HMS Phoenix (1911)

HMS Phoenix was an Acheron-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy. She is named for the mythical bird, and was the fifteenth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. She was the only British warship ever to be sunk by the Austro-Hungarian Navy.[2][3]

HMS Phoenix
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Phoenix
Builder: Vickers Limited of Barrow-in-Furness
Launched: 9 October 1911[1]
Fate: Sunk on 14 May 1918 by the Austrian submarine SM U-27[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Acheron-class destroyer
Displacement: 990 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: 28 kt (66.7 km/h)
Complement: 72

Pennant Numbers

Pennant Number[1]FromTo
H756 December 1914Unknown
H94UnknownSunk 14 May 1918


The Acheron-class (redesignated the I-class in October 1913) was an improved version of the Acorn-class destroyer which had been built for the Royal Navy under the 1909–1910 shipbuilding programme. Fourteen destroyers were ordered for the Royal Navy to the standard Admiralty design, with six more as 'builder's specials', to the design of specialist destroyer shipyards, later followed by three more high-speed specials and six for Australia.[4][5]

The Acherons were 246 ft (74.98 m) long overall, with a beam of 25 feet 8 inches (7.82 m) and a draught of 9 feet (2.7 m). Displacement was about 773 long tons (785 t) legend and 990 long tons (1,010 t)} deep load. Three Yarrow water-tube boilers fed steam to Parsons steam turbines which drove three shafts. The machinery was rated at 13,500 shaft horsepower (10,100 kW), giving a speed of 27 knots (31 mph; 50 km/h). Two funnels were fitted.[4]

The ships were armed with two 4-inch (102 mm) BL Mk VIII on the centreline and two 12-pounder 12 cwt[lower-alpha 1] guns on the ship's beam. Two single 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes were fitted. The ships had a complement of 72 men.[6]

Phoenix was laid down at Vickers' Barrow-in-Furness shipyard on 4 January 1911, was launched on 9 October 1911 and was completed in May 1912.[7]


At the beginning of the First World War, Phoenix was part of the First Destroyer Flotilla operating in the North Sea. She and her sisters were attached to the Grand Fleet as soon as the war started.

Action on 16 August 1914

On 16 August 1914, within days of the outbreak of war, the First Destroyer Flotilla engaged an enemy cruiser off the mouth of the Elbe, which is reported with great verve by an author writing under the pseudonym "Clinker Knocker" in 1938:

The Battle of Heligoland Bight

She was present with First Destroyer Flotilla on 28 August 1914 at the Battle of Heligoland Bight, led by the light cruiser Fearless.[9] Phoenix suffered one man wounded during the action[10]

The Battle of Dogger Bank

On 24 January 1915 Phoenix took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank, and her crew shared in the Prize Money for the German armoured cruiser Blücher.[11]

The Battle of Jutland

Phoenix was not present with her flotilla at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.

HMAT Ballarat

Phoenix was escorting the Australian troopship Ballarat when she was attacked by a German submarine on Anzac Day (25 April) 1917 in the English Channel. Although efforts were made to tow Ballarat to shallow water, she sank off The Lizard the following morning. No lives were lost of the 1,752 souls on board, a striking testament to the calmness and discipline of the troops.[12]

Mediterranean Service

In September 1917, Phoenix transferred to the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla which was operating in the Mediterranean. This posting was to be her last.[13]


At 9:18 on 14 May 1918, while patrolling the Otranto Barrage, the Phoenix was torpedoed amidships by the Austro-Hungarian submarine SM U-27, at position 40°12′30″N 18°52′12″E.[3][14] HMAS Warrego made an unsuccessful attempt to tow her to Valona (now Vlorë in Albania),[15] but she sank within sight of the port at 13:10 in position 40°23.5′N 19°14′E.[16] The crew had been taken off before she capsized, and there were only two fatalities; a Leading Stoker and an Engine Room Artificer.[17]


  1. 12 cwt refers to the weight of the gun in hundredweights
  1. ""Arrowsmith" List: Royal Navy WWI Destroyer Pendant Numbers". Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  2. "The Austro-Hungarian Navy". Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  3. "HMS Phoenix". Wrecksite. Retrieved 26 September 2008.
  4. Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 75
  5. Friedman 2009, pp. 122–123
  6. Gardiner & Gray 1985, pp. 74–75
  7. Friedman 2009, p. 306
  8. Knocker, Clinker (1938). Aye, Aye, Sir, a saga of the lower deck. London: Rich & Cowan Ltd.
  9. "Battle of Heligoland Bight - Order of Battle (World War 1 Naval Combat website)". Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  10. "Hansard, Written Answers, 25 November 1914". Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  11. "An Index of Prize Bounties as announced in the London Gazette 1915 - 1925". Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  12. "Ballarat photograph at the Australian War Memorial website". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  13. Supplement to the Monthly Navy List (September 1917), p. 21.
  14. Gibson, R. H.; Maurice Prendergast (2003) [1931]. The German Submarine War, 1914–1918. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-1-59114-314-7. OCLC 52924732.
  15. "HMAS Warrego at the Australian War Memorial website". Retrieved 26 September 2008.
  16. Hepper, David (2006). British Warship Losses in the Ironclad Era 1860 1919. London: Chatham Publishing. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-86176-273-3.
  17. "Royal Naval Casualties May 1918 at". Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  • 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.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
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