The Cerberus, double screw iron armour-plated turret-ship, carrying four guns, arrived at Malta, on Sunday morning, 20 days from Plymouth and 10 from Gibraltar. This vessel was recently constructed in England for the defence of the harbour of Melbourne, and will leave for her destination via the Suez Canal on Friday next. She is under the command of Capt. W.H. Panter, formerly a Navigating Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
The departure of the Colonial turret-ship Cerberus for Melbourne, via the Suez Canal, has been delayed in consequence of bad weather. She was visited on Saturday afternoon by the Commander-in-Chief Sir Hastings R. Yelverton, K.C.B.
During the stay of the Colonial turret-ship Cerberus in this port, we regret to say that a spirit of insubordination manifested itself amongst some of the crew, and 25 of them have been tried before the Magistrates on charges of this nature and for quitting the ship without the Captain's permission.
It is satisfactory to state, however, that the vacancies thus occasioned have been quickly filled by English and Maltese volunteers; and that several of the men in prison petitioned the Government to be allowed to rejoin their ship for the voyage to Melbourne, although their prayer was not granted, it is not being supported by the Captain of the ship. Two Maltese, Pietro Spiteri and Michele Calleja, also of this vessel, are now under examination before the Magistrate Dr Grungo, on a charge of fraud. They were engaged here as stokers, signed the ship's articles as such, and accepted a note of advance for one month's wages (5.10. each), payable by Mr Azzopardi, the Ship's Agent, three days after her departure. This note was cashed at a small discount by Mr Giuseppe Bartolo. The men then went on board, and after remaining a few hours left the vessel, declaring that they would not proceed in her, "as they did not like the ship". Having disposed of the money, and being unable to restore it to Bartolo, they have thus committed a fraud, which renders them liable to several months' imprisonment. The Cerberus left on Sunday for Australia via the Suez Canal.
Really Captain Neville, the Naval Commandant, is to be congratulated on being born under a lucky star. so far, at all events as weather is concerned. In England when there is any public outdoor celebration carried out, and the day should prove fine, and particularly if one or two glimpses of the gun should be observed, we are told that Queen's weather prevails. Here we happily have more favourable climatical conditions, although at Easter time anything may happen from a hot wind to a tornado. Ever since his advent the present Naval Commandant has not for any of his demonstrations, suffered the slightest inconvenience through of weather. This has led to, when the fleet "is on the job," the saying that everything will be sure to go smoothly, because "Neville's weather" may be depended upon.
And so it has been throughout the Easter maneuvers. Good Friday and Saturday were simply ideal days bright and cloudless, although not breezy enough to satisfy yachtmen.
Saturday on the Cerberus was a very busy day, both officers and men being busily engaged, not only from "early morn to dewy eve," but until late at night. They were "carrying on" all the time. Much of the day was occupied in target firing with the 6lb Nordenfeldt quick firing guns. Very good practice was obtained and Captain Neville was very much pleased with the proficiency displayed by the men, many of whom had been under training for but a very short time. There was also tube firing with the big 10-inch guns, and with this also most gratifying resolute were obtained.
In the evening the Cerberus anchored off Queenscliff, and it had been arranged that there should be a special night attack on her by the only two torpedo boats in commission, the Countess of Hopetoun and the Childers. On board the flagship the search lights were kept flashing every quarter, and keen and experienced eyes, aided by powerful binoculars, were bought to bear upon every likely, and perhaps unlikely, point from which the "enemy" might be expected to approach. Notwithstanding all the vigilance exercised, however, the Countess of Hopetoun succeeded in getting within 100 yards of the Cerberus before she was observed. But when she was, the fun commenced. All the divisions were at quarters in a state of preparedness. There was a brisk fusilade, which lasted for some seconds. Then the flashlight disclosed the insidious little Childers just about the same moment as the lynx-eyed first lieutenant deacried her without the aid of glasses. The little craft made herself ******. and no more was seen of her.
The Cerberus remained at anchor off Queenscliff on Saturday night and until Sunday. It had been intended to send the ship's company ashore on Sunday morning, but the morning broke badly. The sky was overcast, and there was a strong northerly breeze blowing. This induced the Commandant to alter the arrangement, and service was held on board, the captain reading that prescribed for such occasions,
Happily there were no casualties of a serious character.
Early last night the Cerberus left her anchorage off Queenscliff, and steamed a (sic) off St. Leonards, where the anchor was dropped for the night, and at 7 o'clock this morning steamed away and took up a position about eight miles north-east of the West Channel Pill Light. There targets were laid out for gun practice with the heavy and the quick firing Nordenfeldt guns. The ranges varied from 1000 to 2000 yards.
The firing was pronounced by the Commandant and other skilled officers on board to be very creditable indeed, and of such a character as would not have disgraced gunners of much greater experience than that gained by many members of the Naval Brigade, whose opportunities, owing to retrenchment, are unfortunately but too few. The officers of the ship made a careful selection of gunners from the permanent men and the Naval Brigade, and this has resulted in a blending of the two bodies in such a proportion as gave the former a slight preponderance. The object of the officers was to fuse as much as possible the two sections on board, and it must be admitted that the intention was successful to the highest degree. Everything went harmoniously as a skillfully played organ, not a discordant note being heard any time during the trip. True, there was "Ichiband", and that possibly had a pleasing and a soothing effect upon all on board, and had the effect of causing at all events the officers to look upon the shortcomings of Jack with a more tolerant eye than otherwise they might have done.
"Itchiband," it may be remarked, will be well known to those who have sailed in Chinese and Japanese waters.
Out of 28 rounds fired from the heavy guns, there was only one which was bad, or, in other words, would have been ineffective had the ship been in action. All the others would have hit a moderately sized vessel, or at least, 97 per cent would have told. There was a strong breeze blowing from the north-west all the time the practice was proceeding, and the ship was steaming eight knots an hour. The practice on the quick firing guns was equally excellent. All the officers were highly pleased with the proficiency shown by the men, and attribute much of the success they gained to the big gun tube practice they had on Friday and Saturday.
The torpedo boats Countess of Hopetoun and Childers ran in last night to Swan Island, and left early this morning, and on arrival at the naval depot were put on the ships. The Cerberus reached Port Melbourne this afternoon, and anchored off the railway pier. She will steam either this evening or tomorrow to Williamstown for overhaul
Happily, Good Friday, the first day of the Easter maneuvers, so far as the naval forces were concerned, was characterised by splendid weather, The fleet this year comprised the turret ship Cerberus; the first class torpedo boats the Countess of Hopetoun and the Childers; and the second class torpedo boats the Nepean and the Lonsdale.
Of course the general charge devolved on Captain Neville, the Naval Commandant, his staff, amongst others, consisting of Commander Kingsford, Leiuts. Colquhoun, Richardson, and Webb, Fleet Engineer Breaks being in charge of the engines.
The Countess of Hopetoun was in charge of Lieut. Biddlecombe.
Since the last Easter maneuvers the Cerberus has been lighted from stem to stern with electric light, and the officers are very proud. In these days of retrenchment, that the whole of the work only cost £10. The explanation is that the whole of the work was done by regularly engaged hands, and it is no secret that besides being able to compound "Ichiband," Commander Kingsford is no mean mechanician.
At all events, the result is most satisfactory and effective. Yesterday the members of the Naval Brigade told off for service with the fleet were all aboard by eight o'clock, and having breakfast, were shaken down to quarters. All preliminaries having been arranged, the Cerberus was got underway by 10 o'clock and progress was made down the bay.
No time was lost in putting the ship's company through all manner of useful and necessary exercises. These included gunnery instruction and general practice in the extinguishment of fire. During the morning a most interesting experiment was tried. The supposition was that there was a man overboard.
A buoy was **** over the side, and the alarm was raised. Within three minutes the life-boat was launched and the buoy recovered. The work was regarded by the officers as being most satisfactory and afforded them with much satisfaction. Tonight the two first class torpedo boats, the Countess of Hopetoun and the Childers, will go outside Port Phillip Heads, and will endeavour to enter without being observed by the Garrison Artillery at Point Nepean and Lonsdale. So far everything has gone well, and the officers are very much pleased with the behaviour of the Naval Brigade detailed for duty on the ships in commision.
The fleet arrived off here yesterday evening. The programme does not differ greatly from that of last year. There are to be no fireworks displays, or such in the way of spectacular show. the authorities being determined to give the men as much practical drill as possible. The vessels are officiated as last year, except that Lieutenant-Commander Hamilton, R.N., takes the place of Lieutenant Heath in charge of the torpedo fleet. We left the anchorage in the usual single column, headed by the Cerberus, the other vessels following at a distance of two cables. The famous old frigate Nelson in tow of two of the Hopper gunboats, and the p.s. Osprey brought up the rear. Nothing of note occurred on the trip to the Heads, except that the turret ship, which slipped through the water at astonishing pace, considering her water displacement and age, on one occasion refused to be affected, turning the half circle before brought back to her course. We are given to understand that the steering machinery is peculiarly complicated, and requires the greatest watchfulness to keep it accurate. The crew, although, of course, there are some growlers, perform their duties with a fair amount of alacarity, but it is not expected that they will be perfect in their stations for a couple of days at least. Last night we were subjected to a torpedo attack, but the attacking party were unfortunate in the night being particularly bright. The fleet, which were drawn up in a circle, with the flagship in the centre, had no difficulty in picking up the torpedo launches, which were fairly riddled with the heavy volleys poured into them by the war ships before they got into close range, so as to be dangerous. The engagement was a very pretty spectacle. Today we are engaged in gun practice at the moveable target. A rather severe accident happened to Lieutenant Fey, second in command of the torpedo fleet, who yesterday had his shoulder dislocated while bathing at the depot, by which he was incapacitated from further duty during the cruise. The shooting at the fixed target was very fair.
Fifty-six years have passed since the old warrior glided down the ways at Jarrow-on-Tyne, and by dint of sailing and steaming made the long voyage to Melbourne. Her low freeboard - for she was only a floating gun platform - made life unpleasant for those on board of her in any sort of a seaway. Her immense weight of 3340 tons, for she was a solid mass of iron, made her little more than an immense flatiron, which waddled heavily along.
But she was heavily armed and heavily armoured, and since she represented Victoria's sole means of naval defence, she was rapturously welcomed on her arrival.
Those were the days when there were alaurms (sic) and excursions and rumors of war and Russian scares. Her arrival in Port Phillip was the event of the year. Her fighting strength was comparable in those days to two modern battleships, and Victorians slept quietly in their beds.
Now she lies in the "knacker's yard" at Williamstown, aged and decrepit, disembowelled, almost dead, at once useless and useful.
Useless to have her idle on your hands, but her stout iron shell is as sound as ever and as a sheer hulk or store ship she would pay for her keep.
There is talk also that her old bones may serve as a breakwater for one of the bayside resorts. Indeed, even now her fate is being decided, while she lies there, quietly dreaming of the old days when she was the pride of the fleet.
Mounted on her massive turrets --- ten inches of solid iron, the like of which is not made nowadays -- she still displays her teeth, four 18-ton muzzle-loaders, relics of a day that is gone. They are solidly built, imposing, fit to adorn a park or local reserve.
They are there for any, shire council or municipality to take, which is willing to pay for the cost of their removal. Historical relics in their way, up which generations of small boys may yet clamber and peer, awe-inspired, down their 10-inch muzzles.
Aptly named, the old ship prowled around the bay for half a century, a watch dog with fearful barks from her 18 ton muzzle loaders, a veritable "Old Ironside." She was the cradle of the fleet - the nursery where two generations of sailors learned their art and craft, and though she no longer finds a place in the Navy List, her name survives as tender to Flinders Naval Depot.
By the peculiar service anachronism, though a mere motor launch, Cerberus carries on her books the names of the entire ships' compliment of the Depot. Thus as in the past she remains the nursery of the Navy, and her name appears in letters of gold on the caps of the 1200 bluejackets now being trained to take their place in the new fleet.
Whatever may happen to her she may live in the memory of Victorians. Old ships like old soldiers never die.
When they sold her out of the navy, the engineers at Newport railway shops secured some of her metal - best Low Moor iron from Yorkshire.
"Its the best iron in the world." they say, and they use it for making working parts of locomotives - the old ship in new engines."
The Minister for Defence, has at the instance of Captain Thomas, R.N., naval commandant, requested the loan of one of the Harbour Trust's iron hopper barges for experimental purposes, to be fitted out as an impromture fort, to carry one 64lb. M.L.R. gun, with the necessary protection; the vessel to be returned in good order and in her present condition. The object in view is to ascertain, how, at leisure, the best manner of providing; in the event of war, increased and impromture defences for the channels. At today's meeting of the trust the Finance Committee will recommend that the use of one barge be granted, as requested, provided that the time for which she will be required does not exceed one month.
"A man named Clark, who has for some time past been employed on board the turret ship Cerberus as stoker, died somewhat suddenly on Tuesday night. Early in the day Clark was seized with an epileptic fit, & as his case was considered an extraordinary one, he was promptly removed to the Melbourne hospital where he died soon after being admitted. His body was taken back to Williamstown yesterday morning, & the funeral, which will be conducted with military honours, will take place today. It is stated that the man's death was accelerated by the very bad ventilation below on board the Cerberus, but this is mere rumour. It is a fact, however that there are at present 2 persons residing in Williamstown whose health has been injured through the ill-ventilation of the furnace room of the ship & who have had to leave the service on that account. It is hoped that the matter will be inquired into, & the evil rectified, if it should be found to exist."
The ships of the Victorian squadron, after taking stores at Williamstown on Monday afternoon, weighed anchor again, and steamed down the bay against a head wind and in a choppy sea. They lay during the night in the West Channel, and early this morning they dispersed for firing practice. On the flagship a special interest attached to this work, as the new director was to be subjected to a practical test.
The director consists of a horizontal arc, and a support carrying a telescope which is worked on trunnions, and provided with the vertical correction arcs and verniers. The horizontal arc is a semi-circular frame graduated in degrees representing bearings before and abaft the beam. It enables the manipulator to ascertain the angle and elevation of an object, and to make corrections for the speed at which the vessel is steaming. The instrument has been in use in the Imperial navy for many years. Its introduction to the Cerberus is one of the improvements which have been made by Captain Thomas since his return from England. It is intended to be used for broadside firing. For this purpose it is shipped on the conning tower, which is the station occupied by the commander in action. It gives the commander entire control over the fire, and enables him to deliver it at any time, and on any point he may select. He has an all-round view, and he would often see the object when it is out of sight from the gun deck owing to the smoke, darkness, or direction. He takes his sight with the director, he gives his advice with regard to angle and elevation to the man in the turrets by means of speaking tubes, and he fires the guns simultaneously by simply turning a key in the battery of the electric gear. The electric gear on the Cerberus is not complete, and the firing has to be done by the men themselves. It is, however, in process of construction.
For the practice which took place to-day a target, consisting of two barrels moored together and carrying flags, was sent afloat. Commander Collins occupied the conning tower, and Captain Thomas superintended the operations generally from the quarter deck. The order was first given for the broadside firing on the port beam. A concentrated broadside from the Cerberus would have destructive effect upon any object it struck. There are two turrets, four 18-ton guns. Seventy pounds of powder are used in each charge, and the weight of the projectile is 400lb. The weight of metal discharged would therefore be 1,600lb, and if the shots struck in the same spot they would make an impression upon the most heavily armoured ironclad, whilst they would at once sink any vessel of ordinary calibre. The distance given for the first shot was 1,000 yards beyond the target; but the direction was good, and if a Russian ironclad had been there it would have received the whole weight of the charge, which, unless it was a vessel of great strength, would have disabled or sunk it. The second broadside was fired with even better result. One of the flags was struck, and the projectiles dipped in the water only five yards beyond the target. The concentration was so complete that all the shots would have hit a target 10ft. square. One of the projectiles was seen to burst over the object. It is probable that it collided with another of the shot, and that the impact caused the explosion. The projectiles do not at once sink. In this instance they made two long hops after they first came into contact with the water, and then when their momentum was spent they disappeared. The Cerberus literally trembled when the broadside was fired. A cloud of smoke and burnt saltpeter enveloped the ship, soot and paint were shaken from the funnel, and the shield deck around, the turret was blackened. Captain Thomas, being satisfied with the results obtained, gave the order for independent firing on the port beam. In this practice the gunners themselves sight and fire the guns; but the distance was ascertained by Captain Thomas by a trial shot from the Nordenfelts. Only three shots were fired, the distances varying from 1,550 to 1,700 yards. The target was not hit; but two of the projectiles fell close to it, and would have struck a vessel lying in the same position. The target was drifting with the tide. Had it been stationary the results would have been better.
At about 11 o'clock Captain Thomas signalled for the other ships to form in column of division line, and in that information they steamed towards Queenscliff. On reaching the pile light they lay-to, and Captain Thomas then gave orders for the disposition of the fleet. The Albert was sent to Dromana, with instructions to engage in signalling practice by the electric light with the Victoria at Queenscliff. The Cerberus was to lie off Queenscliff and to exchange signals in the same way with the forts. The other ships of the squadron were ordered to remain at the north end of the West Channel, and to go through a programme of routine drill drawn out for them by Captain Thomas.
The first trial trip of the Cerberus is arranged to take place to-day, and the monitor is to leave her anchorage at 1 p.m. for the purpose of steaming a few miles down the bay and trying her guns. For this purpose it is proposed that her skeleton crew shall be assisted by a few men of the Naval Reserve. Judging from a question put in the Legislative Assemply last night, it would seem that some of our legislators are anxious to be on board during the trial, but it may be surmised that they know not what they ask. The vessel is to be put in fighting trim, and thus all visitors will have to be either on the flying deck, which can only accomodate a few; or on the fighting deck, which, being only 3½ ft. above the water's edge, is washed by the sea at nearly every movement of the vessel, supposing there is a breath of wind; or in one of the compartments below, where they can see nothing, and the accomodations are not of the most attractive sort. However, the affair is one resepecting which a good deal of interest is naturally excited.
"Opposite the centre of the annexe is an exhibit sent by the military authorities, and showing miniature batteries guns and bridges. The full-sized exhibits consist of a Gatling gun and numerous Martini-Henry rifles, cutlasses, shot and shell. There is also a show case containing all the component parts of swords, rifles, revolvers and carbines. Each separate part has affixed to it a ticket which explains its use. This exhibit was sent by Major Sargood, by whom it was received from the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield, England. There is a case containing every part of various kinds of firearms in all stages of completion."
THE special correspondent of the European Mail gives the following particulars of a visit to the Victorian ironclad Cerberus:—
They told me how the Cerberus was built by Messrs. Palmer and Co., of Jarrow-on-Tyne; and that she was sans doute the finest specimen of armour-plated ship yet constructed. They told me that, contrary to report, there was no difficulty experienced in getting a crew together to take her out. That a crew of about sixty-nine men had been procured, at £3 per month. That she has nearly completed the shipment of her sea stores in Chatham Harbor, and will shortly be ready to take her departure, in charge of Navigating Lieutenant C. H. Panker(sic). Moreover, that she is furnished with two Martin anchors, each of 45 cwt, in lieu of the ordinary anchors.
I peeped into the sleeping berths of the officers, looked curiously at the exquisite arrangement of bells, telegraph wires, speaking pipes, and so on, with which the Cerberus is provided in perhaps greater profusion, and certainly with much more order, than a flrst-class hotel. I noticed how each department and compartment, each great space and little space, was marked and distinguished by plain black letters on shining tables of brass. How, in spite of the confusion, incident, unavoidably, to her almost instant departure, every portion of the ship, above and below, was clean, regular, orderly, and compact.
I crawled into the turrets, and saw how, by the turning of a small handle, the two great guns can be raised or depressed to a quarter of an inch. I watched the seamen taking from a lighter alongside, and carrying forward to their proper home in the hold, certain iron cylinders, each about the size of a big man's hat, which I was told was "case shot." I saw the shot and shell for the great guns, and the racks for the seamen's muskets, not yet on board; and then, as a sort of cap and finish and glorification to my visit, I drank success to the Cerberus in a glass—a good large glass—of the ship's own sherry, and very good sherry it was.
I told you I was somewhat dazed with figures. After a while, however, my daze grew into intelligibility; and for the benefit of such of our trans-oceanic friends as are fond of statistics, here is the result:—
The Cerberus carries four guns of 18 tons weight (two in each turret) with raised breastwork. Her length between perpendiculars is 225 feet; breadth for tonnage, 45 feet depth in hold, 16 feet 6 inches for tonnage, 2017 23-94 tons; draught of water, 15 feet 6 inches, forward and aft; H.P., 260. She does not carry sails, and when fully armed will present the precise appearance of a Monitor. She is constructed on the "bracket-frame" principle, with an inner and outer bottom, being watertight, her double bottom divided into watertight compartments of about 24 feet long. The thickness of her bottom plating is ½ inch, with lap joints and butt straps; the thickness of iron armour on her sides is 6 inches below the water line, and 8 inches above it. The depth of backing is 11 inches behind the 6-inch armour, and 9 inches behind the 8-inch armour, and tapered to 6 inches at the stem and stern. The skin plating on the frames is in two thicknesses of 1 inch each, the frames behind the armour being 10 inches deep. The armour on the breastwork is 8 inches thick, the backing 10 inches thick. The two thicknesses of plating ½ inch each, and frames 10 inches deep, with a 2 inch lining inside. The height of breastwork above upper deck is about 6 feet; the breastwork is plated with two thick nesses of plates ½ inch each, and the deck-flat 3¾ inch oak, the beams 7 inches deep. The beams of the upper deck are 9 inches deep, the length of the breastwork is about 112 feet. She has a flying-deck 8 feet 3 inches above her breastwork deck, supported by large bracket frames; the flying-deck is 2½ inches thick. Her turrets are two in number, 26 feet 2 inches extreme diameter, carrying, as already stated, two 10 inch guns in each. The turrets are worked by steam and by hand. The armour of the turrets is 9 inches thick, and in wake of guns 10 inches, and backing 10 inches thick, skin plating in two thicknesses of ½ inch each. The turrets are 8 feet 9 inches deep in the clear. The diameter in the clear 21 feet. The frames of the turrets are 10 inches deep. The ship carries about 23O tons of coal. Her freeboard is 3 feet 6 inches, that is the height of the top of upper deck above the water.
Further, I may state that the Cerberus may be steered either from the open wheel or from a wheel within the breastwork, so that in time of action the men are thoroughly protected. In case of need, the ship can be immersed eighteen inches, and thus present less freeboard exposed to the enemy. By the special arrangements adopted, the captain has all parts of the vessel immediately under his control, and such is the perfection of the whole, that even in action, every man's safety is carefully looked after and provided for. In the event of one screw breaking, the ship can be propelled by the other, and so complete is the steering and screw apparatus, that, like a first-class chariot, she can turn in her own length. The Cerberus was originally designed for a speed of 8½ knots an hour, but on her trial trip she went 10 knots, or 1½ beyond her contract speed. She is the best armoured, the best arranged, and the best ventilated turret ship yet completed.
Well, now I am going to say something I have hitherto carefully avoided saying. The Cerberus does carry masts and sails, cordage, and upper decks, and poop cabins, and all the accommodation of an ordinary man of war, handsomely furnished, fully provided, and completely manned. But the sails and cordage, &c. &c.., are only temporary, and when the Cerberus arrives in Hobson's Bay, they will all be removed, and nothing will be seen above the decks but the two turrets, with their quiet looking but death dealing cannons!
And now just a word on the turret principle, about the merits of which there are several opinions. Mr. E. J. Reed, the late Chief Constructor to the Navy, has written a long letter respecting the [HMS] Captain. He denies being an antagonist to the turret system or to rigged turret ships; on the contrary, he deprecates any improper reaction from the Captain's loss driving the Government either to the abandonment of rigged seagoing turret ships, or to the building of such ships with unnecessarily lofty sides. His conviction is that the Captain herself has shown that we need not necessarily make another rigged turret ship so high sided as the Monarch. His position is this:— The Captain has been lost in consequence of her side being much too low (only 6½ feet at low draught) for a 4000-ton rigged ship of the ordinary form, carrying a large spread of canvas, and with her weights disposed in the usual way. He alleges that the Captain never encountered that extreme weather which naval architects are bound to provide against in Her Majesty's ships. "I believe," he adds, "that if poor Captain Coles were still among us, he would fully assent to the above propositions, and thus the old feud would be brought to an end. We erred, perhaps, on the right side in the Monarch; he erred on the wrong side of the Captain; with our present experience there need be no further error on either side." On asking my courteous friends whether the Cerberus was free from the risk run by the Captain, they smiled pleasantly, and simutaneouly said "NO!" And not content with that simple denial, Mr. Williamson demonstrated, with chalk on a board, that such an accident was not only unlikely but absolutely impossible.