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Victorian Naval Forces

The Colony of Victoria commenced construction of its first armed vessel in 1853 HMCS Victoria which was launched on 30 June 1855 and arrived in Victoria on 31 May 1856.

Victoria carried out a large variety of tasks during its life, including taking part in the Maori Wars, assisting in the search for Burke and Wills, delivering the first trout eggs to Tasmania, as well as numerous surveying and rescue tasks.

In 1859 the first Naval Brigade was formed. The Brigade was re-organized in 1863 as a half-militia, re-formed in 1871 as the Victorian Naval Reserve as a full militia and re-formed again in 1885 as the Victorian Naval Brigade.

The Victorian Naval Forces comprised the permanent force known as the Victorian Navy, and a 300-strong Victorian Naval Brigade consisting of the Williamstown Division and the Sandridge (Port Melbourne) Division. Combined the Victorian Navy and the Victorian Naval Brigade were known as the Victorian Naval Forces.

Following the success of Victoria, the Victorian colonial government ordered an ironclad ship, HMVS Cerberus and was gifted the composite steam-sail warship, Nelson.

In 1884 several more warships were purchased by Victoria, these included the first-class torpedo boat Childers and second-class torpedo boats Lonsdale, and Nepean and the third-class gunboats Victoria and Albert. In 1886 the turnabout torpedo boat Gordon was acquired. In 1892, the first-class torpedo boat, Countess of Hopetoun arrived in Victoria.

To supplement the ships of the permanent force a number of government vessels were modified so as to serve as gunboats or torpedo boats. The hopper barges Batman and Fawkner were modified so as to mount a six-inch breech-loading gun at the bow of each ship. Two machine guns were also fitted. Strengthening of the bow, the fitting of a magazine, shell room, crew quarters and some armour protection for the crew added two more gunboats to the fleet. A compressor fitted to Fawkner meant that the torpedo boats could be serviced at sea. The tug boat Gannet and steamer Lady Loch were likewise modified.

The Harbour Trust boats Commissioner and Customs No. 1 had two sets of torpedo dropping gear fitted to each boat thereby adding two more torpedo boats to the fleet. In 1885 the government steamers Lion and Spray were fitted with six-pounder Armstrong guns. Spray was later fitted with two sets of torpedo dropping gear.

Supporting the Victorian Naval Forces were the fortifications located at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and other sites around the bay. In the years leading up to Federation the Victorian Naval Forces were considered the most powerful of all the colonial naval forces.

Here is a list of the vessels sorted by date of commissioning, where that is known. Those vessels for which the dates are unknown are listed below the rest.

Victoria (I) Steam sloop 1855–1880

Nelson Training ship 1867–1898

Cerberus Turret ship (monitor) 1869–1924

Fawker Auxiliary gunboat 1883–unknown

Victoria (II) Gunboat 1884–1896

Albert Gunboat 1884–1897

Childers Torpedo boat 1884–1918

Gannet Auxiliary gunboat 1884–1893

Lonsdale Torpedo boat 1884–1912-1913

Nepean Torpedo boat 1884–1912-1913

Gordon Torpedo boat 1884–1914

Batman Auxiliary gunboat 1884–unknown

Lady Loch Gunboat 1886–unknown

Vulcan Auxiliary 1889–unknown

Countess of Hopetoun Torpedo gunboat 1891–1924

Dates of service unknown.

Commissioner Auxiliary torpedo boat

Burrumbeet Auxiliary armed steamer

Courier Auxiliary armed steamer

Customs Number 1 Auxiliary torpedo boat

Elingamite Auxiliary armed steamer

Lion Auxiliary armed launch