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TB 191 and the Tasmanian Torpedo Corps

TB 191
TB 191

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During the mid-1830's, the colony of Van Diemen's Land constructed and operated the armed schooner Eliza. The vessel was built at Port Arthur and was operated by the Convict Marine Service, carrying out anti-piracy patrols as well as helping to maintain the security of the penal settlement.

TB 191 was a second-class torpedo boat constructed for the Colony of Tasmania and later operated by the Commonwealth Naval Forces and the Royal Australian Navy.

TB 191 was ordered by the Australian colonial government of Tasmania in 1882 to protect the colony from possible Russian or French attack, and was built by John I. Thornycroft & Company.

She was very similar to the other torpedo boats ordered by the other Australian colonies, but less heavily armed. She was 67 feet (20m) long, with a draught of 3.25 feet (0.99m), and a displacement of 12.5 tons. Her top speed was 17kn (31km/h; 20mph) and her armament consisted of one Whitehead torpedo and a 1-inch Nordenfelt gun.

Built at a cost of ₤4,011 TB 191 arrived in Tasmania onboard SS Abington on 1 May 1884. Operated by the Tasmanian Torpedo Corps, she appears to not have been used much in service of the Tasmanian colony.

It was commanded by Captain Boddam, and with Lieutenant Henry as instructor in electricity. Later, the services of an instructor was sought from the Royal Engineers of the British Army, and Quarter Master Sergeant J. Falconer, RE, was signed up.

The boat underwent trials on the Thames on 24th January 1884, attaining a mean speed of 17.221 knots, after making six runs over the measured mile. Trials completed, No. 191 was placed aboard the steamer Abington for delivery to Hobart. On 1st May 1884, the torpedo boat was off-loaded in Hobart, and then towed to John Lucas’ Boatyard, at Battery Point, Hobart.

On 14th June 1884, Colonel W.V. Legge, Commandant Tasmanian Forces, wrote to the Chief Secretary requesting that a mechanic be appointed as caretaker, with the main duty of getting the boat into working order.

In August 1885, the Chief Inspector of Machinery for Tasmania reported on the general condition of No. 191. Steam was raised, the machinery tested and found correct. All that remained was a steaming trial to find out how the boat acted under full power conditions.

In his report of 13th August 1885, the Chief Inspector, John Dark, commented adversely on the machinery, and suggested that an ex-ERA 1st class from the Royal Navy, or a sea-going second engineer, to take charge. He was very warm in his praise for QMS Falconer, the Torpedo Instructor. In his report, John Dark noted that until this trial the machinery had not been run to full power, even though the boat had been in Tasmania for over a year.

After the trials, Colonel Legge ordered that No. 191 be taken back to her moorings off Government House, where a further visit was made by the Chief Inspector of Machinery. Dark found that the boat had water in her bilges. This had occurred since the speed trials, and it would appear that the fast running engines shook the lightly built hull up considerably. The boat was hauled up on the slip and given a thorough examination. Dark found that there were twenty rivets of a different type to the normal ones in the hull.

On 11th September 1885 Colonel Legge reported on the costs incurred by No. 191 since her arrival in the Colony. From 2 June 1884 to 30 August 1885 she had cost the Colony £147.11.3, the cost of fuel amounted to a mere 13 shillings. Legge also noted that no provision had been made for the appointment of an officer to command the boat.

On the 28th December 1885, she had exercised with ‘live’ mines, one of which was exploded against a raft.

In 1891 both the Tasmanian Artillery and Torpedo Corps came under the command of Captain P.R.H. Parker, RN (retired), and on 6th February 1896 Lieutenant A.C. Packer was nominated to take command of TB 191.

In 1901 permission was granted to fit and test the Corner’s Dropping Gear hat had been delivered some time earlier. No. 191 steamed up the Derwent and dropped one ‘fish’, but unfortunately, the torpedo submerged but did not came up again.

In the 1890's a two-barrel one-inch Nordenfelt machine gun had been purchased for mounting on the conning tower, but it as never fitted.

After its brief return to duty in 1901, TB 191 appears to have been placed back in reserve.

She was sold in 1905 to the Colony of South Australia, being towed to Adelaide by HMCS Protector, before becoming part of the Commonwealth Naval Forces.

She was sold in 1911.