At the end of the 19th century the Royal Navy was the strongest fleet in the world. Try as they might, France and Russia could not keep up with the ability of British
shipbuilding to construct battleships. In France a new theory evolved on how to successfully combat the Royal Navy. Called the
Jeune École (Young School) they
espoused building masses of cheap, quick building, torpedo boats that would overwhelm British battleships with their slow firing guns with short range. Russia
followed the example of France and both countries started construction of masses of the low cost torpedo boats. The Royal Navy needed a counter this new threat
and came up with a new type of warship. This type was originally called the Torpedo Boat Catcher, it was supposed to be larger, faster and more heavily armed than
foreign torpedo boats. Some initial designs fell short of the goals in that some were slower or did not possess sufficient armament but through various experiments
alternating between large and small ships, the shape of a competent design evolved. The name of the type was changed from Torpedo Boat Catcher to a more warlike
Torpedo Boat Destroyer and eventually shortened to Destroyer.
Admiral Jackie Fisher was a genius. I must admit that I am in the Fish Pond as an ardent admirer of this mercurial titan in naval history. He is best remembered as
the driving force of
HMS Dreadnought and the first all big gun battleship or as the father of the battlecruiser. However, he was also a proponent of the submarine,
naval aviation and the destroyer. At the end of his tenure as First Sea Lord a class of large destroyers appeared that had all of the essentials to successfully hunt
down and destroy enemy torpedo boats. Called the
Tribal Group, these ships ranged in displacement from 850-tons to 1,090-tons and in length from 250-feet to
280-feet between perpendicular frames. Although France had ceased to be the primary foe, Imperial Germany had joined other countries in production of torpedo
boats. The
Tribals could take care of the German boats but their heterogeneous design and lack of standard design among the boats was certainly not efficient. The
Tribals were launched between February 16, 1907 to September 16, 1909. Fisher also pushed through another small design called Coastal Destroyers ranging from
225 to 255-tons. This design was one of Fisher’s mistakes as they were the equivalent of a larger foreign torpedo boat. They had insufficient characteristics for
open ocean duty. The first twelve were given names and were called the
Cricket Class but later became TB 1 through 12, the next 24 never had names and were TB
13 through TB 36, as all were rated 1st Class Torpedo Boats. These 36 ships had many differences in appearance and were launched between January 23, 1906 to
May 6, 1909. Several one off or two off experiments came after that with
HMS Swift designated as a Flotilla Leader being the size of a small cruiser. Finally, a
homogeneous design was developed in the form of the
Beagle Class of the 1908-1909 Programme. They were renamed by the Admiralty the G Class in October
1913. However, they were a step backward in one aspect, they were coal fired. The previous five destroyer designs had been oil fired but the Admiralty had a fear
that fuel oil could be in limited supply if war came. For the 1909-1910 Programme a standardized Admiralty design was finally adopted. The size had dropped from
Beagle Class to a displacement of 772-tons but on the plus side, they went back to oil instead of coal. Initially called the Acorn Class, they were designated H
in October 1913.
The Admiralty was so pleased by the Acorn design that the 1910-1911 Programme called for twenty repeat Acorns. Called the Acheron Class, later changed to I
, the repeat Acorns could easily be distinguished from the original Acorn design. The Acorns had three funnels but the Acherons had only two funnels. Smoke
from the forward funnel of the
Acorns impacted the bridge crew. To rectify this problem, the Acherons had internal trunking to eliminate the forward funnel found
in the
Acorns. Unfortunately, this still did not solve the smoke problem. Smoke still interfered with the compass platform. This was not solved until the forward
funnel was raised in September 1916. For the
Acheron Class, fourteen were built to a standard Admiralty design but other six were allowed to have builders’
designs. Three different specialty builders were not required to follow the Admiralty standard design. It was hoped that the builders would come up with something
that would improve performance over the standard design. These six ships were called the
Specials and two were ordered from Yarrow, two from Thornycroft and
two from Denny. Another three
Specials were ordered from Yarrow with length and displacement restrictions removed. Australia ordered three built in Great
Britain. A fourth was built in sections and shipped to Australia for assembly. With this experience two more Australian
Acherons were laid down in Australia in
1915. The
Acheron design was approved and the first ship of the class was laid down in September 1910 and commissioned in October 1911 and the last standard
completed in November 1912. Displacement was 778-tons legend and 990-tons full load. The overall length 246-feet (75m) overall, 25-feet, eight inches (7.8m)
beam with a draught of 9-feet (2.7m). The standard design had three Parsons turbines powered by three Yarrow boilers (except for
HMS Ferret and Forester with
White-Forester boilers) and developed 13,500shp for a maximum speed of 27-knots. Yarrow
Specials developed 16,000shp for 28-knots, Thorneycroft Specials
15,500ship for 29-knots, Denny
Specials developed 16,500shp for 31-knots, and the last three Yarrow Specials called the Firedrake Group 20,000shp for 32-knots.
Armament consisted of two 4-inch (10.2cm) Mk VIII guns two 12-pdr (76mm) and two 21-inch (533mm) centerline torpedo tubes. The Australian
carried three torpedo tubes.
Eleven of the standard design ships had three shafts with the centerline shaft for cruising. The Specials and three of the standard design ships (built at John Brown)
had only two shafts with propellers one-foot larger in diameter from the three shaft standard design. The two shaft arrangement was more maneuverable but had a
foot more draught. Also the
Firedrake Group of Specials were larger ships than the others. As they completed the Acherons were assigned to 1st Flotilla. Upon
creation of the Grand Fleet in August 1914 the flotilla became part of the fleet. In spring 1916 when they were attached to the 3rd Battle Squadron. In the spring of
1917 the flotilla was assigned to Portsmouth where three were converted to minelayers and assigned to the 20th Flotilla. The rest were dispatched to the
Mediterranean. The
Acheron Class destroyers were present at all three major battles in the North Sea, Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland. HMS Ariel in
company with
HMS Attack and HMS Acheron of the class, rammed U-12 off Aberdeen Scotland on March 10, 1915. The ships converted to minelayers landed the
aft torpedo tube and 4-inch guns in order to get mine rails for the 40 mines carried by the conversion. Three of the class were sunk in the war.
HMS Attack was
mined on December 30, 1917,
HMS Phoenix was torpedoed on May 14, 1918 and HMS Ariel was mined on August 2, 1918.
Using the overall length of 75m for the original destroyer, a 1:700 model should measure 107.14mm. I measured the NNT hull at 109mm, which would put the
scale of the model at 1:688. The hull was cast on a resin wafer and then removed. Therefore, light sanding along the waterline will clean it up. Usually
NNT kits are
free from defects but the hull in my sample did have a casting defect. This was a small ellipsis void at the starboard bow waterline. It won’t be hard to fill this in
with putty and then smooth the hull side and bottom but it is something extra to do. Other than this one anomaly, there were no defects to the hull casting. Detail
quality is very good. Hull side detail is fairly minimal with port holes and anchor hull hawse. In common with most destroyer designs of the period, the ship has a
raised forecastle. Solid splinter shielding of fine and thin quality runs from the forecastle deck to the main deck at the break. The forecastle is loaded with cast
detail. There are anchor chains running to the deck hawse, windlass, ventilators, and deck edge bollards. The ship had steel decks so you won’t find any deck
planking. Except for some deck edge bollards, the amidship deck is smooth but that is to be expected as the low funnel deckhouse will attach here. Deck detail
picks up again at the stern with aft torpedo turntable, deck access shelter, J shaped ventilators, mushroom ventilators and more deck edge bollards.

Six runners provide the smaller resin parts. One is simply the two masts with the foremast being significantly taller. The biggest of these parts is the central funnel
base. This is a raised platform that attaches to the amidship section of the hull casting. Cast to this platform are the two stacks, two large J-shape ventilation
cowlings and forward torpedo turntable. The forward funnel is the short funnel as built. The funnel openings are somewhat shallow so the interior will need to be
painted black to increase the appearance of depth. Another runner of seven parts has the taller forward stack that replaced the short stack in September 1916.
There are alternate parts for two different fits for the ships in the class. Most ships are in one fit, the Admiralty design, with a large searchlight and searchlight
cupola on a photo-etched frame. The second group is for the
Specials with a smaller searchlight on a conical base and funnel base extension. Other parts on the
runner with the tall funnel are the compass, conical searchlight tower, searchlight cupola, dinghy, life raft and funnel base extension, which is placed forward of
the stack base for the
Specials and aft for the Admiralty design. A runner of four parts has the forward superstructure with bridge windows and door detail, bridge
deck with navigation lights, searchlight platform and whaler. You get two of the last runner, which have a searchlight, cable reel drum, a cutter as an alternate to
the whaler, 76mm gun, 4-inch gun and torpedo tube. The guns have very fine, thin barrels and the torpedo tubes have band detail.
A small stainless-steel photo-etch fret is included. This fret does not contain railing but does have inclined ladders. There is relief-etching for the anchors, boat
davits, mesh tarpaulins and swivel cranes. The other photo-etch parts are the ensign and jack staffs; bridge wing supports; life buoys; forecastle extension
supports; ship’s wheel; clinker screen/stack grates; 4-inch gun shields and large searchlight frame.
NNT includes a decal sheet with decals for the Union Jack and
white, blue and red ensigns. However, only the Union Jack and white ensign should be used. In July 1864 an Order in Council assigned the white ensign for the
Royal Navy, blue ensign for the Royal Navy Reserve and red ensign for British merchantmen, where it was known as the Red Duster. The instructions are two
back-printed pages. They are adequate but nothing fancy. They are printed in German and English. Page one has the history and technical specifications. Page two
has a resin parts laydown and description of the variance in parts between the Admiralty design ships and the
Specials. NNT is excellent in describing and lettering
each resin part on this page. Page three has the photo-etch laydown with text description of every metal part. It also has a painting guide and bibliography. The last
page is the actual assembly diagram presented as an isometric view of the hull There are not many parts and the attachment locations for almost all of the parts are
obvious but refer to the box cover for getting a more precise location for some parts, such as the boat davits and cranes. There are no locater holes on the hull
deck. I wish that
NNT had included a profile and plan but if you can gain access to British Destroyers, From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Seaforth
Publishing and Naval Institute Press 2009 by Norman Friedman, you’ll find a wonderful plan and profile by Dave Baker (A.D. Baker III) of
HMS Acorn on page
119. Although the
Acorn was the three stack design immediately before the Acheron Class, the Acherons were two stack repeats of the Acorn so this P&P would
be very helpful for locating placement of boat davits and other fittings.
You won’t find many Royal Navy World War One destroyers in 1:700 scale in the marketplace, especially those initiated while Jackie Fisher was First Sea Lord but
NNT has a nice resin and photo-etch model of one of the first standardized Admiralty designs, with optional parts for the six manufacturer’s Specials, in the form of
HMS Acheron, and in 1913 I Class Destroyer.
Steve Backer