Destroyer Leader HMS Swift (D60) - Leading to Nowhere

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Destroyer Leader HMS Swift (D60)

Swift in 1917

Bluewater vessel, massive WW1-era destroyer, refitted with a 6-inch gun, unlike RN Aquila it has some AA capability.

One of First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher’s many ambitious ideas for a modern navy, HMS Swift was meant to replace all contemporary destroyers and scouts in the Royal Navy, being larger and faster than all of its contemporaries. Designed for 36-knots to be able to screen Fisher’s battlecruiser squadrons and was almost as large as contemporary light cruisers. The Cammell Laird shipyard was chosen to build the design in 1905, and HMS Swift was officially ordered in 1906 (with the original name “Flying Scud”) to a very expensive tune of £233 764. Building took longer than anticipated due to the new machinery that had to be tested and constructed to try to hit the 36-knot speed target. In 1909 the ship was completed and ran its trials, only reaching just over 35 knots because of the heavier than expected machinery, and was commissioned in 1910. The ship was too large to operate with existing destroyers and torpedo boats, and its machinery layout made it vulnerable to gunfire while also carrying a relatively light armament, but its first captain thought it would be an exceptional scout ship, as it had good seakeeping and fast acceleration and was fitted with a new wireless set. However the very high price tag prevented any more of its type to be constructed and it would remain the largest British destroyer until the Tribal-class.

When the Great War broke out, HMS Swift was employed as a destroyer leader. It was assigned to the 4th Torpedo Boat flotilla as its leader in the North Sea Patrol. Its torpedoes were meant to be upgraded to 533mm ones, but it seems that the refit never happened. In 1915 it was transferred to the Dover Patrol as part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, where it would remain for the rest of the war. In 1916, as German destroyers rearmed with 105mm guns started duelling the ships of the Dover Patrol, HMS Swift was rearmed with a 6-inch gun at the bow in order to outgun them, which it retained for the rest of its service. Additionally it was fitted with anti-aircraft guns and an enlarged superstructure. The ship fought German torpedo boats with its new armament at the 2nd Battle of Dover Strait, where it and HMS Broke sunk 2 German torpedo boats, while taking significant damage themselves, with Swift having to tow Broke back to port. After the war the ship was put into reserve and then decommissioned and scrapped in 1921.

Specifications: (1917)

1x1 6"/45 (152mm) BL Mk.VII
2x1 4"/40 (102mm) BL Mk.VIII
1x1 57mm Hotchkiss 6-pdr QF
1x1 40mm Vickers 2-pdr Mk.IIc
2x1 450mm TT (4 torpedoes)

2170t standard
2483t full

Length: 107.8m

Beam: 10.4m

Draft: 3.9m

Propulsion: 4 Parsons steam turbines with 12 Laird boilers, 30 000 hp, driving 4 shafts

Speed: 35 knots (64.8 km/h)

Range: 2335 nmi (at 15 knots)

Crew: 126


HMS Swift’s original design, note its absolutely massive funnels, which each were attached to 4 boilers.
Shots of its torpedo tubes

A shot of the crew at the bow in 1917

HMS Swift’s original general arrangement, along with its refits outlined
Swift in about its 1917-1918 refit

Friedman, N. (2009). British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War (p. 272, 279-289). Pen & Sword Books. Kindle Edition.
Gardiner, R., & Scheina, R. L. (1997). Great Britain and Empire forces. In Conway’s all the world’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921 (p. 73). Conway Maritime Press.
Patianin, S. (2021). Niszczyciel Swift - „miniscout”
admirała Fishera część I. In Okręty Wojenne Vol. XXXI, Nr 6/2021 (pp. 14-26).
Patianin, S. (2022). Niszczyciel Swift - „miniscout”
admirała Fishera część II. In Okręty Wojenne Vol. XXXII, Nr 1/2022 (pp. 20-27).


Hey bud, there seems to be quite a few errors with your details for this vessel, i have a comprehensive breakdown of the vessel in my suggestion for her 1918 config, which can be found here

some things for example are the pennant number, along with armament layouts.

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Well, most of my information comes from Norman Friedman’s British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War, who is an author I consider reliable.

I’ve read in online sources things like the 6-inch gun being replaced in 1918, torpedo tubes being changed, etc. But his book contradicts a lot of that and I put precedence of his book over online sites. In the Dreadnought project, they’ve cited the book British Destroyers: A History of Development for the armament changes, but it’s a pretty old book and I’d like to think the newer source would be more accurate.

He says of the 6-inch

“She retained this gun through the rest of the First World War.”

and that only HMS Viking had its 6-inch replaced with 4-inch Mk Vs

“Experience in Swift and Viking showed that they were not stable enough gun platforms, so Viking had a 4in Mk V substituted for her 6in gun. Swift retained hers”

and the torpedo tubes

“were ordered replaced by 21 in (this appears not to have been done, however, as the official armament list continued to list 18in single tubes through the war).”

I guess this isn’t definitive evidence, could’ve just been an error on the list’s part

For additional armament he says

“The after torpedo tube was housed lip forward to make space for a 6-pounder high-angle gun. In addition, a I ½-pounder antiaircraft pompom was mounted on the quarterdeck forward of the steering position there (by October 1917 it had been replaced by a 2-pounder). Larger cowls were installed. In April 1918 Swift no longer had the 6-pounder, but she had the 2-pounder and four 0.303in Maxims.”

I suppose I’m likely wrong about its pennant number in 1917, but the lead image (the best image I could find of it with a 6-inch, has it with the 6-inch and that number so I just went with that. Friedman only gives 2 pennant numbers, for the years 1916 and 1918, H.3A and D.60.

Though, if its pennant number was changed to D60 only in 1918 and it still has a 6-inch gun, doesn’t that directly contradict one of the sources the Dreadnought Project uses?

For any service/construction history I mostly try to summarize whatever seems interesting, so I probably make mistakes there.

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if you zoom in on the photo with the pennant, you can see the second barrel protruding underneath the first one. There is also no mention of the 6 inch gun in the description from the IWM.


In terms of pennant numbers, this website here lists them, and the times of their changes for the entire royal navy: Royal Navy vessels by Pendant Numbers, 1914-1919

for world war one the royal navy pennants were based on the ports the ship was based from, so some ships have up to 5 or 6 pennants. Swift had 3 , H.3A, D60 and H.64.

Here is a picture of Swift with the 6 inch gun:

As you can see the barrel extends past the first lifeboat davits, as the 6 inch gun has a 7 metre barrel compared to a 4 and a half of the 4 inch gun. This can also be seen in this drawing where the 6 inch gun again protrudes past the forward davit

Regarding the age of the source, I would be more inclined to trust the older one and what i can see in the real-life photograph, atleast for naval, as stuff has a habit of being miscommunicated, or just being incorrect and carrying on being parroted. All you have to do is read say my post for HMS Sennan, a ww2 sloop to know that more modern sources are not always better, as its real-life armament is completely different from what is listed on any of the modern sources.

I have done enough ships now for Britain to confidently say… about 1 in 3 have their armament listed incorrectly on most mainstream sources, with destroyers being one of the most common. a classic example is HMS bulldog which for some reason people keep thinking had a nose-mounted 6 pounder, even when we have a crystal clear picture of her with a pursuit pom pom XD

Uhhh, but there’s only one gun in the image, zoom in even more and you can clearly see that’s just some sort of image artefact, it’s all one barrel, as the top and bottom edges are pretty well defined. And uh, the davits are pretty clearly in different positions in the 2 images

But, I guess if we’re trusting old ass sources, this is from Jane’s Fighting Ships 1919, about as contemporary as possible, and it says for HMS Swift:

“Armament: 1-6 inch, 2-4 inch, 1-2 pdr. pom-pom. 2-18 inch tubes.”

Also since you mentioned HMS Bulldog and its 2-pounder, Friedman says that

“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.”

I’d think that helps with his reliability, he isn’t a schmuck who writes for those terrible Osprey New Vanguard books.

The position of davits may move, but portholes don’t, in the images shown of her with the 6 inch the gun is above the back two port holes


on the D60 image, the gun is further forward


it may look like an artifact but if you take the same angle with RN aquila in game you get the same “artifact”

Also for once i would have to reject a janes source, as that is clearly using an old image of the ship in 1917, due to the fact she is not painted the darker home fleet grey as in the picture with the pennant, along with missing the pennant painted on her side. Based on the shade she is in excursion light grey, which would be when she was based at dunkirk, so the six inch gun would have been in place as the photo shows. when she returned to the home fleet she would have been repainted in the dark grey you see in the first image.

The reason there is one and two davits is due to them being collapsable as to not interfer with the turret traverse and or be damaged during firing. there is a pair on either side, but even so they don’t line up with what is being shown.

it may look like an artifact but if you take the same angle with RN aquila in game you get the same “artifact”

Except the top and bottom of the barrel continue uniformly after the white dot, with the shadow at the end of the barrel being the same.

Also no, there’s nothing like a white circle that appears at the edge of the closer gun.

And if there were a second turret, it should be pretty clearly visible even at a slight angle (as that’s a pretty “shapely” turret), when you say “that’s the barrel of the second one peeking under it”… that makes it seem like the second turret is significantly further back while having a longer barrel, when they should be just on opposite sides

on the D60 image, the gun is further forward

But the ship is at an angle (cause if it wasn’t how would you be able to see a second barrel), not an extreme one, but more than the 1917 picture and drawing, which would mess with the perspective.

its a matter of perspective and geometry, but due to the guns being different lengths you cant show it exactly, but here is a similar angle and both guns appear to be one bar the slight protrusion of the second barrel, like in the image shown. you have to get quite a steep angle on the ship to actually see the second casemate, and by then the barrel is protruding massivly like in this picture. If you look at the crew on the bridge as a sense of scale, that difference in barrel length is only about 2 or so feet, which can be explained by the angle of the ship as it is underway


you also have to look at the perspective from below, as what ever ship that photo was taken off, it is clearly lower in the water, unlike your snapshot which is inline

But then how is is that the “2 barrels” have a uniform top and bottom? like from your aquila screenshot, you can easily see that the barrels have different heights as the camera is lower in the water.

Like here, lemme make a quick photoshop. if that was the second barrel protruding out, with the barrel being uniform with the closer one, then you should still be able to see the front of the second turret, because they’re still the same length gun.

also a second quick photoshop, with the second turret adjusted to be smaller as it’s further away, it should still be visible

That is likely just from the quality of the photo, as unfortunately its not the best. I have a old photo of hms vanguard (the ww1 one) and you can actually count the deck planks on it. The angle your looking at the ship in the photo is below and slightly to tilted to the right, which gives no view of the top and actually if its an solid shape likely blend the two into each other with the level of clarity we have here.

this is shown on my aquila screen shot, where it looks like one turret


if you look under the turret in the d60 photo you can also see an section of turret ring that is in front of where it would be on the gun, so you get that overlap,

this is shown on my aquila screen shot, where it looks like one turret

Not really, you can still see where the barrel and shield meet, and that there’s a large object behind it.

if you look under the turret in the d60 photo you can also see an section of turret ring that is in front of where it would be on the gun, so you get that overlap,

Where?, all I see is the ring for the one gun, which goes behind the front of the shield. Like yes the image is not the best thing, but the edges in the photo are pretty well defined, so I have a hard time believing that another turret would just “blend in” with the one.

red and blue, there alos seems to be something on the back of the turret, as those ww1 casemates had very hard angles

Ehhhh? None of that points to it being part of another turret. As you said, the shields had hard lines, and whatever’s in the back is clearly not another turret because that is very much not a straight edge.

The back part could just be a canvas put over it to protect it while cruising. Or deck clutter as there’s some stuff right below the bridge

As for the the blue part… that’s doesn’t look like anything, definitely not part of a turret ring as it’s far too thin. Could be a bucket, a pole, or other deck clutter. Maybe even part of the gun that extends below the shield

like maybe it’s the vertical part of a platform for the gunners to stand on

I need to aquire a Brassey annual from the period, it was the janes equivalent of the era due to the fact the admiralty was involved with it, unlike janes which was honestly a hobbyist publication until the 60s.

The issue i am having is the lack of a good photograph, though i have found several that are making me question how in the heck they fired the 6 pounder at anything, as it seems to have been mounted 10 feet in the air.

Additionally there seems to be very few good pictures of the late war 4 inch mount, which was changed drastically from this : due to a massive issue where glancing hits would blow off peoples legs, due to the gun sheild not being low enough to the deck. These were changed after jutland for a few calibres of cannon, including 4, 5,5 and 6 inch guns. with the story here if it is of interest

interestingly the first photo you have posted is from ww2 and the gun shield is not original and was taken on board HMCS Prince David, which lacked gun mounts originally so they had to be slapped together in port. seeing as the original mounts were… lacking to say the least

Well this is the best I’m going to get, good luck finding that copy of Brassey’s.

I also looked for a pic of a late-war 4-inch, didn’t really find one either. But I assume that it would be the same ones used on the V/W-class destroyers though.

I would assume so, but at the same time they do not appear to be internally consistent either, with the many different yards having different mounts and gun shields. a selection of ww1 era qf shields can be seen below below which also massively vary the length of the gun protruding past the shield:


So there appears to be no internal consistancy, I am going to go on the prowl for a copy of a Brassey annual for 1919. I flicked through that 1919 Janes, and it was full of inconsistancies, as it seemed for the most part it was copy pasted text from previous years without being developed on, along with photos that for a lot of the boats were several years out of date with a large number being pre-ww1. I assume the reason was combination of war secracy, and the fact at the time Janes was not sanctioned, so they had to throw together that book in only a few months after the war ended in order to be correct. The 1920 version says nothing for swift other than it is laid up for decommissioning, and again uses old photos for alot of the ships, so i guess it took them a few years to play catchup.


This ship fits BR 3.3 much more than HMS Churchill in term of surface firepower and basically a bit better than HMS Montgomery due to its single 40mm Pom-pom and single 6pounder 57mm gun despite only having 2 single torpedo launcher that uses 18" torpedo