HMS Moorsom (1914)

HMS Moorsom (1914) was an Admiralty type M class destroyer that served with the 10th Flotilla at Harwich from 1915-1917, fighting at the battle of Jutland, then the 6th Flotilla at Dover in 1917-1918 before ending the war with a newly formed 21st Flotilla, part of the Grand Fleet.

The Moorsom was laid down at Browns on 15 January 1914, launched on 21 December 1914 and completed in February 1915. The Admiralty type had three boilers and three funnels

The Moorsom had joined the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich by March 1915, and she remained with that flotilla into March 1917.

On 14 March seaplanes reported seeing two U-boats lying on the bottom near the Cork Lightship. The Laforey and Moorsom were sent out to sweep the area, but found nothing and returned to port on the same afternoon.

In late March a series of sweeps were carried in the southern North Sea in an attempt to protect the Great Eastern Railway Company steamers that were operating between Harwich and Rotterdam. On 30 March a sweep by 22 destroyers sighted one submarine, U-24, which dived and wasn’t seen again. After the destroyers returned to port the Mastiff, Moorsom, Milne and Minos were sent out to continue the hunt. They were at sea from daybreak to dusk on 31 March, but the submarine returned to Zeebrugge late on 30 March.

On 16 May 1915 the Admiralty ordered the Admiral in command at Devonport to send eight destroyers (Mentor, Milne, Moorsom, Myngs, Laforey, Leonidas, Loyal and Louis) to Liverpool, from where they were to escort the Mauretania and Aquitania when they left port at the start of a voyage on 18 May 1915. Once the escort mission was over the destroyers were to return to Devonport.

In June 1915 she was one of fourteen destroyers in the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla at Harwich, which was made up of all thirteen ships in the original M class and HMS Medea¸ which had been under construction for Greece and was taken over by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war.

On 14 June the Moorsom and Miranda arrived at Devonport as part of a wider move west of the flotilla.

At the start of July 1915 the Tenth Flotilla (Aurora, Manly, Mansfield, Mastiff, Matchless, Medea, Mentor, Meteor, Milne, Minos, Miranda, Moorsom, Morris, Murray and Myngs) was operating from Devonport, escorting troop transports, either incoming from Canada or on their way to the Dardanelles.

During the first week of July the Moorsom and Murray escorted transports carrying the Xth (Ulster) Division from Belfast to Liverpool, at the start of their voyage to the Dardanelles. On 7 July they escorted the Transylvania from Liverpool carrying 2,983 troops heading for the Mediterranean. They escorted her to 50N 8.30W, reaching that point at 6.45pm on 8 July. They then turned back to meet the Mauretania, which was carrying part of the Xth Division, and escorted her to the same point. They parted company with her at 10.45am on 10 July and returned to Devonport.

On 17 August 1915 seven destroyers from the 10th Flotilla (Mentor, Minos, Moorsom, Miranda, Manly, Matchless and Medusa) along with four from the 4th Flotilla and the Harwich Light Cruiser Squadron escorted the minelayer Princess Margaret as she laid the first British minefield in the Heligoland Bight. The operation wasn’t a success. The force ran into part of the German 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla, and in the resulting clash the Mentor was hit and her bows blown off (but managed to get back to port). The Princess Margaret withdrew when the clash began, and when she turned back she couldn’t find most of the escorts and hadn’t laid any mines when the entire force was recalled because a more powerful German fleet was believed to be in the area.

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 31 October 1915 the Moorsom took part in a large sweep across the Heligoland Bight from south to north and back again, carried out by five cruisers and fourteen destroyers from the Harwich force. This squadron found one suspicious Swedish steamer which was sent to the Humber to be inspected, and plenty of Dutch trawlers, but no German ships, and was back at Harwich by the afternoon of 1 November.

On 25 December the transport Van Stirum was sunk by U-boats on her way north past Milford Haven. In response two divisions of destroyers from Harwich were ordered to go to Portsmouth and then on to the South-west Approaches. Mentor, Moorsom, Manly, Melpomene, Mansfield, Myngs, Morris and Milne were sent, led by the Nimrod. By the time the reached Portsmouth they were no longer needed there, so they were sent on to Milford, where they were temporarily placed under the command of Admiral Bayly but only if there was more news of submarines. The U-boats were active again on 28 December, sinking the oiler El Zorro, but the weather was so bad that the M class destroyers were stuck in port part from a brief foray on 30 December.


In January 1916 she was part of the Tenth Flotilla, which was still officially based at Harwich, but that was rather widely scattered at the start of 1916. The Manly was one of four ships from the flotilla that had arrived at Queenstown, Ireland, on 30 December 1915.

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. The Moorsom was part of this division but was suffering from temporary defects and didn’t get out to sea until 2.30am. 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 the eve of Jutland the Moorsom was one of four destroyers from the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla that were with the battlecruiser fleet at Rosyth. She sailed with the fleet on 30 May.

The Moorsom served with the combined Ninth and Tenth Destroyer Flotillas at Jutland. During the battle one of her crew was wounded. The Moorsom was judged to have been hit by one small projectile. Repairs were completed by 17 June.

The combined flotilla was made up of two Talisman class destroyers, two M class destroyers and four Laforey class destroyers. The flotilla was part of Admiral Beatty’s battle cruiser fleet. That fleet put to sea late on 30 May, and moved towards a rendezvous position about seventy miles to the south of the main Grand Fleet.

During the advance east across the North Sea the destroyers were used to guard the flanks of the battle cruiser fleet, while the light cruisers advanced ahead of the fleet. At 2.25pm on 31 May, just after the first contact between Beatty’s cruisers and the German cruisers, the destroyers were ordered to form an anti-submarine screen heading S.S.E. He then followed with his capital ships, in the hope of cutting off the retreat of the German cruisers that had been spotted. The German battlecruisers turned south, and retreated towards the main High Seas Fleet.

During the battlecruiser action, the four Laforey class destroyers from the Ninth Flotilla attempted to get into position to attack the Germans, but in doing so ended up getting between the Princess Royal and Tiger and their targets. In an attempt to reach maximum speed they produced a great deal of smoke and obscured the view from the battle cruisers, but their commander decided to stay where it was in the vague hope of launching a torpedo attack.

At about 4pm Beatty ordered the Thirteenth Flotilla to launch an attack on the German battlecruisers. Turbulent, Termagant, Morris and Moorsom all joined this attack. German destroyers came out at the same time, originally with the aim of attacking the fast battleships of the British Fifth Battle Squadron. The result was a rather confused melee, in which the German destroyers V-27 and V-29 were sunk, but so were the Nomad and Nestor. This destroyer battle ended at 4.43 when Admiral Beatty recalled the destroyers after the German battleships of the High Seas Fleet were sighted to the south. Beatty was forced to turn north and begin his own retreat back towards Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet. The Moorsom was hit during this destroyer action and suffered damaged to her oil tanks. As a result she had to be sent home and missed the rest of the battle. However she only suffered one man wounded during the battle. The repairs were completed by 17 June.

On 18 August the Moorsom, Milne, Murray and Termagant were detached on service with the Dover Patrol when the German High Seas Fleet made its first sortie since Jutland. They were ordered to join the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Swin, giving it seven destroyers. Although both fleets did put to sea, there was no clash between them.

In October 1916 she was part of the Tenth Flotilla at Harwich, which now contained all thirteen of the original M class ships, the flotilla leader HMS Nimrod and the ex Greek destroyer HMS Melpomene.


In January 1917 she was one of ten destroyers from the Tenth Flotilla that were still at Harwich, while the rest had been detached to Dover.

On 22 January 1917 the Germans sent the 6th Flotilla of torpedo boats from Germany to reinforce the Flanders command. The British intercepted radio communications and correctly guessed that the force was heading for Zeebrugge. The British dispatched Tyrwhitt’s Harwich Force to attempt to intercept the Germans. He had six light cruisers (split into two division), one flotilla leader and ten destroyers from his own command and another flotilla leader and six destroyers from Dover in support. Tyrwhitt placed two destroyer divisions, under the Nimrod and Simoom to the south, seven destroyers further north and his cruisers furthest from the coast. Early on 23 January the Germans briefly clashed with the two cruiser divisions, and their formation partly broken, although most reached their destination intact.

The destroyers didn’t get into the action until later, when at 0410 the Simoon spotted the German torpedo boat S50. She attempted to ram, but missed, and was then hit by a German torpedo. Her magazine exploded, and she was left dead in the water. In the confusion that followed, the S50 escaped back to Germany. The Simoon’s consort Starfish gave chase, but instead almost rammed the Moorsom, which was part of Nimrod’s division. This caused much of the confusion that allowed S50 to escape.

On the night of 14-15 February 1917 the Germans carried out another raid into the straits and attacked the minesweeper Newbury. The British response was rather chaotic, and Admiral Keyes became anxious about what was happening. He ordered the captain in charge of destroyers at Dover to put to sea in the Moorsom to try and find out, but by this point the Germans were already heading for home, so there was nothing to find.

On 24 February 1917 the Moorsom ran aground near Holm End buoy off East Anglia. By 28 February she was on the Humber, undergoing a refit.

The Moorsom was still assigned to the Tenth Flotilla until March 1917 (at least according to the Navy List, but she may have been transferred to Dover at the end of February and the List not kept up).

By April 1917 the Moorsom had been officially transferred to the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover, and by July she had been joined by her entire class.

The Moorsom was one of eight destroyers from the Sixth Flotilla that supported the bombardment of Zeebrugge on the night of 11-12 May 1917. Although this bombardment scored a number of near misses on its targets, Zeebrugge remained in operation as a German base.

In June 1917 she was one of twenty nine destroyers in the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover.

At the start of June the Manly, Mentor, Moorsom and Miranda were part of the bombardment force that attempted to bombard Ostend. This force left Dover at 10pm on 4 June, while support forces left Harwich. The bombardment itself was carried out early on 5 June, and although the monitors Erebus and Terror fired 115 shells at the port little serious damage was done. The force then returned to base safely.


In January 1918 she was part of the large destroyer force at Dover.

On the night of 14-15 February 1918 a German destroyer force attacked the Folkestone-Gris Nez Barrage. As with most of these night raids it caused a great deal of confusion on the British side. Early on 15 February the Captain (D) decided to leave Dover on the Moorsom to join the destroyers already out investigating what had happened. However by this point the raid was over.

Velox, Melpomeme, Moorsom and Morris formed Unit R during the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April 1918. Their role was to patrol off Zeebrugge.

The Moorsom was part of the 32nd Division during the unsuccessful attempt to attack Ostend on 9 May 1918.

On 14 May 1918 the Moorsom and Nugent collided.

In June 1918 she was part of the Sixth Destroyer Flotilla at Dover,

On or before 2 August 1918 the Moorsom and Broke attacked what they believed to be a U-boat. This turned out to be the British submarine E.33, which luckily survived the attack unscathed.

On the night of 28-29 September 1918 the Mastiff, Moorsom, Melpomene, Matchless, Morris, Phoebe, Velox and Broke carried out shore bombardments and fired star shells in support of the ground forces advancing in Flanders, replacing a force of Coastal Motor Boats that had been forced back to port by weather too rough for them to cope with.

In November 1918 she was one of eleven destroyers that had been transferred from Dover to form the Twenty-First Destroyer Flotilla, under the command of the Grand Fleet.

In November 1919 was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve.

The Moorsom was awarded battle honours for Jutland, the Belgian Coast 1917/18 and Zeebrugge 23 April 1918.

Wartime Service
March 1915-March 1917: 10th Destroyer Flotilla, Harwich
April 1917-August 1918-: 6th Destroyer Flotilla, Dover
November-December 1918-: 21st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

34 knots


3-shaft Brown-Curtis turbines
4 Yarrow boilers, 25,000shp




273ft 4in oa


26ft 8in


Three 4in/ 45 QF Mk IV guns
Two 1-pounder pom pom guns
Four 21in torpedo tubes with four torpedoes

Crew complement


Laid down

15 January 1914


20 December 1914


February 1915

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 (8 February 2023), HMS Moorsom (1914) ,

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