Auxiliary Gunboats (5)

The Queensland Maritime Defence Force boasted 5 auxiliary gunboats; named Bonito, Bream, Dolphin, Pumba, and Stingaree.

Bonito, Hydra and Falls of Afton at South Brisbane, Queensland, 1896


Upon establishment of Queensland’s Maritime Defence Force in 1884, the colonial government ordered two gunboats and a torpedo boat to equip the new force.

However it was considered that, given the number of ports along Queensland’s 4,400 mile coastline, additional ships would be required to supplement those vessels.

Orders had already been placed (with Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, Queensland), for five ships  for the Queensland Department of Harbours and Rivers; when the decision was taken to convert them to also serve as auxiliary gunboats.

The modifications involved relocation of the boilers below the waterline and the fitting of a 5-inch gun to all except Bonito which had a  64-pounder gun fitted instead.


(width at widest point)
(depth in water)
Displacement450 tons446 cubic meters
PropulsionExpansion Steam Engines

Expansion Steam Engines

Max. Speed
Armament1 × BL 5-inch gun
Except Bonito:
1 × 64-pounder gun
1 × BL 127 mm gun
Except Bonito:
1 × 64-pounder gun
Manufacture date1884–1885
Manufactured by Walkers Limited
Manufactured atMaryborough, Queensland
In commissionBonito 1884 - at least 1901
Bream 1884 - at least 1901
Dolphin 1884 - at least 1901
Pumba 1884 - 1901
Stingaree 1884 - 1895

At 450 displacement tons, these were the largest warships built in the Australian colonies prior to Federation.

The economic depression of the 1890s, and reduction in government spending, saw most of these vessels placed in reserve and being used for training purposes.

Service and Disposal

Stingaree served until 1895

Pumba remained on strength at the time of Federation in 1901. It was then sold to Pioneer Gravels (Queensland).  She was rebuilt in 1958 and renamed Enterprise, serving as a cargo vessel beyond the late 1970s.

Following careers in civilian hands, the three other vessels were sunk in Moreton Bay off Tangalooma. Moreton Island.  Bream and Dolphin in 1963 and Stingaree in 1966.