Page 3, 7 March 1881




Shortly after five o'clock this afternoon the public here was startled by an alarming accident on the Bay, resulting in a dreadful tragedy. The Cerberus has been practising at the Heads during the last day or two, and this afternoon it was understood that a torpedo would be laid and exploded at the entrance of one of the channels. Six men in a boat left the Cerberus, which lay at anchor off Point Nepean, carrying with them the torpedo, with instructions to place it in position. They had not proceeded more than a hundred and fifty yards from the vessel when the missile exploded, blowing the boat and six men into the air. Three men were picked up frightfully injured, and two died almost immediately. Some hopes are entained that the third man may recover. Search was made for the three other bodies, but not a trace could be found. Dr. Williams, of Queenscliff, sent for to the ship, and promptly attended, and gave all necessary attention to the wounded men.

Sunday Night.

The Cerberus proceeded to Melbourne at daylight this morning.



Sunday Night

A terrible accident occurred at Queenscliff on Saturday afternoon at a quarter past five. The Cerberus had been engaged in torpedo practice during the day, and had exploded four electric contact mines. She then sent the gig with a cylindrical powder case fitted as a torpedo, to be fired by fulminate mercury fuse. On getting a sufficient distance from the ship the gig dropped the powder case overboard and, on backing off, one of the oars fouled the wires. Gunner Groves, who was in charge, leaned over the boat to clear it, when the torpedo exploded, blowing the boat and men into the air. Groves, who was an old Imperial service officer, and who leaves a wife and four children in England, and seamen named Henry Timley, Jas. Wilkie, and William Barnes, were killed, and another, Jasper, who was in the bow of the boat, was flung into the water with injury to his left leg and face. He was gallantry saved by Lieut. Houston, who was on the deck of the Cerberus at the time, and who, divesting himself of coat and boots, plunged into the water, and kept Jasper afloat until a boat came to their assistance. Jasper was first taken out of the water, and he was then picked up himself. A fifth victim, a seaman, Jas. Hunter, was also recovered, but he died shortly after being got on deck. Great excitement took place. The water was covered with torn flesh and fragments of the bodies of the unfortunate men, and wreckage of the boat; but the bodies were blown into such small portions that they could not be collected. An official report has been made by Captain Manderville to the Chief Secretary, asking enquiry, and suggested that Mr. Ellery be invited to act.

The Cerberus returned to Williamstown at ten o'clock. The bodies were then removed to the Morgue. Barnes was married, but had no children; the rest of the seamen were unmarried, except Jasper, who had a wife and two children. At Present no explanation is obtainable as to how the charge was fired. The torpedo must have drifted under the boat, but contact with the wire would be insufficient to explode it.

Page 3, 8 March 1881


The version of Commander Manderville is contained in the following official report, which he forwarded to Mr Berry:-

Port Phillip Heads, 5th March, 1881. Sir,-I much regret having to report a dreadful accident that occurred whilst experimenting with small torpedo charges from here this afternoon, and which resulted in the loss of one officer and four men, and one man slightly wounded. After having exploded four mines representing electro-contact mines, and one hand - grenade, a cylindrical powder case containing 70 lb of rifle large gunpowder was fitted as a torpedo for explosion by means of a fulminate of mercury fuse, which was intended to be put into electrical circuit by having one end joined up through the firing key to the battery. The case was placed in the gig, and Mr Groves, gunner, went with five men to lay it sufficient distance from the ship to permit of its being exploded safely. On dropping it over the stern of the boat, and before they could pull clear, one of the oars fouled the wire connected with the fuse, and while the men were employed clearing it the torpedo exploded, blowing the boat to pieces and the four men into the air. Mr Groves was picked up dead, three men whose names are in the margin (Henry Timberley, A. B., James Wilkie, A.B., William Barnes, L.S.) were missing, James Hunter, A.B., was picked up alive, but fearfully injured, and James Jasper slightly injured in the leg. A message was immediately despatched for a doctor, and Dr. Williams was on board within twenty minutes of the accident. Shortly after his arrival James Hunter died. Mr Alexander Houston, a sub - lieutenant belonging to the Naval Torpedo Corps, jumped overboard to the assistance of Jasper, who immediately after the accident was seen in the water some distance off swimming toward the ship. Had it not been for the prompt assistance of Mr Houston, it is doubtful if Jasper would have been saved. The cause of the accident is at present unknown, as every care was taken, and Mr Murray, electrician, who had charge of the firing apparatus, had not joined the wire from the wire to the key, so there could be no possibility be an electric current. I am most anxious that a full and searching inquiry may be held into the cause of this sad accident, and I would respectfully recommend that Mr Ellery should be requested to assist in such. Mr Ellery is not only a leading electrician and scientist, but he has considerable experience in torpedo operations. I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant, C.T. Manderville, Captain Commanding Naval Forces. The Hon. Graham Berry, Treasurer


Mr Kynaston Murray, telegraph engineer of the Victorian railways, and chief electrician of the Naval Torpedo Corps, says :- I directed the torpedo practice from the Cerberus on Saturday afternoon, and having successfully fired four mines, I had not intended proceeding further that day. As was my custom, I fired small charges by means of the "circuit closer" buoy, and when that was done, some one suggested that an opportunity should be afforded the people on shore of judging the effects of a larger torpedo; one which would "blow up a lot of water," as it was expressed. Accordingly Mr Groves, the gunner in charge of the torpedo haulks, whose duty on all such occasions was confined to the mechanical, whilst mine was the electrical department, proceeded to construct a mine. He took a zinc case in which powder is imported and placed some powder in it. He did not fill it, unfortunately, for, had he done so, I am not at all sure that the explosion would have taken place. The quantity of powder put into the case was almost 70lb. On the top of that were placed some discs of wet guncotton, which were included, as he said, so as "to get rid of them," and, as I am given to understand since, he also added a small piece of wet dynamite. These were a portion of a small hand grenade which we tried to fire previously, but failed to do so, and I told on of the electricians to knock the top off it and throw it into the sea. This was not done, however, but Mr Groves placed the contents on top of the case. It was generally a way with him to say "Put them all in, they will go up together," but I did not know then that he did so with regard to the dynamite and gun cotton. The torpedo having been constructed it was decided that it would be necessary to attach a piece of timber to it as a float, and Mr Groves was about to lash the case to the plank, when I suggested that it would be better to sink it, about eighteen inches from the surface. I did so because I considered that it would be less dangerous if that were done, inasmuch as if the torpedo was lashed to the timber the explosion might scatter the splinters for considerable distances, and in all directions. But if the charge was sunk the effect of the bursting would be either to send the plank bodily into the air, or break it into a few pieces. Mr Groves accepted the suggestion and the torpedo and float were placed in the boat, with Mr Groves in charge. To the former was attached one end of about 80 yards of what is known technically as Hooper's core. It is copper wire thickly insulated or covered with indiarubber. This end was placed in a fuse which was in the torpedo, but in order that you may better understand the process I think I should explain what that fuse is. It is a small contrivance containing fulminate of mercury, with two wires passing through its base. The ends of these are connected by a small bridge of fine platinum wire, which, when the current is applied from the battery, reaches a white heat, and fires the fulminate of mercury, which at once explodes the material surrounding. One end of the Hooper's core then was placed in the fuse; the other I held in my right hand on the quarter deck, and in my left hand I held the key from the battery with which at the appointed time I was to make the connection to cause the explosion. The boat having been shoved off, and backed out until nearly the whole line was paid out, Gunner Richards called to Mr Groves to remain where he was. I then saw the crew place the float over the side, and I remember saying to Mr Richards, "There is yet 10 feet of slack here," to which he replied, "They have got plenty of way on, sir, and will take it out." At that time I noticed that the boat seemed as if it could not get away from the torpedo; that it was evidently foul of something. I stood watching them, and twisted the end of the wire around the first finger of my right hand, and within about half a minute from the time the torpedo was placed in the water, and before the boat could get clear of it, it exploded. I could not for a moment realise what had taken place until I heard some one call out "Poor fellows, see what has occurred!" Mr Richards at that instant came over to me and said, "However did it happen? You have not got the wires connected." My hands were just in the same position as they were before the explosion, and no contact was made. I dropped the wires when I saw the discharge, and soon afterwards the boats brought on board the body of Groves, Hunter and Jasper, who were in the gig, and Mr Houston, who had jumped overboard to save Jasper. The Hooper's core passed under my left foot over the side of the vessel to the boat, but the wire in no way touched that from the battery to the key besides, both were thickly insulated. The key at the end of the battery wire is fixed to a piece of wood, which I held. At one end it has two binding screws at each corner. To one was affixed the wire from the battery, the end being looped and placed over the screw, whilst the cap was screwed down to keep it its place. I order to complete the circuit it would have been necessary for me to make three distinct motions. I should first have to fix the wire from the torpedo to the other binding screw, then pull out a stud with an electric contact piece on it, which is in the centre of the contrivance, for quite two inches, and finally press down the key, and thus close the circuit and cause the explosion. Even if the two wires had been properly affixed to the binding screws it would have been impossible to complete the circuit by pressing the key unless the stud was withdrawn as I have stated; but not one of the movements was made and consequently no electric current was sent into the torpedo. Mr Groves was the officer who always took charge of the boat on such occasions, and he always backed off such and called out, "All safe, Sir," when it was time to discharge the mine. I was waiting for that signal before I adjusted the wires and preformed the other necessary operations, which would occupy about a minute. But the explosion occurred before the boat was away from the torpedo at all. The charge of power in the case would not be called an unusual one at all. In England they experiment with 100 lb, 150 lb, and 200lb of gun cotton in one charge, but 70 lb of powder is not equal to more than 20 lb of gun cotton. I mentioned just now that wet dynamite and gun cotton were placed in the case without my knowledge, and from conservations I have had with other professional gentlemen, and from my own consideration, I think that wet dynamite would have a dangerous effect. Dynamite is a composition of nitro glycerine and infusorial earth, containing 75 per cent. of the former and 25 percent. of the latter, and it understood that when it has been for any length of time in water the nitro glycerine oozes through the earth and skin of the cartridge. If but a very small portion of the nitro glycerine was struck by anything it would explode, and it is just possible that the cartridge was sufficiently wet for the nitro glycerine to have exuded. If it was on top of the case the jerking which was caused by the men trying to free the oar from the wire might have fired it. It is a possibility, that is all, that such a thing would occur. I do not know how long the cartridge might have been wet, as Mr Groves might have had it for a considerable time at the hulks. At present I am unable to give any other possible reason for the premature explosion.


James Jasper, aged 25, and an able seaman on board the Cerberus, stated : James Hunter, Harry Timberley, James Wilkie, and myself manned the gig, and took in Mr Groves and Barnes and a 70 lb torpedo attached to a float. Timberley and Wilkie pulled the midship oars, and I pulled the bow one on the port side. The torpedo was in the stern sheets on the starboard side, and Mr Groves held the wire communicating with the ship to keep the strain off it. After backing for about 80 yards, the two men amidships "laid on their oars." The torpedo was then placed over the starboard side by Mr groves, Barnes, and Hunter, but as the oar on the side fouled the wire they leant over to see what was the matter, and endeavoured to clear it. I did not do so, but I looked towards them; and one remarked that if any accident happened I would be safe. Whilst they were trying to extricate the oar the torpedo exploded. I don't remember hearing the report pr any other experience until I was in the water. my head seemed to be under severe pressure, but I struck out for the vessel when I found the boat had been smashed, and my shipmates were not to be seen. I soon felt I was losing strength, and had I not been assisted by Mr Houston, I am certain I could never have reached the ship. After he gave me the form he swam to a buoy, nothwitstanding that he was almost exhausted, and kept afloat until he was rescued. I don't know how I can thank him enough. I was kindly treated by the officers and men, but my injuries are not more than a severe shaking, and bruises on my legs and face.



Monday Evening

Dr. Candler, the district coroner, held an inquest to day at the Oriental Hotel, Nelson Place, Williamstown, on the bodies of Robert Samuel Groves, late gunner of H.M.C.S. Cerberus and James Hunter, A.B., of the same vessel, who were killed by the torpedo explosion in Port Philip Bay, off Queenscliff, on Saturday afternoon. A jury of fifteen men were sworn. Mr M'Indoe was chosen as Foreman. Sub-inspector Toohey watched the case on behalf of the police, Captain Manderville, commander of the Cerberus, was also present. The first witness examined was

James Jasper, A.B. on board the Cerberus, who deposed that on Saturday last he was directed to go off in a boat. He was not aware of the object of the boat's trip. He was with the deceased (R.S. Groves and J. Hunter), and three others.. Mr Groves had charge of the boat. Was bowman of the boat, and had nothing to do with the explosive material. They started from the Cerberus between about half past four and five o'clock. They rowed about eighty yards and were then directed by Mr Groves to stop. The torpedo was placed over the starboard side by Mr Groves, Barnes and others. He remained in the bow. The boat was astern of the Cerberus. By some means the starboard oar fouled the torpedo after it was in the water. Those aft tried to clear the oar. In doing so the explosion took place, and witness knew nothing further. He found himself struggling through the water; when he got to the surface he was facing the Cerberus. He spit out a mouthful of blood, and looked round, but could not see anything. Then struck out for the ship; after swimming for some time felt his strength leaving him. Sang out two or three times for a boat. Next saw the life buoys being thrown over, and a form or a stool. A gentleman sprang overboard, and pushed the stool towards him. He got hold of the stool. Eventually he was picked by a boat. Had previously been in the boat that was destroyed, with the same crew, except Mr Groves and Barnes. That was the first time Mr Groves had been in that boat that day. Could not tell what caused the explosion, as he knew nothing of the working of the torpedo. Saw the torpedo handed into the boat, and placed in the stern sheets. Had no experience of torpedoes. He never saw one like it before. Saw the wire attached to it. Could not say precisely what was the nature of the fouling. The oars (two) were not shipped. In the efforts they made to unfoul the oar, one of the seamen stood up and tried to extricate the oar. Mr Groves was leaning over the side of the boat, trying to free the torpedo, but he gave no orders. That was when the explosion took place. Had been laying torpedoes that day. A signal (red flag) was given from the vessel after the torpedoes were laid, and they pulled away from them. The red flag was not displayed on this occasion. When the oar fouled Timberlay said to witness, "Jim if anything happens, you are in the safest place." Mr Groves said "Nothing will happen, before we are clear of it." He would take care of that. When the case containing the torpedo was put into the boat Barnes was tightening the strap, with the boat hook, when Mr Groves said, "Look out, don't put the boat hook through the case." Barnes had charge of the wire in his hands as the boat was rowed away from the Cerberus. That was all he knew about the matter. Several torpedoes were exploded that day. The boat hook was not used to free the wire or oar.

C.F. Manderville, retired commander of Royal Navy, now captain of H.M. ironclad turret ship Cerberus, said:- We went down the bay on Friday last, the 4th inst., for the purpose of exercising with shot practice the heavy guns, and for the purpose of practising the electricians attached to the torpedo corps. There was no torpedo practice until Saturday, when preparations were made for the afternoons practice. We used some small torpedoes. Left entirely in the hands of Mr Groves, who had charge of the mechnical part, and Mr Murray, chief electrican, who had charge of the batteries and scientific part of the torpedoes. In addition to Mr Murray, there were present - Messrs Houston, Doyle, and Schrieber. Left the Cerberus about 5 o'clock for Queenscliff. Had not given any instructions about this particular torpedo, as it had been arrangesd as part of the afternoon's programme. It was decided that a mine should be exploded in a cylindrical zinc powder case. About 50lbs of powder were used. The exploding of it was left to Mr Groves and the electricians. The explosion took place with his concurrence and order. Did not limit them to the number of torpedoes or charge used. Looked on it as part of their work. The deceased R. S. Groves was 47 years of age, and was a gunner in the Royal Navy lent to the Victorian Government by the Home Government. His time would have been up in fourteen months. he left England in August 1877. He was specially qualified at home in the use of torpedoes, and had since his arrival been in charge of the Cerberus torpedoes and stores. Always found him steady and careful but apt to be a little too self confident. Once at his office in Williamstown, an accident occured. Witness was going to experiment with some small torpedoes about a year ago, and Mr Groves brought them and while he was explaining the action of the firing plate, which he (witness) did not understand, the wires were connected, and the explosion took place, in consequence of witness connecting the wires whilst deceased was instructing him. That was the only accident they had previous to Saturday. The deceased was a man who accepted risks unnecessarily. James Hunter was an able seaman, aged about 35 years, and had been over two years in the service. He (Hunter) had no special knowledge of the matter. Had through confidence in Mr Groves. Did not know what the contents of the case were, but he understood it contained 70lbs of powder. Was told it contained RLG powder. It was on the quarter deck when he left the ship. Mr Groves said nothing about any other explosive matter being mixed with the powder. He exercised his own discresion, within certain limits, as to the nature of the explosive materials used by him. No dynamite nor gun cotton whatever are kept on board the Cerberus, but the deceased Groves might have brought some, but not to his knowledge. If he had known he would not have allowed it to be brought on board. Never use dynamite.The gun cotton is always kept in the hulk. We have only a small quantity - a few ounces. Whatever explosive material was on board the Cerberus was under the deceased's charge. He sometimes used the electric batteries when the electricans were not present. He used to make the batteries, and had a practical knowledge of their working. He was aware of all precuations that should be used in the operations. Several varities of wire were used, and he knew how to test them. He was fully alive to the danger of the explosives. Heard Jasper's statement about Groves cautioning Barnes. Groves did not want the boat hook driven into the case. Groves told him he had learnt about chemistry from Mr Murray and others. Could not account for the explosion at all.

To Mr Murray: If the iron boat hook had penetrated the case an explosion might be caused.

A.M. Houston deposed that he was one of the electricans attached to the naval service. Know the deceased Groves. He was on board when the accident took place, and saw the boat put off. Mr Murray was in charge of the apparatus on board the ship. Mr Groves had charge of the wire in the boat. Saw the boat stop about a hundred yards from the ship. When she stopped saw Groves and one of the men lift the torpedo or mine from aft, and put it into the water. One of the oars fouled the wire of the torpedo. Next saw Groves leaning over the side of the boat trying to release the wire. Then saw Mr Groves' body in the air. Heard the explosion and saw pieces of the boat and the men in the air. Mr Murray exclaimed : "How could this have happened. You see the wires not connected." Then observed that one end of the wire was attached to the firing key, and the other end was round Mr Murray's finger. It was quite impossible for the current to have been established, or the explosion to have been caused from the Cerberus. Witness explained the process of firing, which took some seconds, and could not have been done some seonds, and could not have been done by Mr Murray. Saw the zinc case containing the "mine" brought from the magazine of the Cerberus. It was brought on board anout hald an hour before it was put into the boat. Mr Groves lifted the lid off. It was seen that some grains of powder were adhering to the top. He took them off with his finger, making the remark that the greatest care should be used, so that no metal should come into contact with the powder. The case was not quite full, and after the powder was removed the wires were solderded on by the ship's armourer. (lid produced.) While the lid was away a door mat was placed over the lid of safety. Was present when the armourer returned with the lid. Mr Groves then placed some gun cotton on the fuse, attached it to the two wires, and made a place in the powder to receive the fuse. The lid was then put on, , and some indiarubber tape put round the edge to keep it watertight. Some wite or red lead was sent for, and also put on for the same purpose. Mr Groves sent for a piece of wood for a float, which was made fast, and the torpedo put into the boat. No large object could have been placed in the tin besides the gunpowder and cotton. It was the first time they had exploded gunpowder; the other mines were composed of guncotton, and made by Mr Groves. All the necessary precautions were taken, as far as he could judge. Nothing was said about dynamite by Mr Groves, and did not see him with with any that day. Neither the powder nor the cotton was packed tightly. The case was fastened on to a board lengthways, and it would have been possible for the grains of the powder to get to the lid. He could not state what was the cause of the explosion, but his opinion was that it arose from the oar fouling the wire. He believed the mine was exploded by means of the oar, but he could not give any explanation of it. Never made any experiments with dynamite. Mr Murray always objected to its use, on the ground of danger. A sudden jerk of the wires could not have exploded it. Did not think the charge was at all dangerous; in fact, he was on the point of going in the boat, but had been out before and was too tired. Nothing could have been introduced into the tin without Mr Groves' knowledge. Never had any experience with slow fuse.

At this stage the Coroner asked Mr Murray, who was present, If he could briefly give an explanation of the occurance.

Mr Murray said he could not. He had a theory, however, which, although it might be satisfactory to himself, might not be to others. He would like to be fully examined, as he could throw a little more light on the affair than had been done by the previous witnesses.

Mr Candler said he would, of course, be examined. Before he went any further he through it would be advisable to examine an expert, say Mr Ellery, the Government Astronomer, or someone else connected with the service.

After some discussion as to the date of the adjournment, it was decided to adjourn until Thursday morning, at half past ten o'clock, when the inquiry will be resumed. Mr Ellery will probably be the first witness examined.


The funeral of the deceased men took place immediately after the inquest was adjourned. It was, of course, observed with military honours. The comrades of the deceased from the Cerberus headed the procession; then came the band playing the "Dead March." The coffins were conveyed on gun carriages, followed by the Williamstown Artillery, Naval Reserve, and the contingents from the German, French, and the Italian war vessels at present in the bay. After these came Captains Fullarton and Manderville, and the gunnery officers. All shops, etc., along the route were closed.

Page 3, 11 March 1881




Thursday Evening.

The adjourned inquest on the bodies of Robert Samuel Groves And James Hunter, who were killed by the explosion in the bay, off Queenscliff, on Saturday, the 5th inst., took place to day at the Oriental Hotel, Nelson Place, Williamstown. Mr Candler, the district coroner, conducted the inquiry. Captain Payne and Mr R. J. Ellery, the Government Astronomer, were both in attendance. The first witness was:-

Kynaston Lathrop Murray, telegraph engineer of the Railway Department, and chief electrician Naval Torpedo Corps. He said he received a letter from Captain Manderville, informing him that he proposed to take the Cerberus down the Bay for shot and shell practice, and that he would like witness to accompany him, with some of the electricians, with a view of holding some torpedo practice from the ship. This was several days before the occurrence, about the last week in February. He arranged to go, with Messrs Houston, Doyle, and Schreebeer, and informed the deceased Mr Groves, who had charge of the torpedo hulks and stores, that he proposed to explode three or four small torpedoes upon the circuit closer system. Gave him a list of stores he required. The deceased in due course informed him that the gear was on the Cerberus. They went down the Bay on Friday, the 4th inst., and on Saturday morning he gave the deceased Mr Groves a rough sketch of the way he wished the cable junction boxes, disconnectors, torpedoes, and circuit close buoys to be laid. Mr Groves told him that, in addition to the mines required for this practice, he had brought a few hand grenades, but he said he was not sure whether they would go, as he fancied they contained high tension fuse, and they had no apparatus for exploding them. Witness remarked, "We will try them." During the morning all the joints and connections were made on the deck of the ship, and in the afternoon a boat was loaded with the cable and apparatus, and put off to lay them down. Mr Groves was in charge, and Mr Houston accompanied him with a signalling flag, to signal to witness when all was laid down properly. Upon receiving the signal that all was ready he (witness) connected the cable with the firing key, to which was also connected a wire from the firing battery. (As the mines were laid down, one after the other, he tested them through one battery cell with the galvanoneter.) He then signalled to Groves by flag that the battery was on, and told him to bump the circuit closer buoys. He closed the firing circuit, the buoys were bumped one after another, and the small mines exploded. Mr Groves then-as he had been previously arranged- lifted the end of the cable, and attached another small torpedo to it, which was also exploded. He then returned to the ship to see if anything further was required before lifting the cable. It was suggested that as the explosions had hardly been seen al all a larger torpedo should be fired. Witness said, "We have no larger ones with us," and Mr Groves replied, "there is plenty of powder on board, sir." It was arranged that a gunpowder torpedo, of about 50lbs of powder, should be fired from the stern of the ship. Shortly prior to Mr Groves coming on board witness asked Mr Richards, the gunner, if he would throw overboard one of the small hand grenades, which witness attached by means of a Hooper's core wire to the firing key. Mr Richards accordingly did so, and it did not explode. It was hauled in; and he told Mr Schreeber to take off the top and let him see what was inside. He did so, and found it containing three or four small discs of wet gun cotton and a high tension fuse. He noticed that it had been wet a long time, for the inside of the tin had little spots of rust and the fuse also had rust marks on it. He took the guncotton out of it, and threw the tin overboard. He told Schreeber to let him see what was in some of the others. He showed witness two; one of which was wet like the first, the other comparatively dry. While looking at the last one, Mr Groves came up and asked him what was the matter. Told him what they had done, and that he thought the gun cotton in the tins they were looking at was dry enough to fire; and asked him to put two or three pieces in a tin with a low tension fuse and fire it, and throw it overboard. He did so, and it exploded all right. It was shortly after this that the case of gunpowder referred to in Mr Houston's evidence was brought on deck. He noticed that it was not full and looked into it to see what sort of powder it was. Noticed that it was RL grain. Did not think that he looked into the torpedo again, but told Mr Groves that he though he would find sufficient dry gun cotton to fix to the fuse as a detonating charge. This he knew he did, for he saw him trying the pieces of gun cotton to the fuse with a bit of twine. His next recollection was the armourer being sent for to fix the tubes to the lid. The armourer took it away while he did the work. Remember seeing the lid being put on, previous to which he told Groves to have one of the wires solderded to the top. Remember Groves sending for a piece of timber to act as a float, and saw him lashing the torpedo to it. Suggested to him that it would be better to let the lashing be a couple of feet long, so that the torpedo might be a couple of feet from the float. He acted on the suggestion and the mine and float were lifted into the boat. The Hooper's core line, connected with the mine was coiled up on the deck, the inner end being coiled round his finger. When the line was nearly all payed out, Mr Richards told Groves so. The men ceased rowing. Saw the torpedo and its float lifted over the side of the boat. He then noticed that the boat was foul of it in some way, and saw one of the men jerking with an oar. Instinctively looked at his (witness) hand, and found the wire still twisted round his finger. Said something to the Chief Engineer, Mr Huysman, who, with Mr Richards, was standing near, and the latter said, "How could that have happened, the wires are not connected." Next remembered that he ran to see if any thing could be done. Saw Jasper swimming toward the vessel. A moment or two afterwards Mr Houston jumped overboard. Jasper was picked up, and the bodies were brought on board. Hunter's chest was heaving, and he was still breathing. It was about half an hour before the doctor said he was dead. His injuries were chiefly in the head.

By the Coroner: The battery was on the after steerage deck.

James Drummond Doyle, chief officer at the Spencer street station telegraph office, and electrican in the Naval Torpedo Corps, was one of the electricans on board the Cerberus on the 5th. Did not know who brought the tin of powder on the deck. Saw part of the lid (produced) taken off and he looked at the contents of the case. It was gunpowder. The armourer fitted the wires. He took the lid away with him, and in the meantime a doormat was placed over the open cannister. When the armourer returned the mat was removed for a time, and the armourer taking the lid away a second time the mat was replaced over the case. The next thing he saw was Mr Groves fitting the fuse in its place, and noticed particualaryt that he had tied the gun cotton primer on with string to keep it in place. He then placed the lid on and bound it with india-rubber tape, and then Mr Brakes, engineer, suggested that red lead should be used to keep the water out of the tin.

By the Coroner: He should say there were 40lb. of powder in the case. It was not full by three inches. He saw about 20 quarter ounce discs of gun cotton on the binnacle stand. Also saw one cartridge of dynamite with them. Some of the dynamite was in the carteridge paper, and there were a few grains of dynamite loose on the table. Could not say what was done with the gun cotton discs or cartridges of dynamite. They disappeared, he believed, before the torpedo left the ship. The loose grains also disapeared. Did not recollect hearing Mr Groves making any reference to them. Had previously assisted Mr Schreeber to open one of the hand grenades. It contained gun cotton, but no dynamite. He was on deck when the explosion occured, but did not see it, only heard a noise. Was standing about four yards from Mr Murray. He hurried round, and saw some pieces of timber in the air. Observed a second before that the firing key was in Mr Murray's left hand. Saw in other hand the wire leading to the mine. Mr Murray had not time, first, to connect the wire with the key, second, to pull out the safety stop, and third, to press down the key. It was a physical impossibility for the mine to have been exploded by means of the key. Had no doubt whatever on that point. Did not feel himself compentent to give an opinion as to the actual cause of the explosion, but he was certain the not exploded electrically. Could not say with precision what the contents of the torpedo were composed of.

By Mr Murray: Did not know the effect of placing dynamite in water.

By Mr Ellery: Saw the fuse put in the detanator. He thought that the whole of the tube was covered with gun cotton. Could not say what force was required to put the fuse into the discs. He, with other electricans, had exploded dynamite in charges of not more than an ounce without accident. He would like to add that the instructions were that dynamite in wet places should be exploded at once. He noticed that Mr Groves gave the order "Back all," and the boat went out stern first. It remained in that position until the explosion. The signaficance he attached to this was that the wire from the mine in the stern of the boat would be under the oars all the time. It would take ten seconds for an expert to complete the arrangements for firing the mine.

John Kennedy, chief petty officer of the Cerberus, deposed that he knew the deceased Mr Groves. He kept some dynamite on the hulk Deborah, lying at Edom. He told witness so, and he saw it in the laboratory. It was kept in small paper parcels in a small tin on a shelf. It was labelled dynamite. There were two tins like small canisters produced, and some were left there at present.. On the 2nd February Mr Groves used some of the dynamite, but did not see him use it. He used it specially for one torpedo, which was , he believed, exploded a few days afterwards. Some of the dynamite had been removes, but he could not say by whom and when. Mr Groves had the key to the laboratory, and when he was absent it was handed to witness. Never touched the dynamite, which was delivered on the 30th of last April. Did not on this occasion assist Mr Groves to make up the combustibles. The dynamite could not get wet.

To a juryman: Could not say whether Capt. Manderville was aware that dynamite was kept at the hulk.

image - Between decks on the hulk Deborah

Australasian sketcher June 8, 1878.

To the coroner: Mr Groves kept the store book.

Henry Schreeber, electrician attached to the Naval Torpedo Corps, deposed that he was on board the Cerberus on the 5th inst. He was present for a time while the mine was being made up. It contained gunpowder, and gun cotton placed on the top. Saw nothing else. Was standing at the stern of the Cerberus when the explosion took place. Mr Murray was 10 feet behind him. When the explosion took place he turned round and saw Mr Murray, who was, he fancied, holding the wire in one hand and the key in the other (left) hand or near it. His hands were apart. The firing key was on a kind of table. It was impossible for Mr Murray to have connected or unconnected the wire and the fire plate. He (witness) turned round too quickly for Mr Murray to have done that. He wished to correct a portion of his previous evidence. Mr Murray's left hand was not neat the key. The key was on the table behind him, and in his other hand he held the wire, as now shown. Mr Groves did not say any thing about the composition of the torpedo. His impression was that it only contained powder and cotton.

To Mr Murray: He (witness) put the firing key on the cable. It was fixed thereto with a piece of spun yarn by witness about an hour and a half before the explosion occurred. It could not have been removed, and was in the same position after the explosion. Saw no dynamite.

To juryman: My Murray could not have made a step away between the explosion and his turning around.

To the Coroner: Mr Murray fired all the mines. If, by an inadvertence, the two wires came into contact, it would not cause an explosion unless the circuit had been completed.

An adjournment was here made for twenty five minutes.

On resuming,

Edward Joseph Huysman deposed that he was engineer in charge of the Cerberus, and was on board on the 5th of the month. He was on deck when the explosion took place, on the starboard side of the quarter deck. He was looking at Mr Murray at the time. He was about 20 or 25 feet from Mr Murray, and heard the explosion, Mr Murray had his left hand on the binnacle and his right hand raised, and the wire was round his finger. He was waiting to see Mr Murray connect the wire. He heard the explosion, and Mr Murray had made movement with his hand. When the explosion occurred, he went over to Mr Murray and said, "Good God, the poor fellows are gone." He still had the wire on his finger. The firing key was fixed on the stand of the binnacle.

To a juryman: The binnacle is a fixture.

To Mr Ellery: It is a wooden grating.

Oliver Richards deposed that he was a gunner on board the Cerberus on the 5th inst. Was on deck at the time of the explosion. He was standing about four feet from the gangway, and was looking at the boat at the time. Say Mr Murray, who was about seven or eight feet from him. After the explosion he turned round, and said, "Oh, Mr Murray, what is the cause of this" or words to that effect. Could not say what his reply was. In his (Mr Murray's) right hand was the wire, but he could not say in what position his left hand was. He thought it was impossible for Mr Murray to have connected the wire and Key. He (witness) turned round to Mr Murray almost momentarily. Sae gun cotton and gunpowder put in the mine, but no dynamite. He saw the boat put off, and the wire appeared to be over the oars. The man who tried to lift the oar from the rowlock appeared to stand up, and the explosion then took place. Mr Groves appeared to be leaning over the side at the time.

To a juryman: When he last saw the firing key it was on the binnacle.

To juryman: Dynamite might have been put in the mine, but he hardly thought it possible.

James Tubbs deposed that he was a gunner on board the Cerberus. Had charge of the magazine, and supplied the powder for the torpedo to Mr Groves. Lieut. Collins instructed him to supply the powder. Supplied hum with 70lb of R L G powder from the fore magazine. It had been kept in a cylinder for years, and was there when he took charge, seven years ago. Al, the contents of the magazine are under lock and key. The key was kept in the Commanding officer's cabin under lock and key. While he was on board nobody else used the key, but, when absent, the responsible gunner's mate had charge. The cases, like one introduced, contained 70lb of powder. They were filled to within four inches of the top. The magazine only contains powder. Tubes, fuses, and other ammunition are kept in the Snider magazine in the fore end of the ship. There are rockets, bluelights, and small ammunition. They contain no guncotton. Never had any dynamite under his charge. Dynamite could not have been accidentally, or otherwise, introduced into the exploded tin. Was perfectly satisfied that when he delivered the case of powder to Mr Groves it contained no dynamite. The handle of the lid was made of zinc. Saw the explosion, and exclaimed "They are blown up." Heard Mr Murray say, "My God, how could the be blown up. I have not made the circuit." He had the wire leading to the mine in his right hand. Did not think there was any possibility of Mr Murray doing it. In the shell room saw the stores brought up by Mr Groves. They consisted of some small hand grenades and mines. There was no ill feeling between the men on the Cerberus. The deceased was on good terms with them all.

Mr Murray, re examined : On the hypothesis of My Doyle, that dynamite was present, it could only be in one of the hand grenades. If such was the case the dynamite would be damp and decomposed, and if a little was exuded a slight friction or concussion would cause explosion. In his opinion there was dynamite in the case. Dynamite is a compound of nitro glycerine and infusorial earth. The latter is mixed with it to make it safe to handle. It explodes much more easily than gunpowder or gun cotton. A lethened exposure to water caused the nitro glycerine to separate from the infusorial earth. On the assumption that there was no dynamite in the mine he was helpless, he had no theory. There was fulminate of mercury used in the fuse in the case at the time of the explosion. It was surrounded by the discs of gun cotton, which Mr Groves had tied on with string. Fulminate of mercury will explode by friction or by a severe blow being struck at it. The fulminate of mercury used on this occasion was new, and was therefore free from the possibility of decomposition. Assuming that the fulminate was of the very worst description, the amount of friction or concussion used in extracting the oar would cause the explosion. He did not know of anything but an electric current which could cause the explosion. Dropping the tin into the boat would not cause it. The gun cotton would not explode by means of friction or concussion. When the explosion occurred he was standing up with the wire on his right hand. The binnacle was to the left, rather behind him, and he thought he had his left hand on the key, but was not certain. Assuming that the case contained only fulminate of mercury, gun cotton, and gunpowder, he knew of no agency except the electric spark that could have caused the explosion. He could not have completed the circuit by inadvertence or accident. His impression was that one of the hand grenades contained a small cartridge of dynamite. Mr Groves had a very fair knowledge of explosives, but not of chemistry or electricity. In his opinion Mr Groves had not a full knowledge of the danger incurred in firing electrical mines. He doubted whether he was aware of the danger attached to decomposed dynamite. Mr Groves was fearless, even to rashness, even in matters he did not understand. Witness would not allow him to have the firing key. He was very capable in making up the mines. If there was dynamite in the mine friction by the oar might cause the explosion.

By Mr Ellery : The deck on which the wire was stretched was wood, but the wire passed over a galvanised iron rail of the ship.

By a juryman : Mr Doyle was the only man who saw dynamite. Did not feel any jerking of the wire when they were extracting the oar.

By the Coroner : The case containg the torpedo was both air and watertight.

By a juryman : Mr Groves always made up the torpedoes. He had passed through the torpedo college in England.

By the Coroner : He would not have through much one way or the other about putting dynamite in the mine. He used to say, "They will all go up together." If there was any dynamite there it was likely he would have put it in.

To a juryman : Never knew dynamite to be placed in a hand grenade.

R. L. J. Ellery, Government Astronomer, and also Major Commanding the Torpedo and Signal Corps, deposed that he had heard the evidence given to day, and had read Mr Houston's evidence touching the explosion of the torpedo on the 5th inst. After the evidence he had heard he could not conceive it possible that the electric circuit had been completed on board the ship. With the battery used it was impossible that the circuit was completed. If Mr Murray's hand passed over and touched the key the explosion might have taken place, but there was no evidence that he shifted his hand. After examining the lid of the case, and hearing the description of the method in which the fuse was inserted in the detonating guncotton, he was of the opinion that any of the rough usage in the boat would have been insufficient to have exploded the charge, assuming that it consisted of gunpowder, gun cotton, and fulminate of mercury. In the absence of dynamite, he could not account for the explosion. On the assumption that there was nitro glycerine in the charge, he thought the explosion possible under the circumstances, such as the rolling over of the case causing friction in the powder. If dynamite, in ordinary good condition, had been used in the charge, an explosion would not have occurred. Dynamite which had been in water, or a long time made, was frequently covered on the outside by a thin film of nitro glycerine. A cartridge in this condition, would be highly dangerous in a torpedo, and might cause an explosion. Without dynamite, there was no accounting for the explosion, yet its presence was clear. It was his opinion, that free nitro glycerine was in the case, although he was unable to determine it. If wilfully inclined he could not cause the explosion without some one noticing him. If he put free nitro glycerine into the mine it might explode at once. It was his opinion from the evidence, that the electric arrangements were carefully and properly carried out. In his opinion the dynamite could not have been introduced without the knowledge of Groves.

Mr Doyle, re examined by a juryman : He did not adhere to his previous statement, that Mr Murray held the key. He now remembered distinctly that the key was a fixture.

Charles Evans, able seaman on board the Cerberus, recollected removing something from the hulk Deborah last Thursday by Mr Groves' instructions. Put them on the end of the jetty. When he came about to pass one parcel into the launch the deceased (Mr Groves) said, "Good God! What are you doing; there's dynamite in that. You will blow yourself up?" He put it down, and Mr Groves removed it. The launch went straight to the Cerberus, but witness did not accompany it.

To Mr Ellery : Mr Groves did go back to the hulk, and it was quite possible that he took it with him. The parcel looked like one of sugar.

This concluded the evidence, and the jury at half past five o'clock asked for an adjournment of ten minutes.

The coroner granted the application, and, on resuming, summed up.(BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH)

The jury found that the men were killed by the torpedo explosion, but that there was no evidence to show how the explosion was caused.


12 March 1881


It is seldom that a community is thrilled with such intense and painful excitement as that which pervaded Williamstown on Saturday night last. As is usual, the Front was crowded with frugal housekeepers intent on laying in their week's supply and youth doing the block, and when the electric wire flashed the awful intelligence, trembling lips and excited tongues passed the fateful news. Dazed women stood as if spellbound, and choking sobs rose in many throughs, for amongst the throng that a few minutes before laughed and chatted and strolled carelessly, were wives,, mothers, sisters, brothers, and sons and daughters of those on board the Cerberus, and no one exactly knew who, or how many had gone to eternity, or were maimed and wounded. It was like one of those terrible coal mine tragedies in the mother country where people rush to the pit's mouth, each heart almost pulseless with fear and suspense, and eyes straining to see if some well - known and loved form is brought to the surface. At last the names of the slaughtered and particulars of the catastrophe were posted at this office, and many a "poor fellow!" and fervent "Thank God" was uttered as the excitement abated and the anxious knew that theirs were not amongst the doomed On Sunday the Cerberus returned to her anchorage bringing the dead bodies of Gunner Groves and seaman Hunter, and the survivor, James Jasper; but little additional information could be gained, and from all appearances very little more will be known of the cause of the accident. An inquest was held by Mr Candler on Monday and Thursday on the remains, and it will be from the digest of the evidence that no reason has yet been assigned for the explosion.


The inquest upon the bodies of Robert Samuel Groves, gunner, and James Hunter, able seaman, who were killed by the explosion of a torpedo on Saturday last, was held on Monday at the Oriental Hotel, before Mr Candler the district coroner.

James Jasper, the only survivor of the crew of the boat which was blown up, and who still suffered from the effects of the explosion was the first witness examined. He stated that he saw the torpedo put over the starboard side of the boat and the crew then with exception of himself trying to clear the starboard oar, which became fouled with the wires connected with the torpedo. The explosion immediately occurred, and he remembered nothing more till he was thrown into the water, from which he was rescued by a boat from the Cerberus. It was not his duty to touch the torpedo or the wires connected with it, he being simply an oarsman.

Captain Manderville was next examined, and stated that he took the Cerberus down the bay for the purpose of exercising in shot practice with the heavy guns, and of practising the electricians attached to his department. Some small torpedos were fired on Saturday afternoon, and before he left the Cerberus - which was about five o'clock - it was decided that a mine of about 50lbs. of powder should be exploded in a cylindrical zinc powder case. The experiment took place with his concurrence, and he did not wish to interfere with Messrs Groves and Murray - the former having charge of the mechanical part of the torpedos, and the latter being the chief electrician - as both knew more about electricity and torpedo warfare than he did. He did not know whether any dynamite had been placed in the torpedo, as he did not see it filled; he would not have allowed it to be used. Dynamite is never used in the haulks or Cerberus. If a boathook were pushed through a case containing dynamite, an explosion would probably result. He could not form any opinion as to the cause of the explosion, as the electric current was not connected.

Alexander Houston, one of the staff of electricians, was next called. He stated that he was on board the Cerberus, and saw the torpedo leave the ship. When the boat was about eighty yards from the vessel he saw Mr Groves and one of the crew place the torpedo over the side, and shortly afterwards noticed that the wire was foul with one of the oars, and that the crew were trying to release it. The explosion immediately followed, and he heard Mr Murray, who had charge of the battery and the wire attached to the torpedo, say to the chief engineer, "My God, Heysman, how could that have happened? I have not got the wires connected." Witness then observed that one end of the wire from the battery was attached to the firing key, and the end connected with the torpedo was round Mr Murray's finger. Witness thought the cause of the accident was the fouling of the oar with the torpedo, and the violent attempts that would be made to get it free; and it was quite impossible from what he had seen for the current to have been established and the explosion to have been caused on board the Cerberus. The torpedo consisted of about 70lbs. of powder, and some gun cotton attached to a fuse and placed on top of the powder by Mr Groves. No allusion was made to dynamite, and it was impossible for any person to have maliciously placed anything in the torpedo which would have caused it to explode at the time it did.

At this stage the inquiry was adjourned till Thursday, and on it being resumed Kynaston Murray stated that his orders concerning the placing of the torpedos were carried out as he had directed, and two small mines were exploded. It was then suggested that a torpedo of about 50 lbs. of powder should be fired from the stern. The powder used was large rifle grain. The torpedo was placed in the boat, which left the ship. Witness saw the torpedo lifted over the side of the boat, and then noticed that one of the oars was entangled in the wire, and one of the crew jerking it, the explosion immediately occurred. He instinctively looked at his hands, and found the torpedo wire still twisted round his finger. The firing battery was tested early in the day by witness, who also told Groves not to use more than three - quarters of a mile of cable.

John Drummond Doyle, electrician in the Naval Torpedo Corps, stated that the tin which was opened containing gunpowder only. He saw Mr Groves fitting the fuse in its place, and particularly noticed that he had tied the guncotton primer on with a string to keep it its place. Witness also saw some dynamite on the binnacle close by before the mine left the ship.

Some other witnesses who were examined also affirmed that the torpedo was not discharged from the Cerberus.

Robert Ellery, Government Astronomer, and Major commanding the Torpedo Signal Corps, stated that from the evidence he had heard he could not conceive it possible that the torpedo was fired from the ship. Assuming that the torpedo contained nothing but powder, guncotton, and fuse, no amount of rough usage could have caused the explosion. If dynamite were present the explosion would be caused by the turning over of the case in the sea, and not from any blow from outside.

The coroner in summing up said there was no doubt that the explosion was not caused from the Cerberus. There had been dynamite in the torpedo, and it was evidently put there by Mr Groves.

The jury returned a verdict that Robert Groves and James Hunter were killed by the explosion of a torpedo in the bay, but there is not sufficient evidence to show how the torpedo exploded.


The funeral took place on Monday evening at four o'clock. The remains were placed on two gun carriages and drawn to the Williamstown cemetery by comrades of the deceased. The procession, which took up the whole length of Nelson Place was composed of officers and men from the Cerberus and the Italian, French and German war ships. The bands from the Cerberus and the local volunteers marched in the procession playing the Dead March in Saul. The shops in the line of route were all closed, and crowds turned out to witness the procession. The bodies were buried with the usual naval honours, the Rev. Canon Sergeant officiating at the grave.


To His Excellency the Governor in Council


The Board appointed to make a senrching enquiry into aIl the circumstances connected with the recent fatal accident to a boat's crew of the Cerberus, with a view to discover, if possible, the cause which led to the explosion of the torpedo, have the pleasure to report as follows:-

1. The Board,commenced its enquiry on the 23rd day of March 1881, and held six meetings, at which they took on oath the evidence of those who were on board the Gerberus at the time of the accident, and of other persons expcrt in the suhject of torpedoes and explosives. The Board also visited the Cerberus, where they examined and tested thc apparatus enlployed on the occasion, and had all those on board at the time of the accident arranged as nearly as possible in the positions they occupied just prior to or at the time of the explosion; they visited the magazines on board the hulks Deborah and Sacramento, both undcr the control of the Commander of the Cerberus, and of which the late Mr. Groves was the resident officer in charge. The Board examined the~ store-books, as well as some of thc explosives kept there. This portion of the investigation was completed on the 5th of April 188.

2. In order to comply as far as possible with the tcrms of thc Order in Council, "to make a searching enquiry," the board made its investigations chiefly in two directions--

lst. With the view of ascertaining if any direct and immediate cause of the explosion was discoverable, and, if not--

2nd. With the view of discovering any proximate cause, due to lack of discipline, skill, knowledge, or care on behalf of the Naval Torpedo Corps, or of thc officers or men of the Cerberus, which may have led to the accident or made such an accident possible.


3. This portion of their enquiry the Board subdivided into the following questions:-

(a.) Was the torpedo exploded by an electric current; if so, how was that current produccd, and how was it conveyed through the fuse?

(b.) Was there dynamite in the charge of the torpedo? If there was, what was it's condition, and what its liability to be exploded by the friction or concussion to,which the torpedo wassubjected?

(c.) Does anythihg in the mode of preparing or of sinking the torpedo suggest that the cxplosion resulted from some causc other than electricity?

(d.) Conclusions to be drawn from the answers to these questions.

4. (a.) The direct evidence tends to show that it is highly improbable that an electric current sufficiently intense to ignite the fuse was either intentionally or accidently transmitted. The battery and leading wires, as shown to the Board, appeared to have been carefully arranged, with the proper firing-key. The chief electrician (Mr. Murray) held the wire connected with the torpedo in his right hand, in an uplifted position, clear of the battery wire or firing-key, with his left hand resting on the binnacle-stand, close to, and perhaps toughing, the firing-key, during the whole time the boat was moving away from the ship, and up to the time of the explosion. The witnesses testified that the wires, although not previously tested, were considered to be safly insulated throughout, and, even on cross-examination, no evidence was elicited of any accidental connection between the battery and firing-wires.T firing battery used consisted of twenty-nine cells of Leelanche's battery, of the form known as the Silvertown firing battery, each generally assumed to be capable of firing a platinum wire fuse of such a form as was used in this instance through one ohm of resistance, which would be equal to about a hundred yards of No. 15 copper wire, the size of wire used. The battery, therefore, if in good working order, should have been capable of firing such a fusethrough at least a mile of No. 15 wire. It appears in evidence (question 502-3) that there were about eighty yards of wire measured off, and that the battery would fire the fuse through fourteen ohms resistance. The wire used was No, 15 copper, with Hooper's insulation, the resistance of which was less than one ohm, or not more than one ohm when attached to the fuse. The battery current was therefore greatly in excess of that required and thus became an element of danger in case of defective insulation, or of accidental metalic contact with any portion of the ship. So large an electro-motive force would fire the mine on even the slightest or instantaneous metalic contact being made in circuit. But the Board have no direct evidence of any such accidental contact having been made, although on their visit to the Cerberus they tested the firing-wire usedat the time of the explosion and found some large faults, or removal of insulation from the wire. It was, however, pointed out to the Board that these had perhaps been caused by the numerous and rough handlings to which the wire had been subjected subsequent to the fatal accurrence.

5. Another aspect of this subdivision of the case has attracted the serious attention of the Board. It may be thus stated:- The torpedo case was a zinc cylinder of considerable size, presenting about a square yard of surface. This, together with the iron bottom of the Ceberus and the intervening sea-water, made up a galvanic battery of the form known as a "sea-cell". The Board ascertained, by actual experiment on the ship, that a considerable current was obtained from such a combination even in the comparitively fresh water of Hobson's Bay; and it is evident that a much more powerful current would be set up at Queenscliff, on account of the greater saltness of the water. Assuming that such a current would surffice to ignite the fuse, any accidental contact of the firing-wire with the metal of the ship would have caused the mischief without completion of the circuit to the firing battery proper. No actual test, however, has been made to ascertain whether the se-cell current obtainable at Queenscliff is strong enough to satisfy this assumption, and that question, therefore remains one of theroretical electricity. On this account the Board requested Captain Moors (an officer of the Torpedo and Signal Corps skilled in both mathematical and practical electricity) to investigate the point, the exact conditions obtaining at the time being furnished to him as data, Captain Moors' important report appears in the Appendix marked "A".

6. (b.) By the evidence it is established with certainty that the torpedo contained 70 lbs. of gunpowder and some fragments of discs of gun-cotton. There is no evidence that dynamite was put into the torpedo. One witness only (Doyle) stated that he saw grains of black dynamite lying on the binnacle-table, alongside the gun-cotton, but he did not see it in the torpedo. Doyle was subjected to a careful cross-examination, and under it his evidencebecame less reliable. Several other witnesses saw gun-cotton lying on the binnacle-stand at the time the torpedo was being made ready close by, but they saw no dynamite; yet they had at least as good an oportunity as Doyle of seeing what was on the binnacle-stand, and they were fully as competent as he to distinguish dynamite in the torpedo case. The reason why gun-cotton was placed on the binnacle-stand was said to be that a hand-grenade, used during the day's experiments, had not exploded, and had therefore, with one or two others, been opened, in order to examine their contents and to ascertain the cause of failure. The witnesses state positively that no dynamite had been brought on board the Cerberus. Supposing, however, that dynamite was in the case, it would not have increased materially the danger of accidental explosion, unless it were in bad condition-- that is to say, unless the nitro-glyceerine had seperated from the absorbent material and remained free. Seven ounces of dynamite were found on board the Deborah, and examined by the Board. This was not black, but yellow, or brown-yellow, in color, and was in good and safe condition. Supposing further, that nitro-glyceerine were set free in the case from unsafe dynamite, it would (as shown by the evidence of Captain Wagemann, and as was well known to some members of the Board) be absorbed immediately by the gun powder, and cease to be a source of danger. That this absorbtion would accur is not merely an hypothesis, but is a well known fact. Moreover, it does not appear that the torpedo received any rough usage likely to ignite dynamite (in whatever condition it might have been) by shaking or concussion.

7. (c.) In the preparation of the torpedo, nothing appears to have been done that would render it liable to explosion, otherwise than by the electrical current, up to the time when it was put over the side of the boat. The suggestion made by Captain Wagemann, that at that moment a jerk on the fuse might ignite the fulminate, the Board cannot accept because the junction of the firing-wires with the lid on the torpedo case, which remained attached to the wire after the accident, showed no disturbance of the fuse such as is suggested; and had such a jerk occured, and had the wires consequently slipped, it cannot be supposed that friction could thence have arisen sufficient to ignite the fulminate, which requires percussion, or at least very rapid friction between hard surfaces, to detonate it.

8. (d.) Guided by the investigation made on board the Cerberus, and the facts then placed before them, and also by the evidence carefully weighed, the Board are of opiniom--

1st. That no dynamite was placed in the torpedo, and that Doyle must have been mistaken as to its presence on board.

2nd. That if it had been present, the evidence goes to show that the chance of accidental explosion would have been in no way increased thereby.

3rd. That the premature explosion of the mine was brought about by an electric current, but that whence or how that current was conveyed, is not traceable with certainty.

Newspaper Source Material researched by Frank Noonan

Inquest Report Summary provided by Shirley Joy

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