Published Resources Details Book Section

Lyon, D. J.
Torpedo warfare: a successful prediction by D. J. Lyon
Warship 27
J. Roberts
Conway Maritime Press Ltd., London, July 1983, pp. 146-153

Accession No.1928


In the eighteenth century warships fought broadside to broadside with the aim of pounding the enemy into submission, killing the crew, smashing the masts and spars and, if necessary, delivering the coup de grace by boarding. Capture was the main intention, and it was extremely rare for a ship to sink during battle. Twentieth century naval battles, however, have resulted in sinkings, not captures, the taking of prizes having become as rare as foundering in action had been before.

Perhaps the most important of several reasons for this reversal was the introduction of underwater explosive weapons, the submarine mine and the locomotive torpedo, which became regular items in naval arsenals during the second half of the nineteenth century. The torpedo was the more important and more effective of the two weapons, not least because it produced another revolution in naval warfare in which it made possible the sinking of the largest vessels by much smaller craft without the certainty of destruction of the smaller craft in a suicidal attack, as had been the case with that self-destructive weapon, the fireship.