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Pelorus-class cruiser
HMS Pyramus SLV Green 1914.jpg
HMS Pyramus in 1914
Class overview
Name: Pelorus
Operators: RN Ensign Royal Navy
Preceded by: Arrogant-class cruiser
Succeeded by: Highflyer-class cruiser
Completed: 11
Lost: 1
Scrapped: 10
General characteristics
Type: Protected cruiser
Displacement: 2,135 long tons (2,169 t)
Length: 300 ft (91.4 m) (p/p, 313 ft 6 in (95.6 m) (o/a)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.1 m)
Draught: 16 ft (4.9 m)
Installed power: 7,000 ihp (5,200 kW)

2 shafts, Vertical triple-expansion steam engines

16 water-tube boilers
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Complement: 224

8 x QF 4-inch (102 mm) guns
8 x 3-pounder quick firing guns

2 x 17.7-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes
Armour: Deck: 1.5–2 in (38–51 mm)
Conning tower: 3 in (76 mm)

The Pelorus class cruiser was a "third-class" protected cruiser class of eleven Royal Navy warships designed by Sir William White (Director of Naval Construction 1885 – 1902), based on the earlier Pearl-class cruisers. They were ordered in 1893 under the Spencer Programme, and laid down 1896–1900. The first, HMS Pelorus, was commissioned in 1896.

In an era of naval innovation, the class was almost outdated before they were launched. They were fitted with a variety of different boilers as a trial but most were not particularly satisfactory; so HMS Pandora was scrapped in 1913, HMS Perseus and HMS Prometheus in 1914. They had all been condemned in 1904 but had been reprieved. The remainder were to be scrapped in 1915, but were kept in service through the First World War. HMS Pegasus was sunk in combat in 1914, the rest - except for HMS Pioneer - were scrapped between 1919 and 1922. HMS Pactolus and HMS Pomone had Blechynden boilers which were particularly unreliable, they were removed from active service several years before others in the class.

Rear Admiral Cresswell, the 1st Naval Member of the Australian Naval Board described Psyche and Pyramus in 1914 as "the unspeakably useless P. class."[1]

Development and design

The Pelorus class ships displaced 2,135 tons and had a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Most served in minor roles on overseas or colonial patrol work, not with the main battlefleets. They carried a complement of 224 and were armed with eight QF 4-inch (25 pounder) guns, eight 3 pounder guns, three machine guns, and two 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes.

HMAS Psyche in Hong Kong in 1916

They had reciprocating triple expansion steam engines and were equipped with different types of boiler which were trialled in these cruisers. Some had Normand water-tube boilers which could give 7,000 horsepower (5,200 kW) for limited periods of time with forced draught and 5,000 horsepower (3,700 kW) under natural draught.

HMS Pyramus, circa 1900

Ships in the class

Name Launched Fate
Pactolus 21 December 1896 Sold for scrap on 25 October 1921
Pandora 17 January 1900 Sold for scrap in July 1913
Pegasus 4 March 1897 Sunk 20 September 1914 by SMS Königsberg
Pelorus 15 December 1896 Sold for scrap on 6 May 1920
Perseus 15 July 1897 Sold for scrap on 26 May 1914
Pioneer 28 June 1899 Transferred to Australia on 1 March 1913 although not sold until 1 July 1915. Scuttled on 19 February 1931
Pomone 25 November 1897 Sold for scrap in June 1922
Prometheus 20 October 1898 Sold for scrap on 28 May 1914
Proserpine 5 December 1896 Sold for scrap on 30 November 1919
Psyche 19 July 1898 Sold to Australia 1 July 1915. Sold for scrap in June 1922
Pyramus 15 May 1897 Sold for scrap 21 April 1920


  1. McGibbon, I.C. (1981) Blue-Water Rationale: The Naval Defence of New Zealand 1914–1942, page 15 note 50 (GP Print, Wellington, NZ) ISBN 0-477-01072-5

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