Interview with Captain Panter

as conducted by Sir George Vernon, The Hon. G.V. Smith and The Hon G. Berry.
in June, July & August 1875. ¹

Attacking vessel quality. Boarding risk. Going outside the Heads.
Gun Practise. Lighting Pope's Eye.
Spare Gun Speed Steering.
Turrets strength. ENTIRE INTERVIEW.


355. Suppose it would be necessary for the Cerberus to fall back for the defence of the second line, how long would it take for the Cerberus to get from the Heads to Hobson's Bay by the South Channel, or, to it in another way, at what rate can the Cerberus steam?

If she could come up full speed - 10 knots - she has done as much as 10¾ ; but coming through the channel you would have to take into consideration that no buoys would be laid down; putting it down at five knots an hour through the channels with the buoys up, she would take about five or six hours coming up.

356. You consider she may be safely counted as having a speed of ten knots?

Yes, in a case of an emergency.

4287. What was your speed yesterday?

She was steaming about seven knots some of the time, about four to seven.

4288. Can you increase it to ten?


4289. In what manner?

By going full speed. With a clean bottom she has done ten and a half.

Quality of attacking vessel.

357. Do you think from your experience, having brought out the Cerberus to this colony, it is at all likely that any ship of equal weight or power would be despatched to attack this port by a foreign country without running the risk of being stopped on the way by our own fleet?

There is no sea-going vessel afloat carrying such heavy armor which could get through the channels.

358. You think we might safely rely upon the Cerberus, supposing she were efficiently manned and equipped for defence, against any ship likely to come?

I do not think for years to come we shall have a sea-going ship plated as she is, taking into consideration her being a cupola ship.

4279. What is your idea of the weight of the armor of a ship that would come to such a place as this in the event of an attack?

I should think 8-inch plating would be the outside. Any ocean cruiser in the British service with over 8-inch plating could not get through the channels.

4280. With an 8-inch plating ship, what power have you over her with your guns?

I know at 1,000 yards I can penetrate upwards of nine inches, but beyond 1,000 yards I cannot say.

4281. Could you not move closer?

I should probably fire at her with those batteries. I should force her to the batteries or within 500 yards of me. I could then penetrate ten inches.

Going outside the Heads

385. The Cerberus was built expressly for harbor defence, and not intended for sea-going at all?

Just so.

386. If the Heads were blockaded, could not she go out far enough to raise the blockade?

I do not think it would be advisable to take her through the Rip when there was a heavy sea on. At the same time, there are days when she could and would go out.

387. For how many days steaming could she carry coal?

Steaming full speed, five days' coal; but I have never used anything like that, and it is not likely ever to be used.

388. What danger would you apprehend from her going out through the Rip in heavy weather?

The sea would perhaps break over the tops of the turrets and wash away the covers, and the water would get into her in that way.

389. It appears, in the case of a vessel tried the other day in one of the South American republics, several seas washed over the highest portion of her turrets, and there was no inconvenience experienced from that?

If she was rolling towards the sea, and she was struck then, the water would rise over the covers and go down the funnel, and perhaps put the fires out. In any bad weather the water on her decks could never sink her.

Gun Practise

395. So that in effect you think the bay could be well defended by the Cerberus and the torpedo corps?

I do. I think it is most desirable to have those forts in conjunction, but at the same time I could hold vessels in check a long time without them.

427. How frequently do you practice with the turret guns?

In summer about once in six weeks; in winter, once a quarter.

436. Then the cost will always be an obstacle in the way of constant practice?

I think so; but I think that is sufficient as regards the actual shot and shell practice once every six weeks, and that is more than is allowed in the Imperial ships.

Strength of Turrets

449. You spoke just now of risk and injury to the machinery of the turrets?


450. Is there danger that it might be so injured as to disable the ship?

Yes, if you do not move the steam lever properly, you will bring the turret up suddenly while it is travelling, and something must go.

451. What is your conclusion from the fact - is it that the ship was not efficiently planned, or that the original design of the ship is so faulty as to make her untrustworthy?

You could not improve her construction, but you want men that thoroughly understand it and are used to it, for it is not only the turrets, that will break down if they are not properly handled.

455. Has no improvement been devised in the revolution of the turrets since the construction of the Cerberus?

I think not.

456. Would not a shot from the enemy be as likely to interfere with the revolution of you turrets as it is in the accident cases?

It has been tried with the heaviest guns known without effect, firing at close quarters - at 50 yards off - and firing at angles so as to take the turret at every angle to turn it round, and it has never had the slightest effect.

457. Striking the turret at the top?

Everywhere, at the side particulary, so as to force it to revolve and make it break the teeth, but it had no effect whatever; and a basin of water was put in to see the effect, and fowls were put in, and the fowls were well and not a drop of water capsized out of the basin.

458. It is only the enemy inside that could injure it?

It is the moving of the machinery improperly; that is the only thing that could disable it.

1872 - Test bombardment of the turretship HMS GLATTON (left) by HMS HOTSPUR,
with the new 25-tons guns.
engraving from The First Ironclads website

Risk of being Boarded

3503. Have you ever contemplated the possibility of an enemy boarding your ship?

They could not do anything if they did. They could only get in by the port holes; but you can run the guns out, and then they cannot get in.

3504. Could not they set fire to her?

There is nothing to burn. She is made of iron.

3505. She is not designed to resist an attack against an enemy landing on her deck?

She is not, and except her guns it is impossible to defend her. If a vessel were lying say 500 yards off, and sent a number of men upon my deck and I sent all my men to defend her, they could shoot off all my men.

3506. Is there any possibility of the Cerberus being taken by an enemy?

Not by boarding. The only way she is likely to be taken is by blowing her up or by her getting on shore.

3307. She would never be taken as a fort and turned against the city?

No; she must be disabled in some way.


3508. How does she steer?

Very badly indeed. It is one of her principal defects.

3509. Can that be remedied?

It can, by having her steered by steam. It is done by all our ships at home. I recommended it here, but no action was taken.

3510. Would it cost much?


3511. Would it be money well laid out?

I think so. I explained it all to the Commodore when he was here, and he wrote to the Admiralty at home, and they sent out plans and specifications for three methods of steering; one, to make her rudder larger; another to put false keels on her to make her draw about three feet more water; and the other was by steam, and I found that the first plan would prevent me putting sufficient men at the wheel to work the helm. I found that the false keels would take away one of the ship's greatest advantages, that is that she can go in to shallower water than any vessel of her power; and then I looked at the steam, and I find that she could be worked by steam, which would cost about £600, and I recommended that an engine should be sent for, but it was not done. The result is that if the vessel is attempted to be used in shallow water she may very likely go on shore in manoeuvring. You are looking through little holes, the men are all down below and cannot see you, and you cannot see them. It is all done by voice-tubes, and if you tell them to put her "hard-a-starboard" and they do so before you can steady her, she may make a lurch and go on shore before you know where you are. Now, if a steamer came in here with a ram the cerberus ought to go into 15 feet water and get out of her reach.

3512. She could be easily be steered by the steam apparatus?

Yes, I could steer her myself.

4282. In firing yesterday did you find a difficulty in steering similar to what you said in your former evidence?

Just the same.

4283. How many men had you at the wheel?


4284. How many men would you require if the improved apparatus was in the vessel?


4285. How much greater power would that give in the turning or firing?

It would be, as far as the action of the helm, instantaneous or next to it, and the vessel would be under control entirely, which she is not now.

4286. Would it help you in speed?

Pope's Eye

4308. Supposing instead of the Cerberus being at the point you propose over here-[pointing to diagram]-where the Cerberus would take up her position, that is somewhere in the vicinity of the Pope's Eye?

No, my position would be under weigh, simply trying to close with the vessel, and I would begin as near the rip as I could. I would work within those three points trying to drive her to the forts, or the forts driving her to me. I would not be stationary.

Spare Gun

3538. You recommend to the Commission that for obvious reasons there ought to be a reserve gun or two as the same weight as this?

Yes; several of those guns have burst, and if one were to burst there is no gun in the colony that I could use.

3539. You estimate the cost of such a gun at about £1,800?


3540. Do you think one or two would be preferable?

I would recommend that guns of that calibre should be mounted in the forts, and, if necessary, one should be taken for the Cerberus.


3499. Did you explain to the Commission on board that it was absolutely necessary, from the construction of the ship, that this drill should be kept up - that is that when prepared for action the men down below must go about from their knowledge of the locality and without light?

It is absolutely necessary that the men should be acquainted with the ship herself and her construction, and her guns and turrets. Of course you saw simply the outside shell of the vessel on Saturday. She is one mass of valves and pipes, and it is not right that I should have to trust to untrained men as I have to do now.

3500. But upon the lower deck have not the men to do the work quite in the dark?

Yes, it is nearly dark.

3501. They must be familiar with the work under the circumstances?


Entire Interview with Captain Panter


Members present :

326. In your report you make suggestions for rendering the naval force efficient; is the Commission to understand it is not efficient now?

Decidedly it is not.

327. Have you reported the inefficiency of the naval force to the Government at any time?

That is the paid crew, yes.

328. That it is not efficient?

I do not mean to say the men are not efficient, but they are quite insufficient in quantity.

329. Is it merely a question of quantity?


330. Have you made a representation to the government upon it?

Two and a half years ago I made a representation.

331. What was the nature of the recommendation that you made?

To increase the crews of the Cerberus and the Nelson, giving me sufficient crew for the Cerberus to fight her guns.

332. What was the result of that application?

It went to the Treasury and I never heard anything more about it.

333. You recommended that the first line of defence should be in the channels at the Heads?


334. And that torpedos should be adopted for it?


335. Do you understand the different types of torpedoes?

Yes, I understand them pretty well.

336. What kind of torpedo would you have at the heads?

The self-acting and electric, both combined; they are the most approved torpedo now.

337. Would you use both in combination?

They are used in combination so that they can be always used at night time or in fogs, and friendly vessels might pass over, if the electric circuit were closed, for perfect safety.

338. When would you lay them down?

As soon as there is any chance of war.

339. How long would it take to that?

If the men were well drilled at it beforehand, I should imagine that two or three days would be sufficient to lay the torpedos down.

340. Do you consider that the colony could safely rely upon a line or two lines of torpedoes at the Heads to keep the ships out?

Yes, perfectly, if covered by batteries on shore; the torpedoes would have to be covered, or else they would be of little use.

341. Are we to understand that torpedoes could be fired with such absolute certainty as to ensure full destruction of a squadron coming through a passage like that of the Heads?

Perfectly so.

342. At what rate does the current set through the channel?

It differs very much, but where they ought to be laid down the current runs about four or five knots, it may be five and a half, not more.

343. And a ship coming in with a fair wind and a tide current helping her, would go in at a good speed?

Yes, at a great pace, but if she strikes a torpedo of course it explodes immediately. I do not think that any officer would be justified in bringing his ship into an enemy's port with a strong flood-tide running.

344. On what experience of the use of torpedoes do you found your conclusion that we could rely on the immediate discharge at the proper moment of a torpedo to blow a squadron into the air?

From trialing accounts of experiments made with them.

345. May we ask the authorities?

One or two accounts of experiments, by gentlemen whose names I do not at this moment remember, and a confidential report made to the Admiralty by a Royal Commission four or five years ago.

346. The question referred rather to actual experience in war?

There is none.

347. Not in some of the American wars?

No, such a thing as a self-acting electric torpedo was not known then - it has been invented since then; they had a few electric torpedoes, but nearly all were self-acting.

348. Supposing that there were torpedoes at the Heads, it would be necessary to protect them by batteries or by the presence of the Cerberus there?

Yes, decidedly, or they would be picked up.

349. Would both be necessary?

Yes, it would be very advantageous to have both; accidents may happen, the Cerberus might break down, and then the batteries would protect the line of torpedoes.

350. Where would you recommend the battery to be?

Queenscliff and Point Nepean.

351. The Pope's Eye?

That would interfere with the Cerberus's movements, but with the Cerberus and the batteries at Point Nepean and Queenscliff, they could concentrate their fire.

352. You would put no torpedoes outside of the Pope's Eye?

They should run from about the Observatory Point in a circular direction to Queenscliff, so as to avoid very deep water; they should all be at the entrance of the Pope's Eye.

353. Under the head of "General views of defending the port and shipping" you use the expression "But should a squadron pass the ship and obstructions in the channels, unless the Cerberus was disabled, it would be up the bay before those torpedoes could be removed"?


354. How long would it take to remove the line of torpedoes?

That depends upon the current and other things; if the wires were not cut they could not be removed.

355. Suppose it should be necessary for the Cerberus to fall back for the defence of the second line, how long would it take the Cerberus to get from the Heads to Hobson's Bay by the South Channel, or, to get in another way, at what rate can the Cerberus steam?

If she could come up full speed - 10 knots - she has done as much as 10¾ but coming through the channel you would have to take into consideration that no buoys would be laid down; putting it down at five knots an hour through the channels with the buoys up, she would take about five or six hours coming up.

359. You say you are unable now to work both turrets with the men at your disposal?

Only one at a time.

360. Under this alternative scheme you submit (Scheme B), would you be able to work both turrets at the same time effectively?

Yes, it would give me then a complete ship's company.

361. So that the Cerberus could be made quite efficient and capable of doing everything she was designed to do for an expenditure of £10,715 a year.

Yes, as soon as these men were trained, which might take a year.

362. And her present cost we understand is £8,334?

No, it is £8,154 5s. 3d.

363. For this £2,500 a year additional expenditure to that already incurred, the Cerberus could be made as efficient, as a means of defence, as it is possible to make her - are we to understand that?


364. And you think that with her, and with the torpedoes, the colony might safely count upon being able to keep the harbour clear of any force likely to attack us?

I do.

365. You think it would be perfectly safe, the colony having only one ship to depend upon -- what if those torpedoes blow up the Cerberus, if any one liked to be bribed to do it, would it do to trust to that single ship?

With the torpedoes and batteries I have mentioned.

366. Might they not be rendered worthless?

Not until the wires were cut.

367. We understood that the self-acting torpedo was one which, when you shut off the charge, you could, with perfect safety, go and take up and remove?

If you cut off the electric circuit.

368. Then there would be no danger or loss of time in taking them up?


369. If you want to take them up - if you once cut off , then there would be no danger in coming up the channel if the charge is shut off?

Just so. The self acting electric torpedo is a torpedo on the bottom, that is the torpedo itself, and to the torpedo is attached a circuit-closer, which floats about four feet below the surface. If the electricity is on and the vessel touches it, the torpedo explodes. If an enemy's vessel comes in, if the electricity is cut off - that is, if the circuit-closer is cut off by the vessel - still the torpedo at the bottom can be blown up from the shore by electricity. You have therefore two means of firing, either by circuit-closer or by the operators on shore.

370. Still a torpedo might, lying on the bottom, if even fouled by a large vessel coming up drawing 26 or 27 feet be ineffective and harmless?

Yes, perfectly so.

371. In order to use those torpedoes effectively, you must have a place on shore communicating with them by wires in which there would be instruments and operators able to discharge the torpedo whenever the proper moment came?

Yes, you want two stations.

372. How far should those stations be placed from the torpedos?

They ought to be stationed out of sight of the attacking force and out of gun range, but they must be in good view of the whole line to be defended.

373. Supposing an enemy were attacking the port having knowledge of those torpedoes, would not it be possible, unless a large force were told off to defend the stations, that they might take the stations from the land side by landing so far outside the Heads and marching across?

They would have to land near Western Port. They cannot land along the coast, either east or west of the Heads, unless they go along way, of course those stations would have to be defended by artillery and infantry.

374. It would be an essential part of your plan that there should be a proper force of artillery and infantry to protect the stations?


375. And the approaches to the line of the torpedo defence?


376. That would involve a station at or near the Heads, and a considerable body of men there?

It does not require a very large battery for any force likely to be landed here to keep them safe. A properly constructed battery with three or four guns in it would be sufficient.

377. It would not be necessary in case of war to have some small vessel stationed in Western Port Bay to give information of any attempt to land there?

The telegraph would do that.

378. The landing might be effected in the night?

Even then the telegraph would take the news quicker than anything else.

379. If the wire were not cut?

They would have to land before they cut it.

380. Would not torpedoes be preferable at Western Port?

No; I do not think they would be of much use, as they would have to be taken such a long way up, and there is such an expanse of water, they would land before anything could be done.

381. Would not it be the exact place where an enemy would land?

I think so.

382. Then they would not take the fortifications at the Heads?

If they could bring such a force as to overwhelm us they would do it, but it must be an army. They could not do it by ship's crews. Ships of the present day do not carry much more than half the men they use to in the olden days. formerly, a first-class ship would have a crew of 1,200 to 1,300 men.

383. Do you think, then, that any force large enough to do what has just been suggested might be done could scarcely escape the English navy outside?

I do not think any force that could be landed here would land at Western Port and take torpedo firing stations.

384. Would not a couple of thousand men thoroughly and efficiently equipped do it?

They would have to bring eight or nine frigates to land such a force. Our first-class frigates, carrying the heaviest guns and armor, have not more than 600 or 700 men, all told, If they bring an army here, they need not go near the Heads. They could land and march on Melbourne, but they would have to bring a very large fleet to land 2,000 men. The Imperial squadron would then cut off their retreat.

390. With regard to the force you refer to here as being requisite to complete our torpedo corps, can you give us any idea what would be the cost of maintaining such a corps?

No, not at the moment, but it could easily be found out by taking the same number of men they have in the Royal Engineers at home. Take their pay, and the necessary number, and by that means you would ascertain it.

391. But would they not be a better class of men than is usual in the other classes of the service, and would they not receive higher pay in consequence?

No better than the Royal Engineers at home, but equivalent to them.

392. And they would have to be "regulars" in every sense of the word?

Yes. constantly employed.

393. You are not prepared to say now what the cost of an efficient corps would be?


394. What sized guns would you say those that you spoke of just now as necessary to protect the station should be?

Eight-inch guns. It does not require long range guns.

396. Are you opposed to the construction of a central fort in Hobson's Bay?

If the money at my disposal were a limited sum, I should never think of defending Hobson's Bay until I had defended the Heads. A central fort would be a most expensive undertaking.

397. You would rather expend the money on batteries at Point Nepean and Queenscliff than in the bay?

Yes, I would rather make one point efficient before I touched the others.

398. Then you think the real danger to the colony would be vessels forcing a passage through the Heads?


399. And there is no real danger in any other direction?

I do not think so.

400. Then, beyond manning the batteries as you have described, no further land force would be necessary?

No; but you would want a good large land force of both artillery and infantry for that purpose.

401. But especially for that purpose?

Yes, especially for that purpose.

402. And, being sufficiently numerous for that purpose, not for any other purpose?

No I do not think so. I look upon it more as a naval than a military defence.

403. Then, in your opinion, as money economy is a matter of some importance in armaments in time of peace, the naval arm of the defence might be increased, even though it was done at the expense of the land forces.

I think so.

404. Do you think, so long as there is a land force and a naval force, that they should be both under the command of one person - the superior command being in the same man?

I cannot say I do; but I think that there should be a thorough understanding between the officers commanding the two branches of the services.

405. What is the present system?

I command the naval force, and Colonel Anderson the military force.

406. So that your commands do not clash?

Not at all.

407. If your suggestion, either A or B, for the manning of the Cerberus were adopted, would that put you independent altogether of the Naval Reserve so far as your vessel is concerned?

So far as the Cerberus is concerned, entirely independent.

408. With respect to the torpedo corps, would there be any means of getting an efficient corps except from the Royal Engineers at home?

You might raise a very efficient corps here. You want practical and acute men.

409. Would you have that an independent command also?

No; that ought to be under the military.

410. There is a torpedo corps in existence now?

Yes, a small torpedo corps; but there has never been any torpedo practice afloat to speak of.

411. You say that a fast sea-going vessel is desirable?

If we want to do anything outside the port.

412. Your opinion is that it would be necessary?

I think I said desirable, if we wished to protect the port outside.

413. You do not think we could always depend upon the presence of the British cruiser in case of European war?

No; I do not think the Commodore here would feel justified in breaking up his squadron.

414. Such a vessel would be able to inform us of whatever danger might exist of turning the sea defences by a landing at Western Port?

One vessel would not do it. We cannot think of ever preventing a squadron going into Western Port unless we had others to prevent them; and that vessel, if there was one attached, would be only to prevent cruisers coming here and taking merchant ships who were about to enter the Heads.

415. To make that vessel useful, ought not she to be a fast vessel?

Yes, and with 400 - pounders.

416. Would not such a vessel as that be able to give an account of several ordinary vessels coming?

No; for they would have as heavy guns as she would.

417. In fact, such a cruiser would be of little use?

She would prevent a single cruiser coming off as port and picking up merchant ships.

418. Perhaps this may be rather a question of policy, still does it not seem to you that it is the duty and function of the Imperial Government to protect ships under the English flag on the high seas?

Yes, and I am sure they would do it; but at the same time, if an enemy's squadron were detached here, and they were heard of up north - at Queensland - the Commodore would take his ship's up to attack them.

419. Do you think that the officer commanding a British squadron would detach a ship to meet a ship of the enemy in case one were detached?

Yes, if he knew it, he would decidedly; but I mean that, if a squadron was reported up in the north of Australia, he would go up and attack that squadron there, and an enemy's ship might be sent down to Melbourne while he took up his squadron to the north.

420. Still that ship could do no more than threaten ships on the high seas making their way to or from our port?

Sometimes more. An enemy's ship could pick up vessels outside on a large coast like this, but she could not come inside.

421. The cost of keeping up this vessel in time of peace, according to your estimate, is £13,489 in the one case, and £10,715 in the other. That is somewhat large, but it would be a crew, would it not, you would consider sufficient to fight the vessel?

The £13,000 provides for a permanent crew on board the ship; the £10,000 only provides for 20 or 30 men more than I have now.

422. Would it not be possible to have a small crew so thoroughly trained at one turret that in case of war you could divide them with men not so well trained, and divide them half-and-half to each turret?

You can do that with small guns, but not with large ones worked by machinery. It takes, as laid down by all naval authorities, a full month every day drilling, except Sundays, to get them efficient at their gunnery.

423. Have you had a copy of the report of Captain Fullarton?


424. You notice he states on the only occasion on which the reserves were tried at the guns they gave as good practice as the trained crew?

He must have made a mistake. Out of a crew of 80 told off only 39 came on board altogether, and five shots were fired, and the target was not struck but two out of the five, were supposed to be within 300 or 400 yards in front of the target; since then we have hit the target seven times out of twelve.

425. He says, "These practices, especially the last one in September 1871, have never yet been excelled on board that ship, if the published reports on the subject are correct"?

He has evidently not got the report.

426. He also states that after one weeks continuous drill they would be efficient?

I find after four years that the average attendance is 106 men out of 216, and out of that the average attendance is 40 men on board the Cerberus out of a crew of 80. Each of those men on board the Cerberus would have that particular description of work that he was trained to for his particular duty, which duty, if he neglected, everything would go wrong; whereas, for example, in the Nelson, there are five men on a tackle, and each performs the same duty; but when they come back again a man forgets what he previously learnt, and has to learn it over again, and the same men seldom come on two consecutive drill days. The Royal Commission in England on the same subject say, in their report to the Admiralty, the whole of the evidence they have taken all tends to show that nothing less than fourteen day's drill consecutively is any good for heavy ordnance, and they strongly recommend that they shall be obliged to drill twenty-eight days the first year and fourteen days afterwards. One cannot take a better opinion than that.

428. When did the last one tale place?

We have not had one since February last. The Nelson's men have not been allowed to come on board since that date.

429. How then can the regular crew be any more efficient than the Naval Reserve?

They have constant drill; they are drilled twice a week.

430. That is, going through the movements?


431. As regards hitting the target?

The men are drilled at firing, as I have already stated; but when measles broke out the doctor gave me a written request no to allow anyone from the Nelson to come aboard the Cerberus. The Treasurer was informed, and quite approved that it should as the doctor wished. But that is an exceptional case.

432. How many shots are usually fired when you go out to practice?

Twelve to sixteen shots.

433. What is the cost, do you know, of the firing of each gun?

About £3 10s.for a shell, and about rather more than £4 for a shot, that is including the shot and cartridge.

334. What portion of shot have you recovered?

Four out of every dozen, not more.

435. Is there no possibility of having less expensive projectiles for practice on?

I do not think so; but I think that is sufficient as regards the actual shot and shell practice once every six weeks, and that is more than is allowed in the Imperial ships.

437. You spoke of a report of a Royal Commission in England?


438. Could you favor the Commission with a copy of that report?

Yes, I will send it up; it is the one of 1868 I think.

439. Your experience of men who are not drilled, and not accustomed to the handling of guns, is that such men do not hit targets?

They might by chance; but it is not so much that, as it is the difference between working the different kinds of ordnance. If you have not got men properly trained for the Cerberus, you might break everything by one man who was ignorant. We have had the teeth smashed off our turrets.

440. Did you never know a good gunner who did not want practice?


441. Do you find any of the boys from the Nelson develop any qualities for the naval service?

They do as far as they have gone.

442. Are they willing?

They are willing and growing up strong.

443. How long is it since that commenced?

About three years I think.

444. And cannot you give us an opinion upon it?

As far as they have gone they have grown up well, and they are good and strong lads.

445. Obedient?


446. No desertions?

There have been two I think from the Cerberus, and three from the Nelson.

447. And do you think they seemed willing to follow it as a pursuit in after-life?

For that we must wait till the five years are up, but as far as they have gone they have behaved very well as a rule.

448. Are they paid anything?

Sixpence a day the first year, 9d. the second year, 1s. the third, 1s. 6d. the fourth, and 2s. 6d. the fifth year. If I could get hold of them after they have served the five years I would rather have them than any men I could get.

452. Does not your recent evidence go to establish the opinion that the crew of the Cerberus ought to be a permanent crew, not consisting of any other than men who do nothing else?

It is a permanent crew in scale B. I have allowed for their continually passing through the ship.

453. Still they are not always in the ship?

No; but take 16 men from the Cerberus. They would be sent to say one of the departments mentioned, and a different 16 men would come to me. They would remain on board three months. Then 16 men would be sent for other 16 men. So actually each of the crew of the Cerberus would have six month's drill out of the twelve, and that I think would be sufficient.

454. And the temporary absence of the men on other business would not spoil them?

No. I think keeping them like that would keep them efficient.

The witness withdrew

Captain W.H. Panter further examined

9th June 1875

3478. You have had control of the Cerberus since she left England?


3479. Do you know anything about her original cost?

No. I do not know what she cost. I believe about £150,000; that is only in very rough numbers.

3480. She was in proper working order when you received command of her?

Yes, in every way.

3482. You have made two recommendations to the Commission -one marked A, and the other marked B. Under recommendation A, the force including yourself and officers would be 122 men, and the total expenditure in maintenance and so on would be £13,489 7s. 6d.?


3483. Is that the plan you recommend as placing the Cerberus in the most efficient state she could be kept in?

No; of the two I should prefer scale B.

3484. That only includes 97 men?

That is all.

3485. And the cost £10,715 7s. 6d.?


3486. Is that proposal ample for the purpose of defence?

Yes, I think that is the best. The first one is for a full crew of the ship. The second one, only an increase of 16 men and two officer, and passing the men through Government employments, keeping them continually drilling, so that each man gets six months drilling on board each year.

3487. But under what authority could you make sure of having this force of 97 men on board at a given moment?

They would be sworn under the Discipline Act.

3488. Are they so now?


3489. The men are not under the Discipline Act?

No men except the water police, who, about six months ago, were put in the same position as the land police are with regard to the artillery; when men pass out of the Cerberus they go into the water police.

3490. Then if you are ordered tomorrow to go down the bay and wanted these 97 men you could not make certain of them?

I could not, unless I had them sworn in.

3491. Is not that the difficulty?

It is the difficulty I want to remedy.

3492. At present you have not that power?


3493. If you were ordered to go down the bay now, what state would you be in as to manning the ship?

I should have to do what I did Saturday; only man one turret.

3494. Two of your guns would be useless then?


3495. And the difference between the schemes and what you are paying now would only be about £2,500 a year?

That is all.

3496. Then for £2,500 you could have power to work the four guns and be in certainty to be in the condition?


3497. Have you ever reported that fact to the Government?

Yes; I have recommended the same thing; some time ago I recommended that the men upon the Cerberus, after being thoroughly trained, should be drafted into different Government departments and kept sworn in, so that at any time I could put my hand on them.

3498. If that were done it would satisfy you that you had a regular crew for your ship?

Yes; the first thing would be to pick 40 of the best men out of the different departments and swear them in at once under the Act, and then commence by drilling 16 of them for three months at a time.

3502. In turning the turrets have you not to depend upon weak boys rather than men?

At present there are suppose to be 12 men to turn the turrets, and out of my present crew I have only six men, all the rest are boys, and the thing therefore goes only about one third as fast as it ought to go.

3513. How long is it since you sent in your recommendation?

Three or four months ago; as soon as I got the specifications from home.

3514. Did you get any reply?

No, none.

3515. To whom did you address your letter?

The Treasurer.

3516. In your plan do you provide for anyone to take command below if you cannot go below yourself?

Yes, the lieutenant. I also provide for another gunner.

3517. You are short of a gunner at present?

I am short of what the Estimates were last year.

3518. Is not it a very great drawback to you in working the ship?

I have to place men where officers ought to be. I have to put a man in charge of the magazines to see proper charges handed up and proper fuses, instead of an officer.

3519. What is the proposed pay of a gunner?

£182 10s. is what was on the Estimate for him.

3520. The present state of things leaves you how?

I cannot work one turret properly; I have to resort to all sorts of devices.

3521. Do you draft men occasionally from the Nelson?


3522. Not men?

All the men under me are drilled in the Cerberus as part of her new crew.

3523. Drilling on board the Nelson would not answer as drill for the Cerberus?

No, they are quite different.

3524. You have the Nelson under your command?


3525. What do you think of her as a defence?

I think she is very good as a training ship, but very little good for actual service.

3526. What do you mean by "training"?

Training the boys and men. It is necessary that the Cerberus men should be drilled to keep themselves active, and it is very necessary to keep their time employed.

3527. Do you recommend the continuance of the Naval Reserve as at present constituted?

I think there ought to be some force like it to man the Nelson. I think it would be a pity to have the ship there, with the guns on board, and not be able to do something with them.

3528. Are the guns on board not obsolete?

She has two guns on her forcastle, but all the rest are obsolete.

3529. Would she be of any use to protect torpedoes in Hobson's Bay?

Against boats she would; that is all. She is little protection against a ship with one large gun.

3530. Are you in want of small arms for the men?

I have none. I had some Sniders, but six months ago the Government sold all the Sniders to the New Zealand Government.

3531. Have you any ammunition for the large guns?

I have about 100 rounds for each gun, and the same of cartridge powder.

3532. Have you any knowledge of torpedoes at all?

I have read of experiments, and I have seen experiments made.

3533. Do you recommend them to be tried here?

Yes, I believe in them.

3534. At the Heads and in Hobson's Bay?

I do not know about the heads, but in the channels.

3535. Is there anything else that you desire to say that has not been asked you in relation to the ship or any other subject?

No; I think that the scheme B would be the best working one, and I should never have so many men on board the ship that there would be an outcry about my having so many men on board, which there would be if I had scheme A.; but I should have enough to give them six months training, which they need to have, and they would cost nothing, because they are in the Government services.

3536. You have given evidence as to the construction of the Cerberus, and the possibility of any vessel of her character coming into the harbour?

I do not think it likely that any vessel of her character would be sent out here by a foreign power till they had the port.

3537. Anything you know of in the navy of Russia, Germany or France, what is the chance of the Cerberus against one of them?

I am not aware of any sea-going ship of her thickness or armour that could come up our channels, they all draw too much water.

3541. Can there be any danger of surprising the Cerberus?

I do not imagine that - I think we should have some notice.

3542. You do not contemplate going outside the Heads in any case?

No, not unless it is absolutely necessary; she would not go down to the Heads with the idea of attacking outside.

3543. if you go outside the Heads you would have to put the same fittings that you had coming out?

Then I could not fire my guns, I should have the whole ship on fire.

3544. You propose to take men from the Civil Service?

Yes, From the police and other boats.

3545. And drill them for six months of the year?


3546. Is it reasonable to expect that those men can be spared from the Government service for the six months?

But I would send an equal number of my men to take their place.

3547. Could not the men of the naval reserve be utilized in some way?

They cannot be for the Cerberus, but for the Nelson they answer as well as possible, but for the reserve I talk about, I do not pay anything.

3548. But the Government pay them?

The Government have not to take one more man.

3549. You take 20 men away?

I send my 20 men in their places.

3550. Could the changing about from time to time be done effectively, so that the men could do the work from which you take them?

I think so, I see no reason why the men in the police and harbor boats should not do their work as effectively, after I have drilled them, and I see no reason why those men should not make just as good gunners as mud-lightermen or anything else, and there are about 100 of those men and I only want 40, so I could pick them.

3551. If you could utilized the Naval Reserve, would not that be a great additional resource?


3552. The Nelson would only be useful to keep off an attack of small boats upon the torpedoes and so on?


3553. It is needful to have them for that?

It is rather expensive; if I could get those men in the same way as I get the Government men, I most decidedly say I would sooner have them, but I cannot get them. They are men in private service; they are high-class men, getting from 12s. to 16s. a day each.

3554. From private employers?

From private employers, and they will not let them come.

3555. Suppose you start upon your principle, you take 20 men in the Government employ, and send them 20 men back in their places?


3556. Those 20 men belong to your force?


3557. Those men have to learn those numbers?


3558. They are Government servants?


3559. And so on from time to time?


3560. Do not you anticipate some difficulty from that?

Not the least in the world. From my enquiries I believe the men would like it. From what I have asked I believe those men, say some of those dredging men - a man up to his knees in mud - I believe the man would jump at the chance of getting three or four months on board the Cerberus.

3561. Then, as to the Naval Brigade - it is a question of cost ?

Yes. A man now gets £12 a year, and you cannot expect him to give up 16s. a day of permanent employment. In some of those cases a man has gone to his employer and asked for time to go to the drill and send a substitute, and the answer has been "If you choose to go away you need not come back again."

3562. Do you think it is any use to put more modern guns into the Nelson?

No, it is simply putting them there to be destroyed.

3563. Then why would you man the ship at all?

I think it is a pity to have a ship there and make no use of her. If she were not there I would not ask for her; but a small vessel carrying two big guns would set her on fire in a very little time.

3564. Then one gunboat would be of more use to us than she is?

One modern boat would destroy her in two hours.

3565. Could some reasonable sum be offered to the men of the Naval Reserve to induce them to come aboard the Cerberus, and work the guns so as to have a reserve of men?

I think you must either give me the power to say to them "You are paid, and therefore must come," or you must give it up.

3566. Unless they were under some sort of militia system you cannot do it at all?

They must either be paid so that you can make them come, or you just leave it alone. You pay them now to use their spare time, and you cannot do anything else. If you increase their pay double you come to the same thing, you cannot command their services.

3567. Did you not formerly speak of some small vessel to be used in case of attack?

Yes; I spoke of getting a small vessel.

3568. Is there any small vessel that you referred to in your evidence?

I referred to the steam launches in the bay, such as the Spree, and those that would be very useful to guard the channels in the night by mounting guns on them. For that work the Naval Reserve could be utilized. You can utilize the Naval Reserve for anything you can teach them in a drill room.

3569. Are not the Naval Reserve enrolled under the English Act?

No; parts of the Act are taken from the English Act.

3570. Could you get them compulsorily into the Nelson?

Yes, in the event of war being declared the Governor in Council can call them by proclamation, and then they must come on board.

3571. There is power to do that under the present Act?

Yes, but at home it is pointed out by the best authorities that 28 days is the very least that a man can learn heavy gun drill.

3572. Do those men in the naval reserve practice, and how often do they practice through the day on board the Nelson in daylight?

They practice once every month on board in daylight.

3573. Would that be no service on board the Cerberus instead of the Nelson?

No, for the reason given in my report. A crew of eighty men is told off for the Cerberus, the average attendance has been forty men each drill day; everything on board is done by machinery in some shape; a man is put in his place. He does not come for one or two drill days, and then when he comes back he has forgotten everything, and at the end of the year he has learned nothing.

3574. Is there not a great danger that through inefficient service of that sort you may render the vessel altogether useless?

As far as the guns go I would rather have my own crew on board and go into action than have a lot of strange men coming in. A man may get disabled. It happens even on drill days now, in a dark place the turret turns round and the handle knocks a man across the face and disables him. Now if that were to happen in action you would want men that can take any place.

3575. About the boys; do you recommend the continuance of the system by which they are drafted from the Nelson to you?

I do. - I cannot speak positively of course till the five years is up; but the biggest boys I have are infinitely better than the men I can get on shore, and have been brought under through discipline.

3576. What prospect have you of keeping them?

If I can keep them they will be the best men I can get. It has been found at home with all men-of-wars' men that when their time is up they go away, and go for one cruise in a merchant ship and then come back, and are very glad to get back, and no doubt it is the same with these boys. They will go away one voyage in a merchant ship, and find it such hard dirty work that they will come back again.

3577. You command the navy here?


3578. In case of hostilities the chance is that some of the Imperial navy would come here?


3579. What position would you hold then?

Decidedly to take orders from the Imperial officer.

3580. Is that laid down anywhere - Is it defined?

I am not positive that it is, but it certainly would be the case.

3581. You might do it as a matter of agreement, but is that defined. - Suppose we had an officer commanding the navy here that did not choose to obey?

I believe I should be entirely free; If I go outside, then of course I should be under the orders of the senior.

3582. You would be under the control of someone?

Inside here I should be under no one's control except the Governor of Victoria.

3583. In the Bay whose orders would you have to obey, take the Cerberus on this side or that side?

The Treasurer is the only person who gives me orders.

3584. You would not have a Treasurer conduct the war; is there any one else you act under?

No, except the Governor; but I imagine if war broke out I should be ordered by the Treasurer to go down to the Heads and do the best I could.

3585. And to exercise your discretion entirely, irrespective of the discretion of any Imperial officer?

Inside the Heads I am entirely free.

3586. There would be two authorities?

There would, but I imagine my orders would be given me to put myself under the command of the Imperial officers.

3587. But would it not be practically this, that the Governor, being responsible for carrying out Imperial treaties, you would not be allowed to go down the Bay and fight everybody?

Just so, but the Treasurer would represent the Governor to me.

3588. But the Treasurer would take care that the instructions were given to you as to whom England was at war with?

Yes, I should take my instructions from him.

3589. But supposing an Imperial ship, commanded by an Imperial officer, were in the port with this ship, both to fight the same enemy?

It is quite certain that I should have no command over an Imperial officer, and I think they would have no command over me; and I think it would hardly be judicious, for I do not think any officer coming in would know so much about the protection of this port as I should.

3590. He might order you out to sea?

He might.

3591. Supposing the two ships are desirous of working in harmony?

I should say then that if the Victorian officer did not submit to the Imperial officer, he ought to be removed and some one else put in his place.

3592. But some one ought to command the whole squadron; though you may know most about it , you would give advice, but some one must command?

I think I am right in saying that inside the Heads, no Imperial officer would have command over the Cerberus, but no doubt the Governor would issue an order that I was to put myself under the orders of the Imperial officer.

3593. But is it not better to have that defined beforehand?

I think it is defined in the Naval Reserve regulation, but that is outside the Heads.

3594. Do you know the distance from the shore beyond which you cannot legally go to use your guns?

I think it is five miles.

3595. Are you sure of the distance?

I am not sure; but for one thing, I shall never go five miles off the shore.

3596. The question is, is it half a mile?

Of course if I were in a sea-going ship I should be better up in it.

3597. You think it is a matter to be left in your discretion, whether you submit to the Imperial officers or not?

I would rather say that should be left to the Governor to give me orders; of course the Imperial authorities have had the regulations at home, and gone through them carefully, and they saw no objection to them, or else they would have advised us.

3598. In case of war what do you think ought to be done?

I think myself that the officer out here, whoever he may be, ought to act under the Imperial officer. The Imperial officer here, whoever he is , ought in case of war to have the colonial officers under him.

3599. Does that apply to any rank in the service?

Yes, I think an Imperial officer is of a higher rank.

3600. Do not you rank as an Imperial officer?

Only as my rank as a retired officer.

3601. This ship is not placed under the Naval authorities of England at present?


(Taken at Queenscliff.) Friday, 26th NOVEMBER 1875.

Members present

Sir John O'Shanassy, K.C.M.G., in the Chair;
The Hon. G.V. Smith, M.L.A.
John McIlwraith, Esq.

Captain W.H. Panter further examined.

4253. You put before the Commission a rough map showing the positions of Queenscliff, Point Nepean, and Point Lonsdale, as probable sights for batteries?


4254. Have you considered the question of placing guns on those three points for batteries?


4255. What size guns do you recommend?

I should like before recommending any for certain to find out what is the exact penetrating power of those 10-inch guns at different distances; therefore I should be sorry to recommend for certain any particular size for that reason. If the 18-ton guns have the penetrating power, of course it would be just as well to get them as any bigger guns - it is simply loss of money and weight by getting bigger guns if the others are sufficient.

4256. The loading and firing of the heavier guns would cost greater outlay and material?


4257. Together with the foundations?

Yes, the foundations and weight of metal.

4258. And especially as regards the weight of guns for Point Nepean, it being a place difficult of access to place such guns in?


4259. For those reasons you think further inquiry ought to be made as to the actual size of guns to be chosen?


4260. If the others will penetrate with the same power as the 18-ton gun within the range of those points, you would recommend them of course?

Of course they will not penetrate at the same range.

4261. But within those three points, if they penetrate to the same extent and have the same power on a ship as a 35-ton gun, you would recommend them?


4262. And, if not, the heavier guns?

Yes, the heavier guns.

4263. And you have marked several spots in the course of a ship's entering over the rip and between those three points where you think the batteries could be practised at to make greater accuracy of aim at a ship coming in?


4264. And we suppose you would work them in order to show that batteries by practice would get a greater accuracy of aim from those positions than ordinarily in other cases?

Yes, these are down the mid-channel, the most likely course of a vessel taking, and the guns ought to be able to be converged on those points.

4265. As to the Point Nepean battery, you know it is not practicable for an enemy to attack that battery or land there?


4266. There is the probability of landing at Queenscliff or at Point Lonsdale by coming inside?

Yes, but of course a very small battery would be quite sufficient to prevent their landing.

4267. Would they not require to be supported by men behind?

All the forts would have to be supported by men.

4268. Assuming those three points, you think it would be of great advantage to the defence of the harbor, and consequently of the colony, if the batteries were erected at those three points?

Yes, I think those are the best positions for a battery.

4269. And to depend upon Williamstown and Sandridge, and to leave these unprotected, would be an unwise proceeding?

I do not think you can protect Williamstown or Melbourne by batteries at Williamstown or Sandridge.

4270. In the event of a vessel being announced as coming in there, where would you probably place yourself with the Cerberus?

She would take up any position which would force them to pass close to the ship or a battery.

4271. Have you calculated the number of shots that would be fired at a vessel by those three points and the Cerberus?

Taking all those points marked down there, supposing them two-gun batteries, four guns can be concentrated at one time; and there is time enough to load those guns and fire them between the points, and in some cases with three-gun batteries all the three forts could converge, and the four guns of the Cerberus could be added.

4272. So that the ship would be under how many guns?

Eight to ten shots at each of those points marked there; five points I think there are.

4273. Then she would be under four shots?


4274. What speed do you calculate her coming to that point?

That is giving a speed of ten knots.

4275. If you were the attacking party and had knowledge of this defence made as effective as it can be on those three points,and with the Cerberus, would you consider that it would be in accordance with your duty, under those circumstances, to enter with a steamer of war?

I might do it, not in broad daylight, nor with one ship, but I should try some means of getting in.

4276. You would run some risk?

I would try and run in at night or something of that sort; that is, if it was absolutely necessary. I should not do it for the sake of trying to take those forts; but if there was any very great thing at stake it might be tried; but it would be almost a forlorn hope with one ship.

4277. Assuming that this western channel was closed, and the Cerberus being in the south channel, what would you say to a captain coming in with a vessel at night - what would be the chance of getting down to Melbourne by night by the south channel?

He would not be justified with one ship in attempting it. He could not get out if he got in.

4278. Assuming that more than one ship coming to this point - [ pointing to diagram ] - those batteries could distribute their fire?

They could distribute their fire.

4290. Then for effective purposes, and being able to use her in the quickest way, you would require that she should be docked occasionally?

Once every six months I think.

4291. Is it a fact that the men on board your ship could do all the docking under your direction?

They do a great part of it - shifting the blocks and all that kind of work they could do.

4292. And so far save the Government the expense of docking?


4293. And render it easier to the Government consenting to docking her frequently?

Yes; £120 I could have saved by using my men the last time she was docked.

4294. Was there any application made on the part of the Cerberus that your men should be allowed to assist for the docking operations last time?

I myself being captain of the ship suggested that, but I was told I would not be allowed to.

4295. To whom did you make that suggestion?

To the dock superintendent. I know he had orders that it was not to be done.

4296. From whom did those orders issue?

The Commissioner of Customs.

4297. Speaking of the number of shots that could be concentrated on a vessel entering, what number of guns would that involve at each end of those batteries?


4298. You propose two guns at Nepean - two at Lonsdale - two at Queenscliff, and the Cerberus?

Yes, some have proposed more, but I think two would make a very good defence, but I would prefer to see three in case of any accident happening to one.

4299. Supposing a steamer to be coming in at any time and you had only guns on Nepean and Lonsdale, what distance out could the guns of those forts have this steamer under raking fire?

They could have her under raking fire the full range of guns, which depends upon the size of the guns.

4300. Point Nepean could?

Yes, it would be entirely a matter of the size of the guns.

4301. But both batteries could not hold her under raking fire?

I could not tell how far they could open fire on her without knowing the size of the guns; 18-ton guns could open fire on her at 5,000 yards - two and a half miles.

4302. Would she be under raking fire then?

That would depend how the vessel was steering. If she showed broadside to one fort she would be under raking fire at the other.

4303. Then, by no possibility could there be raking fire from more than one battery?


4304. Then, from the time she entered the rip she would be for two miles under raking fire from Queenscliff?

She would be five miles, because the forts could fire two and a half miles down to the south and two and a half down to the east.

4305. By reversing the platform?

There ought to be traversing.

4306. She could not be under a raking fire five miles from Queenscliff?

She is still two and a half miles up to Queenscliff, and then she goes down the channel two and a half - that is equal to five miles.

4307. And the same with the other batteries, each of them?

I could not tell for certain whether she would be under each of them.

4309. Then, if it could be done at a reasonable cost, would it not be advisable to establish a fort on the Pope's Eye with a couple of guns?

The other ought to be done first -- though that would be desirable.

4310. Would not it be more difficult to capture such a fort than a fort at Queenscliff?

No, I think it would be less.

4311. If on the cupola principle?


4312. Surrounded by water?

Yes, you could use powder against it. You cannot use powder here against a fort unless you land first.

4313. Would not it be tolerably easy to effect a landing at Queenscliff?

You must silence the forts, and silence the Cerberus first.

4314. Are you clear about that?

Quite, unless you go down past Cape Barwon.

4315. How far is that?

I could not say for certain.

4316. Do you know where the Sussex was wrecked?

Off Cape Barwon.

4317. How many miles away from this?

I could not say. I do not, you must understand, recommend a fort without troops to keep the fort; it is not any use building a fort unless you have the men to defend it.

4318. A fort at the Pope's Eye would mean about thirty men, and the others would require a great many?

You would require more than thirty; forty to fifty men at the outside.

4319. At Queenscliff, if an enemy were landing in any force, the number of men you would require would be nearer 5,000?

But if they land to take Queenscliff, they would not mind your Pope's Eye, they would leave those forts and go to Melbourne.

4320. How would they go to Melbourne, how would they get the vessels up if the Pope's Eye has not been silenced, and Nepean and Lonsdale also?

If they land with such a force as to be able to take the forts here, there would be no necessity for taking the forts. They would go on to Melbourne.

4321. Do you think 5,000 men could go up and take Melbourne?

I do.

4322. Then if 1,000 men could land and take Queenscliff, they could go on and take Melbourne?

1,000 men could not make it; but that is for a soldier, not a sailor to talk of.

4323. Would not 1,000 marines be more than a match for 2,000 or 3,000 men here at Queenscliff?

No; not for 500 or 200 with the forts.

4324. Are you sure you are not getting into Colonel Anderson's line, that 1,000 men landing twelve miles from here would not be a match for 200 or 300 in the field?

Not if that fort is properly constructed; decidedly not. One cannot be touched, and the others are in an open field. The forts must be taken by storm, and they could not do that.

4325. Assuming those three forts can play on boats leaving a ship, would they be able to land at all with the Cerberus firing at them?

I do not think they could land.

4326. Then the only way to silence those forts is to take them in the rear?

Yes; and I do not know any place between Point Nepean and Cape Schanck where they could land.

4327. The country is very inaccessible and difficult from Cape Schanck and Point Nepean?


4328. And a sort of country that guns can scarcely go over?

It would take them a long time to bring guns over.

4329. If there were a fort on Pope's Eye, and no battery provided for here, would a vessel have greater facility of running past the fort, going up the south channel, than she would have under the proposed plan of this quadrilateral fire?

The nearest range from the Pope's Eye she would be under, would be 3,000 yards from here, and that would be only for a few minutes.

4330. Then she would have a better chance of running past you than under the proposed plan of four points of defence?


4331. The cost of putting the three batteries up here would be insignificant compared with putting up a great battery on the Pope's Eye where foundations are difficult?

I think so; but I believe those forts are enormously costly built on piles.

4332. Do you think the three forts with six guns would cost more than one fort of two guns?

No, I do not.

4333. Assuming this plan of defence to be adopted, as now sketched out in your evidence, is there no collateral aid, such as laying torpedoes, which has entered into your mind when you are brought to contemplate these matters of defence?

Yes there is a line from here - [pointing to diagram ] - round to Flagstaff Point. That is the only place that I can see; the torpedoes can be laid there safely under the cover of the guns, and that would make the place impregnable nearly.

4334. You consider the advantage of laying the torpedo lines somewhat of that direction is the saving of the necessity of having a ship to protect the torpedoes from attack by the vessel entering, as they can cover the line of torpedoes by their fire?


4335. And there is economy and safety in that?


4336. What was your idea of the cost of a fort on the Pope's Eye?

I could not give one.

4337. A million?

I could not give one, I have not the least idea.

4338. It would be so enormous that you would not venture to give an opinion upon it?

I think the other forts would not cost as much, and I do not think the Government would undertake the whole four.

4339. It would be more difficult to take them on land than it would being in the sea?

I think so.

4340. Would you look at that list -- [ handing the same to the witness ] -- it describes the number of ships, the number of men, the weight of guns, and so on, of the British squadron on the Australasian station?

Yes. [ The same was read as follows:- ]


Sapphire expected on station about 1st January, 14 guns and 195 officers and men.

The first four or five ships are the only available ones for the purpose of protection of commerce, as the small ones with small guns were built in Sydney, to act against the Fiji slave trade, and not to fight an enemy?

4341. What do you estimate the power of those ships at, assuming they were attacked by an ironclad carrying 8-inch armour?

I do not think they would be any good.

4342. That is, the squadron can only be useful against a squadron of similar wooden ships?


4343. Do you know anything of the weight of the guns?

The Pearl - the same as the Nelson guns - 80-pounders, and the Dido has got two 7-inch guns. They are the largest. The Barracouta, the Nymphe. and the Sapphire coming out have all small guns.

4344. Then they could not be used against a plated ship effectively, assuming one came into these waters?

No, they could not.

4345. Do not you think it would be desirable that a vessel of that character should be placed on the Australasian station with a view to protect the great commerce of Australia, now amounting to about £90,000,000 annually?

I think some vessels would be immediately detached if war broke out.

4346. At present are they not?


4347. Would they be detached in sufficient time to be of use if there was a declaration of war?

By the Russians for instance.

I think we should be attacked almost as soon as we knew war was declared.

4348. They could render you no assistance in these waters?

Not with an ironclad.

4349. But you would not have any difficulty, with your size of guns, against any wooden vessel sent by a foreign power here?

No, except in case of some accident.

4350. Do you think it necessary or advisable to ask co-operation of the Government at home for one gun-boat with one large gun at assist you in the case of any real contest?

I am not favorable to any vessel with one gun. It would be of course a large gun, and with the machinery attached to them accidents are liable to happen.

4351. You would rather rely upon the Cerberus and the torpedoes laid in such a way as to be protected?

I would sooner have torpedoes than a one gun ship.

4352. If there was a two-gun ship, would that be a great advantage to you?

That would be.

4353. How many men would be required to work that ship?

About 50 men.

4354. Then your ideas of the Queenscliff battery are that the new guns should be placed at the lower lighthouse rather than where the present battery is?

I would prefer the present battery. I would sooner have the guns as they are here placed for plunging-fire and as a protection of the Cerberus.

4355. And one fort might be advantageously placed in that position?


4356. Suppose the Cerberus forced by any heavier armor-clad should come up under the fort placed in that position no vessel would attempt to come on to her?


4357. From your experience here, would you consider that it would be of an advantage to have a military council, with the Governor at the head of it, rather than trust to the changes that arise from the Minister of War being the Treasurer -- a political officer changed so frequently -- and which might consequently lead to the disorganization of the system?

I think that there should be some permanent officer answerable for the whole of the defence.

4358. In the event of sending to England for an officer, would it be desirable to place the naval and military bodies under such an officer?


4359. To have one uniformity of design and action to keep up the uniformity to the system?


4360. And should he be under the Legislature for systematic defence?


4361. It is a popular notion that it is easy to block those channels with wooden ships, or at all events the south or western channels; will you give us your opinion upon that?

I should say decidedly not, either you would require about 800 yards of shipping to block the west, or you would require more than 1,000 yards to block the south channel. It would take about fourteen vessels to do that.

4362. Therefore, you look upon that scheme as impracticable?

Perfectly so.

4363. What would it cost to block the south channel?

I cannot say how much fourteen vessels would cost, but it would take nearly that force to do it; and then it is not half as effective as torpedoes.

4364. In the west channel?

That would take about twelve ships.

4365. And they are capable of being blown up?

Yes, and very easily.

4366. And it would be a very ineffective defence?

Not so effective as torpedoes; but you could scarcely do it in the south channel. You must go right down to the other end of the channel. You could not do it here, There is the Eliza Ramsden for instance, she is lying down there, and any vessel can go over her.

4367. Then you would prefer the defence suggested in the enquiry today to be done first, as more likely to answer the purpose of defence than any other plan that has been suggested?


the witness withdrew.

¹ Royal Commission on the Volunteer Forces, Papers Presented to Parliament, 1875-6 Vol 3.

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