HMS Mary Rose (1915)

HMS Mary Rose (1915) was a repeat M class destroyer that served with the Twelfth Flotilla of the Grand Fleet, fought at Jutland and was sunk by German cruisers during a convoy battle in October 1917.

The Mary Rose was an Admiralty type repeat M class destroyer that was ordered under the First War Programme of September 1914. She was laid down at Swan Hunter on 17 November 1914, launched on 8 October 1915 and completed in March 1916.


In January 1916 the Mary Rose was mentioned in the Navy List but not allocated to any formation. In the Navy’s Pink List of ship locations she was located on  the Tyne where she was to be commissioned on 11 January and completed in mid January.

From February 1916 until she was lost on 17 October 1917 the Mary Rose served with the Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet

HMS Mary Rose from the right HMS Mary Rose from the right

On 6 March the Mary Rose collided with SS Cheviot in Peterhead Bay, in north-east Aberdeenshire.

In April 1916 she took part in Operation L, a destroyer sweep into the Kattegat to try and intercept ships carrying iron ore from Sweden to Germany. This was a sizable operation – the destroyers would carry out the sweep itself, with a light cruiser squadron close by, a battle cruiser squadron outside the Skagerrak and a battle squadron at sea to support the battle cruisers. However on the eve of the operation it was discovered that the High Seas Fleet was moving, so the entire Grand Fleet was ordered to sea. However by early on 22 April it was known that the Germans were returning to port. The Grand Fleet was now sent on a sweep towards the Skagerrak in the hope that the Germans would turn back and attack. When this didn’t happen the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, supported by the Mischief, Onslaught and Mary Rose were sent into the Skagerrak. They reached some way into the Skagerrak on the night of 22-23 April but didn’t find any suspect ships. The fleet was back at Scapa Flow early on 24 April.

On the eve of Jutland the Mary Rose was part of the Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla, which was at Scapa Flow, and filled entirely with Repeat M class destroyers. She sailed with the fleet on 30 May.

The flotilla put to sea with Admiral Jellicoe and the main body of the Grand Fleet by 10.30pm on 30 May.

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.  The Menace and Nonsuch from the 12th Flotilla clashed with the German cruisers Frankfurtand Pillau and were lucky to escape.

Despite all of the chaos and confusion, a large part of the 12th Flotilla ended up in position to launch one final attack on the High Seas Fleet as it passed behind the Grand Fleet. Twelve destroyers and two flotilla leaders were still together, and had been forced into a position some thirty miles behind the main fleet. As they headlined south they ran into the German fleet. The Germans were sighted at about 1.45am on 1 June. The flotilla commander ordered his 1st Division to attack, and signalled the news of the sighting to Jellicoe. The Germans turned away to avoid the torpedo attack and were briefly lost to sight. However the flotilla soon found them again, and was able to launch a powerful torpedo attack. One torpedo hit the Pommern, which exploded, taking her entire crew with her. The Germans were forced to turn away again, preventing the rest of the flotilla from attacking effectively. The Mary Rose was in that part of the flotilla.


On 30 April 1917 U-62 torpedoed the Q ship HMS Tulip (Q.12). The U-boat then surfaced and took her commander, Captain Norman Lewis, prisoner. The eighty survivors from the Tulip were rescued by the Mary Rose on the following morning.

On 3 May 1917 the Mary Rose met the first US destroyer division heading for European Waters (the Special Service Division, made up of USS Porter (DD-59), USS Davis (DD-65), USS Conyngham (DD-58), McDougal (DD-54) and Wainwright (DD-62), and on 4 May led them into Queenstown.

On 7 May Admiral Bayly organised his destroyers into pairs. The Mary Rose was to work with the Sarpendon.

On 10 August the Mary Rose collided with the barge Landore in the River Tyne.

In October 1917 the Marmion, Sarpedon, Mary Rose, Obedient, Strongbow, Tirade, Marvel and Morning Star were all being used to escort convoys moving between the Shetlands and Norway.

The Mary Rose was sunk by the cruisers Brummer and Bremse on 17 October 1917 during a German attack on one of the convoys running to Scandinavia. In total the Germans sank nine merchant ships and two destroyers (Strongbow and Mary Rose) during this successful attack. The Strongbow was just astern of the convoy when the Germans attacked, and rushed to attack the Germans before getting off a warning message.

The Mary Rose was six to eight miles ahead of the convoy, but made the same mistake. Her commander, Lt Commander Fox, heard and saw firing from astern and turned back. However his destroyer was suffering from a number of problems – the range and deflection transmitters weren’t working, and she couldn’t operate the guns and torpedo tubes at the same time. However Fox assumed that the attacker was a submarine and reacted accordingly. He soon sighted the German cruisers and at about 6.20am opened fire from a range of 6,000-7,000 yards.  The Mary Rose closed in on one of the German cruisers, but at 2,000 yards Lt Commander Fox ordered her to turn sharply, and at about the same time the Germans found her range. She was soon critically damaged, and about 7am Lt Commander Fox gave the order to abandon ship. Eighty seven of her crew, including Lt Commander Fox, were lost. One party, under Sub Lieutenant Freeman managed to get onto a Carley float and were later picked up by a lifeboat from one of the ships in the convoy.

The convoy itself was entirely destroyed, and as a result of the failure of both destroyers to send out a warning the strong British supporting forces that were at sea were unable to act in time and the Germans escaped safely.

In the aftermath of this disaster the instructions to convoy escorts were changed to make it clear that their duty was to report the attack, disperse the convoy and attempt to distract the enemy, and not to risk an attack against more powerful opponents. One lesson of wartime experience that was clearly taking some time to sink in was the days when a smaller warship could achieve something against much more powerful opponents was now gone.

The Mary Rose was awarded battle honours for Jutland and the Scandinavian Convoy of 17 October 1917.

Service Record
February 1916-17 October 1917: 12th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet

Displacement (standard)

1,025t (Admiralty design)
985t (Thornycroft)
895t (Yarrow)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

34 knots


3-shaft Brown-Curtis or Parsons geared turbines
3 Yarrow boilers




273ft 4in (Admiralty)
274ft 3in (Thornycroft)
270ft 6in (Yarrow)


26ft 8ft (Admiralty)
27ft 3in (Thornycroft)
24ft 7.5in (Yarrow)


Three 4in/ 45cal QF Mk IV
Two 1-pounder pom pom
One 2-pounder pom pom
Four 21-in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

17 November 1914


8 October 1915


March 1916


17 October 1917


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 (8 May 2023), HMS Mary Rose (1915) ,

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