Norwegian Gunships

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Seilskonnert valborg thorsen.gif
Plan of the schooners Axel Thorsen and Skiøn Valborg
Class overview
Name: Norwegian gun-ships (Norske Kanonskonnert)
Operators: Dano- Norwegian Navy Naval Ensign of Denmark.svg
In commission: 1808-1814
Completed: 10
Lost: 2
Retired: 8 (transferred)
Class overview
Name: Norwegian gun-ship (Norske Kanonskonnert)
  • Norwegian Navy
  • 1815-1844: Swedish and Norwegian naval ensign (1815-1844).svg
  • 1844-1905: Naval Ensign of Norway (1844-1905).svg
In commission: 1814-1872
Active: 8
General characteristics
Type: Schooner
Displacement: 70 tons approx.
Length: 18.3 meters
Beam: 5.2 meters
Depth of hold: 1.8 meters
Complement: 45-50
Armament: 2 x 24-pounder guns + 2 x 12-pounder carronades + 4 or 6 x 4-pounder howitzers

The Norwegian gun-ships were a class of ten armed schooners that served first in the Royal Dano-Norwegian Navy, and then after 1814 in the Royal Norwegian Navy. The first was launched in 1808 and the last was lost in 1872.

Following the near total loss of the Danish-Norwegian fleet at the Battle of Copenhagen in September 1807, the Gunboat War and the British blockade of Danish ports was fought primarily in the relatively confined seas around Denmark. The Danes built their naval strategy on small gunboats that rarely ventured very far from their sheltered harbours.

As the British extended their blockade to the longer Norwegian coastline and up to Russia during the Anglo-Russian War (1807-1812), a different type of vessel became necessary. The result was the Norwegian gun-ship, a class of ten pine schooner-rigged vessels all built to the same plan. Each was equipped with 30 oars to permit their crews to row them in calm weather; all were more or less identically armed. These ships had a reputation for seaworthiness, a characteristic much needed in the waters of the Norwegian Sea that was their main area of operations.[1]

The Dano-Norwegian navy stationed eight in Bergen and two in Trondheim, though this is a little deceptive. After the British Royal Navy captured two at the Battle of Silda, the Danes built two more to replace them. The two new schooners received the same names (Thor and Balder) as the lost schooners. Thus there was only a maximum of eight schooners on active duty at any one time.

Eight of the schooners were still in service in 1814, all of them based in the Norwegian ports of Bergen and Trondheim. Under the Treaty of Kiel, which provided for the separation of Norway from Denmark, those naval vessels in Norwegian ports automatically transferred to the new Norwegian navy. The schooners therefore continued their careers in the Norwegian navy, with the last serving until 1872.

The Ten Schooners[edit]

Name Builder Launched Fate
Norske Kanonskonnert Nr. 1 (renamed Odin 1808) Herman Brunchorst, Bergen 1808
Norske Kanonskonnert Nr. 2 (renamed Thor 1808) Herman Brunchorst, Bergen 1808 Captured by the British 23 July 1810 at the Battle of Silda
Norske Kanonskonnert Nr. 3 (renamed Balder 1810) Herman Brunchorst, Bergen 1808 Captured by the British 23 July 1810 at the Battle of Silda
Hother Bergen 10 March 1810
Valkyrien[2] Bergen 10 March 1810[Note 1] Part of Müller's Finmark Squadron in 1810

Decommissioned c.1819

Nornen Bergen 10 March 1810 Part of Müller's Finmark Squadron in 1810
Axel Thorsen[Note 2] Trondheim 28 April 1810 Part of Müller's Finmark Squadron in 1810

Axel Thorsen was used in fisheries protection until 1839, and commercially thereafter. She was lost at sea in the Arctic Ocean in 1872.[3]

Skiøn Valborg Trondheim 28 May 1810
Thor Bergen 8 May 1811
Balder Bergen 18 June 1811 Seaworthy, Schooner-rigged, and thirty oars. Crew of 50.[4]


  1. ^ The launch date of 10 August 1810, as recorded in Skibsregister is clearly wrong, as this vessel was in service in July.
  2. ^ Disambiguation: There was a smaller gunboat of the same name launched in 1808
  1. ^ Fra Krigens Tid
  2. ^ Christiansen (2010), Vol. 2, p.88.
  3. ^ [1] Historic Ship Models website
  4. ^ Balder 1811 record card (in Danish)

  • Individual record cards in Danish for ships of the Danish Royal Navy can be no longer (Feb 2013) found on the internet at Orlogmuseet Skibregister. but can be read on a (sometimes troublesome) link here. The Danish Naval Museum is building a new website at which details, drawings and models may be available. For individual ships already listed, see here but so far the Norske Kanonskønnerter are not named except for Hother. Design plans for Hother are the only ones that appear to be available on this site.


  • Christiansen, Henrik (2010): [2] Orlogsflådens skibe] gennem 500 år. (Danish Naval Ships over 500 years – in three volumes)