Breastwork monitor

A breastwork monitor was a type of ship originated by Sir Edward Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy between 1863 and 1870. The term "monitor" was directly derived from the American ship of that name, USS Monitor designed by John Ericsson which served in the American Civil War. The American ships were very stable, and difficult to damage by gunfire, because of their very low freeboard. This, however, caused them to behave, some said, as a "half-tide rock", with the ever-present risk of being swamped in a sea should water gain access to the interior through hatches, turret bases or other openings in the deck.

Reed proposed to overcome this risk by the addition of an armoured breastwork. This was an armoured superstructure of moderate height (7 feet (2.1 m) in HMVS Cerberus), centrally placed on the ship and containing within its armoured circumference the gun turrets, bridge, funnels and all other upper deck appurtenances needed to operate the ship. The presence of this breastwork allowed the ship to operate without fear of being flooded by waves breaking over the deck, and allowed the main armament to be positioned at a greater height than in the American monitors, gaining thereby greater command and range, while preserving the defensive advantage of low freeboard.

Reed's concept was copied by other designers and breastwork monitors served in the French and Imperial Russian Navies, among others.

Cerberus (AWM 300036)
Stern view of HMVS Cerberus at Williamstown, Victoria, Australia, in 1871. Note the low freeboard.

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Amenities ship

An amenities ship is a ship outfitted with recreational facilities as part of a mobile naval base. Amenities ships included movie theaters and canteens staffed by mercantile crews of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary service. These ships were intended to provide a place where British Pacific Fleet personnel could relax between operations.


Breastwork may mean:

Breastwork (fortification), a temporary military fortification

Breastwork monitor, a type of heavily armored Royal Navy warship

Breast implant, surgical alteration of the breast

Cerberus-class breastwork monitor

The Cerberus-class breastwork monitor was a pair of breastwork monitors built for the Royal Navy in the 1860s.

Coastal submarine

A coastal submarine or littoral submarine is a small, maneuverable submarine with shallow draft well suited to navigation of coastal channels and harbors. Although size is not precisely defined, coastal submarines are larger than midget submarines, but smaller than sea-going submarines designed for longer patrols on the open ocean. Space limitations aboard coastal submarines restrict fuel availability for distant travel, food availability for extended patrol duration, and number of weapons carried. Within those limitations, however, coastal submarines may be able to reach areas inaccessible to larger submarines, and be more difficult to detect.

General stores issue ship

General stores issue ship is a type of ship used by the United States Navy during World War II and for some time afterwards.

The task of the general stores issue ship was to sail into non-combat, or rear, areas and disburse general stores, such as canned goods, toilet paper, office supplies, etc., to ships and stations.

Guard ship

A guard ship is a warship assigned as a stationary guard in a port or harbour, as opposed to a coastal patrol boat which serves its protective role at sea.

HMS Abyssinia (1870)

HMS Abyssinia was a breastwork monitor ordered, designed and built by J & W Dudgeon specifically for the Bombay Marine for the defence of the harbour at Bombay.

She was designed by Sir Edward Reed, and was a smaller version of, and hence a half-sister to, the Cerberus-class monitors Cerberus and Magdala. It was intended that Abyssinia and Magdala would serve in mutual support on the same station. Given that the stipulated naval requirement was for two ships for the coastal defence of the Bombay area, the India Office were pressed by the Board of Admiralty and the Chief Constructor to order two ships of the Cerberus class. After the placing of the order for Magdala, budgetary limitations meant that a smaller, cheaper vessel had to be acquired.

Abyssinia, while being similar in layout to Magdala, was smaller and cost £20,000 less. She had slightly less freeboard, a shorter breastwork, could carry less coal and had about one knot less speed.

The ferry trip out to her base in Bombay was made under her own power, without the use of any sail whatsoever. Unlike her half-sisters, the hull was not built up for the trip, which she made in a faster time than they did.

HMS Glatton (1871)

HMS Glatton was a breastwork monitor which served in the Victorian Royal Navy.

HMS Hecate

Five ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Hecate, after Hecate, a goddess in early Greek mythology:

HMS Hecate (1797) was a 12-gun gunvessel launched in 1797 and sunk as a breakwater in 1809.

HMS Hecate (1809) was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop launched in 1809 and sold in 1817.

HMS Hecate (1839) was a 4-gun wooden Hydra-class paddle sloop launched in 1839, fitted out for survey work in 1860 and sold in 1865.

HMS Hecate (1871) was an iron screw Cyclops-class breastwork monitor launched in 1871 and sold in 1903.

HMS Hecate (A137) was a Hecla-class survey vessel launched in 1965. She was put up for disposal in 1991, and sailed to India to be broken up in 1994.

HMS Magdala (1870)

HMS Magdala was a Cerberus-class breastwork monitor of the Royal Navy, built specifically to serve as a coastal defence ship for the harbour of Bombay (now Mumbai) in the late 1860s. She was ordered by the India Office for the Bombay Marine. The original specifications were thought to be too expensive and a cheaper design was ordered. While limited to harbour defence duties, the breastwork monitors were described by Admiral George Alexander Ballard as being like "full-armoured knights riding on donkeys, easy to avoid but bad to close with." Aside from gunnery practice Magdala remained in Bombay Harbour for her entire career. The ship was sold for scrap in 1903.

HMVS Cerberus

HMVS Cerberus (Her Majesty's Victorian Ship) is a breastwork monitor that served in the Victoria Naval Forces, the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF), and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) between 1871 and 1924.

Built for the colony of Victoria under the supervision of Charles Pasley, Cerberus was completed in 1870, and arrived in Port Phillip in 1871, where she spent the rest of her career. The monitor was absorbed into the CNF following Federation in 1901, and was renamed HMAS Cerberus when the navy became the RAN in 1911. By World War I, Cerberus' weapons and boilers were inoperable; the ship served as a guardship and munitions store, while carrying the personnel of the fledgling Royal Australian Naval College on her paybooks. In 1921, the ship was renamed HMAS Platypus II, and tasked as a submarine tender for the RAN's six J-class submarines.

In 1924, the monitor was sold for scrap, and was sunk as a breakwater off Half Moon Bay. The wreck became a popular site for scuba diving and picnics over the years, but there was a structural collapse in 1993. There have been several campaigns to preserve the ship (one of which is ongoing), as she is one of the last monitors, the only surviving ship of the Australian colonial navies, and one of only two surviving ships in the world with Coles turrets.

List of battleships

The list of battleships includes all battleships built between 1859 and 1946, listed alphabetically.

The boundary between ironclads and the first battleships, the so-called 'pre-dreadnought battleship', is not obvious, as the characteristics of the pre-dreadnought evolved in the period from 1875 to 1895.

As they can be considered as reduced versions of battleships, coastal defence ships (sometimes also referred to as coastal defence battleships) are included in the list.

List of breastwork monitors of the Royal Navy

The breastwork monitor was developed during the 1860s by Sir Edward Reed, Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, as an improvement of the basic monitor design developed by John Ericsson during the American Civil War. Reed gave these ships a superstructure to increase seaworthiness and raise the freeboard of the gun turrets so they could be worked in all weathers. The superstructure was armoured to protect the bases of the turrets, the funnels and the ventilator ducts in what he termed a breastwork. The ships were conceived as harbour defence ships with little need to leave port. This meant that they could dispense with the masts, sails and rigging needed to supplement their coal-fired steam engines over any distance. Reed took advantage of the lack of masts and designed the ships with one twin-gun turret at each end of the superstructure, each able to turn and fire in a 270° arc. These ships were described by Admiral George Alexander Ballard as being like "full-armoured knights riding on donkeys, easy to avoid but bad to close with". Reed later developed the design into the Devastation-class, the first ocean-going turret ships without masts, the direct ancestors of the pre-dreadnought battleships and the dreadnoughts.Reed designed the first ship (HMVS Cerberus) at the request of the Colony of Victoria; the India Office then ordered another of the same design (HMS Magdala) as well as a less expensive version (HMS Abyssinia). The four Cyclops-class ships, enlarged versions of Cerberus, were ordered in 1870 for local defence of English ports.HMS Glatton was derived from the design of the first breastwork monitors, but sacrificed the rear turret for thicker armour and larger guns with which to attack enemy ports. She was given a deep draught to improve her seaworthiness, but her low freeboard meant that she had very little ability to weather head seas. HMS Hotspur was similar in layout to Glatton, but she was given more freeboard by the addition of an unarmoured structure above her waterline armour belt. Designed as a ram, Hotspur was given a fixed turret with four gun ports as a rotating turret was not thought capable of withstanding the shock of impact. HMS Rupert was an enlarged version of Hotspur, but used a Glatton-type turret instead of the fixed turret and thicker armour than the older ship. The two Conqueror-class ships were enlarged versions of Rupert with heavier guns, thicker armour and a steel hull.With the exception of Cerberus, all of these ships were sold off for scrap during the first decade of the 20th century. Cerberus was sold in 1924 and used as a breakwater; her wreck still exists off Half Moon Bay in Australia.

List of ship commissionings in 1870

The list of ship commissionings in 1870 includes a chronological list of all ships commissioned in 1870.

List of ship launches in 1871

The list of ship launches in 1871 includes a chronological list of some ships launched in 1871.

Mine countermeasures vessel

A mine countermeasures vessel or MCMV is a type of naval ship designed for the location of and destruction of naval mines which combines the role of a minesweeper and minehunter in one hull. The term MCMV is also applied collectively to minehunters and minesweepers.


A minehunter is a naval vessel that seeks, detects, and destroys individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines. A vessel that combines both of these roles is known as a mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV).

Ocean boarding vessel

Ocean boarding vessels (OBVs) were merchant ships taken over by the Royal Navy for the purpose of enforcing wartime blockades by intercepting and boarding foreign vessels.

Repair ship

A repair ship is a naval auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to warships. Repair ships provide similar services to destroyer, submarine and seaplane tenders or depot ships, but may offer a broader range of repair capability including equipment and personnel for repair of more significant machinery failures or battle damage.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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