HC Deb 23 May 1864 vol 175 cc588-91

said, he would beg to put a question to the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty respecting the damaging Report of the result of the recent firing aboard the Research, He held in his hand a letter which contained this passage— I suppose you have heard that the Research has turned out a perfect failure. The Commander-in-Chief inspected her last Saturday and had her guns fired with blank. The first discharge brought down all the bulkheads like a house of cards, jumped the pinnace nine or ten inches out of her crutches, and broke her back. Nearly all the glass on board was broken and the stanchion bolts underneath the battery were snapped short off by the concussion. I went aboard next day and saw the extent of the damage. He hoped the noble Lord would state Whether the arrangement in the Research contrived by Mr. Reed for carrying heavy ordnance is satisfactory, or whether the firing had not been found very destructive to the ship herself?


said, in reply, that the trial of the guns on board the Research, which took place a few days ago, was the cause of the loss of a considerable amount of crockery, and had also been attended with some damage to the bulkheads of the vessel, because she had not been prepared for action by taking down certain moveable bulkheads on deck, and by removing glass skylights before the firing had commenced. But there was no reason to suppose that the arrangement for firing the guns was unsatisfactory, or that there had taken place any explosion very destructive to the ship itself.


said, that with a view to put himself in order he would move the adjournment of the I House. He considered the Question to be I one of great importance, and it was most desirable that the real facts should he brought under the notice of the House. The answer of the noble Lord did not, according to his information, give the true facts of the case. He held in his hand a communication from an officer of high rank, in which he described the ship as having become a complete wreck. The Commander-in Chief at Plymouth had ordered her out of the Sound for the purpose of firing five rounds from each of her guns, which consisted of 100-pounders and 68-pounders; the former to be fired with 16 lb. of powder, and the other with 12 lb, by no means excessive charges. The result of the experiment was to send the pinnace three feet out of her "crutches," to break her back, to break the holts of the stanchions, to destroy the whole of the standing bulkheads, to smash every atom of crockery, and to send glass flying about the lower deck, which might have killed a number of men, and which had actually wounded the carpenter, who was the only person on that deck. His informant further stated, that independently of that the ship was totally unfit to go to sea, that she was only three feet and a half or four feet out of water, that she could not possibly rise to the sea, and that if she went to sea she would absolutely and certainly be lost. That was the first-fruit of the exercise of the powers of the Constructor of the Navy. The sister ship, the Enterprise, had not as yet been tried, but from her they could but anticipate similar results. There were besides a number of ships drawn by the same gentleman, which were at present in course of construction; and under those circumstances that was a matter of very great gravity, and one which the House ought at once to take up and investigate, for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were to go on with the construction of those ships without having the opinion of those constructors who had been educated at the expense of the State, but who had been superseded by a man who had been only partially instructed, and who, although favoured by the press and the Government, had in that his first essay turned out a vessel that was absolutely useless to the country. He would ask the noble Lord whether the statement he (Sir James Elphinstone) had just made was not substantially correct, and whether the vessel in question was not an unmitigated failure? In conclusion he begged leave to move the adjournment of the House.


said, he could not help thinking that his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, had received a very one-sided and exaggerated statement of what had occurred on board the Research, He (Lord Clarence Paget) had that day seen a list of "the defects" caused by the firing of the guns on board the vessel, the cost of repairing which would be somewhat under £30. The Admiral in command sent the ship out to be inspected, and the firing took place without the precaution of removing the bulkheads and skylights. The consequence was that the bulkheads went down, and glass was broken; but hon. and gallant Officers knew that if the ship had been going into action the bulkheads would have been put down, and the glass would have been removed below. As to the stanchions, he had heard no account, but he had heard that no accident whatever had occurred to the standing parts of the vessel.


said, that the statement of the noble Lord would lead them to believe that there was no defect in the construction of the vessel. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Hear, hear!] But it appeared that there had been some great neglect in making the experiments, and he thought it was only right that the subject should be investigated, so that they should ascertain who was answerable for that neglect, in order that he might receive a fitting censure.


said, he would beg to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, whether the flotation of the Enterprise is not deeper than had been calculated, and whether she is not undergoing repairs to counteract her too great depth in the water?


So far from the Enterprise drawing one foot of water more than was intended she draws one inch less.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.