HMS Cameleon (1910)

HMS Cameleon (1910) was an Acorn class destroyer that served with the Second Destroyer of the Grand Fleet in 1914-15 and at Devonport in 1916, the British Adriatic Squadron briefly at the end of 1916, the Malta Flotilla for most of 1917-1918 and the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Brindisi then the Aegean later in 1918.

The Cameleon was laid down at Fairfields at Govan on 6 December 1909, launched on 2 June 1910 and completed in December 1910

From 1911-14 the Acorn, 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 Cameleon 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 Cameleon from the left HMS Cameleon from the left

In February 1915 the Cameleon’s division (Cameleon, Larne, Rifleman and Ruby) was sent from Scapa Flow into the Irish Sea to help defend against a U-boat raid and were posted at Barrow-in-Furness. However this was a short-lived posting. They remained at Barrow for a few days, then escorted the battleship HMS Conqueror south to Liverpool on her to Devonport for repairs after suffering damage in a collision. They arrived at Liverpool on 14 February, and then began the voyage back to Scapa. This didn’t go terribly well – the Larne was the only one to reach Scapa without problems. Ruby and Riflemen was found to be leaking when they reached the Clyde and had to dock, while the Cameleon ran into the harbour wall at Greenock! The Ruby reached Scapa on 18 February, the Cameleon and Rifleman on 24 February!

On 7 May 1915 a U-boat was sighted and attacked in the Fair Island Channel (between Orkney and Shetland). Admiral Jellicoe through it was likely that the submarine would head down the west coast of Scotland, and sent the Cameleon and Ruby to try and catch her near the Butt of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. They didn’t find the U-boat, and moved on to Broadhaven Bay on the northern coast of Ireland, in case the submarine was sheltering there. Again nothing was found, so they returned to Scapa. Jellicoe has been correct about the submarine’s route, but his destroyers had simply missed her.

In September 1915 the Flotilla was split up, with twelve ships (including Cameleon) remaining with the Grand Fleet and the other seven moving south to Devonport. Over the next few months the remaining ships moved to Devonport, while most of the first batch of Devonport ships moved to the Mediterranean. Cameleon made the move between December 1915 when she was still with the Grand Fleet, and January 1916 when she was in Devonport. This only left two of the class still in Scotland.

In January 1916 she was part of the Second Destroyer Flotilla based at Devonport, but at the start of the month she was heading south from the Clyde, having left Scotland on 30 December and spent 31 December sheltering at Fishguard.

In November 1916 the Cameleon was still listed as being at Devonport, but in December 1916 she was one of four Acorn class ships (Cameleon, Nereide, Larne and Nemesis) that had moved to the Mediterranean to join the British Adriatic Squadron. In January 1917 all four were reported as being attached to the Italian Fleet. However their time in the Adriatic was short, and by March they were all part of the contingent from the 5th Destroyer Flotilla that was based at Malta, joining four of their sisters (Acorn, Minstrel, Rifleman and Sheldrake). In May 1917 these eight ships all became part of the separate Malta Flotilla, where they remained into the summer of 1918.

On 26 May 1917 the Cameleon and the Nemesis were escorting the hospital ships Dover Castleand Karapara as they steamed along the Algerian coast. The ships were being escorted because the Germans had announced that they were no longer going to respect hospital ships in the Mediterranean because they believed they were being to transport troops and military supplies. Despite the escort UC-67 was able to torpedo and sink the Dover Castle, killing seven of her crew. Luckily the patients were all rescued before she was sunk by a second torpedo. The Cameleon and Nemesis never sighted the submarine.

In June 1917 Cameleon, Nereide, Larne and Nemesis were listed as being with the Malta Flotilla, but also as still attached to the Italian Fleet.

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.

On 2 October 1918 the Cameleon supported the Allied bombardment of Durazzo in Albania, then held by the Austro-Hungarians. Her role was to protect the southern flank of the main bombardment force, as well as supporting a force of US sub-chasers.

In November 1918 she was one of fourteen H class destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, now at Mudros as part of the Aegean Squadron.

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 afterwards she was sold off and scrapped.

Wartime Career:
-July 1914-November 1915: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
January 1916-November 1916: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
December 1916-January 1917-: British Adriatic Squadron (reported as attached to Italian Fleet in January and June 1917)
March 1917-April 1917: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Malta
May 1917-June 1918: Malta Flotilla
July 1918-August 1918-: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
-December 1918-February 1919-: Aegean Squadron, Mudros

Commander Charles D. Roper: 27 November 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

6 December 1909


1 June 1910


December 1910


December 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 (4 February 2020), HMS Cameleon (1910) ,

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