HMS Porpoise (1913)

HMS Porpoise (1913) was an Acasta class destroyer that served with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, fighting at Jutland, before moving to the Humber then the South Coast. After the war she was sold to Brazil, where she served until 1945, taking part in the Second World War battle of the Atlantic as the only member of her class still in existence.

The Porpoise was laid down at Thornycroft on 14 March 1912, launched on 21 July 1913 and commissioned in January 1914. When the Acasta class became the K Class the new name Kennington was chosen for her, but it was never used.

HMS Porpoise run aground from the front HMS Porpoise run aground from the front

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. The Porpoise was disabled at the time. 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.

In November 1914 all twenty K class destroyers were in the Fourth Flotilla, part of the Grand Fleet. She had been equipped with a submarine sweep. On 25 October she had arrived at the Tyne to have some defects corrected.

On 11 March 1915 the armed merchant cruiser Bayano was torpedoed and sunk off Corsewell Point, having just left the Clyde, with the loss of all but 50 of her crew. In response Jellicoe sent the Faulknor and six destroyers from the 4th Flotilla (Achates, Ambuscade, Ardent, Fortune, Paragon and Porpoise) to patrol the area between Oversay and the North Channel into the Irish Sea. They reached Larne on 13 March and spent the next week patrolling the area between Belfast, the Clyde and the North Channel. However the submarine in question, U-27, had left the area heading north on 13 March and was back in German home waters by 16 March.

On 23 December 1915 the Porpoise and the Morning Star were escorting Russian ice breakers north from Scapa Flow, and were forced to heave to near Fair Island because of heavy weather. The situation was so bad that the 1st Cruiser Squadron was sent out to hunt for them, but without success, returning to port on 26 December. Both destroyers were damaged by the heavy seas and suffered flooding, but both also reached Cromarty, Porpoise on 25 December and Morning Star on the following day.

In January 1916 nineteen K class destroyers were in the Fourth Flotilla, based at Scapa. She had been equipped with a submarine sweep.

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.

HMS Porpoise as the Maranhao from the right HMS Porpoise as the Maranhao from the right

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.

At about 10.10pm four German destroyers were sighted to the rear of the flotilla. They fired torpedoes, which missed, and the British fired a few rounds before the Germans disappeared once again.

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.

The 4th Flotilla first spotted ships approaching from their right at about 11.20, but couldn’t be sure who they were. The flotilla’s commander Captain Wintour waited until the Germans were within 1,000 yards before issuing the challenge of the day. The Germans immediately opened fire, killing Wintour and wrecking his flagship, Tipperary. However the German cruisers were forced to turn away, and the Elbing was rammed by the battleship Posen while they were attempting to pass through the German battle line. Soon after this the Spitfire actually rammed the German battleship Nassau, and stayed afloat. The German briefly turned to starboard before Scheer ordered it back onto its course.

The rest of the 4th Flotilla briefly turned east, once again coming into contact with the Germans, although the worst damage at this point was done by a collision between the Sparrowhawk, Broke and Contest. During the resulting melee one torpedo from the flotilla hit the Rostock, which later had to be scuttled by her own crew.  After the collision the remains of the flotilla regrouped but then ran into German battleships,. The Fortune was sunk by the battleship Rheinland. The Porpoise was about to try and attack the battleship but was then hit by a heavy shell and knocked out of action. She was able to limp away, and was eventually escorted into the Tyne by the Garland. During the battle she suffered two officers and two men wounded. She was repaired by 23 June.

The flotilla was now scattered, with the Fortune sunk and all but the Ardent knocked out of the battle. She attempted to find friendly ships, but instead ran into four German battleships and was sunk at around 12.19am on 1 June. Not only had the flotilla been unable to stop the Germans, the fighting had also failed to alert the Grand Fleet, where the action was mis-interpreted as a failed German attack on the British rearguard.

During the battle the Porpoise lost two men killed and two men wounded. Repairs were completed by 23 June.

After Jutland

On 19 August 1916 the cruiser HMS Falmouth was torpedoed by U-66 while the Grand Fleet was at sea in response to a sortie by the High Seas Fleet. The Falmouth remained afloat and was able to proceed under her own power, but slowly. A series of destroyers were sent to escort her, with the Ambuscade, Porpoise, Victor and Unity arriving at 11pm. However unluckily her route took her past U-63, and despite the strong destroyer escort the Falmouth was hit again. The Falmouth still remained afloat for several hours, and tugs managed to get her within 25 miles of the Humber before she finally sank off Flamborough Head.

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.

In early September the Porpoise, Spitfire, Unity and Midge were sent from Immingham on the Humber to Dover 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 (although the Porpoise reported hitting a submerged object), but may have suffered some damage, as the area remained quiet for a few days after the clash.On 21 November 1916 the Porpoise, Ambuscade and Paragon were sent from the Humber to join the Dover Patrol, in response to a German raid into the channel on 26 October.

In December 1916 the 4th Flotilla moved to Portsmouth, but the Porpoise, Ambuscade and Paragon officially joined the 6th Flotilla at Dover, where they were joined by the Unity and the Victor

HMS Porpoise run aground from the rear HMS Porpoise run aground from the rear

In January 1917 she was undergoing a refit.

When the Germans raided into the Dover Straits on 25 February 1917 the Ambuscade, Porpoise, Paragon and Unity were anchored off Deal, but they didn’t take part in the action.

By March 1917 the 4th Flotilla had moved from Portsmouth to Devonport. The five boats that had joined the 6th Flotilla made the same move by April, bringing the surviving members of the class back together.

On 6 April 1917 UB-39 attacked the French steam vessel La Tour d’Auvergne, which was on her way from Camaret to Cardiff with a cargo of pit props and set her on fire. The Porpoise arrived on the scene and forced the submarine to submerge.

On 11 May 1917 the first convoy from Gibraltar set sail, heading for the UK. On 16 May UC-17 attacked the Hermitte, heading from Falmouth to Australia. The Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth sent the Achates and one other destroyer out to sweep that area, then meet up with the convoy. They were due to meet early on 18 May, but the convoy was east of its expected position, so they didn’t join up until 18 May. On 19 May the Hardy, Laurel, Porpoise, Spitfire and Acasta joined the convoy, which reached the UK safely. This was the first experimental convoy, and was judged to have been a great success. 

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. She was undergoing repairs.

In April 1918 she lost both of her torpedo tubes to save weight

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 Portsmouth Reserve.

The Porpoise was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

Brazilian Service

In March 1920 the Porpoise was sold to Thornycroft, who refurbished her and then sold her to Brazil, where she was commissioned as the Alexandrino Dealanca on 9 December 1922. The Brazilians re-armed her with three 4in guns, two 47mm guns and four 18in torpedo tubes in two twin mounts, all ordered from Armstrong Whitworth.
 
In 1927 she was renamed as the Maranhao. In 1930 she took part in a failed attempt to stop the revolution that brought Getulio Vargas to power. In 1931 she was used as a training ship for stokers. In 1935 she helped put down a Communist revolt.

Looking back along HMS Porpoise as the Maranhao Looking back along HMS Porpoise as the Maranhao

During the Second World War she was used on convoy escort and patrol missions after Brazil entered the war on the Allied side. She was given sonar and depth charge rails, and three 20mm Oerlikon guns. In July 1943 she rescued 86 survivors from the African Star, which had been sunk by U-172.

The Maranhao remained in service until 1945, making her the last remaining member of her class. She was decommissioned on 13 September 1946.

War Service
August 1914-July 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
August-November 1916: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Humber Force
December 1917-March 1918: 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Dover
April-December 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport

Commanders
-May-June 1916-: Commander H.D. Colville

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

14 March 1912

Launched

21 July 1913

Completed

January 1914

Sold to Brazil

March 1920

Discarded by Brazil

1945

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 (7 April 2022), HMS Porpoise (1913) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Porpoise_1913.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies