Published Resources Details Journal Article

Torpedo boat catchers
The Engineer
vol. 63, 21 January 1887, p. 53

Accession No.141


Torpedo-boat catchers or destroyers became an essential part of a fleet when the increased dimensions of torpedo boats enabled them to accompany ironclads into action and pose a threat to blockading squadrons. In an action between two fleets the torpedo-boat catcher or destroyer's task was to destroy the enemy's torpedo boats before they could get within range of the ironclads. They also served the same purpose during a blockade by cruising between the blockading squadron and the enemy. In order to perform these duties the ideal torpedo-boat catcher or destroyer had to be able to keep the sea independently under all weather conditions, maintain a speed of 20 knots against a moderate breeze, have a small turning circle and be armed with quick-firing guns, a torpedo tube in the stem and two torpedo tubes on the deck. A powerful electric light was also considered to be indispensable. Protection was limited to what could be provided by coalbunkers and 1 inch steel plating. Displacement was to be limited to be no greater than 500 tons and sufficient coal was to be carried for the vessel to travel a distance of 1,000 miles at 18 knots. The French took the lead in this branch of naval construction when they built the 320 tons displacement torpedo gunboat Bombe (length 194 feet 3 inches, beam 19 feet 7 inches, draught 10 feet 5 inches; speed 18.19 knots) armed with two light guns, three Hotchkiss revolving cannon and two deck mounted torpedo tubes. The British responded by building the 450 tons displacement torpedo gunboats Grasshopper, Rattlesnake, Spider and Sandfly armed with one 4-inch breech-loading gun forward, several quick-firing guns and four above-water torpedo tubes. Spain's torpedo-boat catcher Destructor (length 200 feet, beam 25 feet, draught 13 feet; trial speed 23 knots), armed with one 9 millimetre gun, four 6 pound quick-firing guns, two 37- millimetre Hotchkiss cannons and five torpedo tubes was considered to be an excellent example of this type of vessel. A smaller class of torpedo-boat catcher (length 150 feet, dislacement130 tons; speed 20 knots) built by Mr. White of Cowes for the British Government had one great advantage over contemporary vessels - it had a smaller turning circle and was capable of turning at high speeds. Russia's 600 tons displacement Ilyn armed with eight 47-millimetre, and six 37-millimetre Hotchkiss guns, and seven torpedo tubes was larger and more heavily armed than contemporary British vessels. In 1887 all the major naval powers were aware of the importance of torpedo-boat catchers or destroyers and were engaged in building adequate numbers of the swift auxiliaries.

Glossary Terms