HMS Sandfly (1911)

HMS Sandfly was an Acheron class destroyer that was part of the Harwich Force and fought at Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank, then under the 3rd Battle Squadron, before moving to Portsmouth in 1917, then to Devonport, before being converted to a minelayer and operating from Immingham throughout most of 1918.

The Sandfly was laid down at Swan Hunter on 23 August 1910, launched on 26 July 1911 and commissioned in December 1911. 

In July 1914 she was one of twenty destroyers in the First Flotilla of the First Fleet, which contained the more modern battleships. At the time the Flotilla contained all of the Admiralty, Yarrow, Thornycroft and Parsons types of the Acheron or I class of destroyers.

In August 1914 she was one of twenty I class destroyers in the First Flotilla of what was about to become the Grand Fleet, and was at sea when war broke out.

She was part of the 4th Division of the 1st Flotilla during the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), where her division (Badger, Beaver, Jackel and Sandfly) was detached to accompany the battlecruisers based on the Humber. As a result she didn’t as much action as some of her sister-ships, as the arrival of the battlecruisers ended the small ship part of the battle.

HMS Sandfly from the left HMS Sandfly from the left

On the day after the battle it was decided that the Humber wasn’t a safe base for the battlecruisers, and they were ordered to move to Rosyth, while Badger, Beaver, Jackel and Sandfly were sent back to Harwich.

Early on 1 January 1915 the battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed and sunk by U-24 while returning to port from gunnery exercises. The Sandfly was one of ten destroyers ordered out to sea to patrol in an area bounded by the line Brighton-Cape Antifer in the east and Cherbourg-Anvil Point in the west. Poor weather forced them into harbour on 1 January, but they soon resumed the patrol. Unsurprisingly no real submarines were spotted, but the Hornet reported being attacked just after 10.30am on 4 January, and an impressive array of U-boats were spotted over the next few days, even though none were actually operating in the channel at the time. The Hornet’s division returned to Harwich on 6 January.

At the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) she was part of the 4th Division of the First Flotilla (Hornet, Tigress, Sandfly and Jackal). However this battle was dominated by the battlecruisers, and the destroyers had little to do.

Immediately after the battle U-boats were detected in the channel once again. On 29 January the Hornet, Jackel, Sandfly and Acheron were sent from Harwich to Portland to act as escort ships. They weren’t there for long, and departed for Harwich on 3-4 February. 

On 8 February 1915 the Jackal and Sandfly left the Thames escorting an ammunition ship west down the Channel. The Sandfly was able to escort them as far as Portland, despite bad weather. She then departed for Harwich on 11 February.

On 15 February 1915 it was decided to move the 1st Destroyer Flotilla from Harwich to Rosyth, where it was to come under the command of the Vice-Admiral commanding the 3rd Battle Squadron. This would allow eight Grand Fleet destroyers currently based at Rosyth to return to Scapa, which would in turn allow seven older River or ‘E’ class destroyers to move from Scapa Flow to the south coast to be used to escort transport ships across the Channel. The first batch of destroyers from the flotilla (Acheron, Ariel, Attack, Badger, Beaver, Jackal, Lapwing and Sandfly, led by the cruiser Fearless) reached Rosyth on 18 February.

In June 1915 she was one of twenty one destroyers in the First Flotilla at Rosyth, made of the original I class boats and one flotilla leader.

In June 1916 eight of the Acheron class destroyers, including the Sandfly, were moved from the 1st Destroyer Flotilla to become the destroyer flotilla attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron, a force of older destroyers that had been moved to the Thames to guard against any further German raids on the East Coast.  This arrangement lasted until November 1916.

In October 1916 the Sandfly was one of eight destroyers attached to the Third Battle Squadron (led by HMS Dreadnought)

In November 1916 the ships that had remained with the original 1st Destroyer Flotilla were split up, and the title was passed onto the eight ships with the 3rd Battle Squadron, including the Sandfly. This arrangement lasted into March 1917.

At the end of November 1916 the Ferret, Sandfly and Moorsom escorted the minelayer Princess Margaret when she laid 500 mines in the Heligoland Bight, in the area west of the Borkum Light vessel.

In January 1917 she was one of eight I class destroyers that made up the First Destroyer Flotilla, attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron.

On 18 January 1917 the Ferret was hit by a torpedo from U.C.21 while hunting for submarines on the Portsmouth-Havre route (a large part of the First Flotilla having been lent to the Portsmouth command). The Druid, Hind, Sandfly and Spiteful came out from Portsmouth and safely towed the Ferret back into port, arriving at 9pm, over eight hours after she had been hit. At first it was believed that the Ferret had hit a mine, but part of the torpedo pistol was later found onboard, proving it had been a torpedo.

On 22 March the Sandfly found a field of six mines that had been laid off the Nab by UC-17 on the previous day.

In April 1917 the Sandfly, and the rest of the First Destroyer Flotilla, lost their connection to the 3rd Battle Squadron, and moved to Portsmouth.

On 5 April the Sandfly dropped a depth charge on a submarine it had detected on the Southampton to Havre route, possibly UB-32 which was indeed operating in the area at the time and sank a ship off the Isle of Wight later in the day.

In June 1917 she was one of seven I class destroyers in the First Destroyer Flotilla at Portsmouth.

In September 1917 the Sandfly  was one of four Acheron class destroyers that moved from Portsmouth to join the 4th Destroyer Flotilla at Devonport, following three of her sister ships who had moved in the previous month.

In February 1918 she moved to the 7th Destroyer Flotilla which was based on the East Coast, where she became a mine layer

As a minelayer she could carry 38 mines, but this reduced her speed to 25 knots.

In June 1918 she was one of eleven destroyer-minelayers in the Twentieth Destroyer Flotilla at Immingham.

In November 1918 she was one of eleven destroyer-minelayers in the Twentieth Destroyer Flotilla at Immingham.

At some point in 1918 she collided with the Telemachus while operating in the Heligoland Bight and had to be towed home.

In November 1919 was in the hands of a care and maintenance party in the Devonport reserve. She was sold to be broken up in May 1921.

The Sandfly was awarded battle honours for Heligoland and Dogger Bank

War Service
August 1914-May 1916: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet
June-October 1916: Destroyer Flotilla with 3rd Battle Squadron
November 1916-March 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, 3rd Battle Squadron
April 1917-August 1917: 1st Destroyer Flotilla, Portsmouth
September 1917-January 1918: 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Devonport
February 1918: 7th Destroyer Flotilla, East Coast, Mine Layer
March-December 1918: Slow Division, 20th Destroyer Flotilla, East Coast, Minelayer

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27 knots


3-shaft Parsons turbines
3 Yarrow boilers




246ft oa


25ft 8in


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

Crew complement


Laid down

23 August 1910


26 July 1911


December 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 (16 September 2021), HMS Sandfly (1911) ,

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