HMS Philomel

HMS Philomel was the only Pearl class third class cruiser to see active service during the First World War (and one of only two of the original nine ships not sold off in 1906). The Pearl class cruisers were similar to the Medea class second class cruisers, laid down in 1887, one year before the first Pearl class ships. The Medea class cruisers were armed with six 6in guns, and were themselves cut-down versions of an earlier design. On the Pearl class ships the 6in guns were replaced with 4.7in guns, and increased in number to eight.

HMS Philomel was one of four members of the class not paid for by Australia, and was laid down in 1889, the year after the five Australian ships. She had a slightly more powerful engine than the earlier ships, which tended to make her more mechanically reliable.

On 15 July 1914 she was handed over to the recently formed New Zealand Navy, where she was to act as a seagoing training ship. The First World War intervened, and the Philomel joined the New Zealand Division (with the Psyche and the Pyramus). With that division she escorted the New Zealand expedition that conquered Samoa, before returning to New Zealand to escort the first New Zealand troop convoy on the first stage of its journey to Britain. That convoy reached Albany, at the south west corner of Australia, at the start of October. The Philomel was then sent to Singapore, to join the forces acting against German commerce raiders.

In January 1915 she was transferred to Egyptian waters. On 9 February 1915 she started a nine day patrol in the gulf of Alexandretta, where she shelled Turkish positions and exchanged notes with the governor of the port over the fate of a number of British prisoners in his hands. In March 1915 she was back in the Suez Canal, taking up a station in the Bitter Lakes when a Turkish attack was feared. As the threat to the canal receded, the Philomel moved onto the main East Indies station, performing commerce protection duties, until in 1917 she was paid off and converted to serve as a depot ship.  From 1921 she served as a training hulk at Auckland, before being sold off in 1947. She was scuttled off the Coromandel peninsula of New Zealand in 1949.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

17kts natural draught
19kts forced draught



Armour – deck


 - gunshields


 - conning tower





Eight 4.7in quick firing guns
Eight 3pdr quick firing guns
Four machine guns
Two 14in torpedo tubes

Crew complement



28 August 1890


10 November 1891


P. H. Hall Thompson (1914-1917)



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

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

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