HMS Lurcher (1912)

HMS Lurcher (1912)was part of the Firedrake group of Yarrow specials in the Acheron class of destroyers, and spent the First World War operating with the submarine forces working in the North Sea, first with the Eighth and then Ninth Submarine Flotilla.

The Lurcher was laid down at Yarrow on 1 July 1911, launched on 1 June 1912 and commissioned in October 1912.

In January 1914 she was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla of the First Fleet, which was mainly made up of a mix of the Acasta class destroyers and Tribal class destroyers.

In July 1914 she was in active commission at Portsmouth, where she was a tender to HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy’s Torpedo Branch.

In August 1914 she was officially part of the large Sixth Destroyer which was based at Dover, but she was one of two destroyers from the flotilla that were at Harwich, where she was working with the submarines of the Eighth Submarine Flotilla. This was the ‘overseas’ flotilla, and during the war they would operate much further from base than before and spend much longer at sea than expected. Early in the war the Lurcher was often used by Commodore Roger Keyes, the commander of the Flotilla, to bring him closer to the action.

HMS Lurcher from the left HMS Lurcher from the left

At the start of August, when the first ships carrying the BEF were ready to cross the channel to France, Commodore Keyes on the Lurcher was in command of a line of twelve submarines guarding a line that ran from the North Goodwins, through the Sandettie light-vessel to Ruytingen. They were the first line of naval defence for the Dover Straits, and were posted just to the east of the main destroyer force, a mix of the French Boulogne Flotilla and the British 6th Flotilla. The transports crossed the Channel without any problems.

During the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914) the Lurcher was attached to the Harwich submarine flotilla and had Commodore Roger Keyes onboard. After the first part of the battle was over, the Lurcher reported that she was being chased by five light cruisers, and Commodore Tyrwhitt, commander of the Harwich force, had to turn back to try and save her. When Tyrwhitt’s forces reached the area there was no sign of the Lurcher, but luckily the cruisers were actually the British 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, which Keyes was unaware was in the area.

Later in the battle the Lurcher was able to save some of the survivors of the German cruiser Mainz, actually going alongside the sinking cruiser and rescuing all but two of the men on her decks. The Lurcher picked up 224 of the survivors.

The Lurcher narrowly avoiding being hit by the Mainz’s propellers when she did finally sink. The two officers who had refused to leave their ship were later rescued by the Liverpool

On 10 September the Firedrake and Lurcher and her submarines were sent into the Heligoland Bight to cooperate with another sweep into the area by the fleet. On this occasion the submarines had several encounters with German ships and submarines, but without any success.

On 6 October 1914 the Lurcher took part in the brief British occupation of Zeebrugge, part of a wider attempt to create a foothold on the Belgian coast. She visited the port, and Commodore Roger Keyes even briefly landed on the mole at Zeebrugge, where he would make his name much later in the war. The port soon had to be abandoned, and was left intact, allowing the Germans to use it for the next four years.

On the night of 12-13 October the Firedrake replaced the Lurcher off Zeebrugge, where they were supporting two submarines that were patrolling off the Ems, watching for any German shipping. 

The Firedrake and the Lurcher were at sea with eight submarines when the Germans raided the Yorkshire coast. At daylight on 16 December Commodore Keyes’s flagship Lurcher picked up a faint signal that showed the Germans were off Scarborough. His force was in the wrong place to intercept them on their way home, so he sent the Firedrake off to get in touch with Yarmouth and ask for instructions. The resulting orders to move into the Heligoland Bight to try and catch the Germans on their way home didn’t reach him until 3.35pm, and it took until 5pm for him to find four of his submarines. Even so, one of his submarines, E.11, actually got into position to attack the Germans and was even able to fire a torpedo at one, but without success.

On 25 December 1914 she took part in the Cuxhaven Raid, an attempt to attack the Zeppline base using seaplanes from the carriers Empress, Engadine and Riviera. The aircraft were able to find their target, but unable to damage the sheds. Some had to put down into the sea after running out of fuel on the return trip, and one of these crews was rescued by the Lurcher.

On 23 January 1915, in the build-up to the battle of Dogger Bank, Firedrake, Lurcher and four submarines were sent out from Harwich to take up position off the Ems and Heligoland. However they didn’t play any part in the resulting battle.

At the end of March the Lurcher and Firedrake were ordered to escort three E class submarines to Devonport and then on to Ushant, at the start of a voyage to the Dardanelles.

On the night of 9-10 July 1915 Commodore Keyes took the Lurcher and Firedrake out to sea in an attempt to find the submarine HMS C.31¸ which had gone missing on a mission to scout out Zeebrugge. No sign of her was found.

In June 1915 she was attached to the 8th Submarine Flotilla, based at Harwich.

On 6 August the Firedrake was at sea to meet a homeward bound submarine when she rescued the crews of three Lowestoft fishing boats that had been sunk by German U-boats. However the submarine in question, C.33, disappeared on her voyage home and was never found.

HMS Lurcher from the left HMS Lurcher from the left

On 25 April 1916 the Lurcher arrived on the scene just after the German battlecruisers ended their bombardment of Lowestoft and joined Commodore Tyrwhitt’s force. They then attempted to give chase, but without success. At one point the German battlecruisers were heading towards the British submarines, and the German fleet ended up passing through the submarine line. However the high speed of the German warships meant that none of the British submarines were able to get into position to attack.

When the German High Seas fleet sailed in mid May 1916 the Lurcher was sent out with the Yarmouth submarines, as part of the efforts to stop any possible raid on the east coast. However the Germans soon returned to port.

Although the Lurcher and her submarines were at sea during the battle of Jutland, they were too far west to be involved in the fighting.

In September 1916 the Firedrake and Lurcher moved from the Eighth Submarine Flotilla to the Ninth Submarine Flotilla. The new flotilla inherited most of the E class submarines from the old Eighth Flotilla, while the Eighth Flotilla kept its F, H and V class submarines. She spent the rest of the war operating with the Ninth Submarine Flotilla.

In November 1918 she was one of three destroyers attached to the Ninth Submarine Flotilla at Harwich

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Portsmouth Reserve. She was sold to be broke up in June 1922.

The Lurcher was awarded battle honours for Heligoland

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

32 knots (Firedrake Type)


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

1 July 1911


1 June 1912


October 1912

Sold for break up

June 1922

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 (18 November 2021), HMS Lurcher (1912) ,

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