The arrival of the Cerberus in Hobson's Bay yesterday must be a relief to the timid souls who had been scared by the report of a possible flilibustering expedition, or who were inclined to attach undue importance to the visit of his Imperial Russian Majesty's corvette Haydamack. So soon as the additions which were necessary to bring the Cerberus to these shores have been removed, the colony will possess a harbor defence powerful enough to repel the attack of a squadron of ordinary men-of-war; while the difficulties which have attended the voyage of the first turret ship that has ever come half-way round the world, to say nothing of the melancholy fate of the (ship) Captain, are sufficient to deter any attempt being made to attack this port by a ship of the same class, Captain PANTER, his officers and crew, may well be congratulated for the feat they have performed in bringing, after a weary voyage of six months' duration, their ship safely from Sheerness to Melbourne. Their labors can only be disparaged for reasons similar to those which induced the Spanish courtiers to treat with derision the discoveries of COLUMBUS. Other men might have displayed equal courage, zeal, and determination, but it must never be forgotten that they were the first to make the egg stand up on end.....
Cerberus arriving in Pt Phillip Bay with temporary Barque Rig and raised sides.
Australian Illustrated News, 22 April 1873.
There seems no reason to doubt that the Cerberus will give an excellent account of herself should she ever be engaged in actual battle. But the possession by this colony of a ship of her class is likely to keep unwelcome intruders from our coasts. The officers of the Haydamack, who were busily engaged yesterday in inspecting this latest arrival, and who seemed astonished to find that the turrets were up and the guns actually in position, will be able to inform the authorities at Cronstadt and Petropaulovski that the colony of Victoria has taken time by the forelock, and is prepared for every possible contingency. Ships like the Cerberus will strip naval warfare of its romance and panoply. It will no longer be a matter of dash and gallantry, but of science and calculation. Future Nelsons will have to obtain fame from their knowledge of machinery afloat, and the best officer will be he who can live the longest in the half-stifling atmosphere of the breast-work deck, the pilot box, and the turret, and who can induce his men to work their guns even when they have been deprived by the failure of the ventilating apparatus of a sufficiency of vital air, and nearly reduced to the position of the unhappy mouse under the airpump, so familiar to our boyish days. The Cerberus has been an expensive ship; from first to last she has cost £150,000. But if she be the last in the long list of costly items which make up the million of money which has been expended upon the defences of this colony, she will not be unsatisfactory even as a matter of finance. The first necessity for a state is security, and since our statesmen will not take the obvious means that has been pointed out to preserve our neutrality, the next best thing is to place ourselves in a proper state of defence. With the Cerberus well manned and properly officered, there should be no reason to dread any force which is ever likely to be brought against us.
The Victorian fleet having taken the officers and men of the Naval Brigade on board, weighed anchor from Williamstown at half past eight o'clock on Friday morning, and was soon under full steam, bound for the Heads. There was the iron-armored turret ship the Cerberus, under the naval commandant Captain Thomas; the veteran frigate the Nelson, under Captain Fullarton; the steel gunboats Victoria (Commander Collins and Albert ( Commander Dennis), the armed paddle steamer the Gannet (Lieutenant Scott), the armed hopper barges Batman (Sub-Lieutenant Richardson) and Fawkner (Lieutenant Tickell), and the steam torpedo launch the Commissioner. The number of men they carried was 625, which included the permanent force, the naval brigade and a large contingent of extra cooks and stokers. The Nelson steamed a course for the South Channel, for the purpose of taking up a position to defend the South Channel fort. The remainder of the ships, with the flagship leading, formed in single column line ahead of her, and in this order proceeded down the bay. The Cerberus had 120 feet of torpedo net on each side of her, to protect her in the vital parts. The speed attained was about seven knots. A large amount of routine duty had to be performed, and on the Cerberus Lieutenant Gough and Chief Gunner Smith worked like Trojans in telling the men off to their stations. Various evolutions were performed. On reaching the West Channel Captain Thomas signalled for the torpedo boats Childers and the Gordon, which were at Swan Island with Lieutenant Hutchinson and Lieutenant Heath, to join the fleet. They ran out smartly, and were soon making graceful evolutions under the bows of the Cerberus. At half past one o'clock, the flagship dropped anchor off Queenscliffe, and the signal was made for the captains to confer on board. The Albert, the Batman and the Faulkner were ordered to Swan Island, and the Victoria to the South Channel to join Captain Fullarton. The Gannet was to remain in company with the flagship. Since last Easter the Victoria and Albert have been fitted with an electric light of 20,000 candle power, similar to that on the Cerberus and Childers, and in the evening signals were exchanged with a satisfactory result. The principal event in the manoeuvers will take place on Sunday night and Monday morning, when the ships representing the enemy will endeavour to enter the Heads. Captain Thomas promises some surprises, and the engagement will posess many features of interest, besides furnishing an interesting spectacle. - Argus
The Victorian Fleet,
I have just visited the "Pearl City" in the Cerberus and, wonderful to relate, have survived the experiment, nay, more, have an increased respect for ironclads, and shouldn't in the least object to a similar risk of life, nay, once a week, on an average. Whether or not the splendid Ministerial lunch and sundry bottles of No.2 on board had anything to do with it, I decline to say; but I stick to my first assertion -- I like ironclads.
Having "friends at court" I got off from Williamstown in this Harbor-Master's boat, and boarded the monster. When I had last visited her, it was a work of great difficulty to clamber up her steep side ladder; but now, I stepped almost at once on to her deck from the boat. I was introduced to her polite commander, and found him, to my surprise, a much younger man than he represented in the plates of the day.
From the lower deck I ascended to the flying deck, and from that elevation watched the process of weighing Martin's patent (and ponderously) anchor by the steam windlass. Slowly and surely the links keep rising out of the water, and lots of boys from the Nelson, with crooked rods of iron, fork it up, and pass it below; the hose playing upon it as it comes up, link by link, to wash off the crust of mud, with which it is coated. After thirty six fathoms have been brought up then up comes the unwieldly mud-hook, and the order is passed "easy ahead."
Just then the Rangoon comes close past us, and firing her usual two-guns, politely "dips" her ensign to Her Majesty's colonial man-o-war, Cerberus, and as she goes onto her anchorage at Sandridge, we ponderously put ourselves in motion, and with a great deal of fuss under our stern (I was greatly puzzled at first to know stern from her bow) caused by the revolving of her twin screws, we were off.
I was told she drew 16 feet of water and noticed she got underweigh (I like good words) at 20 to 11.
These facts may possibly interest your readers, but they did not interest me so very particularly at the time, the fact being that I was busily occupied in gazing intensely down a sky-light that I found afterwards belonged to the wardroom, and where I saw a clean white tablecloth spread. What was placed thereon I forbear, in mercy, to tell your readers; suffice it to say, it satisfied me!
So with mind at peace on the subject of famine, I tranquilly again ascended to the upper deck, and found the vessel was steaming a good steady eight knots an hour. The sea had scarcely a ripple on it, and a sea breeze, tempered by the sun, almost made it like a summers day.
I think my next proceeding was to get into conversation with the chief officer, and a very jolly old fellow I found him. He told me, among other things, that he had been thirty years in H.M. navy.
The next thing of interest was the heaving overboard of the patent log, to see exactly how fast we were going, but she frequently stopped to fire guns. I form the conclusion that this patent log business was a "delusion and a mare" for all the use it was made of.
The next motion on board was the event of the day "lunch." The breadth of the beam of the Cerberus is considerable, and still allowing for passages, pantries, and side-cabins, the wardroom is a spacious apartment, but not one-third as large as its requirements demanded on this occasion.
Place aux dames. The ladies took the seats of honor, and such of H.M.Ministers who has risked their lives in their country's service took their seats without the usual oaths, and then there came a scramble, and nothing but the presence of mind of the Parlimentary waiter in charge saved the very tablecloth from being eaten, I believe.
There must be something, after all, in sea air. My recollections of that lunch now are a medley of the popping of champagne corks, and the distant sounds as of fifty blacksmith's shops in full swing.
At last I went aft, or for'ard- I haven't the least idea which- to see what caused all the banging and clanging, and speedily found myself in the engine-room.
I remember Thackeray's definition of what the Mediteranean steamer's engines seemed to say as he lay in bed at night, and which he defined as "spoke-shave! bullock-smithy! spoke-shave! bullock-smithy!" but I defy Old Nick himself to get any sense out of the engines of H.M. ironclad Cerberus. I fancy I caught something in the quick sound of the revolving cylinders, but it sounded too much like oaths to be reported here.
In the engine-rooms the swing-lamps gave a lurid glare, making darkness, and all its horrors of machinery in motion dimly visible, and the clank and clash of the piston-rods deafened the stupified (I do not particularly allude to the lunch) observer.
I was glad to crawl (I think that is the correct term) on the upper deck again, and found they were just heaving over-board a cask, with a flag stuck in the bung for the purpose of firing at.
I watched the heaving (a good nautical word) of the cask over-board with considersable interest (there was no risk attached to it); but when afterwards I incautiously looked in at one of the turret encumbrances, and I saw a large *** *** bolstar, that my natural instincts told me contained powder rammed down the muzzle of a gun that would have contained me comfortably, I decided that, as accidents do occur sometimes, I would adjourn to a distant portion of the vessel. In a few minutes the vibrations of the screws ceased, and the two steam-pipes blew off, when there was a flash and a crash, and I behold a shot, weighing 4 cwt, flyiing through the air, and as plainly to be seen as a cricket ball at a match. It struck the water, throwing up a small cloud of spray, and ricochetted (sic) about 100 yards to the right, when it struck the water again, and disappeared. The revolving turret is very simple, and the aim is to be got, tolerably certain.
The captain of the turrets, (not of the gun) controls the revolution of the turret with one hand, while with the other he fires off the gun the instant it covers the object. His head is, necessarily, above the turret, and exposed during the time of taking aim, but it would take a good rifle shot to interfere with him during the few seconds of time he is exposed.
We took on board the pilot about nine miles from Geelong, but Captain Panter piloted us through the narrow channel himself. Directly we were through the narrows we were surrounded by yachts of all sizes, rigs and descriptions, crowded by people, and presently the tug Sophia met us, fairlyblack with the sight-seers.
It was a quarter past four, and the city of (I was about to say the dead, but I won't, they have been so kind to us!) Geelong was before us, so we thought it incumbent upon us to fire off two blank cartridges, which we accordingly did, and I thought the echos would never cease, reverberating among the hills. Corio Bay looked very pretty and all the vessels there were dressed for the occasion.
We dropped the "Martin's patent" precisely at 4.30 and I had the honor of being *red where in the captain's gig of the Cerberus of the Senior Naval Officer of Victoria. I was present at the banquet, of course, but I leave the description thereof to other journals.
I noticed that Ministers of the Crown and my bretheran of the press (to use a colonial term) "skedaddled" by the last train, at 9.30; not so myself. I stopped to enjoy myself - with which intention I came down; and have a distinct and grateful recollection of the open hospitality of his Worship the Mayor, and the kind courtesy of the Veteran and senior town clerk of the Australian Colonies.
Apropos of the town clerks, the three senior ones were present-- Messrs Waire, Eville, and Fitzgibbon.
When the ironclad monitor, the Cerberus, was in the Graving Dock a good deal was seen of her that was never visible before, and the strange proportions of this grim sea monster presented themselves in a new aspect. She was seen to be, in fact, throughout about three-fourths of her length, an immense iron chest of vast strength. Her bottom is flat and her sides perpendicular, the point at which bottom and sides join being only slightly rounded off. The great buoyancy which this configuration gives the ship enab1es her to carry her ponderous weapons of offence and defence, together with stores and other necessaries. That the box-like shape of the Cerberus is not conducive to speed is obvious enough; but then it is not required of her to be swift. She is intended for defensive and not for aggressive warfare, and if she can effectually repel
hostile attacks it is not necessary that she should pursue and capture the attacking enemy; yet she is not altogether wanting in the qualities that confer speed. In so far as those can be conferred without much sacrifice of displacement, she has obtained them. Her bow is nearly as sharp as the bow of a clipper ship, and very shapely, while she has a clean run aft. Her screw-propellers, represented in our engraving, are so placed, under her counters, that it will be very difficult for an enemy's shot to reach them. The comparative shortness of the ship will render her very handy to work, and when in action she will be able to turn right round in a few minutes, her propellers working in opposite directions. Notwithstanding the 9in. or lOin. thick deposit which the Cerberus attracted while at her moorings in the bay, her bottom is as sound as ever. Her outer plates are scarcely corroded in the slightest degree, and would almost seem to have been protected rather than injured by the miscellaneous mass that was found adhering to them. This picture, and also that of the old Government. house, are from photographs taken by Mr. Burman, photographer, Gertrude-street.
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 on 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 bought 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.