HMS Icarus (1885)

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HMS Icarus
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Icarus
Builder: Devonport Dockyard
Cost: Hull: £39,369, Machinery: £12,735[1]
Laid down: 18 August 1883[1]
Launched: 27 July 1885
Commissioned: 6 July 1886
Fate: Sold 12 April 1904
General characteristics
Class and type: Mariner-class composite screw sloop
Displacement: 970 tons
Length: 167 ft (51 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Draught: 14 ft (4.3 m)[1]
Installed power: 1,230 ihp (920 kW)
Propulsion: 2-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine
Single screw[1]
Sail plan: Barquentine-rigged; later barque-rigged
Range: Approximately 2,100 nmi (3,900 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)[1]
Complement: 126
  • Five 5-inch 38cwt Breech Loaders
  • One light gun
  • Eight machine guns[1]
  • After 1890: Additional QF guns

HMS Icarus was a Mariner-class composite screw gunvessel of 8 guns,[2] and the third Royal Navy vessel to carry the name. She was launched in 1885 at Devonport and sold in 1904.


Designed by Nathaniel Barnaby[1], the Royal Navy Director of Naval Construction, her hull was of composite construction; that is, iron keel, frames, stem and stern posts with wooden planking. She was fitted with a 2-cylinder horizontal compound expansion steam engine driving a single screw, produced by Barrow Iron Shipbuilding. Uniquely among her class she was built rigged with no main yards, making her a barquentine-rigged vessel; the rest of her class were barque-rigged. However, later pictures show her rigged as a barque. Her keel was laid at Devonport Royal Dockyard on 18 August 1883 and she was launched on 27 July 1885. Her entire class were re-classified in November 1884 as sloops before they entered service.

File:HMS Icarus (1885) during build.jpg
HMS Icarus by Miss Julia M Wilson, 1885


Icarus was commissioned on 6 July 1886 at Devonport.[3] After returning from the Pacific in 1890[3] she had additional Quick Firing (QF) guns added.[1]

The ship's companies of Icarus, Acorn and Rifleman were awarded the West Africa Medal with the bar "1887-1888" for their part in supporting the infantry of the West India Regiment between 13 November 1887 and 2 January 1888 against the Yonnie tribes in Sierra Leone.[4]

In 1890 the levels of desertion and punishment under her commanding officer, Commander Annesley, was sufficiently high to prompt a question in the House of Commons. The reply by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord George Hamilton, reveals good reason for the concern, since Icarus only had a total complement of 126:

Commander Annesley was appointed to the Icarus on July 6, 1886. The total number of desertions between July 1, 1886, and September 30, 1889, was 28. During the same period the total number of summary punishments awarded was 619, and there have been three court-martial cases. No complaints as to the discipline on board have been received at the Admiralty, but I shall be quite ready to look into any facts that the hon. Gentleman may have in his possession.

Lord George Hamilton, First Lord of the Admiralty[5]

File:HMS Icarus (1885) at Esquimalt.jpg
Icarus at Esquimalt c.1900

Her last years were spent on the Pacific Station, based in Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard at Esquimalt, in British Columbia, Canada.[6]


Icarus was sold on 12 April 1904.[1]