HMVS Gordon

Second Class Torpedo Launch
J.S. White & Co, Cowes, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 12 tonnes
Length 56 feet
Beam 10 feet
Draught 5 feet
Speed 14 knots
Machinery Single screw
Horsepower 150
Torpedoes 2 x 14-inch torpedoes in dropping gear

Gordon was a 12 ton ‘turnabout’ 2nd class torpedo launch, ordered in February 1885, and built at the JS White & Co shipyard at Cowes, Isle of Wight, for the Victorian Navy at a cost of £3250. Her hull was constructed of mahogany and she had a double rudder configuration with one forward and one aft to aid in manoeuvrability.

She was shipped to Melbourne, Victoria as deck cargo, on board the SS Angerton, leaving Gravesend, England on 22 December 1885 and arriving in Melbourne on 11 February 1886. The vessel was named in honour of General Charles George Gordon who had been killed at Khartoum, in the Sudan, in January 1885.

She carried two sets of dropping gear for 14-inch torpedoes and a three barrelled Nordenfeldt machine gun mounted forward. Gordon successfully completed her sea trials in April 1886 attaining a speed of 14 knots in a run from Gellibrand Point to Point Cook. She was also able to complete a full circle in 40 seconds turning in twice her own length. Gordon initially had a crew of seven but this was increased to 11 in 1897.

Based at the Williamstown Naval Depot, Gordon and the other Victorian Navy torpedo boats Lonsdale, Nepean, Childers and Countess of Hopetoun operated in Port Phillip Bay as part of the defence for the port of Melbourne. The torpedo boats conducted regular exercises within Port Phillip Bay. During the annual Easter exercise period they routinely operated in the vicinity of Swan Island where day and night ‘attacks’ were conducted against HMVS Nelson which represented an ‘enemy’ raider. Due to her length and tonnage Gordon was restricted in her usage during bad weather.

On 10 July 1886 Gordon, while exercising with Childers, was struck by a practice torpedo holing her below the water line. In order to prevent the vessel from sinking she was beached to effect repairs and she was re-floated on the next high tide.

In 1901 Gordon became part of the Commonwealth Naval Forces and continued to operate from Williamstown Naval Depot as part of the defensive forces within Port Phillip Bay. She remained active as a torpedo boat, under the command of Chief Gunner John Blair, but was also used for target towing, patrol, training and transport duties. On 10 July 1911 Gordon became part of the Royal Australian Navy, as a non-commissioned tender (support vessel) by which time she was restricted to basic training, transport and target towing duties.

Victorian Navy Torpedo boats operated in Port Phillip Bay as part of the defence of the defence for the port of Melbourne.
Victorian Navy Torpedo boats operated in Port Phillip Bay as part of the defence of the defence for the port of Melbourne.

On 14 November 1914 Gordon was accidently rammed and sunk by a picket boat near Williamstown Dockyard without loss of life. The vessel was salvaged but found to be beyond economical repair and subsequently scrapped.