When sail gave way to steam the nomenclature of the types of warships changed. Ships of the line, whose function was to serve as the primary battle platforms of the
world’s navies, became ironclads and then battleships. Frigates, sloops and brigs, whose primary duties were to serve as scouts, messengers and in waters where a
ship of the line was not warranted, became cruisers of various types. However some new types of warships evolved based on a specific mission. At the end of the
century the torpedo boat became the rage, especially among the opponents of the Royal Navy. Due to the invention and development of the self-propelled torpedo,
lesser navies had the opportunity to build small, cheap warships with the ability to sink expensive battleships. This type threatened the Royal Navy most of all, whose
power rested on the large, expensive battleships.
One of the earliest proponents of the torpedo boat was Alfred Yarrow, who started with fast steam launches and then went to spar torpedo boats before going on to
torpedo boats carrying the Whitehead self-propelled torpedo. In 1877 Yarrow was constructing two torpedo boats for Russia but Russia was at war against Turkey
and the British government refused to allow Yarrow to sell the boats to Russia. Instead, the Royal Navy agreed to buy the boats but Yarrow would have to pay a
penalty if the Yarrow boats didn’t reach 18-knots, the same requirement imposed on the first torpedo boat ordered for the Royal Navy from Thorneycroft in 1877,
which became the
HMS Lightning. Yarrow agreed to the speed clause as long as he received a bonus for speeds above 18-knots. Since no one in the Admiralty
believed this was possible, they agreed. The London Times reported the results in their coverage of the
1878 Naval Review. “One of the features of the Review was
the performance of two long double-funnel torpedo-boats, built by Yarrow, which have realized the extraordinary speed of 21 knots. The manner in which these
malevolent-looking craft rushed up and down the lines and round the ships was the astonishment of all beholders.
” Malevolent was indeed the adjective to be
applied to this new type by the Admiralty. As First Sea Lord, Lord Northbrook stated, “
The torpedo would be the most powerful weapon of offence, and would be
able to dispose of the most formidable ships in the service of this or any other country.
What was the answer to this new threat? Secondary guns were put on battleships but there were no fast firing (QF) guns yet developed. Torpedo nets were
developed to stop the torpedo or prematurely explode it before it hit the hull of the warship. However, these nets added weight t the ship and had a huge negative
impact on the speed of the ship when they were deployed. However, Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, the Director of Naval Construction, thought he had the answer, the
Torpedo Boat Catcher, as this new type was named. The firm of Laird was contracted to build this new type of vessel, which became
HMS Rattlesnake and was
launched in 1886. The
Rattlesnake certainly had the armament with one 4inch and six 3-pdr QF guns and also carried four torpedo tubes on a displacement of 525-
tons. However, Barnaby was off in his speed requirements. He stipulated a maximum speed of 18.5-knots, which was too slow for catching the constantly
improving torpedo boats. In tests in April 1887 against British torpedo boats, the
Rattlesnake failed to catch any in any sort of seaway. The new DNC, Sir William
White, came up with a new class of Catcher, the
Sharp Shooter Class of Catcher with a speed of 21-knots under forced draught. Displacement rose to 735-tons
and armament rose to two 4.7-inch QF guns and five torpedo tubes. This class failed as average trials speed was 19.5-knots. The improved
Rattlesnakes of the
Alarm Class of 1890 of the Catcher type were again flops. These were up to 810-tons but could manage only 19.5-knots, except for one, the HMS Speedy, which
hit 20-knots, as she alone used water tube boilers instead of locomotive boilers. Rather admit error in the use of locomotive boilers, the Admiralty compounded their
error in building a final class of Catchers, the five catchers of the
Dryad Class of 1,070-tons but with only a top speed of 19.7-knots under forced draught. Clearly
the Catchers couldn’t catch a cold, much less a torpedo boat.
In 1892 Alfred Yarrow went to the young 3rd Sea Lord, Rear Admiral John “Jackie” Fisher to report on what the French were developing. Torpedo boats of up to
26-knots, while the German yards were achieving 27-knots. The threat was real. France had 220 torpedo boats, while Russia had 152 boats and Germany 143.
Yarrow said he had the answer to the torpedo boat, unlike the failed Catcher type. In June 1892 the Admiralty contracted with Yarrow for two boats of the new
type. They were much smaller but much faster than the Catchers, so what should be called? “Fisher asked Yarrow what they should be called. ‘
That’s your job,
replied Yarrow. ‘
Well,’ said Fisher, ‘we’ll call them Destroyers as they’re meant to destroy the French boats’, and their original name of Torpedo-Boat Destroyer’
- TBD - was in due course abbreviated to ‘Destroyer’ and has so remained.” (
Hard Lying, by Peter Smith, Naval Institute Press 1971 at page 21)

There were six prototype destroyers ordered, two each from three specialized firms. The Admiralty wanted boats able to achieve 27-knots but initially 26-knots
was acceptable without a penalty and armament able to destroy foreign torpedo boats. They didn’t even try to build to these specifications from Royal dockyards,
as it was considered that they couldn’t even come close to meeting the requirements. Yarrow of London was first off the mark with the
Havock and Hornet,
which became the world’s first destroyers.
Havock was launched in October 1893 and underwent trials on October 28, 1893. With a displacement of 240-tons and
length of 180-feet,
Havock was one fourth the displacement of the later Catchers. Yarrow gave her a turtle-back forecastle and armament was one 12-pdr and two
6-pdr guns and three torpedo tubes. Her mean speed on trials was 26.7-knots with two locomotive boilers. The
Hornet used eight water tube boilers and had four
funnels because of the additional boilers and on March 19. 1894 averaged 27.6-knots over three hours to become the fastest ship in the world. Thorneycroft of
Chiswick on the Thames built the
Daring and Decoy, which were slightly larger than the Yarrow boats and were launched in August 1894. As with Hornet, this
pair used water tube boilers. Daring hit a mean speed of 28.65-knots, while
Decoy hit 27.64-knots without forcing the engines. The two Laird Brothers boats were
built at Birkenhead and at 195-feet in length and 280-tons displacement were the largest of the six prototypes.
Ferret was launched in December 1893 and Lynx
followed in January 1894. Their machinery spaces were arranged differently with engine rooms between two boiler rooms. Normand boilers were used to compare
them with the Yarrow and Thorneycroft boilers.
Ferret hit 28.25-knots and Lynx 27-knots. All of the prototypes were fine tuned for the trials and ran light,
without armament. They did not achieve 27-knots in active service. Nonetheless, these six were called 27 knotters.
The Admiralty was so pleased with the results produced by Yarrow, Thorneycroft and Laird that over the next two years fourteen firms were awarded contracts.
Yarrow discovered that each of the other firms had copies of the Yarrow plans and put out a reward to discover the culprit who had stolen and sold the Yarrow plans
to her competitors. The Admiralty was the culprit and eventually gave Yarrow credit but not compensation. After the initial six prototypes the 27-Knot Class boats
were ordered with 36 boats coming from 14 different firms. Size, weight and appearance varied from boat to boat as their only commonality was their 27-knot speed.
Later, on August 30, 1912, all of the destroyers were placed in a letter class. The
27-Knot Class was renamed the A Class Destroyers. Because the boats were so
cramped the officers and crewmen were much closer to each other than on the cruisers and battleships of the fleet. The Admiralty recognized that serving on a
destroyer was uncomfortable and crewmen were paid extra “Hard Lying” money. As completed the
A Class was painted in Victorian livery of a black hull and white
upper works. The coal fired
A Class would soon cast soot all over the decks and minimal superstructure aft of the funnels.

As the Estimates for the 1894-1895 program were being worked up, it was decided to have a new class of destroyers constructed with higher speed than the
. No less than 30-knots was desired, so the next, huge class of destroyers, were initially called the Thirty Knot Class. In 1912, when the 27-Knot Class became
A Class, the Thirty Knot Class were assigned to three different classes. Those with four funnels became the B Class, those with three funnels the C Class and
those with two funnels the
D Class. On August 14, 1894 the DNC invited Yarrow, Thorneycroft and Laird to submit designs in three months. Main characteristics
were a top speed of 30-knots, a displacement of between 280 to 300-tons with a 30-ton load, bunker capacity of 80-tons compared to 60-tons of the 27-knotters and
crew of 60 compared to the 50 of the 27-knotters. After discussions about a mixed armament of 12-pdr, 6-pdr and machine guns, it was decided to use the same
armament as the
27 Knot Class. All three firms came back with designs exceeding 300-tons and were turned down. They were asked to resubmit but with a 300-ton
limit. This was done and eight boats were ordered, four from Thorneycroft and four from Laird. This displacement limit was later removed. Yarrow was not awarded
a contract because of their higher price. The 1895-1896 program had orders for 21 with the 1896 to 1897 orders for 16 more. There was a cutback to six in the 1897
to 1898 program but in 1899 the last of the class were ordered for nine and eight additional purchases, three larger specials and three prototypes with turbine
machinery. The
30-Knot Class had the turtleback forecastle, as the 27-Knot Class before them.
HMS Earnest was part of the 1895-1896 Program. She was ordered from Laird and laid down March 2, 1896. Launched on November 7, 1896 she was completed
in November 1897. The length was 218-feet (66.45m) overall and 213-feet (64.92m) between perpendiculars. Beam was 21.5-feet (6.55m) and a draught of 9.75-
feet (2.92m).  Displacement was 355-tons light and 415-tons full load. The machinery developed 6,600ihp and she delivered 30.13-knots during trials.  The Laird
destroyers were known to be strongly built but lacking maneuverability. As a four funneled ship, as were most Laird destroyers, the
Earnest was placed in the B
destroyers in 1912. Initially she was placed in reserve at Devonport but in September 1808 she was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. After a refit she
became the tender for the battleship
HMS Caesar at Malta. In 1906 she was placed at the Nore as part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the Channel Fleet but didn’t
actually return to the UK until 1907. In spite of their age and greatly decreased abilities, the 30-Knotters were desperately needed for service in World War One in
which most were in service in the English Channel.
HMS Earnest served during the war but didn’t see any major action. She was scrapped in 1920.  (Bulk of the
history is from two outstanding sources;
British Destroyers From the Earliest Days to the Second World War, by Norman Friedman, Naval Institute Press
2009, and
Hard Lying, by Peter Smith, Naval Institute Press 1971.)
The Combrig 1:350 Scale HMS Earnest - With the Combrig 1:350 scale HMS Earnest, you can have the second class built in the long, distinguished line of British
destroyer designs. As a Laird built ship, she had four funnels and became part of the
B Class in 1912. As with the HMS Banshee (27 Knot or A Class) from
Combrig, the Earnest retained the turtleback forecastle. At first glance the hulls of the two hulls of the ships appear very similar. However, if you look closer, you’ll
see that not only is the hull of the
Earnest larger, but also the fittings locater holes are very different. The kit comes with separate upper and lower hulls divided at the
waterline for the options to build the kit as waterline or full hull.

Hull side detail is limited due to the low freeboard of the ship. It is basically portholes divided into three groupings with a horizontal strake at deck edge. Very thin
bulkheads rise from the deck right behind the small conning tower. On the sides of the sloping turtleback are two vertical strakes on each side. The small conning
tower has port hole detail and serves as the base for the 12-pdr gun platform. Deck detail is abundant. On the turtleback deck you get twin bollarks, chain locker
fittings, five large locater holes and eight small locater holes. Between the superstructure and first funnel are two deck access hatches, two locater depressions for 6-
pdr guns, one coal scuttle, ten medium locater holes and five small locater holes. All of the numerous coal scuttles on the deck are raised. The four funnel bases are
similar in design as found in
Banshee but slightly smaller, as the funnels on the Earnest were different. The forward funnel does have a skylight next to it. All four
funnel bases have half-moon machinery spaces ventilator doors on their crowns. Four deck access hatches are clustered at the corners of the first torpedo tube
turntable, which in turn is between the 2nd and 3rd funnels. Other features between and among the funnels are numerous raised coal scuttles, large, medium and
small locater holes. On the quarterdeck is a heavy cluster of locater holes, the aft torpedo turntable, raised plates and two twin bollard fittings. The lower hull half has
openings for the propeller shafts and a flat base for the rudder.
The smaller parts come on nine runners. The four funnels of a different pattern from those in the Banshee are on a runner shared with four large J ventilator
cowlings and a curved rectangular ventilator. The funnels are substantially deep and thoroughly give the illusion of hollow funnels. One runner has the torpedo tubes
that are of a two-piece design and are very detailed. The gun armament is on two runners. One has the large 12-pdr, which fits on a platform above the conning
tower. Also on this runner are the 6-pdr mounts, searchlight, searchlight mount, two medium size J shape ventilator cowlings, windlass and speed annunciator. The
five 6-pdr guns are on another runner, shared with the boat davits and six deck coamings/lockers. Another runner has five cable reels in two patterns, large deck
access structure, another windlass, four mushroom ventilators, and two more deck coamings/lockers. One runner has an assortment of smaller fittings, among
which are small J ventilator cowlings, anchors, signal lamps, binnacle, another cable reel and other smaller fittings. One runner has nothing but J-shape ventilator
cowlings in three sizes. A large boat is on a runner and a dinghy is on another runner with solid bulkheads that fit on brass clamps.
Combrig includes a large brass photo-etch fret in the kit but this is somewhat misleading. The fret with some relief-etching includes parts for Banshee and
Earnest, as the same fret is found in both kits. The fret has recessed lines, which separate the brass parts in to three groups. These are parts specific to Banshee,
parts specific to
Earnest and the bulk of the fret with parts in common with both  ships. Earnest specific parts are the forward 12-pdr platform with attached
navigation platform with plank lines behind that. Other
Earnest specific parts include some railing, boat thwart, boat rudder with tiller, cable reel frames and
clamps/braces. Other brass parts in common are the gun shields and shoulder rests for the 6-pdrs, two navigation shields, triangular open grid platform, three runs
of anchor chain, ten life preservers, rudder, relief-etched access door, two propellers, binnacle platform, ship’s wheels, windlass tops, propeller shaft struts, cable
reel mount, top of breakwater bulkheads, anchor davits and reels, binnacle railing, stern flag bracket, loading davits, vertical ladders cut for location and a lot of
other parts.

The instructions for
HMS Earnest come on four sheets, three of which are back-printed. Page one has the parts laydown and ship’s specifications in English. Page
two has the lower hull assembly and a template for cutting masts and yards from plastic or brass rods. Page three starts the upper hull assembly with deck
brackets, forecastle bulkhead, conning tower door and a platform and many fittings for the quarterdeck. Page four has J-shape ventilator cowlings and windlass
attachment. Page five has boat, davits, cable reels, coamings and 6-pdr attachment. It also has separate insets in assembling the 6-pdr guns and ship’s boat. Page
six finishes assembly with funnels, gun platforms, forward & aft navigation station, rudder, torpedo tubes, binnacle platform and the last of the fittings and
equipment. There are insets for assembly of the 12-pdr gun and navigation platform, binnacle platform and searchlight. The last page is an isomorphic drawing of
the completed  model.
The Combrig 1:350 scale HMS Earnest is an excellent model of a Laird built, four funnel destroyer that was part of the second major class of British destroyer
originally known as the
30-Knot Class and latter the B Class. It is a must for fans of British destroyers.
Steve Backer