Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Toronto to Wood Working Tools >> Torpedo Boats

Torpedo Boats

destroyer, boat, fleet, size, battle and speed

TORPEDO BOATS. The torpedo boat first made its appearance as an adjunct to the fleet in 1886. At that time its displacement was less than 100 tons, and its speed about 20 knots an hour. From that time on it gradually increased in size and speed until in 18% its displacement was about 125 tons and its speed about 23 knots an hour. The next evolution was the destroyer. This new type of vessel became necessary, for the dangerous character of the torpedo boat was fully recognized, armed as it was with an inaccurate weapon. During the revolution in Chile in the early nineties a battleship was destroyed by a torpedo fired at night from a large torpedo boat, and during the Japanese-Chinese War in the middle nineties torpedo boats were freely used by the Japanese.

As the years went by the range and ac curacy of the torpedo rapidly improved and the torpedo boat increased its size to make it more habitable and seaworthy. Its tonnage soon rose to 400 tons and then merged into the destroyer. As the size of the torpedo boat still increased, destroyer tonnage was compelled to keep pace, the final or present destroyer dis placement of about 1,100 tons (with a speed of about 32 knots per hour) having been reached and determined by most nations from a consideration of the strategical and tactical duty of the fleet with which it serves. The offensive weapon of the destroyer was originally the gun, but after the torpedo boat disappeared the torpedo became the important weapon and the guns were retained for defense only. The pivotal characteristics of the destroyer were high speed, seaworthiness, moderate radius of action and plurality of torpedo tubes and torpedoes. To enhance these characteristics in creased size was necessary and this lessened the chance of being able to surprise an enemy on the alert, and surprise was a corollary in its usefulness. These considerations tended to limit the size and when sufficient tonnage for necessary offensive work was gained, no further increase was thought justified. The present

tendency is to increase the destroyer's gun power for offensive purposes against the sub marine and this brings the destroyer back to the original conception of the use of that type. Further development will undoubtedly be toward high speed, moderate size, long-range torpedoes, a plurality of small guns and large radius of action. The destroyer, supported large cruisers, makes an excellent offensive force, especially when armed with long-range torpedoes. Making contact in the daytime with an enemy's fleet, destroyers can, at night, readily slip through the screen and attack the enemy while in its night formation.

A well co-ordinated destroyer force be comes a most important asset to a fleet when about to go into battle. A well-timed feint upon the battle line of the enemy may give to its own battle line a very important advantage of position. By the intelligent use of a smoke screen, made by emitting large volumes of oil smoke from destroyers smoke stacks, a battle line in confusion can be rescued from destruc tion•and permitted to reform or to escape. In the battle of Jutland the German fleet was concealed in a smoke screen formed by Ger man destroyers at the time when the main British fleet was about to bring a superior force against it. When the smoke cleared it was observed that the German fleet had ex tricated itself from danger.

While the first duty of the destroyers was to run down attacking torpedo boats and sink them with the fire of their small rapid fire guns, it was also armed with torpedo tubes in order that it might be used as an at tacking torpedo vessel and to defend the battle ships at night. The smaller type of torpedo vessel — the torpedo boat — was classed as a weapon of defense, employed to guard the home coast from raids by the enemy's war ships. while the larger was regarded as an offensive weapon, used to destroy the smaller type and allow capital ships to perform, with out danger, their duties of blockade and various war measures. See SUBMARINES.