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 Thornycroft in 1877, which became
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 ne 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. Thornycroft 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 Thornycroft 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, Thornycroft 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 27-
Knot Class. 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 the
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
and those with two funnels the D Class. On August 14, 1894 the DNC invited Yarrow, Thornycroft 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 Thornycroft and four from Laird. This 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.

Most of the 30-knotters used locomotive boilers to develop steam but Thornycroft wished to use three of their own design Thornycroft water tube boilers in their
design. Vickers, Fairfield, Hawthorn Leslie and Earle’s also used Thornycroft boilers in their 30-knotter designs. They were larger than the locomotive boilers and
because they allowed trunking, the design had two funnels. At first there was resistance because the large boilers were thought to limit space for coal bunkers. In
April 1895 eight destroyers were ordered, four from Laird and four from Thornycroft. The Thornycroft design was 213-feet in length with a displacement of 272-
tons. The Thornycroft design had its two funnels but also used twin rudders, which was very much liked in service. The rudders allowed protection against
propeller damage and were very handing in going astern. There were complaints about the Thornycroft design. Accommodation was considered indifferent and
Commander Mark Kerr said the bow design was the worst of the 30-knotter designs because it threw up so much water over the bridge. In bad weather the
Thornycroft destroyers were always the first to reduce speed because the amount of water coming over the bow threatened to wash away railings, screens and
bridge personnel. Kerr also considered the Thornycroft cutaway sterns, which enhanced maneuverability, made them difficult to steer in a following seaway. In 1912
the two funnel 30-knotters were designated the
D Class. The first six Thornycroft ships had a cutaway stern but the last four had a standard stern with the rudder
showing above water (
Fame, Foam, Mallard and Stag). The D Class also used high tensile steel allowing thinner plating to save weight. The platting was very thin.
The hull was always very vulnerable to damage in heavy weather or scrapes against other ships. However, when World War One started, the
D Class proved to be
very successful to surviving heavy damage. Initially the
D Class ships were sent to the Mediterranean but were in home waters when the war came. The Victorian
color scheme had disappeared in favor of an overall dull black. British destroyer tactics called for attacking at night and the black color would help hide the
destroyers in the darkness. They were assigned to operations in the English Channel. Although small and worn out, they still soldiered throughout the war.                
The last Thornycroft D Class was ordered in late 1897 and became HMS Stag. She was laid down on April 16, 1898, launched on November 18, 1899 and went
into service on August 10, 1900. On builders’ trials the
Stag hit 30.5-knots but her average top speed in service was 25-knots. All of the 30-knotters were slower in
service than the mythical 30-knots that they were named. Her length was 210-feet (64m) overall with a beam of 19-feet 9-inches (6.02m) and draft of 7-feet 8-
inches (2.34m). Displacement was 270-tons standard and 352-tons full load. Four water tube Thornycroft boilers fed steam to two triple expansion engines and
developed 5,700shp. Armament was one 12 pdr QF Mark I L/40, five 6 pdr QF L/40 guns, and two 18-inch (450mm) torpedoes. On September 2, 1902
Stag was
sent to the Mediterranean. She was placed in Fleet Reserve at Malta. As a result of being designated
D Class in 1912, the letter D was painted on all of the two funnel
30-knotters on the hull underneath the bridge and on either funnel. In 1913
Stag was sent back to the United Kingdom and became part of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla
based at Sheerness. In August 1914 the 8th Flotilla was assigned to the Tyne River and was tasked with anti-submarine and anti-mining operations. On September
25, 1914 while off the Isle of May near the Firth of Forth, the
Stag was missed by two submarine launched torpedoes. In November 1917 the Stag was transferred
to the Irish Sea for anti-submarine and counter smuggling operations. She remained there for the rest of the war. In March 1921
HMS Stag was sold for scrap.        

Combrig HMS Stag in 1:700 Scale - Combrig has produced many different resin kits of the B, C, and D Class 30-kotters  in 1:700 scale. As the HMS Stag was
the last of the Thornycroft ships and the last 30-knotter to be built, it shows the final evolution of the 30-knotter. The kit is waterline only and has no brass photo-
etch. Any railing will have to be added from an after-market source.  This kit or any of the other
Combrig kit of a 30-knotter in 1:700 scale offers the modeler the
opportunity to build a fine resin kit at a low price, as they are only $14.95 from
Freetime Hobbies. The hull is cast on a thin resin sheet, which can be easily
removed at the waterline. It is a beautiful little hull with deep portholes on the hull sides and the classic turtle-back forecastle. The short forecastle ends with the
conning tower. Detail includes open chokes at the bow and small twin bollard fittings. There is also a centerline windlass and four ventilator fittings. From the
conning tower short runs of deck edge splinter shields run aft. Two locater holes for 6-pdr QF guns are behind this shield, as well as locater holes for two large J
cowl ventilators, two small ventillators and four support posts for the navigation bridge. Raised oval coal scuttles run down each side of a long raised coaming
amidships. This raised coaming has a couple of coal scuttles as well as locater holes or outlines for placement of the funnels, navigation platform, foremast, deck
access structure, and two large ventilator location holes. Aft of the funnels are four skylights arranged in a square, the two torpedo tube turn tables, base for the aft
6-pdr QF platform and some low coamings on the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck also features the aft navigation position with separate windscreen. Many locater
holes are found aft of the funnels for 24 J cowl ventilators of different sizes and a search light. Locater holes are also in the aft navigation position for pylorus and
binnacles. The top of the rudder is present at the stern.

Four resin runners provide the smaller parts. One runner has only two parts, the bridge and aft QF platform. The bridge has the 12 pdr QF, resting on top of the
conning tower with the bridge resting on support posts. The bridge area has holes for navigation gear such as pylorus and binnacles. The aft QF platform has four
entrance areas in the splinter shield. Both platforms are cast with solid splinter shields but in reality these ships had open mounts surrounded by railing. In bad
weather these railings would be covered by canvas dodgers. In fair weather in the Mediterranean it is doubtful if the dodgers would have been fitted. The armament
is on a runner with the five 6 pdr guns, one 12 pdr and two torpedo tubes. Detail is fine with shoulder rests on the guns and strength bands on the tubes. Also
include on this runner are two propeller guards. Another runner has the two funnels with a good degree of hollow depth at the top, two ships’ boats, two bulkheads,
two cable reels and two other fittings. A forth runner has the four boat davits, two anchors, four large J cowl ventilators, amidships pelorus platform, aft navigation
windscreen, searchlight, and pylorus and other navigation fittings. The last runner has the deck access fitting, two more large ventilators and all of the small
ventilators. The instructions are one page and lack the normal plan and profile found in Combrig instructions. They didn’t pose a problem in that I could locate the
attachment point of the parts. Included are two isometric drawings of the hull with attachment of equipment and weapons on one and attachment of funnels and
ventilators on the other. There is also a template of parts to be created by the modeler from plastic or brass rod. This includes masts, yards, funnel steam pipes and
flag staffs.
The Combrig model of HMS Stag is a fine little model of the last of the 30-knotter British destroyers to be built. The kit provides a lot of value for its low price with
many finely detailed resin parts but no photo-etch.
Steve Backer