HMS Harpy (1909)

HMS Harpy (1909) was a Beagle class destroyer that spent most of the First World War in the Mediterranean, where she took part in the Gallipoli campaign. She returned to home waters briefly over the winter of 1914-15 to escort troop ships across the Channel, and permanently in 1917 to take up anti-submarine and convoy escort duties.

The Harpy was laid down at White’s Cowes shipyard on 23 April 1908 and launched on Saturday 28 November 1909. A few days later two workmen were seriously injured in an accident while her boilers were being lifted in, interesting after she was launched. She carried out her official full speed four hour speed trial on the Maplin Sands on Wednesday 11 May 1910.  

HMS Harpy in 1918-19 HMS Harpy in 1918-19

In August 1910 it was announced that the Harpy, Scorpion and Mosquito were all to join the First Flotilla, at Harwich.

After entering service the Beagle class destroyers joined the First Destroyer Flotilla, and were part of that unit until the autumn of 1911. At the time the Navy was planning to form a new Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, and there may have been some thought of filling it with the Beagles. The Seventh Flotilla was formed in November 1911, so it is possible that the Beagles were briefly part of it, before moving to the Third Flotilla early in 1912. 

On Thursday 2 February 1911 the Harpy was back at Whites, when her crew were some of the first to notice a fire in the pattern shop. About 80 of her crew took part in the fire fighting effort, but the fire was still estimated to have caused damage worth about £30,000-£40,000.

In October 1911 the Harpy was with the First Destroyer Flotilla taking part in naval exercises in Scottish waters. While most of the fleet headed south from the Orkneys towards the Firth of Forth, the Harpy remained behind to search for missing torpedoes. 

In 1912-1913 all sixteen of them were part of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, part of the First Fleet.

In November 1912 it was reported that she was ready to leave Sheerness to resume duties with the Third Flotilla.

In 1913 the entire class moved to the Mediterranean, where they formed the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

War Service

HMS Harpy from the right HMS Harpy from the right

In July 1914 she was one of sixteen destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, then part of the Mediterranean Fleet. At this point the flotilla contained all sixteen Beagle or G Class Destroyers.

On 27 July 1914 she was part of the Third Division of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (Beagle, Bulldog, Harpy and Grasshopper) and was at Alexandria. As tensions rose they moved back to Malta.

On 3 August the division was briefly ordered to join the cruiser Black Prince and reinforce the squadron at the mouth of the Adriatic, but the order was cancelled because it wasn’t possible to ensure they would have enough coal.

On 7 August the Harpy and Grasshopper from the 3rd Division and the Grampus from the 4th Division were ordered to move from Malta to watch the southern end of the Straits of Messina.

Home Service 1914-1915

In November 1914 it was decided to move the Beagle class boats back to Britain. The Harpy was in the second group of four to make the move, and was probably back in home waters by December 1914.

By February 1915 eight of the Beagle class destroyers were based at Portsmouth (Beagle, Bulldog, Foxhound, Harpy, Pincher, Rattlesnake, Savage and Scourge) and were kept very busy escorting troop ships to France

In March it was decided to replace the Beagles with a similar number of River class destroyers. On 26 March the Beagle class destroyers were ordered to move to the Dardanelles as soon as they had been replaced, and the change was made by the end of the month.


On 25 May 1915 she was one of the first warships to become aware that a submarine had come out to attack the Allied fleet. She attempted to chase after it, but the submarine escaped, and later sank the battleship HMS Triumph.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, which now contained all sixteen G Class destroyers and five River class boats.

The Harpy was awarded one battle honour, for the Dardanelles 1915

In January 1916 she was undergoing a refit at Southampton, with an uncertain completion date.

Mediterranean 1916-1917

In October 1916 she was one of thirty two destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla of the Mediterranean Fleet, which now contained the entire G class.

In January 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with the entire G class.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Mediterranean, along with the entire G class

Home Waters 1917-1918

Late in 1917 there was a change in the use of the G class, and many of them were recalled home to join the Second Destroyer Flotilla, based at Buncrana west of Londonderry. The Grasshopper was one of six that had joined that flotilla by October 1917. By January 1918 that number had risen to ten, including the Grasshopper.  Her new role was a mix of anti-submarine patrols and convoy escort duties.

By January 1918 she was one of ten members of the class that were part of the Second Destroyer Flotilla. She was still there in March 1918.

At some point between March and June 1918 all of the G class destroyers that had been in Ireland were moved to join the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, which contained around fifth destroyers of various types. The Pincher was lost on 24 July 1918, leaving nine at Devonport in August.

By June 1918 the Harpy carried fifty depth charges, two depth charge tracks and two depth charge throwers.

In November 1918 she was one of forty destroyers from the Patrol and Escort Forces that were based at Devonport. By this point some of the G-class ships had moved back to Ireland, leaving seven at Devonport (Bulldog, Grasshopper, Harpy, Mosquito, Savage, Scorpion and Scourge).

By the end of the war the home based Beagles were allocated two depth charge throwers and thirty depth charges, surrendering their aft gun and torpedo tube to make space.

In November 1919 she was in the Reserve at the Nore, in the hands of a care & maintenance party. She was scrapped soon afterwards.

Career Summary
First Destroyer Flotilla: 1910-1011
Third Destroyer Flotilla, First Fleet: May 1912-October 1913
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: November 1913-November 1914
Portsmouth Escort Flotilla: December 1914-March 1915
Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean: March 1915-June 1917-
Second Destroyer Flotilla, Buncrana, Ireland: October 1917-March 1918-
Fourth Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport: -June-November 1918-

Displacement (standard)

945t (average)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines
5 White-Forester boilers




263ft 11.25in pp


26ft 10in


One 4in/ 45cal QF Mk VIII gun
Three 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement


Laid down

23 April 1909


27 November 1909


July 1910

Sold for break up

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 (17 September 2020), HMS Harpy (1909) ,

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