Russian ('Crimean') war gunboats
Russian ('Crimean') war gunboats

Royal NavyVessels

Soon after the start of the war it became clear that, in both the Baltic and the Black Sea, the Russian fleets did not intend to emerge from their fortified harbours to offer battle. The waters in the vicinity of these harbours, and in many other potential operating areas along those coasts, were too shallow to allow the existing British and French vessels, and particularly the ships of the line, to approach and engage Russian forces and fortifications on shore. Furthermore, the large size (presenting an easy target to the gunners on shore) and low manoeuvrability of the allied vessels were considered too great a risk to allow close combat with shore fortifications. When it proved impossible to obtain local merchant vessels suitable for conversion to gunboats (as had been the original optimistic plan), it was decided to order purpose built wooden hulled screw gunboats to designs by W.H. Walker.

A total of 156 vessels were built, divided over four classes: the Gleaner class was the original design; the Dapper class was an improved version of the Gleaner design. When even the (6 foot) design draught of these vessels proved too great for some situations, the shallow draft (4 foot design draft) Cheerful class was added; the Clown class was an improved version of this design. The hulls of all these classes were built at a large range of private yards and at Royal Dockyards. The machinery was built by John Penn of Greenwich, or by Maundslay, Son and Field of Lambeth, and the building of over 150 sets of engines in two years was a very early example of industrial mass production. The design was later further improved in the Algerine (1856; six vessels) and Britomart (1859, 20 vessels) classes.

The Gleaner class comprised six vessels, which were all employed in the Baltic in 1855, and were all present at the 1856 review. The first batch of Dapper class vessels (twenty in number) all saw service in either the Baltic or the Black Sea; only the vessels serving in the Baltic were home in time for the review. The remaining vessels (98 of the second batch of the Dapper class, 20 of the Cheerful class, and 12 of the Clown class) were completed too late to be involved in the campaign, although around 80 were completed in time for the review.

After the review many of the gunboats were placed in reserve (where they soon rotted away, many being built of unsuitable green, unseasoned, timber). Others became tenders - for example for the Coast Guard ships stationed around the British coast, or saw service in China in the late 1850s.

Table scrolls to the right►
Name Class Builder Launched Russian war 1855 campaign 1856 review Fate
Theatre (tender to...) Commander Divn.Commander
Albacore Dapper (2nd) White 1856.04.03         1885 BU Bermuda
Amelia Dapper (2nd) White 1856.05.19         1865 BU Pembroke
Angler Cheerful Devonport Dy 1856.03.08     Light William Howorth 1869 BU Portsmouth
Ant Cheerful Devonport Dy 1856.03.22     Light Nowell Salmon 1869 BU Portsmouth
Badger Gleaner Pitcher 1854.09.23 Baltic (Hogue) William Henry Cuming Blue Thomas Thelwall Bullock 1864 BU Portsmouth
Banterer Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.09.29     Blue James Hawkins Whitshed 1859.06.28 sunk Peiho, salvaged, sold Hong Kong 1872
Beacon Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.02.11     Red Stubbs 1864 BU
Beaver Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1855.11.28     Red Anthony Hiley Hoskins 1864 BU
Biter Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.05.05 Baltic (Hawke) Warren Hastings Anderson Red Warren Hastings Anderson 1865 hulked, 1904 sold
Blazer Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.02.23     Red Loftus Christopher Hawker Robinson 1868 steam-dredger, 1877 sold Gibraltar
Blossom Cheerful Laird 1856.04.21         1864 BU
Bouncer Dapper (2nd) Mare 1856.02.23     Blue George Arthur Tyrhitt Drake 1871 sold Hong Kong
Boxer Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.04.07 Black Sea (Royal Albert) Samuel Philip Townsend     1865 BU Malta
Brave Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.02.11     Red Edward Hardinge  
Brazen Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.02.23     Red William Wilson Somerset Bridges 1864 BU
Bullfinch Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.02.25     Red Francis Stafford Thompson 1864 BU
Bullfrog Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.10.06     White Cornwallis Wykeham Martin 1875 BU Sheerness
Bustard Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.10.20     Red James, Viscount Gilford 1869 sold Hong Kong
Camel Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.05.03         1864 BU
Carnation Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.10.20     White Philip Saumarez 1863 BU
Caroline Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.05.09         1862 BU
Charger Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.11.13     Red Edwin C Symons 1866 buoy boat Halifax NS, 1887 sold for mercantile service
Charon Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.02.09     Blue Edwin John Pollard 1865 BU Plymouth
Cheerful Cheerful Depford Dy 1855.10.06     Light William Hector Rason 1869 BU Portsmouth
Cherokee Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.04.30         Never completed
Chub Cheerful Sheerness Dy 1855.10.15     Light Hon Ernest Grey Lambton Cochrane 1869 BU Portsmouth
Clinker Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.04.02 Black Sea (Royal Albert) Joseph Samuel Hudson     1871 sold
Clown Clown Miller 1856.05.20         1865 hulked Hong Kong, 1871 lost
Cochin Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.04.08         1863 BU
Cockchafer Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.11.24     Blue Edwin Augustus Porcher 1872 sold Shanghai
Confounder Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.05.21         1864 BU
Cracker Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.04.02 Black Sea (Royal Albert) Joseph Henry Marryat     1864 BU
Crocus Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.06.04         1864 BU
Daisy Cheerful Westbrook 1856.03.20     Light Harry Woodfall Brent 1869 BU Portsmouth
Dapper Dapper (1st) Green 1855.03.31 Baltic (Colossus) Henry James Grant Blue Hugh McNeile Dyer 1855 hulked, 1922 sold
Decoy Cheerful Pembroke Dy 1856.02.21     Light Reginald Treby Clark 1869 BU Portsmouth
Delight Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.03.15     Blue Henry Maynard Bingham 1867 sold Halifax NS for mercantile service
Dove Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.11.24     Red Frederick Anstruther Herbert 1873 sold Shanghai
Drake Clown Pembroke Dy 1856.03.08     Light Mountford Stephen Loviele Peile 1869 sold Hong Kong
Dwarf Cheerful Westbrook 1856.04.08         1863 BU
Earnest Dapper (2nd) Patterson 1856.03.29         1885 Sold
Erne Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.02.18     White John D'Arcy 1874 BU Chatham
Escort Dapper (2nd) Patterson 1856.05.05         1865 BU Pembroke
Fancy Dapper (1st) Green 1855.03.31 Black Sea (Royal Albert) Charles Gerveys Grylls     1905 sold Portsmouth
Fenella Clown Pitcher 1856.05.19         1868 steam-dredger, in use till 1876
Fervent Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.01.23     Red Ernest Augustus Travers Stubbs 1879 BU Devonport
Fidget Cheerful Joyce 1856.04.07         1863 BU
Firm Dapper (2nd) Fletcher 1856.03.22     Red Thomas Sherlock Gooch 1872 sold Shanghai
Flamer Dapper (2nd) Fletcher 1856.04.10         1874 sold Hong Kong after being blown ashore
Flirt Cheerful Joyce 1856.06.07         1864 BU
Fly Dapper (2nd) Fletcher 1856.04.05         1862 BU
Foam Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.05.08         1867 BU
Forester Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.01.23     Red Arthur John Innes 1871 wreched after becoming YC7 at Hong Kong
Forward Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.12.08     Blue Charles Gudgeon Nelson 1869 sold Esquimalt for mercentile service
Gadfly Cheerful Laird 1856.04.21         1864 BU
Garland Cheerful Laird 1856.05.07         1864 BU
Garnet Clown Pitcher 1856.05.31         1864 BU
Gleaner Gleaner Depford Dy 1854.10.07 Baltic (Ajax) Archibald George Bogle Blue Archibald George Bogle 1868 sold Montevideo
Gnat Cheerful Laird 1856.05.10         1864 BU, never completed for sea
Goldfinch Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.02.02     Blue Charles Richard Fox Boxer 1869 BU Pembroke
Goshawk Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.02.09     Blue James Graham Goodenough 1869 BU Devonport
Grappler Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.03.29     Blue William Greenhill Silverlock 1868 sold Victoria BC and converted to tug, 1885 burnt
Grasshopper Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.12.08     Red William Frederick Lee 1871 sold Newchang
Grinder Dapper (1st) White 1855.03.07 Black Sea (Royal Albert) Francis Trevor Hamilton     1864 BU Portsmouth
Griper Dapper (2nd) Green 1855.12.11     White Morgan Singer 1869 BU Devonport
Growler Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.05.08         1864 BU Malta
Handy Clown Pitcher 1856.05.31         1868 sold Lagos
Hardy Dapper (2nd) Hill 1856.03.01     Red William Leyland Wilson 1869 sold Hong Kong
Hasty Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.01.10     White William Menzies 1865/66 BU
Haughty Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.02.09     Blue Richard Vesey Hamilton 1867 sold Hong Kong
Havock Dapper (2nd) Hill 1856.03.20     Red Henry Berkeley 1871 sold Yokohama
Herring Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.01.10     White Louis Geneste 1865 BU Sheerness
Highlander Dapper (2nd) Hill 1856.04.29         1868 steam-dredger, 1884 sold
Hind Dapper (1st) Thompson 1855.05.03 Baltic (Cornwallis) John Ward Blue John Ward 1872 BU
Hunter Clown Pitcher 1856.06.07         1884 sold, never completed for sea
Hyaena Dapper (2nd) Mare 1856.04.03     Blue William Filmer Gregory 1870 sold for salvage vessel
Insolent Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.01.26     White Charles Harcourt Smith 1869 sold Chefoo
Jackdaw Dapper (1st) Thompson 1855.05.18 Baltic (Duke of Wellington) Joshua Berkeley Blue William Swinburn 1868 hulked, 1888 sold
Janus Clown Pembroke Dy 1856.03.08     Light Charles Rufus Robson 1869 hulked Hong Kong, 1871 sold after being wrecked in typhoon
Jasper Dapper (1st) White 1855.04.02 Black Sea Joseph Samuel Hudson     1855.07.24 wrecked at Krivaia
Julia Dapper (2nd) Fletcher 1855.11.27     White Charles Henry Clutterbuck 1866 BU Plymouth
Kestrel Clown Miller 1856.05.20         1859.06.25 wrecked at Peiho but salvaged and reentered service, 1866 sold Yokohama
Lark Dapper (1st) Depford Dy 1855.03.15 Baltic (Exmouth) Mark Robert Pechell Blue William Henry Cuming 1878 sold Devonport
Leveret Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.08     Red William Codrington 1867 BU Portsmouth
Lively Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.02.23     White John Clarke Byng 1863.12.23 wrecked on Dutch Coast but salvaged and sold
Louisa Dapper (2nd) Fletcher 1855.12.01     White William Berjew Pauli 1867 sold
Mackerel Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.08     Red Edmund Francis Weld 1862 BU
Magnet Dapper (2nd) Briggs 1856.01.29     White Charles John Rowley 1874 BU Chatham
Magpie Dapper (1st) Depford Dy 1855.03.15 Baltic (Orion) Bedford Clapperton Tryvellion Pim Blue Bedford Clapperton Tryvellion Pim 1864.04.03 wrecked Galway Bay
Manly Dapper (2nd) Briggs 1856.01.29     White William Arthur 1863 BU
Mastiff Dapper (2nd) Briggs 1856.02.22     White William Frederick Johnson 1863 BU
Mayflower Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.01.31     White Grenville Marshall Temple 1867 BU Sheerness
Midge Cheerful Young 1856.05.08         1864 BU
Mistletoe Dapper (2nd) Briggs 1856.02.22     White Frederick Harvey 1864 BU Sheerness
Nettle Cheerful Pembroke Dy 1856.02.09     Light Gilbert Troward Key 1868 BU Jamaica
Nightingale Dapper (2nd) Mare 1855.12.22     Blue Tathwell Benjamin Collinson 1867 sold
Onyx Cheerful Young 1856.04.03     Light William Nathan Wrighte Hewett 1869 steam-lump, 1873 BU Jamaica
Opossum Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.02.28     Red Coln Andrew Campbell 1874 hulked, 1896 sold Hong Kong
Parthian Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.05.08         1864 BU
Partridge Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.03.29     Red William Henry Jones 1864 sold
Peacock Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.04.12     Red Henry Barré Beresford 1869 BU Portsmouth
Pelter Gleaner Pitcher 1854.08.26 Baltic (Cressy) William Frederick Lee White Henry Lewis Round 1864 sold
Pert Cheerful Young 1856.04.03     Light Frederick Proby Doughty 1864 BU
Pet Cheerful Pembroke Dy 1856.02.09     Light William Belford Stubbs 1865 hulked, 1904 sold
Pheasant Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.05.01         1877 BU Sheerness
Pickle Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.05.03         1864 BU
Pincher Gleaner Pitcher 1854.09.05 Baltic (Blenheim) Keith Stewart Red Alfred Frederick Marescaux 1864 BU Portsmouth
Plover Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.09.08     White Keith Stewart 1859.06.25 abandoned as total loss at Peiho
Porpoise Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.06.07         1864 BU
Primrose Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.05.03         1864 BU
Procris Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.13     Blue St George Caulfield D'Arcy Irvine 1869 hulked Devonport, 1893 sold
Prompt Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.05.21         1864 BU
Quail Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.06.02         1861 BU Malta
Rainbow Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.03.08     Red James Blair Grove 1872 drill ship, 1888 sold
Rambler Cheerful Pembroke Dy 1856.02.21     Light George Rivington 1869 BU Portsmouth
Raven Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.03.08     Red Charles George Frederick Knowles 1875 sold
Ready Clown Briggs 1856.05.12         1864 BU
Redbreast Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.03.11     Red Henry Rushworth Wratislaw 1864 BU
Redwing Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.03.19 Baltic (Nile) William Greenhill Silverlock then Charles Stuart Forbes Blue Charles Stuart Forbes 1878 BU Devonport
Ripple Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.06.02         1866 BU Plymouth
Rocket Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.04.21         1864 BU
Rose Dapper (2nd) Laird 1856.04.21         1858 BU Devonport
Ruby Gleaner Depford Dy 1854.10.07 Baltic (Majestic) Henry George Hale White Henry George Hale 1868 BU Devonport
Sandfly Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.09.01     White Beville Granville Wyndham Nicolas 1867 sold
Savage Dapper (2nd) Mare 1856.05.05         1864 mooring vessel Malta, 1888 BU Malta
Seagull Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.98.04     White Montagu Frederic O'Reilly 1864 sold Plymouth
Sepoy Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.02.13     White Henry Needham Knox 1868 BU
Shamrock Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.13     White William Andrew James Heath 1867 sold Plymouth
Sheldrake Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.09.01     Blue Cortland Herbert Simpson 1865 sold Montevideo
Skipjack Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.08.04     Blue Hon Henry Weyland Chetwynd 1874 hulked, 1879 BU
Skylark Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.05.03 Baltic (Russell) Frederick Whiteford Pym Red Francis Alexander Hume 1906 sold
Snap Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.02.03 Baltic (James Watt) Charles Arthur Wise then Claude Augustus Champion De Crespigny Blue Claude Augustus Champion De Crespigny 1868 sold Hong Kong
Snapper Gleaner Pitcher 1854.10.04 Baltic (Edinburgh) Arthur Julian Villiers Red Arthur Julian Villiers 1865 hulked, 1906 sold
Spanker Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.03.22     White George Stanley Bosanquet 1874 BU Chatam
Spey Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.29         1863 BU
Spider Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.02.23     Blue Henry Davies 1870 sold
Starling Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.02.01 Baltic (Duke of Wellington) Shute Barrington Piers Red Shute Barrington Piers 1871 sold Hong Kong
Staunch Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.01.31     Blue Leveson Wildman 1866 sold Hong Kong for mercantile service
Stork Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.04.07 Baltic (Pembroke) George John Malcolm Blue George John Malcolm 1874 hulked, 1884 BU
Surly Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.03.18         1869 sold
Swan Dapper (2nd) Smith 1856.04.12         1869 hulked 1869, deleted after 1906, never completed for sea
Swinger Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.05.10 Baltic (Hastings) Hon. Maurice Horatio Nelson Red Hon. Maurice Horatio Nelson 1864 BU
Thistle Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.02.03 Baltic (Royal George) David Spain White David Spain 1863 BU
Thrasher Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.03.22     White George Lydiard Sulivan 1883/85 sold
Thrush Clown Briggs 1856.05.12         1864 BU
Tickler Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1855.09.08     White Charles John Balfour 1863 BU
Tilbury Dapper (2nd) Pitcher 1856.03.29         1865 BU Plymouth
Tiny Cheerful Young 1856.05.08         1864 BU
Traveller Dapper (2nd) Green 1856.03.13     White Prince Victor F F E G A C F Hohenlohe-Langenberg 1863 BU
Violet Dapper (2nd) Mare 1856.01.09     Blue Henry Bedford Woollcombe 1864 sold Plymouth
Watchful Clown Smith 1856.06.04         1871 sold Hong Kong
Wave Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.06.25         1879 hulked, 1882 renamed Clinker, 1890/91 sold
Weasel Dapper (1st) Pitcher 1855.03.19 Baltic (Caesar) Robert George Craigie Blue Robert George Craigie 1869 sold China
Whiting Dapper (2nd) Wigram 1856.01.09     Red Iltid Thomas Mansel Nicholl 1881 BU
Wolf Dapper (2nd) Mare 1856.07.05         1864 BU
Woodcock Clown Smith 1856.06.06         1871 sold China

Class characteristics (as built, average)

Table scrolls to the right►
  Length b.p. Keel Beam Depth in hold Draught B.M. Disp. N.H.P. Men Guns
Gleaner 100 ft 0 in 86 ft 4 in 22 ft 0 in 7 ft 10 in 6 ft 6 in 216 290 60 36 1x69pdr, 1x32pdr, 2x24pdr howitzer
Dapper 106 ft 0 in 93 ft 2 in 22 ft 0 in 8 ft 0 in 6 ft 8 in 233 284 60 36 1x69pdr, 1x32pdr, 2x24pdr howitzer
Cheerful 100 ft 0 in 85 ft 5 in 21 ft 10 in 6 ft 7 in 6 ft 6 in 212   20 30 2x32pdr
Clown 110 ft 0 in 95 ft 5 in 21 ft 10 in 6 ft 7 in 4 ft 0 in 233 249 40 30 1x68pdr, 1x32pdr

The 2nd batch of Dapper class boats is sometimes referred to as the Albacore class.

Literature: Osbon, Lion and Winfield, Clowes

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