HMS Lawford (1913)

HMS Lawford (1913) was a  Laforey class destroyer that served with the Third then Ninth Flotillas at Harwich from 1914-March 1917, apart from a brief period in the Mediterranean where she helped cover the retreat from Gallipoli, then as a mine layer on the East Coast and at Devonport, before ending the war on detached service with the Grand Fleet. She fought at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, but spent most of her time engaged in the battle against the U-boats.

The Lawford was laid down at Fairfield on 28 September 1912, launched on 30 October 1913 and commissioned on 30 October 1913. She was to have been named Ivanhoe but became Lawford when the entire class got L names.

HMS Lawford from the left HMS Lawford from the left

In July 1914 she was one of thirteen Laforey or L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, part of the First Fleet of the Home Fleet, the formation that contained the most modern battleships.

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. The Lawford was based at Harwich until October 1915.

The Lawford was part of the 3rd Division of the Third Flotilla during the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914).

On 18 October the Laforey, Lawford, Miranda and Meteor were at sea with Commodore Tyrwhitt on the cruiser Arethusa, conducting a patrol off the Broad Fourteens. At about 1pm the Lawford picked up wireless signals from a German ship, which turned out to be the hospital ship Ophelia. She was judged to be behaving suspiciously and was sent into Lowestoft. They were then joined by two more cruisers and eight destroyers and on the following day carried out a sweep towards Terschelling to try and find a line of German light cruisers that was believed to be at sea. No sign of it was found and the force returned to port on 20 October.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, now part of the Harwich Force.

Early on 2 November 1914 Aurora, Lark, Lawford and Laverock left Harwich to search for U-boats in the Broad Fourteens. The Landrail was meant to have been with them but had been unable to leave port on time. She joined the division during the afternoon after Lawford suffered from leaky condensers and had to return to base. Early on 3 November the three destroyers were detached to search for submarines, with orders to rejoin the Aurura at 8am. The plan was for them to stay at sea all day, then for the three destroyers to protect a group of minelayers as they worked on the night of 3-4 November. However this plan had to be abandoned, as on 3 November the Germans raided Yarmouth. The Aurora and her destroyers took part in the attempt to catch the Germans as they withdrew, but missed a key order and ended up five hours behind them.


The Lawford was part of the 3rd Division of the Third Flotilla at the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915), but had little to do during the fighting.

On 30 January U.21 sank a series of ships close to Liverpool. In response the Admiralty ordered the Commodore (T) to send a light cruiser and twelve destroyers to the Irish Channel to deal with the new threat, and he chose to send the Undaunted (Captain F.G.St. John) and eight (soon increased to twelve) L class destroyers (Laforey, Liberty, Landrail, Lysander, Lawford, Lydiard, Lucifer, Lookout, Loyal, Laurel, Laertes and Llewellyn). This force left Harwich at 10.50pm on 30 January, and by the morning of 31 January reached Milford Haven. At about the same time U.21 had clashed with the armed yacht Vanduara and been forced to submerge. Captain St John sent four of his destroyers to the position reported by the Vanduara, but the report didn’t reach him for an hour, and the yacht had reported her position incorrectly, so they found nothing. The Captain then set up a patrol scheme for his four divisions of destroyers (the 12 L class and four from Scapa Flow). On each day one division would rest at Milford, one would patrol Liverpool Bay, one would sweep from Liverpool to Milford and the last from Milford to Liverpool. This routine was carried out into February, and the flotilla reported that up to nine submarines were active in the Irish Sea. However there had only ever been one, U.21, and she returned home after the clash with the Vanduara, so there were none to find.

Captain St. John’s force was still partly based at Milford Haven when the Canadian Division was transported to France from Avonmouth, and he was given the task of escorting it on the first stage of the trip. The Laetes led a division of destroyers in a sweep of the Bristol Channel on 7 February to cover a planned sailing on the night of 7-8 February, but that was cancelled. On 8 February her division swept both sides of the Bristol Channel and reported three submarines (once again none were operating in the area). The first batch of transport ships sailed that night, and an escort of eight destroyers was assigned to them, but the weather was so poor that the two groups of ships never managed to find each other, and the troop transports safely made their way to France without any escort. Three more transports sailed on 9-10 February, this time with an escort. On the night of 10-11 February a batch of five ships sailed, escorted by the Laertes division, and a final batch of six on 12-13 February, this time escorted by the Laertes and Laforey divisions, a total of eight destroyers. Once they were past the danger zone the destroyers left the troop transports to head for Portsmouth, at the start of the trip back to Harwich. 

At the start of March 1915 the Laverock, Lawford, Louis and Lydiard were ordered to Avonmouth to replace the Ferret’s division of the 2nd Half Flotilla on escort duty for troop transports leaving for the Mediterranean.

The new ships were soon put to work. On 4 March the Lydiard and Lawford departed with the Dongola, but in the dark they ran ashore on the Welsh coast and were too damaged to continue. The troops from the Dongola had to be transferred to the Tunisian, while the two destroyers needed a week in drydock for repairs.

On the night of 16-17 March 1915  the Laverock, Lawford, Legion, Lennox, Loyal, Louis and Lydiard were all needed to escort four transports carrying the first contingent of men from the 29th Division as they departed for the Mediterranean. On 17-18 March the same seven ships and the Lookout escorted the second batch of four transports. Two more transports sailed on 18-19 March. The following night was a day of rest, before on 20-21 March the Laverock escorted the Tintoretto, Legion and Lennox escorted the Arcadian, Lydiard and Lawford escorted the Manitou and Lookout and Louis escorted the Campanello. On 21-22 March seven escorts were needed. On 22-23 March only one troop ship sailed, escorted by Lydiard and Lawford. On 23-24 March the final two troop transports left. On the same day the newly refitted Cornwall departed for Sierra Leone, escorted on the first stage of the voyage by Lydiard and Lawford. With the move of the 29th Division completed, four of the L class destroyers were recalled to Harwich, but four were left to prepare to escort the 2nd Mounted Division as it moved to the Mediterranean.

On 1-2 April Laforey, Lawford, Llewellyn and Leonidas escorted a batch of transports heading from Southampton to France on the night of 1-2 April, then continued on to the Bristol Channel, where they were to escort the 2nd Mounted Division at the start of its voyage to Egypt. They arrived on 4 April, replacing the Lance’s division. The destroyers were to escort the transport ships through the most dangerous area, leaving once they were 40 miles west of Lundy Island, where the threat from U-boats was believed to be low enough not to require an escort. The move began on 8 April when two transports sailed.

The first drama came on 11 April when the transport Wayfarer reported being attacked by a submarine. Laforey, Leonidas and Lawford were sent to investigate, but by the time they arrived the captain of the Wayfarer had realised that the explosion he had reported was caused by an accident, not a torpedo. This slowed down the sailings, and the last ship didn’t depart until 17 April. The four destroyers were able to depart for Harwich on 22 April. After the trip to find the Wayfarer the Lawford had to spent three days having the brickwork of her boilers repaired.

On 1 May 1915 the Germans attacked a group of Royal Navy trawlers off North Hinder. They sank one trawler with a torpedo then became engaged in a gun battle with the other three. However four destroyers from Harwich, Laforey, Leonadis, Lawford and Lark had been sent out to hunt for a submarine that had sunk the destroyer Recruit earlier in the day, and they now came on the scene. The two German torpedo boats A.2 and A.6 attempted to escape but they were sunk by gunfire from the four destroyers.

In early May 1915 the Lawford, Legion, Linnet and Lucifer were ordered from Harwich to Devonport to help escort two artillery brigades and reinforcements on the first stage of the voyage to the Mediterranean.

On 15 May the Lawford and Lucifer met the transport Metagama, carrying troops from Canada, and escorted her into Plymouth.  

In the autumn of 1915 Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to send four of his destroyers to the Mediterranean. He chose Laforey, Lawford, Louis and Lydiard, and they left Sheerness heading for the Mediterranean on 13 September 1915. They arrived just in time to take part in the evacuation from Gallipoli, but only remained in the Mediterranean until March 1916.


In January 1916 she was one of three L class destroyers that were in the Mediterranean, one of the four having been lost.

On 8 January 1916 she took part in the evacuation of troops from W Beach at Cape Helles at Gallipoli, taking troops off from a hulk at one end of the beach.

In May 1916 the Lawford was reported to be on Detached Service, possibly returning from the Mediterranean.

From June 1916 to March 1917 she was back at Harwich, serving with the Ninth Destroyer Flotilla, which was her old Third Flotilla with a new number.

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 25 February 1917 the Germans carried out a raid on the Downs. The raid didn’t achieve anything, but the British were also unable to respond to it effectively, as by the time the Germans had been detected they were already about to return home. Several of the L class destroyers were part of the ‘stand-by’ force at Dover (Laertes, Lawford, Lark, Llewellyn, Laforey, Lucifer and Liberty, along with the Lapwing, Broke and Faulknor), but although they put to sea at 11.20pm this was ten minutes after the Germans had begin to withdraw.

From May-December 1917 she served with the 7th Destroyer Flotilla on the East Coast. This period saw her converted into a minelayer.  

In June 1917 she was serving as a minelayer in the Nore command, although she started the month at Portsmouth.


In January 1918 she was serving as a minelayer and was based at Immingham on the Humber.

From March-November 1918 the Lawford was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport. This probably ended her time as a minelayer, and she was used on escort duty.

In May 1918 the Lawford was part of the escort of a convoy, along with HMS Achates, HMS Michael, USS Balch (DD-50), USS Cummings (DD-44) and USS Fanning (DD-37). On 12 May a U-boat attacked the trailing ship from the convoy. The escorts attempted to attack the U-boat, but without success.

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 the Lawford was officially part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, but she was one of six destroyers from Devonport that were temporarily detached to the Grand Fleet, where she served with the new Third Destroyer Flotilla.

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

The Lawford was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914), Dogger Bank (25 January 1915) and the Dardanelles 1915/16

War Service
July 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1916: Mediterranean
May 1916: Detached Service
June 1916-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
May 1917-December 1917: 7th Flotilla, East Coast
January 1918: Minelayer, Immingham
March-July 1918: 4th Flotilla, Devonport
November 1918: Detached to Grand Fleet
December 1918: Devonport

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29 knots


2-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines




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

28 September 1912


30 October 1913


March 1914

Sold for break up

August 1922

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 (11 August 2022), HMS Lawford (1913) ,

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