An unprotected cruiser was a type of naval warship in use during the late Victorian or pre-dreadnought era (about 1880 to 1905). The name was meant to distinguish these ships from “protected cruisers” which had become accepted in the 1880s. A protected cruiser did not have side armor on its hull like a battleship or “armored cruiser” but had only a curved armored deck built inside the ship – like an internal turtle shell – which prevented enemy fire penetrating through the ship down into the most critical areas such as machinery, boilers, and ammunition storage. An unprotected cruiser lacked even this level of internal protection. The definitions had some gray areas because individual ships could be built with a protective deck that did not cover more than a small area of the ship, or was so thin as to be of little value (the same was true of the side armor on some armored cruisers). An unprotected cruiser was generally cheaper and less effective than a protected cruiser, while a protected cruiser was generally cheaper and less effective than an armored cruiser (with some exceptions in each case).
Unprotected cruisers included medium-sized ships such as the Spanish Reina Cristina and Chinese Kai Che down to smaller ships of about 1,000 tons. A small unprotected cruiser was little different from a large gunboat (for instance, at the Battle of Manila in 1898 the American Concord was larger than the Spanish unprotected cruisers of the Velasco class, and was equivalent to a small British protected cruiser, however the US Navy classified Concord as only a gunboat.) Such ships could be known by alternate names depending on the preference of each navy. For instance, the British Royal Navy tended to refer to larger gunboats/small cruisers as “sloops”.
The designation “unprotected” made sense only after the development of protected cruisers in the 1880s. Many ships designed earlier had essentially the same features and size range; for instance, the Spanish Castilla, the French Lapérouse and the Dutch Atjeh-class ships were also to be called unprotected cruisers. Steel-hulled cruisers had been preceded by iron-hulled (but not armored) ships and composite (iron and wood)-hulled ships, which were originally termed cruisers, frigates, or corvettes. Most of these ships retained sailing rig and were useful for colonial duties, where dockyards and coal supplies were often inadequate. Some of these older ships were fairly large, for instance HMS Shah.
The cruisers meant for colonial duty, like gunboats, were not built for high speed. The French unprotected cruiser Milan (1885) was distinct in appearance and role, with the recognition that cruisers were more useful as scouts and commerce raiders if they were faster than ironclad battleships. In the 1880s and 1890s fast, small unarmored cruisers could also be listed as “avisos”, “dispatch boats” (if the ship was fast enough to be useful for carrying messages, in the era before wireless), or “torpedo cruisers” (a term derived from “torpedo gunboats”, again the distinction being mainly of larger size). Different contemporary reference works may use more than one of these terms for the same ship.
All of these terms faded from use because the design of these ships became obsolete. By World War I, there was no need to produce unprotected cruisers since fast “light” cruisers could be given not only protective decks but side armor (over the pre-dreadnought era, effective armor could be made thinner with less weight due to advances in steelworking technology). The speed and firepower difference between even a small light cruiser and a gunboat had made these categories permanently distinct. Wireless technology had eliminated message-carrying roles, and specialized torpedo craft were made much lighter and faster (destroyers). When discarded terms such as “sloop”, “frigate” and “corvette” were used again, it was for small anti-submarine convoy escort craft.
The First Battle of Vailele occurred on 18 December 1888 at the German plantation of Vailele, Samoa. Sixteen German marines were ambushed and killed by forces loyal to Mata'afa Iosefo.A memorial for the Germans killed at the battle was erected in a ceremony presided over by the commander of the unprotected cruiser Sperber.French cruiser Milan
Milan was a late-19th-century unprotected cruiser in the French Navy. At the time of her completion, Milan was considered by several publications to be the fastest warship in the world. The warship was the first unprotected cruiser in French naval service, and Milan's design influenced the construction of later unprotected cruisers.HNLMS Java (1885)
The Dutch ship HNLMS Java launched in 1885 at Rotterdam was a sloop or small unprotected cruiser.The ship was named after the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). This ship was a small colonial warship, larger than most gunboats but weaker than a protected cruiser. The term sloop in the steamship era was used by some navies including the British Navy for what were essentially large gunboats. The Java resembled the Spanish unprotected cruisers of the Velasco class, which were used for colonial duties (and the unsuccessful defense of Manila Bay in 1898).HNLMS Koningin Emma der Nederlanden
HNLMS Koningin Emma der Nederlanden (Dutch: Hr.Ms. Koningin Emma der Nederlanden) was an Atjeh-class unprotected cruiser of the Royal Dutch Navy. In February 1900 it was stripped of her 170mm guns in the Dutch East Indies. The 170mm guns were used as coastal artillery in Soerabaja.Japanese cruiser Chihaya
Chihaya (千早) was an unprotected cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The name Chihaya comes from Chihaya Castle, near Osaka, the site of one of the battles of the Genkō War of 1333.Japanese cruiser Miyako
Miyako (宮古) was an unprotected cruiser of the early Imperial Japanese Navy. The name Miyako comes from the Miyako Islands, one of the three island groups making up current Okinawa prefecture. Miyako was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy primarily as an aviso (dispatch boat) for scouting, reconnaissance and delivery of high priority messages.Japanese cruiser Takao (1888)
Takao (高雄) was an unprotected cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The name Takao comes from the Mount Takao, near Kyoto. Takao was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy primarily as an aviso or dispatch boat, for scouting, reconnaissance and the conveying of important messages.Japanese cruiser Tatsuta (1894)
Tatsuta (龍田) was an unprotected cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The name Tatsuta comes from the Tatsuta River, near Nara. Tatsuta was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy primarily as an aviso (dispatch boat) used for scouting, reconnaissance and delivery of priority messages.Japanese cruiser Yaeyama
Yaeyama (八重山) was an unprotected cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The name Yaeyama comes from the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost of the three island groups making up current Okinawa prefecture. Yaeyama was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy primarily as an aviso (dispatch boat) for scouting, reconnaissance and delivery of high priority messages.List of cruisers of the Netherlands
The following is a list of cruisers of the Netherlands grouped by type.NRP Adamastor
NRP Adamastor was a small unprotected cruiser of the Portuguese Navy that was launched in 1896 and remained active until being decommissioned in 1933, being the only ship of its class. The vessel played an important role in the 5 October 1910 revolution in the Kingdom of Portugal, which saw the fall of the monarchy, and later took part in actions in Portuguese Africa during World War I.Ottoman cruiser Heibetnuma
Heibetnuma was an unprotected cruiser with a composite hull of the Ottoman Navy, laid down in 1881 at the Constantinople dockyard and completed in 1893. The ship had six rectangular boilers and carried about 280 tons of coal. The main armament was three Krupp 6.7in/25 caliber 5.6 ton breechloading guns, mounted fore and aft. The secondary guns were six Krupp 4.7in/25 BL guns in sponsons amidships.This ship and the slightly smaller cruiser Lutfi Humayun were similar in armament and performance to the Miaoulis, an unprotected cruiser acquired in 1879 for the navy of the Ottoman Empire's main naval rival, Greece. The Russian Black Sea Fleet, another threat to the Ottoman navy, included the slightly larger unprotected cruiser Pamiat Merkuria.Spanish cruiser Aragon
Aragon was an Aragon-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy in the late 19th century.Spanish cruiser Castilla
Castilla was an Aragon-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy that fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War. She was built at Cadiz, Spain. Her construction as an armored corvette with a central battery ironclad design began in 1869. In 1870, her design was changed to that of an unprotected cruiser or wooden corvette, and, after political events delayed her construction. During the first two years of the Philippine Revolution in 1896–1897, Castilla patrolled to intercept contraband destined for the Philippine insurgents and supported Spanish Army forces fighting ashore in Cavite Province on Luzon. When the Spanish–American War broke out in April 1898, Castilla was part of the squadron of Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón in Manila Bay and was subsquently engaged and sunk in the Battle of Manila Bay.Spanish cruiser Cristobal Colon (1887)
Cristóbal Colón was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy.Spanish cruiser Don Juan de Austria
Don Juan de Austria was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy that fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.Spanish cruiser Gravina
Gravina was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy.Spanish cruiser Infanta Isabel
Infanta Isabel was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy.Spanish cruiser Velasco
Velasco was a Velasco-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy which fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.
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