Arab-class gunvessel

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HMS Lily (1874).jpg
An Arab-class gunvessel
Class overview
Name: Arab class
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Frolic class
Succeeded by: Condor class
Built: 1873–1875
Completed: 2
Lost: 1
Scrapped: 1
General characteristics (as built)[1]
Type: Composite screw gunvessel
Displacement: 720 long tons (730 t)
Length: 167 ft 0 in (50.9 m) (oa)
150 ft 2 in (45.8 m) (p/p)
Beam: 28 ft 6 in (8.7 m)
Draught: 13 ft 6 in (4.1 m)
Depth of hold: 17 ft 6 in (5.3 m)
Installed power: 656–829 ihp (489–618 kW)
3 × boilers
Sail plan: Barque rig
Speed: 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Range: 790 nmi (1,460 km; 910 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 90

The Arab-class gunvessels were a pair of composite gunboats built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1870s.

Design and construction[edit]

Designed by Nathaniel Barnaby, the Royal Navy's Chief Constructor, both ships was ordered from the Govan yard of Robert Napier & Sons in 1873 and laid down the same year as yard numbers 333 and 334. They were launched within days of each other in October 1874.[1]

The hull was built of iron frames and ribs, and planked in wood.[1] This "composite" construction was both cheap and easy to repair and allowed the wooden planking to be coppered, reducing marine growth. On far-flung colonial stations, the benefits of both simple repair and reduced marine growth were particularly positive, due to a lack of substantial ship repair and careening facilities. For this reason, smaller vessels like the Arab class continued to use composite construction until long after larger vessels had transitioned to iron or steel construction.


Steam was provided at 60 pounds per square inch (410 kPa) by 3 boilers to a single 2-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine generating a designed 570 indicated horsepower (430 kW). In the event, Arab produced 656 ihp on trials, and Lily produced 829 ihp. A single screw was provided, which could be hoisted clear of the water to improve the ship's hull lines when sailing. A sailing rig was provided, with square rig on the fore and main masts, and fore-and-aft rigging only on the mizzen, giving her a "barque" rig.[1]


A single 7-inch rifled muzzle-loading gun amidships and two 6.3-inch 64-pounder rifled muzzle-loading guns, one forward and one aft, and both fitted on traversing slides, constituted the main armament. Two machine guns and a light gun were also fitted.[1] Arab (but not her sister ship) was re-armed in about 1879, with the after 6.3-inch 64-pounder gun replaced by three 20-pounder breech-loading guns under a newly constructed poop deck.[1]


Ship Builder Laid down Launched Completed Fate
HMS Arab Robert Napier & Sons, Govan, Glasgow[2] 1873[1] 13 October 1874[1] July 1875[1] Sold for breaking, 1889[1]
HMS Lily 27 October 1874[1] August 1875[1] Ran aground and wrecked, 16 September 1889[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Winfield (2004), p.295
  2. ^ Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 110