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A Destroyer was the smallest warship type to participate in fleet operations in World War I.

They evolved in a series of stages from the small Torpedo Boats of the 1800s who represented a threat to capital ships. Navies reacted to this threat by creating slightly larger vessels with greater gun armament called "torpedo boat destroyers", although eventually they also shouldered the burden of torpedo attack. Eventually, the name was further shortened to just "destroyers".

Like their torpedo boat predecessors, destroyers were some of the most technologically advanced vessels of their period. As a result, prior to the massive industrial mobilizations of the First World War, destroyer construction remained in large part the exclusive preserve of specialist shipbuilding firms, most of which had substantial experience in torpedo craft construction. Examples of these firms include John I. Thornycroft & Company and J. Samuel White in Great Britain, Fore River Shipbuilding Company and Bath Iron Works in the United States, Schichau-Werke and Germaniawerft in Germany, FCM and Normand in France, Giovanni Ansaldo & Company in Italy, and Nevsky in Russia. Only Japan produced a sizable proportion of its destroyers in its Navy Yards prior to 1914.

Destroyers, like other ship types, generally grew in size and capability as time went on.


See Also


  • Lyon, David (1996). The First Destroyers. London: Chatham Publishing. (on and
  • March, Edgar J. (1966). British Destroyers: A History of Development, 1892-1953. London: Seeley Service & Co. Limited. (on