Dunbar, battle of, 27 April 1296

HMS Attack (1911) was a Yarrow type Acheron class destroyer that served with the First Flotilla, fighting at Heligoland, Dogger Bank and Jutland, then moving to Devonport in 1916-17 and the Mediterranean in December 1917, where she was sunk by UC-34 off Alexandria on 30 December 1917

The Attack was laid down at Yarrow on 10 September 1910, launched on 21 October 1911 and commissioned in May 1912.

In January 1914 she was serving with the First Destroyer Flotilla, and was commanded by Lt. Cyril Callaghan (son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Callaghan, command of what became the Grand Fleet until just before the outbreak of war in 1914).

HMS Attack from the left HMS Attack from the left

On the night of Monday 3 March 1913 the Hydra and the Attack collided in the Firth of Forth during night manoeuvres. The Hydra was largely undamaged, but the Attack suffered severe damage to her bows. The damage went down below the waterline, but the bulkhead behind remained intact. She had to put into Leith and was then towed to Queensferry. The collision was caused by a battleship that cut across their bows, forcing the two destroyers to alter course to avoid a much more serious collision.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the First Flotilla of the First Fleet, which contained the more modern battleships. At the time the Flotilla contained all of the Admiralty, Yarrow, Thornycroft and Parsons types of the Acheron or I class of destroyers.

In August 1914 she was one of twenty I class destroyers in the First Flotilla of what was about to become the Grand Fleet, and was at sea when war broke out. The flotilla was assigned to the Harwich Force, a swing force that could operate with the Grand Fleet in major actions in the North Sea and to protect shipping in the Channel and beyond.

She was part of Division 1 of the First Flotilla during the battle of Heligoland (28 August 1914)

Her division wasn’t involving in the fighting in the first phases of the battle. However at about 11am, early in the third phase of the battle, the damaged cruiser Arethusa became involved in a battle with the German cruiser Stralsund. The Fearless and the entire First Flotilla were ordered to launch a torpedo attack on the German cruiser, which withdrew in the face of such a large attack. The Arethusa, Fearless and their destroyers then turned back west. However a few minutes later the German cruiser Stettin appeared from the east, and another fight began, this time between the Stettin and the two British cruisers. At 11.20 the Acheron received an order to lead the 1st division (Acheron, Attack, Hind and Archer) in a torpedo attack on the German cruiser and turned back to head towards the last known location of this fight. A few minutes later they found the Stralsundinstead and attacked her, forcing the German cruiser to turn north. The division was then ordered to take part in a torpedo attack on the Mainz, which was repulsed by the German cruiser.

In mid-October Commodore Tyrwhitt took the First Flotilla to sea to try and stop German submarines reaching Antwerp. On 10 October the Attack reported being attacked by a U-boat off the Dutch coast.

In November the Attack was one of eight destroyers that were sent from Harwich to support the four Duncan class battleships when they bombarded Zeebrugge on 23 November,

At the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) she was part of the 1nd Division of the First Flotilla (Acheron, Attack, Hydra, Ariel). This battle was dominated by the battlecruisers, and in general the destroyers had little to do. However when Beatty’s flagship Lion was badly damaged, he transferred his flag to the Attack, before transferring on to the battlecruiser Princess Royal after catching up with the rest of the fleet.

On 9 February 1915 the Attack, Defender, Druid, Forester, Goshawk, Lapwing, Ferret and Phoenix replaced a group of M class destroyers on escort duty, covering minelayers that were laying a new mine field across the Dover Straits, in an attempt to stop German submarines operating so freely in the English Channel.

On 15 February 1915 it was decided to move the 1st Destroyer Flotilla from Harwich to Rosyth, where it was to come under the command of the Vice-Admiral commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron. This would allow eight Grand Fleet destroyers currently based at Rosyth to return to Scapa, which would in turn allow seven older River or ‘E’ class destroyers to move from Scapa Flow to the south coast to be used to escort transport ships across the Channel. The first batch of destroyers from the flotilla (Acheron, Ariel, Attack, Badger, Beaver, Jackal, Lapwing and Sandfly, led by the cruiser Fearless) reached Rosyth on 18 February.

On 10 March Attack, Acheron and Ariel were all summoned to the scene when a U-boat was spotted by a trawler off Fife Ness. All three opened fire (the Attack probably opened fire first), before Ariel rammed her conning tower. The submarine, which turned out to be U-12 had to come back to the surface where she came under fire once again and was scuttled by her crew.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the First Flotilla at Rosyth, made of the original I class boats and one flotilla leader.

In mid June the Goshawk, Phoenix, Lapwing and Attack supported a sweep across the middle of the North Sea by the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. The aim was to investigate any suspicious vessels, but it took them into an area occupied by several U-boats. Towards the end of the ill judged mission, the cruiser Roxburgh was hit, by the seventh torpedo to be fired at the force (but the first to hit!). The four destroyers were left with the damaged cruiser, while the rest of the force returned to Rosyth at top speed. The rest of the 1st Flotilla was sent out to help, and the Roxburgh also reached safety.

In January 1916 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the First Flotilla, made of the original I class boats and one flotilla leader

On the eve of Jutland the Attack was with the part of the First Destroyer Flotilla that was with the battlecruiser fleet at Rosyth.  She sailed with the fleet on 30 May and was present throughout the battle. However the battlecruiser fleet’s destroyers had a fairly quiet battle, and weren’t involved in the major destroyer actions on the night after the main battle.

In late October 1916 the Goshawk and Attack were sent to Belfast from Devonport to escort the newly completed battlecruiser HMS Glorious on her early trials, but German submarines were detected in the Channel and west of Ireland, so the two destroyers were recalled to help hunt for them.

Until June 1916 the entire class had been part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. In June the class was split, with some remaining with the flotilla and others joining the 3rd Battle Squadron, which had been moved south to the Thames. The Attack remained with the 1st Flotilla.

This arrangement lasted until November 1916, when the ships that were still with the 1st Flotilla were split – two went to Dover, two to Portsmouth and the rest, including the Attack to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport. She remained with the 2nd Flotilla into August 1917.

On 8 August 1917 the Q-Ship HMS Dunraven was involved in an action with the German submarine UC-71 off Ushant. The Dunraven was badly damaged in the attack, and the Christopher and Attack went to her assistance. Despite their best efforts, the Dunraven sank on 10 August. At the time the Attack was returning from escorting transports to St. Helens (at least according to the official Naval Operations).

In September 1917 the Acheron class ships with the 2nd Flotilla were split up. The Attack was one of four that remained at Devonport, but as part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla.

Towards the end of the war the surviving members of the Acheron class began to move to the Mediterranean. The Attack made the move by December 1917.

On 30 December 1917 the Attack was part of the escort for a convoy that included the troop ship HMT Aragon, which was carrying 2,200 troops, 150 officers and 160 VADs (civilian nursing volunteers). While waiting outside Alexandria the Aragon was torpedoed by UC-34 and began to sink. The Attack came alongside and managed to rescue 300-400 of the survivors from the Aragon. However UC-34 then torpedoed the Attack, which sank with the loss of ten men from her own crew and an unknown number of the survivors from the Aragon. Around 600 of the crew and passengers from the Aragon were killed, although it isn’t clear how many of them had already been rescued by the Attack.

The Attack was awarded battle honours for Heligoland, Dogger Bank and Jutland

War Service
August 1914-September 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
November 1916-August 1917: 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
September-November 1917: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
December 1917: 5th Destroyer Flotilla Squadron, Mediterranean
30 December 1917: Sunk

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

28 knots (Yarrow specials)


Admiralty Type:
3-shaft Parsons turbines
3 Yarrow boilers




246ft oa


25ft 8in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

10 September 1910


12 December 1911


May 1912


30 December 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 (7 October 2021), HMS Attack (1911), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Attack_1911.html

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