HMS Pegasus

HMS Pegasus was the only Pelorus class third class cruiser to be lost during the First World War. At the start of the war she formed part of the Cape of Good Hope squadron under Rear-Admiral H. G. King-Hall, together with the cruisers Hyacinth and Astraea. She was the smallest and lightest armed of the three, but theoretically the fastest. In late July, before the war broke out, Admiral King-Hall took his entire squadron on a cruise up the east coast of Africa, where they sighted their main opponent, the German light cruiser Königsberg but were unable to keep up with her. The Admiral then returned to the cape, leaving the Pegasus off East Africa to keep a watch for the Königsberg

HMS Pegasus from the right
HMS Pegasus from the right

If the two ships had met at sea the fight may not have been entirely one sided. The Königsberg’s ten more modern 4.1in guns outranged the eight 4in guns of the Pegasus, and the German ship was much quicker – 24kts compared to a realistic top speed of 16-17kts for the Pegasus. The Königsberg would have been a clear favourite to win a clash at sea, but would probably not have emerged unscathed.

Unfortunately for the Pegasus when the clash came, it was not at sea, but while she was immobilised, having her boilers repaired at Zanzibar. At 5.25am on 20 September the Königsberg was sighted approaching Zanzibar by the armed tug Helmuth, but she was unable to get a warning off. The German ship opened fire on the Pegasus at 9,000 yards, and quickly found her range. The Pegasus returned fire, but her shots fell short, and all of the guns she could bring to bear were soon destroyed. With her boilers under repair there was nothing that could be done to close the range or even to swing around and fire from the other side, and after a bombardment lasting half an hour, the Königsberg sailed away.

The Pegasus suffered thirty one dead and fifty five wounded during the German attack. The rest of her crew were evacuated safely with the help of the collier Banffshire. At the end of the German attack the Pegasus was still afloat, with her engines intact, but she had been holed on the water line. During an attempt to tow her to the beach for repairs she turned over and sank. 

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



4 March 1897




Commander Ingles

Sunk by Königsberg

20 September 1914

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

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

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