HMS Loyal (1913)

HMS Loyal (1913) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the 3rd then 9th Flotillas at Harwich from 1914 to March 1917, then the 7th Flotilla on the East Coast to September 1917 and the 4th Flotilla at Devonport for the rest of the war, spending much of her time taking part in the battle against the U-boats.

The Loyal was laid down at Dennys on 16 September 1912, launched on 10 November 1913 and commissioned in May 1914. Before the class was given L names she was to have been called Orlando.

HMS Loyal from the left HMS Loyal 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 Loyal remained based at Harwich until March 1917.

The Loyal 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 Lennoxspotted 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 Loyal had one officer and two men wounded, and one of the men later died of his wounds.

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


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 Laertes 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 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. On 21 February two transports carrying horses from America to Liverpool put into Queenstown, Ireland, to await escort. Legion and Loyal were sent and safely escorted the two transports into Liverpool. By this point U-30 was operating in the northern part of the sea, and on 22 February she set began her voyage home, heading north around Scotland.

On 5-6 March the Legion and Loyal escorted the Megantic on the final stage of her voyage across the Atlantic, taking her from Queenstown to Liverpool.

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 16 May 1915 Laforey, Leonidas, Loyal and Louis was amongst eight destroyers ordered from Devonport to Liverpool to escort the Mauretania and Aquitania when they sailed on 18 May. Each liner was to be escorted by four destroyers, which were then to return to Devonport.

On 26 May 1915 U-41 torpedoed the collier Morwenna. A Belgian trawler, the Jacqueline, came up and attempted to ram the submarine, which eventually gave up and submerged. Only eight hours after the Morwenna had transmitted an SOS call were the Loyal and Louis sent out from Pembroke to hunt for submarines, and unsurprisingly they failed to find anything.

On 16 June 1915 the Loyal, Lucifer and Miranda were used to escort the Temeraire on the first stage of her voyage from Devonport back to Scapa Flow after a refit.

On 17 June the L class destroyers were ordered to move back to Harwich, but the Laforey, Lysander, Loyal and Lucifer were all retained for escort duty at Devonport. On 19 June the Loyal and Lucifer escorted in a Canadian transport.

On 11 September 1915 Loyal, Legion, Lysander, Lucifer and Linnet were used to support a minelaying operation on Amrum Bank. They were the only members of the flotilla available at Harwich, as the rest were all at Devonport on escort duty.

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

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 11 February 1916 the Harwich force was returning from a sortie when the Arethusa ran into a mine off Felixstowe. The Lightfoot attempted to take her under tow but her hawser parted. The Loyal then tried, but with the same result, and the Arethusa ran aground, split in two and was a total loss.

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.

Early on 24 April two divisions of destroyers (Loyal, Laertes, Linnet, Lochinvar, Legion, Lassoo, Miranda and Lysander) led by the cruiser Nimrod left Harwich in response to the German raid on Lowestoft. They moved north along the coast and joined Commodore Tyrwhitt at about 3.20. Half an hour later the German raiding force came into view, with at least four battlecruisers and six light cruisers. Tyrwhitt’s response was to head south at full speed in an attempt to draw the Germans into a chase. They ignored him, and instead soon opened fire on Lowestoft. Tyrwhitt turned back north to keep in touch with the Germans, although his force of three light cruisers and eighteen destroyers wasn’t powerful enough to risk an attack on the Germans. The German light cruisers then moved south and came into range, but withdrew after the British opened fire. The German battlecruisers responded by ending their bombardment and heading south to support their light cruisers. At 4.37am the light cruisers briefly opened fire at very long range. The British returned fire, but at 4.45 the German battlecruisers reached the scene and opened fire. The light cruiser Conquest was hit and damaged, and the Laertes was hit by fragments from a near miss. The destroyers were ordered to head south away from the action then scatter and make smoke. At this point the Germans had a real chance to destroy the Harwich Force, but their battlecruisers turned away after ten minutes and retired to the east. The light cruisers attempted to follow them, but this effectively ended the destroyer’s part in the fighting. 

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 27 October Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to send a flotilla leader and four destroyers to Dover. The Lightfoot, Legion, Loyal and Lysander moved on 28 October and the Leonidas on 29 October.


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

From April to September 1917 the Loyal was part of the 7th Flotilla on the East Coast.

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


From October 1918 to the end of the war the Loyal served with the Fourth Flotilla at Devonport.

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.

On 18 March 1918 a US destroyer and the US armed yacht Isabel depth charged the submarine UC-48. The U-boat survived this encounter, but a few days later the Loyal attacked the same U-boat. One of these attacks inflicted serious damage on the submarine, and it was forced to put in at Ferrol. The crew couldn’t repair the submarine in time, and it was interned.

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 was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve.

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-September 1917: 7th Flotilla, East Coast
October 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

16 September 1912


11 November 1913


May 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 (26 October 2022), HMS Loyal (1913),

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