HMS Nymphe (1911)

HMS Nymphe (1911) was an Acorn class destroyer that served with the Second Destroyer Flotilla with the Grand Fleet in 1914-15 and at Devonport in late 1915-early 1916, then with the Paravane Department at Portsmouth in 1917 before moving to the Mediterranean to join the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla in May 1918.

The Nymphe was laid down at Hawthorn Leslie on Tyneside on  8 December 1909, launched on 31 January 1911 and completed in May 1911.

HMS Nymphe from the left HMS Nymphe from the left

From 1911-14 the Nymphe, along with the entire Acorn class and the Laferoy class destroyer HMS Lark formed the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, a fully manned flotilla that was part of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet until 1912, then part of the First Fleet from 1912-1914. At the outbreak of war in 1914 the First Fleet became the Grand Fleet.

On Saturday 1 July 1911 seven members of the class (Acorn, Alarm, Rifleman, Nemesis, Lyra, Nymphe and Larne) carried out high speed trials off Berehaven, where they were all said to have reached 28 knots. However the weather was rough, and when they reached Portland on Tuesday 4 July they were all said to have been leaking, with some water getting into the oil bunkers. Repairs had to be carried out by divers at Portland. The Nymphe was the worst affected, as the water had got into her magazines, and all of her supplies of ammunition were spoiled.

On Monday 16 October 1911 one of her six-pounders burst during night firing practice off Weymouth. The gun burst about a foot from the muzzle, slightly injuring Sub-Lieutenant Ramsey and two seamen. The accident was probably caused when a life shell was used instead of a practice shell, and exploded in the muzzle of the gun.

In late April 1914 the Nymphe was one of three destroyers that spend several days in Dundrum Bay, County Down, to guard against gun runners who were believed to be smuggling weapons into Ireland.

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the Second Flotilla, part of the First Fleet of the Home Fleet, which contained the most modern battleships. The Second Flotilla contained the entire Acorn or H class of destroyers.

First World War

After the outbreak of war in August 1915 the Nymphe and the entire class formed the Second Flotilla of the Grand Fleet. By November 1914 they had been joined by the flotilla leader Broke. On 19 February 1915 her sister ship Goldfinch was wrecked, leaving the nineteen survivors in the flotilla. By June 1915 the flotilla contained all nineteen of the Acorn class boats and the M class destroyer HMS Moon.

On 15 October 1914 the Alarm was part of a division of destroyers (Alarm, Lyra, Nemesis and Nymphe) sent out to patrol off the eastern entrance to Scapa Flow after the cruiser HMS Hawke was sunk by a U-boat. The destroyers were themselves attacked at about 1.30pm. The Nymphe spotted the periscope of U-9 before she had fired her torpedoes, raised the alarm, then attempted to ram the U-boat. The Nymphe missed her target, while a torpedo from the U-boat missed her bow by a few feet then ran alongside her starboard side! The same torpedo passed in front of the Nemesis and forced the Alarm to turn sharply to port.

On 15 March 1915 the Nymphe accompanied the Grand Fleet when it put out to see to carry out exercises. However the Nymphe and Nemesis were soon involved in a collision, and it became clear that the seas were too heavy for the destroyers, which were ordered back to port. At this point in the war the danger U-boats posed to the Grand Fleet wasn’t fully understood, so the fleet remained at sea. This actually brought the fleet onto U-29, which was then rammed and sunk by HMS Dreadnought. This made the Dreadnought the only battleship ever to deliberately sink an enemy submarine.

By January 1916 the Nemesis and Nymphe were the last of the Acorn class destroyers still with the Grand Fleet. Nymphe was the last to remain, and was still there in February, but had gone by March. Most of the class either moved to Devonport with the 2nd Flotilla, or to the Mediterranean, but the Nymphe remained in home waters well into 1918, spending all of that period based at Portsmouth.

In May 1916 she was serving as a temporary tender to Vernon, the torpedo school at Portsmouth.

In July-November 1916 she was part of the Port Defence Flotilla (or Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla), which was mainly made up of older destroyers.

On the night of 7-8 December 1916 UB-23 torpedoed SS Conch off St. Albans Head. The Conch was carrying a cargo of benzene, and a massive fire broke out. The Nymphe was nearby, and was able to rescue some of her crew, including the Chief Engineer.

From January 1917-February 1918 the Nymphe served with the Paravane Department at Portsmouth, which was responsible for developing the paravane, a towed underwater weapon for use against mines and U-boats. During this period she was also listed as part of the Portsmouth Escort Flotilla (January 1917) and Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla (June 1917), although it isn’t clear if she worked for both, or if the flotilla was simply her parent organisation.

On 17 May 1917 UB-40 stopped the British steam ship Florence Louise in the Channel. Her crew had already abandoned ship when the Nymphe arrived and drove the submarine down. The crew of the Florence Louise returned to their ship, but they were left unescorted, and a few hours later UB-40 caught up with her, forced the crew off again, then sank her with bombs.

On 9 July 1917 four of her crew were killed by an internal explosion while she was operating in the English Channel. A fifth man later died of his wounds.

In March-April 1918 the Nymphe was back serving as a tender for Vernon.

In May 1918 she finally rejoined the rest of her class in the Mediterranean, joining the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.

By July 1918 the ships in the Malta Flotilla had joined the Fifth Flotilla, which was based at Brindisi. In addition they had finally been joined by the Brisk, which had disappeared from Ireland in June, and arrived in the Mediterranean in July. This was the first time since June 1915, when the first ships left the Grand Fleet to move to Devonport, that all of the surviving Acorn class ships still in British service had been gathered in the same formation. It didn’t last for long, as by August 1918 Lyra had been moved to Gibraltar.

On 2 October 1918 the Nymphe supported the Allied bombardment of Durazzo in Albania, then held by the Austro-Hungarians. Her role was to protect the southern flank of the main bombardment force, as well as supporting a force of US sub-chasers.

In November 1918 she was one of fourteen H class destroyers in the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, now at Mudros, and in December 1918 she was part of the Aegean Squadron (along with every surviving member of the class apart from the Lyra).

In the February 1919 Navy List she was part of the destroyer flotilla at Malta.

In November 1919 she wasn’t listed in the Pink List.

Wartime Career
-August 1914-February 1916: Second Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
May 1916: Temporary tender to Vernon, torpedo school at Portsmouth
July 1916-November 1916: Port Defence Flotilla, Portsmouth
January 1917-February 1918: Paravane Department, Portsmouth
March 1918-April 1918: Attached to Vernon, torpedo school at Portsmouth
May 1918-June 1918: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Mediterranean
July 1918-August 1918-: Fifth Destroyer Flotilla, Brindisi
-December 1918-February 1919-: Aegean Squadron, Mudros

Lt-Commander Richard M. King: 18 August 1913-October 1914-

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines (most in class)
4 Yarrow boilers (most in class)




246ft oa


25ft 3in to 25ft 5.5in


Two 4in BL Mk VIII guns
Two 12-pounder/ 12cwt guns
Two 21in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

8 December 1909


31 January 1911


April 1911

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 (22 April 2021), HMS Nymphe (1911),

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