HMS Rainbow, one of 21 Royal Navy Apollo-class protected cruisers, was constructed by Palmers Hebburn of Great Britian, and entered service in 1892. Protected cruisers were equipped with 1.25” (32 mm) armoured flat decks, 2-inch (51 mm) armoured sloping decks, and a 5-inch (127 mm) armoured glacis over her projecting engine cylinder hatch. Her conning tower had 3 inches (76 mm) of armour.

HMS Rainbow was placed in reserve by the Royal Navy in 1909.

Canada’s first Warship

In 1910 HMS Rainbow was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), becoming HMCS Rainbow, the first ship to be commissioned into the RCN. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 HMCS Rainbow was the only major Commonwealth warship serving on the west coast of North America.


HMCS Rainbow displaced 3,600 long tons (3,700 t), heavier than some of her sister ships as she was one of ten in the class having been sheathed in wood and copper for tropical service, adding 200 long tons to her displacement. She was 300 feet (91 m) long between perpendiculars and 314 feet (96 m) overall with a beam of 43 feet 8 inches (13.31 m) and a draught of 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m).

She was equipped with a two shaft, two-cylinder triple expansion steam engine powered by three double-ended, and two single-ended boilers creating 7,000 indicated horsepower (5,200 kW) at her natural draught, and 9,000 indicated horsepower (6,700 kW) at forced draught. She had a maximum speed of 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph) at natural draught and 19.75 knots (36.58 km/h; 22.73 mph) at forced draught. She carried 535 long tons (544 t) of coal with a range of 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) with full bunkers.


HMCS Rainbow‘s main armament were two single-mounted QF 6-inch (152 mm) guns placed along her centreline, one on the forecastle and one on the poop deck with 4 12 inches (114 mm) thick gun shields. These were augmented by six Quick Firing 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns, three on each side of her upper deck amidships. Her secondary armament of eight Quick Firing 6-pounder (57 mm) guns were situated on her upper deck, four between the 4.7-inch guns amidships and two forward to fire aft through embrasured ports. She was fitted with four 14 in (360 mm) torpedo tubes, three on the upper deck, two broadside abreast the mainmast, and one in the bow. The fourth torpedo tube was situated in the stern on the main deck.


HMCS Rainbow was decommissioned and deactivated on 8 May 1917. On 5 July she was recommissioned in in HMCS Esquimalt as a depot ship and served in that capacity until 1 June 1920, when she was sold for scrap to a Seattle shipbreaker.

For more informationon HMCS Rainbow’s service history please refer to https://navalandmilitarymuseum.org/node/125