Kai Che composite cruiser

The Kai Che was the first of five fast cruisers built for the Chinese Nanyang fleet during the 1880s. All five were un-armoured cruisers of composite construction that were obsolete by the time they were completed.

The fast cruisers were built for the Nanyang fleet, based at Shanghai. This fleet covered the coast around the Yangtze and the East China Sea, and didn't face any significant naval threat. In contrast the northern Peiyang squadron had to watch the Japanese and the Russians. As a result the Nanyang commissioner didn’t need to order such advanced ships. The Kai Che was built at the same time as the Peiyang's protected cruiser Tsi Yuen, which had a metal hull and an armoured deck.

In contrast the Kei Che and her Chinese-built sister ships were of composite construction, with iron frames and wooden hulls. They were built at Foochow and were larger versions of the same yard's Wei Yuen composite sloop. The Kei Che was fully rigged, with three masts. She had a 2,400 IHP engine that could drive her at 15 knots. She carried two 8.2in BL Krupps guns, carried in sponsons mounted just ahead of the funnel (one gun per side). The secondary 4.7in Krupp guns were spread around - four were mounted on the broadside (two per side), one in sponsons at the rear and one on the poop deck.  

The Kai Che was followed by two similar ships built in China (Ching Ch'ing and Huan T'ai) and two built in Germany (Nan Ch'en and Nan Shui).

At the start of the Sino-French war of 1884-85 the French destroyed the Chinese Canton fleet. The Kai Che, along with the Nan Shui and Nan Ch'en were moved upriver to defend Nanking against a possible attack. The French decided to attack Formosa instead, lifting the immediate threat.

The Chinese decided to send a squadron out from Shanghai to try and find the French. This consisted of the Kai Che (the flagship of Admiral Wu An-k'ang), Nan Shui and Nan Ch'en, along with the older steam frigate Yu-yuen and the sloop Teng Ch'ing. This squadron left Shanghai in December 1884 and moved slowly south. In mid-February 1885 the two fleets ran into each out outside Sanmen Bay. The Chinese squadron was outgunned and chose not to fight. The three fast cruisers managed to escape, but the Yu-yuen and Teng Ch'ing were trapped at Shipu anchorage at the entrance to Sanmen Bay and both were sunk.

The Kai Che reached safety at Chenhai, where the squadron was blockaded by the French. The two fleets exchanged a few long range shots, but the naval part of the war was over.

The cruisers of the Nanyang squadron didn't take part in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. In the aftermath of that disastrous conflict they were rearmed. The Kai Chi's 8.2in guns were replaced with 6in quick firing guns, and the 12cm Krupp gun on the poop deck was replaced with a 4.7in QF gun.

In the aftermath of the war the Chinese had lost Port Arthur, but the International community had objected to that expansion of Japanese power. The port was returned to China, and by April 1896 elements of the Nanyang, including the Kai Chi, were in northern waters. This was a short-lived return, for Port Arthur was soon taken by the Russians. In response Britain asked for the use of Wei-Hai-Wei to watch the Russians, leaving China without a suitable port for their northern fleet.

By the time of the Boxer rebellion the Kai Chi was in use as a training ship, based at the naval academy at the Nanking naval station, Hsiakun. On 22 June 1902 she was preparing to fire a salute when faulty guncotton caused an explosion which destroyed the ship with heavy loss of life.



Top Speed






Armaments as built

Two 8.2in BL Krupp guns
Seven 12cm BL Krupp guns

Armament after refit

Two 6in QF guns
One 4.7in QF gun
Six 12cm BL Krupp guns

Crew complement


Laid down

Late 1881




January 1884

Accidental loss

22 June 1902

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2013), Kai Che composite cruiser , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_kai_che.html

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