Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Brennan Torpedo

On the day in 2003 when I visited the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, I also visited the Royal Engineers Museum in nearby Gillingham.

Amongst the exhibits on show was an example of a Brennan Torpedo.




The Brennan Torpedo was invented in 1877 by Louis Brennan, an Irish-born Australian inventor. It was a very early form of guided weapon that was powered by two contra-rotating propellers.

The torpedo had no onboard motor. Instead it carried two drums of fine wire, each drum being attached to a separate propeller shaft and therefore powering one of the propellers. An onshore steam engine drove two winches (one for each wire) and as the winches pulled in the wires, the wires turned the propeller shafts and propellers, driving the torpedo forward. By differentially altering the speed of each winch, it was possible (in theory!) to steer the torpedo towards it target. The weapon system had a range of 2,000 yards and the torpedo had a maximum speed of 27 knots.

There were Brennan Torpedo Stations built on the Thames and the Medway (at Cliffe Fort and Garrison Point respectively) as well as others that formed part of the defences of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Cork, Malta, and Hong Kong, and it remained in service from 1891 until 1906.

10 comments:

  1. Did they ever hit anything with them?


    -- Jeff

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  2. I can't get my head around the mechanics of the wire pulling backwards and the propellers pushing forwards.

    And they can get 27 knots as well!

    Jim

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  3. Bob

    Weird and wacky stuff. I believe the rebel Huascar fired a similar torpedo at HMS Shah!

    Cheers
    PD

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  4. Can we expect to see a 'cardboard simulator' of this splendid weapon at next years COW?
    And is it just me or does 'the Brennam Torpedo' sound like a good title for an episode of Jeeves & Wooster?

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  5. This must be the first wire guided torpedo then. Makes my testing the Tigerfish look a bit outdated

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  6. Bluebear Jeff,

    It certainly worked when fired during trials ... but it was never used in anger!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Jim Duncan,

    Its working do sound weird ... but it was reasonably effective - and fast -over short ranges.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Peter Douglas,

    The early locomotive torpedoes were a rather odd collection of machines, ranging from the downright dangerous to the absolutely silly!

    I think that the torpedo fired by HMS Shah might have been an early Whitehead ... but I am not absolutely certain.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Tim Gow,

    You never know ... it might be worth giving it a try!

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. The Brennan Torpedo does sound like a 1920s cocktail. Perhaps we could invent one at COW2012 to go with the name?

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  10. Johntheone,

    Wire guided AND wire propelled!

    Certainly a novel concept ... and one that might need reviving!

    All the best,

    Bob

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