The Cerberus

The Australasian Sketcher July 29 1882



SOME information as to the state of this ironclad will be of interest at the present time. It will be remembered that a short time ago the Cerberus was placed in the dock to have her boilers repaired, and that she was made to fit to steam at a low rate of speed. Her engines and boilers were made by Messrs. Maudalay and Son of London, and the former drives twin screw cylinders 43in. in diameter having a 2ft 8in stroke and when first tried they exerted 1,400 horse power. The boilers are five in number- three large and two small, and are of the box type, which is now obsolete in this class of vessel. They could originally be worked at a pressure of 30lb, but in course of time became so impaired as to become unsafe. They have now been patched in about 50 places and four of them can be safely used with a pressure of 8lb, and the fifth with a pressure of 17lb. The latter is set apart for the working of the turrets and the steering gear, and the others are for driving and screwing, &c. After the repairs were executed a short trial trip was made, and a speed of about seven knots an hour was obtained. If one of the boilers broke down in any way now there would be no steam power available for working the turrets and steering gear, but that work could in such a contingency be performed by manual labour.

HMS Thunderer's Boilers
Two 4 furnace square box boilers in HMS Thunderer (left boiler damaged by explosion)
Cerberus had 3 furnace boilers.



The turrets revolve on pivots and are turned by a spindle which catches on a ring of cast iron teeth underneath. These teeth being of cast iron are liable to break, and do break frequently in practice. The breaking of one or two does not disable the turrets, but if four consecutive teeth snapped off the spindle would have nothing to catch by at that particular place, and manual labour would have to be employed to pass the gaps on. It is unfortunate that these teeth were not made of wrought iron. However, those damaged in practice have been always easily replaced, and none of them would be easily injured by an enemy's fire as the base of the turret is well protected.



In fact, all the vital parts of the vessel are enclosed with armour plate from 9in to 10in., thick above the water line, and 6 in., below the water. When immersed for action, the vessel exposes but 3ft. of free board, covered with armour of 8 in, to 9 in. thick. The deck, which of course, could not be exposed to a vertical fire, consists of 2¾in. plates of iron, covered with 4½in. of teak. On this deck also, around the turret, is what is called the glacis plate, 3in. thick. The turrets themselves have armour-plate from 9in. to 10in. thickness but the actual thickness of their walls is about 2ft., for the iron is backed with teak and packing and there is also an inner skin of iron. The breastwork between the turrets has 8in, to 9in. armour, and its deck is formed with 1½in. iron plates, and 4in. of planking. The central structure-the pilot tower, from which the commander handles the vessel-is enclosed with 8in. and 9in. plates. As the three small observation apertures on each side of this tower do not command a very comprehensive view, an opening has been made in the roof, and is shielded with a caul. Above all is the firing deck or superstructure on which the boats are placed when the ship is made ready for action. Here, too, are two electric light projectors, but they cannot be used at the present for lack of steam power. In action the flying deck and its appurtenances might be destroyed, but it is believed that however much this superstructure might be knocked about the working of the turrets would not be interfered with. The fact, however, remains that the flying deck projects over both turrets, and that this is not the case in the turret ships which have been more recently constructed. It has been stated that the armour of the turrets is backed by teak, and it should also be mentioned that the walls of the vessel generally are strengthened much in the same way. The hull has two bottoms, and it is the space between them that is filled with water when the "emersion" takes place. The vessel, apart from her boilers, is at present in excellent order - trim and clean outside and inside.



As is well known, each turret contains two powerful guns -10in. muzzle-loading Armstrongs. They throw projectiles weighing 400lb. The charge of powder required varies from 44lb to 70lb., according to the description of the projectile, and each shot costs from £3 to £4. The shells provided for their use contain 406 balls each, and there are 14 of these balls to the pound. Fifteen men are required for each gun, and the weapons are laid by the captains of the turrets, who direct the men in accordance with the general instructions they may have received from the commander in the pilot tower. The guns have an extreme elevation of 11 deg., which means a range of about 5,000 yards, and The captain of the turret having ordered the guns to be elevated or depressed, moves the turret himself with a steam lever, and takes aim over sights on the top of the turret. If both guns were fired at once at the same elevation their projectiles would strike a few feet from each other. The Cerberus can fire by broadsides, by turrets, or independent firing can be carried on.

Cross Section of a Coles Turret



On the main deck are the old and new steering gear, racks of Martini-Henry rifles, Adam's revolvers and boarding pikes, a machine for generating electricity, the cook's galley, and around the base of the turrets are the appliances for serving shot, shell, and ammunition. The lower deck is divided into five compartments, which when the sliding doors are closed, are water-tight. The steerage compartment is occupied by the men, and underneath it is a storeroom. The next is allotted for the petty officers, the middle ones for machinery and boilers, and the two aft for the officers and commander. Below the officers` cabins are the shot, shell and ammunition magazines. If the vessel were rammed or pierced with a shot, then the doors of the injured compartment would be closed and if that were done successfully, she would survive. The Cerberus is manned by Captain Mandeville, commander; 1st Lieutenant, Mr. Collins; paymaster, Mr Thompson; chief engineer, Mr. E.J.Huysmans, chief gunner; Mr. Richards. R.N. gunner, Mr. Tubbs; assistant -engineers Mr. Brakes and Mr. Harrow; and 102 men.


   The Australasian Sketcher May 6 1885

The probability of war arising out of the difficulty between England and Russia has given considerable impetus to defence preparations in Victoria. The temporary fort for the protection of the South Channel in Port Phillip harbour is almost complete, and submarine mine-fields have been laid in each of the channels. Every effort is being made to bring the militia force up to the limit of 3,000 fixed by the act. The strength of the Permanent Artillery force has been increased to the number named by Sir William Jervois and Major-General Scratchley in their scheme of defence as being necessary to man the batteries at Port Phillip Heads. The strength of the Naval Reserve is also being increased, and as the difficulty with the reserve has disappeared through the Government acceding to their wishes in the matter of short service, there is no difficulty in obtaining recruits. There is some promise of the old volunteer system being resuscitated, and meetings for the formation of corps have already been held, but as yet no definite step in this direction has been taken. The popular idea is to establish volunteer corps as a reserve for the militia, and a large body of trained men, who cannot spare the time for drill required by the militia regulations, are prepared to enrol themselves should the authorities favour the proposal. The Government are considering regulations framed with the intention of affiliating the country rifle clubs with the militia force in the event of war being declared. The formation of a Yachtsman Naval Reserve corps and a German colonists` corps are both being considered. A large Melbourne business firm has initiated the project of forming a volunteer rifle corps amongst its employe's (sic). The Melbourne Harbour Trust offered to form a naval corps amongst its employe's (sic), but asked for special regulations in the matter of payment and drill. Although there are at present a sufficient stock of rifles in the colony to arm a force of about 11,000 men, the Government have ordered fresh shipments of weapons with rapid feeders attached. During a recent visit to Melbourne, Admiral Tyron, of the Australian Naval Station, inspected the fleet, and reported very favourably to the Governor concerning all vessels. Admiral Tyron considers the turret-ship Cerberus a formidable vessel, and one of our best means of harbour defence.

back to index


The Australasian Sketcher June 9 1877



At a time when, owing to the disturbed condition of Europe and the possibility of England becoming involved in hostilities, our defences are regarded with interest, our illustration, giving an inside view of one of the turrets of the Cerberus, will be looked at with attention. The Cerberus has two of these revolving iron turrets, each of which has two guns.

In our engraving one of these is fully shown, and the other is just visible in the background. The guns are of 10 in. bore, and muzzle loaders. They throw a shot or shell of 400 lb. weight, and weigh 18 tons each. The charge of powder ranges from 45 lb. to 60 lb., and the range of shot is about 4 miles.

Good execution can be done at a range range of 3½ miles. Thus, the four guns of the Cerberus are equal to throwing a broadside of 1,600 lb. of iron a distance of four miles. It is very unlikely, unless some quite unforseen contingency should arise, that the Cerberus will ever find herself opposed to a vessel of equal defensive plating and offensive armament. The operation of loading depicted in our engraving is performed by seven men to each gun. The shot is hauled up by three men, and run round to the proper position for loading, and slipped into the mouth of the gun. The sponging out the bore is done by two men. All the movements of the gun and of the turret are executed by machinery, and are regulated with the greatest nicety by the gunner in his position at the breach.

back to index


The Illustrated Australian News May 18 1874



Our artist has here chose an excellent view of the Victorian ironclad Cerberus, in the new dock at Williamstown. This vessel is one of the most powerful ironclads in any part of the world, excepting England. There is a twin vessel of war in the harbour at Calcutta. When in fighting trim her deck is only two feet above the water. The armament is contained within the two shot-proof revolving turrets. She is propelled by twin four-bladed screws. Our artist's sketch was taken when she was resting on the blocks & the sides proped up by a double line of shores. The sides & bottom of her hull and the blades of the screws were covered with a coating of mussels, barnacles & vegetable matter from 5 to 6 inches thick, proving, when exposed by the

pumping out of the water, that this vessel did not go into dock before it was necessary. The crowds who went down to see the monster in dock were numbered by thousands. It is only when the vessel is in dock that her great power and dimensions are seen. Considerable diversion was afforded the onlookers when the water was pumped out of the dock by witnessing the boys regaling themselves with the mussels they took off the vessel's side in large quantities, some as big as a man's hand. Before going out of dock the Cerberus will thoroughly repainted. It has been said by jocular people that when the authorities in England christened this vessel the Cerberus they mildly insinuated that Melbourne is a modern Hades, as the business of the three headed dog was to guard the gate of that tropical place. Be this as it may, England has given us a three-headed dog that can bite most effectively.

back to index


The Illustrated Australian News November 9 1889


The naval defence of Victoria have not been neglected. Indeed, competent authorities have declared it to be the strong arm of organization. There are now 385 men of all ranks in the permanent force, which is under the command of Captain W.F.S. Mann, R.N.: and 382 in the Naval Brigade, commanded by the veteran Captain Fullarton. The latter contingent is a description of militia, which, however, is subjected to be a fine body of men, not excelled for physique in any other part of the world. The men are all practical seamen, and each year attend for a stated number of days upon on or other of the war ships forming the Victorian navy, and are taken on cruises, extending over several days, for drill and gun exercises, as well as training in the general duties appertaining to a man of warsman. These trips are productive of the best results, and while o board the men are under the strictest discipline, and are required to lose no opportunity in perfecting themselves in their duties, and performing them with smartness and precision.


There are no less than sixteen vessels in the Victorian navy, and the head of which stands the armor(sic) plated turret ship Cerberus. 3480 tons, 1660 h.p. She carries four 10 inch 18 ton M.L. guns and four Nordenfelt guns. The frigate Nelson, though obsolete and very poorly armed, might nevertheless serve the purpose in an emergency as a description of floating battery. There are two steel gunboats, the Victoria and Albert, each carrying heavy modern guns. The former has a 12½ ton 8 inch B.L. gun; one 6 inch B.L. and two 13-pr.B.L. guns and two Nordenfelts. The Albert is also similarly armed. There are three torpedo boats in our small fleet, namely, the Childers, 63 tons, 800 h.p. four 15 inch Whitehead torpedoes and two Hotchkiss guns; the Nepean and Lonsdale , 150 h.p. each, and carrying two torpedoes each. Provision has also been made for placing a 6 inch 4-ton B.L. gun, together with several Nordenfelts, upon two Harbour Trust dredges and the tug boat Gannet. The screw steamer Lady Loch is provided with 2 5 inch 2 ton R.B.L. guns, and in addition there are 3 torpedo launches. The list completed by the Courier and Ellingamite, two steel merchant cruisers, each provided with 4 - 13 pounders quick firing.
It will be admitted, after perusing this list, that though none of the vessels are very formidable, still, in conjunction with the extensive fortifications constructed at the Heads, a warm reception awaits any enemy who may venture to attack Melbourne. In a few months Victoria, in common with the other Australian colonies, will receive the additional protection afforded by the new squadron, consisting of five swift cruisers and two torpedo catchers, in course of construction in the Imperial Naval Dock Yards. This squadron is to be maintained at the cost of the colonies, and will remain in Australian waters, but act in conjunction with and under the command of the admiral in charge of the Imperial squadron on the Australian station.

The coloured two-page illustration we give of our naval defenders depicts a contingent of the naval brigade upon duty on board one of the Victorian gunboats. They are engaged upon gun exercise during one of the periodical cruises about the Bay and along the coast, to which reference has already been made. Captain Fullarton is deserving of every credit for the high state of efficiency to which the Naval Brigade has been brought under his command, and his men have more than once received the warmest commendation from such an able officer as Captain Thomas R.N. before he rejoined the Imperial Navy. So long as the colony has such sturdy arms as are to be found in the Naval Brigade and amongst our permanent naval forces to rely on. Victorians need not fear anything terrible in the nature of a knock down blow from any Russian or French ships of war.

back to index


ARGUS February 18 1882

A regatta was held on Saturday last under the auspices of the Victoria Yacht Club and the officers of the Naval Forces, to commemorate the visit of the Russian Squadron to Hobson's Bay. Additional interest was taken in the regatta as the Russian crews had achieved easy victories over their opponents in New South Wales and Tasmania, and so rendered the results of Saturday's contests all the more surprising, as the visitors crews were unable to secure a place in any of the races. The piers at St. Kilda, Sandridge, and Williamstown were thronged with spectators, and the bay itself, notwithstanding the heavy sea and strong southerly wind that prevailed throughout the afternoon, was fairly swarming with craft, steamers, steam pinnaces, yachts, and every description of sailing boat cruising about the scene. A numerous party of ladies and gentlemen was present by invitation on the Nelson, which had been secured as flagship, and their pleasure was greatly enhanced by the playing of the band of the Afrika. Admiral Aslanbegoff visited the flagship at about 3 p.m., and a guard of honour from the Cerberus.

The handsome trophy presented by Mr. J. S. Butters for the race for man-o-war and Government sailing boats was greatly admired. The vase and the salver are of silver and richly chased after the Indian fashion.

Commander Duiker and Lieutenants Alaze, Collins, R.N., and Scott, R.N.R., acted as judge and starters, Mr. A. M. Henderson as timekeeper, and Mr. J.Barker (the hon. Secretary of the V.Y.C.) was indefatigable in his endeavours to promote the general comfort of all.

In order to start the races as fairly as possible a line was stretched from the Nelson to a boat moored some distance off. But this arrangement did not answer very well, as in the first sailing race, owing to the heavy sea, the boat dragged the line, and shortly after the S.S. City of Adelaide, in passing, caught the rope on her propeller, and towed both boat and rope some distance away with her. The boat was brought back and replaced, but the races were afterwards sent off to flying starts. The following is an account of the various events:-


Illustrated Australian News, February 22 1882

1.    Race for Man-of-War and Government Sailing Boats Prize, Benares vase and salver, presented through the Victorian Yacht Club by Mr. J. S. Butters. The course, about six miles, as laid out on day of race, was from the Nelson, round the Success and Dynamite hulks, and back to the flagship; twice round. The start for this was effected at 2h. 22m. 41s. Quickly after the signal gun was fired and the boats were under way, but owing to the mooring anchor having dragged four of the Russian and Customs boats got jammed together, and sailed about 800 yards before getting clear. The Naval Reserve (sailed by Mr. Grimwood) went away with the lead, closely followed by one of the Russian boats. The latter soon tailed off, and the Customs (sailed by Mr. Herman) drew up and took second place before completing the first round, the rest extending a long distance behind. The official times taken were as under:-

 h        m        s
Naval Reserve 3       24       45
Customs3       27     43
Afrika (cutter)3        28      0
Afrika (barge)3        35      25
Plastoun (cutter)3        37      35
Vestnik 3        40      45
Plastoun (barge)3        43      39½

The clever sailing of the Naval Reserve boat was the subject of general remark, Mr. Grimwood being highly praised for the skill he exhibited. A protest was entered by the Russian officers, on the grounds that the start was unsatisfactory and the course was unknown to their crews. A meeting was subsequently held, at which Lieutenant Scott moved, and Lieutenant Collins seconded, "That the protest be allowed, and the race sailed again at 2 o'clock on Wednesday next." After some discussion, the race will therefore be sailed as proposed.


2    Race for Victoria Yacht Club Second-class Yachtss. Prize £10 presented through the club by Mr. H.P. Fergile; second prize £3. Course- From Nelson round lightship, flag off St. Kilda pier, wreck buoy Off Sandridge; twice round, finishing at starting line. All marks to be passed on port hand. No. 1 position next Nelson. To be sailed under V.Y.C rules and allowances. The Rory O'More was first off, Minnehaha second, the Payche making a mistake at the start, being left behind. After passing the lightship the Minnehaha overhauled the Rory O'More. In the first round the Minnehaha Passed the flagship at 4h. 11m. 8s. and the Payche at 4h. 11m. 28s. In the last round the Minnehaha gained considerably, the time being:-

 h        m        s
Minnehaha5       26       27½
Rory O'More5       40     9
Pache5        43      46½

The Viking was also entered but did not start.


3.    A Race for Boats belonging to Brighton and St. Kilda Clubs. Prize, £5; second £2. Course - same as for V.Y.C. yachts, but once round. Course may be reversed, as boats have to start with the wind. To be sailed under V.Y.C. rules. No allowances. Seven yachts entered for this , but two only came to the scratch, viz, the Zivola, of Brighton, and the Alice, of the St.Kilda Clubs. The Alarm, of the Brighton Club, arriving just too late for the start, which took place at 8h. 21m. 58s. the Zivola winning at 4h.58m. 1½ s., the Alice coming in at 4h. 58m. 33½ s.


4.    A race for Man-o'-War and Naval Reserve Galleys, six cars. Prize £5 presented by the Victorian Yacht Club. Course- two miles straight, from the Sandridge Town pier to the lightship. Great excitement existed over this and the following events, as it was thought that the Russians possessed very superior boats, and on account of their having been victorious in the rowing races as Sydney and Hobart, but the Victorian crews proved themselves superior to their opponents both in physique and style of polling. The Cerberus gained every stroke from start to finish, and came in nearly 100 yards ahead of the two Reserve crews, who rowed a desperate race for second place, which was ultimately secured by the Williamstown, the Afrika being fourth, Vestnik and Plastoun following. Enthusiastic cheers were given for the winners, and a subscription was made on board the flagship for presentation to them.

Cerberus 1
Williamstown Naval Reserve 2
Sandridge do. 0
Afrika 0
Vestnik 0
Plastoun 0


5.    A race for Ships' Gigs, 6 oars. Prize £5, presented by the Victorian Yacht Club. Course- From Nelson round wreck buoy off Sandridge, and back. Only three crews entered for this, which was won easily by the representatives of the Connaught Ranger, with the Blair Drummond second, and the Drumlanrig third.


Illustrated Australian News, February 22 1882

6.    Race for Man-o-war and Naval Reserve Cutters. 12 oars. Prize £5, presented by the Victorian Yacht Club. Course- From the Sandridge Town pier to the lightship. This was the race of the day. One of the principal features of this race was the appearance of the eight crews as they waited the signal to start with the oars on end in the usual man-o-war style, and the instant the gun was fired being dropped into the rowlocks, a splendid struggle again taking place between the crews of the Cerberus and the Williamstown and Sandridge Naval Reserves, the Russian crews being as in the other races left far in the rear. All the boats got well away at the start, the Cerberus and the Nelson rowing stroke and stroke for more than half the course, very closely followed by the two Reserve crews, the others gradually dropping behind. Greater pluck and determination were never witnessed in a boat race. Every man in the boats appeared to exert himself to the utmost, and notwithstanding the heavy sea and strong wind against them. The form displayed was remarkably good, the swing and the dip of the oars being as regular as clockwork. The official times taken as the boats passed the flagship will show the close positions of the first four boats:-

 h        m        splace


5       57     28½1


5       57       372

Williamstown Naval Reserve

5       57       393

Sandridge Naval Reserve

5       58     21½0


6        0      38½0


6        1      15¾0


6        5      12½0


6        5      24½0

in which order the boats finished.

This brought the programme to a very satisfactory conclusion. The committee and other officers were very deservedly complimented upon the manner in which the arrangements of the regatta had been carried out.

back to index


The Australasian Sketcher February 1882

Insert: The Admiral watching the contests.

We notice elsewhere the Naval Regatta, which was held in Hobson's Bay on February 11. The race delineated by our artist is the Cutter Race, in which there were eight boats engaged. The Cerberus men came in winners, and the Nelson were second, the crews of the Russian men-of-war making but a very poor show in the race. In our engraving the Cerberus men are leading, and the Nelson boat second. The official times taken as the boat passed the flagship will show the close positions of the first four boats.

Download in PDF format. Contemporary Newspaper Reports.(1.1 MB)

click to go to Contemporary Documents Index & Perpetual Calendar