WWI automobile torpedo


What is “automobile torpedo”?


It is probably an old term for a torpedo which has it’s own power source on board.


There’s a good article at navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/us … ewport.htm. Here’s a short exerpt. I didn’t know the “automobile torpedo” was invented by an Englishman in 1866. Sure seems early.

“The idea of using a self-propelled vehicle to carry the charge to an enemy at some distance followed quite directly. Its first successful implementation was the work of an Englishman, Robert Whitehead, who managed an iron works in Fiume, an Austro-Hungarian port city at the head of the Adriatic Sea. In 1866, he produced the first working “automobile torpedo,” powered by compressed air and capable of carrying an 18-pound dynamite charge for 700 yards at six knots.”



The term, automobile, as used here, had a different meaning and was probably pronounced differently than we do today. Falcon sort of sums it up. The history, or early development, of the modern “auto-mobile” torpedo was something we (Torpedomen) learned in our A-School. The Whitehead torpedo was the basis for the torpedo used by everyone until electrics and rotary engine models came along. The US found the alcohol/air torpedo to be the basis for our design while the Japanese used oxygen and the Germans other oxidizers, like hydrogen peroxide, with kerosene and other fuels. Our WWII steam torpedoes (MK 13, 14 & 15) used a turbine system, 2 in fact, that turned the two propellers in a counter rotateing fashion. They left a very obvious wake so the electric torpedo was developed to eliminate that. The most modern torpedoes in use today have eliminated propellers entirely and use self-oxidizing fuels with high preformance piston engines.

The above picture shows a surface launched torpedo and it is most likely a smaller Whitehead or Bliss-Levitt because the exhaust appears ‘clear’ and there is no smoke plum from the propellent charge used with heavier torpedoes.


Mel - there is little new on this earth, and we British were using wire guided torpedos from shore stations in the nineteenth century. There is a beautifully preserved example in the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham.