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HMS Swift (1907).JPG
HMS Swift
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Swift
Builder: Cammell Laird, Birkenhead
Laid down: 1905
Launched: 7 December 1907
Commissioned: August 1910
Fate: Sold to break up 9 December 1921
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,825 tons (2,207 tons full load)
Length: 353.75 feet (107.8 m)
Beam: 34.5 feet (10.5 m)
Draught: 10.5 feet (3.2 m)
Propulsion: Yarrow-type water tube boilers, Parsons steam turbines, 4 shafts, 30,000 shp
Speed: 34 knots
Complement: 138
Armament: As built; Following 1917 refit:
  • BL 6-inch (152.4 mm) Mk.XII L/45, single mount P Mk.VII
  • 2×BL 4 in Mk.VIII L/40, single mount P Mk.V
  • 1×QF 2 pdr Mk.II, single mount P Mk.I
  • 2×tubes for 21 in torpedoes

HMS Swift was a unique destroyer leader designed and built for the Royal Navy prior to World War I, another product of Admiral "Jackie" Fisher's relentless quest for speed. A specification for the design was produced by the Admiralty in December 1904, and the (subsequently successful) Cammell Laird design was evaluated against four others from Thornycrofts, Fairfields, John Brown and Armstrong Whitworth. She was designed to be the prototype for a class of large ocean-going destroyer, but no other leaders were built before the outbreak of war in 1914, and she remained something of an aberration; the only ship in the Royal Navy of this type, size and design.

The displacement of Swift was double that of her contemporary destroyers, in order to produce a vessel large enough and fast enough to take on the scouting duties of the small cruisers Fisher was attempting to eliminate from the Royal Navy's organization. As such she was designed with oil firing and four shafts to make 39 knots. This figure proved far beyond her capabilities, but the Navy claimed that Swift had met this on builder's trials, even though she failed to better 35 knots. This fallacy was somewhat irrelevant however, as even if she had made her design speed she carried only 180 tons of oil fuel, making her uneconomical at full power. For the same reason, her cruising radius at speed was therefore totally unsuitable for scouting duties. For a vessel of her size she was also lightly built and armed to reduce displacement, and was consequently a poor seaboat and of limited operational utility.

After operational damage in the Battle of Dover Strait in 1917 she was reconstructed, receiving a permanent bridge and wheelhouse structure and had the sided 4 inch guns on the forecastle replaced with a 6 inch weapon. As such she was the only Royal Navy destroyer to ever carry a gun of this caliber. In the spring of 1918 she was with the Offshore Squadron during the First Ostend Raid. Quietly sidelined and scrapped after the war, her size was not approached in the Royal Navy until the Tribal class of 1936.

See also

Bibliography

  • Destroyers of the Royal Navy, 1893-1981, Maurice Cocker, 1983, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-1075-7
  • Destroyers, Anthony Preston, 1977, Bison Books, ISBN 0-86124-057-X
  • Jane's Fighting Ships, 1919, Jane's Publishing
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