HMS Velox Background
The site of HMS Velox lies approximately 1.5 miles east of Bembridge on the southern margin of the east Solent. The wreck was sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1925 to the Southern Salvage and Towing Company. In 1970 the wreck is reported as sold to either Metal Recoveries (Orkney) Ltd. or Metal Industries (Orkney) Ltd. of Newhaven, Sussex. Following this sale it was reported that nothing remained but lifting cables and it was presumed that the majority of the wreckage was recovered. The remaining wreckage was relocated in a survey in 1976 when it was said to lie in two parts. Survey in 1978 recorded the wreck as lying north to south with the bows missing and the boilers the highest part. Reports from 1985 describe the site as a spread of broken wreckage 100m by 25m and hardly proud of the bottom, except for a section of pipe that has been snagged and hauled off the seabed to stand clear to approximately 5m.
The wreck is a popular dive site and has been frequently dived by sports divers over a period of years. The site has recently been adopted under the NAS Adopt a Wreck Scheme. A series of artefacts have been retrieved and reported to the Receiver of wreck. Amongst others these includeÂ a thermometer; a lamp; a porthole; and dining plates. Artefacts recovered from the site are known to be currently on display at the Isle of Wight Shipwreck Centre and Maritime Museum in Arreton, and at the Warship Hazardous display at Earnley Butterflies and Gardens near Chichester. There are likely to be others in private ownership.
HMS Velox was a British Destroyer lost in the eastern Solent after hitting a German contact mine off the Nab Tower on 25th October 1915. Velox was out on patrol as one of the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla destroyers when it hit the mine. 42 of the 54 crew members were lost when the vessel sank. The Velox was originally named HMS Python, and was part of the Snake class of Naval vessels along with HMS Viper and HMS Cobra. This class was notable for signalling the beginning of Royal Naval vessels using steam turbine propulsion. Prior to these vessels the reciprocating piston steam engine was used. This changed with the experimental craft Turbinia, the motor of which was invented by C. A. Parsons. The Turbinia used a compound steam turbine and impressed the Admiralty to the extent that in 1898 they commissioned Charles Parsons to build a destroyer using turbine machinery. This was the first turbine powered Naval vessel, HMS Viper.
The first of the snake class was the HMS Viper, accepted into service in June 1900. The Viper had a short career, on 3rd August 1901, whilst taking part in manoeuvres in the Channel Islands, the Viper ran over the Renonquet reef whilst travelling at speed in fog. The vessel foundered and was heavily salvaged. The second in the class was HMS Cobra built by Armstrong's and offered to the Admiralty in December 1899 and purchased in September 1901. On 17th September 1901 HMS Cobra sailed from the Tyne bound for Portsmouth, where the armament was to be fitted. Soon after passing Flamborough Head the vessel met bad weather and on 18th September the Cobra broke into two, sinking stern first with about 30 feet of the vessel remaining above the water for a short time.
The loss of the Viper and the Cobra meant the loss of both prototype turbine Torpedo Boat Destroyers. The HMS Velox filled this gap, with very similar dimensions to Viper but some changes to the machinery layout. Parsons expected the vessel to match the high speed of the Viper with the same coal consumption rates, and to use around half as much coal as the Viper at cruising speeds. The new Torpedo Boat Destroyer was launched as HMS Python on 11th February 1902, but discussions over the price and terms continued. The vessel was finally purchased by the Admiralty in June 1902 and renamed Velox, as following the loss of the Viper and Cobra in 1901, the Royal Navy did not again use snake names for Destroyers.
HMS Velox, the third steam powered turbine destroyer (copyright Fred Henderson, Ships Nostalgia)
HMS Velox had operational problems, with consumption of coal increasing as speed dropped. This had been an issue with the two previous snake class vessels and efforts had been made to correct it in the Velox. Parsons expected the vessel to match the high speed of the Viper with the same coal consumption rates, and to use around half as much coal as the Viper at cruising speeds. Despite Parsons expectations Velox had a similar high operational rate to the Viper and Cobra. This resulted in a ship with an uneconomical engine and a performance reliant on the stamina of the stokers onboard. There was no gain from the reciprocating engines of the Velox and the slow speed reciprocating engines produced a cruising speed of only 10.35 knots. With plans to increase the fleet cruising speed to 15 knots, this was too slow. In 1907 the reciprocating engines were replaced with cruising turbines but this did not produce much improvement in efficiency. Other problems reported with the vessel included a limited speed astern of 5 knots, a need to warn the Engine Room in advance of going astern, generally awkward handling, and a lack of seaworthiness due to the condensers being fitted above the water line. In 1909, following an engine breakdown off Land's End, Velox was removed from its division and assigned as an instructional vessel attached to HMS Vernon. Velox stayed in active service until its loss during World War One but was never completely satisfactory as an example of a successful turbine powered Destroyer.
Despite their issues with operational speeds and efficiency the Torpedo Boat Destroyers did demonstrate that turbines could be used as a propulsion system in ships. These vessels served an important purpose as prototypes, and their construction set an example that led to the installation of turbines in all subsequent British destroyers after the River or E class of 1903. HMS Dreadnought is the most significant example of the next stage in the use of steam powered turbines in the Royal Navy. Dreadnought entered into service in 1906 as a battleship of the British Royal Navy. The vessel was so significant in terms of the development of naval technology that the name Dreadnought came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, while the generation of ships it made obsolete became known as pre-Dreadnoughts. The Dreadnought was important in terms of the development of armament, but was also key as an example of a successful vessel powered by steam turbines, making it the fastest battleship in the world at the time of completion. The use of steam powered turbines in the Dreadnought signified a key advancement that would not have been possible without the earlier development of the steam turbine powered vessels the Viper, the Cobra and the Velox. HMS Velox is the only pre-Dreadnought turbine equipped Royal Naval vessel found within the coastal limits of England.