Alarm-class torpedo gunboat, HMS Speedy (1893)

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Alarm-class torpedo gunboat, HMS Speedy (1893)


Vehicle design and history:

HMS Speedy, was one of 11 Alarm-class torpedo gunboats ordered for the Royal Navy under the 1889 Naval Defence Act. This act authorised the shipbuilding programme for the next five years, and also included the last two torpedo-gunboats of the Sharpshooter-class and the five torpedo-gunboats of the Dryad-class, as the Royal Navy gained a large number of Torpedo-gunboats in a short time frame. The Alarm class boats were slightly modified versions of the previous Sharpshooter-class, with the main change being modified engines to improve reliability. HMS Speedy like the rest of her class was 230 feet (70.10 m) long between perpendiculars, with a beam of 27 feet (8.23 m) and a draught of 12 feet (3.66 m) giving a displacment of 810 long tons (820 t). The ship differed from her sisters in one major way though, as unlike the other ships in her class she had eight Thornycroft water-tube boilers rather than the locomotive boilers used for the rest of the class. This resulted in the ship having three funnels instead of the standard two fitted to the other ships in her class. These boilers fed two sets of triple-expansion steam engines rated at 3,500 indicated horsepower (2,600 kW), which drove two Gunmetal propellers with a diameter of 8 ft 3 in (2.51 m). This gave HMS Speedy an improved top speed over the design speed of 18.7 knots (21.5 mph; 34.6 km/h) when she reached a respectable speed of 20.21 knots (23.26 mph; 37.43 km/h) during sea trials. This revised machinery arrangement also made the ship much more reliable, and allowed her to more easily maintain high speed.

In terms of armament, HMS Speedy was identical to her sisters, being armed with two 4.7 inch (120 mm) QF guns mounted fore and aft on the ships centreline, supplimented by four four 3-pounder (47 mm) guns (two in single mounts on the ship’s beam and two in casemates forward) and a single .45-inch Gardner machine gun. In addition to these cannons, the ship was also fitted with 3 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, with one fixed in the ships bow and two mounted on swivelling mounts on the beam of the ship. Like the rest of her class HMS Speedy had a crew of 91, when in war time compliment.

Service History:

HMS Speedy was laid down at the Thornycroft shipyard at Chiswick on January 4th 1892, and would be launched on the 18th of may 1893, with the ship ultimately completing fitting out on the 20th of febuary 1894. The change of powerplant from her sisters proved instantly noticable, as she achieved a top speed of 20.21 knots (23.26 mph; 37.43 km/h) during sea trials, with her engines delivering 4,703 indicated horsepower (3,507 kW). Due to the unique nature of her powerplant, HMS Speedy was subject to extensive testing, to guage the suitibility of her boilers. The testing proved successful, demonstrating both reliablity and perfromance, for the new water-tube boilers, which would pave the way for the more widespread use of such boilers by the Royal Navy. Because of this Speedy was readily accepted into standard service, and in August of 1894, she took part in that year’s naval manoeuvers. In january of 1896, HMS Speedy served as a despatch vessel to the Channel squadron, and in July of that year she again took part in the Manoeuvres. A duty she would repeat in 1897, along with the Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead in the same year. This would change in 1898, when HMS Speedy was deployed to Gibraltar, but this new assignement was initially aborted when she had to return to britain to have her boilers re-tubed after suffering issues on the journey out. She would later return to the Mediterranean, and would not return to home waters until 1905. During this time she would travel to Port Said, and conduct a tour of the region, visiting Suez, Saukin, Perim, Hodeida and Aden in 1902.

In 1906, she would return to home waters, and be assigned to Coastguard duties at Harwich, during which HMS Speedy collided with a merchant ship in June of that year. Speedy would go on to join the home fleet in 1907, and then in 1909 she would be attatched to the Nore destroyer flotilla. The ship would then be converted into a minesweeper in 1909, which involved the loss of her torpedo tubes, and was followed two years later by her boilers again being retubed in 1911 after which she rejoined the Nore division of the home fleet upon completion of her refit. HMS Speedy would be operational when WW1 was declared, and on august 19th of 1914, the destroyer HMS Orwell reported that she was being chased down by an enemy three funnelled cruiser, that they identified as either a Königsberg-class or Dresden-class off the Outer Dowsing. Upon investigation it was found that this “hostile cruiser” was in fact the incredibly menacing HMS Speedy. HMS Speedy would not have a long service career during the first world war though, as on the night of the 25th of august 1914, the german minelayer Nautilus, light cruiser Mainz and the torpedo boats of the 3rd Half flotilla laid a sizable minefield off the mouth of the Humber estuary, while another ship Albatross laid another minefield off the River Tyne. Upon the discovery of these minefields, Speedy and the gunboat Spanker were ordered to clear the minefield off the Humber. In order to complete this task, Speedy accompanied the drifter Eyrie and two other trawlers to sweep the Humber minefield. This did not go well, and Eyrie struck an mine and sank, killing six of her crew. The next day Speedy and the drifters Lindsell, Wishful and Achievable were again sweeping the Humber field when Lindsell struck a mine and sank, taking 5 of her crew to the bottom with her. In an effort to save the crew of the Lindsell, Speedy began lowering her boats, only to struke a mine herself, sinking a hour later, with one member of Speedy’s crew being lost in the event. This loss of three minesweepers in two days shocked the admiralty, forcing them to change their policy in dealing with minefields. The change resulted in rather than fully clearing minefields, the sweepers would instead clear channels, as they swept routes through minefields, creating a safe route for shipping. This would become HMS Speedy’s lasting legacy, as this method of minefield clearance during wartime became the standard, and would be used into the second world war and beyond.


Displacement: 810 long tons (823t)

Length: 74 m (242 ft 9 in)

Beam: 33 m (108 ft 3 in)

Draught: 8.2 m (26 ft 11 in)

Propulsion: eight Thornycroft water-tube boilers connected to two triple-expansion steam engines rated at 3,500 indicated horsepower (2,600 kW)

Speed: 20.21 knots (23.26 mph; 37.43 km/h)

Complement: 91

Armament: 1 × fixed bow 18-inch (450mm) torpedo tube with two additional reloads
2 × revolving 18-inch torpedo tubes with two additional reloads
2 × QF 4.7-inch (12 cm) guns
4 × 3-pounder guns
1 × Gardner machine gun

Additional Historical Pictures:

A image of HMS Speedy later in her service life when she was converted into a mine sweeper:

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Image of HMS during her launch on may 18th 1893:

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A selection of historical Postcards depicting HMS Speedy:

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