- Pennock, R.J.R.
- Colonial navies, Ship histories and stories, History - pre-Federation
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The 2nd Class torpedo boat (TB 1 or TB 191) inherited by the Navy in South Australia in 1905, was somewhat of an enigma.
The Engineer Corps of the Tasmanian Colonial Volunteer Military Force was formed in 1883 and the same year she was ordered by the Tasmanian Government from John Thornycroft and Co. of Church Wharf, Chiswick, London for both torpedo duties and to lay electro-contact mines in the Derwent ((“A Lion in the Colony”, D. M. Wyatt, pp26)). She arrived in Hobart as deck cargo aboard the merchant ship SS ABINGDON. After unloading she was towed to the yard of local shipbuilder John Lucas at Battery Point for fitting out. Never officially named she was always referred to by the Tasmanians as TB 1, although her builders yard number had been 191. Her Australasian sisters, by construction yard numbers were:
- Nos. 168 (TAMIOHA), 169 (TAIAROA), 170 (ARAI TE URU) and 171 (JERVOIS) for New Zealand,
- Nos. 189 (NEPEAN) and 190 (LONSDALE) for the Victorian Navy and No. 193 (MOSQUITO) for the Queensland Naval Force ((Harry Adam “Colonial Torpedo Boats” published in ‘The Navy’ in September 1981)).
Constructed of galvanised steel she was 63ft long with a 7ft bin beam and drafts of 1 ft 1 in forward and 3 ft 2 in aft. Displacement was 12.5 tons and she was steam driven with a single screw, a maximum speed of 17 knots and an economical speed of 3 knots ((R. L. White “The Tasmanian Corps Torpedo Boat” published in ‘Sabretache’ Volume XVIII of January 1977)). Originally fitted to carry the McEvoy spar torpedo, the Tasmanian Torpedo Corps had opted for the Whitehead/Fiume torpedoes with associated dropping gear to be fitted. This was carried out in 1885. When the new equipment was installed it dictated the removal of the torpedo spar and the port funnel. The starboard funnel was moved further forward and the twin barrelled Nordenfeldt 1″ machine gun was moved near the conning tower where the helmsman sat ((Ibid)). Little used she was laid up in 1894 through lack of finance and again in 1895 when the 160ft long slipway to her boatshed partially collapsed ((Ibid)).
The 1896 Naval Intelligence Report (Precis of Existing and Proposed Defence 1896, pp62) makes little reference to this vessel except in the following terms with regard to the Tasmanian Military at page 95:
“a. There is no Colonial Naval Force, but there is a retired Captain RN who has the title Commander of the Batteries. He has charge of the torpedo-boat and stores; and b. The boat is dismantled and the torpedoes in store at Hobart.” In 1900 the Tasmanian government made the decision to dispose of TB 1 and her equipment. This stirred the Torpedo Corps of the Tasmanian Engineers to actually fire a weapon before the boat left the State. One torpedo was fired and although the launch was successful, the weapon was never seen again ((White, Op Cit, pp37)). Federation overtook the disposal decision and it was later decided that the vessel should be transferred to Port Adelaide where their Torpedo and Mining Station had mines, torpedoes and a shed, but no torpedo boat.
The subject of actually moving the boat to Port Adelaide was raised in 1904 by the Governor General, on behalf of the Prime Minister, when he wrote to the Commander in Chief of the Australia Station (Vice Admiral Arthur Fanshaw) asking whether one of his vessels was available for the task of relocating TB191 ((Prime Minister’s letter 04/1405 dated 7th September 1904, contained in Australian Archives file A666 Item 346)). Admiral Fanshaw replied that only one vessel was planned to proceed from Hobart to Adelaide, HMS CHALLENGER, and as she was unsuitable for the task he suggested that the torpedo boat be sent by means of a freight steamer ((Letter by Vice Admiral A. D. Fanshaw, Commander in Chief letter 2325 dated 15th September 1904)).
Returning from a training cruise to New South Wales in early 1905, the South Australian warship PROTECTOR was diverted to Hobart, arriving there on 23rd April. Torpedo stores and spares were embarked in the cruiser and TB191 was made ready for the voyage. On 28th April the torpedo boat departed Hobart under tow. Due to bad weather the tow capsized and shelter was found in Port Arthur where the vessel was righted ((Ross Gillet “Australia’s Colonial Navies”, pp73)). PROTECTOR and her tow reached Port Adelaide on 3rd May after an uneventful voyage ((1905 Report by the Director of the Naval Forces on the Naval Defence of the Commonwealth of Australia)).