A final trial of the new steam-steering apparatus of the turret ship Cerberus, before accepting the work from the contractor, was made yesterday, and the results of the tests were of a thoroughly satisfactory character. On the previous trial the tubes containing the oil or liquid necessary for acting on the steering gear were only temporary, but they have now been replaced by new tubing from England. Several minor alterations were also found necessary, and these having been accomplished, everything is now complete and effective, and the huge and heavy craft has not only been rendered much handier for manoeuvring, but is also far more easily managed, and the steering, which under the old style of things, was both laboursome and unstead (sic), is now, so to speak, mere child's play.
The Cerberus, in command of Captain T. C. Mandeville, and with Lieutenants Tandy and Heathcote on board, got under weigh yesterday morning, and left her moorings at 7 o'clock, in company with H.M.S.S. Sapphire. The Cerberus escorted the Sapphire some 15 miles down the bay, and previous to parting company the band played "Auld Lang Syne". After wishing a pleasant voyage to the Sapphire, the Cerberus dropped sentiment and proceeded to business, and was put through a number of evolutions, while a boat in charge of Lieutenant Heathcote was sent off to measure angles for calculating various distances, such as determining the diameter of the circle in which the vessel would turn, with both engines going ahead at full speed. &c. The trials, both as to speed and steering, were to the satisfaction of Captain Mandeville, and also of Mr. A. Wilson, engineer-surveyor to the Steam Navigation Board, who was present on behalf of the Government, to examine the work previous to its passing out of the hands of the contractor. The Cerberus returned to the bay in the course of the afternoon, picking up her mooring about 2 o'clock.
The Ironclad CerberusThe Argus August 20 1877
Ever since the turret-ship Cerberus has been in these waters, it has been found that her steering gear was to a certain extent defective, as it was impossible to manoeuvre her with any rapidity in the narrow channels of Port Philip Bay. This rapidity in the narrow channels is, of course, of the greatest importance, but by the ordinary steering gear with which she was originally fitted it took eight or ten men to get her wheel over from hard-a-port to hard-a-starboard, or vice versa. Even when this was done the ship would make such a turn that it was a matter of time and difficulty to get her on a straight course again. These were all serious draw-back against her efficiency as a means of defence, and the late commander of the vessel on more than one occasion urged on the Government the desirability of having her fitted with some steam steering gear, so as to make her more manageable. This advice has always been supported by the testimony of those naval officers who have visited the port and inspected the Cerberus. It can be quite understood - even by non-nautical men - that an immense power would have to be ezerted (sic) on the rudder of such a vessel, when we state that it measures 8 ft by 12 ft, or presenting an area of 96 square feet, and giving a resistance of about 48 tons. This is the cause of the great number of men required to steer her, and as it was impossible for all to work easily and together as one man, it can be easily seen that if she was given a spoke or even half a spoke too much helm she would necessarily make a most erratic course, instead of going along in a straight line. Ultimately, in September last Sir James McCulloch gave instructions to have designs prepared for the necessary work. This was entrusted to Mr. A Wilson, the inspecting engineer to the Government, who decided upon working out an idea of his own in preference to adopting a steam steering gear in use in some of the large ironclads belonging to the Imperial navy. In the latter case, a barrel worked by steam has been adapted to the ordinary system of wheel chains working from either head of the tiller, but the noise from the continual clanking of these chains has been found to be so great that the new system has been unanimously voted a nuisance, and in some cases the old-fashioned steering gear has been reverted to. Mr. Wilson has been enabled to carry his idea into practice, and as it has now been fully tested on board the Cerberus and found to answer well some account of it may be interesting. The helmsman steers the ship from an ordinary wheel on the flying deck above the fore turret. Attached to the wheel is a screw working a series of shafts and pinnions down to the lower deck mid-ships, where it connects with and so works the reversing eccentrics of a double-cylinder engine of 12 horse power. These work on a large piston contained in an oil cylinder, from which are carried inch pipes leading aft on either side of the ship. On each side of the tiller is another cylinder in which works a ram. As the wheel is put to port the screw in the central cylinder is forced over to the starboard side, sending the oil before it, and acting upon the ram on the starboard side of the tiller , the helm is pushed to port, and at the same time the oil returns by the pipe on the port side according to the central cylinder. By reversing, the wheel on deck the opposite effect is produced according to the number of revolutions given to the wheel so is the tiller moved to port or starboard. The machinery is most ingenious, and Mr. Wilson spent a pretty good deal of time improving his design so as to render it perfect. The working drawings have been prepared, tenders called for, and ultimately that of Mr. T. Tozer was accepted, the price being about £1,600. The contract time expired in April last, but owing to many unforseen difficulties it was not until the beginning of the present, month that the whole of the machinery was in working order and ready for testing. In order, however, to ascertain whether the cylinders are perfectly tight water has been used in place of oil, in order to save the latter, and several leakages were discovered. About 10 days since Captain Mandeville took the ship about three miles down the bay for the purpose of giving the machinery a trial. Like all new engines it worked stiffly, and Mr. Wilson and Mr. Tozer, who were board, noticed several alterations necessary. It was however, admitted by all that the new method of engineering was a great improvement on the old one, and some experiments were made with the view of testing how quickly the helm could be shifted. It was then found with both engines going full speed ahead a complete circle could be made by the ship in 4m 20s. With one engine going full speed ahead and the other engine going full steam astern the circle was made in 4m 20 s. This was the same time as with the engines at full steam ahead but the diameter of the circle was much smaller. Going full steam ahead it took two men 1 m 35s to put the helm from hard-a-port to hard-a-stern at the same rate of speed it took 45 s only to put the helm from amidships to either side, while to perform the same manoeuvre with the engines going at half speed 23 s were occupied. These experiments were considered very satisfactory, as hitherto it had taken eight to ten men five minutes to put the helm to one side to another. Mr. Wilson was not, however, quite satisfied with the result, as he considered that one man should be able to alter the helm in 40 s.
The sailor has his left hand on the steam-steering wheel and the officer at bottom is using the telegraph to the engine room.
The Cerberus having to leave Hobson's bay for the Heads on Monday, 13th inst. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Tozer again proceeded with her, and found that as the machinery was worked the stiffness wore off, but some of the men appeared somewhat nervous in making use of the new gear. The wheel acted much more quickly on the rudder than they had been used to that they would give her a little too much helm, causing her to make a some what uncertain course. This will however, be remedied as the men become use to steering the vessel, and the perceptible improvement was noticeable when the Cerberus was returning to her moorings on Saturday last. With some of the men she made a very straight course, while others still shifted the helm rather too much, and so caused her to "yaw" about a bit. After clearing the mouth of the South Channel some further experiments were made as to the manner in which the helm could be changed and a circle completed. It then took 19 s to put the helm from amidships to hard-a-starboard with the engine going three quarter speed ahead, and the ship described a circle in 4m 45 s. The diameter of this circle was about 150 yards. With one of the engines going ahead and the other astern at three quarter speed the ship pivoted on her centre, completing the circle in 5m 14 s. On the whole the experiments must be considered very satisfactory, and Mr. Wilson is to be congratulated on the success of his invention.
FIRING PRACTISE As this was the first time Captain Mandeville has had the Cerberus under weigh for drill purpose at the Heads, some interest was evinced in her trip on this occasion. She left her moorings in Hobson's Bay at 9 a.m on Monday last and, proceeding down the South Channel, anchored off Queenscliff at an early hour in the evening, where she remained for the night. It was intended to proceed with shot and shell practice on Tuesday, but owing to Dr. Williams, the health officer, being in quarantine with the ship Macduff, and the other health officer having to be in readiness to clear the mail steamer on her arrival, it was impossible to obtain a doctor on board, and as it is not considered desirable to practice with the heavy guns in the absence of a medical officer, the target practice had to be foregone for the day. The men were, however, drilled steadily through the day, and Dr. M'Farlane going on board on Wednesday, the target- a small topgallant sail- was taken on shore, and erected in front of the sandstone cliff between quarantine ground and Point Nepean. In connexion (sic) with this practice Captain Mandeville inaugurated a system somewhat different to what has hitherto been the custom. The different ranges have usually been measured and buoyed, but this time that was dispensed with, and the firing all took place at about 1,800 yards, leaving those in charge of the guns to ascertain their own elevation &c. It had been intended to keep Cerberus steaming about during the firing, but as there was such a heavy sea rolling in through the Heads, it was decided to drop anchor underfoot during the practice. The weather was rougher than on any other occasion on which shot practice has been indulged in, but the shooting was exceptionally good. The fore turret was in charge of Lieutenant Heathcote and the after turret in charge of Mr. Tubbs, the gunner. Ten rounds were fired from each turret, viz, six rounds of solid shot and four rounds of shell. Another innovation was also made on this occasion, and with very good results, as it will give the men considerable instruction in gunnery practice. Usually the officer in charge of the turret has laid the gun, but this time it was decided to allow No.1 at the guns to fire two rounds each, and the No.2 one round each.
From the following record it will be seen that capital practice was made.
Dividing the firing into four classes, it may be said that six shots were first class, seven second class, three third class, and four fourth class. Any of the three classes would, however, have struck a vessel, while one of the fourth class shots failed owing to the tube hanging fire. On Thursday boats` crews were sent away from the ship to try and recover some of the shot, but there was such a sea rolling around Point Nepean, that the men were unable to land, and accordingly the day was devoted to drill on board.
The weather moderated somewhat during the night, and on Friday morning the men were able to land, when they found the shot had proved, most destructive to the cliff, great masses having been bought down, quite embedding the target. The crew were only enabled to dig out two shots, one of which had been fired on some previous visit. On Saturday morning the Cerberus got up steam and returned to town by the West Channel, picking up her mooring early in the afternoon. The survey party now at Point Nepean have been reduced to short allowance of provisions and water, in consequence of the ship Macduff being placed in quarantine. It is very difficult to land at the Point when there is any sea on, and consequently as the party are cut off from Portsea by the intervening quarantine ground, their water was reduced to such a low ebb that on Friday they were glad to get a breaker of water from the Cerberus. They were, however, in hopes of being relieved to-day, as they have nearly completed their work.
The Naval ReserveThe Argus 21 September 1877
This effective body of men as at present constituted numbers 225 men, including officers, and seamen and is formed into two divisions, representing Williamstown and Sandridge, and the whole command is under the command of Captain Fullarton. The men of the Reserve are drilled ashore in their orderly-rooms at Williamstown and Sandridge twice a week; besides, there is an extra night a week for new members and men backwards in drill, and they are thoroughly versed in great gun, cutlass, sword bayonet, field gun and infantry drills.
The Naval Brigade Passing Victoria Barracks
Illustrated Australian News, 1 June 1891
No man is allowed to fall in at general quarters until he has gone through the preliminary drills, which usually take three or four months. After men are thoroughly perfect in their drills, they are rated as trained men, and have some small privileges in drilling shorter hours in their orderly-room. A divisional muster takes place once a week in each district and a muster inspection of arms, uniform and accoutrements, at which every member is expected to attend, is held once a month. A muster for drill afloat takes place on the first Saturday afternoon in each month, and a general muster for a full days drill afloat once a quarter. Every man of the Reserve must pass through the course of musketry instruction once a year. A thorough system of discipline is maintained whilst the men are under arms or afloat.
Every man, on entering the drill-room shoulders arms and salutes the room as he would the quarter-deck afloat. The men of the Reserve are in the prime of life, averaging from 25 to 36, stout muscular fellows, able to undergo any amount of hard work, and several of them wear medals for service in the Royal Navy. The petty officers are able, zealous and efficient, and the other officers, on account of the insufficiency of their numbers, until recently have always had to do double duty and are possessed of a very pardonable amount of pride and esprit de corps.
No man is admitted into the Reserve under 20 nor over 40 years, and the average height is about 5ft 8 in. The Naval Reserve was enrolled in the beginning of 1870, for the purpose of giving a crew to the Nelson and the Cerberus, and it is but justice to say that Reserve was formed originally from the old Volunteer Naval Brigade, and that a majority of officers and men volunteered from its ranks to serve in the new corps, and thereby voluntarily made themselves amenable to all, the provisions of the Discipline Act. The Naval Brigade, as a volunteer corps, was always admitted to be the premier corps in the volunteer force, both for drill, discipline &c, and was trained to act either afloat or ashore and never missed an encampment, general muster field day, or boat flotilla attack. Their discipline was always maintained by the officers in command treating them as a homogeneous unit, and not as separate companies, and it may be remembered that after encampments or general musters they were never allowed to break up into disjointed bodies and disperse, but always struck their tents together, and with their little fife.and.drum band marched off the ground with every officer and man in his place, as a disciplined military body should do. The present officers of the corps are Captain Fullarton, commanding; Lieutenant Elder (commanding the Williamstown division), Lieutenant Denis, Sub -lieutenant Robertson, Surgeon McLean, and Assistant surgeon Malcolmson.
Renewing the Boilers of the CerberusThe Illustrated Australian News
21 March 1883
For a long time past it has been a matter of notoriety that the boilers of the Cerberus were in a very unsafe condition, and as long ago as September 1881, they were condemned by the authorities as being unsafe when worked up to the nominal pressure, and during the last twelve months, when it was necessary to get up steam, a pressure of more than 8 pounds to the inch was impossible as the concussion of firing the 18 ton guns, with which the vessel is armed, would have rendered a greater dangerous (sic). Some months ago a contract was let to Messrs., Forman Bros., Yarra-bank, to supply new boilers, and the work was at once undertaken. The new ones have been completed, and are being placed in position as rapidly as possible.
They are considered a great improvement on the old square box boilers known in the English navy as the low fighting boilers, and as may be seen in the illustration, are cylindrical in shape, a form which has greater resisting power, and dispenses with the necessity for a multitude of stays, which are usually much in the way of cleaning operations. They are 13 feet 6 inches in diameter, and 10 feet deep, with a ¾ inch shell and 7/16th combustion chambers.
On her trial trip, the Cerberus made 9¾ knots per hour, but, with the new boilers, she is expected to make 10. Considering her tonnage (2500 tons), and her low relative horse power, this may be considered fair speed. It was at first thought that the vessel would need to be stripped to her armor (sic) plates to get the boilers out on one side at least, but this was obviated by one of the engineers, who constructed a model to scale, demonstrating that after the funnel, &c, had been removed from the upper deck, there would be just room to lift them through the hatchway thus made, and this resulted in a considerable saving being effected. The model in question is in the possession of Captain Mandeville, and is an object of interest to visitors. Since her arrival in this port various improvements of importance have been made, in the Cerberus, a Gatling gun has been added and the electric light is fixed over each turret, with the attendant machinery. She has also been fitted with steam steering gear and a contrivance by which the mishap of blowing away the deck's fittings is rendered impossible. This is also an invention of one of the engineers, and is also effective in its action that the after turret is to be fitted with it also. After the Cerberus has received her new boilers she will be docked and have a thorough overhaul, after which, it is believed, she will be as formidable as a means of defence as ever she was. Our illustrations show first the old boilers as they lay on the wharf after being taken out, and secondly, the manner in which the 50 ton steam crane was used in hoisting them out. The bottom sketch gives the stoke hole where the work of taking the boilers out of their positions had to be performed, and it is satisfactory to note that the contractors performed this work with success and promptitude. It is anticipated that a couple of months will see our best means of defence in a thorough state of efficiency, and with a judicious arrangement of our land forces and batteries, we should be able to repel the attack of any force likely to be sent against us in the event of hostilities taking place between Great Britain and any other powers.
On Board H.M.V.S. Cerberus.The Age Newspaper Monday 6th April 1885
( BY OUR SPECIAL REPORTERS )
NIGHT DRILL The fleet having anchored on Thursday evening shortly before sunset within a mile of the South Channel lighthouse, masthead lights were hoisted, the torpedo boat Childers moored to the Nelson and the crews of each ship sent to night quarters. Captain Thomas, who was determined to give the men a foretaste of the work they would have to undergo on the following day, when the fleet would run the gauntlet through the Heads and engage both the Queenscliff and Point Nepean forts, rudely disturbed the slumbers of the Nelson crew about half-past nine o'clock by giving the order to cast loose the guns for drill. The men were out of their bunks and at the guns in a minute. There was no noise or confusion. Each gun was charged with dummy shot, run out and ready for firing in three minutes. By means of flash lights the order was sent to the Cerberus at ten o'clock at night to prepare to meet an approaching enemy. Notwithstanding the fact that the men were soundly slumbering after a hard day's work, they jumped to the guns with astonishing celerity, which did not fail to command the favourable comment of Captain Fullarton. All through the night the officers on board the different vessels were on the qui vive, for they did not know the moment Captain Thomas would order the torpedo boat Childers to attack the fleet during the night. However, the Commandant has gone to bed and slept until six o'clock, when the reveille sounded the first parade. After breakfast, at half-past eight o'clock the order was given from the flagship to weigh anchor, and half an hour later Captain Thomas was taken on board the Cerberus and Commander Collins on the Victoria gunboat. The Nelson was left behind in charge of Lieut. Tickell.
The Naval Engagements at the Heads
ATTACKING THE SOUTH CHANNEL FORT A few minutes afterwards the fleet was under way, heading for Queenscliff, the Cerberus leading, followed by the Victoria, the Albert (which had come down to Capel Sound during the night), and the torpedo boat Childers. When the Cerberus was within 1000 yards of the South Channel fort, now being constructed (as indicated on map given above), the order was issued to fire at the fort with the starboard guns, assisted by the Nordenfeldts. Fuses were only used, the powder being reserved for the engagement at the Heads.
Works at the Fort, South Channel
Australasian Sketcher, March 28 1880
RESISTING A TORPEDO BOAT ATTACK When it was concluded that the fort had been demolished, the bugle sounded to prepare to resist a torpedo attack on the starboard side. The order was obeyed in remarkably quick time. The fore and aft Nordenfeldt guns were manned whilst about thirty men, armed with Martini-Henry rifles, lay down on the breast-work and also on the flying deck, and delivered well directed volleys at the supposed approaching torpedo boat.
The Cerberus: Repelling a Torpedo attack by night.
Illustrated Australian News, 1 April 1891
Practise with the Nordenfelt Gun.
The Australasian, 31 March 1894
photos courtesy of Newspaper Collection, State Library of Victoria
The men at the Nordenfeldts were supposed to be protected by bedding and iron screens. Captain Thomas' quick eye discovered the boatswain and an assistant working at the anchor chains on the fore deck, and he immediately pointed out that no man would be there during an actual engagement.
MUSTERING The bugle sounded to muster on the quarter deck, where the Commandant read out the comments of Captain Fullarton on the work done by the Cerberus men whilst going down the Bay on the previous day. Captain Thomas pointed out that it took 3 minutes and 17 seconds to man the turret guns and prepare for action, and said he trusted the men would do it the next time within the three minutes. He had a slight complaint to make against the petty officer, who only provided eleven fuses instead of twenty five for each turret, but that was more than counter-balanced by the noiseless manner in which the men went about their duties.
Mustering on the Cerberus. The Australasian, March 31 1894
photo courtesy of "Newspaper Collection, State Library of Victoria"
DUELING WITH THE FORTS AT THE HEADS On approaching the heads some anxiety was shown by the men to know the next move of the Commandant, who was most mysterious as to his intentions. At first it was stated that the Cerberus would not go through the Heads, but immediately she was abreast of Queenscliff a warning gun was fired to attract the attention of Captain Ind, who was in charge of the Queenscliff fort, the object being to signal that the Cerberus and the rest of the fleet would go through the Heads, and on returning engage both the Queenscliff and Nepean batteries. Captain Ind, who had been watching the whole of the previous night, expecting an attack from the fleet, came to the conclusion that the firing of the gun was a challenge to begin hostilities. In a few minutes the Queenscliff batteries were blazing away in earnest at the Cerberus, which was only going at half speed through the Rip.
Captain Thomas, who was evidently taken aback at the answer, immediately ordered both fore and aft turrets to engage the forts, so as to protect the gunboats and torpedo boat Childers, which were steaming slowly astern. The order was obeyed with alacrity, and a rattling fire was kept up for a considerable time. The Queenscliff battery replied to the Cerberus fire with precision and rapidity, commencing with the 80-pounders on the extreme right of the fort, and finishing up with the three 9-inch Armstrong guns on the left. In order to show the rapidity of the fire from the Queencliff batteries, it may be stated that they fired twenty-four shots before the Cerberus got out of range.
The artillerymen then turned their attention to the Victoria and Albert, who had not been ordered to fire, and who, if they had been, could have done very little with the breech-loading Armstrong stern chasers. Whilst this was going on, the Nepean battery next opened on the Nelson, but the firing was of a fitful character, quite unworthy of the fort, which is reckoned to be second to none in the colonies. Captain Thomas did not think it worth while to reply to, but signalled instead that he would engage that fort when steaming through the Heads again. After going about a mile and a half outside the Heads, the Cerberus turned round and steamed for the Heads at full speed. The gunboats Victoria and Albert were signalled to prepare to engage the Nepean fort, and in a few minutes both those vessels presented a scene of unwanted activity.
One mistake, however, was made. The Victoria wheeled round and fired its 25 ton breech- loading gun at the Nepean fort without having first received orders from the flagship to do so. Naturally enough this drew the fire of the battery upon the Victoria, to whose assistance the Cerberus had to come by prolonged and indiscriminate firing both from the fore and aft turrets. In the meantime the Cerberus had again come within range of the Queenscliff battery, which once more opened fire, and a splendidly sustained cannonade ensued on both sides. Captain Thomas ordered the Cerberus guns to tackle the Queenscliff battery, whilst the Victoria and Albert, which had been indiscreet enough to fire before they were ordered, were deputed to silence the Nepean battery. The engagement at this moment was a most impressive one.
In and about the Heads a number of both large and small craft were cruising amidst the volumes of powder smoke, which hung heavily on the surface of the water, and at times totally obscured the land batteries from view. The well directed fire from the Queenscliff batteries boomed across the water and mingled with the roar of the 18 ton guns on board the Cerberus, the 25 ton on the Victoria and the breech-loading stern chasers and heavy gun of the Albert. Far astern was the torpedo boat Childers, which was perforce compelled to be quiescent during the engagement. At any moment, however, she was ready to advance with lightning like rapidity for the purpose of blowing up any vessel which might bar the passage through the Heads.
As the Cerberus again breasted the Queenscliff fort the guns, which were served with remarkable more opened a brisk cannonade, and would not be silenced by the fire from the Cerberus. The fire at 1000 yards was chiefly from the 80-pounders, which belched forth at the Cerberus in such a manner that had the guns contained projectiles, and the aim of the artillerymen been accurate, the Cerberus would have experienced a very bad time of it. On getting within 600 yards range of the 9-inch Annstrong gun, which carries a 200 lb. projectile capable of piercing 14 inches of armour at 2000 yards, was laid on to the Cerberus, which replied in a rather erratic manner, owing to seven of the charges missing fire. This was not due to any defect in the fuses, but owing to the smallness of the blank charge. The latter only weighed 7 Ib., whereas the proper charge is 70 lb. of powder. The noise from the Queenscliff battery was terrific, as it rolled along the surface of the water and reverberated again and again in the air.
Engaging the Queenscliff and Nepean Batteries.
The Illustrated Australian News, 15 April 1885
As the Cerberus passed inside the Heads the fire of the battery ceased to a considerable extent owing to the powder running short. The fire from the Nepean battery was so feeble that the Cerberus men likened it to a "potato squirt." The Victorian and Albert gunboats and the torpedo boat Childers were also subjected to a raking fire when they came in range of the Queenscliff battery, the men of which never seemed to tire. As the fleet got inside the Heads the order to cease firing was given on board the ship Cerberus, which came to a stoppage opposite the Queenscliff pier. To sum up the day's proceedings -the firing of the Cerberus was carred out with great precision by the men, who were rather nonplussed at first when called upon to fire at the land batteries whilst the vessel was in motion. After the first round, however, they trained the guns with such precision that had they been charged with shell they would undoubtedly have played sad havoc with the Queenscliff batteries, the men of which are exposed in a veritable man-trap.
From the Cerberus No.3 and 4 men of each gun at Queenscliff were plainly visible on the ramparts, and afforded excellent targets to a skilful marks-man. Such, however, was not the case at the Nepean battery, not a man of which could be seen.
The men worked wen, kept quite cool, were noiseless in their actions and patient for the word of command. The firing of the Victoria and Albert was performed with regularity and precision, the men on each vessel working like Trojans. It is questionable, however, if they would have been able to get through the Heads with such celerity had the engagement with the Queenscliff fort been one in real earnest. After a short stay at Queenscliff the Cerberus, under the command of Captain Fullarton, returned to her consort, the Nelson, in Capel Sound. The two gunboats, Victoria and Albert and the Childers, proceeded to the same rendezvous later on. All the vessels let go their anchors, and the crews went to quarters for the night. On Sunday, the crews of each vessel will be conveyed on board the Nelson, when Captain Thomas will read prayers both morning and evening.
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