HMS Narborough (1915)

HMS Narborough (1915) was a repeat M class destroyer that served with the Grand Fleet from 1916-1918, fighting at Jutland, but was lost early in 1918 with her entire crew after running aground off South Ronaldsay.

HMS Narborough was ordered in the Fourth War Programme of February 1915. She was laid down at Brown in May 1915, launched on 2 March 1916 and completed in April 1916.


From May 1916 until October 1917 the Narborough served with the 13th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.

The Narborough was part of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla at Jutland, where she was the leader of one of the flotilla’s three divisions. She was with the battlecruiser fleet at Rosyth, and sailed with the fleet on 30 May.

HMS Narborough, 1917 HMS Narborough, 1917

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.

At about 4pm, during the chase south, Beatty signalled to the Thirteenth Flotilla that ‘it seemed a good opportunity to attack’. The flotilla turned east, and attempted to get into position to fire its torpedoes. While this was happening, the first of the British battlecruisers was lost, when HMS Indefatigable exploded and sank after being hit by the Von der Tann.

The flotilla commander, in the cruiser Champion, gave the order to attack at 4.15. The first five destroyers (Nestor, Nomad, Nicator, Pelican and Narborough) were able to pass in front of the British line at about 4.20 and turned towards the Germans. They were joined by Turbulent, Termagant, Morris and Moorsom from the Ninth and Tenth Flotillas. 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 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. After more confused manoeuvres the two fleets came into range of each other for a third time after 8pm, but the Germans turned away for a third time, and disappeared into the mists by 8.35.

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 key moment of the night actions came at around 11.30, when the High Seas Fleet finally attempted to pass behind the Grand Fleet and ran into the British destroyers. The Germans would make contact with the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which was towards the right of the British line. There was then a seven mile gap to the 13th Flotilla, with the 9th and 10th Flotilla close by, and the 12th Flotilla to their rear.

In a series of clashes the Germans inflicted heavy damage on the 4th Flotilla, but instead of rushing to their aid, the 13th Flotilla, which was next in line, believed they were the target of the gunfire, and that there were friendly ships between them and the Germans preventing a torpedo attack. The flotilla leader Captain Farie ordered the flotilla to turn away to the east to get out of range, but he failed to signal the move, so only two of the flotilla followed him. His move also forced the 9th and 10th Flotillas and the 12th Flotilla to turn to port to get out of the way. As a result the British destroyers were no longer in the correct place when the High Seas Fleet passed behind the Grand Fleet. As a result the Germans were able to move past almost without being detected and the one clash that did occur was with two cruisers so didn’t cause any alarm. 

By the time this confusion ended the remaining seven boats from the 9th and 10th Flotillas had been joined by one ship from the 4th and five from the 13th. This force of twelve destroyers was led south-west in an attempt to find the German van, but most of his force passed in front of the Germans without spotting them. Two boats from the 13th, the Pelican and Petard did spot the Germans, but the Petard had fired all of her torpedoes, so was unable to take advantage, while the Pelican was out of position for an attack.


On 18-19 January 1917 the Narborough took part in an anti-submarine sweep off the Dogger Bank. The sweep was carried out by two cruisers, four screening destroyers and six destroyers equipped with paravanes. However during the night of 18-19 January the destroyers lost touch with the cruisers, and the sweep was cancelled at daylight on 19 January.

On 29 March the Narborough was damaged in a collision with the dock wall at Leith while being towed by the tug Heathcock.

In June 1917 the Narborough took part in Operation B.B., a massive Grand Fleet operation designed to use a mix of submarines and destroyers to catch a number of U-boats that were expected to be passing around the northern tip of Scotland on their way back to Germany. Narborough, Orestes and Oriana from the 13th Flotilla were attached to the 11th Flotilla during the operation, patrolling the area to the east of the Orkneys and based at Scapa Flow.

During the operation there was only one moment of excitement in that area. On 20 June the British submarine J.1 encountered a U-boat on the surface and fired four torpedoes at it. All four missed, and a rare surface battle between submarines followed. J.1 reported scoring two hits, and that the U-boat couldn’t dive (although it did out-pace J.1). The Narborough and Oriana were sent off to the south-east of their patrol area to try and find this potentially damaged U-boat but without success.

From November 1917 until she was lost on 12 January 1918 the Narborough served with the 12th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.


On 12 January 1918 the Opal, Narborough and cruiser Boadicea were sent out on a Dark Night Patrol, looking for German minesweepers that were believed to be operating off the Scottish coast. By 1830 the weather was so bad that the captain of the Boadicea ordered the two destroyers to return to Scapa Flow. Over the next few hours the Opal was in regular contact with Scapa, but at 2127 she signalled ‘urgent, have run aground’. The two destroyers had run into the Clett of Crura near Hesta Rock, to the north of Windwick Bay on South Ronaldsay. The order to abandon ship was issued on both ships, and some men managed to reach the nearby cliffs. However the weather was terrible, and by the time the Peyton found them on 14 January there was only one survivor, Able Seaman William Sissons, gunlayer second class from the Opal.

The Narborough received a battle honour for Jutland.

-May/ June 1916-: Lt Commander G. Corlett

Service Record
May 1916-October 1917: 13th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
November 1917-12 January 1918: 12th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet

Displacement (standard)

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

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

34 knots


3-shaft Brown-Curtis or Parsons turbines
3 Yarrow boilers




273ft 4in (Admiralty)
274ft 3in (Thornycroft)
270ft 6in (Yarrow)


26ft 8ft (Admiralty)
27ft 3in (Thornycroft)
24ft 7.5in (Yarrow)


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

May 1915


2 March 1916


April 1916


12 January 1918

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 (14 September 2023), HMS Narborough (1915),

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