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Victorian Naval Forces Muster

for the Colony of Victoria. (muster range 1853-1910)*


Last Name:Roberts
First Name:William
Birth Date: 00-00-1866
Branch:Victorian Navy

William Roberts



The Argus, 23 February 1894

A seaman named William Roberts sustained serious injury on board H.M.V.S. Cerberus yesterday by the bursting of a flywheel. The moorings were being examined, and Roberts was standing near the winch, when the fly wheel of the donkey engine burst, and its fragments were scatted in every direction. One large piece struck Roberts behind the left shoulder, and inflicted a terrible wound. The shoulder blade was smashed, and Dr Bryant, who was sent for, ordered the immediate removal of the patient to the Melbourne Hospital. It was at first feared that the arm would have to be amputated, but Dr. Ryan, assisted by Mr. Strong, performed an operation, and it was so successful that it is believed the arm will be saved. An examination of the fragments of the fly wheel has not shown the cause of the accident, and as the work that was being performed was not heavy no explanation of the mishap can be readily given. Roberts is a married man with a wife and two children, residing at Port Melbourne.

A SETTLEMENT has been effected in the case of Roberts against the Defence authorities. In January of last year Roberts sustained injuries through the breaking of some machinery on the H.M.V.S. Cerberus, and accordingly lodged a claim for compensation. The sum of £200 was placed upon the estimates and duly passed. He will also be given light work at the Williamstown Naval depot for the present, and transferred in the capacity of messenger to some branch of the public service when a vacancy occurs.


The Argus, 16 February 1895


Not long after this we started to get up The “Cerberus” moorings, so they could be examined and be sure they were safe, it was a hard heavy job. The cables being very large, a punt with sheer legs and steam winch was got from the Harbour Trust for the work. I was one of the working party told off for this job and I didn’t care much for it as it would be a very dirty job, the cables being covered with mussels and salt. When I first went to the punt, I noticed that the big wheel of the winch was cracked as I pointed it out to the gunner who was in charge of us & the job. He looked at it, and reckoned it was safe enough as Harbour had used it, but I didn’t think it was safe enough to get up the heavy moorings of the “Cerberus”, others agreed with me. But he was in charge of the job and all we could do was to carry on, we worked all that morning and then knocked off for dinner. After dinner we started again at the moorings, and expected to finish the job before four o’clock. We hadn’t been working half an hour when the big cog wheel of the winch flew to pieces. The heavy cable was too much for it, bits of the wheel flew in all directions. One piece of iron just missed the gunners head and cut a piece out of ,one of the sheer legs. Others of the working party had narrow escapes but one man was hit, his shoulder was smashed by a large piece of iron. He was and taken to hospital. His was so badly smashed that they wanted to remove his arm as it would be quite useless to him, but he wouldn’t have the arm removed. He got better at last, but his arm was just hanging useless at his side. He was invalided out of the service and given a job at gate keeping in the dock yards, he got some compensation as well. The job he got was a life time one.

Another punt was got, and care was taken that nothing like that occurred again. But it wouldn’t have happened had they sent the Punt back when the flaw in the wheel of the winch was discovered. We all learn a lot by an accident. We completed the job next day and I wasn’t sorry it was over.


Made available by Betty Cromb, the grand daughter of James Bryance Conder.

* 1853 is given as the commencement date for the Victorian Navy as this is the year that Commander Lockyer (RN) went to Britain to superintend the building of HMCS Victoria.
Although the Victorian Navy ended in 1901 the career of Cerbeus etc continued. In 1910 the new ships started arriving & manning levels increased.

Information & photographs of men who served in the Victorian Naval Forces is eagerly sought. Please contact the webmaster.