Apollo class second class cruisers

The Apollo class second class cruisers were amongst the oldest ships still in service with the Royal Navy at the start of the First World War. They were part of one of the biggest classes of cruisers ever built, twenty one strong and build under the 1889 Naval Defence Act, although by 1914 only twelve were still in service.

They were a modified version of the earlier Medea class. They carried a mixed armament entirely made up of quick firing guns, but these guns were badly arranged, producing ships with a reasonable broadside but limited firepower fore and aft. They were not very seaworthy, and were followed by a number of classes of larger, more seaworthy ships.

Of the twenty one ships built, only twelve were still in service in 1914. At the start of the First World War a number of them saw limited active service, before spending most of the war as depot ships. A number of them came back into prominence in 1918 when they were used as block ships during the attempts to close the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend.

HMS Andromache was typical of the class. She was converted into a minelayer in 1909, serving at Dover and Sheerness in 1914-1915, before becoming a depot ship. This path was also followed by HMS Apollo, HMS Latona (depot ship in the Mediterranean) and HMS Naiad (depot ship in the Tyne)

HMS Brilliant and HMS Sirius both took part in the fighting off the Belgian coast in the first months of the war. The Brilliant was then sent to the Tyne to act as a coastal defence ship, before being used as a depot ship on the Tyne (to 1915) then at Lerwick. During the action off the Belgian coast, HMS Brilliant helped to rescue the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Venerable after she ran aground.

HMS Sirius spent most of the war in West Africa, arriving off the Cameroons in June 1915. She returned to Britain in early 1918, and was scuttled as a block ship at Ostend.

HMS Intrepid and HMS Iphigenia were both used as depot ships from 1916-1917, spending part of 1917 in the White Sea supporting the British intervention in Russia. In 1918 both ships were sunk as block ships at Zeebrugge, along with HMS Thetis.

HMS Rainbow became part of the new Royal Canadian Navy in 1910, acting as a depot ship at Esquimalt, British Columbia from 1914-18. At the start of the war she was sent to sea during the hunt for the commerce raider SMS Leipzig.

HMS Sappho began the war as the tender to the flagship of the Grand Fleet (1912-1915). At the start of the war she was pressed into more active service, joining the 2nd battle cruiser squadron (HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible) on patrols between the Shetland and Faeroe islands during the campaign to protect the first Canadian troop convoy.

HMS Spartan had the least active war, acting as an accommodation hulk at Devonport from 1907 to 1921.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

18.5kts natural draught
20kts forced draught


8,000 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour – deck


 - conning tower


 - gun shields


 - engine hatch





Two 6in quick firing guns
Six 4.7in quick firing guns
Eight 6pdr quick firing guns
One 3pdr quick firing gun
Four machine guns
Four 14in above water torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Andromache
HMS Apollo
HMS Brilliant
HMS Intrepid
HMS Iphigenia
HMS Latona
HMS Naiad
HMS Rainbow
HMS Sappho
HMS Sirius
HMS Spartan
HMS Thetis

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 October 2007), Apollo class second class cruisers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_apollo_class_cruisers.html

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