HMS Lookout (1914)

HMS Lookout (1914) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the 3rd and 9th Flotillas at Harwich from 1914 to September 1915, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then with the 4th Flotilla at Devonport for the rest of the war, taking part in the battle against the U-boats.

The Lookout was laid down at Thornycroft on 29 August 1912, launched on 27 April 1914 and commissioned in August 1914. Before the class was given L names she was to have been called Dragon.

In November 1914 she was one of twenty L class destroyers that formed the Third Flotilla, now part of the Harwich Force. She had been equipped with a modified sweep. She served at Harwich from November 1914 to March 1917.

The Lookout fought at the battle of Heligoland (28 August 1914) where she was the leader of the 1st Division of the Third Flotilla (Lookout, Leonidas, Legion and Lennox) and leader of the 1st and 2nd Divisions. She spent much of the battle supporting the cruiser Arethusa. At 11.35 she was ordered to carry out a torpedo attack on the German cruiser Strassburg, and led her eight destroyers to a range of 4,500 yards before they fired and retired back towards the Arethusa. Between them the destroyers were able to drive off the Strassburg. During the battle the Lookout fired 18 shells and 2 torpedoes.


The Lookout was part of the 1st Division of the Third Flotilla at the battle of Dogger Bak (24 January 1915), but this was mainly a clash between battlecruisers and the destroyers had little to do.

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. 

In early March the Lookout was undergoing a refit at Chatham.

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 June 1915 the Lookout 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.

On 23 August 1915 twelve of the Harwich destroyers (Laurel, Lydiard, Legion, Linnet, Lookout, Morris, Murray, Moorsom, Milne, Melpone, Minos and Manly) were attached to the Dover Patrol for a bombardment of Zeebrugge by a force of monitors. At the time it was believed that this operation had destroyed the first lock on the canal to Bruges and destroyed two U-boats, but in fact it did little damage.

On 30 August 1915 two merchant ships hit mines near the Longsand Light Vessel, revealing the existence of a new minefield. The Laurel, Linnet, Lookout and Lysander were sent out from Harwich to patrol the area, but didn’t find anything and returned to port on the following morning.

In October 1915 the Third Flotilla became the Ninth Flotilla, but remained at Harwich and kept the same ships. The Lookout served with her into March 1917.


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. She had been equipped with a high speed sweep.

On 20 March 1916 the Lookout 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 seaplace 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 See 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.


From May 1917 to the end of the war the Lookout was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport.

The Lookout played a minor role in protecting the first experimental convoy from Gibralter in May 1917. On 19 May Lookout and Orestes were patrolling off Plymouth as the convoy was approaching from the south-west. The convoy reached the Scillies on 20 May and all reached port safely.

By June 1917 the Fourth Flotilla contained fourteen K class destroyers and six Laforey or L class destroyers.

In mid June the Leonidas, Lookout and Liberty were used to escort some of the ships from the second inbound transatlantic convoy, HH2, from the western approaches to the Isle of Wight. On 19 June a U-boat was spotted off the Longships, and Leonidas was diverted to pass within 30 miles of the sighting in case the submarine was heading towards the convoy ships.

On 7 July 1917 UB-31 sank the SS Bellucia, which was being escorted by the Lyra. The Lyra dropped four depth charges. The Laverock, Lennox and Lookout were only half a mile away on their way back from escorting a convoy, and the Lennox dropped another four, but the submarine escaped.


In January 1918 she was part of the large Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport and was undergoing repairs

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 Lookout was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914) and Dogger Bank (25 January 1915)

War Service
November 1914-June 1915: 3rd Flotilla, 1st Fleet (Harwich Force)
July-September 1915: 3rd Flotilla, Harwich
October 1915-March 1917: 9th Flotilla, Harwich
May 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

29 August 1912


27 April 1914


August 1914


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 (12 October 2022), HMS Lookout (1914) ,

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