HMS Midge (1913)

HMS Midge (1913) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, fighting at Jutland, before moving to the Humber then to the south coast to take part in the battle against the U-boats.

The Midge was laid down at L&G on 1 April 1912, launched on 22 May 1913 and commissioned in March 1914. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name Keitloa was chosen for her, but it was never used.

HMS Midge from the left HMS Midge from the left

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla of the First Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. The flotilla contained all twenty Acasta or K Class destroyers.

In August 1914 she was one of twenty K destroyers in the Fourth Flotilla of what was becoming the Grand Fleet. At the outbreak of war all but the Porpoise were at sea. Over the next two years five members of the class were sunk, while the surviving members of the class remained with the Flotilla into July 1916.

On 24 November the British attempted to raid a possible Zeppelin base at Cuxhaven, in the hope of drawing out the High Seas Fleet. The Hardy, Lynx, Midge and Owl were part of the fleet that ventured into the Heligoland Bight, but the operation had to be abandoned when a force of German cruisers entered the area the seaplanes would have had to launch from. 

On 8 August 1915 Admiral Jellicoe was at Cromarty to meet with the Prime Minister and Chancellor when a U-boat attacked the steamer Glenravel off Kinnaird Head. Jellicoe ordered four destroyers from the 4th Flotilla sent out to hunt for the U-boat. However a new minefield was then discovered in the Moray Firth, so all destroyers apart from the Lynx and Midge were recalled to search for mines. The submarine escaped from the area.

In April 1916 Admiral Jellicoe asked for eight of the class to have one of their 4in guns converted to a high angle gun by placing it on a trap door that could tilt up to fifty degrees. The Midge was one of the ships selected to be converted.

Jutland

The flotilla contained sixteen Acasta class destroyers and one Repeat M class destroyer at Jutland. The flotilla put to sea with Admiral Jellico and the main body of the Grand Fleet by 10.30pm on 30 May.

As the Grand Fleet advanced into contact with the High Seas Fleet, part of the flotilla was with the British 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Shark, Acasta, Ophelia and Christopher), forming an anti-submarine screen ahead of Admiral Hood’s capital ships. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron was some way ahead of the main battleship force and was thus the first part of the Grand Fleet to get into action. The destroyers found themselves on the port flank of Hood’s battlecruisers, in a position to attack a force of German cruisers. However they soon became engaged in a battle with German destroyers which left the Shark crippled, but stopped the Germans attacking Hood’s battlecruisers. 

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 4th Flotilla was now split into three. Ophelia and Christopher were with Beatty’s battlecruisers off to the south-west. Owl, Hardy and Midge were with the armoured cruisers. That left ten destroyers and two flotilla leaders with the main part of the flotilla. The Midge thus missed the night action, which did involve the main part of the flotilla.

After Jutland

On 5 June 1916 the cruiser HMS Hampshire hit a mine while steaming along the west coast of the Orkneys at the start of a voyage to Russia with Lord Kitchener on board. The cruiser had already sent away her destroyer escorts because of the atrocious weather, and there were only a handful of survivors. Lord Kitchener was amongst the dead. The Unity and Victor, which had been part of her escort, were ordered back out to sea to hunt for survivors, followed a few minutes later by the Owl and the Midge. They spent the night searching for survivors along the northern coast of Birsay, but without success.

The Midge and Lynx patrolled on the line from Noss Head to Rosehearty over night, but clearly weren’t close together, for when the Lynx hit a mine and sank early on 9 August the Midge wasn’t close enough to notice. The Lynx’s survivors were picked up by a steamer three hours after the sinking.

In early September the Porpoise, Spitfire, Unity and Midge were sent from Immingham on the Humber to help deal with an outbreak of U-boat activity off Ushant. On 12 September they were sent from Portsmouth to Plymouth, and on the night of 12-13 September found a submarine right on their route. The submarine was almost too close to be successfully attacked, but may have suffered some damage, as the area remained quiet for a few days after the clash.

In August 1916 the Fourth Flotilla was relegated from the Grand Fleet, and now formed the Humber Force. It contained fifteen of the K class destroyers.

On 28 November the Hardy, Midge and Active escorted four million pounds worth of gold across the channel from Cherbourg.

On 29 November the Christoper, Cockatrice, Hardy and Midge were hunting submarines in the Portsmouth area, but without success.

On 17 December the Acasta and Midge were hunting submarines off Cherbourg.

In December 1916 the Midge and the Fourth Flotilla moved again, and was now based at Portsmouth. It had also been reduced in size once again, and now contained ten K class destroyers (and the light cruiser HMS Active). The remaining five members of the class moved to the Sixth Flotilla at Dover.

At the start of 1917 German submarines disrupted the shipping route from Portugal to France, threatening the movement of Portuguese troops. The Cockatrice, Garland, Midge and Owl arrived at Lisbon on 27 January and were used to patrol the route while three troop transports steamed to France.

On 25 April 1917 UB-32 torpedoed the troop ship Ballarat, which was carrying 1,760 troops from Melbourne to Plymouth. Luckily she remained afloat, and five destroyers were sent to help her escort. All of the crew and troops were taken onto the destroyers. At 6.30pm the Midge took her in tow, but two tugs sent out to help missed her, and didn’t find her until 1.25am on 26 April. The Ballarat sank just before she could be taken under tow.

In March 1917 the Fourth Flotilla moved to Devonport. It now contained ten Acasta class destroyers and six Laforey or L class destroyers. In April the five ships from Dover rejoined the flotilla at Devonport.

In January 1918 she was one of forty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Plymouth, which was now made up of a mix of various types. In June 1918 she was one of fifty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, made up of a mix of types. In November 1918 she was one of forty destroyers at Devonport.

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

The Midge was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

War Service
August 1914-July 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
August-November 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Humber Force
December 1916-January 1917: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth
March 1917-December 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport

Displacement (standard)

1,072t

Displacement (loaded)

1,300t

Top Speed

29 knots

Engine

2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 Yarrow boilers
24,500shp

Range

 

Length

267ft 6in

Width

27ft

Armaments

Three 4in/ 45cal BL Mk VIII
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement

73

Laid down

1 April 1912

Launched

22 May 1913

Completed

March 1914

Sold for break up

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 (10 March 2022), HMS Midge (1913) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Midge_1913.html

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