About This Unit
Her Majesty's Colonial Ship "Protector" was a "Flat Iron Gunboat" purchased and commissioned by the South Australian Government in 1884, following the "Russian Gunboat" scare of 1882 when the good citizens of Glenelg awoke to find a flotilla of Russian warships at anchor in Holdfast Bay on their doorstep.
Built at William Armstrong & Co, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, Protector was built to a standard 'F1' flat-iron gunboat specification, but was one of the largest of its type, and was classified as a light cruiser, with a displacement of 920 tons.
Her length was 180 feet 6 inches (55.02 m), with two compound surface-condensing engines that produced 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW). Her top speed was 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph). To conserve fuel (coal) she was also originally rigged as a topsail schooner.
For her size, Protector was particularly heavily armed. Her main armament was an 8-inch (203 mm) Armstrong rifled breech-loading gun mounted at the bow. The gun weighed 12 tons and could fire a 180-pound (82 kg) shell 7,500 yards (6,900 m).
Other armaments included five 6-inch (152 mm) Woolwich-Armstrong rifled, breech-loading guns mounted in hull sponsons; four 3-pounder 1.85 calibre Hotchkiss QF (Quick Firing - which means they fired a cartridge munition with a brass case as opposed to a 'bag charge') guns and five 10-barrel Gatling machine guns. That is a lot of firepower indeed, in the age of "Gunboat Diplomacy".
Her small arms consisted of: 200 0.45 Martini-Henry rifles Mk IV; 100 breech-loading revolvers; 100 cutlasses and 30 boarding pikes.
Her crew was 85 - 96 personnel, most of whom would appear to have been gunnery numbers to serve such a large floating arsenal!
At the outbreak of World War I, her armament was increased to include two 4-inch (100 mm) guns, two 12-pounder guns and four 3-pounder guns.
As an item of Defence capital equipment, Protector rendered particularly cost-effective service to her owners. Purchased for 65 thousand pounds, she served in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and after being taken over by the Royal Australian Navy post-Federation, she served on in WW1 as a submarine and base tender during the Rabaul campaign and later, as a minesweeper and depot ship. Re-named HMAS Cerberus in 1921, she was decommissioned and paid off in 1924. She lived on as a lighter in private hands, in WW2, under a number of guises. Having been requisitioned by the US Governmen, in July 1943, after a collison with a tug off Gladstone, the hull was taken under tow to Queensland's Heron island, where she was grounded and sunk as a breakwater. 59 years faithful service in all - something of a record. Her hull remains visible to this day. Some of her guns are on display in various locations around Adelaide and her wheel is display at Sydney's RAN Heritage Centre.
She was awarded the Battle Honours "China 1900" and "Rabaul 1914".
See Memorials - Port Adelaide