HMAS Protector (1884-1924)

Protector was originally built as a steam-driven gunboat for the South Australian government and commissioned into that colony’s navy in 1884. Between September and November 1900 she was deployed to China as part of the Australian colonies’ contingent to the forces suppressing the Boxer Rebellion. During this period she was commissioned into Britain’s Royal Navy. Upon Federation in 1901 Protector became part of the Commonwealth Naval Forces and, following the establishment of the RAN, was commissioned into that service on 1 July 1911. By 1913 Protector was rearmed for service as gunnery tender at Williamstown Naval Depot.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Protector proceeded to Sydney to act as tender for the submarines AE1 and AE2. In early September, she escorted the submarines and their depot ship Upolu to New Guinea waters and took part in the operations to capture Germany’s Pacific colonies. On 13 September, she captured the steamer Madang off Herbertshöhe. Protector returned to Sydney in October 1914.

In October 1915, Protector towed a barge from Sydney to Perth and then proceeded to Cocos Island to assess the possibility of salvaging equipment from the Emden. For the remainder of the war she carried out patrols in southern Australian waters.

After the war, Protector served as the tender to Williamstown Naval Depot, before taking the advance party to establish Flinders Naval Base. On 1 April 1921, she became tender to the base and her name was changed to Cerberus.

Sold by the RAN in June 1924, she saw service as a barge for the next twenty years. In 1943, Protector was requisitioned by the US Army but while being towed north she collided with another vessel and was abandoned off Gladstone, Queensland. Her hulk still lies just off Heron Island.



Class:   gunboat
Launched:   27 December 1883
Commissioned:   19 June 1884
Complement:   90
Length:   188 feet [57.3m]
Beam:   30 feet [9.14m]
Draught:   12 feet 6 inches [3.81m]
Displacement:   960 tons
Speed:   14 knots
Armament:   3 x 4-inch guns
2 x 12-pounder guns
4 x 3-pounder guns
Armour:   not applicable

Ship photograph

HMAS Protector (1884-1924) 301189

Pendant Number(s)

  • Nil


  • RAN: 1 dead

For more information please see the Roll of Honour, Wounded and Missing, First World War Nominal Roll and Embarkation Roll databases.


  • Nil

For more information please see Honours and Awards database


  • J. Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1975).
  • R. Gillett, Australian & New Zealand warships, 1914-1945, (Lane Cove: Doubleday, 1983).
  • A.W. Jose, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume IX, The Royal Australian Navy, (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1937).
  • J.H. Straczek, The Royal Australian Navy: ships, aircraft and shore establishments, (Sydney: Navy Public Affairs, 1996).