The specification is very meagre, consisting chiefly of framing and a copy of the appendix to the conditions of tendering. The scantlings are rather slight and would require increasing especially in the matter of deck plating and reverse
bars. The midships section gives a curved form to the outer part of the deck, thus restricting the deck area which I consider in inadmissable. The space allowed to the stockhold appears largely in excess of requirements, the coaling
arrangements are also bad and would require considerable modification. It is considered that this could be done by a rearrangement of boilers and condensers. The deck arrangements will also require to be rearranged especially in the
matter of hatches, boat stowage and gun positions. The power and heating surface of boilers proposed appear to be sufficient. A ram bow is proposed. This should be replaced by a straight stem. The design as it stands is not satisfactory, but
it could be made satisfactory on the dimensions given.
” (Admiralty view of Armstrong’s tender for construction of two 27-Knotter destroyers, The First Destroyers by David Lyon, Caxton Editions 1996, at page 85)

It having come to the knowledge of Messrs Yarrow & Co that COPIES of DETAIL DRAWINGS of the MACHINERY in H. M. Torpedo-Boat Destroyer Havock are being offered for sale, the above reward will be paid to anyone giving such
INFORMATION as will lead to the discovery of the person so offering them for sale.
” Newspaper advertisement by Yarrow & Co after discovering that all of their competitors had copies of Yarrow plans submitted to the Admiralty. (Hard
, by Peter Smith, Naval Institute Press 1971, at page 29.)

The Admiralty are glad to recognize that Messrs Yarrow have been the contractors who had first constructed and completed with rapidity for the British Navy vessels of the high speed of the Havock and Hornet. On behalf of the Admiralty,
I am to express our satisfaction with the manner in which the contract has been carried out. We also acknowledge the value which we attach to the designs of Messrs Yarrow for the machinery of these vessels. Practical proof has been given
of this favourable opinion by our use of certain parts of these designs as a guide to contractors for some of the other torpedo-boat destroyers since ordered.
” Secretary of the Navy in an Address to the House of Commons on August 15, 1894.
Hard Lying, by Peter Smith, Naval Institute Press 1971, at page 30)
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).

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 laid down in July 1892, launched August 12, 1893 and underwent trials on October 28, 1893 with commissioning in July 1894. With a displacement of 240-tons with length of 180-feet,
beam of 18.5 feet and draft of 11 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 hd 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. These six were called the Havock Class or the 26 Knot Class. All six of the
first destroyers could be termed prototypes. They all had one feature in common that the following destroyers did not have, a fixed bow mounted torpedo tube. This mounting proved to be an abject failure. At high speeds these prototype
destroyers were liable to overrun any torpedo launched from the bow tube. The bow tube further cast a permanent spray over the bridge and would be very vulnerable to enemy fire. It further greatly restricted available space in the bow and
these first destroyers had little space to begin with.
In addition six torpedo-boat destroyers of new type have been ordered with a guaranteed speed of 27 knots per hour. The orders have been placed with three private firms of high reputation, and it is anticipated that in speed, armament,
and sea-going capability these vessels will be superior to any yet built. It is proposed to complete and try the first examples of the new type next summer, and subsequently to order fourteen other vessels of the class from private firms during
.” Lord Spencer, Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty explanatory of Navy Estimates 1893-94, February 21, 1893 (The Naval Annual 1893 by Lord Brassey, at page 368, J.Griffin & Co. Portsmouth 1893). So what did Lord
Brassey think of this new type of warship? In the same 1894
Naval Annual in which he bashed the lamentable history of the torpedo-boat catcher, he wrote: “During the early part of last year there was a considerable agitation in the
newspapers with regard to the deficiencies of the British Navy in torpedo-boats. France was making great strides in torpedo-boat construction. Speeds of 23, 24, and 25 knots were being obtained; even the latter has since been exceeded, and
Mr. Normand hopes shortly to obtain a speed of 30 knots. The Admiralty refused to yield to the outcry for laying down torpedo-boats for the British Navy. The torpedo-boat is the weapon of the weaker naval power; and it was determined to
meet the torpedo-boat construction in other countries by building vessels fast enough to catch, and powerful enough to destroy, foreign torpedo-boats, which yet should not be too large or too costly to admit of providing them in sufficient
numbers for the task which they were intended to perform. To this policy we owe the so-called torpedo-boat destroyer, twenty of which appeared in the naval programme of last year. This valuable class of 220 tons displacement, and with
2400 indicated horse-power, are estimated to steam 27 knots.
The Naval Annual 1894, by Lord Brassey, J.Griffin & Co. Portsmouth 1894, at page 9.         

The Admiralty was so pleased with the prototype torpedo-boat destroyers that had been laid down that they didnt’t wait for them to reach trials before they ordered larger vessels. On July 27, 1893 the Admiralty sent letters to the established
torpedo vessels builders of Yarrow and Thorneycroft, inviting them to tender offers to build three each of a larger ship than the prototypes building, as six further destroyers were allowed under the 1893-1894 Estimates. Fortunately the Admiralty
found a bag of money at its feet. The Naval Defence Act of 1889 had been replaced by the Naval Defence Act of 1893. Although Prime Minister Gladstone didn’t want to spend money on the navy, a strong press campaign in favor of the act
forced Gladstone to cave in during March 1893. On July 1 members of the Admiralty had decided to involve more firms than Yarrow and Thorneycroft. The Admiralty wanted as many firms as possible to build the torpedo-boat destroyer, so they
planned to use the fruit of the two established firms to help the inexperienced firms get a good start. Thorneycroft built the
Ardent, Boxer and Bruiser, while Yarrow built the Charger, Dasher, and Hasty. The management at Yarrows apparently
did not read the letter too closely because when they discovered that their competitors had the Yarrow plans for these initial
27-Knotters, they practically screamed in umbrage and made an intensive search for the malefactor who had stolen their
plans and sold them to their competitors. The Admiralty made it known to Yarrows that they were the malefactor who had committed the heinous deed but didn’t pay Yarrow anything. After the three
27-Knotters that Yarrow built, the firm did
not build another destroyer for the Royal Navy for almost a decade. In a snit Yarrow took it's ball and went home and did not submit tenders for further destroyer construction. In the end 36
27-Knotters, built by 14 different firms were built. The
offer for tenders letter expressed generally the characteristics required. It called for a larger and longer warship than the prototypes with four torpedo tubes, a turtle-back bow, and a guaranteed speed of 27-knots, although there would be a light
penalty if any came in at a maximum less than 27-knots. For every quarter knot below 27-knot the penalty was 250 pounds and the penalty increased to 500 pounds for every quarter knot below 26-knots. The ship could be rejected if the top
speed was below 25-knots at trials. Speed was determined at trials and the practice of the builders at the trials was to run the warship light without all of its equipment fitted. They also used more than the operational number of stokers and hand
picked coal of the highest quality. In service none of the
27-Knotters could reach 27-knots. The Admiralty was so fired up with TBD construction that they postponed the construction of the 10,000-ton First Class Cruisers, Powerful and Terrible
to free funds to build even more TBDs. With the construction of the cruisers shoved to January 1895, the Admiralty could order 25, instead of 14 TBDs for the current estimates, which would allow the Royal Navy to have 31 one of these new
wonder ships by 1894-1895 (six prototypes and these twenty-five
27-Knotters). There was no standard design. Each contractor was free to design the ship as they wished as long as it met the Admiralty requirements. As a result, the ships of the
27-Knot Class were very different from each other in appearance, machinery and other details. Some contractors built very good ships, while others built ships that were indifferent. By November 7, 1893 the tenders of five of the fourteen firms
that were to build
27-Knotters were accepted for, while other firms were actively helped by the Admiralty to improve their designs, apparently including copies of the Yarrow design. This initial expansion contracted 17 more destroyers beyond the
original three each from Yarrow and Thorneycroft. All of these designs shared the characteristics of a turtle-back forecastle, flush deck, and no flare. Delivery dates ranged from nine to eighteen months and range varied from 3,000 to 4,000 nm.
In a second expansion of the destroyer program, more
27-Knotters were ordered in December 1893 and January 1894.
The Thorneycroft design was also sent to the other construction firms but Thorneycroft didn’t go into a conniptions fit like Yarrow. Before the Admiralty letter of July 27, 1893 Thorneycroft had already been active to drum up business beyond
the two prototypes that they were building. On February 27, 1893 Thorneycroft sent a letter to the Admiralty affirming conversations between one of the Thorneycroft partners with Admiral Sir Anthony Hopkins that Thorneycroft was ready,
willing and able to build more of these ships beyond the two prototypes that it was currently building, the
Daring and Decoy. After receiving the Admiralty’s letter of July 27, Thorneycroft sent a letter to the Admiralty on August 18
acknowledging the Admiralty letter and asking that Thorneycroft receive preference in light of the costly pioneering efforts that went into the prototypes. On September 5, 1893 Thorneycroft send their tender offer of 36,840 pounds for one
TBD or 110,550 pounds for three TBDs. Along with the letter two sheets of drawings, as well as the full specifications were sent. After a little negotiation on October 12, 1893, the Admiralty accepted an offer for Thorneycroft to build three of
the new design for 105,795 pounds.

All of the 27-Knotters shared the characteristics of very cramped quarters with red hot cinders raining down on the deck from the funnels. Conditions were so primitive that the crew were paid an additional “Hard Lying” money. There was no
head, instead a canvas was secured around a frame over an “earth closet” usually in the vicinity of the funnels, as the, “Controller does not approve a permanent structure.” The crew had to wash in buckets. Food had to be carried up a ladder
from the inferno of a galley to the messes forward and aft. The bridge was the round open platform shared by the 12-pdr gun with a chart table secured to the railing. The ships wheel was in a small conning tower underneath this platform. To
weigh anchor a hand turned capstan was used to lift the stocked anchor to a cathead, which would lowered to a wash board and secured by chains.
In 1893 Armstrong was the largest and most successful warship construction firm in the world.. Originally builders of hydraulic machinery it had expanded to armaments and then with the acquisition of a shipyard at Elswick to warships. They
were especially famous for a series of “Elswick” cruisers built and sold to numerous foreign powers. They had become the builders of the world’s navies, outside of the UK. Armstrong benefited from the expanded program of destroyer
construction. On June 2, 1893 the Admiralty sent Armstrong an offer to tender a design for a
27-Knotter. Armstrong may have known how to build excellent cruisers and then battleships but they were neophytes at destroyer designs. The first
paragraph of this article is a synopsis of the Admiralty view of Armstrong initial design.  On November 7, 1893 the Admiralty informed Armstrong that their design was not approved and gave the firm 14 days to resubmit. After going over
changes, including the use of G E Bellis & Co machinery, a revised tender was accepted for one destroyer on December 8, 1893, which would become
HMS Swordfish. On February 7, 1894 an order for a second destroyer was placed with
Armstrong. This would become
HMS Spitfire.

Both the
Swordfish, Yard No. 616, and Spitfire, Yard No. 618, were laid down on June 4, 1894. Spitfire was the first to launch, on February 27, 1895 and was completed in November 1896. The Spitfire had a very low metacentric height,
which gave her a high degree of instability, corrected by addition of fifteen tons of lead ballast. The initial weight harmed her performance during trials, which were initially unsuccessful. As a result both
Spitfire and Swordfish were
substantially delayed.
HMS Spitfire 27-Knotter was 204-feet 3-inches long overall and 200-feet between perpendicular bulkheads. She had a beam of 19-feet and draught of 12-feet. Displacement was 320-tons light with a full load displacement
of 355-tons. Yarrows boilers provided steam for the Bellis engines to produce 4,500 horsepower. After a delay in tinkering with the design, the
Spitfire did meet her speed requirement, posting 27.461-knots at 4,527 horsepower on her trials.
Swordfish on the other hand never made it to 27-knots. Her top trial speed was 26.7-knots on 4,384 horsepower. She remained about a knot slower than Spitfire throughout their careers. Initially armament consisted of one 12-pdr, three 6-pdr
and two single 18-inch torpedo tubes but two waist 6-pdrs were soon added. Originally
Swordfish and Spitfire were scheduled for service at the Cape of Good Hope but as their qualities became known, two other destroyers were substituted
for Cape duty. Stability problems continued to haunt the pair and by 1903 one of their torpedo tubes was landed to reduce top weight.

Five firms including Armstrong, who built other
27-Knotters were not offered further contracts for destroyers. “We submit that these invitations be not sent to the Thames Iron Works, Armstrong & Company, Hanna Donald & Wilson and
J S White of Cowes.
” The DNC to the Admiralty Board on invitations to tender for the 1897-1898 Estimates. (The First Destroyers by David Lyon, Caxton Editions 1996, at page 86). The Armstrong’s pair had three funnels with the middle
funnel substantially larger than the other two. This is because two boilers fed exhaust into the middle funnel and the end two funnels only served one boiler each. Neither ship was regarded favorably in service and they both had short service
Swordfish was sold on October 11, 1910 but Spitfire carried on for two more years before being sold on April 10, 1912 to the Ward company of Preston. (Bulk of History from: British Destroyers by Edgar J. March, Seely Service &
Co. 1966;
British Destroyers, From Earliest Days to the Second World War by Norman Freeman, Naval Institute Press 2009; The British Destroyer, by Captain T.D. Manning, Putnam & Co, London 1961; The First Destroyers by
David Lyon, Caxton Editions 1996;
Hard Lying, by Peter Smith, Naval Institute Press 1971; The Naval Annual 1893, by Lord Brassey,  J.Griffin & Co. Portsmouth 1893; The Naval Annual 1894, by Lord Brassey, J.Griffin & Co.
Portsmouth 1894)
Combrig 1:700 Scale HMS Spitfire, Armstrong Design 27 Knot Destroyer - This another small kit from Combrig of the early Armstrong built destroyer. At less than $20  from Free Time Hobbies, it is certainly economical, plus it has
the added benefit of being able to be painted in the black and white Home Fleet paint scheme (according to the Perkins Album). It does not come with photo-etch, so for railing, inclined ladders and anchor chain you’ll need 3rd party brass.
The hull is cast on a very thin resin wafer. It is a simple matter to break of the wafer and then gently sand the waterline to clean it up. Resin casting is sharp and clean with no resin errors. Since it is a small ship, there historically would not be
that much detail on the sides. However, with the turtle back bow and the splinter shielding around the small conning tower, there is certainly enough side detail for interest. The hull itself has a row of portholes at the bow and the stern. A small
wale runs the length of the hull at the juncture of the hull side with the deck. The deck detail is plentiful. At the top of the cutwater is a bracket that has the anchor hawse. The anchor chain ran above deck and out through the above deck
hawse, instead of coming out through hull anchor hawse. The anchor sits on the rear of the turtleback. The two centerline windlasses are the largest features on the turtleback with additional detail in the form of chain locker entrance fittings,
small twin bollard fittings, circular deck access coamings and short ventilators. The only built-up area is around the conning tower with curving splinter shields running from the conning tower to the deck edge. In the space behind the conning
tower there is a square well for attachment of a deck access shack and locater holes for the side 6pdr guns and cowl ventilators. There is even more detail in the midships section. This includes roundtables for the two torpedo mounts, one
midship and one at the stern. There is also more ammunition lockers, small twin bollards, and circular coal scuttle detail. Locater holes are present for 6pdr guns, ventilator cowls, pylorus and searchlight. Between the torpedo turntables there
is a highly detailed raised coaming with ventilation hatches for the machinery spaces. At the stern the detail includes the pedestal for the aft 6pdr, twin bollards, deck access coamings, and locater holes for navigation equipment for the aft
navigation station and a ventilator cowls. Fitting and equipment locations are significantly different from the
Combrig kit of HMS Ardent, a Thorneycroft 27-Knotter or HMS Hardy, a Doxford 27-Knotter.

There are five resin runners for the smaller parts. One runner has the two gun platforms, one for the 12pdr on top of the conning tower and the other for the aft 6pdr. They both have what appears to be splinter shielding with openings for
entrance ladders. This shielding would represent canvas dodgers, called Weather Clothes, covering railing since the platforms had railing around them not splinter shields. I believe that I would remove them from the platforms and add photo-
etch railing. Another runner has the three funnels, two smaller round funnels and the large slab sided middle funnel with hollow tops, two ships boats, and two collapsible Berthon boats. The boats have thwart detail. The armament is located
on a runner. The five 6pdr guns are one piece with a conical pedestal and gun shields. The 12pdr, which doesn’t have a gun shield that it actually had, appears to have too short of a barrel. I believe the end of the barrel was damaged, as the
instructions show a longer barrel, however the
Combrig HMS Ardent and HMS Hardy had the same problem. I am inclined to use the guns with shields for all five positions. The two single tube torpedo mounts are nice with a nice shape and
reinforcing bands. Also present on this fret are two propeller guards. The fourth runner has various types of fittings and equipment. A lot of it is navigation equipment, which is located at the forward and aft control stations. Also included is
the aft navigation screen with vision slits, midship searchlight tower, detailed searchlight, boat davits, anchors, and four medium sized ventilator cowls. The last runner has a great number of small ventilator cowls in two different sizes, two
deck access shacks and a quarterdeck fitting. There is just one page of instructions, which has two drawings, a parts laydown and a template showing the length of plastic rods necessary for the masts, yard, boom and steam pipes.
The joy in building models of various destroyers of the 27-Knot Class, A Class after 1912, is the individual differences in design and appearance among the ships. Each of the fourteen builders of these destroyers was free to use their own designs
as long as they met Admiralty performance requirements. The
HMS Spitfire was built by Armstrong of Elswick, the greatest warship builder in the world but unused to building destroyers instead of battleships and cruisers. With the Combrig
HMS Spitfire
of 1895, you can enter the 27-Knotter sweepstakes.

Steve Backer
Huntsville, Alabama