HMS Pioneer

HMAS Pioneer was a Pelorus class light cruiser that was part of the Australian Fleet at the start of the First World War, serving off the west coast of Australia before taking part in the operations against the German cruiser Königsberg.

At the start of the war it had been intended to use the cruiser Melbourne to protect the trade routes from Aden and Colombo to Australia, from a position west of Fremantle. However, it was soon realised that the real danger to the Australian trade came from Admiral von Spee’s East Asian Squadron, and so the Melbourne was recalled to join Vice-Admiral Sir George E. Patey and the main fleet. The Pioneer was sent to the Fremantle station in her place.

There she captured two German liners. The Deutsch-Australische liner Neumunsterwas taken on August 17 and the Norddeutscher-Lloyd liner Thüringen on 28th August. It was widely believed that the Germans were planning to arm large numbers of liners, to act as commerce raiders, and so these captures helped to remove one threat to shipping.

Early in 1915 the Pioneer joined the forces blockading the German cruiser Königsberg in the Rufiji River (east Africa). Eventually the Königsberg was destroyed when two monitors were towed to East Africa to attack her in the river. On 6 July those monitors made their first attack on the German cruiser. The Pioneer was used to launch a diversionary attack on the defences at the Ssimba Uranga mouth of the river (originally used by the Königsberg to enter the river delta). By the end of the operations off the Rufiji the Pioneer was in need of a refit, but instead in 1916 she was returned to Sydney and laid up.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

18.5kts natural draft
20kts forced draft

Armour – deck


 - gunshields


 - conning tower



313ft 6in


Eight 4in quick firing guns
Eight 3pdr quick firing guns
Three machine guns
Two 18in above water torpedo tubes

Crew complement



28 June 1899




Lt. Commander T. W. Biddlecombe (1914, 1915)



Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 November 2007), HMS Pioneer ,

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