Home Bayside Black Rock The life story of HMVS Cerberus through Newspaper reports

The life story of HMVS Cerberus through Newspaper reports

H.M.V.S. Cerberus . Image Courtesy: State Library of Victoria

HMVS Cerberus (Her Majesty’s Victorian Ship) is at its final resting point, partially submerged near Half Moon Bay at Black Rock in Victoria, Australia serving as a breakwater. The warship served Victoria Naval Forces, the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF), and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) between 1871 and 1924.

George Frederic Verdon

Colonial Naval Defence Act was passed in 1865, which enabled Australian Colonies to officially acquire warships. In 1851, When Victoria was separated from New South Wales and the rich gold fields were discovered, it was perceived that Melbourne was an obvious unguarded attraction for seaborne raiders. In 1866 Victorian Colonial Government sent George Frederic Verdon to England to seek the assistance of Her Majesty’s Government for assistance in establishing a naval force. Verdon succeeded in obtaining £100,000 towards the cost of a warship, the Cerberus, and the Nelson was given to Victoria as a training-ship.

On 1 September 1867, construction began at the Palmer Shipbuilding & Iron Company shipyards in England. The ship was commissioned as HMVS Cerberus in 1870, named after hound of Hades, the multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving.

Cerberus sailed for Hobsons Bay from Chatham on 29 October 1870, under the command of Lieutenant William Henry Panter, who had been serving in HMVS Nelson. Cerberus was classified as a Monitor.  A monitor is a relatively small warship which is neither fast nor strongly armoured but carried disproportionately large guns. The monitor reached Melbourne on the morning of 9 April 1871. The monitor was absorbed into the Commonwealth Naval Force following the formation of Federation in 1901. In 1911, CNF became Royal Australian Navy and Cerberus was renamed HMAS Cerberus. By World War I, Cerberus’ weapons and boilers were inoperable; the ship served as a guardship and munitions store. In 1921, the ship was renamed HMAS Platypus II, and tasked as a submarine tender for the RAN’s six J-class submarines.

On 23rd April 1924, HMAS Platypus II was sold to Melbourne Salvage Company for £409, with the buyer to break her up for scrap. The ship was transferred from Corio Bay to Williamstown Naval Dockyard for disassembly. The company salvage everything it could from the ship and was sold to Sandringham Council for £150. It was scuttled on 26 September 1926 at Half Moon Bay to serve as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club.

HMV Cerberus The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) Sat 5 Feb 1870 Page 18



With regard to Cerberus Mr Verdon has been instructed to ascertain whether the British Government intended to claim a share in the management of the vessel, or control over its officers and the home authorities are to be informed that this Government cannot take any step towards filling Captain Norman’s place unless they are assured that the Cerberus will be handed over to the colony unconditionally.

Mr McPherson considered that Mr Verdon had made a mistake in purchasing the Cerberus, infact that he had secured a white elephant; but still as the home Government had spent £120,000 upon the vessel the colony would have to take her whenever she was ready. There was a possibility however, Cerberus might not be accepted, for in the British Government, in handing her over claimed a relative share in the management of the vessel to the extend of the money they had expended upon her, they might keep her as far as he was concerned. He was personally in favour of having small boats, which would be able to go almost anywhere, about the way, in preference to one large vessel. But until it had been decided whether Cerberus would be accepted or not, he could not entertain any other proposal. As to the proposed armament of the Ericson Gun boats, the Chief Secretary expressed his disbelief in the efficiency of 15 inch guns, but he was assured by the company’s agents that these weapons had been tried in Sweden, and their superiority over guns of smaller bore thoroughly established.

Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954) Wed 8 Mar 1871 Page 2


Captain William Henry Panter

The following letter, addressed by Lieutenant Panter to a friend in Melbourne, will be read with interest, as showing how the gallant commander of our ironclad extracts matter for amusement out of the difficulties and inconveniences of his adventurous voyage. It is dated H.M.V.S. Cerberus, Aden, January 10 … Well, here I am with the three headed brute, safe and sound so far, though not half-way to my destination. I have been rather a long time getting so far, but she is not a clipper; clad with all her extra weight she won’t steam, and it requires a gale to drive her under sail, and when it does blow a gale I prefer keeping the sails lashed, up, or I should be making another Captain of her, which, as far as I am personally concerned, I don’t care about nor do I think, as far as regards the ship, the colony would thank me for doing so.

She is not a handsome ship-bow and stern the same, except that she has a bowsprit at one end and not the other. but her real beauty will not be seen till I go into dock, when they will see her magnificent lines just like this (making a mark to illustrate the cross section of the vessel), Her extreme breadth on upper deck is 45 feet, and on the bottom 43 feet, so you can fancy its being much like taking a floating dock to sea. Nevertheless, she has proved herself a good sea boat, though not exactly a clipper. I have managed hitherto to get 100 miles a day out of her. Her next best quality is power of suffocation, which is very strong. We were nearly all cooked coming down the Red Sea. I am sure if we had been another week we should have been overdone. I have had the satisfaction of being the first to bring an ironclad and cupola ship through the canal and down the Red Sea; also, I hoist the Australian flag ‘ in these parts.’ Victoria may be proud of the first ironclad she possesses. as far as strength goes, for I verily believe she is impregnable to the present ordnance. She causes a vast amount of astonishment wherever she goes, especially when people see her guns. I hope, to get away from this the day after tomorrow, and reach Galie about the 2nd of February; from thence I go to Sumatra, and Java, then down south for the Sound, and then ‘Hoorah’ for Hobson’s Bay. It will be one of the happiest days of my life when I drop my mud-hook off Williamstown.”

The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924) Mon 10 Apr 1871  Page 2



Signalled—1.30 p.m. Bengal, emigrant ship, from Plymouth, to Melbourne, all well. 5 p.m. H.M.V.S. Cerberus will reach the Heads to-night. Isabell Groom, from Glasgow, 80 days out.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Mon 10 Apr 1871  Page 5


H.M.V.S. Cerberus . Image Courtesy: State Library of Victoria

The arrival in Hobson’s Bay yesterday afternoon of the Cerberus monitor will be generally accepted as extremely welcome news. It is now over four years since we got the first intimation that we should have her for our protection, and at last she lies at anchor in our waters, one of the most powerful vessels for harbour defence in the world. The eminent authorities on the subject in the Imperial naval service have unanimously agreed that she represents the latest and best achievements in science as directed to such a subject; and that, even without any other harbour defence whatever, she would be in herself a match for the strongest expeditionary attacking force which it is reasonable to look for here. The only drawback was, that they feared she might never reach her destination. This feeling was the more strongly entertained because when the Cerberus left England, the loss of H.M.S. Captain was yet recent, and the terrible circumstances of that catastrophe weighed

heavily on the public mind. Such forebodings have, however, proved false, and that, too after a voyage which involved the encounter of difficulties greater than those to which the captain succumbed.

It was early in January 1867, that we first heard of the Cerberus. Mr, Verdon had then just returned from his mission to England, and had published his correspondence with the Imperial authorities, including a letter from Mr. C. B. Adderley stating that the Earl of Carnarvon, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, had, in reply to Mr. Verdon’s representations, obtained from Her Majesty’s Government certain concessions in favour of this colony. In that document Mr. Adderley said:

The Comptroller of the Navy will arrange with you the details of an armour-plated monitor or turret ship, to be constructed by contract in a private yard, but under Admiralty superintendence, and to be capable of carrying 22-ton guns.

The cost of the ship is not to exceed £125,000, of which the colony will furnish £25,000. The cost of armament is to be borne by the colony. The maintenance, manning, and command of the ship is to be undertaken by the Colonial Government, receiving such occasional aid as heretofore in the selection of such officers and men from home as may be asked for.

In order to explain how much of this Victorian contribution of £25,000 was practically foregone by the British Government, Mr. Verdon in his published report to the head of Her Majesty’s Government in Victoria, stated :

At the request of the Admiralty an account had been furnished of the expenditure by the colony for coals and stores consumed by the Victoria while serving in the New Zealand war. This amounted to £15,000, and the money had not been paid when I wrote the memorandum to which I have referred.

H.M.V.S. Cerberus . Image Courtesy: State Library of Victoria

The estimated value of the Victoria was £10,000, and I proposed that those two sums should be our contribution to the cost of a suitable ship to take the Victoria’s place. It is this proposal which has, in fact, been accepted by Her Majesty’s Government. The sum of £15,000 has since been placed to the credit of the colony with the Crown agents for the colonies, and this, with an additional sum of £10,000, which can be either obtained by the sale of the Victoria, or, if she be profitably employed, from the loan, will constitute our share of the estimated cost of a monitor ; the remaining £100,000 being provided by Her Majesty’s Government.”

In accordance with this arrangement Mr, E. J. Reed, then Chief Constructor for the Navy, proceeded to lay down the lines of the Cerberus, which have been scarcely altered since. It may, indeed, be worth mention that those lines are now adopted as a sort of pattern and serve as the model on which many other British vessels of war are being built.

We shall give by and bye the particulars of the building of the vessel and her armament, and it is sufficient now to state that, after many delays, mainly caused by the death in England of the late lamented Captain Norman, of H.M.C.S Victoria, who had been sent home to bring the Cerberus out here, she left England under the command of Captain Panter, on the 7th November last, and that the circumstances of her voyage of five months and nine days have been watched with the deepest interest on both sides of the world. Captain Panter expected that it would be the end of April before the ardently hoped for moment would come when he would drop his “mud-hook” off Williamstown; but his skill, together with comparatively favourable weather, has thus materially shortened the voyage.

She was first sighted off Cape Northumberland on Good Friday, but the telegraph offices were closed, and it was not till Saturday that the public heard of a ” turreted ship” being seen off our coast, Later in that afternoon came the welcome news that the Cerberus had signalled the Capo Otway lighthouse, and yesterday morning she entered the Heads and steamed to her anchorage, which was the berth lately vacated by H.M. corvette Blanche.

As she came up, she excited the greatest possible ‘interest. As might be expected, she was not regarded as a handsome ship by any means, she appeared, as in great measure she is, a huge, long square box, cut down straight at both ends, and surmounted by stunted masts (for she had no topgallant masts), the tops of her turrets, and her funnel. This is not the shape she will assume when she is stripped of her surroundings. Then she will be a monitor whose upper deck line will be 3ft. above the water, save in the centre, where that outline is broken by a breastwork of immense strength, above which are two cupolas and a pilothouse, covered with the strongest armour plate. But now all this has boon built over with iron bulwarks and a temporary upper deck to enable her to stand her voyage, and her outline is consequently of the ugliest.

The bay seemed all alive as she entered Hobson’s Bay, and she was the centre of observation. The Russian man-of-war the Haydamack dipped ensign to her, and Captain Koltovsky hurried on board the Cerberus to pay his compliments to her commander. The boys of H.M.V.S. Nelson crowded into the rigging of their ship, and made the air ring again with peals of boyish cheers, as the monster steamed past; and nearly every vessel in the bay hastened to pay the compliment of dipping colours. Precisely at 1 o’clock the long wished for moment arrived, and Captain Panter dropped his ” mud-hook,” and the event was immediately collaborated with the frothing of champagne by him and the few friends already on board, amongst whom was Captain Payne chief harbourmaster, who had boarded the Cerberus long before.

In the meantime, a great multitude of boats, crowded with passengers, had put off from shore in hope of their being allowed on board. In this last respect Captain Panter did not think it right to disappoint the curious public, although the ship was not fit to be seen. Ho gave the required leave, and then started off to pay his respects to the Governor. During the whole of the afternoon the crowd of visitors increased greatly, and several thousands of persons must have come on board and endeavoured to understand her construction, and the working of the turrets.


In view of the interest with which the voyage of the Cerberus has been watched, a sketch of the circumstances thereof will, no doubt, be acceptable. Capain J. A. Panter left Melbourne, in order to take his new command, on the 24th of April last, and arrived in England in the following June. During his passage he stopped three days to examine into and make inquiries respecting the Suez Canal and the possibility of bringing out the Cerberus by that route. The local British Consul-General, und the Egyptian and other authorities having promptly met his views, he arrived at the necessary conclusions by virtue of which he decided to come out that way.

On reaching England he reported himself to the Admiralty and the Victorian Agent General, and then ensued a long series of delays before the Cerberus could be handed over to him or got ready for her voyage. Red tape achieved quite a series of triumphs in the matter. It was discovered that there was no precedent for allowing the ship to come out at all in the way proposed. So, such vessel had hitherto sailed from England except as a man-of-war, armed; and while the Admiralty authorities did not wish to give her over to Captain Panter as such, neither was he ready so to take her, for then there would have to be the regulation number of officers on board, and the employment of a certain number of men, with the additional expense of sending them home again.

 It took till October to settle this grave point, as well as a host of minor difficulties which officialdom was continually “developing. The consequences to Captain Panter were disastrous, for he was so harassed that two intervals of 24 hours each constituted all the time he could spare to visit his home and friends. He had to live either at Chatham, where the ship lay and the difficulties arose, or in London, whither he went in order to get the difficulties removed. At the same time, he had to superintend every little item of preparation, in order to check or reduce expenditure, while he had not the slightest power over anything, the ship not having been yet transferred. The authorities were for coats of paint, then rubbings over of coal tar, ” dock-yard matey fashion,” and other useless expenditure, which Captain Panter could only check by an appeal to the Admiralty. Then occurred a delay occasioned by his only having 25 men to work at taking in stores, including handling 4001b. shot and shell, which needed hoisting with gear. Further, the Admiralty having handed over the vessel naked, except as to her fixtures, it took three weeks to find out whether her stores could be taken from the Naval Dockyard.

At last an order came down from the ‘Admiralty to Captain Chamberlain to supply all stores for the Cerberus on demand. This seemed all right, but upon an order being’ given’ for provisions, the gallant captain denied that such were really ships’ stores and refused to allow them. It took a week to settle this fine point. Having got possession of his ship, Captain Panter found that both his shell rooms (in which had to be carried 40. tons of shells and 20 tons of powder) were on one side, which gave an over-balance of 29 tons, and caused the vessel to list over 6deg. The Admiralty was applied to, and the order in reply was, that one of the watertight compartments of the Cerberus was to be filled, and the ship so got straight. Captain Panter replied, upon this, that the Victorian Government would not be best pleased with a ship all on one side, or forced to have a watertight compartment constantly filled; but the officials were conveniently deaf to this reasoning till he almost threatened to have the required alterations done in a private dockyard. With a very bad grace the required alterations were made, and the work lasted till within four days of the Cerberus leaving England. When she was taken down to Sheerness six degrees of deviation in her compasses was discovered. In fact, they did not move between N. and E. This had to be shifted, and the compass man from the Admiralty had to come down, swing the ship, put in magnets, and get the compasses in decent order. This lasted till the 29th of October, when the Cerberus’ got under way at daylight, and left Sheerness for Plymouth.

She had a fair start, but when in the Downs a gale of wind came on, and her lower docks were regularly washed out. The men were up to their knees in water and had to bale, for it was found that there were no pumps, and the ship would not steer. Something was the matter with her boilers-she would not steam; her rudder (which had originally been a balance rudder, but was subsequently altered) did not act properly, and she proceeded at the mild rate of one and a-half knots per hour, in almost every direction but the right one.

 Under these discouraging circumstances, and with a crow of only 25 men, Captain Panter put into Spithead, in order to stop awhile at Portsmouth. It was lucky he did so, for the same night the gale increased, and over 60 vessels got into Portsmouth daring the night for safety. He remained here three days, and on the day, he sailed Admiral Sir Jos. Hope inspected the Cerberus, and said how glad he was to see her arrive, never expecting, that she would have reached there. Finally! after nearly running into several ships, the Cerberus got to Plymouth all right, and here Captain Panter got his crew recruited. His troubles in getting men to sail in the Cerberus were neither few nor small. When he got possession of her he had down on his book a list of men selected for her crew; but the Captain had been lost five days before, and not one obeyed the summons for them to come and join. He had to rake the black slums of London before he could get sailors who would go, and he then telegraphed to the Victorian emigration agent at Plymouth to get men ready against his coming to that port, and in that way got his crew comparatively all right.

Before this he had caused about 50 men to be put in prison, they preferring to go to gaol rather than fulfil their engagement and go to sea in a turret vessel, The Cerberus remained at Plymouth till the 7th November, coaling, and getting the lower deck altered, so as to allow the water to run off in pipe.  The feeling of the crow was such that only 10 tons of coal could be got on board per day, but had the captain taken them before a magistrate the men would have refused to go at all.


The Cerberus left Plymouth on November 7; on the 9th she got into a breeze of wind which lasted to the 12th; during this, being in the Bay of Biscay, she went through a variety of antics. At one time her bottom-and it must be remembered that she cannot be said to have a keel, for her shape is that of a flat-bottomed box-was to be seen, for her bilge piece came right out of the water. At this time she must have rolled 40 degrees and upwards, and her indicators, which were set for 33 degrees at the utmost, simply thumped backwards and forwards uselessly. At one time a man was violently pitched nearly from one side of the captain’s cabin to the other, without over touching the deck. Everything, in the cabin that was not secured was capsized, and it was impossible for men to stand a moment.

While this was going on, the vessel was under close-reefed main trysail and fore trysail, with the head hauled down, and some part of the fore staysail. She was under steam, of course, but that only sufficed to keep her head to the wind. The force of the wind was reckoned at 10, and so far as could be judged, the gale was heavier, and affairs altogether worse, than when the Captain went down.

Everyone on board expected every minute the Cerberus would turn over; and considering her top weight it is wonderful that she did not do so, for she carried 1,900 tons above her water line and only 1,800 tons below it, although the latter was almost all at the extreme bottom. When, subsequently, she had to carry so much coal on her upper deck, she must have gone down had a sea Struck her; and so far as was known it was the striking of seas that caused the Captain to go down. Such rolling, it should be said, was not exactly expected; but the ship had not been tested in this respect before she left. Mr. Barnes, Chairman of the Constructors’ Board, told Captain Panter that she must never be allowed to roll more than 10 degrees, and the late chief constructor, Mr. E. J. Reed, urged that there should be a test ; but Captain Panter found it impossible to stand the eternal dilly-dallying of the Admiralty, and the war having broken out, he wrote to the agent-general that he would take the ship out just as she was, without a trial, a proposition to which the Admiralty was only too glad to consent. While this fearful rolling went on, it was useless trying to help matters, and Captain Panter says that all he could do was to sit on some place to which he could hold, smoke a pipe, and wonder how it was all going to turn out.

On Sunday morning after church, he turned round, and could not see a single thing but water before her foremast. Then, as ever after when the weather was foul, all the men’s cabins were ankle deep in water, which ran through the temporary sides. At last the gale subsided, and the Cerberus passed Cape Finisterre in fine weather, ran down the coast of Portugal, and got into Gibraltar on the morning of November 17, with only five tons of coal in the ship, and she burning 40 tons per day. At Gibraltar there was more trouble with the men, who were afraid of the ship, but military aid was obtained, and one fellow was left behind in gaol. Having coaled, the Cerberus, which excited much attention, and was inspected by the captain-superintendent, sailed on November 20, and got to Malta on the 27th, where, as before, she was much visited, and among others by the two admirals and every captain in the fleet.

On the afternoon of the day of arrival two thirds of the ship’s company got on shore and set to drinking, the end of which was that 25 men were left behind in prison. These, however, Captain Panter was not sorry to leave behind, for he had already found the sails useless, and that therefore he had too many men. After, coaling, cleaning the very weedy bottom of the vessel, and waiting 65 days, while one of the heaviest gales ever known there blew over, the ship left Malta on December 11, and reached Port Said on the 19th. Here, before entering the Suez Canal, he hoisted the Australian flag, which procured for the Cerberus recognition by the Egyptian authorities as a man-of-war, and a consequent reduction in tonnage dues, amounting to about 300 tons. Having taken 24 hours to coal, and drawing 16ft. of water, or 18 inches beyond her proper draft, she was towed through the canal, doing 30 miles the first day, 20 miles the second, and 32 miles the third and last day. This was not accomplished without danger, for the canal is only made for vessels with sharp keels, and in one place the Cerberus had scarcely 3ft. on each side between her and the bank. Not only did her square bottom increase the danger, greatly, but her twin screws projected nearly three feet away from each quarter and had either touched the bank they must have snapped off like carrots. This accident actually happened to the Magdala, a similar vessel just built, with the Abyssinia, as harbour defences for Bombay.

The Magdala, it should be remarked, had neither guns nor stores on board, while the Cerberus had even her turrets full of cool Altogether she was rather lucky going through the canal, and she actually did the last few miles by moonlight, being the first vessel that ever did so ; but it was important, on account of the men to get to sea before Christmas-day and, consequently, Captain Panter managed matters with the Greek pilot, got to Suez, coaled, and started off on Christmas morning. Christmas-day did not pass pleasantly, for the compasses got adrift, and a strong gale was blowing. Observations from the sun were obtained next day, but the danger had been great, because of the narrowness of the passage, which in places is only 20 miles wide. Near the south end of the Red Sea the ship encountered heavy swell and strong winds, but still managed to steam an average of four knots. From four to four and a half knots was her average the whole way out. At this stage the weather was so dreadfully hot that the pitch actually boiled through her planking, and the iron sides of the ship could hardly be touched. The thermometer stood at 130 degrees. Nevertheless, the men kept pretty healthy, and there was little suffering on that account.

On January 6th, the Cerberus reached Aden, and there managed to stow away so much coal that her decks from the stern to the fore part of the bridge were full up to the flying deck. On January 14 she left Aden and steamed along the coast of Arabia to the Kurimuri Islands, making a fair course, and sailing four or five points free. She had fine weather, and eventually got well away with tile N-E, monsoon, which carried her to Galle, where she anchored on January 31, Here she coaled again, had her engines and boilers cleaned as well as her bottom, on which the weeds were 9in long, She had about 40 tons left from her Aden coal, and now took 300 tons more. On February i, she started for Batavia, and ran down 400 miles on a S.S.E. course, getting calm weather and light winds. She then picked up the westerly monsoon which carried her through the Straits of Sunda to Batavia, and this was the best run of the whole voyage, and the Cerberus averaged from five and a half to six knots. She arrived at Batavia on February 17 and coaled there.

The Dutch Government offered every assistance and civility, and the ship was largely visited, compliments which Captain Panter returned by dressing his ship in honour of the birthday of the King of the Netherlands, Here it was hotter than ever before, and one of the engineers was struck down with the heat for the time. The thermometer stood only at 85°, but the air was thick and muggy with a soft hot moisture that mildewed everything, and even caused the leaves of books to loosen. Neither here nor at any other port did Captain Panter take in any fresh meat, for he gave his men Australian preserved meat every other day. and it was found to be excellent.

He left Batavia on February 25. It was fine weather on the 26th, but on the 27th it began to blow, and all that and the next day the Cerberus was on the edge of a cyclone. She had to run for it, and it was fortunate indeed that she was not nearer the centre of the cyclone, for she could never have stood that. It was so dark that a man could not see his own hands five inches off. The glass was down to 29 88, the clouds looked like a black wall, and the wind was so strong that the ship went at eight knots under a close-reefed fore topsail on the cap. Having got out of this storm, the vessel steamed against head winds down the west coast of Australia, when, coal running short, she had to run into Fremantle on March 10 and get 50 tons. Here the vessel created a great sensation, and every possible civility was offered by the Government. Governor Weld himself came on board and inspected the ship.

On March 19, the Cerberus left Fremantle, and arrived at King George’s Sound on the 22nd, where she spent some time taking in coal, painting, cleaning, &c. On the 27th March it blew half a gale, and the Cerberus dragged one of her anchors, and nearly touched the shore before another anchor was pot out. On March 30 she left the Sound, there being at the time a heavy swell from the S.W., but without much wind.

Having 59 tons of coal on her deck, the ship took to rolling, and rolled 40 degrees once more, but no accident happened except the fetching away of some of the coal, which was built up with spars on the deck. She took a northerly course, passing the Great Australian Bight with calm weather and nofogs. It looked calm and fine also to the northward, but black to the southward, and Captain Panter esteemed himself fortunate in avoiding the danger in that direction. The glass was at the time at 29 80. She made Cape Northumberland on Friday last, and passed two steamers and a small craft near the Glenelg River. From this point she carne along the coast, keeping off it about 10 miles, and her coat running a little short made the captain anxious, especially as there was a heavy swell on. Cape Otway was sighted at half-past 2p.m. on Saturday. Her number was made an hour after, and she got her signals back at 5 p.m. and rounded the Cape at half-past 5p.m. After that the steering apparatus got very much adrift, and she did not steer properly within 16 points. No accident happened, however, and at half-post 5 a.m. yesterday morning she took Pilot M’ Queen on board, and steamed up for Hobson’s Bay.

There was a little trouble at the Heads through the strong tide ; but the ship, which had before steamed about seven and a half knots, now got a full head of steam, and came up to Hobson’s Bay at the rate of nine knots, which was her full boiler power. At about half-past 1 p.m. she cast anchor, and her voyage was over.,

A few points are worth distinguishing. While in the British Channel it was found that north country coal would not suit the Cerberus, and the captain was obliged to change the stock for Welsh coal, which only shows that Australian coal is just the sort for the Cerberus to use. Captain Panter’s belief now is, that the Cerberus is a splendid sea boat, and her engines have worked so admirably throughout the voyage that there has never been more than 10 minutes’ stoppage at a time.

In conclusion, we may state that, according to rough calculation, the entire cost of the Cerberus from end to end may be reckoned at £140,000.

Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette (Qld. : 1868 – 1919) Wed 30 Jul 1873 Page 4


Expensive Bio Gun Practice

There was (says The Age) some practice on board H.M.V.S. Cerberus on Wednesday last. The target shooting was’ certainly nothing to be proud of. According to the report only six out of the sixteen shots fired from the turret guns of the Cerberus hit the target, which was 39 by 25 foot, or as big as a decent, sized ‘ two story-house’. The extreme range taken up was only ‘1850 yards, while eight of thr shots were fired at 1400 yards.

The 400-pounder guns of the Cerberus have an effective range of 7000 yards, and any man at all acquainted with rifled guns should make good shooting at a much smaller target at 3000 yards or nearly double the distance at which the target was placed during. the recent gun practices. When it is taken into consideration that1 the trip of the Cerberus,’ including the gun practice, must have cost fully £500, ‘it will be seen there is not much to show for the money.

The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) Mon 7 Mar 1881 Page 3



One of the most appalling calamities which has occurred in the colony is to be recorded this morning as having taken place at Queenscliff on Saturday afternoon, on the occasion of some torpedo practice on board H.M.V.S Cerberus. The result of the disaster was that five men, Robert Samuel Grove, Harry Timberly, Henry Hunter, James Willkie and William Barnes, were killed, and a’ sixth, James Jasper, narrowly escaped that fate. In order to indicate more clearly the circumstances of the occurrence, it should be mentioned that the Cerberus left her moorings at Williamstown at daylight on Friday morning, for a cruise in the Bay, the intention being to exercise the crew in ordinary gunnery drill and torpedo warfare.

Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. : 1883 – 1928) Thu 24 Apr 1924 Page 8 H.M.A.S. PLATYPUS II.


MELBOURNE, Wednesday — The tender of the Melbourne Salvage Syndicate at £409 has been accepted by the Defence Department, for H.M.A.S Platypus II., formerly the Cerberus, which has been lying an idle hulk in Corio Bay for many months. – The same syndicate recently purchased four submarines from the Commonwealth.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Fri 3 Sep 1926 Page 9


Breakwater for Small Craft

HMVS Cerberus

Yesterday morning the hulk of the old ironclad Cerberus was towed from her berth at the Williamstown pier, where everything of value had been removed from her, and sunk off the Black Rock jetty to form a breakwater for the yachts and fishing boats.

Although the ultimate fate of the Cerberus was decided some time ago when the Black Rock Yacht Club purchased it for £150 and resold it for the same amount to the municipal council under an agreement that it should be used as a break water, the date of the final move was indefinite. This was because the vice-president of the Marine Board (Mr. George Kermode) under whose direction the vessel was sunk did not wish to carry out the somewhat difficult task until the opportunity afforded by perfect weather conditions presented itself.

For this reason the sight of the strange flotilla that appeared off Half Moon Bay shortly after 9 o’clock took residents somewhat by surprise. The word however was passed round swiftly, and soon the cliffs were thronged by interested spectators, who saw approaching the grey squat hull towed by the tugs Agnes and Minah and preceded by the Plover and a motorboat to mark the mooring. By 10 o’clock what was left of the Cerberus had been towed and coaxed by the tugs to within 400 yards of the jetty where her bow was made fast to the existing breakwater and the stern was slowly swung into position and secured to a temporary mooring.

The operation had been timed for high water, when there is a depth of 15ft on the bank selected for the breakwater, and it was estimated that the Cerberus was drawing nearly 14ft. Immediately the hull was made fast three seacocks were opened and the flooding of the vessel began. Dingys put off from the jetty and the harbour master’s motor boat took off a large crowd of excited small boys who swarmed over the decks and down below to watch the rising water. The Cerberus sank almost imperceptibly, going down slightly by the stern. There was a large amount of scrap iron and odds and ends of useless gear, and visitors took away weighty bolts and nuts as souvenirs, after peeping into the turrets to inspect the heavy rusting guns.

Home Forums The life story of HMVS Cerberus through Newspaper reports – Discussion Forum

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