Vessel HMS Lightning (1876 - 1896)



The HMS Lightning, the Royal British Navy's first purpose-built torpedo boat, was built by John Isaac Thornycroft. It was the first of nineteen first-class torpedo boats purchased by the Royal Navy, so designated to distinguish them from smaller boats carried on battleships and cruisers.

The Lightning (length 84 feet overall, beam 10 feet 10 inches, draught 5 feet) had a guaranteed speed of 18 knots and was powered by engines of 350 indicated horsepower. The hull of the Lightning was of thicker plate than the other boats built by Thornycroft's at the time and the lines were fuller as she was intended for use in tolerably rough weather; cabin accommodation was also larger than that of other boats. The Lightning was later armed with Whitehead torpedoes launched from a single tube placed on the forward deck.

The Lightning was built at Thornycroft's Cheswick shipyards and was entered into service in 1876. She was 'broken up' in 1896.

Related entries

Published resources

Journal Articles

  • 'The Thornycroft torpedo vessels; their construction armament & c, and the results of certain experiments that have been made with them', The Engineer, vol. 43, 18 May 1877, pp. 337-338. Details
  • 'The torpedo boat "Lightning"', Engineering, vol. 31, 24 June 1881, pp. 648-649. Details
  • 'On efficiency of guide-blade propellers', The Engineer, vol. 55, 16 March 1883, pp. 201-203. Details

Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: 'The torpedo boat "Lightning"', Engineering, vol. 31, 24 June 1881, pp. 648-649; 'Thornycroft: Shipbuilding', in Grace's Guide - British Industrial History, 2012,

Prepared by: Rebecca Rigby