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Swordfish-class destroyer
Class overview
Builders: Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, Tyne and Wear
Operators: Royal Navy
Preceded by: Sturgeon-class destroyer
Succeeded by: Zebra-class destroyer
Built: 1894–1895
In commission: 1895–1912
Completed: 2
Scrapped: 2
General characteristics
Type: Torpedo Boat Destroyer
Propulsion: Yarrow boilers
Speed: 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph)
Armament: • 1 × 12 pounder gun
• 2 × torpedo tubes

Two Swordfish class destroyers served with the Royal Navy. HMS Swordfish and HMS Spitfire were both built by Armstrong Whitworth at Elswick, Tyne and Wear launching in 1895. Fitted with Yarrow boilers, they could make 27 knots and were armed with one twelve pounder and two torpedo tubes.


After ordering six prototype torpedo boat destroyers from the specialist torpedo boat yards Yarrows, Thornycroft and Laird as part of the 1892–1893 shipbuilding programme, the British Admiralty planned to buy larger numbers of destroyers under the 1893–1894 programme, with orders being spread over more shipyards.[1][2] The Admiralty specified a number of broad requirement, leaving the detailed design of the ships and their machinery to the builders. The new destroyers were required top reach a trials speed of 27 knots (31 mph; 50 km/h), with penalty charges imposed if the ship's did not meet the guaranteed speeds or were delivered late. A turtleback forecastle was to be fitted.[3] Armament was to vary depending on whether the ship was to be used in the torpedo boat or gunboat role. As a torpedo boat, the planned armament was a single QF 12 pounder 12 cwt (3 in (76 mm) calibre) gun, together with a secondary gun armament of three 6-pounder guns, and two 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes. As a gunboat, one of the torpedo tubes could be removed to accommodate a further two six-pounders.[4]

On 8 December 1893, the Admiralty placed an order for a single 27-knotter destroyer with Armstrong Mitchell & Co with an order for a second destroyer following on 7 February 1894.[5] The ships' machinery was to be supplied by Belliss & Co of Birmingham. Eight Yarrow-type water-tube boilers provided steam at a pressure of 200 psi (1,400 kPa), feeding two four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines and driving two propeller shafts.[6][7] Three widely spaced funnels were fitted, with the middle funnel being fatter than the other two as it handled the uptakes from four boilers rather than two as did the other funnels.[5][8]


  1. Friedman 2009, pp. 38–42.
  2. Lyon 2001, pp. 17–20.
  3. Lyon 2001, pp. 19–20.
  4. Lyon 2001, p. 98.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lyon 2001, p. 86.
  6. Lyon 2001 p. 85.
  7. The Engineer 23 April 1897, p. 422.
  8. Friedman 2009, p. 44.

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