HMS Lucifer (1913)

HMS Lucifer (1913) was a Laforey class destroyer that served with the 3rd then 9th Flotillas at Harwich from 1914 to March 1917, fighting at Heligoland and Dogger Bank, then with the 6th Flotilla at Dover to June 1917 and the 1st Flotilla at Portsmouth to January 1918 before spending the rest of the war on convoy escort duty from the Firth of Forth.

HMS Lucifer from the left HMS Lucifer from the left

The contract to build Lucifer was awarded to Parsons but subcontracted by them to Palmers. She was laid down on 26 October 1912, launched on 29 December 1913 and commissioned in August 1914. Before the class was given L names she was to have been the Rocket.

The Lucifer served with the Third Flotilla at Harwich from August 1914 until October 1915 when it was renumbered as the Ninth Flotilla.

The Lucifer was part of the 2nd Division of the First Flotilla at the Battle of Heligoland Bight (Ariel, Lucifer, Llewellyn). She fired 40 shells during the battle.

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.

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.


The Laertes took part in the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915). She was part of the 2nd Division of the Third Flotilla during the battle (Laurel, Liberty, Laertes and Lucifer). However because of fog they were some way behind Admiral Beatty’s battlecruisers when they entered the battle, and as the battle soon developed into a chase with battlecruisers attempting to catch the retreating Germans 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 (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. 

On 27 March Laurel, Liberty, Leonidas and Lucifer were sent to patrol between the Mass and the North Hinder Light Vessel, to protect the Great Eastern Railway Company steamers which were still operating on the Harwich to Rotterdam route. The destroyers spotted a submarine at 4pm on 28 March, and spent the night attempting to keep her submerged. Six M class destroyers (Mentor, Manly, Morris, Milne, Mastiff and Murray) were sent to help, but early on 29 March the entire force was recalled to deal with a possible sortie by a German battlecruiser squadron. However it was soon discovered that the battlecruisers had returned to port, so the destroyers were sent back to patrol the same area. At 8.30am on 30 March the destroyers (by now raised to a total of 22) spotted U.24, but she dived and escaped. The patrols lasted until 5 April.

On 22 April the Laverock, Linnet, Lucifer and Lydiard replaced the Laforey’s division on escort duty in the Bristol Channel. On their way the new destroyers escorted the Orion into Devonport for a refit. The Lydiard’s division was sent north to escort the 10th Division as it crossed from Ireland to England.

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.  

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 11-13 July 1915 the Laurel, Lucifer, Liberty and Leonidas were sent to patrol just outside Dutch territorial waters off the Texel, in response to rumours that several German liners were about to attempt to dash from Rotterdam to Emden. This was the one point where they were likely to have to leave Dutch waters, but in the end the rumours turned out to be false and the destroyers returned to port without incident.

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 all of the same ships. The Lucifer 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 was undergoing a refit at Chatham which was expected to be complete by 8 January, after which she was to undergo fresh 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 March 1916 the Lucifer 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 Fleet to sea, 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.

At the start of May 1916 the Grand Fleet carried out a combined mining and air raid operation over the German coast. The only contribution made by the Harwich Force came from the Lark and Lucifer, which were sent north to the Humber to escort the minelayer Princess Margaret. They sailed at 8.30am on 3 May and the Princess Margaret laid a minefield north of Borkum having left her escort behind then returned to the Humber safely.

On the night of 26 October 1916 the Laforey division (Laforey, Laurel, Lucifer and Liberty) were sent to Dunkirk, arriving at about 2200, to protect against a possible attack on nearby coast by German naval forces. However that night the Germans attacked the light forces protecting the Dover Barrage. As the Laforey’s division was making the crossing they came very close to the German 18th Half Flotilla of destroyers, and were spotted from the German boats, but failed to notice their enemies.

At 2255 the Laforey division was ordered to put out to sea and patrol between the South Goodwin Light Vessel and 9A buoy on the barrage. As they approached the area of the buoy flashes of gunfire were seen, probably from a clash between the Germans and the Tribal class destroyer Viking, but they were unable to make contact. At 0050 on 27 October Lucifer and Laurel were detached to search to the north, but at 0100 an order to return to the Downs was received. This was actually meant for the Lawford’s division, which had left the Downs against orders (having misjudged an earlier message), but had been sent to the Laforey by mistake. The Laforey’s division thus made their way to the Downs, where their arrival must have been something of a surprise. At about 0300 they were ordered to spread out along the line of the barrage to search for any disabled drifters.


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

When the Germans raided into the Straits of Dover and the Downs on 17-18 March 1917 the Lucifer was one of five destroyers in reserve at Dover. When the news of the raid first reached Dover this force was ordered to put to sea, but the commander of the Laforey then signalled that the attack was being carried out by submarines, and they were recalled, and dedicated anti-submarine ‘P’ Boats sent out instead.

From April-July 1917 the Lucifer was part of the large Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover. The Navy List places her at Dover into July, while the Navy’s Pink List of ship locations has her with the First Flotilla at Portsmouth by June.

When the Germans raided the Dover Straits on 20-21 April 1917 the Mentor, Lucifer and Lydiard were in reserve. The German raiders ran into the larger destroyers Broke and Swift resulting in what became one of the more famous destroyer actions of the war. The reserves were sent out but didn’t arrive until the fighting was over. The Lucifer took part in the rescue efforts, then escorted the Swift back to port after dawn on 21 April.

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. She remained at Portsmouth into January 1918.


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.

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

The Lucifer was awarded battle honours for Heligoland (28 August 1914), Dogger Bank (25 January 1915) and the Belgian Coast 1916

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
April 1917-June: 6th Flotilla, Dover
July 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 geared 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

26 October 1912


29 December 1913


August 1914


December 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 (2 November 2022), HMS Lucifer (1913) ,

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