Torpedo boats in the War of the Pacific

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Chilean torpedo boats in Valparaíso

The introduction of fast torpedo boats in the late 19th century was a serious concern to navies of an era that saw a number of innovations in naval warfare, including the first torpedo boats, which carried spar torpedoes, steam propulsion and steel ships.

Clements Robert Markham, later president of the Royal Geographical Society, an English eye witness of the War of the Pacific stated:

The value of fast torpedo boats in maintaining a blockade cannot be over-estimated. They are not only the "eyes" but the "legs" of a squadron. Not only are they of use in preventing the escape of any of the enemy's ships, but they also afford protection to their own fleet, giving timely notice of approaching danger at night by a prearranged system of flashing lights, and in the daytime by their great speed. The thoroughness of the blockade of Callao was undoubtedly due, in a great measure, to the Chilean torpedo boats.[1]

Chilean torpedo boats[edit]

With the exception of Vedette, all boat names are of Mapudungun procedence.

Torpedo boat Vedette[edit]

The Vedette[2] was built in Yarrow of Poplar (Yard nr. 495) and arrived to Valparaíso on 17 October 1879 on board of the Belle of Cork.[3] She was assembled in Valparaíso and in 1893 she was still listed by the navy. The name seems to be the name of the boat class rather than the proper name of a boat.

  • Displacement: 10 t
  • Power:
  • Ship armament: 2 × Spar torpedo
  • Length:
  • Speed: 16.5 kn

Torpedo boats built 1879[edit]

Torpedo boat Colo Colo on the Thames River during the Sea trial

Yet 1880 were delivered to Chile two torpedo boats bought from Yarrow of Poplar shipyard., the Colo Colo (Yard nr. 476) and the Tucapel:

  • Displacement: 5 t
  • Power: 60 HP
  • Ship armament: 2 × Spar torpedo + 1 x Hotchkiss machine gun
  • Length: 14.64 m
  • Speed: 12.5 kn

They could be stowed in the mayor ships of the navy and the Colo Colo was brought by Railway to Puno and then to the Titicaca Lake (elevation of 3,812 metres (12,507 ft)) in order to impede guerrilla activities in the zone.

Torpedo boats built 1880–82[edit]

During the War of the Pacific the Chilean Navy bought ten Torpedo boats from the Yarrow of Poplar shipyard.

  • Displacement: 25–30 tons
  • Power: 400 HP
  • Ship armament: 2 × Spar torpedo + 1 x Hotchkiss machine gun
  • Length: 26–30 m
  • Speed: 19 kn (35 km/h)
Torpedo Boats built 1880–1882
Boat name Yard number Marine nummer
Janequeo (2°) 452 Sunk off Callao on 25 May 1880
Fresia 1 Sunk off El Callao on 6 Dec. 1880. Refloated. Stripped 1884.
Fresia (2°)
Guacolda 4
Lauca 528 5
Glaura 6 Sold to Japan 1885 for ₤10,000
Tegualda 7
Janequeo (3°) 524 8 Stripped after the Civil War of 1891
Guale 509 9
Quidora 10
Rucumilla 508 11 Descomm. 1902

Peruvian torpedo boats[edit]

A Herreshoff torpedo boat in 1879

1879 the Peruvian Government bought three torpedo boats: Alay, Alianza and República from the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, Bristol, Rhode Island, United States,[4] although R.V Simpson states that the third boat was never delivered to Perú.[5]

Alianza and República arrived to Perú in August and September 1879. Both boats were scuttled (Alianza in June 1880 and República in January 1881) to prevent their capture by the Chilean forces.

The Alay was transported per ship to Colon, Panama, at the Caribbean Sea. From Colon she was transported by rail to Panama City, at the Pacific Ocean. On 2 December Alay could sail bound for Perú but on 24 December the Chilean transporter Amazonas captured the boat in the Ecuadorian port Ballenita. In Chile she was renamed Guacolda and commissioned to the navy.

  • Displacement:[6] 6 t
  • Power: 1 máquina a vapor alternativa de dos cilindros
  • Ship armament: 2 Spar torpedo + 1 x Hotchkiss 37 mm machine gun
  • Length: 18 metres (59 ft)
  • Speed: 11.5 kn (21.3 km/h)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clements Robert Markham, The war between Peru and Chile, 1879–1882
  2. ^ Chilean Navy website, Vedette, retrieved on 6 April 2006
  3. ^ The Belle of Cork had been also bought by the Chilean government and was renamed Angamos.
  4. ^ Herreshoff Manufacturing, Bristol RI, USA:, archived from the original on 27 January 2013, retrieved 7 April 2013 
  5. ^ Richard V. Simpson (1 November 2001). Building the Mosquito Fleet: The U. S. Navy's First Torpedo Boats. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-0508-4. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  6. ^ All Guacolda data from Blog

External links[edit]