HMS Lysander (1913)

HMS Lysander (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 7th Flotilla on the East Coast until September 1917 and the 4th Flotilla at Devonport for the rest of the war.

The Lysander was laid down at Swan Hunter on 8 August 1912, launched on 18 August 1913 and commissioned on December 1913. Before the class was given L names she was to be called Ulysses.

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 Lysander was based at Harwich into March 1917, although the flotilla changed number in October 1915.

The Lysander formed part of the 4th Destroyer Division during the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914). Her division clashed with a German light cruiser, but were unable to sink her. The Lysander was damaged during the battle and her wireless set was knocked out. She fired 107 shells and 3 torpedoes during the battle and suffered two wounded men.

On the night of 2-3 November 1914 the Laurel, Legion, Lennox and Lysander, led by the Undaunted, were at sea after a patrol off Terschelling, and passed just behind the German raiding force heading for Yarmouth, but were too far off to detect the Germans. However once the Germans were detected the Undaunted and her destroyers were ordered to intercept, and at about 9.05am they spotted Admiral Hipper’s light cruisers. The British turned north to escape from the more powerful force, and was then ordered to try and follow the Germans. However by this point the two forces had lost touch with each other, although they were both heading east on parallel courses. By noon the Undaunted’s division was the only British force anywhere near the Germans, and were only fifteen miles to their north-west, but once again they failed to come into contact, and at 12.37 the British turned back. 


The Lysander was part of the 1st Division of the 3rd Flotilla during the battle of Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915 (Lysander, Lookout and Landrail).

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.

On 5-7 January 1915 the Liberty and Lysander escortred the liner Transylvania from Queenstown to Liverpool. The Liberty then returned to Milford while the Lysander had to go to Chatham for repairs.

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. 

On 8 April the Laertes and Lysander escorted the paddle steamers Prince Edward and Queen Victoria as they laid anti-submarines nets off Ostende in an attempt to catch the German submarines using that port. The nets were laid under fire, with nine 6in or larger guns firing at the two destroyers. The paddle steamers returned home once the nets had been laid, but the two destroyers remained to guard them overnight and on 9 April. On the 9th they were attacked by three German aircraft which dropped twelve bombs, all of which missed. The two destroyers then departed for Harwich on 13 April.

On 16 May 1915 she was one of eight destroyers ordered to move to Liverpool to escort the Mauretania and Aquitania, which were to sail on 18 May.

On 16 June 1915 the Laforey and Lysander were sent from Devonport to Avonmouth to help escort the 13th Division at the start of its voyage to the Dardanelles.

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.

They remained there for several days on escort duty before being sent back to Harwich on 24 June.

On 28-31 July 1915 the Lysander took part in a sweep of the Skagerrack. The sweep had meagre results, although the Lysander did detain a Danish steamer that her captain believed to be acting suspiciously and took her into the Humber to be examined.

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 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.

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, although kept the same ships. The Lysander 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.



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.

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. 

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-September 1917 the Lysander was part of the Seventh 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 August 1917 to the end of the war the Lysander was part of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport (different official documents took longer to reflect changes of location, thus the apparent overlap between the Seventh and Fourth Flotillas. 


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.

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 the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Portsmouth Reserve.

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

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
August 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

8 August 1912


18 August 1913


December 1913


June 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 (23 November 2022), HMS Lysander (1913) ,

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