The first aircraft flew in early 1915. An order for ten more aircraft had already been placed, and 936 aircraft were built by ten different British aircraft companies, making it the most successful of Shorts' pre-World War II aircraft.
The two prototype aircraft were embarked upon HMS Ben-my Chree, which sailed for the Aegean on 21 March 1915 to take part in the Gallipoli campaign. On 12 August 1915 one of these, piloted by Flight Commander Charles Edmonds, was the first aircraft in the world to attack an enemy ship with an air-launched torpedo. However, the ship had already been crippled by a torpedo fired by the British submarine E14.
However, on 17 August 1915, another Turkish ship was sunk by a torpedo of whose origin there was no doubt. On this occasion Flight Commander Edmonds torpedoed a Turkish transport ship a few miles north of the Dardanelles. His formation colleague, Flt Lt G B Dacre, was forced to land on the water owing to engine trouble but, seeing an enemy tug close by, taxied up to it and released his torpedo, sinking the tug. Without the weight of the torpedo Dacre was able to take off and return to the Ben-My-Chree.
The performance of the Type 184 in the climatic conditions of the Mediterranean was marginal, it being necessary to fly without an observer and carry a limited amount of fuel, and the 184 was therefore used either as a bomber, carrying two 112 lb bombs, or for reconnaissance and gunnery observation.
A Short 184, aircraft number 8359, was the only British aircraft to take part in the Battle of Jutland. Flown by Flt Lt Frederick Rutland (who became known afterwards as "Rutland of Jutland") with Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin as observer, the aircraft was launched from HMS Engadine at about 3.08 p.m.: flying at about 90 feet (27 m) due to low visibility, they spotted four cruisers of the German fleet, reporting their presence back to the Engadine at about 3.30. The aircraft was presented to the Imperial War Museum in 1917, where it was damaged in a German air raid during the blitz. The unrestored forward section of the fuselage is now an exhibit in the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
The aircraft served in most theatres of the war. Five were used in Mesopotamia, where they were flown from the River Tigris at [Ora], and in April 1916 they were used to drop supplies to the besieged garrison at Kut al Amara.
The principal use of the 184 was its use in anti-submarine patrol work. Although a substantial number of submarines were spotted and attacked, no confirmed sinkings were made.
The type was used for a number of experiments by the Port Victoria Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot. On 9 May 1916, a Short 184 seaplane, using a bombsight developed by Bourdillon and Tizard, hit a target with a 500 pound bomb from a height of 4,000 feet. The 184 was also used for trials of the Davis gun in April 1916
The Type 184 was still in production at the end of the war, and in December 1918 315 remained in service. After the end of the war they were mainly used for spotting mines, and remained in service at least until the end of 1920. Following the Geddes Report all were struck off charge by the end of 1922.
Post-war, five aircraft were adapted to seat four passengers and used for pleasure flights: two being used by the Eastbourne Aviation Co., two by the Seaplane and Pleasure Trip Co., and one by Manchester Airways.
In 2010, the Estonian Maritime Museum announced it had ordered a non-flying reproduction of the plane to be built for fitting into one of their historic seaplane hangars. The main designer was killed in a glider crash on 11 July of the same year. However, a group of enthusiasts took over the build and the reproduction project was completed in spring 2012. The replica is now displayed in collection of the museum and can be seen at the Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn.
A single example of the Short Type 184 was acquired by the Imperial Japanese Navy and re-designated Yokosuka Navy Short Reconnaissance Seaplane, being used as an engine test-bed.