Spanish warship Destructor

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The Spanish Navy's Destructor (1886)
Name: Destructor
Ordered: 1885
Builder: James and George Thomson of Clydebank, United Kingdom
Laid down: 14 November 1885
Launched: 29 July 1886
Commissioned: 19 January 1887
Decommissioned: 1 January 1908
Fate: Offered for sale, December 1911 and scrapped[1]
General characteristics Spanish Warship Destructor
Type: Torpedo gunboat
Displacement: 348 long tons (354 t)
Length: 58.74 m (192.7 ft)
Beam: 7.63 m (25.0 ft)
Draught: 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: 2 triple-expansion engines 3,784 hp (2,822 kW)
Speed: 22.6 kn (26.0 mph; 41.9 km/h)
Range: 4,500 nmi (8,300 km)
Complement: 60
  • 1 × 90 mm (3.5 in)
  • 4 × 57 mm (2.2 in)
  • 2 × 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
  • 2 × 360 mm (14 in) torpedo tubes

Destructor was a 19th-century Spanish warship. She was a fast ocean-going torpedo gunboat and a precursor of the destroyer type of vessel.[2] Destructor was the first warship classified as a "destroyer" at the time of her commissioning.[3][4] Her designer was a Spanish Navy officer, Fernando Villaamil, commissioned by the Minister of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Manuel Pezuela.


During the 1860s, 70s and 80s the rapidly improving, fast and cheap torpedo boats were presenting an escalating threat to major warships. Escort vessels were already in use to provide protection for battleships but it was decided that what was needed was a new type of enlarged torpedo boat, capable of escorting larger ships on long voyages and also able to attack enemy battleships as part of a fleet action.

The Spanish Navy asked several British shipyards to submit proposals capable of fulfilling these specifications. In 1885 it chose the design submitted by the shipyard of James and George Thomson of Clydebank, near the Yarrow shipyards. She was laid down at the end of the year, launched in 1886, and commissioned in 1887.


Profile of the Destructor with its appearance in 1890
Profile of the Destructor with its appearance in 1900

She displaced 348 tons, and was equipped with triple-expansion engines generating 3,784 horsepower (2,822 kW), for a maximum speed of 22.6 knots (41.9 km/h),[5] which made her one of the faster ships in the world by 1888.[6] She was armed with one 90 mm (3.5 in) Spanish-designed Hontoria breech-loading gun,[2] four 57 mm (2.2 in) (6-pdr) Nordenfeldt guns, two 37 mm (1.5 in) (3-pdr) Hotchkiss cannons and two 15-inch (38 cm) Schwartzkopff torpedo tubes.[5] The ship carried three torpedoes per tube.[2] She was manned by a crew of 60.[5] On her maiden voyage, Destructor established a record after steaming from Falmouth to Ferrol in 24 hours.[4]

In terms of gunnery, speed and dimensions, the specialised design to chase torpedo boats and her high seas capabilities, Destructor is widely considered the first torpedo-boat destroyer ever built,[7][8] and was described as such by British naval engineer Sir William Henry White.[9] The Destructor is thought to have influenced the design and concept of later destroyers developed by the British Navy.[10][11] Further developments followed the pattern of the Havock class, built in 1893. The aim of the new destroyer design was not only to neutralize the torpedo boat as an effective weapon, but also to replace it as a faster and more reliable torpedo-carrying warship.[12]


  1. ^ "Buques Viejo En Venta". ABC (in Spanish) (1 ed.). Madrid, Spain. 5 December 1911. p. 11. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Fitzsimmons, Bernard: The Illustrated encyclopedia of 20th century weapons and warfare. Columbia House, 1978, v. 8, page 835
  3. ^ "El Destructor (...) was referred to as a destroyer in print at the time." Banbury, Philip (1971). Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway. David and Charles, p. 300. ISBN 0-7153-4996-1
  4. ^ a b Smith, Charles Edgar: A short history of naval and marine engineering. Babcock & Wilcox, ltd. at the University Press, 1937, page 263
  5. ^ a b c Contratorpedero Destructor (Spanish)
  6. ^ Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine: A monthly journal devoted to all subjects connected with Her Majesty's land and sea forces, 1888, v 9, page 280
  7. ^ From an article about the American Greyhounds
  8. ^ "Under the influence of Fernando Villamil (1845–1898), Spain in 1886 produced the first torpedo boat destroyer." Kern, Robert & Dodge, Meredith: Historical dictionary of modern Spain, 1700–1988. Greenwood Press, 1990, page 361. ISBN 0-313-25971-2
  9. ^ Carr Laughton, Leonard George; Anderson, Roger Charles and Perrin, William Gordon (1985). Mariner's mirror: wherein may be discovered his art, craft & mystery after the manner of their use in all ages and among all nations. Volume 71. Society for Nautical Research., p. 86
  10. ^ Lyon, page 18: "J&G Thomson's 1892 design for a TBD is, not unsurprisingly, somewhat reminiscent of their "Destructor" built for the Spanish Navy."
  11. ^ Lyon, page 66: "It was already (J&G Thomson Clydebank shipyard), when asked to tender for TBDs for the Royal Navy, building transatlantic liners and cruisers to the navy, and had built an interesting torpedo vessel under the prophetic name of "Destructor" ("Destroyer") for Spain. Its first design (for the British navy in 1892) was clearly a successor of the "Destructor"."
  12. ^ Dolby, James: The Steel Navy: A History in Silhouette, 1860–1963. Macdonald, 1965, page 71. OCLC 2336286


  • Cheseneau, R & Kolesnik, E (Eds). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5
  • Lyon, David. The First Destroyers, Chatham Shipshape Series, London, 1997. ISBN 1-84067-364-8