The first prototype destroyers were ordered for the Royal Navy in 1892-93 and, within four years, three different classes were building in numerous yards around the British Isles. All powered by conventional triple-expansion engines however, albeit modified for higher speeds, it was inevitable that Charles Parsons -- who had stunned the naval establishment in 1897 with his revolutionary Turbinia -- would make every effort to persuade the Admiralty to adopt his invention of the steam turbine for this new breed of ship.
He lobbied hard and was eventually given his chance immediately after the loss of the experimental destroyer H.M.S. Cobra in September 1901. Less than a month later, he was invited to provide the Admiralty with a suitable turbine-powered vessel and, anticipating the order, Parsons -- in collaboration with Hawthorn Leslie -- had already laid down such a ship as a private venture. Named Python, her general design was similar to the 30-knotters already in service but her attraction lay in the low-pressure turbines coupled to a reciprocating triple-expansion engine, the latter to be used for more economical steaming at low speeds. Formally ordered in July 1902, by which time the vessel had already been launched from Hawthorn Leslie's yard, the by-now named Velox ran her trials early in 1903 which were not without their problems. Coal consumption proved too high and her speed was not quite good enough but, after some modifications, she was accepted by the Admiralty and commissioned into service.
Displacing 420 tons, Velox measured 210 feet in length with a 21 foot beam and was modestly armed with 1-12pdr., 5-6pdrs. and 2-torpedo tubes. Fitted with quadruple screws, she had two pairs of Parsons' turbines (High and Low Pressure) and a reciprocating cruising engine by Paul of Dumbarton. Her active career was a very limited one due to the furious pace of technical change and, by 1909, she was deemed unfit for further sea service and attached to H.M.S. Vernon for use "as an Instructional Vessel in Torpedo and W/T as such duties would not necessitate going to sea in anything approaching bad weather." When the Great War began in 1914, expediency demanded that this order be rescinded and whilst out on a routine patrol, Velox hit a mine off the Nab Light Vessel and sank on 25th October 1915, apparently without loss of life. Never an operational success due to several fundamental design faults, Velox nevertheless deserves her place in naval history as the boat which proved the case for turbine power and paved the way for the generations of versatile and high-powered destroyers which followed after her.