HMS Sheldrake (1911)

HMS Sheldrake (1911) was an Acorn class destroyer that served with the Second Destroyer Flotilla with the Grand Fleet in 1914-15 and at Devonport late in 1915, before moving the Mediterranean, where she was based at Malta from December 1915-June 1918 then with the main Fifth Destroyer Flotilla for the rest of the war.

The Sheldrake was laid down by Denny at Dumbarton on 15 January 1910, launched on 18 January 1911 and completed on 19 May 1911.

On her full speed trials the Sheldrake averaged 23.388 knots on 15,402shp at 786.7rpm, somewhat below her target speed of 27 knots.

From 1911-14 the Sheldrake, along with the entire Acorn class and the Laferoy class destroyer HMS Lark formed the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, a fully manned flotilla that was part of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet until 1912, then part of the First Fleet from 1912-1914. At the outbreak of war in 1914 the First Fleet became the Grand Fleet.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Second Flotilla, part of the First Fleet of the Home Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. The Second Flotilla contained the entire Acorn or H class of destroyers.

First World War

After the outbreak of war in August 1915 the Sheldrake and the entire class formed the Second Flotilla of the Grand Fleet. By November 1914 they had been joined by the flotilla leader Broke. On 19 February 1915 her sister ship Goldfinch was wrecked, leaving the nineteen survivors in the flotilla. By June 1915 the flotilla contained all nineteen of the Acorn class boats and the M class destroyer HMS Moon.

HMS Sheldrake from the left HMS Sheldrake from the left

The class finally began to split up in the summer of 1915. The first big change came in September 1915, when Acorn, Comet, Fury, Hope, Redpole, Sheldrake and Staunch moved south to Devonport. They were still part of the 2nd Flotilla, but were listed as being on detached service as tenders to Vivid, the shore base at Devonport. Over the next few months most of the rest of the class moved south to Devonport, while most of the first wave of ships to move south went on to the Mediterranean.

On 30 August 1915 she was one of two destroyers (Sheldrake and Laverock) that were sent from Devonport to Queenstown in response to a request from the Admiralty for four destroyers to help hunt submarines. Two more were to follow after finishing escort duty.

In December 1915 the Acorn, Minstrel, Rifleman and Sheldrake were sent to join the forces under the command of Admiral Limpus at Malta. During the voyage from Britain they were also used to escort troop transports to Malta.  All four remained together at Malta from then until February 1918 (although the Minstrel was transferred to the Japanese Navy by September 1917, becoming the Sendan). At first they were considered to be part of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, but were listed as serving as tenders to Egmont, the shore base on Malta, but from May 1917 they were listed as part of a separate Malta Flotilla.

From January 1916 until March 1917 the original four destroyers formed the Malta detachment. In April 1917 they were joined by four of their sister ships (Cameleon, Nereide, Larne and Nemesis) that had previously been serving with the British Adriatic Squadron, supporting the Italian fleet.

In January 1918 she was one of six H class destroyers that were part of the Malta Patrol, although the official history has her on detached duty patrolling from Toulon.

By July 1918 the ships in the Malta Flotilla had joined the Fifth Flotilla, which was based at Brindisi. In addition they had finally been joined by the Brisk, which had disappeared from Ireland in June, and arrived in the Mediterranean in July. This was the first time since June 1915, when the first ships left the Grand Fleet to move to Devonport, that all of the surviving Acorn class ships still in British service had been gathered in the same formation. It didn’t last for long, as by August 1918 Lyra had been moved to Gibraltar.

In November 1918 she was one of fourteen H class destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, now at Mudros with the Aegean Squadron. Unfortunately it isn’t entirely clear when they moved from Brindisi to Mudros.

In the February 1919 Navy List she was part of the destroyer flotilla at Malta.

In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Nore reserve

Wartime Career
-August 1914-August 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
September 1915-November 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
December 1915-April 1917: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Malta
May 1917-June 1918: Malta Flotilla
July 1918-August 1918-: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
-December 1918-February 1919-: Aegean Squadron, Mudros

Lt Commander Richard A.A. Plowden: 20 December 1912-October 1914-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines (most in class)
4 Yarrow boilers (most in class)




246ft oa


25ft 3in to 25ft 5.5in


Two 4in BL Mk VIII guns
Two 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

15 January 1910


18 January 1911


19 May 1911

Sold for break up

May 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 (27 May 2021), HMS Sheldrake (1911) ,

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