Published Resources Details Journal Article

Torpedoes for Defence and Attack
vol. 38, 17 October 1884, pp. 364 and 369-370

Accession No.2369


Despite the improvements that had been made in terms of efficiency, speed and range the "Whitehead' or "Fish" torpedo was a 'fire and forget weapon' over which the operator had no control once it had been launched. The "controllable" torpedo, that is one in which all its movements were controlled during its entire course offered a solution. The first person to propose a crude method of carrying this out is believed to be Captain Ballard, an English officer stationed in India who in about 1869 suggested a method of working a rudder through an electrical cable connected with the shore. An American pioneer in torpedo warfare Colonel Lay was responsible for the invention and introduction of the Lay torpedo. Controlled via an electric cable and propelled by a motor driven by compressed carbonic acid gas [carbon dioxide], the Lay torpedo was restricted in terms of both range and speed. Lay, however, demonstrated that controlled torpedoes could be directed with absolute precision despite adverse conditions that would render uncontrolled torpedoes quite inoperative. J. S. Williams' torpedo, which is described in some detail, was propelled by an electric motor powered by accumulators and controlled by the operator via a cable dispensed from a coil within the body of the torpedo. Torpedoes not equipped with accumulators could be powered directly from a dynamo via the cable.