Yesterday morning the hulk of the old iron-clad Cerberus was towed from her berth at the Williamstown pier, where everything of value had been removed from her, and sunk off the Black Rock jetty to form a breakwater for the yachts and fishing boats. Although the ultimate fate of the Cerberus was decided some time ago, when the Black Rock Yacht Club purchased it for £150 and resold it for the same amount to the municipal council under an agreement that it should be used as a breakwater, the date of the final move was indefinite. This was because the vice-president of the Marine Board (Mr. George Kermode), under whose direction the vessel was sunk, did not wish to carry out the somewhat difficult task until the opportunity afforded by perfect weather conditions presented itself.
For this reason the sight of the strange flotilla that appeared off Half Moon Bay shortly after 9 o'clock took residents somewhat by surprise. The word, however, was passed round swiftly, and soon the cliffs were thronged by interested spectators, who saw approaching the grey, squat hull, towed by the tugs Agnes and Minah, and preceded by the Plover and a motor-boat to mark the mooring. By 10 o'clock what was left of the Cerberus had been towed and coaxed by the tugs to within 400 yards of the jetty, where her bow was made fast to the existing breakwater, and the stern was slowly swung into position and secured to a temporary mooring. The operation had been timed for high water, when there is a depth of 15ft. on the bank selected for the breakwater, and it was estimated that the Cerberus was drawing nearly 14ft. Immediately the hull was made fast three seacocks were opened, and the flooding of the vessel began. Dingys put off from the jetty, and the harbour master's motor-boat took off a large crowd of excited small boys who swarmed over the decks and down below to watch the rising water. The Cerberus sank almost imperceptibly, going down slightly by the stern. There was a large amount of scrap iron and odds and ends of useless gear, and visitors took away weighty bolts and nuts as souvenirs, after peeping into the turrets to inspect the heavy rusting guns.
Attention has of late been seriously directed to the unprotected condition of our colonial ports in case the mother country should be involved in war. The Australian colonies are especially deserving of consideration in this respect, because, as in proportion to the extent of the coast-line the harbours of Australia are few in number, an active enemy might, even without venturing on any offensive movements, cause immense loss and suffering by simply blockading the ports. Thus Port Jackson, on which Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is situated, is practically the only outlet of importance for the entire colony; and the same observation applies even more forcibly to the colony of Victoria, as Melbourne and Geelong, the two chief seaport towns, are both situated on the shores of Port Phillip, which, although in itself a wide expanse of water some forty miles across is approached from the sea through a narrow neck scarcely a mile in width.
A colony thus situated, and unprovided with either ships or forts, might evidently, as far as its seagoing commerce is concerned, be held at the mercy of a single hostile vessel. Of late, however, the Victorians have been aroused to a sense of their danger, and although, in consequence of the laying aside of the Forts and Armaments Bill, it has not been possible to carry out the whole of Sir William Jervois' report relative to the defence of Port Phillip Heads, nevertheless steps have been taken to put the port into a better state of defence.
The Cerberus, ironclad turret-ship, was purchased last year by the Victorian Government. She is now under the command of Captain Colebrooke Mandeville, lately retired as Commander from the Royal Navy, and has a full crew on board. She was recently inspected by Commodore Hoskins, R.N., who was satisfied with her efficiency. The line-of-battle ship Nelson also is to be cut down so as to make a frigate of her, in which case, as her draught of water will be reduced, she will be much more useful than she is now, and will be able to take an active part in the defence of the port. The batteries at the Heads, are also being strengthened; two 12-ton 9-inch guns having been sent down to Queenscliff, together with four 80-pounder Armstrong guns. The two heavy guns will be placed in position so as to command the entrance to the Heads as far round as Point Lonsdale; while the 80-pounder guns will take the place of the lighter ordnance now in the batteries.
Our engraving is from photographs kindly furnished by Mrs. Mandeville, St. James's, Tunbridge Wells.
H.M.V.S. Cerberus has this week been floated out of the Alfred Graving Dock, Williamstown, she is having, for the past fortnight been there docked undergoing her customary bi-annual overhauling. I waited upon Commandant Tickle whilst the vessel lay in dock, and through that gentleman's courtesy, as also his subordinate officers, was put in possession of some highly important facts and figures anent the long-proposed and urgently-needed rectifications requisite to bring this vessel, in many respects obsolete in arnament at present, up to modern fighting pitch. I secured some considerable and important correspondence that has recently passed between the commandant and the Minister of Defence on the subject, and have pleasure in placing the same at service of the public since I consider such essentially a public matter, the man in the street unfortunately being but little cognisant of such things, whereas he should surely be letter perfect in matters pertaining more or less to the future defence of the country of which he forms an unit. Probably there is no better and more enthusiastic authority upon such matters than the above official, commandant Tickle having his whole heart and soul in the subject upon which he is so competent to speak.
It may not be inappropriate and uninteresting to here briefly describe the cardinal characteristics of this well-known Victorian bull-dog, I having exhaustively inspected her … lock, stock and barrel, from imbibing the ozone from her watch-tower to spoiling a suit of clothes crawling about with lighted candle between her two bottoms. Altogether the visit was exceptionally interesting, and should prove similarly so to most of the Chronicle readers, more especially now when the atmosphere is rife with wars and rumors of wars.
The excellent condition of the vessel is surprising to novices and authorities alike. Her hull is almost as perfect as upon the day she was built, and this is the case with almost every portion of the vessel. As but few know, the vessel is provided with two bottoms, separated by a space of from three to four feet under water, thus presenting a considerably lessened target for the fire of the enemy. Both bottoms are in a state of surprising preservation.
The Cerberus is classed as a turret coast defence ship, with maximum speed at building of 9.75 knots, though at different times during the stay in Australian waters she has exceeded 10 knots. Her two sister ships, the Abyssinia and the Magdala, are at present stationed with the Indian squadron. They are, and have been from their building fitted with breech-loading armament.
In the armament of the Cerberus, and in other respects, there is plenty of room and to spare for improvement before Victorians can sleep peacefully upon their pillows during the long expected sea invasion, with the consciousness that the Cerberus is fighting their battles for them, and fighting them in modern style. At present she carries four 10 inch muzzle-loading guns placed within the two revolving turrets, four 14 pounders, two 6 pounders, quick firers, and four barrelled machine guns. The first-named altogether obsolete, the rest comparatively modern. It is of the muzzle-loaders, and their suggested modern substitutes we wish to treat.
They are contained within two revolving turrets, which without doubt form by far the most interesting portion of the vessel. Each turret with its contents weigh 260 tons yet by the manipulation of a small engine, or if that fail, even by hand, this prodigious mass is caused to revolve smoothly and easily upon its 26 rollers, each of which weighs 56lbs, in one minute. The object, of course, is to admit of the guns being pointed in any direction. The turrets themselves are built of 11 inches of solid iron, backed by 10 inches of bolted oak, with a space between this and the inner iron wall to prevent damage to the guns within by splinters from the oak.
The guns themselves are 18 tons each in weight, have a hitting distance of 4,800 yards and fire one shot every three minutes, the projectile containing 400 4 oz bullets, and requiring 46lbs powder. Each gun requires 12 men to work it, which is one of the disadvantages, as will be seen by the detailed comparison below. The power is hydraulic. They are valued at £10,000 but in these days of quick-firing breech-loaders are literally worthless from the point of comparison. It is in these guns rectification is mainly essential, a small outlay £5,000 being further necessary for the purposes of new steam steering gear, the present being hydraulic driven, and in dangerously exposed part or (sic) the vessel. The new gear would be built below the water line. The same fact applies to the electric light installation which, if damaged by an enemy's shell, at present extremely probable, would throw the whole vessel into complete darkness. This would also be provided for in the above sum.
The improvement in the armament would require four 6 inch quick-firing breech-loading guns to replace the four 10 inch M.L. turret guns, the estimated cost of which when placed in position is £20,000, made up as follows;-
four 6 inch Q.F. guns, £10,000;
packing and delivering, £600;
altering gun fittings to suit turrets £500;
erection on board, £1,400
- Total £20,000.
They would also enable staff at present employed to work the old-time guns to be more profitably employed elsewhere.
The further and more obvious advantages of modern armament over ancient may be seen at a glance by the following comparative table of range, power of the 10inch M.L.R. and 6inch Q.F. Guns, which we shall class respectively as Nos 1 and 2:-
| No. 1|
(10 inch RML)
| No. 2|
(6 inch Gun)
|Distance||4,800 yards||10,000 yards|
|Number of rounds fired in four minutes||one||eight|
|Charges of powder||70 lbs black powder||25 lbs smokeless cordite|
|Penetration of wrought iron at 1,000 yards||11.7 inches||14.5 inches|
|Weight of metal fired in four minutes||400 lbs||816 lbs|
|Burster charges of shells||46 lbs, powder||131 lbs, 12 ozs, lyddite|
Thus will be seen by the veriest novice in such matters the almost immeasurable advantages that would accrue from £25,000 worth of improvements, which would give us a thoroughly modern fighting vessel, competent to combat vessels of the same class. The figures speak for themselves, perhaps more conclusively than any further arguments we can use had we the space to do so.
For the first time since the introduction of iron-clad vessels into the navies of the world have we to chronicle the feat of one of them having unassisted circumnavigated the globe.
Contrary to all expectations, Lieut. Panter has succeeded in bringing the iron-clad monitor Cerberus into Hobson's Bay before the mail steamer arrived. According to his last advice, dated Galle, he was in hopes that he would arive in Melbourne by the middle of April, and it was therefore expected that the incoming mail would have brought news of the departure of the erberus from King George's Sound, but to the surprise of everybody telegrrams were recieved from Cape Otway about five p.m. on Saturday, stating that the erberus was off the Cape. This out everybody on the qui vive, and, at an early hour on Sunday a sharp look out was kept for the arrival in Hobson's Bay of the latest addition to the Victorian Navy. Nothing however, was seen of her until about twelve o'clock when her hull was seen looming in the West Channel, and by half past twelve o'clockshe had passed the lightship, and shortly after bought up off Williamstown, about two cables lengths astern of the Nelson.
When she was first sighted down the Bay, Captain Payne, chief harbour master, and Mr. Call, P.M., put off in the harbour boat, and proceeded to meet her, but beyond this no official notice was taken of her arrival; and coming out, as she did,under the merchant flag, she was only boarded in the usual manner by the customs authorities. Some little recognition of her quality was however given as she steamed past the Nelson, the boys of which manned the rigging and saluted her with three hearty cheers, the ensign being dipped at the same time. Shortly after her anchoring Captain Koltovakoy, of H.I.R.M.S. Haydamack, sent an officer on board with his compliments to Lieutenant Panter, but some little doubt exists as to whether this was in strict accordance with naval ettiquette, the Cerberus at present only flying the merchant flag. It was, however, a graceful comp;iment on the part of the Russian Captain, and as such should be appreciated.
No sooner had the iron-clad anchored in the Bay than the news was disseminated throughout the suburbs, and there was a general rush to Sandridge in order to have a look at the novelty. The boatmen at the pier drove a roaring trade, and in a very short time the decks of the vessel were crowded with a throng of gaily dressed pleasure seekers, who swarmed over every part from hurricane deck to stoke hole. The crew were very obliging, and eager to show the visitors over every part; but owing to the crush, it was impossible for everything to be seen at one view.
As the Russian corvette Haydamack was gaily dressed with flags, it was currently believed that this was done as a compliment to the Cerberus. Such, however, was not the fact, the vessel having been decorated at an earlier hour in the morning in consequence of its being Easter Sunday, which day is a great holiday in Russia.
Upon approaching the Cerberus, great dissapointment was expressed at her appearance, which at present is so very different from what we Victorians had been led to expect by the description and photographs received of her. She now loooks like an elongated gasometer fitted with masts and yards, and sent to sea on an experimental cruise.
Her sides, of iron, are perfectly straight from the water's edge to the top of the bulwarks, her stem and stern being precisely similar, and she now floats with a side of about eleven foot above the water's edge. She will, however, present a totally different appearance when the top hamper which was put upon her to allow of her being safely navigated to this port, is removed. Her deck will then be only about two feet above the water's edge, only showing her fighting turrets, funnel, ventilators, and armor(sic) plated pilot-houses.
To commence with the history of this iron-plated vessel, it may be said that about two years since an arrangement was made by the Victorian Government with the Imperial Government for the construction of a turret guard ship for the port of Melbourne to be maintained by the Victorian Government.
Designs were accordingly made by Mr. E.J. Reed C.B., Chief Constructor of the Navy, and the work entrusted to Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow-on-Tyne.
This vessel was the Cerberus, and is the first vessel of her particular class that has been completed. She is described as an iron-plated twin screw turret ship with monitor deck and raised breastwork. Her dimensions are as follows:- Length, 335 feet over all, breadth of beam 45 feet, depth of hold, 16½ ft and with a registered tonnage of 2108 tons. The peculiarities of this vessel are that her sides, from some feet below the water line to the gunwale of the main or monitor deck, are covered with solid armor(sic) plates, 8 in. thick, with teak backing, and a strong framework behind.
The main or monitor deck, when the vessel is in her proper trim will be about 2 ft above the water line, although at present forming a second or lower deck. When in her normal condition, therefore, the only thing presented to the fire of an opponent would be the two turrets, the pilot house, companion and funnel, all of which are armor (sic) plated. The whole of these are contained in what is termed breastwork, which rises about 7 ft. above the main deck. The breast work is constructed of iron, covered with teak, and faced with armour plates 9 in. thick, so as to render it invulnerable. At each end of the breastwork rise the fighting turrets, each of which contains two 400 pounder Woolwich muzzle loading rifled guns, lying parallel to one and other, their muzzles projecting through small port holes in the turrets. Above the breastwork is another and smaller deck, which is supported on stout iron stanchions. From this deck access is obtained to the interior of the breastwork by means of two small companions, and where at present the steering apparatus for use in fine weather is fixed.
There is also two large ventilators for applying fresh air to the lower portion of the vessel in action, in each of which ventilators is fixed two pair of revolving fans worked by a small steam engine. The Cerberus is well supplied with engines, having no less than 12 in all. Four of these are employed in working the fans for ventilation purposes. Two are used for revolving turrets when in action, one is used for hoisting up the ash from the stoke hole, one is used for heaving up the anchor if required, and the other four are for working the twin screws. These latter consist of two pairs of horizontal double piston rod low pressure marine steam engines, with jacketed boilers, surface condensers, and double acting air-pumps of the power of 250 horses, each engine being 62½ horse power. These engines work twin screws, of four blades, one fixed, on each quarter of the vessel, and are also supplied with five tubular boilers.
The weight of these engines is 80 tons, and of the boilers 93 tons. When tried at the measured mile in Stoke's Bay, the greatest speed attained was at the rate of 7½ knots per hour, but this was beaten coming up the Bay yesterday, when a speed of 9½ knots was attained with a full head of steam. The armament of the Cerberus consists of four 18 ton Woolwich muzzle loading rifled guns of 10 inch bore. These guns weigh 18 tons each, and carry a shot weighing 400 pounds, being the largest guns yet seen in this colony. The total weight of her broadside is 1600 lbs, and to supply the necessary material for these guns she carries 360 common shell, 24 Shrapnell(sic) shell, and 30 case shot.
The guns are contained in the two armour-plated turrets previously spoken of, which revolve by means of two small steam engines. When in action the captain is seconded in a separate turret, which has small slots, from which he has a fair view of what is going on around. From this turret speaking pipes communicate with the two gun turrets, the engine room, and the helmsman, who is stationed within the breastwork below out of harm's way. The officer in charge of each turret receives orders from the captain by means of a telegraph, and having laid his guns to the required elevation, fires them simultaneously by means of a small handle communicating with the trigging gun. The centre of the guns can be raised or lowered at pleasure by means of a very simple contrivance, and the elevating screw at the breech of the gun is easily worked by one man. The heavy recoil of the gun is prevented by indiarubber cushions of great thickness, which received the whole weight of the gun after firing. It might be anticipated that the explosion of such a charge would fill the turret with smoke, but such is not the case, the muzzles of the guns projecting far enough from the turret to prevent anything of the kind.
The only smoke in the turret is that issuing from the vent of the gun, which is necessarily small.
The boats carried by the Cerberus are six in number, consisting of one lifeboat, three cutters, one gig, and one dingy. The method of lowering these boats is rather novel in consequence of the davits being attached to the breastwork, and the boats therefore hanging immediately over the main deck, although level with the hurricane deck; but these davits are constructed with a hinge and key, and when the boats are required to be lowered the key is knocked out, and by means of tackle affixed to a purchase stanchion on the hurricane deck, the upper portion of the davits is lowered with the boat until clear of the ship's side, and the boat is then lowered away in the usual manner. In order to bring the vessel out to the colony it was thought advisable to build another deck upon her level with the upper portion of the armor(sic) plated turrets and above this has been raised an iron bulwark in the manner as the merchant ships.
The whole of this will, however, have to be altered, the masts and yards at present in use removed, and small lower spars put in their place, as it is not intended that the Cerberus shall carry any canvas when put to her intended use. During the greater portion of the voyage out the decks have been lumbered up with coal and stores, and in order to counterbalance the extreme weight thus thrown aloft, water has been pumped into the bottom of the vessel, in order to keep her steady when in a heavy seaway, but, owing to her flat bottom this has been found almost impossible.
The proposed number of crew, including officers, is 155, but at present she has not that number, owing to several changes which have taken place at various ports on the route, where men have been left behind in consequence of their unwillingness to proceed further on the voyage in such a strange vessel. This does not appear strange upon close examination of the ship as she at present appears. Her decks are low. and air within them close and stifling. Outside the iron-clad breastwork and within the present temporary side of the ship, is a narrow passage, running the greater portion of the ship's length, in which there is not the slightest ventilation, and, as at present constructed, this appears to be one great defect in the vessel. Going aft, however, the officers quarters are found to be far more airy and comfortable, thus leading to the supposition that, while the comforts of the gentlemen living abaft the mainmast has been attended to, that of the foremast hands has not been thought worthy of attention.
The officers at present on board are :- Lieut. Panter, R.N. command; Mr. A. Wigney, first officer; Mr. W. Levy, third officer; Dr. J.J. Macan, surgeon; Mr. H. Leslie, chief engineer; and messrs J.H. Williamson and Campbell, passengers. These two gentlemen have come out on the Cerberus to take charge of the dismantling of her, and place her in proper condition, before she is finally handed over to the Victorian Government, although they have nominally the sole control of her. Both these gentlemen are in the service of the Imperial Government, and at, the conclusion of this business for which they have taken this long voyage, they will at once return to England.
It may not be out of place to mention that the total weight of the Cerberus, as she at present lies in Hobson's Bay, is 3396 tons, but this will reduce to 3169 tons upon the removal of the top hamper, which has been built upon her, and weighing no less than 227 tons. The total of the Cerberus until her arrival in Hobson's Bay may safely be put down at £150,000, but of course this does not include the amount necessary to put her in proper condition for active service, which will necessarily swell the bill to the tune of a few more thousand.
With reference to the passage of this unique vessel of war, we may remark, that twelve months has scarcely elapsed since Lieut. Panter left these shores for the purpose of bringing out the Cerberus to Port Phillip Bay.
He left Melbourne by the English mail on 24th of April, 1870 and has consequently arrived within a fortnight of the twelve months.
When on his way to england he successfully made arrangements with the necessary authorities for the Cerberus to pass through the Suez Canal.
He arrived in England in June, and at once reported himself at the Admiralty, presenting his credentials from the Victorian Government authorising him to take charge of and bring out the new war ship.
A long wearisome delay thereupon took place in order to decide under what flag the Cerberus should be sent out, as there was no precedent for a ship of her class being navigated under the merchant flag. This question was not satisfactorily settled until the early part of October 1870, the ship meanwhile lying at Chatham fitting up.
During the whole of these five months Lieutenant Panter was unremitting in his attention to his duties, not being absent from the ship for more than forty-eight hours.
At last the business of taking in stores for the outward voyage was commenced; but at this time only twenty-five men had been shipped, and as the shot weighed 400lb each, the work was necessarily slow. When the Cerberus was handed over to Lieutenant Panter by the Admiralty, there was not a single article in the way of stores on board of her, and he therefore had the whole of his work to do to get the vessel ready for sea. At this stage of the proceedings another piece of red tapeism cropped up, and Captain Chamberlain, superintendent, objected to the vessel being supplied with provisions from the yard, as they did not come under the title of stores. This question had to be referred to the Admiralty, entailing a further delay of three weeks, but at last the matter was decided in Lieut. Panter's favor (sic). Everything being on board ready for sea, it was discovered that the two shot rooms were on the one side of the vessel, and 40 tons of shot having been taken on board against 20 tons of powder on thew other side, the vessel had a strong list of six degrees.
Another communication was forwarded to the Admiralty, requesting them to have this defect remedied, as the vessel was to be handed over in good condition.
A reply was received from the Admiralty instructing him to fill up one of the watertight compartments, so as to bring the vessel on an even keel.
Lieutenant Panter however, objected to this course, and after some little further delay the officials at the Admiralty agreed to remedy the defect, which caused a further delay of four days.
All these little inconveniences having been adjusted, the Cerberus proceeded down the river to Sheerness to adjust her compasses, which were found to have a deviation of 66 degrees. This matter being setttled, on 29th October the Cerberus made her fair start on her voyage, the first port of call being Plymouth. In the Downs, however, she met with a stiff gale of wind, which, with a heavy head sea, tried all her seagoing powers, and kept her lower deck thoroughly washed the whole time. Indeed, to such an extent the latter process carried that the whole of the twenty-five men comprising the crew were consequently employed in baling the deck out with buckets.
During this gale the vessel was perfectly unmanageable, as she would neither steer nor steam more than 1½ knots per hour, but as the cause of this was set down to her trim, it would be fully anticipated that the next port would put the matters right. Spithead was at last reached, and, as showing the heavy weather then prevailing, it may be mentioned that on the day following no less than sixty vessels put into the anchorage through stress of weather.
Proceeding thence to Plymouth, which was to be the final port of departure from the English coast, the crew of able seamen was increased from twenty-five to sixty-five, although the announced los of H.M.S. Captain militated strongly against a full compliment of men being taken on board, the port was left on the 7th November. Two days afterwards a very heavy breeze sprang up, which lasted until the 12th. During this time the Cerberus behaved in a very bad manner, rolling so heavily that on one occasion the bilge pieces were fairly thrown out of the water. the ship rolled quite 45 degrees each way, and it is a current rumor (sic) in the ship that a man who was asleep on the lockers at the time she rolled so heavily was thrown about thirty feet without touching the ground. At this time the only canvas shown was a closed reefed main trysail with the head hauled in and a staysail or fore trysail used occasionally. Even with this canvas and the steam it was found almost impossible to keep the vessel head to wind, and Lieut. Panter puts this down to one of the worst gales he has experienced.
Upon arriving at Gibraltar a few days subsequently he was told it was a far heavier gale than the one in which the Captain was lost, and surprise was envinced that he had not to cut away his masts.
This was particularly stated, as he carried 1900 tons above the water mark, and only 1800 tons below the water line. The admiral at gibraltar told him that he should not allow his vessel to roll more than ten degrees before he cut his masts away, but this advice he had not found it necessary to carry out. Fine weather was experienced through the Mediterrainian Seas, and also through the Suez Channel and Red Sea, and our latest advice from Galle, dated 2nd March, stated that the Cerberus would leave two days subsequently. This turned out to be correct and variable north-east winds with fine weather were experienced to Batavia.
A short stay having been made a start was made for Australia, but strong N.W. winds and heavy weatherwere met with to N.E. Cape, from whose fine weather was experienced to Freemantle. A departure was taken from thence to King George's Sound on the 19th March, the latter port being left on 30th ult, and an arrival made here on Sunday.
Australian Illustrated News,
May 20, 1871.
The turret ship Cerberus, with her four 18 ton guns (400 pounders), is now in a thoroughly efficient state. The engines, including those for working the turrets, the steering gear, and the capstan are in perfect order. The turrets revolve noiselessly and swiftly, making a complete revolution in 39 seconds. A small starboard after boiler was recently found to be somewhat defective, but this has been repaired, and with the remaining boilers are now in good condition. Captain Mandeville found that the "conning tower" - that is the tower from which the commanding officer fights the ship - was very much confined, and he has had that defect remedied by having a cupola fitted to it. This can be raised or lowered at pleasure by means of screws.
Hitherto, there has been no place aloft from which a "look-out" could be kept, but Captain Mandeville has obtained permission from the Government to step an iron mast, with a circular "top", or platform. On this will be placed a Gatling gun, which has been ordered from England, and the electric light will also be shown from this "top" at night time for torpedo work. This mast if fitted with a derrick will be found useful in many ways.
The painting at right, by James Millett, shows the conning tower with cupola, military mast and a single gun. (possibly a nordenfelt)