HMS Lance (1914)

HMS Lance (1914) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the Third Flotilla at Harwich in 1914-1915, becoming the first British warship to open fire on a German target on 4 August 1914. She then fought at Heligoland Bight, served with the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich in 1915-1917, the Sixth Flotilla at Dover briefly in 1917 then spent the rest of the war with the Fourth Flotilla at Devonport.

The Lance was laid down at Thornycroft on 1 August 1912, launched on 25 February 1914 and commissioned in August 1914. She was originally to have been named Daring, but became Lance when it was decided to give the entire class names starting with L.

HMS Lance from the right HMS Lance from the right

In August 1914 she was one of sixteen L class destroyers in the Third Flotilla, now part of what was about to become the Grand Fleet. At the outbreak of war the flotilla was at Harwich.

At the start of the First World War the Lance was part of the Harwich force.

On 4 August 1914 she took part in the first British naval action of the war, the sinking of the German mine layer Konigin Luise. She and the Landrail were the first destroyers to give chase, later joined by the Lark and Linnet. The Lance was the first British warship to open fire during the First World War. However on the following day the light cruiser HMS Amphion was sunk by one of the mines laid by the Konigin Luise before she was caught.

The Lance fought at the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), where she was part of the 2nd Division of the Third Flotilla (Lark, Lance, Linnet, Landrail).

She was with the Arethusa when that cruiser became involved in a gun battle with the German cruiser Frauenlob, and fired two torpedoes in an attempt to help the embattled British cruiser. Both missed and the clash only ended when a shot from the Arethusa hit the Frauenlob’s forward bridge.

On 22 September 1914 U-9 sank the three elderly cruisers Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, one of the first signs that the U-Boat was going to be a deadly weapon during this war. The Lance, Lucifer and Lennox were with the Third Flotilla when it came to try and rescue and survivors, and all mistakenly reported spotting submarines in the area around the disaster site. By this point U-9 had left the area, but Commodore Tyrwhitt used four of his eight destroyers to screen his flagship, the Lowestoft, during the rescue efforts.

The Lance took part in a clash with German torpedo boats off the island of Texel on 17 October 1914, when she was serving with the Harwich Force. A force consisting of the light cruiser HMS Undaunted and the destroyers Loyal, Legion, Lance and Lennox spotted the torpedo boats while patrolling in the area and gave chase. By the end of the action all four torpedo boats had been sunk. The Lennox and Lance began the action, sinking the leading torpedo boat.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, now part of the Harwich Force. She was at Chatham having defects corrected, and was to be equipped with a modified sweep.

On 26 November Miranda, Lance, Lennox, Landrail, Leonidas, Linnet, Louis and Laforey were ordered from Harwich to Dover, to carry out anti-submarine patrols to the west of the area covered by the Dover Patrol. This was in response to the cruise of U-21, which was then operating in the Channel and had sunk several ships near the French coast. On 27 November the British destroyers swept the area from Dover to the Needles. That night U-21 passed Dover heading east, evading an attack by three French destroyers. On 28 November the British destroyers were ordered to repeat their patrol to the Needles, but there was no longer anything to find.


In January 1915 she was part of the Third Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Grand Fleet, and under the command of the Commodore (T).

In February 1915 a U-boat (U-30) was operating in the Irish Sea, threatening the approaches to Liverpool. The Lance, Legion, Lennox and Loyal were dispatched from Harwich on 20 February, under the command of the captain of the Lance. Their base was to be Pembroke while they were hunting submarines.

They were also drawn into escort duties while they were posted in the west. In early March Lance and Lennox escorted the transport Minnewaska from Avonmouth at the start of a voyage to the Dardanelles. After escorting this transport across the danger zone they continued on to Queenstown, where they picked up the Missanable, carrying troops from Canada, and escorted her into Avonmouth. Soon after this she collided with a tug, and needed repairs that took her out of action until 25 March.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Third Flotilla at Harwich, still officially a Grand Fleet Destroyer Flotilla. She was undergoing repairs at Chatham.

On 1 June 1915 the Lance was part of a force that was guarding paddle steamers which were sweeping a German minefield on Dogger Bank. On 2 June this force was spotted by a Zeppelin, which was itself protecting a force of German minesweepers working north of Heligoland. The Zeppelin was driven off, but reported the sighting. However she got the position wrong, so all but one of the German aircraft sent out failed to find the British. One did find them, and in response the Admiralty ordered the Harwich Force to move west. On 3 June the paddle sweepers had to return to port as they were running short of coal, and at 6pm the Harwich Force left the area. 

From October 1915 to March 1917 the Lance was part of the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich, effectively the Third Flotilla with a new number.

At the end of October 1915 the Lance, Lysander, Laurel, Lassoo and Loyal took part in a sweep across the German Bight led by Commodore Tyrwhitt. No German ships were spotted during the sweep, and the force returned to Harwich on the afternoon of 1 November.

On 29 November-1 December 1915 she took part in another sweep into the eastern North Sea. The plan may have been to enter the Kattegat between Denmark and Sweden, but poor weather meant that no German ships were at sea. On 30 November he turned back, but during the turn a man was swept off the Lance. Luckily he was picked up by the next ship in line, the Loyal, which didn’t even need to lower a boat.


In January 1916 she was one of eighteen L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich, and was one of seven actually based at Harwich, with the rest split between Chatham and Devonport. The Ninth was essentially the old Third Flotilla given a new number. The flotilla was filled out with the flotilla leader HMS Lightfoot, the light cruiser HMS Undaunted and the depot ship HMS Dido.

On 20 March 1916 the Lance took part in a sizable operation that included minelaying off the Thames estuary, air raids near Zeebrugge and an attack on the German seaplane base on Zeebrugge Mole by aircraft from the seaplane carriers Riviera and Vindex. The Lance was part of the escort for the carriers, and was attacked by three German destroyers. The Germans were soon driven off, but not before badly damaging the Lance. However nobody was killed onboard.

On 22 April eight L class destroyers (Laforey, Lennox, Lark, Lookout, Lance, Laurel, Llewellyn and Lucifer) were sent from Harwich to Sheerness to escort minelayers that were to take part in an upcoming barrage operation along the Flanders coast. A large barrage of mined nets was laid off Zeebrugge on the morning of 24 April.

However British plans were soon to be disrupted, first by the news of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and then by reports that the High Seas Fleet was about to sortie. This was indeed true, and marked the start of the Lowestoft Raid. The British reacted by ordering the Grand Sea to fleet, and deploying the Harwich Force to defend the east coast while the fleet was on its way south. Plans to patrol the newly laid barrage had to be abandoned. Late on 24 April the eight destroyers that had escorted the minelayers were ordered to leave the Nore to join the rest of the Harwich flotilla, but they were given an outdated rendezvous point and as a result when the Germans attacked Lowestoft, the eight were just leaving the Thames. They were then ordered to head north, and did at least force UB-18 to abandon a possible attack on three British light cruisers and dive. However at 8.50am they were ordered to return to base, after playing a very limited role in the days actions.

On 13 August 1916 the Lance, Lassoo, Lennox and Laverock were escorting a convoy of seven ships to the Netherlands. At about 5.37am the Lassoo, which was leading the group, was torpedoed by UB-10 when about ten miles to the west of the Maas Light Vessel. The Lance attempted to save the forward part of the ship, but her back was broken and at 6.15 she broke in half and sank., Only six men were killed, four in the initial explosion.

On the morning of 7 September 1916 a torpedo was fired at the Lance as she was returning after escorting another convoy to the Netherlands. The torpedo missed and the Lance rushed to the spot it was fired from and dropped three depth charges. Only two exploded, and nothing was hit.

On 24 September 1916 the Lance led out two divisions of destroyers from Harwick to search for U-boats that had sunk two small ships on the previous day. One of the submarines spotted this force on 25 September and fired a torpedo at the Lennox, although without success.

In October 1916 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, along with the Lightfoot and Undaunted.

On 26 October 1916 the Germans carried out a raid into the Dover Straits. The Lance, Lawford, Lochinvar and Lark were off Deal at the time of the attack. After the Germans clashed with a force of Tribal class destroyers the Lawford’s division was ordered to remain in the Downs and keep a look-out, but the commander of the Lawford interpreted this as referring to airships. When he learnt that the transport Queen had been attacked he decided to take his division out and head for Dunkirk. An order to recall them was issued, but was sent to the Laforey’s division by mistake, so the Lawford’s division kept on heading for Dunkirk. This was fortunate, as they passed close to the Nubian, which had been torpedoed. The Lark was used to try and tow her back to Dover, but the hawser parted after a few hours, and the Nubian drifted ashore under the South Foreland. Part of her was later salvaged and joined with part of the Zulu to form the new Tribal destroyer Zubian.


In January 1917 she was one of twenty L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla, along with the Lightfoot and Undaunted.

On 29 January 1917 the Lance was one of twelve destroyers that put to sea in response to a sortie by part of the High Seas Fleet and patrolled the area between the Shipwash and Corton  Light Vessels, but without sighting any German ships.

On 25 February 1917 the Lance, Landrail, Lochinvar, Laverock and Laurel were patrolling around the buoys on the Dover Barrage when the Germans raided into the Dover Straits. The Lochinvar clashed with one German destroyer from a force that was hoping to bombard Dover, and with any chance of surprise gone this part of the German force retired.

In April-May 1917 the Lance wasn’t listed in the Navy List.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, which contained three L class ships (Laertes, Lance and Lochinvar). She was only with the Sixth Flotilla for a short period.

The Lance took part in a bombardment of Ostend on 5 June 1917. She was one of six destroyers to take part in the raid. The fleet sailed at 10pm on 4 June, and at 12.55am on 5 June the Lance and Lochinvar were detached to lay a buoy thirteen miles from the target, to help the monitors that were to carry out the bombardment to find the correct position. However they ran into a flotilla of German destroyers patrolling in the same area and had to retreat. They made two attempts to get past the Germans, but without success, so the monitors had to use dead reckoning to decide where to anchor. The bombardment had some success, sinking UC-70 (although the U-boat was later raised and repaired).

From July 1917 onwards the Lance was part of the Fourth Flotilla at Devonport, where she focused more on the war against the U-boats.


In January 1918 she was one of forty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, which was now made up of a mix of various types.

In June 1918 she was one of fifty destroyers in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, made up of a mix of types.

In November 1918 she was one of forty destroyers at Devonport.

In November 1919 she was in charge of a care and maintenance party in the Nore Reserve.

The Lance was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914) and the Belgian Coast 1917. 

War Service
August 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
April-May 1917: Unlisted
June 1917: 6th Flotilla, Dover
July 1917-December 1918-: 4th Flotilla, Devonport

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29 knots


2-shaft Parsons turbines
4 Yarrow boilers




268ft 10in oa


27ft 8in


Three 4in/ 45 cal QF Mk IV guns
1 0.303in Maxim Machine Gun
Four 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement


Laid down

1 August 1912


25 February 1914


August 1914

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 (30 June 2022), HMS Lance (1914) ,

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