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- March 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In his report of 13th August 1885, the Chief Inspector, John Dark, adversely commented on the ‘lubberly appearance‘ of 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, rather odd when we consider that 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 made 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, possibly some had sprung on the voyage out to Hobart as deck cargo. Dark also reported on the shed in which No. 191 was stored. This shed was 70 feet long and 21 feet wide. A water connection, with a 70 foot ‘indiarubber‘ hose enabled the boiler to be filled and steam raised before launching. One of Dark’s recommendations was that a smoke discharge vent be fitted in the roof of the shed, to assist when raising steam, and also that additional water tanks be erected. The prices for some of his recommendations are very interesting today:-
- Two 400 gallon tanks, with all necessary cocks and pipe fittings, with wooden frames (stands) complete: £25.0.0.
- Iron smoke flue, fixed, complete, on roof – £3.10.0.
- Copper hand bilge pump: from £3.0.0. to £4.0.0.
On 11th September 1885 Colonel Legge reported on the costs incurred by No. 191 since her arrival in the Colony. From 2-6-84 to 30-8-85 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, and the 1886 estimates carried such a request.
By December 1885, an improvement seems to have taken place, as steam trials made between the 17th and 27th of that month show that the boat had worked up to 610 rpm, and with feed water at 95°F she had held 125 psi in her boiler. On the 28th December 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 No. 191. Evidently there had been very little use made of the boat, and in 1899 the sum of £90 was spent in repairing the ways at the boatshed. Until they were put in order, there was no possibility of getting No. 191 into the water. The report on this expenditure stated that she was launched on 12-10-1899.
For years the corps had been pleading to try out the Corner’s Dropping Gear which had been fitted since arrival many years before, but always the pleas fell on deaf ears. Finally in 1901 permission was granted, No. 191 steamed up the Derwent and dropped one ‘fish’.
Alas, the torpedo went down and never came up again. Perhaps one of these days a scuba diver will find an old torpedo on the bottom, who knows.
The Chief Secretary’s Reports say very little about the boat after 1900, except for a ‘minor break in’ at the boatshed. In the 1890s a two-barrel one-inch Nordenfelt machine gun had been purchased for mounting on the conning tower roof, but it is doubtful if this was ever fitted. Probably there was one trial and the gun then stored. The 1901 Report on Ordnance shows that a two-barrel one-inch Nordenfelt machine gun, register number 862, built in 1885, was held in Ordnance Stores, Hobart, with the notation ‘for torpedo boat’.
After its brief return to duty in 1901, No. 191 appears to have been placed back in reserve, but in 1905 the gunboat Protector arrived in Hobart, to tow the boat to Port Adelaide. It was not an easy tow as the little torpedo boat turned turtle very early in the journey. She was righted, and eventually ended up in her port of destination. It was intended to put her into naval service in South Australia, this being stated in Captain Creswell’s 1905 report. However, no mention is made of the boat in the 1906 report, so we can assume that the plan was shelved, either through the boat not being up to standard or a change in naval policy.
In her twenty years of service, No. 191 never received a name. In all the Parliamentary Papers she is either referred to as ‘No. 191’ or simply ‘the torpedo boat’. It is a great pity that she wasn’t named as the other seven boats ordered at the same time all were given names. Very little remains of her today, apart from a couple of photographs and a half completed model of the old boat in the Maritime Museum at Battery Point, Hobart. Maybe the little ship just didn’t want any fuss.