HMS Opal (1915)

HMS Opal was a repeat M class destroyer that served with the Grand Fleet from 1916 until she was lost in January 1918, fighting at Jutland.

The Opal was ordered as part of the Third War Programme of late November 1914. She was laid down at Doxford on 1 February 1915, launched on 11 September 1915 and completed in April 1916.


From May 1916 to January 1918 the Opal was part of the 12th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet

On the eve of Jutland the Opal was part of the Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla, which was at Scapa Flow, and filled entirely with Repeat M class destroyers. The flotilla contained twelve Repeat M class destroyers at Jutland.

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. The Opal’s division didn’t take part in this attack. 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.

After Jutland

Early on 6 June the Opal, Menace, Munster and Napier were ordered to put to sea to take part in the search for any survivors from HMS Hampshire, which had been sunk by a mine on the previous day at the start of a voyage to carry Lord Kitchener to Russia. They were sent to search for any of Hampshire’s boats off Marwick Head, but there were only twelve survivors, all of whom had come ashore on three carley floats.

On 1 September 1916 the Opal and the trawler Loon collided off Herston Head in the Orkneys.

In October 1916


In January 1917 Commodore Tyrwhitt at Harwich was ordered to send eight of his destroyer to Dunkirk to help protect against any German raids. To replace them the Grenville and eight destroyers from the Grand Fleet (Morning Star, Moon, Musketeer, Mandate, Opal, Nonsuch, Napier and Strongbow) were sent to Harwich arriving on 19 January. They almost immediately took part in a large minesweeping operation on the Swarte Bank (to the north-east of Lowestoft). After this operation Tyrwhitt was told he could keep the destroyers for the time being.

On 24 July the Opal and Mounsey were escorted an east bound convoy heading to Scandinavian when it was attacked by U-67. The U-boat fired two torpedoes, one of which hit the Swedish SS Viking. The Opal ran up the track of the torpedo and dropped a depth charge which exploded but with no result.


On 12 January 1918 the Opal, Narborough and cruiser Boadicea were sent out on a Dark Night Patrol, looking for German minesweepers that were believed to be operating off the Scottish coast. By 1830 the weather was so bad that the captain of the Boadicea ordered the two destroyers to return to Scapa Flow. Over the next few hours the Opal was in regular contact with Scapa, but at 2127 she signalled ‘urgent, have run aground’. The two destroyers had run into the Clett of Crura near Hesta Rock, to the north of Windwick Bay on South Ronaldsay. The order to abandon ship was issued on both ships, and some men managed to reach the nearby cliffs. However the weather was terrible, and by the time the Peyton found them on 14 January there was only one survivor, Able Seaman William Sissons, gunlayer second class from the Opal.

The Opal was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

Service Record
May 1916-January 1918: 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 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

1 February 1915


11 September 1915


April 1916


21 January 1918

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 (20 March 2024), HMS Opal (1915) ,

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