The turret system has received another and not very satisfactory illustration in the behaviour of H.M.S. Cerberus on her voyage to Australia. We only hear of her from Malta, and, so far, we cannot congratulate her constructors upon the success of her first sea voyage. She is reported to roll as much as forty degrees each way, and to pitch tremendously. Sometimes the whole part of the ship as far aft as the foremast was entirely lost sight of, and her decks were quite under water. With only room for 200 tons of coal on board, she is compelled to burn from 25 to 30 tons a day, in order to attain the very moderate speed of 5 ½ or 6 knots an hour.
How she was to get from Aden to Galle, 2,100 miles, was a problem which her commanding officer had yet to solve. Either he must get a vessel to accompany him or meet him half way with coals, or he must charter tugs to pull her along. To add to the difficulty, and as if to afford additional evidence of the danger, numbers of the crew have deserted, and many express their preference for six months' hard labour in gaol to six weeks on board this uncomfortable vessel. Happily her freeboard is some-what higher than that of the Captain, and we trust that this circumstance may prove her salvation.
One thing seems proved to demonstration - turret-ships, whether of high or low freeboard, cannot afford to carry masts. Of course, no one will be astonished to hear that, as the Cerberus appears to be such a very unstable sea-boat, the Government have now in course of construction four vessels of this type, the Cyclops, the Hecate, the Gorgon, and the Hydra. Without wishing to cause any needless alarm, we can only add our most ardent hope that we may not this year have a Cerberus catastrophe as a sequel to the Captain disaster of last year.
THE CERBERUS. - It is welcome news to learn that the Cerberus has arrived safely at Aden, having successfully encountered the fitful weather of the Mediterranean, the dangers of the narrow passage of the Suez Canal, and the reefs and shoals of the Red Sea. Lieutenant Panter writes from Aden, January 10, and says the heat of the weather and the slow progress nearly "cooked" him and the ship's company.
They left Suez on Christmas Day, and got through the canal in three days, but it was slow work doing 80 miles, for he was afraid to go faster than two knots and a half, as the vessel would not remain straight for two minutes together. She touched thrice, but so slightly that the composition was not taken off her bottom. In some parts she had only just room to pass.
Previously no vessel had gone through with such a beam, 45ft. at the top and 43ft. at the bottom, and, as her two screws stuck out on each quarter, they would be the first to take the ground or rather bank. However, to the great delight of her gallant commander, all that danger was over. It was "awfully hot" coming down the Red Sea, but Lieutenant Panter caused the sides of the vessel to be whitewashed and the effect was cooling. So soon as the Cerberus got to this side of the Isthmus, her compasses went adrift, and anxious work was the consequence, but fortunately the weather was clear, and Lieutenant Panter was able to take plenty of observations.
His intention was on leaving Aden when his engines were ready - expected to be two days afterwards - to steam up the coast about 600 miles, so as to get well to windward, and then steer for Galle. He had taken in 400 tons of coals, and hoped to arrive all right at his second resting place. The ship's sails, he states, were next to useless, as she would not move with them unless it were blowing a gale, and then it was not safe to set them; but still he would have been sorry to have started from England without them lest her engines broke down. His intention was to go from Galle to Padang, on the coast of Sumatra, thence to Sourabaya, in Java, and then strike down south for Perth or King George's Sound. It was a long way round, but, as the wind was south-east, it was the only way he could see of doing the voyage. "Melbourne Argus."
Captain Creswell, who occupies the dual positions of Commandant of the Victorian Naval Forces and Naval Director of the Federal Forces, was in command of the Easter naval manoeuvres in Victoria for the first time. The vessels that took part were the torpedo boats Countess of Hopetoun and Childers.
|photo courtesy of the Newspaper Collection,|
State Library of Victoria.
A familiar figure among the officers was that of Commander Richardson, who two or three years ago was retrenched from the service in which he had been such an enthusiastic officer, and who has in consequence been absent during the last two Easter cruises.
"Life on the Cerberus is tame after the stiring experiences of the torpedo-boats, but the necessary routine of exercise, drill, and gun practice is not neglected while the more attractive game is being played. Captain Tickell had his gunners at target practice for nearly the whole of Saturday, with good results. The Nordenfelt and six-pounder Q.F. guns were used. The big turret-guns, like the ship's engines, are out of action, for the floating fortress is without steam. The Cerberus was towed laboriously from Williamstown to where she is now anchored, about ten miles from Queenscliff. The weight of the ship rendered clean steering with the hand-gear impossible, and she yawed and sheered til her wake looked, as one of the surgeons aboard put it, "like a pulse-chart." The greater part of Friday was occupied in towing her to her moorings. Interest in the career of the old ship has been stimulated on board by the presence of Captain Panter, who brought her out from England in 1871. She was built essentially as a harbour-ship, and was hard to handle in a sea. The trip occupied 182 days, and the average speed was about 4 knots. She was then built up with temporary bulwarks for the trip. Captain Panter, in speaking of his experiences, said:- "She steered something like she has been steering today. I remember that the top-hamper built on to her was only bolted on, and the water used to come underneath it and flood my cabin. I had to stand on a block of wood to dress myself, for that was the only dry spot in the cabin." The purchase of the Cerberus by Victoria at that time was something greater proportionately than the purchase of a "Dreadnought" would be today."
"When the Countess of Hopetoun and the Childers berthed at Portsea at 4 o'clock this morning, the naval manoeuvres were at an end except for a little target practice from the Cerberus, with 6-pounder Q.F. guns. This was over before half-past 10, and the order to weigh anchor was given. Thirty-one men of the naval forces took the bars of the big capstan on the lower deck and a piper sat on the bars. The heavy anchor came up slowly to the tune of "There Was an Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket" as the piper and his flute revolved with the capstan. The march was quickened when "Yankee Doodle" thrilled out and soon the anchor was "catted". A tow line from the tug "Alacrity" had been made fast, and before 11 o'clock the Cerberus, no longer a flagship lying sedately at her moorings, was being hauled back to her berth at Williamstown. Lieutenant Burford was in charge. Captain Tickell (the naval commandant) had transferred his flag to the Childers, in which he returned to the naval depot, weather conditions having forced him to cancell a projected inspection of the western shores of the bay. The commamdant this morning expressed his pleasure at the way in which the work of the branch of the forces had been carried out."
When the review of the naval and military forces of the colony was held at Albert Park a week ago, the former division of the defence force was for the time out of its element, and so on Saturday the men had an poportunity(sic) of showing what they could do afloat.
At 2 o'clock a large number of gentlemen invited to witness the evolution of the fleet assembled at the Port Melbourne town Pier, and were taken off the Nelson by the steamers Despatch and Gannet. The party were the guests for the day of the Minister of Defence, Colonel Sargood, and amongst those present were His Excellency the Governor and suite; The Premier, Mr. Service; the Chief Secretary, Mr. Berry; the Minister of Lands, Mr. Tucker; the Commissioner of Customs, Mr. Langridge; the Postmaster General, Mr. Campbell; and Mr. Thornley, M.L.C. The Ministry had a large Parliamentary following, a considerable number of the members of both Houses of Parliament being present. Nearly all the Harbour Trust Commissioners attended, and the land branch of the service was represented by many officers in uniform, including Colonel Turner, the commanding officer of the Field Brigade, Colonel Price, of the Mounted Rifles; Colonel Hutton, of the Volunteers; Major Fellows, of the Staff, Major Snee; Captain Joseph, of the Torpedo Corps; and Lieutenant Inglis, the adjutant of the Field Brigade. There was also a large number of private citizens on board.
The Nelson was the flagship for the day, and here Captain Thomas, senior naval officer, received his visitors.
As the naval display was held in Hobson's Bay, amongst the shipping in port, those who were not experts in naval architecture had some difficulty in picking out the vessels forming the fleet, which were all lying at different stations. The yellow funnels, very much resembling those of the Adelaide steamers, and the fact that both gunboats and torpedo boats are painted black and yellow, assisted the landsmen to pick out the armed vessels.
There was no mistaking the gigantic Cerberus, over towards Williamstown, with her hull a mere black band on the water, and her conspicuous white turrets, rising up in contrast against the darker background. The turret-ship was under command of Captain Fullarton for the day. Further up towards the river mouth the twin gunboats Albert and Victoria lay side by side.
The Victoria with her huge bow gun, the finest piece of artillery in Australia, was under the charge of Commander Collins, while Lieutenant Dennis was senior officer in the Albert, The three torpedo boats, Childers, Nepean and Lonsdale, well out in the bay were not noticed at first, but later in the afternoon they made themselves conspicuous, and the smaller pair were perhaps as much observed and admired as anything else in the fleet.
Compared with those vessels, the occupation of which was war pure and simple (if such terms are permissible when applied to modern warfare) the hopper barges Batman and Fawkner even in their dual capacity were not interesting. There were several armed steam launches under way.
While the vessels were getting under way some interesting illustrations of the working and effects of mines were given by Captain Thomas and Lieut. Hele-Hutchinson on board the flagship.
First a small hand torpedo, with a coil of red fuse attached to what seemed a brass-barrelled pistol, was brought up. The torpedo, not of itself larger than a champane bottle, was thrown well out from the vessel, and just as it disappeared beneath the green water, Lietenant Hely-Hutchinson pulled the trigger of his pistol, which was really an instantaneous fuse. The explosion of the torpedo cast a column of water high in the air, drenching the occupants of the boats fastened astern of the Nelson. these puny torpedoes are intended as suitable presents to cast into a boat bringing a boarding party alongside, and fill the place of the obsolete hand grenade.
The next experiment, the firing of a 250lb submerged mine, resting on the St Kilda bank, about 300 yards from the Nelson, was more exciting. The position of the mine was marked by a buoy, with a red flag attached. As soon as the circut was completed from the flagship an immense column of water was thrown into the air, assuming the shape, for an instant, of an iceberg, towering up to a height of 150ft., and then as rapidly dissolving. When the great volume of water fell back upon the ocean, the position of the mine was marked only by a broad acre of mud and foam.
By this time the other vessels of the fleet were in motion, the order of battle being that each should pass on the St Kilda side of the Nelson, and in turn engage the big man-of-war with their guns. The Cerberus, in the van, was the first to open fire from one of her fore turret guns, and although only the smallest possible charge was being used, the rush of smoke was enormous. The spectators on the after deck of the Nelson, even without their glasses, could see everything that took place on the Cerberus. After each shot the turrets revolved rapidly, so that the second gun was brought to bear. The huge 300-pounders ran out and in, as easily as though a man with a Martini was bombarding the flagship.
Even the bright band of steel showing the nozzle thickness of the turret guns was discernable. And yet not a man was visible on board the Cerberus. To the watchers on the Nelson it might have been a deserted ship with automatic guns and turrets, but for the fact that before each shot there was a bugle command to fire.
The Nelson replied with her between-deck guns, and the heavy discharges thrilled the big ship at her moorings. The Victoria and Albert were next in the line, and both fired with their stern chasers, only the big bow gun of the Victoria protruding - silent but threatening. No men were visible on the gunboats either until they came round to seaward of the Nelson, when some blue jackets opened fire with small arms from one of the fore ports. With the hopper barges the case was very different, for here nearly every man was visible, and the group of tars working at the big gun on the bows of both barges were a most tempting mark for the Nelson guns.
At the range a good many iron round shot would have rained about the solitary guns of the Batman and Fawkner, while the oppotunities for pot shooting with a rifle were most tempting. Last, and most decidedly least, in the aggressive line of vessels now steaming in a long line down the bay was the Lion - a lion so small as to be nothing more than a mere cub. The little field piece in her bows looked like a pea shooter by contrast with the 300 pounders of the Cerberus. When the puny launch raced at the Nelson as though about to run her down, and fired her Chinese crackers, everyone admired Captain Thomas's forbearance, for it would only have been a just punishment to capture the Lion by putting out a boat-hook and lifting her on board the flagship.
Attention was next directed to the torpedo boats, and although two of these were each smaller than the Lion, their great speed and capacity for infinite mischief placed them on a par with the turret-ship as far as commanding the respect of the onlookers was concerned. The Childers did no active work, so that attention was confined to the two smaller boats, the Nepean and the Lonsdale. But for the yellow funnels, both boats decked as they are, would be nothing more than a mere dark streak on the water, and it could be easily understood that on a night attack the electric light is required to fix their locality. The bows of the Nepean and Lonsdale projected down towards the water-line, and in shape are not unlike some of the great steam rams built for the United States navy. The cutwater of each boat is as sharp, however, as that of a sculling shell, and their speed is something remarkable. Going against the waves the white spray flies high over the tiny boat, and at a distance resembles steam issuing from the bows.
There is no smoke from the yellow funnels, and but for these distinctive marks of a steamer boat, they might almost be mistaken for huge porpoises plunging through the waves. One of the boats rushed at the Nelson, and just as it seemed as though she were about to dash herself to pieces against the great walls of the man-of-war, the engines were reversed, the foam tossed about as though by an explosion of a small mine, and in an instant the boat was rolling alongside without sound or motion.
The firing of the Whitehead torpedoes was watched with the keenest interest by all on board. With the heavy guns most of them were familiar, but the torpedoes were a novelty. On the deck of the Nepean, half peeping from their beds, were the two Whitehead torpedoes, in shape not unlike the huge cigar borne as a trophy by one of the Melbourne trades on Eight Hours Day. They may be arranged so as either to sink or rise to the surface when their velocity is expended, and as it was desirable that these should be recovered each was gauged to float when it had spent its power. The Whitehead torpedo explodes when the point comes in contact with a vessel, but of course neither of the two now used was loaded. It was impossible to convey any idea of the accuracy with which the torpedoes might be used in actual warfare, beyond discharging them so that they might rise in the vicinity of the mark aimed at instead of striking it while yet running beneath the water.
The steam launch of the Nelson was taken out some distance from the flagship, and on the signal being given the Nelson dashed at her full speed. When within 200 yards, and just after passing astern of the Nelson, the torpedoes leaped from their resting beds, and shooting over the ship's prow like brazen sea- serpents, disappeared beneath the water. One of them seemed to have taken the ground for an instant, for mud mixed with flame boiled up to the surface. Then nothing was seen for a time, until within a few yards of the steam launch on one side the flickering flame of one expired torpedo was observed and another light burning on the water just ahead of the launch showed where the second spent engine had risen, Torpedo officer Dann had made very accurate calculations, and experts pronounced both shots to be excellent.
Then came the Lonsdale to show how spar torpedoes were used - a less delicate but vastly more dangerous operation than working with the Whiteheads. The torpedo is fixed on the end of a spar, between 20ft. and 30ft. long and explodes on being brought in contact with a vessel. At the very instant of striking the torpedo against the side of an enemy, the little vessel bearing it swerves away sharply, so as to avoid, as far as possible, the effects of the explosion. The target was a small iron buoy moored close to the Nelson, and its position was indicated by a blue and yellow flag. To hit the target running at full speed was in itself a clever feat, and in the first try, the Lonsdale, sheering off as if from a vessel, missed her mark. The torpedo boat swept around in a graceful circle, and as she shot past the target a second time a little cloud of smoke and foam shrouded the flag for an instant, showing that the first failure had not been repeated. The torpedo had been neatly exploded, and the long red spar that carried it was floating out with the tide.
The closing scene in the naval demonstration was an attack to be made by the torpedo boats on the other vessels of the fleet. In order to obtain a good view of this sham fight, the visitors were taken on board the Gannet and Despatch. It was noticeable that the majority found their way rapidly to the saloons, where Colonel Sargood had furnished antidotes againt the effect of sea air and increasing appetites. As the steamers passed astern of the French transport ship Allier a merry salute was blown by the buglers on her deck, and the ensigns dipped in formal fashion, the greeting being acknowledged from the steamers. The French ship, whose officers were present by invitation on board the Nelson, was flying the white ensign at the main, but the Imperial flag was quite obscured by the glory of three broad tri-colours floating out in the breeze.
The sham battle was opened by the Childers, lying off near the Nelson, making a sudden dash at the Cerberus as soon as the signal to commence was given. But the turret ship was ready for her, and the big guns thundered out one after another in quick succession, while the rattle of Nordenfeldts, Gatlings and Martinis showed that Captain Fullarton had prepared a perfect hailstorm as a greeting for the Childers. Nothing could stand that imaginary leaden tempest, so the Childers swerved off and left the turret ship unmolested. Each of the torpedo boats had its special mission, but after the first dash they were at liberty to blow up an armed vessel wherever opportunity offered.
Then the powers of those flying twins, the Nepean and Lonsdale, were seen to full effect. Silently and swiftly they shot about like sea sprites, there making an unexpected dash at one of the gunboats, and there stealing a march upon a cumbrous hopper barge, whose defenders were perhaps engaged at another point. As soon as the boats were fired at, they promptly sheered off. To have hit such fast sailers with big guns even at close range would have been a very clever feat; but their plates are thin and fragile, and the Nordenfeldts from the Cerberus must have played havoc with them, more especially with the fire indiciously concentrated about the waterline.
The Cerberus is not the sort of vessel with which torpedo boats may trifle, for the turret-ship is built in watertight sections, each independant of the other, and with even the fore and aft compartments full of water the ship would still be afloat and firing. If the crews of the other vessels had not an anxious 15 minutes in keeping off torpedo boats on Saturday afternoon Lieutenants Houston and Holmes were not to blame.
As it was getting late, the firing soon ceased, and the demonstration was over. The Lonsdale ran alongside the Gannet to take Captain Thomas back to the Nelson, and as the Naval Commandant stepped off the steamer the visitors paid him the well-earned compliment of three lusty cheers, those on board the Despatch following suite with vigour. Returning to Port Melbourne pier, greetings were waved to the French officers, now on board their vessel. The party were landed, and returned to town at an early hour, a great many of those present having received their primary education in naval warfare.
During the afternoon the excursion steamer Williams took off a large number of people anxious to have a close view of the operations. The piers at Port Melbourne were crowded with spectators, and the shores of the bay were dotted with other groups of onlookers right round St Kilda.
The demonstration would no doubt have been more interesting if held out in clear water, where the positions of the whole fleet could have been picked up at a glance. In the bay the number of Yachts and sailing boats darting about helped to confuse landsmen slightly, and were no doubt of some assistance to the torpedo boats in their operation.
The following report upon the state and condition of the naval forces on Saturday has been supplied by the commandant (Captain Thomas) to the Minister of Defence:-
1. H.M.V.S. Cerberus, 2,850 tons, armoured turret ship, 9 knots; 4 18-ton guns and 4 1in-Nordenfeldts; boilers very good, new 1884; 9 officers and 142 men.
2. H.M.V.S. Nelson, 2,700 tons, wooden frigate, 10 knots; 2 7in., 68lb-guns, 20 64 pounders, and 8 32 pounders; boilers fair, probably last two years; 9 officers and 145 men.
3. H.M.V.S. Victoria, 450 tons, steel gun vessel,12 knots; 1 10in. 25-ton gun, 2 12pounders, 2 1in. Nordenfeldts; boilers very good new in 1884; 3 officers and 40 men. Additional steel plating for protection of boilers and men at guns now being made.
4. H.M.V.S. Albert, 350 tons, steel gunboat 10 knots; 1 8in. 12 ton gun, 1 6in. 4 ton gun, 2 9pounders, 2 1in. Nordenfeldts; boilers very good, new in 1884; 3 officers and 40 men. Steel plating for protection of boilers and men at guns now being made.
5. H.M.V.S. Gannet, 400 tons iron paddle steamer, 12 knots; 1 6in gun just arrived, not yet placed in position; boiler very good, new 1884. Not manned by naval forces, being employed in conveying His Excellency the Governor and visitors. Steel plating for protection of boiler and men at guns now being made.
6. and 7. H.M.V.S. Batman and Fawkner, each 400 tons, iron steam hopper barges, 8 ½ knots, 1 64pounder each; boilers very good, new 1884. 3 officers and 20 men each. Steel plating &c., being ordered. To be armed with 1 6in. rifled gun.
8. Lion 80 tons, steam patrol boat, 8 ½ knots; 1 6 pounder Armstrong; boilers very good; 2 officers and 10 men.
9. Spray. 40tons, steam patrol boat, 8½ knots 1 6 pounder Armstong; boilers under repair; 2 officers and 10 men. The boilers are undergoing a thorough repair, and will be completed June 3; should then be in good condition.
10. Childers, ---tons, first-class steel torpedo boat, 19 knots; 2 15in. Whitehead torpedoes, 2 Hotchkiss machine guns; boilers very good, new 1884, 2 officers and 10 men. At present only one 15in. torpedo in the colonly; patent dropping gear has been made to enable the boat to fire 14in. torpedoes, also three more 15in. are ordered.
11. Nepean, second-class steel torpedo boat, 17 knots, 2 14in. Whitehead torpedoes, 2 spar torpedoes (33lb. gun-cotton); boiler very good, new 1884. 2 officers and 7 men.
12. Lonsdale, second-class steel torpedo boat, 17 knots; 2 14in. Whitehead torpedoes, 2 spar torpedoes (33lb. gun-cotton); boilers very good, new 1884; 2 officers and 7 men. There are only three 14in. Whitehead torpedoes, consequently the Lonsdale is one short. Five more are completed and on the way out, and 20 have been recently ordered. Patent dropping gear, to enable this boat and the Customs No.1 to fire 14in. Whitehead torpedoes, has been ordered and is now nearly completed.
13. Commissioner, torpedo launch, 9 knots; 1 3pounder Whitworth gun, 2 spar torpedoes (33lb. gun-cotton) boiler very good; 1 officer 9 men.
14. Customs No.1 torpedo launch 9 knots; 1 3pounder Whitworth gun, 2 spar torpedoes, (33lb. Gun-cotton), boilers very good. (unreadable) The Customs No.1 is unble to join the squadron, being on duty at Queenscliff.
Forty stokers omitted to be added, which makes the number present 600.
Note.-- Six one-inch four-ton Armstrong guns have just arrived in the Falkland Hill, also a large supply of ammunition. Three of these guns are to replace the muzzles-loaders in the Gannet, Batman, and Fawkner, the remaining three to be held in reserve for arming fast steamers in war time. Three acts of patent dropping gear have been made - one for Childers, to enable her to fire either description of torpedo, and one set each for the Commissioner and Customs No.1, both of which vessels will now be armed with both Whitehead and spar torpedoes. A 14-knot 56ft. double-ruddered boat has been ordered from Mr. White of Cowes, Isle of Wight, to act as guard boat. She is fitted to carry Whitehead torpedoes and a machine gun. All torpedo boats carry hand charges (2¼ lb gun-cotton) and instantaneous fuse for destroying boats.
A.B.THOMAS, Naval Commandant.
Since her arrival in Port Phillip, some six weeks ago, ourturret ship of war the "Cerberus" has undergone a considerable change in her outward appearance. Her brave array aloft of mast and spars, and her expansive equipments of standing rigging and running gear, &c., together with her bulwarks, have all disappeared and this floating fortress will before long be in fighting trim, and ready to offer grim welcome to any hostile invader rash enough to thrust himself within range of her ordnance.
The work of sending down the topmasts, rigging, sails, &c. was carried out by hands employed by the Government for the purpose, but the removal of the top-sides, decks, &c., was performed by contract. The whole of this latter work had been put together in the strongest possible manner - in fact, in such a substantial manner as is rarely seen except in Government dockyards in England - and considering the extra strength of the upper works of the vessel, it is almosr surprising that the dismantling process has been got through with such singular rapidity. The contractor for stripping the "Cerberus", Mr. James Deane, has been by no means idle and during the 11 days he has been at work the decks have been cleared of all bitts, timber-heads, iron capstan and windlass, riding bitts forward and aft, anchor-stoppers, hawee-pipes, and chocks, skylights, companions, combings, deck planks, iron bulwarks, iron topside plates, iron beams, and shelving, and the iron plating attached to the beams and permanent upper deck; these, together with all the cabin fittings fore and aft, put up for the voyage out, have been landed and removed away from the ship. Should no impediment, in the shape of unfavourable weather, or from any other cause arise, Mr. Deane hopes to be able to complete his contract within a month from the present date. The entire work of dismantling has been under the supervision of Mr. WIlliamson and Mr. Campbell, who superintended the fitting-up of the "Cerberus" and came out in her.
Having spent a day on board the Cerberus under steam, during the Easter manoeuvers just finished, the writer may be able to supplement the Bookish Theoric, as Iago says, with a trifle of practical experience, although he will not be so presumptuous as the Frenchman who qualified himself to write a tretise on the Laws of England by attending two days at the Old Bailey; and the Cerberus is unpleasantly suggestive of a monster watch-house, all iron cells. Your author found it getting monotonous, and desterted to Queenscliff first chance, along with Mr. Bonisto and two gorgeous military officers. They contrasted with the plain garb of Admiral Fullarton and all his officers, whose uniform was as simple as that of the United States Navy. Why cannot we have sensible, plain, cheap uniforms in our little Army, as with the United States! Our Lieutenants outfit costs about £30, and this causes a most mischievous line of demarcation to be drawn between officers and men, simply a financial one.
The Cerberus is not an antiquated ironclad, though rather stale, and she may be compared in style with the more powerful Thunderer, a valued ship even with the Meditteranean Fleet. Is the Cerberus sea-going? One might not like the chance of turning turtle in Bass's Straits, as the unlucky captain did in the Channel, with the loss of 250 men, including the inventors and a son of Mr. Childers. Of course a bulwark might be put up along the lower flat of the Cerberus. Sydney would like to see her - alive, and Hobart would rush. However, she is only treated as a floating battery, a moveable Swan Island or Pope's Eye. By-the-way, an officer points out to us a sea mark, just in front of the Pope's Eye buoy, near the Heads, and this mark indicates a spot where an island battery is to be erected if the Government will only fork out a quarter of a million.
The hauling up of the anchor is accompanied, in a paradoxical fashion, with running out, like lightning, of a great length of chain, a mystery which your mentor will not attempt to fathom. The Cerberus made her ten knots an hour, just for a spurt, going down to the Bay. One has to be aboard to appreciate the tremendous power of the engines, which force along that submerged mountain while the sea boils behind as if a volcanic eruption was proceeding. The stokers are in one of the hottest places on earth and could not feel much more if they were passing through the Red Sea. You keep going down as with the successive stages of Dante's Inferno. "In the lowest deep, a lower deep," according to the hyberhole of Milton.
Steam does all the work, driving the ship, working the turrets, steering. The economy of space is amazing, everything packed as closely as a young lady's trunk, when she has to jump on it, to make it shut. Under the hatches in the Cerberus, with all battened down, and the sea dashing upon the deck, while the ship rolls and scoops it up, must be Hades and Gehenna. The officers have a snug little cabin, with green fittings, but where it is located is a puzzle from the outside, and a continual puzzle even from the inside, as you stumble about the turrets, the engine room, and the cramped lower deck, garnished round the walls with any number of rifles, revolvers, and cutlasses hanging in their leathers. It is as difficult to find your way in the mazes of the Cerberus as amid those of the Law Courts.
What experience in warfare has there been with ironclads? During the Crimean war some clumsy troughs were tried-- floating batteries -- and they eventuated in France leading the way, only twenty-six years ago, by turning the wooden two-decker Napoleon into the ironclad Le Goire, upon which the English followed suite with the Warrior: but do not let us forget that terrific combat between the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac in the American Civil War, which sounded the knell of the wooden ships. The Austians beat the Italians in the sea fight of Lissa, where some ironclads were engaged. For the rest of the experience we have to go to America. There has been a good deal of ironclad collisions among the South American Republic, but the great European nations only dare to spar with their expensive toys.
Signalling is the prettiest part of the business. Admiral Fullarton, proudly surveying his fleet from the Cerberus hurricane deck, speaks to an officer, who passes the word to the smart young sailor who does the signalling. The first thing is to run up to the masthead the flags which denote the name of the ships signalled, and a Cerberus officer watches through the telescope her response, just as you call out "Are you there?" with the telephone, and get your reply. Then the hand-flags, a mixture of red and yellow, come into play, used with utmost deftness and celerity so that, on Admiral Fullarton's command all the ships of the squadron will fall into line readily as a boys boats, the signal being flagged on from ship to ship.
The torpedo boat, Childers, had occasion to come alongide the Cerberus, and she is the rummiest looking thing ever floated; but of course, she has plenty of little sisters. Why she looks nothing but a mass of raw iron flung upon the water, roughly shaped off something like a torpedo, and rolling as if she was going to propel herself along like a gambolling porpoise. The Commander is an eccentric looking fellow enough, in a suit of white duck, trimmed with red braid, and he wears a straw hat, altogether a thoroughly common sense, free and easy, as-you-please uniform - is it patented? The Childers just flies through the transparent green water, and one watches her screw feathering as rapidly as a bus wheel.
You enter a Cerberus turret by a man-hole in the top pf the gasometer, and you have to take it on trust where you are going to, in the bowels. Each turret has two eighteen ton guns, muzzle loaders, and they are as close together as possible, so that all four guns look in a straight line while trained on one side, and the huge Cerberus heels over somewhat under this weighting. At the word of command, the naval brigade men on board, scamper of to their stations, the turret crews disappearing like monkey's into their dens. Perhaps you call to mind that terrific explosion of a gun in a turret of the Thunderer, when fifteen men were killed or wounded.
Lieut. Gough kindly explained the sighting of the guns, up to a range of about three miles and it is an intricate combination pf allowances for one thing or another. The firing is done by the captain of the turrets, who has his back to the wall midway between the two guns, the recoil of which is stopped by four buffers, as with a locomotive terminus. The guns will never recoil right to the buffers, unless their chains happen to give way. It is usual to fire both guns of the turret at once, and an earthquake ensued. A strange thing is to watch the turrets revolve, from above with a noise like that made by the tramway. A turret can be whipped round in half a minute.
The engagement present to the writer's mind while on the Cerberus, was between the ironclads Admirante Cochrane and Huascar respectively, of Chili and Peru,in the war between those countries. The Huascar, a smaller Cerberus, was pounded to smash, and her commander, Captain Gran, was absolutely cut in half, together with a so-called shot-proof tower in which he stood, his top half being blown right away with that of the tower. Both the Admirante Cochrane and Huascar were constructed in England, and the builders must have thought the ***** was good for trade, for £100,000 worth of intricate work, as with a watch, is knocked to pieces in a few minutes by guns like those of the Cerberus.
The distribution of medals, awarded to members of the Victorian Volunteer Force for long and effective service, took place in the Town Hall last night. There was a large attendance both of visitors and the various volunteer corps, the latter appearing in uniform, and under the command of their respective officers. No general parade state was taken, but approximately estimated, the number must have been 1,300 officers and men.
Prior to the commencement of the proceedings the Commandant announced that Captain Mandeville had taken advantage of the present opportunity of presenting Thomas White, Stephen Newing, and John Peerless with medals awarded to them by the Imperial Government for active service rendered by them in the New Zealand war. The recipients named came forward, and amidst much cheering, were presented with the medals, the decorations being attached by Lieutenant Collins, of the Cerberus.
Colonel Anderson then announced that the honour of presenting the first issue of the medals in question having devolved on the officer commanding the local forces, it was his duty to provide against misconceptions, which might result from a verbal address. On an occasion of so much interest and importance to the volunteer force, a clear understanding should exist as to the mode in which volunteers were to prefer claims, and the manner in which the medals were to be awarded. In General Order, No. 77-80, it was intimated to the force that the medals would issue. After consultation with several experienced officers the conditions published on the 20th August, 1880, under the heading of "Conditions for the issue to officers and men serving under the Volunteer Statute 1865 of a medal for long and efficient service," were promulgated, and also printed on the reverse side of the forms supplied to commanding officers, &c., for claimants. These conditions having been read by Captain Bull, the medals were presented by Colonel Anderson, in accordance with the following list :--
LONG AND EFFECTIVE SERVICE MEDALS 26th January, 1881. ( A full list of names in corps groups followed )
On Sunday evening the Cerberus weighed anchor again and moved down to St. Leonard's Point, another torpedo attack being expected. The firing of a gun during breakfast, shortly after 7, announced the fact that one torpedo boat had been discovered. Her torpedo missed the ship by about 70 yards. Another boat fired a torpedo shortly afterwards from near the pier at St. Leonards and this fell short.
Three torpedoes had been fired when Commander Richardson came aboard in his usual cheery mood, shortly before 9 o'clock. A few minutes afterwards the Lonsdale discharged a torpedo which travelled to within a few yards of the ships side, and her Holme light was burning almost under the noses of those who stood on board. It was a splendid shot, and it was really hard luck that Commander Richardson could not on this occadion claim the credit of sinking the Cerberus.