HMS Brisk (1910)

HMS Brisk (1910) was an Acorn class destroyer that served with the Second Flotilla of the Grand Fleet in 1914-15 at Devonport in 1915-17, and on the Coast of Ireland Station late in 1917 where she hit a mine. This delayed her move to the Mediterranean and she didn’t join the rest of the class there until June 1918.

The Brisk was laid down by John Brown on Clydebank on 21 February 1910, launched on 20 September 1910 and completed in June 1911

The Brisk was powered by Brown-Curtiss turbines, driving twin screws. She was the only member of the class to be arranged in this way, with all of the rest having three screws, normally with Parsons turbines.

From 1911-14 the Brisk, 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 1914 the Brisk 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 Brisk from the left HMS Brisk from the left

In September 1915 the flotilla was split up. Brisk was one of twelve that remained with the Grand Fleet, while seven moved to Devonport. Over the next few months that first batch of ships would move on to the Mediterranean, while the ships still with the Grand Fleet would move south to replace them. Brisk was still in Scotland in November 1915, but had moved south to Devonport by December 1915.

In January 1916 she was part of the Second Destroyer Flotilla, but was undergoing repairs at Avonmouth which were expected to be complete by 4 January.

One of her duties was to carry out sweeps of the Channel hunting for submarines, but without any effective way of detecting them this was often a futile exercise. On 8 November 1916 the Martin, Brisk and Unity from Devonport and Cockatrice from Portland had set out on a sweep, but on 10 November they didn’t even report hearing a gun battle between a submarine and two British armed trawlers!

Another of her duties was to escort significant convoys to port (mainly troopships and munitions ships), but this didn’t always go well. On 25 January 1917 the Hydra, Tigress, Ruby, Brisk and Goshawk sailed to meet with an incoming convoy on the last stage of a voyage from Australia, but bad weather forced them to take shelter in the Scillies. Luckily for the convoy another group of five destroyers, led by the Martin happened to be at the rendezvous point, having escorted an outbound convoy, so they were able to take over the task.

Her duties could often take her a long way from Devonport – on 31 January 1917 she was one of three destroyers (Brisk, Ruby and Goshawk) that departed from Liverpool escorting the Calgarian as she sailed for Canada carrying a cargo of gold.

Another of her roles was to escort warships, and on 22 March she and the Attack were escorting the battleship HMS Prince of Wales. As a result they weren’t available to take part in a hunt for a U-boat operating in the area.

The difficulties of spotting a U-boat were demonstrated again on 18 April 1917. The SS Frankier reported spotting the conning tower of a large submarine. A torpedo was fired and narrowly missed. The Brisk was nearby at the time, and swept around to try and find the U-boat, could was unable to spot any signs of either the boat or the torpedo track. 

On 29 May 1917 she rescued the crew of the SS Oswego, two hours after she had been sunk by U-86 just after reaching the rendezvous point. Rather ironically the Brisk had been sent out to escort her to safety. The Brisk then received an SOS from the oiler Ashleaf which was under attack by U-88. This time the Brisk was able to arrive in time, and the U-boat submerged. However she was still able to torpedo the Ashleaf at 11.25am. The Brisk dropped two depth charges, which drove the U-boat away. The Ashleaf’s crew abandoned ship, and the Brisk picked them up then moved off to find another merchant ship, the Alcinous. However the Ashleaf didn’t sink, and later that afternoon the Brisk found her once again. She sent a message to say the oiler might be saveable, but despite the efforts of two tugs, a Q ship and five armed trawlers, the Ashleaf eventually broke in half and sank on 31 May.

On 14 July 1917 she was one of four destroyers (Ariel, Alarm, Brisk and Acheron) that were at Liverpool to escort the troop ship Olympic (sister ship to the Titanic), probably at the start of one of her many trips to Canada.

By September 1917 five of the six ships that had still been at Devonport (Alarm, Brisk, Hope, Martin and Ruby) had moved with the 2nd Flotilla to join the Northern Division of the Coast of Ireland Station, which was based at Buncrana.

On 2 October 1917 the Brisk hit a mine that had been laid by U-79 in the North Channel, with the loss of thirty-one men. The forecastle was reported to have been blown off, but the rest of the ship stayed afloat and made it to Loch Foyle. At the time the Brisk was helping the cruiser Drake, which had been torpedoed three miles of the north-east of Rathlin Island. Nineteen men were killed on the Drake, which later capsized.

The Brisk needed extensive repairs. By January 1918 she was undergoing repairs at Birkenhead, and she was recorded as being part of the 2nd Flotilla, but paid off, from March 1918-May 1918. In the meantime Alarm, Hope and Ruby moved to the Mediterranean, arriving by December, and Martin followed in January 1918..

By this point the repairs were complete, and she was able to rejoin the rest of her class in the Mediterranean. In June 1918 she was one of sixteen H class destroyers that had come together in the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, based at Brindisi, and she was still there in August 1918.

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.

By June 1918 the Brisk was carrying two depth charge throwers each with four charges, one depth charge track and twenty-three depth charges. To save weight one paravane crane and two depth charge chutes had been removed.

In November 1918 she was one of fourteen H class destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, now at Mudros, and in December she was part of the Aegean Squadron. Quite when she moved from Brindisi to the Aegean isn’t clear.

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

In November 1919 she was one of seven H class destroyers in the hands of care and maintenance parties in the Devonport reserve. Soon after this she was sold off and scrapped.

Wartime Career
-July 1914-November 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
December 1915-August 1917: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
September 1917-October 1917: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Coast of Ireland Station, Northern Division, based at Buncrana
October 1917-May 1918: Under repair after hitting mine
June 1918-February 1919-: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean

Lt & Commander Ralph V. Byre: 31 December 1911-October 1914-
Lt-Commander Henry V. Hudson: 28 May 1918-February 1919-
Ch. Artif Eng William Edwards: -December 1919-January 1920-
Gunner Thomas W. Ward: -January 1921-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbine
4 Yarrow boilers




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

21 February 1910


20 September 1910


June 1911


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 (28 January 2021), HMS Brisk (1910),

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