Heritage VIC




Half Moon Bay, Port Phillip Bay

VHR Number


Date lost


Year of construction


Statement of Significance

The former flagship of the Victorian Colonial Navy, HMVS Cerberus is internationally significant as a surviving example of a turret ship, or breastwork monitor class of warship. It was the first armoured warship built for Australia, and upon Federation became the Commonwealth of Australia's first capital ship. When it was built, along with its sister ship Magdala they were the first British ships to have low freeboard, breastwork protection, a central superstructure with fore and aft turrets, and the first warships ever built to operate solely on steam propulsion. The Cerberus represents the transition from large high profile wooden sailing warships armed with hundreds of cannon to a low profile 'floating raft' using explosive shells, revolving turret guns, and an iron hull and breastwork. The Cerberus had an uneventful career for a naval vessel, with never a shot fired in anger in 53 years of service between 1871 and 1926. The HMAS Cerberus naval depot at Flinders is named after the HMVS Cerberus. After its use as a capital ship had expired, the Cerberus operated in Port Phillip as a port guard ship, a floating explosives store, and a submarine depot ship for the six J-Class submarines until being purposely sunk in 1926 for use as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club.

Physical Description  
Construction Material Iron
Rig Other
Hull Details ironclad breastwork monitor, two revolving turrets,Armour: turrets - 10"-9" iron, 9"-11" teak; breastwork9"-8" iron, 11"-9" teak; sides - 8"-6" iron, 11"-9" teak; maindeck - 1.5" iron, 10" teak; breastwork deck - 1" iron, 10"teak. Bunkers 240 tons coal.
Propulsion Steam - Screw
Engine Specification Maudslay & Son
Engine Builder Two horizontal two cylinder double acting simple steam engines. 43 inches bore, 27 feet stroke, fired by four boilers with 30psi working pressure, twin screws. IHP 1370, NHP 250. Propellors single balcanced, 95 square feet. 9.75 knots max speed. Coal b
Number of Masts 2
Length / Breadth / Depth 255.0 Feet / 45.0 Feet / 15.6 Feet
Builder Palmer Shipbuilding & Iron Co., designed by Mr E.J. Reed, C.B., Chief Constructor, Admiralty
Built Date 1867
Built Port / Country Jarrow-on-Tyne / England
Registration Port / Country / Australia
Former Details of Registration Prior to being obtained by Sandringham Council (now Bayside City), the ship was built for the Victorian Navy
Armament: 4 muzzle loading rifled Armstrong guns, mounted in 2 turrets, 10" bore, length 15'; refit 1879, added 4 Nordenfelt guns to armament. Armour: turrets - 10"-9" iron, 9"-11" teak; breastwork9"-8" iron, 11"-9" teak; sides - 8"-6" iron, 11"-9" teak; maindeck - 1.5" iron, 10" teak; breastwork deck - 1" iron, 10"teak. Laid down in 1867 and launched 1868, the ironclad monitor was the forerunner of modern battleship and served colony of Victoria and then the Commonwealth 1871-1924. After its voyage to Melbourne, which was plagued with difficulties, it acquitted itself well in annual Easter exercises although never called on to fire a shot in anger nor to leave Port Phillip. During World War I was used to store explosives and in 1921, renamed Platypus II, acted as depot ship to J Class submarines. In 1924 sold to Melbourne Salvage Co. and partly dismantled at Williamstown. In 1926 bought by Sandringham Council. Refs in Argus Fri July 14 1865 p4 c5 re: Vic. debate about whether to use Armstrong guns.
Voyage Details  
Date Lost 02/09/1926
Owner Sandringham Council
Cause of Loss
Scuttled as breakwater
Further Details  
Number of Passengers 0
Number of Crew Members 0