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 Herbertshehe. 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.
ReferencesJ. 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).
Related place Herbertshohe
Related conflicts First World War, 1914-1918
Related events Operations against German Pacific territories
Commanding officers
Subjects SMS Emden (1908)
Alternative names
  • HMAS Cerberus
  • HMAS Protector
  • HMAS Protector (1884-1924)
Unit hierarchy
Pendant NumberNil
SpecificationsClass: 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