HMS Michael (1915)

HMS Michael (1915) was a repeat M class destroyer that served with the 11th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet from September 1915 to August 1917, fighting at Jutland, then on the Coast of Ireland station for the rest of the war.

The Michael was a Thornycroft special repeat M class destroyer that was ordered as part of the First War Programme of September 1914. She was laid down on 12 November 1914, launched on 19 May 1915 and completed in August 1915.

The Michael served with the Eleventh Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet from September 1915 to August 1917. When she joined the flotilla she was equipped as a mine sweeper.


In January 1916 she was one of fifteen repeat M class destroyers that formed the Eleventh Flotilla at Cromarty, along with the flotilla leader Kempenfelt and the light cruiser Castor.

On 27 March she collided with the sloop Carnation just before daylight off Noss Head south of the Pentland Firth, while heading back to Scapa Flow with the Grand Fleet. The Carnation was able to return to base under her own power, but the Michael suffered more serious damage. Her engine room and boiler room were flooded and she had to be towed back to base.


The flotilla contained fourteen Repeat M class destroyers at Jutland. On the eve of battle the flotilla was split, with one division of four at Scapa Flow and nine destroyers with the 2nd Battle Squadron at Cromarty. The Michael was one of the four destroyers at Scapa Flow. She was thus with the part of the flotilla that put to sea with Admiral Jellicoe and the main body of the Grand Fleet by 10.30pm on 30 May. The part of the flotilla at Cromarty was also soon at sea, and joined the main body of the fleet at 2pm on 31 May.

The two main fleets finally came together at about 6.30pm on 31 May. By this point the battleships of the German High Seas Fleet were heading north, while the battleships of the Grand Fleet were forming a line running roughly east to west in front of them. For a few minutes the British were able to concentrate their fire on the leading ships of the German line, but the Germans then carried out their famous sixteen point turn, and within a few minutes were heading away south into the North Sea mist. However Admiral Scheer then mis-judged the British movements, and turned back east in the hope that he could pass behind the main British force. Just after 7pm the Germans found themselves steaming straight towards Jelicoe’s battleships, and by 7.15 the bulk of the Grand Fleet was finally able to open fire on the Germans. Once again Scheer was forced to reverse course. During this phase of the battle the destroyer flotillas struggled to keep up with the fast moving battleships and rather disappear from the narrative.

Jellicoe now couldn’t be sure which way the Germans had gone and struggled to make firm contact with Scheer during the night. However the fighting didn’t end. Part of the 11th flotilla was now on the port side of Jellicoe’s flagship, with the flotilla cruiser Castor. They spotted smoke to the W.N.W. and discovered twelve German destroyers apparently preparing to attack Beatty’s battlecruisers. The 11th Flotilla and the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron forced the German destroyers away, and the Grand Fleet made contact with the Germans for the third time. Once again the Germans turned away under heavy fire, and by 8.35pm had disappeared into the mist once again. 

Jellicoe was unwilling to risk a night battle, and at 9.17 ordered the fleet into its night cruising formation. The battleships formed up into lines in their divisions, with the destroyers following behind. The entire formation began to move south in an attempt to keep between the Germans and their home bases. By 10pm the destroyer flotillas were in line, with the 12th Flotilla at the eastern (left) end of the line, then the combined 9th and 10th Flotillas, 13th Flotilla, 4th Flotilla and finally the 11th Flotilla at the western (right) end of the line.

The fighting had ended with the Germans sailing south, just to the west of the Grand Fleet. Admiral Scheer’s plan was to try and turn east and cut behind the Grand Fleet, to reach Horn Reefs and a safe route home. His leading cruisers were sent ahead to try and find the British, and soon after 9.30 then ran into the 11th Flotilla, which was now at the back-right corner of the Grand Fleet. They weren’t at all sure who was approaching them, and so while some of the flotilla fired torpedoes, most of the destroyers believed these were British ships.

After Jutland

On 24 June the Michael left Scapa Flow with the Comus and Constance of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and three other destroyers to carry out a sweep along the Norwegian coast from Utvaer to Utsire. One of their aims was to detain any Dutch fishing boats found in the areas the British had declared to be prohibited to fishing boats. On 25 June, on their way out, the squadron found the Dutch fishing boat Johan V.L.2, and the Michael was detached to escort it back to Lerwick. 

On 24 October 1916 the Michael collided with the Norwegian sailing vessel Regina off Buchan Ness.


On 14 April 1917 the Michael, Marmion and Sable escorted the Olympic on the first stages of a voyage from Lough Swilly carrying a mission to the United States, led by the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour and including Rear-Admiral Dudley de Chair. The weather was so rough that the destroyers all lost their bridges in the storm, but the Olympic made the voyage safely.

On 17 May U.C.31 torpedoed two Swedish ships that were on their way to Goteborg soon after they had left Kirkwall. Ironically both had been detained at Kirkwall for some time, in one case since 22 November 1916, and once they had been given permission to leave they decided not to wait for an escort. Three hours later their boats, carrying the crews, were spotted by HMS Saumarez. The Michael was sent to investigate and found one of the two, the Aspen, still afloat. A party was sent across from the Michael, and they were able to raise steam on the Aspen. With the help of the Michael and the tug Oceana she was successfully returned to Kirkwall. Ordinarily this would have given the crews of the Michael and Oceana a claim to her salvage value, but unfortunately some of her stores were looted before the claim could be completed, and the Admiralty refused to allow the salvage claim to go ahead.

The Michael served with the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla on the Northern Division of the Coast of Ireland Station from September 1917 to December 1918. She was based at Buncrana. The flotilla was used in the battle against the U-boats, carrying out a mix of patrol and escort duties. 


On 15 March 1918 the Moresby and Michael were patrolling at sea when U-110 sank the liner Amazon to the north-west of Malin Head, Ireland. At the time the Amazon was in the early stages of a voyage from Liverpool to Brazil, carrying twenty four passengers. All of her passengers and crew were rescued. The submarine dived, but was forced back to the surface by depth charges from the two destroyers and sunk by gunfire. Six of her crew were rescued.

On 11 November 1918 the Marne, Medway, Michael, Mystic, Nicator and Pelican were all temporarily attached to the 15th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.

On 18 November the Michael was damaged when she struck a submerged object while operating off the northern coast of Ireland.

The Michael was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.


In November 1919 she was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve. She was sold for scrap in September 1921.

Service Record
September 1915-August 1917: 11th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
September 1917-December 1918: 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, Northern Division Coast of Ireland, Buncrana

Displacement (standard)

1,025t (Admiralty design)
985t (Thornycroft)
895t (Yarrow)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35 knots at 26,500shp


3-shaft turbines




274ft 3in (Thornycroft)


27ft 3in (Thornycroft)


Three 4in/ 45cal QF Mk IV
Two 1-pounder pom pom
One 2-pounder pom pom
Four 21-in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

12 November 1914


19 May 1915


August 1915

Sold for break up

September 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 (7 June 2023), HMS Michael (1915) ,

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