River Gunboats: China

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River gunboats were often used by the major powers to protect their interests overseas – trade, shipping, property and individual citizens - from local conflicts, piracy and other hostile acts. Two typical examples were the use of such craft in China, under the terms of the various treaties concluded after the Opium Wars, and in a more traditional colonial role in French Indo-China. Such warships were typically shallow-draft vessels, strongly-built to support the rigours of navigation in rivers strewn with sandbanks and rapids. For its size, the river gunboat was well-armed with one or two small or medium calibre guns and light machine guns. The larger river gunboats had a complement of such size as to be able to land an armed force of officers and men to make a show of military strength and, if necessary, to contain the situation until reinforcements arrived or diplomats reached a solution. This topic is divided into two parts; River Gunboats: China and River Gunboats: French Colonies and others. Many of the illustrations and an extensive part of the text of River Gunboats: China were contributed by Graham Thompson.

Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Unknown Insect class gunboat, Yangtze circa 1928

In the early 20th century, the British, American, French, German and Japanese navies all maintained gunboat patrols in Chinese waters. Austro-Hungarian, Italian and Portuguese vessels were also sometimes deployed. This was a tumultuous period of Chinese history, and their role was to protect each country's interests, primarily shipping and trade, as well as individuals such as missionaries. The Yangtze River patrols, operating from 1900 to 1941, covered this river from its mouth near Shanghai to Chongqing, 1400 miles inland, and beyond, as well as various tributaries. The West River patrols, operating from Canton (now Guangzhou), worked the river to the west of the important southern city. This photo is a classic image of an unknown Insect class gunboat “somewhere on the Yangtze”, around 1928. Its modern industrial lines contrast dramatically with the traditional designs of the sampans and junks in the foreground. The gun on the foredeck is also a reminder of what the gunboat could do in the event of trouble.

28.5cm x 22.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Map of the Yangtze

This small sketch map, from a collection of material coming from the gunboat H.M.S. Sandpiper, shows the Yangtze from just outside Shanghai to Chongqing (then Chungking), and the locations of major ports. The Royal Navy had been involved in charting the river from the mid 19th century. Steamer navigation was first achieved on the most difficult section between Yichang (then Ichang) and Chongqing in 1900 by the merchant skipper Samuel Plant, on the small vessel 'Pioneer'. This was specially built for the attempt under the supervision of Archibald Little, a noted China businessman. With the outbreak of the Boxer Rebellion in the same year, the ship was then taken into military service as H.M.S. Kinsha, and became the first flagship of the Yangtze patrols, serving until 1921.

10.3cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Teal dressed over

One of the first generation of Yangtze gunboats were H.M.S. Teal and her sister H.M.S. Moorhen, which were slightly larger versions of their immediate predecessors H.M.S. Woodcock and H.M.S. Woodlark. They served on the middle and upper river between 1901 and 1931. These were not large vessels, displacing only 85 tons. They were armed with two 6-pounder guns and four single machine guns, and had a draught of 2 feet. These vessels had few modern comforts, originally with no electrical power and for “comfort” nothing more elaborate than canvas screens around earth closets. However, these deficiencies were made good by 1908. The patent for their design was bought by the U.S. government and later used for their gunboats U.S.S. Palos and U.S.S. Monocacy. This image shows H.M.S. Teal “dressed” for some special occasion, perhaps The King's Birthday, when the ships would typically moor up at one of the ports on the river and entertain, and be entertained by, the local British community.

Verso: "HMS Teal"

10.3cm x 5.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Bee, flagship of the Rear Admiral Yangtze

This is H.M.S. Bee, a modified Insect class that served on the Yangtze from 1918 to 1939, having been in Mesopotamia from 1915 to 1917. From 1927, she was also the flagship of the Rear Admiral Yangtze, commanding the British Yangtze patrols. The vessel's 6-inch guns were removed to provide space for extra accommodation and offices for the Admiral and his staff (not visible here in this view from the bow, but see the later photo of the same ship below). Note also the Rear Admiral's flag, with two red circles in the quadrants of the ensign at the mast. The distinctive two funnels of the class, mounted abreast, are clearly visible in this view. The ship's were painted white overall, with yellow funnels. The vessel came under fire from Japanese artillery off Wuhu on 12 December 1937, the day the U.S.N. gunboat U.S.S. Panay was sunk. H.M.S. Bee was scrapped in Shanghai in 1939.

5.6cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Scarab

H.M.S. Scarab was an Insect class that served on the Yangtze between 1918 and 1941, after service in Mesopotamia 1915 to 1918. After China, she was transferred to the Mediterranean for the remainder of WW2 and was scrapped in 1948. The Insect class were the mainstay of the Yangtze patrols into the 1930s. With three rudders, they were very manoeuvrable. In the early 1920s their steering gear was strengthened, which gave them an even tighter turning circle, a necessity in the gorges or to avoid collisions with junks and sampans. The only real drawback, compared to earlier British gunboats, was their much greater displacement of 645 tons and slightly deeper draught of 4 feet. This meant they could only make it through the gorges into the upper river near Chongqing in the summer months, when higher water levels allowed. The protective canopies visible in this view suggest it was taken in the summer.

7.7cm x 5.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Gnat

A good clear shot of H.M.S. Gnat, another stalwart of the Yangtze patrol from 1918-1940. Again, she spent some time in Mesopotamia before China, and the Mediterranean afterwards. She was scrapped in 1945. With the hot weather canopies not in place, the ship's armament of two 6-inch QF Mark I guns can be seen, as well as one of the two 12-pounder QF's just below the bridge. The aft 12-pounder was often replaced by a 2-pounder pom-pom. Six Lewis guns were also carried, mounted on twin mounts, three on each side on the screen deck amidships. When navigating in the upper reaches of the Yangtze, H.M.S. Gnat was a formidable example of the naval power that she represented, i.e. the Royal Navy. "I may be little but I represent something very big!" she seems to be saying.

Verso: "HMS Gnat"

9.8cm x 7.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Negociating the Hsin T'an rapid

The hazards to navigation on the Yangtze were many and varied. This photo is taken from a small book (Excelsior - being an inadequate description of the Upper Yangtze, 1934, North-China Daily News and Herald, 1934) written by Commander D.B. O'Connell(under the nom de plume of 'Charon', who commanded H.M.S. Gannet on the river 1926-1928. Illustrated is the Hsin T'an rapid, just west of Yichang, which the author describes as “one of the most unpleasant of the low level rapids”. The owner of this copy of the book, probably another gunboat or steamer crewman, has added his own comment and the route in ink. He adds, “the pen line shows track, but it must be remembered that the ship's head must be kept pointing up river all the time – otherwise, she'd be swept away bodily. It is almost twice as bad during January – we heave over it during that month”. January is of course low water for the Yangtze, and by heaving over he means being physically pulled over the rapids and along the edge of the river by a large team of Chinese “trackers”.


Catalogue number 80411

Japanese gunboats on the Yangtze, August 1937

Of course, there were other navies operating on the Yangtze. These vessels are from the Seta class of four such Japanese craft, all serving from 1922 to World War Two, mainly between Shanghai and Hankow. These two are seen here on the Huangpu River at Shanghai, soon after the outbreak of Sino-Japanese hostilities at Shanghai in August 1937. Their design was quite similar to the earlier British Woodlark class and the American Palos class. They were armed with two 3-inch guns and six machine guns, and had a draught of 3 feet 4 inches. The ships were not ocean-going, and were thus shipped in sections from Japan to Shanghai and re-assembled there. Seta served with the Republic of China navy in the late 1940s, and the People's Liberation Army Navy from 1949 until 1960. The other three vessels were lost during WW2.

5.4cm x 4.3cm Cellulose negative


Catalogue number 105046

French Navy gunboat Doudart de Lagrée, Shanghai

The French Navy, too, maintained a presence on the Yangtze, and this photo shows the gunboat Doudart de Lagrée alongside at the Kiousin dockyard of the Société Franco-Chinoise des Constructions Métalliques et Mécaniques, Shanghai. She and her sister ship Balny served between 1922 and WW2. They were armed with one 3-inch gun, two 37mm gun, and four machine guns. They had a displacement of 183 tons and a draught of 4 feet 3 inches. Before these two, the French presence on the Yangtze was comprised of the Argus and Vigilante, between 1900 and around 1914, as well as the Orly between 1901 and 1909. Later additions included the sloop Alerte from 1922 to 1936, and the 'Frances Garnier' from 1927 to 1939. The latter was an impressive 640 tons and served as flagship of the French flotilla.

Verso: "Doudart Kiusin" in pencil

5.6cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Royal Navy landing party, Hankow 1925

A regular function of the gunboats of all nationalities was to put ashore landing parties to protect their civilians and business interests [see the topic The Navy Landing Party"]. This photo shows a Royal Navy landing party ashore at Hankow in mid-June 1925, after riots erupted following the shooting of Chinese students by Shanghai Municipal Police during disturbances there on 30 May. The sailor at the right, behind the Maxim machine gun on its wheeled mount, is from H.M.S. Gnat, according to the hatband round his tropical helmet. Some of the others may also be from the same vessel, or from other RN ships in port. Note also the Lewis guns on the ground to the right of the group.

14.5cm x 9.4cm


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Royal Navy personnel killed at Wanhsien, 1926

Defending British interests could sometimes be a hazardous activity. One of the most serious confrontations between Royal Navy gunboats and Chinese forces occurred at Wanhsien, upstream of Yichang, in August-September 1926. Local warlord troops tried to board a British steamer SS Wanliu. It escaped, but in the process some Chinese soldiers were drowned. Two more British steamers, SS Wantung and SS Wanhsien, were seized by the warlord forces and their crews imprisoned onboard. The local gunboat, the Insect class H.M.S. Cockchafer, called for reinforcements from Hankow. These arrived a few days later, being H.M.S. Widgeon and the British steamer SS Kiawo, chartered and armed, with a landing party made up of men from the light cruiser H.M.S. Despatch and several gunboats. SS Kiawo managed to grapple herself alongside SS Wantung and the boarding party rescued the British sailors, albeit with the loss of three officers and four ratings killed. The British merchant crew on SS Wanhsien managed to escape in the confusion, although one was killed by a sniper. The gunboats and SS Kiawo extricated themselves from the area, not without some difficulty in the confined waters of the Yangtze. During the action, the town of Wanhsien and Chinese gun positions ashore had been shelled by H.M.S. Widgeon and H.M.S. Cockchafer, and there were perhaps some 100 civilians killed. This figure became 5,000 in the wildly exaggerated accounts in the Chinese press, adding to the already tense Sino-British relationship. The photo shows the graves of several of the Royal Navy personnel who died in this action, at Yichang. The caption on the back reads “graves of officers and men killed at Wanhsien 5 Sept 1926, Ichang Cemetery”.

Verso: "Graves of officers and men killed at Wanhsien 5 Sept 1926, Ichang Cemetery"

12.cm x 7.5cm


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Nationalist activity prompts a reinforced naval presence

Hankow was again a flashpoint in late 1926 and early 1927, following the arrival in the city in autumn of Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist forces during the 'Northern Expedition'. Local feelings ran high, with much labour unrest and disruption to shipping and foreign business. Several nations reinforced their naval presence, although the time of year, and thus low water, limited the type of ships that could be sent to gunboats and destroyers. This photograph shows an interesting view of H.M.S. Bee, and what are probably the destroyer H.M.S. Wishart and the sloop H.M.S. Magnolia, tied up at one of the piers on Hankow's Bund around this time. Several typical Yangtze steamers can be seen on the river.

9.7cm x 7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Civil disturbance and withdrawal from the British Concession, 1927

Matters came to a head at Hankow on 3-4 January 1927, when a large and angry Chinese crowd attempted to enter the British Concession. A small body of sailors and marines were landed to reinforce the local volunteer force, and there was a tense stand-off for two days. No shots were fired, although one Chinese was killed by a naval bayonet and several sailors were hurt in scuffles. However, in port there were only the destroyer H.M.S. Wishart, the gunboats H.M.S. Bee and H.M.S. Woodlark, and the sloop H.M.S. Magnolia, and thus insufficient force available to hold the Concession. The British withdrew to their ships on 4 January and the Concession was occupied by the Chinese. This was the first such loss of a foreign concession in a treaty port in China. It can be seen as the “beginning of the end” of the foreign presence, although it took until 1943 to return the treaty ports to full Chinese sovereignty. This photo shows an unidentified Insect class gunboat off Hankow around this period, with a small boat alongside. It is also worth noting the steamer to the right, which has a Union Flag emblazoned on her side. This was a common precaution taken by foreign ships and businesses during times of civil strife and war in China, to avoid being fire upon by one or other side. In the later Sino-Japanese conflict, when there was an air threat as well, Royal Navy vessels often carried such flags on top of their gun turrets.

14cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Aphis on transit to China

A bow-on view of the Insect class vessel H.M.S. Aphis, taken from the destroyer H.M.S. Wanderer probably somewhere in the Indian Ocean, while en route to China in early 1927. Her relatively large beam of 36 feet is evident. H.M.S. Aphis and H.M.S. Ladybird were sent from Malta to China at this time to reinforce the British presence at this tense period. They were escorted on their journey, and towed for the greater part of it, by two destroyers. The 6-inch guns and ammunition were removed and replaced by stone ballast, and hatches battened down. Heavy weather made the voyage an uncomfortable one for their crews bearing in mind the shallow draft of these vessels.

Verso: "Gunboat Aphis escorted by Wanderer"

10.5cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 01002

H.M.S. Aphis on station, 1926

Another view of H.M.S. Aphis, now in her China colours of white overall and yellow funnels. Despite the cramped conditions on board, the China gunboats were popular amongst their crews. Usually far from any higher command or depot, there were many opportunities for both officers and men to use their initiative to deal with local “diplomatic incidents” as well as engineering and other technical issues. Equally, many of the menial tasks normally undertaken by ratings, such as cleaning and cooking, were done by the official and unofficial Chinese crew, perhaps up to a dozen men on the Insects. Regular visits to the numerous British communities along the rivers, and to other nations' vessels, offered many chances for entertainment and relaxation. For the officers, there was plentiful game shooting ashore in peaceful times, and some of the gunboats' names perhaps hinted at this – H.M.S. Woodlark, H.M.S. Snipe, H.M.S. Moorhen, etc !

Credit: Wright and Logan

13.5cm x 8.5cm


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

The arrival in China of more modern gunboats

A number of more modern vessels were introduced to China by the Royal Navy in 1927-1928, comprising H.M.S. Peterel, H.M.S. Gannet, H.M.S. Tern and H.M.S. Seamew. They were all of similar appearance, carrying two 3-inch HA 'High Angle' guns and eight single machine-guns. H.M.S. Tern and H.M.S. Seamew were slightly smaller and shorter than the other two, at 262 tons compared to 310 tons. Draughts were 4 feet for Peterel and Gannet, and 5 feet for H.M.S. Tern and H.M.S. Seamew. H.M.S. Peterel was the only one to serve on the Yangtze, the other three served on the West River (see H.M.S. Gannet below). H.M.S. Peterel distinguished herself by being the only foreign warship to resist the Japanese occupation of the Shanghai International Settlement in December 1941, and after a brave fight, was sunk at her moorings on the Huangpu River. Six crew were killed, another 14 were captured, but one, PO Telegraphist James Cuming, remained at large for the rest of the war, working for a local spy ring. His story, and that of the ship, is told in Desmond Wettern's 1960 book The Lonely Battle. H.M.S. Tern was scuttled off Hong Kong 19 December 1941, while H.M.S. Seamew was scrapped in 1947. H.M.S. Gannet's later life is described below.

7.6cm x 5.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

Pulling H.M.S. Peterel around rapids

This is another view of H.M.S. Peterel, “going overland” according to the caption, somewhere on the Yangtze River in 1931. This evolution was sometimes required to get round rapids or shallow water that could not be otherwise traversed, and involved a large party of Chinese 'trackers” manually pulling the vessel over or round the obstacle. It is not quite clear what stage of the process is represented by this image. However, it does allow a rare view of the vessel's three rudders, a common feature of the British and American Yangtze gunboats. Several rudders were needed to ensure that the gunboat responded quickly to changes of the helm when navigating on the Yangtze in a strong current.

9.8cm x 7.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

A new type of gunboat, H.M.S. Falcon

This is H.M.S. Falcon, sometimes regarded as the fifth in the class behind H.M.S. Peterel and her sisters, which served on the Yangtze between 1931 and her transfer to the Republic of China Navy at Chongqing in 1942. She was considerably shorter than the other vessels, but heavier at 372 tons, and had a deeper draught of 5 feet 9 inches. This made her overall appearance more like that of a Yangtze river steamer. Her armament was different, too, being a single 3.7-inch howitzer, two 6-pounders, and eight single machine guns. She served as Ying Teh with the Republic of China navy until late 1949, when she was one of a number of vessels whose crews defected to the Communist side. She was renamed Nanjiang and is said to have served with the People's Liberation Army Navy until 1974.

7.6cm x 5.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

A draught of 2 feet, H.M.S Sandpiper

A good view of H.M.S. Sandpiper, the smallest vessel deployed on the Yangtze, serving between 1933 and 1942. She was specifically designed to serve as the guardship at Changsha, capital of Hunan province, which lay about 100 miles south of the Yangtze on the Xiang River, via Dongting Lake. The city and surrounding area was, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a hotbed of communist activity, and the local British population were thought to need protection year round. The shallowness of this river in winter prevented access by the Insect class vessels, and a design was specified with a draught of just 2 feet. In fact the ship was believed to be the only warship ever built to draw less water than her own motorboat! H.M.S. Sandpiper had a single 3.7-inch howitzer, one 6-pounder and 10 machine guns. The vessel, as Ying Hao, served with the Republic of China navy until 1948 and the People's Liberation Army Navy until, it is believed, as late as 1970.

15.9cm x 11cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80405

The Japanese gunboat Atami, 1937

This is another Japanese gunboat, the Atami, which with her sister Futami also served around Changsha, Dongting Lake and the Xiang River between 1931 and into WW2. This photo shows her at Shanghai in August 1937, just after the outbreak of hostilities with China. The vessels had one 3-inch gun and six machine guns, and a draught of 3 feet 8 inches. Atami was transferred to the Republic of China navy after World War Two as Ying Ping, and then to the People's Liberation Army Navy in 1949 as Wujiang. Futami also went to the Republic of China navy as Yung An in 1946, and to the People's Liberation Army Navy in 1949 as Zhujiang. Both were scrapped in the 1960s.

5.4cm x 4.3cm Cellulose negative


Catalogue number

Commerce in the West River area

Less well-known than the Yangtze, but still significant for foreign trade, was the area of the West River, the Xijiang, west of Canton (now Guangzhou), in south China's Guangdong province. This was the main tributary of the Pearl River, and the main commercial waterway of the region, fed by several other smaller rivers. Like the Yangtze, fluctuating water levels and fast rapids made navigation in these waters a significant challenge. The Royal Navy, United States Navy, French and German navies maintained ships in this area at various periods.

Credit: By Kmusser - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5235047


Catalogue number 91093

S.M.S. Tsingtau

This is the Imperial Germany Navy gunboat SMS Tsingtau, which served on the West River from 1904 to 1914. The ship had a draught of 3 feet, and was armed with one 88mm gun, one 50mm gun, and several machine guns. Highlights of her service included working alongside British and French gunboats to combat piracy in 1906, and protecting the German Consulate in Canton during the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Her travels took her as far inland as Nanning. At the outbreak of war in July 1914, she was at Canton and was decommissioned in accordance with mobilisation plans. With a small crew, the ship remained at Canton until March 1917, when China joined the Allied side, and was then scuttled. The commander, Lieutenant Möller took some of her crew to Manila, and in an attempt to reach the German cruiser SMS Emden, were interned by the Dutch. However, they escaped in a schooner, and in 82 days sailed to the coast of Arabia in an attempt to reach Turkish forces. Unfortunately, in March 1915, they were reportedly killed by Arabs.

13cm x 8cm printed image


Catalogue number 40205

The French gunboat Argus

This is the French vessel Argus which, with its sister ship Vigilante, served on the West River (and on the Red River in what was then French Indo-China) between 1923 and the outbreak of World War Two. They had a draught of 3 feet 11 inches, and were armed with two 75mm and two 37mm guns, plus four machine guns. There had been earlier vessels of the same names operating on the West River from the early 1900s until 1914. Argus was laid up at Haiphong in French Indo-China in 1940 and scrapped the following year. Vigilante was scuttled at the same place in 1945 to avoid capture, but later raised and put into merchant service.

Paper cover "R.F.S. Argus, Flotille du Si Kiang"

8.9cm x 6.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Gannet steaming full ahead

This is H.M.S. Gannet, of the same class as H.M.S. Tern, at speed somewhere near Yichang on the upper river. The caption on the back reads “this is the boat we relieved here”, so the vessel is probably steaming east back towards Hankow, or even Shanghai, for some welcome “R&R” (rest and relaxation). Several crew members can be seen waving back at their colleagues on the replacement gunboat. H.M.S. Gannet usually served on the West River, from 1928. She was decommissioned at Chongqing in 1940 and handed over the Republic of China navy as Ying San. After 1949, she served with the People's Liberation Army Navy as Nu Jiang, only finally being scrapped in 1975.

Verso: "This is the boat we relieved here at Ichang HMS Gannet"

7.8cm x 5.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Faulknor

This is a particularly rare view of H.M.S. Faulknor, a former civilian steamer called Po-On. The vessel was bought by the Royal Navy in 1925 for service on the West River, being commissioned in October of that year and serving only until 1928, when she was sold. H.M.S. Faulknor is described in the Navy List of October 1928 as an “armed steam vessel for river service”. She was also a tender to H.M.S. Tamar, the former 19th century troopship moored at Hong Kong as the base ship. She displaced 126 tons and had one 3-pounder gun, which is just visible mounted forward.

Verso: "HMS Foulknor" (sic)

8cm x 5.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

H.M.S. Nessus on the West River

Quite similar to H.M.S. Faulknor, and serving from 1926 to 1929 on the West River, was this vessel, H.M.S. Nessus. Another former civilian steamer, it displaced 150 tons and had one 3-pounder. It is seen here passing through a small Chinese riverside town in another rare image. Remarkably, for such a small ship with short service, there is a relic of H.M.S. Nessus in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. This is a flag captured from “a Chinese pirate steam launch” by Lieutenant J.A.H. Hunter of H.M.S. Nessus in 1926 (see "H.M.S. Nessus" at https://www.rmg.co.uk/).

Verso: "HMS Nessus"

8cm x 5.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number The Graham Thompson Collection

A gunboat in dry dock

Here, an unknown gunboat is seen in the dry dock, almost certainly at Hong Kong. From its design, it might be H.M.S. Gannet, H.M.S. Peterel, H.M.S. Tern or H.M.S. Seamew. The strange white upright cubicles right at the stern are in fact the ships' lavatories, or 'heads' in Royal Navy parlance. These are placed right aft and as they were overhanging the rudders this did away with the need for sanitary pipes and flushing systems, as waste was dealt with by the bubbling wash of the ship’s wake - except of course when in port!

10.5cm x 5.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 91093

S.M.S. Otter on the Yangtze

This image is of the German Navy's S.M.S. Otter. She was armed with two 52mm guns and several machine guns, and had a draught of 3 feet 2 inches. However, her spell of service was short. The vessel began work on the Yangtze in 1910. The outbreak of World War One found her at Nanjing with another German gunboat, S.M.S. Vaterland, sister ship to S.M.S. Tsingtau. To avoid capture, the vessels were sold to a private company, S.M.S. Otter becoming München and S.M.S. Vaterland becoming Lansevater, apparently retaining their armament. When China joined the Allies in 1917, the vessels were seized by the Chinese navy, Otter/München becoming the Li-Tsieh, and Vaterland/Lansevater the Li-Sui. The two ships were then transferred to Sungari Flotilla on the Amur river, in northern China on the border with Russia, and served through the confusion of the Russian Civil War. During a major border clash between China and the U.S.S.R. in 1929, Otter/München/Li-Tsieh was sunk in a battle with Russian river monitors. Vaterland/Lansevater/Li-Sui was captured by the Japanese in 1932 and served as Risui in their colony of Manchukuo/Manchuria until 1945, where she was captured by the Russians when they occupied this region. They renamed her Pekin - her final fate is not known.

13cm x 7.5cm Printed image

Catalogue number 46053

U.S.S. Monocacy in Chinese waters, 1902

This stereo-photograph shows the bow of the U.S.S. Monocacy, a gunboat operated in waters around China by the Asiatic Squadron of the U.S. Navy between the 1870s and 1903. She was of paddle 'sidewheel' design, and was rather larger, at 1,365 tons, than the gunboats that the U.S.Navy and other navies would use later on China's inland waters (the caption describes her as a 'second class cruiser') For this reason, the ship seems to have worked largely along the coast. However, Monocacy did do some charting of the Yangtze in 1871, and took U.S. diplomats up the river in 1899. The ship was involved in the foreign operations during the Boxer Rebellion, including the taking of the Taku Forts. This is probably when this photo was taken as the caption refers to the Pei Ho, the river running through Tientsin to the sea, in north China.

Recto: "Second class cruiser "Monocacy" our only Vessel on the Pei Ho river, China 1902

15.2cm x 8.2cm stereo gelatin silver print