|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 Sharpshooter 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 (Controller), Rear Admiral John “Jacky” 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. Fisher asked the DNC to develop a design for a ship of powerful armament
and capable of 27 knots. My May 1892 the DNC had a plan for such a ship. Armament and speed were mandated with monetary penalties for failure to reach them but details were to be left to the builders discretion. Six torpedo-boat builders
submitted bids but only the three most experienced builders, Yarrow, Thornycroft and Laird were selected for the initial construction of this new 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)