HMS Defender (1911)

HMS Defender was an Acheron-class destroyer which was built in 1911, served throughout World War I and was broken up in 1921. She was the fifth ship of the name to serve in the Royal Navy.[3]

HMS Defender
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Defender
Builder: William Denny & Brothers Dumbarton
Cost: £83,000
Yard number: 935[1]
Laid down: 8 November 1910
Launched: 30 August 1911
  • Fendendo vince
  • ("By defence I conquer")
Honours and
  • Heligoland 1914
  • Dogger Bank 1915
  • Jutland 1916
Fate: Sold for scrap on 4 November 1921[2]
  • On a Field Red, a fencing buckler and rapier Silver and Gold
General characteristics
Class and type: Acheron-class destroyer
Displacement: 770 tons
Length: 75 m (246 ft)
Beam: 7.8 m (26 ft)
Draught: 2.7 m (8.9 ft)
  • Three shaft Parsons Turbines
  • Three Yarrow boilers (oil fired)
  • 13,500 shp
Speed: 27 knots (50 km/h)
Complement: 70


Defender was laid down at William Denny & Brothers in Dumbarton, Scotland on 7 November 1910, launched on 30 August 1911 and completed in January 1912.[4] Her total cost was £83,000.[5] Capable of 27 knots (50 km/h), she carried two 4-inch (102 mm) guns, other smaller guns and 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes and had a complement of 70 men.

Operational history

Pre-World War One

Defender and her sisters formed the First Destroyer Flotilla and were attached to the Grand Fleet in 1914.

Battle of Heligoland Bight

On 28 August 1914 the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy met at the Battle of Heligoland Bight. When the German Destroyer V-187 was hit by eight British destroyers and sank with heavy loss of life, Defender stopped to pick up survivors. The reappearance of the German cruiser SMS Stettin caused two of her boats to be left behind. Their crews were lucky to be rescued by the British submarine E4. Short of space, the captain of E4 embarked three German prisoners and supplied the boats with water, biscuits, a compass, and a course to steer, and they returned safely to base.[6][7]

On 23 November 1914, the British battleships Russell and Exmouth bombarded the German-occupied Belgian port of Zeebrugge, which was being used as a base for German submarines. Defender was one of eight destroyers detached from the Harwich Force to reinforce the escort for the operation, joining six destroyers of the Dover Patrol and four French destroyers. The operation was unchallenged by the German defences, but little damage was done to the port.[8]

Battle of Dogger Bank

Defender was present at the Battle of Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915 with the First Destroyer Flotilla, led by the light cruiser Aurora.[9]

Battle of Jutland

On the night of 31 May - 1 June 1916 Defender took an active part in the Battle of Jutland, with the First Destroyer Flotilla operating in support of Beatty's battlecruiser force.[10] At about 18:30 she was struck in the forward boiler room by a single 12 inch (305 mm) shell, killing one man and wounding two. Although the shell failed to explode, it knocked out the boiler room, reducing the ship's speed to about 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), forcing her out of formation with the rest of her Flotilla.[11] On restoring power (about 19:15) she took the damaged Onslow in tow and made Aberdeen the next day. Her captain, Lieutenant Commander L R Palmer received the Distinguished Service Order. The event was described in detail by Rudyard Kipling, in Sea Warfare under the heading Towing Under Difficulties. The report on the battle by Admiral Beatty stated that:

Defender, whose speed had been reduced to 10 knots, while on the disengaged side of the battle cruisers, was struck by a shell which damaged her foremost boiler, but closed Onslow and took her in tow. Shells were falling all round them during this operation, which, however, was successfully accomplished. During the heavy weather of the ensuing night the tow parted twice, but was resecured. The two struggled on together until 1p.m. 1st June, when Onslow was transferred to tugs. I consider the performances of these two destroyers to be gallant in the extreme, and I am recommending Lieutenant-Commander J. C. Tovey of Onslow, and Lieutenant Commander Palmer of Defender, for special recognition...

Lieutenant Commander Palmer wrote after the battle that Onslow had signalled Defender with the following message:

We all Captain, officers and ship’s company thank you very much for your kind and most efficient assistance and wish you all possible luck and a long leave

Onslow to Defender[13]

She was transferred to the 3rd Battle Squadron in 1916 and survived the war.


Defender was laid up and sold to Rees of Llanelly for breaking up on 4 November 1921.[2]

Pennant numbers

Pennant number[14]FromTo
H286 December 1914  1 January 1918
H291 January 1918Early 1919
H57Early 1919Decommissioning


  1. "HMS Defender at Clydebuilt Database". Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  2. Dittmar and Colledge 1970, p. 62.
  3. Colledge 2006, p.105.
  4. Friedman 2009, p. 306.
  5. Brown 2000, p. 22.
  6. "Battle of Heligoland Bight, Naval History website by Bob Henneman". Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  7. Massie 2007, pp. 104–105.
  8. Naval Staff Monograph No. 28 1925, pp. 66–69
  9. "Battle of Dogger Bank - Order of Battle (World War 1 Naval Combat website)". Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  10. Corbett, Julian S. (2013) [Originally published by Longmans, Green and Co.: London, 1921]. "History of the Great War: Naval Operations: Volume III (Part 2 of 2)". Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  11. Campbell 1998, pp. 161, 340, 396–397.
  12. Admiral Beatty, The Beatty Papers, vol. 1, B.McL. Ranft, ed, Navy Records Society, 1989, p 323
  13. Letter from Lt Cdr L R Palmer Royal Navy to his brother (original deposited with Imperial War Museum), 1916.
  14. ""Arrowsmith" List: Royal Navy WWI Destroyer Pendant Numbers". Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  • Brown, D.K. (2010). The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-085-7.
  • Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-750-3.
  • Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
  • Dittmar, F.J.; Colledge, J.J. (1972). British Warships 1914–1919. Shepperton, UK: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0380-7.
  • Friedman, Norman (2009). British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-049-9.
  • Massie, Robert K. (2007). Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. London: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-099-52378-9.
  • Monograph No. 28: Home Waters—Part III.: From November 1914 to the end of January 1915 (PDF). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical). XII. The Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division. 1925.
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