List of gunboat and gunvessel classes of the Royal Navy

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This is a list of gunboat [note 1] and gunvessel [note 2] classes of the Royal Navy.


For gun-brigs see List of gun-brigs of the Royal Navy.

Steam gunboats

Wooden paddle gunboats (Indian service)

Wooden paddle gunboats (Great Lakes)

HMS Toronto United States1834Ex-merchantman Sir Charles Adam, built in 1834 in the United States and purchased by the Royal Navy on 7 July 1838. Sold in 1843
HMS Experiment Niagara Dock Company1838An ex-sailing ship, purchased on 21 July 1838 and converted to a paddle vessel. Sold in 1847 or 1848
HMS Traveller Niagara Dock Company1838Ex-merchant ship, purchased at Niagara on 30 April 1839 and sold in 1844
HMS Montreal Canada1836A two-masted schooner (may not have had an engine) purchased for use on Lake Erie on 18 October 1839. Sold 1848
HMS Minos Chippawa, Ontario June 1840Sold to Mr Weston in March 1852
HMS Sydenham Montreal1841Purchased while building at Montreal in 1841. Served in the Mediterranean as a packet. Refitted and reboilered at Woolwich in 1843–44. Sold at Malta on 11 July 1846
HMS Cherokee Kingston Navy Yard, Ontario22 September 1842Sold to Messrs. Campbell, Forsyth, Yarwood & Gaskin on 30 October 1851
MagnetHamilton, Canada1846The British Government made a part payment while during build, retaining the right to assume possession of the vessel on payment of the remaining portion. The right was relinquished in 1864
HMS Canada PurchasedUnknownPurchased in 1847

Iron paddle gunboat (Great Lakes)

HMS Mowhawk William Fairbairn & Company, Millwall 21 February 1843Delivered in pieces to the Kingston Yard, Lake Ontario. Served on Lake Ontario and later on Lake Huron. Lengthened by 25 ft (7.6 m) in 1846. Sold to J F Parke on 21 June 1852

Iron paddle despatch vessels/gunboats

HMS Bann J Scott Russell, Millwall 5 July 1856Sold for breaking on 18 February 1873
HMS Brune J Scott Russell, Millwall30 August 1856Sold at Lagos on 19 May 1863

Wooden screw gunboats

Composite screw gunboats

The gunboats designed from 1870 onwards were of composite construction, i.e. they had an iron keel, stem and stern posts, and iron framing, with wooden planking retained over the iron frames.

HMS Pheasant Devonport Dockyard10 April 1888Sold to Cox for breaking at Falmouth on 15 May 1906
HMS Partridge Devonport Dockyard10 May 1888Sold in 1909 at Simonstown to Ward of Preston; arrived Preston for breaking on 6 May 1913
HMS Peacock Pembroke Dockyard22 June 1888Sold to Ellis, Chepstow for breaking on 15 May 1906
HMS Pigmy Sheerness Dockyard27 July 1888Sold to Cox for breaking at Falmouth on 4 April 1905
HMS Pigeon Pembroke Dockyard5 September 1888Sold to V Grech for commercial use on 15 May 1906
HMS Plover Pembroke Dockyard18 October 1888Boom defence vessel in 1904. Sold at Gibraltar on 27 April 1927

Armoured gunboats

The only ironclads of gunboat size were three largely experimental (and unsuccessful) vessels ordered in 1864. The first two were towed to Bermuda (being considered unsatisfactory to sail under their own power) where they served as harbour vessels. Vixen was the first twin-screw vessel built for the Royal Navy, and Waterwitch employed a form of water pump propulsion.

Iron coastal gunboats

HMS Staunch Charles Mitchell & Co, Walker17 June 1867Sold for use as a fuel barge in 1904
HMS Plucky Portsmouth Dockyard 13 July 1870Renamed Banterer in June 1915, sold for commercial use in 1928 and finally broken up at Inverkeithing in 1969

Steel coastal gunboats

HMS Bouncer Pembroke Dockyard15 March 1881Ordered to be converted to a tank vessel in October 1904, but instead sold at Sheerness on 4 April 1905
HMS Insolent Pembroke Dockyard15 March 1881Gate vessel in January 1918. Foundered in Portsmouth Harbour on 1 July 1922; the wreck was sold to J H Pounds, Portsmouth, on 18 June 1925
HMS Handy Charles Mitchell and Company, Walker30 December 1882Renamed Excellent in May 1891 as a training ship, then Calcutta on 1 November 1916, and finally Snapper in August 1917. Sold on 27 April 1924. She was sold again to Pounds shipbreakers in the 1970s but not broken up. She was finally scrapped in 2008. [1]
HMS Drudge Armstrong Whitworth15 June 1887Built for the Ordnance Department and transferred to the Royal Navy in 1901. Renamed Excellent on 21 November 1916 and Dryad on 26 January 1919. Renamed back to Drudge later in 1919 and sold on 27 March 1920

Torpedo ram

Torpedo gunboats

Steel gunboats

HMS Dwarf London & Glasgow, Govan 15 November 1898Sold to Ward, Pembroke on 13 July 1926
HMS Bramble Potter, Liverpool 26 November 1898Sold at Bombay on 26 January 1920
HMS Britomart Potter, Liverpool 28 March 1899Sold at Bombay on 10 June 1920 and renamed Sakuntala
HMS Thistle London & Glasgow, Govan 22 June 1899Sold to Ward, Pembroke on 13 July 1926

River gunboats

Insectclass (1915) The Insect-class gunboats were a class of small, but well-armed Royal Navy ships designed for use in shallow rivers or inshore. Several of them took also part in World War II.

Steam gunvessels

Wooden paddle gunvessels

HMS Pluto Woolwich Dockyard 28 April 1831Breaking completed at Sheerness on 26 March 1861
HMS Firebrand Curling, Young & Company, Limehouse11 July 1831Re-engined in 1833 and renamed Black Eagle on 5 February 1842, lengthened in 1843 and re-rated as a paddle yacht, completing service as Admiralty yacht until 1857. Broken up at Portsmouth in March 1876
HMS Flamer Fletcher & Fearnall, Limehouse11 August 1831Refitted for the Holyhead Station in 1848–49. Lost on the coast of West Africa off Monrovia on 22 November 1850
HMS Firefly Woolwich Dockyard 29 September 1832Re-engined in 1844 and became a survey ship. Broken up at Malta in 1866
HMS Spitfire Woolwich Dockyard 26 March 1834Wrecked whilst working as a troop ship on Half Moon Cay lighthouse reef, Belize in 1842
HMS Tartarus Pembroke Dockyard23 June 1834Re-engined in 1837–38. Breaking completed at Malta on 6 November 1860
HMS Blazer Chatham Dockyard5.1834Became a survey ship in January 1843. Breaking up completed at Portsmouth in August 1853
HMS Lizard Woolwich Dockyard 7 January 1840Initially fitted for surveying. Lost in collision with the French armed steamer Veloce between Gibraltar and Cadiz on 26 July 1843
HMS Locust Woolwich Dockyard18 April 1840Became a tug in 1869. Sold at Sheerness in 1895
HMS Porcupine Deptford Dockyard17 June 1844Became a survey ship in 1862. Sold in 1883
HMS Spitfire Deptford Dockyard26 March 1845Became a survey ship in 1851 and a tug in 1861. Broken up at Bermuda in 1888

Iron paddle gunvessels

Torch Ditchburn & Mare, Leamouth25 February 1845Sold at Sydney on 15 May 1856
Harpy Ditchburn & Mare, Leamouth4 March 1845Transferred to the War Office as a target on 26 October 1892 and sold as a wreck in 1909
Myrmidon Ditchburn & Mare, LeamouthFebruary 1845Sold at Fernando Po on 1 December 1858
Grappler William Fairbairn & Company, Millwall30 December 1845Sold to W P Beach for breaking on 2 February 1850
Recruit J Scott Russell & Robinson, Millwall1850Ex-Prussian Salamander, commissioned into the Royal Navy on 22 December 1854. Sold to E Bates on 23 September 1869
Weser J Scott Russell & Robinson, Millwall1850Ex-Prussian Nix, commissioned into the Royal Navy on 22 December 1854. Harbour service in 1866. Sold at Malta on 29 October 1873

NB. A third vessel of the class was retained by Prussia.

Wooden screw gunvessels

This section includes two early iron-hulled screw gunvessels ordered in May 1845, which in other respects were half-sisters to two wooden-hulled gunvessels ordered at the same time. The four vessels comprised the first-class gunvessels Rifleman (wooden hulled) and Sharpshooter (iron hulled), and the second-class gunvessels Teazer (wooden hulled) and Minx (iron hulled). Further vessels ordered later to the same design were either cancelled or built to very different concepts. Rifleman and Sharpshooter were re-classed as sloops in 1854.

Composite screw gunvessels

The gunvessels designed from 1867 onwards were of composite construction, i.e. they had an iron keel, stem and stern posts, and iron framing, with wooden planking retained over the iron frames.

HMS Swift Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, Leamouth, London29 November 1879Sold at Hong Kong in 1920 for mercantile use, renamed Hoi Ching
HMS Linnet Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, Leamouth, London30 January 1880Sold as a salvage vessel on 27 April 1904
HMS Dolphin William Raylton Dixon, Middlesbrough9 December 1882Sailing training ship in 1899. Hulked as accommodation for submarines in 1907. Submarine depot ship in 1912. Sold on 13 March 1925, but foundered under tow on 19 April 1925, then raised and beached; and used as an accommodation school ship until broken up in 1977 at Bo'ness
HMS Wanderer William Raylton Dixon, Middlesbrough8 February 1883Sailing training ship (brig-rigged) in 1894. Sold to Ward, Preston for breaking in February 1907

Like the preceding Arab to Dolphin classes, these were designed by Nathaniel Barnaby; they were re-classed as screw sloops on 26 November 1884.

HMS Mariner Devonport Dockyard 23 June 1884Boom defence 1903; salvage vessel 1917,laid up 1922, then sold to Hughes Bolckow, Blyth on 19 February 1929 for breaking up.
HMS Reindeer Devonport Dockyard 14 November 1883Boom defence 1904; salvage vessel 1917, renamed Reindeer I. Sold as salvage ship 12 July 1924; abandoned at sea March 1932.
HMS Racer Devonport Dockyard 6 August 1884Tender to Britannia at Dartmouth 1896; to Portsmouth February 1903. Salvage vessel June 1917. Sold to Hughes Bolckow, Blyth on 6 November 1928 for breaking up.
HMS Icarus Devonport Dockyard 27 July 1885Sold 12 April 1904.
HMS Acorn Milford Haven Shipbuilding Company6 September 1884Sold 15 December 1899 for breaking, which took place at Milford Haven in 1904.
HMS Melita Malta Dockyard 20 March 1888Boom defence May 1905; salvage vessel December 1915, renamed Ringdove; sold to Falmouth Docks Board on 9 July 1920.

Steel torpedo-and-gunvessels

HMS Curlew Devonport Dockyard 23 October 1885Sold for breaking on 10 July 1906
HMS Landrail Devonport Dockyard 19 January 1886Sunk as target in Lyme Bay on 4 October 1906


  1. Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of gunboat at Wiktionary
  2. Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of gunvessel at Wiktionary

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  1. Jordan, John, ed. (2009), "Warship notes", Warship 2009, Anova Books, p. 170, ISBN   978-1-84486-089-0