HC Deb 05 March 1860 vol 156 cc2221-2

said, he rose pursuant to notice to ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether he intends to continue the manufacture of Armstrong's Guns after the remarkable results of recent experiments with Whitworth's Guns, both as to their range and the accuracy of their fire; whether it is an ascertained fact that Armstrong's Guns cannot be used unless there is at hand a large supply of water, so that the Gun may be washed out after each shot; and whether the Whitworth Gun may not be used for any length of time without the aid of water; and whether the Committee appointed to decide on the respective merits of the Armstrong and Whitworth Cannon adopted the Armstrong Gun without going to Manchester to look at Mr. Whitworth's Gun, after having previously fixed a day on which they were to have visited Mr. Whitworth's works for the purpose of examining his Gun?


said, that nothing could apparently be more satisfactory, considering the small number of experiments which had been made, than the result in the case of Mr. Whitworth's gun, so far as fouling was concerned. He might also state, in reference to Sir William Arm- strong's gun, that when it had been first used it had been found necessary to employ a wet sponge, not indeed at every discharge, but at certain intervals. A new lubricating wad had, however, been introduced by him, by the operation of which that objection had been obviated, and the guns could now be used without the application of water. With respect to the question whether the Committee which had been appointed to decide on the respective merits of the Armstrong and the Whitworth cannon had adopted the former without going to Manchester to look at Mr. Whitworth's gun, he could only say that he was not in a position to give to it a positive answer. He believed, however, that it was quite true that the Committee had not visited Manchester, but had taken the Report of another Committee who had inspected the Whitworth gun. It must be borne in mind, however, that at the time to which the hon. Gentleman's question related, Mr. Whitworth's present gun, which had produced those admirable results which had since been accomplished, did not exist; and he might, perhaps, he permitted to take the present opportunity to state the course in the matter which he had determined to pursue. He had invited Mr. Whitworth to send his gun or guns to Shoeburyness, and there, not by means of short trials, but of those lengthened experiments which were necessary, to test the relative merits of the two guns in question for all purposes, including not only accuracy of aim and distance, but, above all, efficiency as used against an enemy. By such competition he had no doubt useful results would be attained and great improvements effected. As the case at present stood the Whitworth gun had, so far as he was aware, exceeded the Armstrong in range, and very nearly, if not quite, equalled it in accuracy, The subject was one, he might add, to which the Government felt it to be their duty to pay the utmost attention. They deemed it, therefore, to be the best course to try both guns, and he was certainly by no means prepared to say that there existed any such difference between them as to induce the Government to prevent the completion of the Armstrong guns which were now being made.