireland. The Lizard was in the area at the time, and was used to divert shipping away from the probably danger zone.

By the end of October the Lizard had moved to the Mediterranean and was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla. 

On 19-20 January 1918, when the Goeben and Breslau made their last sortie, she was part of the 2nd Detached Squadron, Dardanelles, and was out on patrol with the Tigress. Her commanding officer was one of the first to spot the Breslau as she approached Kusu Bay. The Breslauthen opened fire on the Lizard and forced to her withdraw to the north. The Germans then opened fire on the monitors Raglan and M.28, sinking both. The Lizard turned back south to offer assistance to the sinking ships.

The Tigress then arrived on the scene and the two destroyers followed the Germans as they attempted to withdraw from Kusu Bay ready to attack Mudros. However the Germans then ran into a minefield. The Breslau struck first, and the Goeben hit another mine while coming in to try and tow the Breslauto safety. The Breslauthen detonated more mines, while the Goeben retreated back into the Straits. The Tigress and Lizard followed, and became engaged in a brief gun battle with a group of destroyers that had been left behind earlier by the Germans, and were now coming out to try and help the Breslau. The enemy destroyers were soon driven off, but the British had to abandon the chase after coming under fire from the Turkish shore guns. They then picked up 14 officers and 148 men from the Breslau.

In June 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.

In November 1919 was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve. She was sold to be broken up in November 1921.

The Lizard was awarded battle honours for Heligoland, the Belgian Coast in 1914 and and Jutland

War Service
August 1914-September 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
November 1916-August 1917: 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
September 1917: Coast of Ireland, Northern Division
October 1917-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

23 February 1911

Launched

10 October 1911

Completed

June 1912

Sold

November 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 (2 September 2021), HMS Lizard (1911) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Lizard_1911.html

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