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The HMVS Cerberus was the first British breastwork monitor turret ship ever built. Constructed in 1870, for the Royal Victorian Colonial Navy, the Cerberus served Victoria, and later Australia until 1926, when it was scuttled as a breakwater. It survives in a dilapidated condition, consisting primarily of the hull, deck, partial superstructure including the conning tower and fore and aft turrets, with their twin 10-inch muzzle loading guns.


The HMVS Cerberus, as the only survivor of its type in the world & illustrates a particular type or phase in the development of naval technology. Its design, by prominent naval architect E. J. Reed of the British Admiralty, is widely regarded by maritime historians as a complete break with established tradition, which had been manifest in sail-powered timber vessels, towards iron clad steam turret ships, the forerunners of the modern battleship.


It incorporated developments in metallurgy, steam power, gun turrets and use of low freeboard. The design for the Cerberus was the first in the world to incorporate the combination of a central superstructure with fore and aft gun turrets, mounted on the deck.


It was also the first British warship to dispense completely with sail power and to incorporate the shallow draft, a feature which gave it the ability to reduce the amount of target space for enemy fire.


CERBERUS now consists of the collapsed hull, parts of the central superstructure, including the conning tower, most of the timber decking, and the two gun turrets, complete with 10 inch guns. The hull rests on the sandbank, with its buckled inner support structures barely holding the significant weight of the turrets.


Since the collapses of the hull in 1993, the frame of the Cerberus has been deteriorating rapidly. A serious adverse outcome may be expected within the next few years. The timber deck is also declining in condition, showing evidence of teredo worm activity.


Before the 1993 collapse the deck was above the waterline, but is now submerged at the bow and subject to tidal submersion at the stern. This is also likely to have an adverse effect upon the decking.

CERBERUS today at Blackrock, Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne


An Engineering Feasibility Study (Sept 2000) states that Raising & Stabilising Cerberus is still possible and would cost approximately $A2.5 million.