HMS Philomel (1890)

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HMS Philomel in New Zealand service
Career (Britain)  Royal Navy
Builder: HM Naval Dockyard, Plymouth
Launched: 28 August 1890
Commissioned: 1890
Decommissioned: 1914
Career (NZ Naval Forces)  Royal Navy
Commissioned: 1914
Decommissioned: 1921
Career (NZ Division)  Royal Navy
Commissioned: 1921
Decommissioned: 1941
Career (New Zealand) Template:Country data NZ
Commissioned: 1941
Decommissioned: 1947
Fate: Sunk at Coromandel 1949
General characteristics
Displacement: 2,575 tons
Length: 278 ft (85 m)
Beam: 47 ft (14 m)
Draught: 15 ft 6 in (4.72 m)
Propulsion: 2 shaft, reciprocating
7,500 ihp (5,500 kW)
Speed: 19 knots
Complement: 220

8 x QF 4.7 inch (120 mm) guns
8 x 3 pound guns
4 x machine guns

2 x 14 inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes

HMS Philomel was a Pearl class cruiser. She was the sixth ship of that name and served with the Royal Navy from her commissioning in 1890 until 1914, when she was transferred to the New Zealand Navy with whom she served until 1947.

In 1896 she took part in the Anglo-Zanzibar War, the shortest war in history.

In 1913 the Admiralty agreed to lend HMS Philomel to New Zealand as a seagoing training cruiser to form the nucleus of the newly formed NZ Naval Forces, which was a new division of the Royal Navy. Philomel was commissioned for New Zealand service on 15 July 1914. She was the country's first warship. According to Sydney D. Walters:

Described as the "Cradle of the Navy" Philomel was the foundation stone on which the Royal New Zealand Navy was laid. [1]

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 formed part of the ocean escort for the New Zealand Force which occupied German Samoa (now Samoa). Following this, the ship helped escort the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force as far as Western Australia. The cruiser then sailed for the Middle East.

In 1915 Philomel operated in the Mediterranean. On 8 February she landed an armed party in Southern Turkey where a large force of Turkish soldiers were encountered, resulting in three seamen killed and three wounded. Subsequently Philomel was deployed in the Red Sea and in the Persian Gulf. Throughout these operations Philomel was operated as a New Zealand ship, at the cost of the New Zealand Government.

In 1917 Philomel returned to New Zealand. Now 28 years old and probably the Navy’s oldest fighting ship, she was now in fact on her last legs. Hall-Thompson advised that she had reached the end of her useful life and the expense of a major refit which might briefly extend her operational life would not be justified. So she was to be retained as a depot and training ship of the local force to be re-introduced after the war. [2] Her armament was removed and fitted on New Zealand merchant ships. In April of the same year Philomel was re-commissioned as a depot ship at Wellington and supported minesweeping operations until May 1919.

In March 1921, on the creation of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy, Philomel was re-commissioned as a training base and moored at Admiralty reservation, Devonport Dockyard, Auckland. From 1922, for a while, she was commanded by the noted British naval officer Augustus Agar. In October 1941, on the creation of the Royal New Zealand Navy, HMS Philomel was recommissioned as the training base HMNZS Philomel. She was decommissioned in January 1947. After fittings and parts were removed, she was towed to Coromandel and ceremoniously sunk on 6 August 1949.


  1. Walters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy: Official History of World War II, Page 544, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington
  2. McGibbon, I.C. (1981) Blue-Water Rationale: The Naval Defence of New Zealand 1914-1942, page 28 (GP Print, Wellington, NZ) ISBN 0 477 01072 5


  • Walters, Sydney David (1956) The Royal New Zealand Navy: Official History of World War II, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington Appendix VIII : Record of HMNZS Philomel
  • McDougall, R J (1989) New Zealand Naval Vessels, Pages 11-13, 157-158, Government Printing Office. ISBN 9780477013994
  • Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J., "British Warships 1914-1919", (Ian Allen, London, 1972), ISBN 0-7110-0380-7
  • Other, A.N. HMNZS Philomel: The cradle of the Royal New Zealand Navy, article in Naval Historical Review, March 1983.

External links

pt:HMS Philomel (1890)