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BRITISH

DESTROYERS From Earliest Days to the Second World War NORMAN FRIEDMAN Ship Plans by A D BAKER III with additional drawings by Alan Raven


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INTRODUCTION J Samuel White conceived TB 81 as a ‘catcher’ when the yard laid her down in 1884 as a private venture. The Admiralty bought the ship as HMS Swift just before she ran trials during the Russian war mobilisation of 1885. She had White’s ‘turnabout’ underwater form, sharply cut up aft, with a bow rudder for maneuverability. As a ‘catcher’ she would have been armed with six 3-pounders, but as a torpedo boat she had a single fixed bow tube and

four 3-pounders, visible under tarpaulins turned to face aft, presumably to avoid weather damage: two abeam the funnels, one abeam the conning tower (another photograph shows another, on the other side, further aft), and one right aft. That the ship was not a standard design shows in the absence of the usual forward conning tower. Coamings alongside the conning tower made it impossible to place the usual pair of torpedo tubes

he self-propelled torpedo created an earthquake for the Royal Navy. When it was invented, the dominant naval weapon was the gun. It was understood that numerous hits would be required to disable, let alone sink, an armoured warship. A single underwater hit would suffice. This contrast was key to naval thinking through the First World War, when the first effective underwater protection was devised in the form of blisters and multi-layer side protection. Until there was some way to inflict underwater hits at sea, the competition between armour and guns meant that it took a large gun to do effective damage, and a large ship to accommodate not only guns but also protection against them. During the nineteenth century, there were attempts to get around this equation, such as fast capital ships (to exploit the slow firing rate of heavy guns) and quick-firing mediumcalibre guns (to destroy parts of ships which could not be protected against the heaviest guns). However, on the whole, it took a very large ship to fight a heavy-gun battle. It made sense to say that only a capital ship could deal with another capital ship. It took heavy investment to build a capital ship navy, which meant that the biggest investor of all, the Royal Navy, could maintain superiority. Thus underwater weapons usable at sea were deeply subver-

alongside it. A single 14in torpedo tube is visible between the funnels and the conning tower. The 3-pounder aft may have replaced the other single tube normally carried. In 1901, armament was set as one fixed bow tube, two single deck tubes, and four 3-pounder QF guns. TB 81 was far larger than contemporary torpedo boats: 150ft bp, 153ft 8½in oa × 17½ft × 9½ft (aft) (137 tons), making 23¾ knots (1330ihp).


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I N T R O D U C T I O N

9 (Left) The torpedo was revolutionary because it enabled a small moving craft to sink the largest ship. Previously it had taken a capital ship to sink another such ship. These Greek torpedo boats were being prepared for delivery trips (hence the sails) at Yarrow’s Isle of Dogs yard in 1884. Before 1914, British yards, almost exclusively Yarrow and Thornycroft, supplied the majority of the world’s torpedo boats. In a few important cases boats built for foreign navies spurred the Admiralty to demand improvements in its own torpedo craft.


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(Top) Yarrow completed the first British destroyers. The first, Havock, had two big locomotive boilers, each feeding one of two closely spaced funnels amidships (Yarrow may have considered this arrangement better, because it would make the boat’s course more difficult to estimate). Placing the boilers this way moved the stokeholds far apart at the ends of the boiler space. When Havock was given four water-tube boilers she had three funnels, the two middle uptakes (where the two original uptakes were) being trunked together. Like the other five prototypes, Havock had a fixed bow tube, eliminated in later British destroyers because it created unacceptable spray. Although in theory the ship would be controlled from the conning tower under the 12-pounder gun, in fact the gun platform became a bridge, and inevitably gun and bridge functions interfered with each other. One of two 6-pounders is visible on deck just abaft the break of the turtleback, and abaft it is a Berthon folding boat, standard in early British destroyers. Right aft is another 6pounder. The twin deck tube is not visible, and may not have been fitted at this time. In 1902, the armament of these ships was set at one 12pounder, three 6-pounders, and one bow tube, with no deck tubes (but three torpedoes were carried).

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D E S T R O Y E R S

(Above) In Victorian livery with white topsides and a black hull, Laird’s prototype Ferret shows the forward gun platform evolving into a bridge, with the oblong cover for the chart table visible. The object between the third and fourth funnels is the glass cover for the chart table of the after steering position (the pelorus is visible). Unlike the other two firms, Laird placed its engines between the pairs of boilers, with a stokehold between each pair of boilers (and funnels at the opposite ends). The

folding boat is visible abreast the forefunnel and the mast. Masts in early British destroyers were well separated from their bridges (which would have made signalling difficult), presumably to deny enemies clear understanding of the boats’ courses. In 1902, the armament of all destroyers less than 210 feet long (thirty-six ships, presumably all twenty-sevenknotters) was set at one 12-pounder, three 6-pounders, and only the after single revolving torpedo tube.

engines, two boilers in two stokeholds). Complement was set at forty, including twenty-six for the machinery (twenty-two stokers).2 There was some question as to whether the remaining fourteen were enough to handle the powerful gun battery. Fisher approved the forty-man complement (as a way of limiting overall size) on the ground that not all guns would be worked simultaneously. Builders were entirely responsible for machinery, but all arrangements had to be submitted to the Admiralty for approval. This time proposals were received from the six torpedo boat builders: Yarrow, Thornycroft, Palmers, Laird, White, and Hanna, Donald & Wilson. The E-in-C wanted to ensure that the bids covered the two types of boilers which might be used, the locomotive boilers already in use and various water-tube types. Thus he recommending accepting Laird’s alternative of Normand boilers rather than the Thornycroft boilers already incorporated in


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Havock Yarrow’s HMS Havock was the first British destroyer to be completed. She is shown as on trials, October 1895. As in contemporary torpedo boats, the twin tube aft had its tubes facing in opposite directions, so that a destroyer steaming into an enemy force could fire on either beam. Two more 6-pounders could be carried if the tubes were landed, leaving only the bow torpedo tube. In this drawing both the 12-pounder atop the conning tower and the three 6pounders have shields. These shields were dismountable, early destroyers sometimes having them in place and sometimes not. The two narrow shapes on deck abaft the forward 6pounders are folding Berthon boats,

a typical fixture on board early British destroyers. HMS Havock was stricken in 1912 and scrapped. (DRAWING BY A D BAKER III)

Havock INBOARD HMS Havock had locomotive boilers. In an age of fast locomotives it seemed (wrongly, in the end) that their boilers were the key to lightweight machinery. As in any other kind of boiler, the point of the design was to bring as much water as possible into close contact with the heat generated by combustion. In this case that was done by leading the hot gas created by burning coal through a nest of fire-tubes immersed in a mass of water; steam droplets formed around the tubes

the Thornycroft bid. White offered an experimental boiler. Yarrow, Thornycroft and Laird each received a contract for two ships. In hms Havock, Yarrow placed one locomotive boiler in each of the two stokeholds. Each had a stoking space at one end and an uptake at the other, the two locomotive boilers pointing in opposite directions and their two funnels close together. For comparative purposes the firm’s hms Hornet had eight water-tube boilers paired alongside each other (one uptake per pair) in the usual two stokeholds. As each stokehold had a boiler uptake at either end, the result was two closely spaced funnels between two more widely spaced funnels. Both this design and Thornycroft’s placed both deck torpedo tubes in one mounting, pointing in opposite directions, as in many torpedo boats. Later it was considered objectionable (in destroyers) to place the two deck tubes close together, as both might be disabled by a single shot. Havock was reboil-

and rose to the top of the boiler, from which steam was led off into the engine (many locomotives used separate steam domes above their boilers for this purpose, but the boilers shown here did not have them). Under forced draught, combustion was incomplete, pieces of hot coal being blown through the narrow tubes and up the funnel. Unfortunately most of the mass of water in the boiler was not close to the hot tubes, and the sheer mass of water took time to heat up. The boiler could not quickly respond to demands for either more or less steam. Locomotive boilers were never entirely reliable, as their tubes tended to leak. It was also difficult to reinforce so massive a structure to

handle the higher steam pressure needed to achieve greater efficiency (boiler pressure was 180psi, probably the practical maximum with such boilers). By the time Havock was building, a variety of water-tube boilers offered a better alternative; she was conceived partly for comparative tests, just as turbines were installed on board destroyers and cruisers a decade later for comparisons with existing reciprocating engines. The engine room shows only the housing atop the cylinders (into which a steam pipe leads) and the condenser outboard. The boilers were back to back, leaving space at the ends for stoking. In contrast to normal Royal Navy practice, in which men slept in

ered by Hawthorn Leslie with water-tube boilers in 1899– 1900, giving her three funnels (two uptakes were trunked into the amidships funnel). The rejected Hanna, Donald & Wilson design was similar to that of Havock, but with uptakes trunked into one tall funnel. Thomson, which dropped out before submitting a formal bid, offered another two-boiler design, also with uptakes trunked into a single funnel, reminiscent of its successful Destructor. Thornycroft used three of its water-tube boilers, two of them in the forward stokehold, their stoking spaces at opposite ends and their uptakes trunked together, so the ship had two widely spaced funnels, the fore funnel slightly wider. In a 1900 letter to the Japanese navy ministry, Thornycroft claimed that the Admiralty particularly liked a two-funnel arrangement because it made destroyers difficult to distinguish from torpedo boats (there is no evidence of such a preference in the

hammocks, the compartments for stokers (forward) and deck personnel had berths. Note also that the port propeller was slightly abaft the starboard propeller, probably because both were large-diameter, and would othewise have interfered with each other. The bow shows the internal torpedo tube which only the six prototype destroyers had. Note the chart table (with angled top) above the engine room, the after steering station being well abaft it. With the forward wheel inside the conning tower (which had little visibility), the ship was normally steered from aft, and the chart table may mark the usual conning position. (DRAWING BY A D BAKER III)


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THE SECOND WORLD WAR Fury is shown laying smoke after a dummy torpedo attack (probably early in 1943), little modified apart from an air search radar at her foremast and HF/DF aft. The small coil sponsoned out from her chart

table is for MF/DF. It was a standard wartime modification. Note also the gun tub added at signal deck level for an Oerlikon (the big shrouded shapes on her anti-aircraft platform aft are quadruple 0.5in machine guns).

ontrary to expectation, the Second World War fleets rarely if ever operated in formations which might have been vulnerable to the browning shots the Royal Navy developed. The main examples of browning-shot success were Japanese attacks on US cruisers in line ahead in the South Pacific. However, surface-fired torpedoes had far more value for the Second World War Royal Navy than for its First World War predecessor. The ships described in this book progressed from first line to the variety of second-line roles described here. Survivors of the interwar scrapping programme were one Admiralty R (Skate), eleven S class, twenty-one V class, seventeen W class, fourteen Modified W class, two Thornycroft V, two Thornycroft W, two Thornycroft modified W class, three Shakespeare class, and seven Scott class. Shikari was completed in 1924 as radio control ship for the target battleships Agamemnon and Centurion, and Sabre was disarmed in 1937 as a target. Minelayers In 1939, nine V class destroyers converted to minelayers during the First World War were still carried on the list as such, with a capacity of seventy-four H2 mines: Vimy, Velox, Versatile, Vortigern, Vesper, Walker, Warwick, Watchman and


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T H E HMS Thracian is shown as a minelayer in 1936. Like other British destroyer minelayers, she and some other S class destroyers could be converted back and forth between general purpose and minelaying roles. They could carry and lay forty broad-gauge (Mk XIV) mines. As the British fleet concentrated in European waters in the late 1930, mining became a major feature of Far Eastern defence plans. In August 1939, Thracian and Thanet were at Hong Kong, and Scout and Tenedos at Singapore. Late in October 1939 Thracian laid 320 mines and Thanet laid 240. Thracian laid another forty mines off Hong Kong on 21 October 1941, and further mines on 8–10 December, before being converted back for general destroyer duties. She was beached on 12 December after bombing by Japanese aircraft, and was salvaged and employed by the Japanese.

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2 4 6 HMS Escapade was the only operational British destroyer armed with Squid. She was rebuilt after a Hedgehog explosion in B position destroyed her bridge. Hedgehog was installed during refit at Cardiff (3 June–5 September 1943), and the explosion occurred when it was fired at a U-boat on 20 September (a premature explosion set off all the charges in the Hedgehog). Repairs were completed at Portsmouth on 30 December 1944; the ship is shown on 12 February 1945. Her Type 271 radar ‘lantern’ was replaced by the dish of Type 277 (as in new frigates of that time), and she had the associated IFF interrogator on the bracket half way up her foremast. She retained the then-usual six Oerlikons and her one set of torpedo tubes. The two sets of throwers aft were marked, in effect, by plates protecting them from sea damage. Had the war continued, other escort destroyers would have been similarly modified.

(Above) HMS Bulldog was an escort destroyer assigned to East Coast duties, with a 2-pounder in her bows to deal with German motor torpedo boats. She is shown on 17 April 1944, with Hedgehog in A position. She had long since landed her 12-pounder anti-aircraft gun.

(Right) Faulknor initially surrendered her after tubes for a 4in anti-aircraft gun, as shown here in January 1942. However, X position was even better for an anti-aircraft gun. Later in 1942 the after set of tubes was restored and the gun replaced the 4.7in originally in X position.

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T H E

ated by plotting. Ships without anti-aircraft fire control systems were typically fitted with ASV; those, such as Wairs, with anti-aircraft directors received Type 285. Typically installation of ASV was associated with that of a commercial MF/DF set. In 1941, the Royal Navy introduced the Type 271 surface search set, essential for night operation against surfaced Uboats. It was housed in a ‘lantern’, which was typically mounted atop the bridge in place of a ship’s main battery fire controls.19 Wallace served as prototype for installation of a surface search ‘lantern’ (in her case, carrying the antenna of a Type 272 radar) on a lattice raised above her searchlight amidships.20 The East Coast escort Whitshed was similarly equipped. The S class and Skate carried the radar on a lattice mast aft.21 Because their fire controls were essential to their anti-aircraft role, Wairs could not use this position. The other major new electronic search device was HF/DF (FH 3 or FH 4), typically employing a coil atop a pole mast aft. A simple form of HF/DF, employing a single diamond-shaped vertical coil on the foremast, was installed in many cruisers and in a few destroyers prewar. By 1937, this FA device was on board Hardy and Inglefield. In 1940, installation of HF/DF in all destroyers was approved. Havant, Hearty and Havelock were all fitted before completion, instruments initially being fitted in the main wireless office. Later the typical installation was a small pole mast aft with its office below it. Long-range escorts When the Germans overran Norway and France, they gained U-boat bases on the Atlantic coast, giving their U-boats the ability to range much further into the Atlantic. The logic of short-range escorts collapsed, and the need for convoy escorts to refuel in Iceland forced convoys into what amounted to a choke area in which U-boats could easily find them. From late 1940, therefore, there was intense interest in increasing escort

Vansittart is shown as converted into a long-range escort (1943). At this stage she retained both forward guns and also her single 2-pounders amidships, just abaft her funnel (she had Oerlikons on her bridge wings, and she retained the 12-pounder high-angle gun which had replaced her after tubes in 1940). Note the depth-charge stowage (for throwers) which replaced her forward torpedo tubes. She was converted at Devonport from 12 February 1942. HMS

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range. Initially that involved ex-US Town class destroyers (see below) and then the design of the River class frigates. Beginning in January 1941, Vimy was converted as a prototype long-range escort. No 1 boiler was replaced by oil tankage (seventy-eight tons) with mess space above it. The other boiler in No 1 boiler room was separated from the new space by a new bulkhead, the ship retaining two separate boiler rooms.22 Type 271 radar was installed atop the bridge, and the wireless office enlarged and modernised. A small diesel generator was installed. A fresh water tank aft extended effective endurance to match fuel endurance. The ship was fitted for seven fourteen-charge patterns (ninety-eight depth charges), the Y gun being removed as weight compensation. Hedgehog replaced A gun (Vimy originally retained her A gun, as did Vansittart, but both had it replaced after completion). The upper deck was stiffened. In autumn 1941, twenty-four more V & Ws were selected for conversion. Conversion took five to six months. All but Viscount (ninety-two depth charges) also had their torpedo tubes landed.23 To retain stability, five tons of ballast was added. The first ships completed were Vidette, Wrestler, Vimy and Warwick, which could all fire fourteen-charge patterns. During 1943, more depth charges were added, the 3in anti-aircraft gun being surrendered as weight compensation. About half of the long-range escorts were fitted with HF/DF, its antenna atop a stub mainmast at the after deckhouse. The later W class destroyers whose long boiler room was adjacent to the engine room could not be converted into longrange escorts, because eliminating the single-boiler room would have left only a single space containing the two remaining boilers. Whitehall was typical. After testing the five-barrel depth charge thrower, she was converted into a long-range escort. Her bridge was stiffened, and she was fitted out for Arctic service. As inclined on 25 August 1942, she had only two 4.7in

HMS Volunteer was converted into a long-range escort, her forward boiler replaced by oil fuel and extra accommodation space. She is shown in May 1943. Both sets of torpedo tubes had been landed.

(ALAN RAVEN)

Vimy was the first V & W class long-range escort, her post-conversion trials completed on 14 June 1941. She is shown as in November 1942. Like Vansittart, initially she retained both forward guns. She was built as HMS Vancouver, but renamed in 1928 when the Royal Canadian Navy renamed its newly transferred destroyer (ex HMS Toreador) Vancouver. HMS

HMS Winchelsea is shown as converted into a long-range escort (April 1942). As an escort, she retained the 12-pounder gun which had replaced her after tubes (installed at Portsmouth in June 1940). She was taken up for conversion when a refit showed that she needed extensive work in any case. Sheerness completed her conversion on 25 April 1942. She was laid up on 25 July 1944 after suffering weather damage too extensive to be worth repairing. Note the large diamond-shaped DF coil abaft her bridge, also visible on board at least Vanessa and Vidette. It might be the prewar HF/DF array, which in newer destroyers was mounted at the masthead.

(ALAN RAVEN)

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