In late 19th-century naval terminology, torpedo gunboats were a form of gunboat armed with torpedoes and designed for hunting and destroying smaller torpedo boats. By the end of the 1890s torpedo gunboats were superseded by their more successful contemporaries, the torpedo boat destroyers.
A number of torpedo gunboats, such as the Alarm class and the Dryad class, were built for the Royal Navy during the 1880s and the 1890s; similar vessels were also constructed or otherwise acquired by a number of European nations and Japan. Essentially very small cruisers, torpedo gunboats were typically fitted with locomotive boilers, and were equipped with torpedo tubes and an adequate gun armament, intended for hunting down smaller enemy torpedo boat. In practice they failed in their primary objective, as they were not fast enough to keep up with torpedo boats. One of the faster torpedo gunboats was the Spanish warship Destructor, commissioned in 1887, and considered by some sources the first torpedo boat destroyer.
Perhaps the last torpedo gunboat ever built was the Uruguay, constructed to order in Germany for the Uruguayan navy, with whom she served from August 1910 until 1951. Contrary to the depiction in the film The Battle of the River Plate, she did not participate in the boarding of the German freighter Tacoma in the aftermath of the battle.
- "The Destructor -100 Years". www.quarterdeck.org. Retrieved 2016-05-10.
- Kern, Robert & Dodge, Meredith: Historical dictionary of modern Spain, 1700–1988. Greenwood Press, 1990, page 361. ISBN 0-313-25971-2
- "Uruguay to Intern German Freighter". Lawrence Daily Journal-World. Lawrence, Kansas. January 1, 1940. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
- Roger Chesneau, Sagène Kolesnik: Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905, Conway Maritime Press, London, 1979, ISBN 0-85177-133-5.
- Winfield, Rif & Lyon, David (2004). The Sail and Steam Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy 1815–1889. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-032-6. OCLC 52620555.