HMS Goshawk (1911)

HMS Goshawk (1911) was an Acheron destroyer that served with the Harwich Force until late in 1916, fighting at Heligoland, Dogger Bank and Jutland, then with the 2nd then 4th Flotillas at Devonport, ending the war in the Mediterranean.

The Goshawk was laid down at Beardmore on 30 January 1911, launched on 18 October 1911 and commissioned in June 1912.

In 1912 she was part of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla.

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.

HMS Goshawk from the left HMS Goshawk from the left

In July 1914 the Goshawk and the Lizard were used to test out a modified sweep, an anti-submarine weapon that involved towing a long wire that was kept underwater by kites. The wire had a series of explosive charges along its length, and if any collision with a submerged object was detected they could be set off from the boat. The trials were considered to have been a success, and the destroyers were able to operate the sweep at speeds between six and twenty knots. 

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 became part of the Harwich Force, which was used to support the Grand Fleet and the Channel Fleet, so her destroyers could be found operating in the North Sea or the Channel. The Goshawk remained with the Harwick Force into September 1916.

In mid-October Commodore Tyrwhitt took the First Flotilla to sea to try and stop German submarines reaching Antwerp. On 10 or 11 October the Goshawk reported being attacked by a U-boat off the Dutch coast.

The Goshawk was present at the first battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), where she formed part of Division 5 of the First Flotilla.

At the start of the battle the Goshawk’s flotilla, lead by the cruiser Fearless, were second in the British line, behind Commodore Tyrwhitt in the Arethusa (leading the Third Destroyer Flotilla). The fighting began when Tyrwhitt detached some of his destroyers to chase down a German destroyer, before joining in the chase with the rest of his flotilla. However the Germans were aware of the British plan, and had set a trap of their own. Tyrwhitt soon found himself under attack by two German cruisers, Stettin and Frauenlob. The Fearless and her flotilla reached the scene just after 8am, and the Stettinbegan to withdraw to the east.Fearless and the First Flotilla gave chase, but soon afterwards the German guns on Heligoland began to fire, and Tyrwhitt gave the order to begin the second part of the British plan, a sweep to the west. The Fearless and her destroyers received the order at 8.12am, and turned west, leaving the Stettinalone.

At 8.15 the flotilla sighted the German destroyer V-187. Fearless opened fire, and Goshawk and the rest of Division 5 was ordered to give chase. However a few minutes later the order was cancelled in the mistaken belief that V-187 was actually the Acasta class destroyer Lurcher , which was in the area working with her submarine flotilla. At 8.25 V-187 was sighted again and Division 5 moved to attack. V-187 attempted to escape to the south, only to run into the cruisers Nottingham and Lowestoft. She attempted to turn east, but found her route blocked Division 3. V-187 then attempted to escape by turning north to run through the 5th Division, but was caught and knocked out of action. At 8.50 Divisions 3 and 5 were left to finish her off, while the Fearless rejoined the rest of the flotilla, still moving west. In the belief that the battle was over the British destroyers lowered their boats to begin a rescue attempt, but the Germans had not yet surrendered, and in the belief that they were about to be boarded opened fire with one remaining gun. The Goshawk was actually hit in her wardroom. The British opened fire again, and V-187 sank at 9.10. The rescue attempt was then resumed, but the German cruiser Stettin then appeared and opened fire. 

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 in a torpedo attack on the German cruiser and turned back to head towards the last known location of this fight.

At about the same time the rest of the flotilla sighted another German cruiser, the Mainz, which appeared to their south-west, heading north across their course on her way to help the Stralsund. The 2nd Division turned north to try and engage her. The 3rd and 5th Divisions (Goshawk, Lizard, Lapwing and Phoenix) followed her, and a long range gun battle followed. However after twenty minutes the Mainzturned though 180 degrees and began to run to the south, after sighting Commodore Goodenough’s four light cruisers coming from the north. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions turned west to join up with the light cruisers, while the 5th Division turned south to try and keep up with the Mainz. The 2nd and 3rd Divisions then joined up with Admiral Beatty’s battlecruisers, which were about to enter the battle.

The damage to the Goshawk was serious enough to influence Commodore Tyrwhitt’s tactics later in the battle.

On 12 October 1914 the Goshawk reported spotting a torpedo that passed underneath her while she was patrolling in the Broad Fourteens. She was equipped with an anti-submarine modified sweep, but was only in 8 fathoms of water, not deep enough to use it.

At the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) she was part of the 5th Division of the First Flotilla (Goshawk, Phoenix, Lapwing). This was the same group of ships that had formed the 3rd Division at Heligoland Bight. However this battle was dominated by the battlecruisers, and the destroyers had little to do.

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.

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.

On 3 May 1915 the Goshawk was involved in a rather embarrassing incident, while based at Rosyth. The Rosyth force spotted smoke while on patrol, and found a German submarine near the burning S.S. Oscar. The submarine dived, and the Goshawk went to examine a nearby steamer, the Roxane. They discovered the crew from the Oscar, and that the Goshawk had been ordered to go to Heligoland. The Goshawk’s boarding party gave new orders then returned to their ship, but failed to search her properly. Once they there gone, the German prize crew emerged from their holding place in the hold, and took the Rozane to List.

In mid June 1915 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 late July 1915 the Goshawk took part in a sweep towards the Skagerrak, looking for suspicious vessels. The only significant event of the raid was the sinking of the German trawler Hanseat from Bremerhaven, which was sunk by gunfire by the Goshawk and Phoenix, after her crew had been taken onto the Goshawk.

In early May 1916 she took part in an attempted seaplane raid o a possible Zeppelin base on Tondern. However only two of the eleven seaplanes allocated to the attack were actually able to take off on the day of the raid (4 May), and of them one (a Sopwith Baby) hit the Goshawk’s radio aerial, crashed and sank, taking her pilot, Flight Commander O.N. Walmesley with her.

Damage caused to HMS Goshawk at Jutland Damage caused to HMS Goshawk at Jutland

In the build-up to the Battle of Jutland the Goshawk was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla, which contained nine of the Acheron class destroyers, and was based at Rosyth with Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet. She sailed with the fleet on 30 May.

During the advance east across the North Sea the destroyers were used to guard the flanks of the battle cruiser fleet, while the light cruisers advanced ahead of the fleet. At 2.25pm on 31 May, just after the first contact between Beatty’s cruisers and the German cruisers, the destroyers were ordered to form an anti-submarine screen heading S.S.E. He then followed with his capital ships, in the hope of cutting off the retreat of the German cruisers that had been spotted. The German battlecruisers turned south, and retreated towards the main High Seas Fleet. This chase lasted until around 4.30, when the British spotted the German battleships of the High Seas Fleet, and Beatty was forced to abandon his attack and turn north to run towards the battleships of the Grand Fleet.

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. At some point the Goshawk suffered minor damage, although she doesn't appear in most accounts of the battle.

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

The difficulties of attempting convoy escort with short range destroyers was demonstrated towards the end of January. On 25 January 1917 the Goshawk was one of five destroyers that was sent from Devonport to meet up with a convoy coming from Australia, but the destroyers were forced to take shelter from bad weather in the Scillies. Luckily another group of destroyers happened to be at the rendezvous point having escorted an outbound convoy, so an escort was provided.

At the end of January 1917 the Goshawk, Ruby and Brisk were sent from Devonport to help escort the SS Calgarian from Liverpool to a point 400 miles from the Tuskar, on the coast of Ireland, at the start of a voyage to Canada with a cargo of gold.

On 3 March 1917 U-53 sank the Greek SS Theodoros Sangalos, while she was on her way from Cardiff to Portland. The Goshawk picked up 22 survivors from her.

In late March 1917 Ariel, Goshawk, Archer, Acheron and Lizard were used to escort the battleships of the Prince of Wales class to Portsmouth and Dover.

On 7 August 1917 the Goshawk was one of six destroyers that was leaving Lough Swilly to escort a troop convoy led by the Orama when a periscope and conning tower was spotted. Between them the destroyers dropped 13 depth charges in the area, but the submarine, possibly U-44, survived the attack.

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

In January 1918 she was part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla and was reported as being at Portsmouth,

Over time the surviving members of the class moved to the Mediterranean. The Goshawk was part of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean from April 1918 onwards.

In June-August 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Brindisi.

In November 1918 she was part of the large Fifth Destroyer Flotilla at Mudros, and in December 1918 she was part of the Aegean Squadron

In November 1919 was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve. She was sold to be broken up in November 1921.

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

War Service
August 1914-September 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet, Harwich Force
November 1916-August 1917: 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
September 1917-March 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
April-June 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean
July-August 1918: 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
December 1918: Aegean Squadron

-May 1916-: Commander D. F. Moir

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


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

30 January 1911


18 October 1911


June 1912


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 (8 July 2021), HMS Goshawk (1911) ,

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