HMS Nonsuch (1915)

HMS Nonsuch (1915) was a repeat M class destroyer that served with the Grand Fleet from 1916 to the end of the First World War, fighting at Jutland and on the fringes of the action in the Heligoland Bight of 1917.

The Nonsuch was ordered as part of the Second War Programme of early November 1914. She was laid down at Palmers in January 1915, launched on 8 December 1915 and completed in March 1916.


From March 1916 to July 1918 the Nonsuch served with the 12th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.

On the eve of Jutland the Nonsuch was part of the Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla, which was at Scapa Flow. The flotilla contained twelve Repeat M class destroyers at Jutland. The flotilla put to sea with Admiral Jellicoe and the main body of the Grand Fleet by 10.30pm on 30 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 Jellicoe’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.  The Menace and Nonsuch from the 12th Flotilla clashed with the German cruisers Frankfurtand Pillau and were lucky to escape. The Menace was almost rammed. The Nonsuch attempted to attack the cruisers, but was then forced to make off to the east at top speed, and didn’t rejoin her flotilla during the rest of the battle.

In the aftermath of the battle the Nonsuch found the crippled destroyer Acasta, and took her under tow. She towed the Acasta until the evening of 1 June when a trawler unit and tugs took over. The Nonsuch and Acasta reached Aberdeen around 9pm on 2 June.


In January 1917 Commodore Tyrwhitt at Harwich was ordered to send eight of his destroyer to Dunkirk to help protect against any German raids. To replace them the Grenville and eight destroyers from the Grand Fleet (Morning Star, Moon, Musketeer, Mandate, Opal, Nonsuch, Napier and Strongbow) were sent to Harwich arriving on 19 January. They almost immediately took part in a large minesweeping operation on the Swarte Bank (to the north-east of Lowestoft). After this operation Tyrwhitt was told he could keep the destroyers for the time being.

On 16 February 1917 the Nonsuch ran aground in the Clyde.

The Nonsuch was one of the destroyers that screened the 1st Battle Squadron during the action in the Heligoland Bight on 17 November 1917. However that part of the British fleet never got into action.


On 16 January 1918 the Nonsuch and the collier Tonbridge collided inside the Switha boom at Scapa Flow.

From August 1918 to December 1918 she served with the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.

On 6 November 1918 the Nonsuch damaged the SS Roman by passing her at an excessive speed in Loch Long.

The 3rd Flotilla took part in the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on 21 November 1918.

In December 1919 she was in the charge of a Care and Maintenance Party at Devonport.

She was sold to be broken up in May 1921

The Nonsuch was awarded a battle honour for Jutland.

Service Record
March 1916-July 1918: 12th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
August 1918-December 1918: 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet

May-June 1916: Lt. Commander N.I.N. Lyon

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

January 1915


8 December 1915


March 1916

Sold for break up

May 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 (5 December 2023), HMS Nonsuch (1915) ,

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