HMS Phaeton was one of four Leander class cruisers (Leander, Amphion, Arethusa and Phaeton) which were built by the Royal Navy in the 1880s for trade protection.
Phaeton was built in the Govan shipyard of Robert Napier in Glasgow and delivered in 1886.
During the late 1800s sailing ships of the line were replaced by steam-powered battleships, while the sailing frigates were replaced by steam-powered cruisers.
The armament of warships changed with the invention of the rotating turrets, which allowed the guns to be aimed independently of the direction of the ship and allowed a smaller number of larger guns to be carried. The final innovation during the 19th century was the development of the torpedo.
Leander class cruisers were built of steel and had an armoured deck. They had three masts and two funnels and were square-rigged on the fore-mast and gaff-rigged on the two masts behind the funnels. They had room in their coal bunkers for 1000 tons. Although they also had three masts they were not expected to have much sailing power. They were regarded as good steamers but poor sea-boats and they rolled heavily in rough sea conditions.
6 inch breech loaded gun
Phaeton's armament consisted of ten 6-inch breech-loading guns, two Gatling guns, ten Nordenfeld guns, four Gardner guns and four above water tubes to launch Whitehead torpedoes.
The crew consisted of Officers 18, Petty officers 41, Seamen and other ratings 100, Boys 13, Marines 36, Engine-room officers 4, P.O. and stokers 63, total 275