HMS Llewellyn (1913)

HMS Llewellyn (1913) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the 3rd then 9th Flotilla at Harwich from 1914-1917, fighting at Heligoland, then at Dover and Portsmouth during 1917 before spending most of 1918 on convoy escort duties from the Firth of Forth.

The Llewellyn was laid down at Beardmore on 14 November 1912, launched on 17 March 1914 and commissioned on July 1914. Before the class was given L names she was to have been called Portia.

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 Llewellyn was based at Harwich into March 1917.

The Llewellyn was part of the 2nd Division of the First Flotilla at the Battle of Heligoland Bight (Ariel, Lucifer, Llewellyn). She was with the cruiser Fearless during the battle, and fired 56 shells.


On 7 January 1915 the first attempt was made to lay mines in the Heligoland Bight. The Llewellyn wasn’t part of the operation, but was on her way from Chatham to Harwich when thick fog forced her to anchor close to the raiding force. The Llewellyn then reported spotting the track of a torpedo, triggering a full scale hunt, although nothing was found. Despite the delays caused by the fog and this report, the operation was carried out successfully.

HMS Llewellyn from the right HMS Llewellyn from the right

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 (Capitan 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. 

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.

On 1 June 1915 the Llewellyn was part of a force that was guarding paddle steamers which were sweeping a German minefiueld 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. 

On 16 August 1915 the Laurel, Lysander, Lookout and Llewellyn formed part of the support force for Operation B.Y., the mining of the Amrum Bank exit from the Heligoland Bight. The operation itself was to be carried out by the minelayer Princess Margaret supported by two divisions of destroyers, while the support force waited 30-50 miles to the west. However the escort force ran into German destroyers and the operation was abandoned. The support force never came into contact with the enemy.

In October 1915 the Third Flotilla became the Ninth Flotilla but kept the same ships. The Llewellyn remained with the flotilla into March 1917.


In January 1916 she was one of eighteen L class destroyers in the Ninth Flotilla at Harwich, but had just completed a refit at Chatham and was awaiting trials. 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 February 1916 the Lightfoot and eight L class destroyers put to sea to screen a group of minesweepers, but the Lark and Llewellyn collided before they had left the exit channel and had to return to port escorted by the Loyal, leaving five destroyers to continue with the mission.

On 24-26 March 1916 the Llewellyn was one of eight Laforey class destroyers (Laforey, Liberty, Llewellyn, Laurel, Laertes, Lassoo, Laverock and Linnet) that took part in the attempted seaplane raid on a Zeppelin base that was believed to be at Hoyer, on the west coast of Schleswig, shielded by the island of Sylt. The seaplanes took off early on 25 March, but discovered that there was no base at Hoyer. One was found further inland at Tondern, but only one aircraft found it, and her bombing gear jammed. Only two of the seaplanes returned to the fleet, and Commodore Tyrwhitt ordered his destroyers to sweep towards the German coast in an attempt to find the missing three aircraft. No sign of the aircraft was found, but the destroyers were then attacked by German aircraft, and in the confusion the Laverock rammed the Medusa. The cruiser Lightfoot, escorted by the Laertes and Lassoo attempted to tow the Medusa to safety, but she eventually had to be abandoned because of a fierce gale. The Undaunted them rammed the Cleopatra, slowing the fleet down once again. The German High Seas Fleet did put to sea, but the storm was so fierce that they soon returned to port, and the British were able to retire back to base.

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 4 October 1916 she was at sea waiting to accompany the Dutch traffic when a torpedo passed five yards ahead of her. She dropped a depth charge but it didn’t explode.

On 4 December 1916 she became the first destroyer to be credited with sinking a U-boat with depth charges, when she was believed to have sunk UC-19. However post-war research suggested that she had actually attacked UB-18, which having heard the depth charges went to the bottom. She then got entangled in the net of the Dover Barragebut made it back to base on 5 December. UC-19 was sunk on 6 December.


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 see at 11.20pm this was ten minutes after the Germans had begin to withdraw.

On 28 February 1917 the Admiralty transferred eleven L class destroyers from Harwich to Dover, including Laforey, Laertes and Llewellyn. This was part of a plan to give the Dover patrol more modern destroyers, although only after newly built ships replaced them at Harwich.

On the night of 17-18 March 1917 the Germans carried out an attack on the Dover barrage. Early in the attack they sank the destroyer Paragon. The Llewellyn was near enough to hear the gunfire. The Llewellyn and the Laforey stopped to try and pick up survivors, allowing the Germans to make another attack. This time the Llewellyn was hit, and her bows blown off in front of the forward 4in gun. Luckily she stayed afloat, and made it back to base going stern first.

From April-June 1917 the Llewellyn was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

From June 1917-January 1918 she was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth.
In June 1917 she was one of six L class destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth, making up just under half of the flotilla.


In January 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth. They were now the only destroyers in the flotilla, which also included the former submarine HMS Swordfish, now converted into a patrol vessel.

In February 1918 she was based in the Firth of Forth, and from March-December 1918 she was part of the Methil Convoy Flotilla, based at the entrance to the Forth. One of her roles was now to escort the Scandinavian convoys.

In late April 1918 the German High Seas Fleet made its last sortie, an attempt to catch the detached elements of the Grand Fleet that were being used to protect the Scandinavian convoys. On 22 April the Duke of Cornwall, Lark and Llewellyn departed from Selbjorns Fjord, with distant cover provided by the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 7th Light Cruiser Squadron, the main German targets. However the German sortie ended after the Moltke suffered mechanical problems and had to be towed home.

In June 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the Methil Convoy Flotilla, based on the east coast of Scotland, to the north-east of Edinburgh.

In November 1918 she was one of six L class destroyers in the Methil Convoy Flotilla.

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

The Llewellyn was awarded a battle honour for Heligoland (28 August 1914)

War Service
July 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
April 1917-June 1917: 6th Flotilla, Dover
June 1917-January 1918: 1st Flotilla, Portsmouth
February 1918: Firth of Forth
March-December 1918: Methil Convoy Flotilla

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

14 November 1912


30 October 1913


March 1914

Sold for break up

March 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 (28 September 2022), HMS Llewellyn (1913) ,

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