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April 23rd Focus: HMS Swift

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Alpha Tester
1,275 posts
168 battles



April 23rd 

1918 - Ostend Raid - Battle

1918 - Zeebrugge - Battle

1936 - Prinz Eugen - Admiral Hipper class - Laid Down

1940 – Abdiel – Abdiel class - Launched

1943 - Scipione Africano - Capitani Romani – Commissioned



Laid down - 33

Launched - 36

Commissioned – 28


Not allies

Japan - 0

Germany - 1

Italy - 1


A day with not many ships today so I was going to go with the obvious choice and talk about the minelaying cruiser HMS Abdiel. Then I looked at the Ostend Raid. A few days ago our good comrade mr3awsome voiced his disappointment that a possible discussion of the 2nd Battle of Dover Straits was displaced by the Bretagne class battleships.  To quote “Why wouldn't you talk about the 2nd Battle of Dover Strait. Its got HMS Swift and everything “.  And what did I see in the Order of Battle for the Ostend Raid but HMS Swift!




Admiral Fisher said “SPEED IS EVERYTHING” (he often wrote in full caps in letters)




Upon becoming First Sea Lord in October 1904 he put forth a request to the Director of Naval Construction Sir Philip Watts




for a torpedoboat destroyer 320 feet long weighing 900 tons with a top speed of 36 knots. The then current River class destroyers were ~230 feet long, 535 tons, and did 25.5 knots and these ships were a marked increase in size on earlier boats and really the first true seagoing ships of their type.




The following Tribal class ships were 860 tons and 33 knots much closer to what we think of as destroyers.




The design requirements went back and forth between Watts and Fisher until the four major shipyards were ask for a tender with only a four week turn around. The design was settled in December ’05, laid down December ’06, and launched December ’07. She was on trials until September ’09. Her name was changed from Flying Scud to Swift in April ’07. (A lucky break there IMHO.)




What Fisher got was an 1,825 ton ship that in many ways was a white elephant that pushed the available technology farther than was practical for her time.


Length: 353’ 9”

Power: 30,000 horsepower (a third more than HMS Dreadnought!)

Speed: 34 knots


And there is the rub. The contract granted a bonus for every knot OVER 36 knots. But after 26 propeller changes and fuel consumption of 27.5 tons per hour while only carrying 180 tons, she barely broke 35 knots.  This was with oil firing and turbines both of which are newer technologies in 1907. It would be twentry years before Britain again built a destroyer this size.

Her high sides and three broad funnels lend her the look of an ocean liner rather than a destroyer.

And her armament was little more than that of smaller destroyers with four 4” guns and two 18” torpedo tubes.




The press of of the day made outrageous speed claims for her but that was normal for the time. At the start of World War One she was the leader of the 4th destroyer flotilla attached to the Grand Fleet but the weather in the North Sea was too much for her and she was re-assigned to the Dover Patrol.




While on this duty she and the HMS Broke engaged six German torpedo boats in the 2nd Battle of the Dover Straits.  HMS Broke was another large destroyer leader but built in 1914 for the Chilean Navy and acquired by the Royal Navy at the start of the war. Two German boats were sunk. SMS G85 was hit by a torpedo from Swift and SMS G42 was rammed by Broke and the entangled ships fought a boarding action! The though Broke was heavily damaged, damage done to Swift was only minor. Their opponents were of the large torpedoboat class and ships of about ~1,000 tons each.

At some time in 1916 Swift's forward 4” guns were replaced by a single 6” but the experiment was not successful and she returned to two 4” guns forward in May 1917 just after the battle.




She was still with the Dover Patrol when the plan to sink block ships in the channels on Belgian ports used by U-boats was put forth. Swift was allocated to the attack on Ostend. A simultaneous attack was planned for nearby Zeebrugge. Wind and weather caused a false start and the Germans got details of the Ostend plan. The harbor marker buoy was moved and the block ships sped not through the channel but straight into a mudbank were they were stuck fast. The shore batteries were substantial and getting the blockship crews off via motor launches was the kind of duty that results in Victoria’s Crosses being awarded. The raid on Ostend was not a success and a repeat action against Zeebrugge on May 10th while successful did not block the port for long. Ultimately the effort and 600 casualties were wasted.




Swift did not last much past the end of the war and was scrapped in 1921.



  • Cool 4

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3,592 posts

Well, even though Fisher had some completely bonkers ideas, they sure are great fun to read about! And 27.5 tons of fuel oil per hour?

That's some seriously bad mileage per gallon! xD

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