Published Resources Details Journal Article

Torpedo vessels and their equipments
The Engineer
vol. 62, 5 November 1886, p. 374

Accession No.134


The results obtained during the American Civil War with slow steam launches armed with spar torpedoes demonstrated the potential of torpedo warfare. The Russian Government was one of the first Governments to realise the value of high-speed boats for coastal defence and ordered a large number of (length 75 feet, beam 10 feet) vessels. Whilst, the English Government decided upon two types of torpedo boats that later were known as first and second-class boats. The former, about 90 feet long were for harbour defence; the later, about 60 feet long, were carried on capital ships and were to be utilised in war as the occasion offered. Other nations purchased boats of the same size, but usually equipped them with a fixed torpedo tube in the stem, whilst the English Government favoured a revolving tube. The second-class boats were too small for this system and were equipped with frames on each side. By 1880 it was realised that a larger torpedo boat capable of keeping the sea independently was needed, and Messrs. Yarrow and Co. of Poplar built the 100 foot long Batoum for the Russian Government. The boats that followed were increased in length to 110 feet and were usually armed with two fixed bow torpedo tubes. It was not until 1883 that the English Government ordered four 113 feet long boats armed with two fixed bow torpedo tubes and one revolving tube aft, combining the advantages of right ahead and beam discharge. Following the success of these vessels the Admiralty ordered a number of 125 foot long boats armed with five torpedo tubes, one fixed in the stem, and two pairs of tubes arranged in the shape of a V, each pair revolving on a small fixed conning tower, one forward the other aft. These boats were not a great success as they tended to scoop up water and deliver it onto the deck, and the weight of four revolving tubes was too great to be carried satisfactorily. By the mid 1880's there was a trend towards larger more seaworthy boats as exemplified by the twin-screw torpedo boat Wiborg (length 148 feet, beam 17 feet, draught 9 feet 6 inches; trial speed 21.9 knots), built by Messrs. Thomson of Clydebank for the Russian Government. Despite the Wiborg's increased length and displacement there was some doubt in informed circles as to its ability to keep the sea and co-operate with a fleet under all weather conditions. All existing torpedo boats at the time had failed to reach the required standard and it was believed that displacement should be increased even further. The 240 ton torpedo vessel Vesuvius (length 90 feet, beam 22 feet, draught 8 feet 6 inches) was considered to be an ideal starting point for further development, whilst the 1,400 ton torpedo cruiser Scout (length 225 feet, beam 34 feet 3 inches, draught 14 feet 6 inches) was a mistake in 'misplaced material' that had been repeated several times. The French had built several torpedo boats of 330 tons displacement that were capable of speeds of speed up to 18 knots, and at the time approached what was considered to be the ideal torpedo vessel. The British followed suit with the 450 tons displacement torpedo gunboat Grasshopper (length 200 feet, beam 23 feet, draught 10 feet 4 inches). It was thought that there was no intermediate step between the 400 and 4,000-ton vessel, speed; facility in turning and the absence of large guns should be common to both types.