HC Deb 02 March 1865 vol 177 cc962-1003

rose to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire whether Her Majesty's Ships are at present armed in a manner suited to the necessities and requirements of modern warfare. Sir, in rising to bring forward this Motion, I cannot refrain from expressing a wish that this may not be regarded as a party question. The subject is one deeply interesting in itself, and of vital importance as regards the safety and honour of this country. We have often been told of late that we possess the finest ironclad ships in the world. We might be told with much greater truth that our sailors are most able, most experienced, and most brave; but all these advantages are vain, useless, and utterly unavailing if our ships are not armed in a manner suited to the necessities and requirements of modern warfare. Now, it cannot be denied that a very uneasy feeling prevails, not only in the public mind, but also in the minds of many of the most able and experienced officers in Her Majesty's service, that our ships of war are not armed at the present time in a manner that would enable them to contend with advantage, or even with equality, against the armour-clad ships of other countries. Nor is it surprising that that uneasy feeling should prevail, for we have the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Duke of Somerset) for the statement that we have no good naval gun. We had a similar admission from the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Clarence Paget) in the last Session of Parliament, coupled, indeed, with the expression of opinion that we were not in that respect worse off than other countries. That is a question to which I shall have presently to refer. In the meantime I will observe that it is astonishing how little trouble Her Majesty's Ministers seem to take in order to inform themselves of what is passing in other countries with regard to the invention, the improvement, and the changes which other nations are making, and have already made in the construction of the engines and implements of war. In the Report of the evidence of the Ordnance Committee which sat in 1863 we find that a number of very distinguished officers, both naval and military, were examined, and yet none of these officers were able to give the Committee any information with respect to the newly-invented guns of other countries. They knew nothing of the American gun, they knew nothing of the French gun, they knew nothing of the admirable guns used by the Prussians in the war against Denmark, and they knew nothing of Krupp's gun, which had been adopted in the Russian service. All their information seemed to be confined to the Armstrong and Whitworth guns. Now, when we find that amongst professional men so much ignorance exists with regard to the inventions of other countries, we cannot be surprised that Her Majesty's Ministers should be in a somewhat similar predicament. I draw that inference from the answers which have been given from time to time in this House. Let me take an example. In the course of the last Session of Parliament a question was put to the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, with regard to the armament of our ships of war, and with that frankness and candour for which the noble Lord is so remarkable, he at once admitted that we had no good naval gun, and that things were not in a satisfactory state; but he said that we were not worse off than other nations. He admitted, indeed, that the French had rifled guns on board their ships, but he said he knew all about the French rifled guns—that they were smooth-bore guns which had been converted into rifled guns; that the French officers were not very fond of them, and that he did not consider them more efficient than our own smooth-bore guns. The noble Lord, no doubt, is a great authority, and any statement that he makes carries great weight with the House; but I think I shall be able to show that the statement must have been made on erroneous information. Before, however, I proceed to enter into the question of the armaments of France and Russia it will be necessary for me, in the first place, to take a review of the present state and condition of our own. The armament of the British fleet has not been materially changed since the introduction of iron-clad ships. What changes have been made have been rather for the worse than for the better. In point of fact the Admiralty appear to have been for the last five years in search of a gun, and the Ordnance Department has been unable to furnish it. The armaments of the British fleet at the present time are as follows:—We have on board our ships 68 pounder and 32-pounder smooth-bore guns. We have 110 pounder and 40 pounder rifled Armstrong guns. We have also a very few 100-pounder smooth bore guns, which have lately been sent to the fleet, but which can only be regarded at present as experimental guns, and not as having been regularly introduced into the service. We have also a few 64-pounder shunt guns, which have been lately sent to the fleet, but as these are only calculated for hollow shot, and as I understand the shot of these guns when falling on the deck of the Excellent broke in pieces, they cannot be suited to iron-clad warfare. I shall not say anything with regard to the Royal Sovereign or her armament. The Royal Sovereign is an experimental ship, with experimental guns, and it does not appear that the experiment has been very satisfactory, as we do not find that any other ships of a similar class have been similarly equipped. Now, as to the 68-pounder. Twenty years ago the 68-pounder (a 95 cwt. gun) was regarded for all purposes as the best gun in the British service, and for all purposes it is regarded as the best gun in the service at the present time. But unfortunately for the reputation of this gun the world has not remained stationary. Things have changed, and that gun, which was so efficient against wooden ships, has been proved to be impotent with regard to iron ships. The 68-pounder, at a distance of 200 yards, firing direct at a target placed vertically before it, with a full charge of 16lb. of powder and steel shot, is unable to penetrate the sides of the Warrior or La Gloire. That has been proved by experiments on board the Excellent, which took place on the 24th and 25th of February, 1864. It must, therefore, be obvious to the House that a 68-pounder is absolutely useless as a gun for iron-clad warfare, and it is needless to refer to the 32-pounder. I will now go to the 110-pounder rifled Armstrong; and the history of this gun is anything but creditable to the Ordnance Department. As it is necessary the House should receive full information on this subject, I must beg the indulgence of hon. Members while I narrate, as concisely as possible, the story of this gun. In the year 1859, in consequence of the introduction of iron-clad ships, it naturally occurred to our naval administration that it was desirable to obtain a more powerful gun than the old 68-pounder; and I find, from the evidence of the Duke of Somerset before the Ordnance Committee of this House of 1863 that he entered into negotiations with the Ordnance Department, and the result was that the Ordnance Department engaged to furnish the Admiralty with a more powerful naval gun. Accordingly, in due time, a new gun was produced of 6-inch calibre, 80lb. shot, and 12lb. charge. This gun, in the month of September, 1859, was tried for two days against the old iron-clad Trusty, and was defeated—that is to say, the 4-inch iron plates of the old Trusty were not penetrated. Besides this, various defects in the gun were developed, such as liability to blow out the breech, no less than fifteen such accidents having occurred in 143 rounds, the number of shots tired in the two days' trial. In spite of these glaring defects—in spite of the impotency of the gun—this description of gun was ordered to be manufactured, and that with such incredible haste that the workmen in the factories were compelled to work night and day. Thus, without any further trial, a gun of this description was issued for service to Her Majesty's fleet, with the bore altered to allow of the shot being increased to 100lb. instead of 801b. In that form they were issued for service in December, 1860. The astounding fact that a new gun, imperfectly designed and insufficiently tried, was issued to the fleet, is recorded in the Report of the Ordnance Committee of 1863, and, strange to say, the fact is set down without either comment or censure. The Committee say— The Armstrong system was first extended to 110 lb. calibre on the 14th of October, 1859. The political necessities of the day appear to have been so urgent as not to allow time to mature the design previous to their manufacture, and in consequence of the excessive pressure for the supply of guns of this calibre the first hundred were completed before the experiments on them were concluded. The Committee were very mild in their Report, but Sir William Armstrong declared in his evidence that they were tried by no experiments at all. He was asked at Question 3554— Can you state on what series of experiments the 110-pounders were proved? Answer— None at all. There was such excessive pressure for rifle guns at that period that there was no time for experiments; and it was one of the great difficulties I had to contend with that I was obliged to produce the guns under those circumstances. And so without any trial at all these guns were issued to the navy. Now, that was a most extraordinary statement. Sir William Armstrong declared that he was compelled by the Secretary of State for War to manufacture guns and issue them to the navy without any trial at all. That is a grave and serious charge to make against a Secretary of State, but I believe it to be unfounded and unjust; and we may rescue the memory of a deceased statesman from such an imputation, as common sense tells us that no Minister would allow guns to be issued which were imperfectly constructed, if fully aware of all the circumstances of the case. But to go on with the history. In September the gun was considered capable of being issued for solid shot 110lb. weight, 14lb. charge, and for the first time it was tried against 4½-inch plates on Captain Coles's cupola. It there competed with the old 68-pounder, which signally beat it. In October it was tried on the Warrior plates at 200 yards, and there the mean indent was 16 inch, while that of the old 68-pounder was' 2.47. That experiment was made with cast iron shot. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for War is reported to have said last Session that the gun was never intended to be used against iron-plated vessels; but that must have been a mistake, as I have not only proved that it was tried against iron plates, but we have the distinct evidence of the Duke of Somerset before the Ordnance Committee of 1863 that he intended to have armed the Warrior with these 110-pounders, and was only deterred from doing so when he found upon trial that it was a less powerful gun than the old 68. The trial here referred to was that against Coles's cupola, at which the Duke himself was present. In 1862 the charge was reduced to 121b., 14lb. having been found too much, and in 1863 they ceased to be manufactured, but not until 1,000 guns had been made, at an enormous cost to the country, and stored in Her Majesty's arsenals—the cost he would leave the Chancellor of the Exchequer to calculate. So inferior did the gun prove that it was said in January, 1864, they intended to reduce the charge to 10lb. and the shot to 1001b.; but whether or not that was done I do not know, as we have no further official information on that point. That was the last phase of the gun. Here, then, we have a Department which undertakes to furnish the Admiralty with a more powerful gun than the old 68-pounder, and produces a gun which, on the first trial, proved far less powerful and liable to defects so considerable as to inevitably render it useless in action in a very short time. Yet it goes on manufacturing them with indiscriminate haste and serves them out to Her Majesty's Navy without further trial. I ask the House if it is possible to conceive a more reckless course of proceeding or one more objectionable on the part of a public Department?. If we could suppose for a moment that the Ordnance Department wished to sacrifice the lives of the sailors, to cause the destruction of the fleet, and peril the safety and honour of the country, they could not have adopted any course more calculated to attain those objects. Fortunately the first trial of the gun in actual warfare occurred against the Japanese, and not against any great naval Power. We have received full and authentic details both from private sources and official Returns of the performance of this gun in the action at Kagosima. I will state first the private accounts, and then refer to the official statements of Admiral Kuper, which corroborate and confirm them. The private letters of officers have been printed, and they are perfectly authentic. One letter stated— On the second day no shell fitted with the 'pillar fuze' went more than 300 yards, most burst in the gun, and nearly all the shot 'stripped,' some going as much as 600 yards to the left. Several of the grooves were cut half-way down the gun. Again— Of the 110-pounder pivot, one breech blew out, and one from the broadside gun, which split and struck inside, knocked down the gunner's crew, but did no damage (i.e., killed no one). With us the 'pillar fuze' and common shell burst prematurely every time, taking five inches in length of the rifling out of the gun amidships right round, and going half an inch into the metal of the gun. Every shot fired after this "stripped.' Another said— I am sorry to say the Armstrong did not impress us as being such a first-rate gun; in fact all, to a certain extent, failed. A shell burst in ours, and cut up the rifling a good deal—knocked holes in it. The shell with concussion fuzes, which are brought from the shell-room and put into the gun without being touched, all burst at the muzzle of the gun. The practice also appears to have been worse with the Armstrong than with the smoothbore. Here was another— This 110-pounder missed eight times; on one occasion they were twenty-eight minutes under fire before they could get it off, another time twenty minutes. These were private letters from officers engaged in the action. I will now go to the official Returns. Last Session my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Yorkshire moved for a Return from Admiral Kuper, as to the guns used at Kagosima. The Admiral was too "cannie" to send a report; but the reports of other officers commanding the ships engaged in the action had been laid on the table of the House. These reports do not express opinions, but merely give the facts. Six ships were engaged, and of these the Pearl, 21, had no Armstrong gun. Of the 66 guns of the other five ships—namely, Euryalus, 35; Perseus, 17; Argus, 6; Racehorse, 4; and Coquette, 4; 21, or in round numbers, one-third were Armstrongs. Of the 13 in the Euryalus, the return to Parliament recorded 14 accidents in 144 rounds, about the same proportion as occurred in the trials against the Trusty. Of the five in the Perseus, all 40-pounders, three accidents are recorded in 111 rounds. Of the 110-pounder in the Argus, four accidents were recorded in 22 rounds, besides the breech "continually jamming, a serious drawback to quick firing." Of the 110-pounder in the Coquette, but one accident was recorded in 37 rounds, but it was continuous, "causing unnecessary delay after every round in having to wedge the breech out." Of the 110-pounder in the Racehorse, four accidents were recorded in 51 rounds, all causing great delay at a time when it was of great importance we should keep up a rapid fire, and when the smooth-bore guns, which were being fired under the same adverse circumstances, kept up a continuous and rapid fire. The aggregate being twenty-six accidents to 21 guns in 365 rounds from five ships, or a mean of one accident per 14 rounds. This is an analysis of the official reports presented to the House. But since the action of Kagosima we have had another action at Simonosaki of which no official reports have been yet received; but I am informed that the action of the gun was much worse. A private letter from an officer—which has been published—says— One vent-piece (i.e., breech), wrought iron, split right through and stuck in the gun, and it took our engineer nearly three-quarters of an hour to clear it. The greatest danger we were in was from our own ships' Armstrong shot, as they fired across us when we passed between them and the battery, and several stripped (their lead jackets) and wobbled (i. e., deflected, as at Kagosima, where it was noted of some stripped shot that 'they went as much as 600 yards to the left'). The boats trying to fire Armstrongs wounded two marines of the shore party, who were brought on board of us. I held one poor fellow's hand while the doctors out the segment out of his leg, and tied it up to be cut off when there was a quiet place to do it in. This day we split our other two 110-pounder vent-pieces (i. e, breeches), wrought iron—three in two days. How does Armstrong feel? I would ask also how do British sailors feel when sent to fight with guns such as these? But it is not only in Japan that these guns have been proved to be unfit for service on board Her Majesty's ships. Let us take the case of the Channel squadron. It usually has seventy or eighty Armstrongs distributed amongst the different ships, and in two years sixty-nine were sent home disabled. Last year, when it was sent to the Downs for immediate service in the Baltic, it became necessary, of course, to examine the guns, and it was then found that there was not one ship in the whole squadron which had not some disabled Armstrongs on board. The case of the Warrior was worst of all. The armament of that ship was thirty 68-pounder smooth-bores, and ten 110-pounder rifled Armstrongs, When the Warrior was ordered to the Downs, every one of the Armstrongs was found to be defective. Not one being fit for service she was sent into Devonport, and received ten new Armstrongs. She then sailed for the Downs, and by the time she arrived at the fleet one of the new guns was disabled, the captain having thought it necessary to give them a trial by the way. Of course, he sent the disabled gun in and got a new one. But suppose she had had to go into action instead of going into port, her defective armament would have involved the loss of the ship to a certainty. And now allow me to ask who is to be held responsible for sending imperfectly constructed and insufficiently tried guns on board Her Majesty's fleet? That is a very important question for the House to entertain. Are we to consider the First Lord of the Admiralty as responsible for these guns? I confess I do not think we ought. The First Lord of the Admiralty does not manufacture guns, and he is, on the contrary, obliged to take what guns are furnished by the Ordnance Department. The evidence of the Duke of Somerset, given before the Ordnance Committee, is conclusive on this point. He repudiates being held responsible. The noble Duke said (Question 5,096)— All the Admiralty can do is to send to the War Department, and say what guns they want; but in the case of any new gun, that must rest entirely with the War Department, as the Admiralty had but little or no opportunity of judging them, and must accept such as are sent to them. Every gun is passed by the Ordnance Select Committee before it comes to us. So that the Duke of Somerset (the First Lord) is absolutely at the mercy of the Ordnance Department. Then, is the Secretary of State for War responsible? He will tell us, "I am a civilian, and know nothing about guns; but I have appointed an Ordnance Select Committee, and that Committee is intrusted by me with the selection, manufacture, and trial of guns, and with the judgment respecting them; and if bad guns are manufactured or selected, the Ordnance Committee are to be blamed." That would be the answer probably of the Secretary at War, as indeed it was practically the answer on a previous occasion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) to the Com- mittee of this House. He said he did not consider himself responsible as to the introduction of the Armstrong gun, but he held the Ordnance Committee, which he had appointed, responsible. This was throwing the responsibility upon the subordinates, and they returned the compliment, and threw the responsibility back upon the Secretary of State; for Sir William Armstrong says, in his evidence, he was compelled by the pressure put upon him by the Secretary of Slate to manufacture imperfectly designed and inefficiently tried guns. Here we have subordinates throwing blame upon the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State throwing the blame upon subordinates, so that, in point of fact, there is no responsibility at all. How can we expect to have responsibility by a Committee appointed by a Secretary of State, and changed and altered at his will and pleasure. The Committee, moreover, now is not the same as that which introduced the Armstrong gun. It was very different under the old system. In the present system there is no such thing as responsibility. Formerly we had a Master General of Ordnance, who was directly responsible for the Department, and who was generally selected from the first and most distinguished officers of the service. The Duke of Wellington held the appointment for six years, and he would never have given his sanction to the issue of an imperfectly constructed gun to either army or navy. But at present we have this Committee of Ordnance, composed, no doubt, of able and clever men, some of them with genius for mechanical invention. The consequence of this is that they are always trying their inventions at the expense of the country, and afterwards sitting in judgment on their productions. How can it be expected that such a Department as this should be properly conducted, or that great extravagance and waste should not be the consequence? I will give the House one example of what has thus occurred, showing the manner in which the system works. A short time ago one of the Members of the Ordnance Select Committee invented a new naval gun carriage. It was submitted to the Committee and received their approval, and not less than 150 of these new gun carriages were constructed before a proper trial of them had taken place. It was then thought advisable to place one of them on board the Excellent; and on the first trial of it in that ship the carriage was broken, as also the leg of a lieutenant, and it was accordingly unceremoniously condemned. There was thus an end of the invention after the country had paid for 150 of those carriages, all of which are at present, I believe, lying idle in Her Majesty's arsenal, from which I hope they will never be removed. Now, I think I have shown that during the last five years we have been unable to obtain efficient guns from our great national establishments. The question then naturally arises, could we obtain better guns from the private establishments of this country? It is not my intention to enter into a discussion with regard to the respective merits of the great inventors and manufacturers of modern ordnance. All I wish to say of them is, that if their guns are not appreciated by their own Government they are at least appreciated by all the other Governments of the world. There is, first of all, the Blakely Ordnance Company. That company have been manufacturing- guns of great calibre, 300and 600pounders, both for the Confederate and the Federal States of America, and they are still executing orders for the Federal Government. But it is not in America only that the guns of this company are appreciated. They are executing immense orders for the Russian Government—11-inch guns for the defence of Cronstadt, and 8-inch guns for the Russian fleet. They are also manufacturing guns for the governments of Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Italy, in fact for most of the Governments of Europe, and it appears that it is only in their own country, and by their own Government, that their guns are not appreciated. Then I will go to another company famous for the production of great guns as well as of small arms—I mean the Whitworth Ordnance Company. I do not wish to offer any opinion with regard to the Whitworth gun. All I will now say is that it has accomplished astonishing results. Two years and a half ago on the 16th of September, 1862, Mr. Whitworth produced a 5½-inch gun of 3¾ tons weight, charged with 12lb. of powder, which burst its 68lb. shell through a 4-inch plate backed by 9 inches of teak, from the usual range of 200 yards. It was admitted, however, that a gun of that small calibre was not suited for a contest with iron-clad ships; and on the 13th of November, 1862, Mr. Whitworth produced a 7-inch gun of 7½ tons weight. It was used at 800 yards; it discharged two flat-ended steel shells of 1511b., with 5lb. bursting charge, one shell of 130lb., with 3lb. 80z. bursting charge, and a solid steel shot of 129lb., all with 27lb. charges. All perforated through the whole protection into the ships, the shells producing more or less destruction. This occurred two years and a half ago; and I want to know how it has happened that Her Majesty's Government up to the present time have never been able to make up their minds either for or against those guns. During the last twelve months we have heard a good deal of the competition between those guns and the Armstrong guns. But I must observe, that it was not a competition between the Whitworth guns and the Armstrong guns properly so called. The Armstrong gun, properly so called, was withdrawn from the competition as soon as they commenced firing at iron plates; and Sir William Armstrong carried on the contest with what he called his new shunt gun. Now, this is a totally different gun from the Armstrong gun; it is different in design, different in manufacture, and different in the mode of rifling. It is different in design, for it is a muzzle-loading and not a breech loading gun. It is different in manufacture, because it is manufactured of solid steel fortified by a coil, and it is not a regularly built-up gun like the Armstrong gun. Lastly, it is different in its rifling; the poly-groove system with the lead coated projectile of the Armstrong gun is abandoned, and in place of it Sir William Armstrong adopted his system of rifling from the early canon rayé of the French. It is not, however, a complete copy of the French gun, because unfortunately it is much more complicated, and has proved lately much less efficient than the French gun. In the experiments which have been made within the last few weeks at Shoeburyness, it has been found that the French gun beats the shunt gun both in range and accuracy. And yet, in the meantime, before the gun had been sufficiently tried and reported on, these shunt guns were being manufactured at Woolwich in large numbers and sent on board Her Majesty's ships. I have been informed that there is a very serious defect in them. Two distinguished naval officers—one of whom has allowed me to mention his name, namely, Lord Hardwicke—have informed me that they lately went down twice to the Excellent to see the practice on board that ship, and upon each of these occasions the projectile stuck in the mouth of the shunt gun, and it required to be hammered for half an hour with a sledge hammer before it could be got out. The reason is that the shunt gun has a nip near the muzzle, and is liable to this accident in loading. But just imagine, if this accident occurred on board the Excellent, where every thing is done with the greatest care and precision, what the consequences would be on board an ordinary ship of war in action. Why a gun of that kind would be disabled at once. I have referred to three of the most celebrated modern manufacturers of ordnance. But there are many others, and they all very justly complain of the obstructions that have been thrown in their way by the rules and regulations of the Ordnance Committee, which have prevented their inventions from undergoing any proper trial at the hands of the Government. Now before stating what those obstructions are, let me ask the Government why we should not adopt in this matter the simple plan of the American Government? In America, if an inventor wishes to have his gun tried he has only to go to the Government and state his wish, and if he his prepared to undertake the expense of the trial the gun is immediately tried. That is perfectly fair; it costs the country nothing; and it enables the American officers conducting the experiments to report upon every new invention. But what is the practice with us? The first thing the inventor of a new gun has to do, is to send to the Ordnance Select Committee, all his drawings, plans, and specifications. These are considered by the Committee, and if they do not approve of them, they are sent back to him, and he is told his gun cannot be tried. Now, I want to know what inventor would like to submit to such a system as that How does he know that his drawings may not be copied and used in Her Majesty's arsenals? We know that the Government claim a right to use any patent they may think proper. But if the plan should be rejected, then the invention would be discredited, and no private manufacturer would construct a gun the plan of which had been condemned by the Ordnance Committee. It must be remembered also that the members of the Committee are themselves rival inventors and rival manufacturers. I say that, under those circumstances, the Ordnance Select Committee act as a complete obstruction to the introduction of new guns. Captain Blakely for five years never had his gun tried by the Government. And why? Because he always refused to send in his drawings to the Ordnance Select Committee. Now, I cannot but think that the Ordnance Committee of this House had this special point in view, when they inserted towards the conclusion of their Report, the following paragraph:— Without expressing any opinion on the controverted questions, your Committee venture to express a hope that the different systems, not of Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth only, but of the other able men whose minds are now engaged on ordnance questions, may be fairly experimented upon. I trust the Government will take that piece of advice given by the Committee. I have endeavoured to represent the present state of Her Majesty's fleet. We have on board our fleet no guns capable of penetrating iron-plated ships. That is a very serious consideration, and more especially as we know that America and other Powers have guns that can penetrate iron-plates 6-inches thick. The American navy is now being armed mainly with 10-inch broadside guns weighing 7i tons, firing a minimum charge of 30lb. and a maximum charge of 481b. They are broadside guns. Those are the guns they have in most of their ships at the present moment. Now, I ask, what would be the consequence of bringing an English ship with her old 68-pounders and her 110-pounder Armstrongs into collision with an American vessel so armed? Now, let us see what is the state of the French navy. I believe the French navy, and all other European navies, are very inferior to that of America in their guns. But nevertheless the French navy is superior to our own. The French, we all know, were the inventors of ironclad ships. They first thought of covering ships with iron-plates. They first taught us that ships covered with five inches of iron could be propelled through the water with as great rapidity as ordinary wooden ships. When that was proved by the success of La Gloire, the Ordnance Department of France at once came to the conclusion that their old armaments of smoothbore guns had become useless, and recommended the Emperor to get rid of all the smooth-bore guns in the service, and to adopt rifle guns. That recommendation was carried into effect in the French navy. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Clarence Paget) says that those French rifle guns were smooth-bore guns converted into rifled guns, and that they are not more effective than our own. But let me ask the House this question. We all admit that the French artillery and engineer officers are the most able and the best instructed in the world; and can we suppose them to be so ignorant and incapable as to have recommended their Government to adopt rifled guns, and to get rid of the smooth-bore guns if the rifle guns they adopted were not more powerful than the smooth-bores they rejected? Whatever opinion we may form of the French rifle gun, this, at any rate, we must admit that it is superior to the gun it has replaced, and, therefore, superior to the gun in our fleet, for that is the gun the French have rejected. But we are not left altogether without any knowledge in reference to those French guns. Captain Blakely was questioned by the Select Committee of 1863 with respect to the armament of the French ships, and this is his evidence upon that subject— "La Gloire has 6½-inch rifle guns of the weight of five tons. They fire smooth round shot, if necessary, or a steel bolt, which they have to fire against iron-clad ships, and which they have found by experiment will pierce a target representing the Warrior, if placed before it, at a distance of 1,000 yards. The Committee then asked him, "Do you think the French gun superior to the Armstrong gun?" and he answered "I am sure of it." That is the statement of Captain Blakely. Now it is perfectly true, as stated by the noble Lord, that at first, and as a temporary measure, the French adopted the plan of rifling their smooth-bore guns, and they were successful in that attempt, and in strengthening their guns with steel bands, which, somehow or other, we never could accomplish. One of the French guns so strengthened was fired 3,000 times, and stood the trial. But the French never intended this to be the permanent armament of their ships. They always intended to arm them ultimately with the gun described by Captain Blakely; and the arming of their ships with that gun has been going on for the last three or four years. A gentleman who visited Cherbourg in the year 1863, and went on board the French ships found the Solferino and the Heroine entirely armed with those new guns. He also saw the men at quarters exercising them. They were breech-loading guns, and the officers assured him that they never blew out their breeches. Several of the French ships were at the time being similarly armed; and I have no doubt that many, if not most of their iron-clad vessels are now armed with these guns. Now, I do not believe that this is a first-rate gun; I believe we could have infinitely superior guns in our fleet; but, at all events, I contend that it is superior to any gun we possess in our navy at the present moment. What I contend is that at a short range that gun would pierce the side of the Warrior, whereas we have no gun in our fleet that would pierce the Solferino. So much for the state of the French navy. Now what is the state of the Russian navy? The Russians did not lose much time in following the example of the English and French, in procuring for themselves iron-clad ships; I believe they have now sixteen of them. But the Ordnance Department of St. Petersburg, as soon as this decision was come to, made a report to the Emperor, in which the following passage occurs:— The employment of iron-clad vessels in America has demonstrated the absolute necessity of having guns of a very large calibre, and the successful use of such guns against iron-plated vessels depends upon heavy charges. This report was made on the 10th of August, 1862, so that at that period the Russian engineers came to the conclusion that heavy charges were necessary for their guns, and I believe we have ourselves only very lately arrived at the same conclusion. About the same time—that is to say, in the year 1862—Captain Blakely offered the Secretary for War to manufacture an 8-inch gun at his own expense, and to hand it over to him for six months to do what he liked with it, while he engaged that it should pierce the sides of the Warrior. The Secretary for War told him that if he had such a gun he could not use it, and he therefore declined the offer. The consequence was that Captain Blakely communicated with the Russian Government, and they accepted his proposal. He then sent two of the guns to St. Petersburg. The result was that the Russian Government was so pleased with them that they gave him an immense order. They also gave orders for guns of the same calibre to be constructed by the great German founder Krupp; and the iron-clad fleet of Russia was now armed with Krupp's and Blakely's guns. They also got guns from the French, but they prefer those supplied by Captain Blakely, and with them the Russian fleet is now being armed. The gun is of eight inches calibre with a 25lb. charge, and a projectile consisting of a long flat steel bolt weighing 1801b. Now, I ask whether it would be fair to expose one of our English ships to a collision with a Russian ship armed with such a weapon as that? I think I have proved that the United States, France, and Russia are all in advance of us in the possession of rifled guns; that in point of fact England, instead of being in the van, is following in the wake of other nations, and that is not the position which England ought to occupy. We ought to take example by the fate of Denmark, which serves to illustrate the evils that may fall on a noble and gallant people from the incapacity and shortcomings of its rulers. Previous to the late war Denmark had the advantage of a very Liberal Government. It was that Government that had caused the ruin of Denmark by the mismanagement of its foreign affairs, by wasting the resources of the country in the construction of long lines of fortification which the Danish army was not large enough to defend, and which had neglected to supply the Danish army with good rifled artillery and useful arms and ammunition for the war. We know the result, and ought to profit by the example. We have a Liberal Government which has mismanaged our foreign affairs, which has unquestionably spent large sums of money on long lines of fortifications, which the whole disposable military force of the country could hardly garrison, whilst it has neglected to supply our fleets with good rifled guns, or our soldiers as yet with breech-loading arms. It is to be hoped that the parallel will go no further, and that we shall not suffer from a catastrophe similar to that which befel Denmark. To prevent such a possibility, I have felt it my duty to bring forward this question. I do not wish to make any attack upon the Government, or upon the Board of Admiralty. I have been told by naval men that the Duke of Somerset has displayed great and most commendable energy, remarkable freedom from party bias in his mode of administering the affairs of the navy, and an even-handed justice and impartiality in the distribution of patronage most unusual in the Department. That is no slight praise, and I accord it to him because I feel it to be well deserved. I shall rejoice to find that the naval resources of this country have been wisely applied; but, if this be not so, the time has come when a change ought to take place. All I ask for is a full and free inquiry; I believe that inquiry is due to the people of England; I believe it is due to our constituents, before whom we shall shortly have to appear, and I cannot doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite will feel that this is a Motion which, without reference to party feeling, they ought to approve.


had not intended to rise at so early a period in the debate; hut, fully concurring with the Motion made by his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, he did not quite agree in all the historical narrative by which that Motion had been prefaced. He must, however, compliment his hon. Friend on the very clear and distinct reasoning by which he had enforced the fact that our ships were at present unarmed, or so badly armed that we had no right to consider them as fit to defend themselves against the navies of Europe or America. He would be very brief in the observations he had to make as to the particulars in which he thought the Government had erred in this matter. He was not going to recapitulate the evidence they already possessed as given before a Committee of the House two years ago. The Report of that Committee distinctly showed that what faults had been committed were due to the want of knowledge at the time, specific orders having been given for a description of gun which was not now equal to the necessities of the case. In 1859 there were hardly any armour-plated ships at all. The guns made in a hurry in consequence of events with reference to the possible outbreak of hostilities with America were of a very different quality from those which were now necessary, in consequence of the fact that all the navies of the world were protected by iron armour; and though a mistake might have been committed by making these guns of too light a pattern that mistake was due to the want of knowledge at the period and to the fact that the guns were wanted to contend with wooden ships, and all the blame due to the Government was apportioned in the blue-book of the Ordnance Committee published in 1863. He thought it therefore hardly worth while, after that voluminous Report had been laid on the table, to go back on the circumstances, which were perfectly different from those which now existed. The mistake made, it appeared to him was that the Government decided that guns should be made not exceeding a certain weight. They limited the makers of ordnance in this country as to weight, and they expected results which were impracticable with light guns. Robins, the old authority on artillery, had laid it down that a gun should not be less than 150 times the weight of the projectile. The old 32-pounder, than which no better gun existed, was 196 times the weight of the shot, and with the use of a third of the weight of the shot in power its maximum force was obtained. The 95 cwt. 68-pounder was 156 times the weight of the shot, and was used with one quarter of the weight of the shot in powder, by which its maximum force was obtained. Again, the 113 cwt. gun used a charge of one third the weight of the shot with a maximum effect. On the other hand the 84 cwt. 110-pounder Armstrong gun was only 94 time3 the weight of a shot, or half the weight necessary to make it effective; the shot, therefore, was thrown with so little force as to be of very little value against iron-plating. The demands of the Admiralty on the War Office, as he understood, were to produce a gun that should throw a shot of a certain size—at the same time limiting the weight of the gun—to be used with facility on the broadside principle. Now, it appeared to him they must discard that broadside principle. If they meant to contend at sea with other Powers they must do away with any rules by which guns should be brought into play not of sufficient weight for the purpose assigned to them. He had the honour of acting as chairman of the Iron Plate Committee, whose Report was in the library of the House. He would take the liberty of reading what was the result of their inquiry on this subject— The Committee cannot conclude their final Report without referring to a matter of urgent importance, and to which they have drawn their Lordships' attention on more than one occasion. It is the necessity for the supply, without further delay, of powerful guns, which will be capable of effectually damaging iron-plated ships, and, further, that all such guns should be supplied with a large proportion of steel shot and shells. As regards the power of the guns which should be manufactured, it has been found, after numerous and conclusive experiments on iron targets, that nothing less than ordnance of 12 tons weight, and capable of bearing a 45lb. charge, can successfully attack an armour-plated structure, such as the Warrior. A sufficient supply of guns of at least this power is therefore urgently required. He thought it but justice to the Committee over which he had the honour to preside, to show that it had not neglected the duty of advising the Admiralty on this matter. He could only say if guns of that size were urgently required and not made, the fault did not lie with those who were called on to advise the Admiralty. He was sorry to say, as far as he could learn, very few guns of that size were made. The noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Harting- ton) would be able to give full information on that point; but he believed only one 600-pounder gun was complete, and four nearly completed—five guns of that calibre, and something under fifty altogether of the guns recommended by the Committee. There were only two classes of guns at present in existence capable of being used against the iron-plated ships of foreign Powers. It was stated that the Admiralty had called on the War Office to make guns of seven, eight, and nine inch calibre; if so, they were of insufficient size. They had evidence to that effect from the very best authority some time ago. That very distinguished man, Sir William Armstrong, wa3 examined before the Committee. His system of manufacturing guns—he did not refer to the rifling, as to which different opinions might be entertained—but his system of manufacturing guns enabled them to be made of any size, and so trustworthy as to be used with any charge of powder. His evidence was given in 1863 before the Ordnance Committee, from which he would quote the following passage:— Now, Sir, my opinion upon this subject with regard to the kind of gun that ought to be used is this:—I consider that the enormous weight of material which iron-plated ships must use for protecting these guns will limit the armament of guns to a very small number in vessels of that kind. The enormous expense, also, of steel projectiles, which alone can be used effectively against such structures, necessitates that the ammunition should be sparingly used. I therefore consider that it will not be sufficient to use small-bored guns, and guns of small dimensions generally, which will only have the effect of making small, easily-plugged holes. I think it will be absolutely necessary to use guns of a very large calibre, which shall have great crushing effect, so as to destroy the enemy's ship at a small number of discharges and with a small expenditure of ammunition From what I have seen of the experiments at Shoeburyness, I think nothing less than a bore of nine inches will be sufficient for this purpose, and I very much doubt whether that will be adequate. It is said that ships cannot conveniently carry guns of more than six tons weight; but I look upon it as a matter of absolute necessity that they should do so. I think that they must accept the use of large guns as an absolute necessity, and that the proper machinery must be applied for the working of such guns. I have no doubt that if it be taken up as an engineering question ways and means will be found of using guns of any required weight on board ship. Now that evidence and advice had been before the Government for a long time, and they were only now making seven, eight, and nine inch guns, the largest of which was no larger than the smallest said to be useful for the purpose in view. The Duke of Somerset's evidence corroborated his statement. One passage was as follows:— In fact if your Grace was fitting out a fleet for active service to-morrow would you recommend that the greater number of the guns should be the old 68 pounders? Not now; if I had them I would rather have a more powerful gun. I consider that what we have asked the War Office to provide us with would be the sort of gun that we require. I want a gun in which we can fire about 25lb. of powder, and I should not object to its being a smoothbore if I could have a gun which could carry a projectile weighing about 140lb. or 150lb. Any artillery officer could tell the Duke that a projectile of 150lb. would require a charge of powder nearer 50lb. than 25lb. The Report of the Iron Plate Committee, therefore, showed that guns of 12 tons' weight were the smallest that ought to be manufactured for the use of Her Majesty's ships. He did not think the Government were free from blame in the matter, but he could not say to which Department it most attached. He thought it would be well if the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) would be able to clear the Government from the charge of supplying guns to the navy that were not fit for the service of modern war. He seconded the Motion of his hon. Friend.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire whether Her Majesty's Ships are at present armed in a manner suited to the necessities and requirements of modern warfare,"—(Mr. Henry Baillie,) —instead thereof.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, I think it must be admitted that the hon. Member for Inverness has been more successful in pointing out the defects and shortcomings of the present system of naval ordnance than in suggesting a remedy. It was only in a few sentences at the close of his rather lengthy speech that the hon. Gentleman adverted to the advantage of a Committee on the subject. Now, considering that his remarks ranged over the history of naval ordnance for the last five years, that the greater part of the questions raised to-night were fully and in the most minute detail investigated by the Committee which was appointed three years ago, which sat during two Sessions, but which did not report till the end of 1863, and that another inquiry would hang up the question for another year—considering these things I think the House will be of opinion that it would be a waste of time—in fact a waste of a whole year—if it consented to another Committee upon these much discussed and already decided questions. Of all expedients for remedying the defects of the existing naval armament, the reappointment of a Committee after all the experiments that have been made would be the worst. This is both a practical and a scientific question, and speaking with the greatest respect for the House hon. Members can scarcely pretend to sufficient knowledge and experience to decide upon a matter of this kind in a satisfactory manner. The Committee presided over by the right hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) entered on its labours with the most anxious desire to achieve some practical result; but, after two years' investigation, the conclusions at which the Committee arrived were of a somewhat lame and impotent description. It would be vain to say that it need not decide between the Armstrong, the Whit-worth, or the Blakely gun. Any Committee of this kind must become the battlefield of rival inventors, and get involved in personal questions, no matter how desirous they may be of avoiding them. In this way at least a year's time will be utterly wasted; and of course the Government cannot take any new steps in the matter while the decision of the Committee is pending. I deny that the statement of facts made by the right hon. Gentleman justifies his demand for a Committee. He has gone back for five or six years, and has dwelt on the defects of the Armstrong 68 and 110-pounders. Neither the 68 nor the 110-pounder were designed for the purpose of being used against iron-plated ships. In fact, as the hon. Baronet who seconded the Motion remarked, there was no such thing as an iron-plated frigate, although there were iron-plated batteries in 1860, when the 110-pounder was introduced. What was then wanted was a gun that could be useful against wooden ships and works on shore, and that was all Sir William Armstrong undertook to supply in the 110-pounder. That gun may have been adopted in too great haste, and in too great numbers; but in justice to Sir William Armstrong it ought to be mentioned that that gun was not designed to act against iron-plates. As soon as iron-plated ships were introduced it was found necessary that a new weapon should be fabricated. No doubt this gun has been tried against iron-plates, but it is absurd to say that therefore it was intended to be used against them. That is quite a mistake. The hon. Member also somewhat misled the House by saying that the 110-pounder was introduced as a more powerful gun than any then in the navy. [Mr. H. BAILLIE: It was the Duke of Somerset who said so.] In 1863 the Duke wanted a more powerful gun; but in 1859–60 it was not so much a powerful as a good rifled gun which was required. The Government took the best that offered, and if it has not proved so successful as was anticipated, some blame may, perhaps, rest on the Government; but some portion of the blame ought to be shared by Parliament, who, in the most unmistakable manner, urged on the Government the immediate necessity of arming ships with heavy rifled guns. I am not going to stand up for the 110-pounder as a perfect naval weapon, but I must say a word as to the misstatements of the hon. Gentleman concerning this much abused gun. A great many defects were represented as having been disclosed in this gun at Simonosaki and Kagosima, but the guns used in these engagements were of the earliest pattern and earliest manufacture, and great improvements have since been made in the vent-pieces and breech-screws, and I believe they worked much better at Simonosaki than at Kagosima. Therefore, it is not fair to judge the guns now in the Channel Fleet and other ships by the experience of the guns used at the engagements which have been referred to. The hon. Member stated that nearly all the 110-pounder guns on board the fleet had been returned for the purpose of undergoing repairs. It is fortunate for the hon. Member that the Return of the guns undergoing repairs, which was moved for a few days ago by the hon. Member, is not yet ready for presentation, because it would be seen that those repairs are all of the most trifling description, and from faults that do not in the slightest degree militate against their efficiency. I do not know whether the number of guns lauded from the ships as stated by the hon. Member is correct; but the House will recollect that the hon. Member stated that the whole of the Warrior's guns wanted repairing. Those guns, however, were exchanged for others on account of a small deviation from the pattern in respect to breech-rings; but of the guns so removed only one required any repair at all. I shall, therefore, leave the House to draw its own conclusion from the statement of the hon. Member, exaggerated as I have shown that statement to he. Now, Sir, the hon. Member spoke as if our armament consisted entirely of 68 and 110-pounders, and as if Government had done and was doing nothing to provide the service with a more efficient weapon. But, Sir, the hon. Member must know, and I think the House must also be acquainted with the fact, that the Government and the Ordnance Committee have been working steadily with a view to procuring for the navy a heavier and a more efficient gun. I think it is three years since the trial of the first 12-ton gun, and fresh experiments and alterations have been carried on ever since, with the view of bringing that gun to perfection. Nearly a year ago a gun of 12 tons' weight and 9 inches calibre was tried at Shoeburyness, as referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay), and that gun gave satisfaction to the Iron Plate Committee. The hon. and gallant Member says we ought to have constructed a larger number of those guns; but, Sir, a considerable number of those guns are in course of construction at this very moment. The experiments took place in June or July. The Estimates had already been voted, and we, therefore, had no large sums which we could spend upon the construction of these weapons; but on finding, in August or September, that we had money which could be made available, a certain number of these guns were put in hand in anticipation of the Estimates. It will be my duty to provide for these guns in the Estimates, but I shall be very unwilling to state the number which are contemplated, because I believe that it is a practice which has not been adopted in this House, and because I think it is unadvisable to publish the exact number to the world. I am ready to admit that the limit mentioned by the hon. Member was higher than that to which the Government proposed to go this year; for it must be recollected that whatever the opinion of the Iron-plate Committee may be—and I do not deny that their opinion is entitled to great weight—that the 12-ton 9-inch gun is not the only gun of any value for the armament of iron-plated ships. [Sir JOHN HAY: 10½-inch,] The gun which has been referred to, and which produced these results, was the 9–22 inch shunt-gun. The House must recollect, however, that it is not the only gun which has been found successful against iron plates. The 6-ton 7-inch calibre, rifled on the shunt principle, has been found a most efficient gun against iron plates. Only a few weeks ago the gun fired completely through the Warrior target, and we are engaged upon the construction of a much larger number of guns of that calibre. That gun is one which can be easily carried by ships, and there are not in the navy at this moment—and my noble Friend will correct me if I am wrong—ships capable of carrying in great numbers the 12-ton guns. It is true that such ships are in course of construction. We are this year, in accordance with the request of the Admiralty, preparing to equip the vessels which they propose to fit out. I admit that we are not working at high pressure, that we are not preparing a stock of guns, and that we have not all the guns we should require in case of war; but I will give our reasons for not employing any undue haste. It is, I think, somewhat hard upon the Government that we should be rebuked by the Mover of this Amendment for progressing with undue and indecent haste in the manufacture of these 110-pounder Armstrongs, and for placing these guns on board our ships without sufficient trial, and that we should then be found fault with by the Seconder for not using celerity enough. We have certainly had plenty of experiments, and I am inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the 12-ton gun on the coil principle with a steel projectile, is a most efficient weapon. I think, however, that he would be a very bold man who would decide upon this question definitively in its present stage. It is very possible that, at no lengthened period, a gun may be constructed still better than it. I believe, therefore, that we are acting rightly in not urging forward the manufacture of these guns with any unnecessary haste. We are, as I have stated, making those guns which the navy require for immediate use, putting off as long as we can the question of providing an ample stock for ships which are to be constructed. There is also another reason. The House is aware that a Committee has been sitting for, I think, very nearly two years, for the purpose of inquiring into the relative merits of the system of artillery invented by Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth. The late Sir George Lewis stated in the House that it was not the intention of the Government to proceed hastily with the manufacture of new guns until the question had been decided by the Committee. The House received that statement with satisfaction, and it especially met with the approval of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). It must be remembered that this subject has been completely taken out of the hands of the Ordnance Select Committee, because the Committee engaged in deciding between Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth have nothing to do with the Ordnance Committee. I believe, however, that these inquiries are approaching a conclusion, and that we shall soon be furnished with the result. Although I do not imagine that the Committee will decide every question connected with the science of artillery I think it would be most premature to embark very largely in the manufacture of rifled guns either on the Armstrong or the Whitworth principle until their Report is presented. It may be urged that we could prepare the guns and leave the rifling until the decision of the Committee is before us. This we have done. We have 7-inch and 9-inch guns at present in course of construction, which we shall leave unfinished until we have the Report of the Committee, when we shall be able to rifle them upon the Armstrong, the Whitworth, the French or any other system which may be preferred. Mr. Whitworth has, however, so mixed up his system with the construction that I doubt whether it would be satisfactory to him or to the country to rifle on his plan one of our 12-ton guns or 6-ton guns at present being constructed in the factory. He would say that the gun had not been constructed of the right proportion and right calibre, and the result would probably neither be satisfactory to the country nor Mr. Whitworth. A great many questions are still open, for it must be remembered that the points in dispute between Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth include not only rifling, but proper construction, weight, and other matters. While so many questions are still open, and it is likely that we shall soon have the benefit of the vast experience which this Committee has acquired, I think it would be in the highest degree impolitic and premature to proceed with undue haste in the preparation of these heavy guns. It must be recollected that the construction, to any great extent, of the 12-ton guns recommended by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, would, in case they should hereafter be found unsatisfactory, involve not only the abandonment of all those guns, and the loss of money spent upon them, but would also throw us buck still further, and make it still more difficult for us to get into the right mode of proceeding. For it must be recollected that the number of guns required for our navy is so large, and the number of fortresses to be armed with the same kind of guns is so large, that it is absolutely necessary that whatever guns are adopted for the navy should also be adopted for the armament of our fortresses, and the consequent expenditure upon the adoption of any particular system would be immense, and therefore I think the House will agree that it is impossible for us to proceed too cautiously in the matter. But is there any necessity for us to proceed with very great haste? The hon. Member has stated that the ships of several nations are better armed than our ships, and he first mentioned the Americans. It is true that the Americans have larger guns than we have, but I very much doubt whether their guns are better than ours. The hon. Member could not rely upon the American rifled guns. The rifled guns of America, which we were told last year were so successful, have turned out to be the greatest failures upon record. We have it stated last winter in the report of the American bureau of naval ordnance, and from other official reports, that the Parrott gun is the only rifled gun in their service, and that it is the best and the simplest gun constructed. Now, we have it upon the authority of Admiral Porter that almost every one of these guns fired at Wilmington burst; and we have it also upon Admiral Porter's authority that they are utterly discredited, and I think it very probable that they will be entirely withdrawn from the American navy. Therefore, I am justified in saying that the Americans have not at this moment a good rifled gun with which to arm their navy. I would like to know what hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would say if it could be alleged of us that we had not any rifled guns for our navy. Does the hon. Member wish us to follow the example of America, and arm our ships with Parrott guns, almost all of which have burst, and not burst as the Armstrong, by a slight opening or chink, but have burst in such a manner as to endanger, if not to destroy, the lives of the crews of the vessels? As to the enormous smooth-bore guns with which the Americans are now arming themselves, I think it is a mistake to suppose that those guns are very much superior to anything we have. We have some guns, not very many, perhaps, but some wrought iron guns 10½ inch calibre, 12-tons' smooth-bore, of the kind on board the Royal Sovereign, which are fully equal to anything the Americans possess. Those guns certainly are not of such large calibre as some of the American guns, but they are made of wrought iron instead of cast iron, and bear a charge of one-fifth of the weight of the projectile, while the American guns have a charge of only one-eighth or one-tenth of the weight of the projectile. The 9-inch smooth-bore guns, to which the Duke of Somerset referred in his evidence, and which the Admiralty had pressed the War Department to supply—those guns, it is true, have not been very much pressed on the navy; but solely, I believe, because officers of the navy are becoming aware that a rifled gun of the same weight of metal is much more useful to them in battering iron plates than a smooth-bore. The weight of the gun and the charge of powder taken by these smooth-bore 9 inch guns justify the assertion that they are at least equal in power to the 10 inch and 11-inch guns with which the hon. Member stated, and, I believe, correctly stated, the Americans are now arming their ships. I mention these facts to show that, even at the present moment, we are not hopelessly behind America, as the hon. Gentleman would imply. And it must be remembered that the Americans have not like us been in a state of repose, but have been in a state of active war, and therefore have not been able to consider calmly which is the best gun for their navy. They have been for three or four years at war, employing their navy to a large extent, and it would be most unfair to compare our naval ordnance in a state of peace with the American ordnance. The hon. Member also drew a comparison to our disadvantage between the French ordnance and our own. The information upon that subject is rather vague. I believe there are very few guns of the kind described by the hon. Member in the French navy. Those guns are about five tons weight, and probably with steel projectiles they might produce some effect at short ranges upon an iron target. But I do not believe at this moment they have more guns of that kind than we have of guns of heavier weight. I believe the officers of the French navy are more dissatisfied with their ordnance than our officers are with our guns; and I also believe that the French have not yet made up their minds as to what is the proper gun to adopt for the navy. Therefore, as far as the French are concerned, there is no reason for us to be alarmed. The hon. Member seems to know a good deal about the armament of the Russian navy. I always thought it was a very difficult matter to obtain accurate details connected with the Russian army or navy. The Russians are not so communicative as to their experiments, or the state of their preparations, as we are. It is quite possible that the Russian Government have ordered some guns from Captain Blakely. It is not a fact, as was stated by the hon. Gentleman, that no trial of Captain Blakely's guns has ever been made by the British Government. Captain Blakely offered them a gun; it was accepted, and it was proved, but it burst in the proof. I do not mean to say that is any proof of the inferiority of Captain Blakely's guns, because he has since stated to us that the gun in question was one of his third-rate guns. It is true that Captain Blakely's first-rate guns have not been accepted, because they are so expensive, and, judging from his own description of his guns, and our own knowledge of what can be performed by guns of a cheaper construction manufactured by us, they are not worth the cost of the experiment. But I believe the Russians have also got some Prussian guns, but I doubt whether the information of the hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. In spite of the secrecy observed by the Russian Government, it is known that two of Krupp's guns have burst at St. Petersburg, and burst in such a manner as to cause considerable damage and loss of life. All these things should be considered, and it must be remembered that in all the failures of the Armstrong guns, there has, as far as I am aware, been no loss of life. Steel may be a very excellent material, well adapted, in some respects, for the manufacture of guns; but it must, at the same time, be borne in mind that as to the probabilities of bursting it is a most dangerous material. The bursting of a steel gun is more dangerous than that of a cast iron gun, and the wrought iron guns now manufactured on the coil principle, even if not strong enough for the charge, do not burst, but simply exhibit a flaw, without causing injury to any one. I do not believe that any State is so far a head of us as to require the Government to repeat the error—if error it was—that was made by the Government when they proceeded in such a haste to manufacture 110-pounder rifled guns. I do not believe that any country has much the start of us. I be lieve that even in respect of the guns we have in store, and the guns we have on board our ships, we are equal to any State. If the Russians are ahead of us, it is but by a very small number of guns, and then it must be remembered that we have in this country, in case of war, the power of manufacturing guns of this kind at a very much faster rate than any other country, although there is no doubt that wrought iron guns do require longer time for their construction. We are going to make this year in the factories as many of the 12 and 6-ton guns as can be produced without working overtime, and if any sudden emergency were to arise we should be able to double that by working overtime and calling on an extra number of hands. The Elswick factory, too, I am able to say, could produce about two-thirds of the number we could produce at Woolwich. Mr. Whitworth, though he does not work on the coil principle, would be able to produce guns of considerable strength, and there are other establishments in the country which, if the pressure of an urgent necessity were to come upon us, would be able to turn out heavy guns in almost any numbers we might require. With these resources at our disposal, it would be most unwise if we were to encumber ourselves with a large number of guns which however well we may think of them now might eventually not turn out to be successful. There are many questions with regard to rifling and construction still undecided. The history of the 12-ton gun has shown that we are improving the construction of our large guns from day to day. We are at present constructing as many guns as the navy actually requires, and if we are not providing guns against an emergency we do not anticipate, it is because we do not believe that other countries are in that forward state as to warrant that haste on our part, and because I believe we have superior powers of arming our navy which they do not possess. I hope therefore that, for these reasons, and believing as I do that it will have no practical utility, the House will not accede to the Motion for the Committee. So far from its facilitating the professed object in view I believe it will retard it for at least another year.


I trust my hon. Friend will not think it necessary to move for a Committee; for, in the first place, it can require no Committee to decide that Her Majesty's ships are not armed with guns suited to the necessities of modern warfare. So far as that point goes we need no Committee to decide it; and as to deciding what the armament of war ships ought to be, I, for one, should be most opposed to any Committee of this House giving an opinion on the point. Now, no responsibility can attach to me in anything connected with the question now before the House, except that portion of it which the noble Lord has not sufficiently explained—the constitution of the Ordnance Select Committee. As far as the armament of the navy is concerned, neither myself nor any Member of Lord Derby's Government is responsible for the adoption of the Armstrong gun as a naval gun, nor was a new naval gun of any sort or kind ordered during that Administration. Lord Derby's letter, which was made an official document, requested that no gun of a larger calibre than the field gun adopted for field service in the army should be made without further trial: in fact, that there should be careful trials before any large gun was adopted. We, therefore, cannot be responsible for the naval gun. The only large gun ordered I believe was a 70-pounder, which the Admiralty requested might be furnished them for experiment. The hon. Gentleman behind me has made some remarks with regard to the Ordnance Select Committee which has somewhat surprised me. He said the Members of the Select Committee were themselves manufacturers and inventors, Why, the very object of appointing that Committee was that there should be no manufacturers or inventors on it. The great complaint against the old Committee was that several Members of it were in the habit of pressing inventions of their own. The object of appointing the present Select Committee was that there should be no inventors on it, and if there have been it is in direct opposition to the spirit of the appointment. [Mr. H. BAILLIE: There have been inventors on it.] My hon. Friend says, "Why not recur to the old state of things?" and he is sure that such men as the Duke of Wellington, Sir George Murray, and other distinguished Masters General of the Ordnance, if they had been at the head of the Board of Ordnance would never have sheltered themselves under the advice of a Committee. But there always has been an Ordnance Select Committee, though differently constituted, and the only change was that we selected men whose whole time could be devoted to the duties, and who were not merely ex officio members. That was the case with the old Select Committee. They had had rifled guns before them for at least three or four years, and they never could agree which was the best. The first thing we had to do was to appoint a Committee to decide which was the best of the guns which had already been brought forward. I have always maintained that the Secretary for War is not responsible for the guns of the navy. [An hon. MEMBER: Who is, then?] The First Lord of the Admiralty, of course. It is perfectly impossible for the Secretary for War to decide which are the best naval guns. It is on board ship that their merits have to be decided, and what opportunity has the Secretary for War for such decision? His duty is to supply guns of the pattern which the First Lord sends him; he cannot try whether they are the best. They may be the best guns for field service, and yet not suitable for the navy, as appears to be the case in this instance. The First Lord of the Admiralty has quite as good an opportunity as any Member of this House for knowing what guns the Russians, Americans, or other services may have. He has nothing to do but to order the Secretary for War to make and send him any gun he may approve for trial, and if he approves it then the Secretary for War must supply him with as many as he wants. I object to the Committee, therefore, for two reasons. I do not see that a Committee is needed to decide, what is admitted, that the navy is not properly armed; neither do I think that the Members of this House are fit and proper persons to give an opinion as to what is the best naval gun. Notwithstanding all my hon. Friend has said as to the Ordnance Select Committee, I would rather take the opinion of one of its members on such a matter than of any Committee which this House could appoint.


said, he was very anxious briefly to state the grounds upon which he should support the Motion, as his hon. Friend had stated he should go to a division. His hon. Friend (Mr. H. Baillie), in his clear and able statement, had put the question before the House in a most intelligible manner, and it rested upon the point whether Her Majesty's ships were or were not at the present moment furnished with the best description of gun that could be procured. It was impossible to conceive a question of greater importance; and though he was not going to offer an opinion upon it, he was bound to say, after having listened to the speech of the noble Marquess the Under Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Harting-ton), that he had not heard from him any answer to what he conceived was the gist of the question, or any reason assigned why the Committee should not be appointed. His noble Friend had complained that the hon. Member for Inverness had made various complaints without suggesting a remedy for the evils of which he complained; but, if after stating what he considered to be the grievances of which he had to complain, and the laches on the part of Her Majesty's Government in not having procured the best guns for the navy, he had taken upon himself to state what was to be the remedy, he would have gone beyond the position of an independent Member of that House; and, therefore, he (Mr. Bentinck) did not consider the noble Marquess had any right to make such a complaint against the hon. Member for Inverness. The noble Marquess had said nothing in answer to the reasons urged by the hon. Member with reference to the inefficient armament of the navy, or why the Committee should not be appointed. The noble Marquess had, however, stated that a Committee was lately appointed. That was perfectly true, but it had been shown in the course of the debate that not one of their valuable suggestions had been adopted. The principle of going into questions of this kind by means of a Committee having been established, the House was bound in justice to itself, and also to that Committee which had made recommendations of grave importance on a matter of this kind, to know upon what grounds Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to reject those recommendations. He agreed with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) that a Committee was not the best mode of treating this and kindred subjects; but the principle having been once adopted he contended that the House was bound to know why Her Majesty's Government had not dealt with the recommendations of that Committee, and, therefore, he thought that any objection to the appointment of another Committee fell to the ground. Had they or had they not the best possible gun that could be procured for the navy? Now, so far as he could gather from what the noble Marquess the Under Secretary of State for War had said, he understood the noble Marquess to admit that Russia was ahead of us in point of guns which he (Mr. Bentinck) ventured to think was in itself a most alarming admission; and if that were so he thought the country would be of opinion that it was a most unsatisfactory state of things. He did not think this country should rest satisfied if any other country was ahead of us in ordnance. If we were in this position of inferiority the cause was that which was at the root of all evil in the management of our national affairs—a misplaced and an ill-timed economy. He believed it was on the score of expense that the Blakely gun was not adopted; and he was very much afraid—though it did not appear on that occasion—that it was the cloven foot of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer which peeped out under the mantle of economy which had been worn by his noble Friend—that was the root of all the mischief. The noble Marquess proposed to remedy the evil by working overtime in case of emergency; but was he or the House aware of the millions that had already been wasted in working overtime in cases of emergency? And he asked his noble Friend whether he told the House on behalf of the Government, that, notwithstanding the present aspect of affairs on the other side of the Atlantic, they did not contemplate the possibility of hostilities. He should like very much to hear whether some more responsible Minister of the Government would bear out the noble Marquess in the belief that the Government were justified in leaving the navy, by their own admission, in an inferior state to that of other countries, with the intention of working it up by double time when an emergency occurred, but which they took upon themselves to say they did not contemplate under present circumstances. In the course of one of the most important and portentous, though brief debates which took place a few nights since in the other House of Parliament, it was admitted that our relations with the country on the other side of the Atlantic were not of a very amicable character, and that great ill-feeling and hostility existed there towards England, and a probable mode of aggression was stated; and it was admitted by those who held the most influential positions on both sides of the other House that the honour of England was bound up in defending Canada from any act of aggression on the part of the Northern States. That being so would Her Majesty's Government, under the circumstances, inform the House of Commons that this was a time when they could leave the navy in a condition inferior to other countries, and that they intended when the emergency which they did not anticipate occurred to make it up by working double time? It was one of the most marvellous and monstrous statements that had ever been made to the House; and was there, he asked, no community of action or general understanding between the different Members of Her Majesty's Government? Judging from what had been so recently stated in both Houses of Parliament, would any hon. Member, he asked, say under the circumstances that no emergency could be contemplated, and that it was within the limits of prudence and common sense to allow the navy to remain a day or an hour other than in the most perfect condition to which money could bring it; because he ventured to say, and it was no use blinking the question, that if unfortunately we were to find ourselves in a state of hostility with the Northern States of America the battle must be fought at sea. He would not go into the question whether it was right or wrong to keep our military armaments in their present state, but such was their condition that he did not think they could contend with the Northern States on the frontiers of Canada, and he did not think his noble Friend would deny it. All great struggles between commercial countries, especially were determined not by victories but by the process of exhaustion, and if this country were to find herself at war with the Northern States it would only be by commercial exhaustion that the struggle would be decided. The excuse of economy made by his noble Friend was an argument strongly in favour of the Committee, and, if appointed, he hoped the first thing to which they would direct their attention would be how far the principle of mistaken, ill-advised economy had led Her Majesty's Government not to provide the navy with the best description of armament they were able to find. He should go to a division with great pleasure.


was of opinion that his hon. Friend who had introduced this question had laid before them a very simple issue, and that the House was indebted to him for the part he was taking in the matter. The question the House had to consider was whether our ships were armed as they ought to be for modern warfare; and he hoped his noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty would be able to clear up the doubt that existed on that point. From all the experiments which had been tried at Shoe-buryness it appeared to him that our armour-plating was not efficient for the defence of our ships against the fire of the heaviest artillery, and that our guns now in use were insufficient to contend with the heavy guns which they would have to be opposed to if we went to war. The hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) had said truly—and there was no higher authority—that such were the thickness and strength of the plates, we should require to use a charge nearly one-third the weight of the shot to penetrate the thick plates with which ships would be protected. If we had not 12-ton guns, he believed we had not the armament we required. If we required guns of that weight of metal, and if we had them, he knew no reason why the fact should not be stated publicly in that House and before a Committee. If we had them not in use, the Department represented in that House by his noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) should ask the Ordnance Department to supply them. Let them not wait for those guns till we were at war. This country had shown herself rich enough to throw away money in various ways; but it would not be throwing away money to provide those guns, even should better ones be discovered hereafter. We should procure guns suited to the period; and if these should be superseded by other guns, they could be altered or new ones procured in their stead—this was the paramount duty of the Government. When the first Armstrong guns were no longer thought to be suited to the requirements of the times, we got other guns; but he believed that other Powers had guns as good as or better than ours. We ought to have the best guns. We could afford to have them. The number of our guns for our military purposes might be small in number; but, as to our navy, we must have enough of efficient guns for the whole fleet. There was no use in sending ships to sea if they were inefficiently manned or armed. It was necessary that our armaments should be equal to the object which we had in view, and that, he would venture to say, was not the case at the present moment. No one could, therefore, look forward without apprehension to the result in the event of the breaking out of a sudden war. He hoped the noble Lord had recognized the necessity of giving up the broadside principle. If so, the sooner he carried out the rival system the better. It was clear that if they could not carry heavy guns on the broadside principle, that system must be abandoned. It would be satisfactory if the noble Lord would inform the House whether Captain Sherard Osborn had not reported that the Royal Sovereign was the finest ship of war he ever was on board of, whether he did not think she was able to fight any ship in the Channelfleet, including the Warrior—that she was very fast, that she had very few defects, and that any defects she had were inherent to her construction and not due to the turret principle. She did marvels. She was a very good sea boat—and, considering what was the state of her bulwarks, not very wet. She rolled only 11 degrees on either side, which said a great deal for a vessel so constructed. Who was to blame for the defects in her construction? But, passing from that subject to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, he must be allowed to say on behalf of the Ordnance Select Committee—on which the hon. Gentleman seemed to have made somewhat of an attack—that it was composed of men of the highest talent and industry, who devoted the utmost attention to the discharge of their arduous and onerous duties. His hon. Friend said they were manufacturers, but that was not the fact. Inventors some of them might be, but the moment a man became one he was always removed. A more pure and independent Committee, he believed, never existed. His hon. Friend had also stated that the French corps of Engineers and Artillery were the best in the world. Being an engineer himself he should say nothing as to the merits of that body, but he was prepared to maintain, in opposition to his hon. Friend, that, so far from the Royal Artillery being inferior to the French, there was no artillery in the world superior to that of her Majesty's service in point of courage, talent, and devotion to their duties. But to return to the question of guns, nobody, he thought, who had examined the reports of the experiments which took place at Shoeburyness could fail to have perceived the great value of having a heavy gun and a high velocity. The moment you increase the charge you obtain a great effect upon the target. You must get guns so heavy that they would take a charge of powder equal to a third of the shot's weight. The sooner they got those armaments the better; there was not a day to be lost. They were talking of increasing the fortifications in Canada. As Englishmen they were bound to do their best to protect Canada, but, in his opinion, that country was doomed unless prompt and strenuous efforts were made for its security by a good organization of its militia as well as by well placed and carefully constructed works of defence. He wished to know, in conclusion, whether any gun had been decided on, and was being prepared for the defence of the Lakes by the naval service; and, if so, whether it was of a large calibre? If the noble Lord told them that the navy was properly armed, there would be no occasion for the Committee moved for.


was of opinion that his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness had made out a good case in support of his Motion. He had told the House that the navy was not properly armed, and the Under Secretary for War had not ventured to say that it was. Was it not, he would ask, under those circumstances, within the province of the House of Commons to inquire into the subject, and the duty of hon. Members to see that the Executive performed its duty with respect to it? One of the questions which had been raised in the course of the discussion was who was responsible for the guns which were issued to the navy? And that question had been answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), who said that the responsibility rested upon the shoulders of the First Lord of the Admiralty; but, on the other hand, the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Duke of Somerset) before the Committee was— All we can do is to send to the War Department and say what guns we think we want; but in the case of any new gun we must rest entirely on the War Department for an opinion with regard to that new gun. Now, was it fitting that when the navy re- quired a gun quite different from that which might be necessary for the army, it should be left dependent in the matter on the judgment of the War Office. It must also be borne in mind that the Committee by which guns were provided for the navy was composed, with the exception of one gentleman, exclusively of military men: there was only one naval man on the Committee; the natural consequence, of course, being, that the guns distributed to the navy were found to be almost entirely useless. Then, in the case of the light Armstrong gun for the army, the fact appeared to be that it had been so little tested that when, in 1862, after it had been served out to the army for service, it was thought desirable to try it by means of a system of rapid firing, the result of the experiment which was carried on at Shorncliffe was that out of two batteries of twelve guns six were returned as unfit for service. The noble Marquess opposite, he might add, had stated that some guns were being made; but he should like to know whether there were more being made than twenty-six of 9-inch bore and 13½tons weight for naval purposes. He asked that question because the only guns which could be considered really efficient were those which were capable of piercing the sides of the Warrior, and to do that they must carry 35lb. of powder. He believed they were making guns of 6½ and 7-inch bore, which would be utterly inefficient for that purpose. But while we were proceeding at our present rate, the Americans were constructing a 10-inch solid shot gun, carrying a minimum charge of 301b., and a maximum of 50lb. of powder. They were also constructing a naval gun of 15-inch bore, 19 tons weight, carrying a minimum charge of 35lb. of powder, and a maximum of 501b., and carrying shot of 420lb. weight. What, he would ask, under these circumstances, would be the position of our navy, if we were now compelled to meet the American navy armed with guns of that description? The noble Marquess opposite had thought proper to allude to the Report of the Ordnance Department of the United States, to show that their guns were failures, and he quoted it as if the Report was opposed to the views of his gallant Friend behind him; but he found at page 34 of the Report a statement by which those views were fully borne out. That statement was as follows:— I am satisfied that most, if not all, the serious damage she] (the rebel ram) has sustained was caused by the 15-inch from this vessel. There can be no doubt that her fire compelled the Tennessee's surrender, and perhaps saved the entire fleet of wooden vessels from destruction; thus again vindicating the judgment which added this peculiar class of vessels to our navy list, and placed on board of them the powerful guns with which they are armed. Now that extract afforded, he thought, a most complete vindication of the views entertained by his hon. and gallant Friend. But there was another circumstance to which he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, and in reference to which he challenged a denial on his part. A French gun of 71 tons and 7 inches bore, shot 1101b., powder charge 251b., was tried about a fortnight ago; the English shunt Armstrong, latest improved, 7½ tons, bore 7 inches, shot 1101b., powder charge 251b., was also tried, and the result was that the French guns showed rather greater accuracy, loaded much easier, and gave a better range—so that the gun on which we at the present moment relied was in every respect inferior to the French. Any gentleman going into the museum and inspecting the model of the shunt gun must see that, to any ordinary mind, its management would be attended with great difficulty. It required the most delicate manipulation, and he had been told that in recent trials the shot had stuck half-way, and it had been necessary to send for an armourer to drive home the charge. If this occurred on board the Excellent, in smooth water, and at mere gunnery trials, what might not be expected to occur in action when men grew excited? He believed that before the action had lasted an hour half the guns would have become incapable of further service. In making these remarks he had no individual feeling in favour of any of the inventors; his only wish was to see the navy properly armed, and when, according to the unanimous opinion of every Gentleman who had addressed the House that evening, the navy had a very inferior style of armament, it was the duty of the House to insist on a most rigid and searching inquiry.


said, if he thought the appointment of a Committee could assist in getting for the navy the best possible gun, he should be entirely in favour of the Motion; but, according to his experience, Committees, with the very best intentions, rather retarded than assisted these very important matters. There appeared to be some little confusion as to the responsibility with regard to ordnance of the First Lord of the Admiralty. What the Duke of Somerset had adverted to before the ordnance Committee of 1863 was this. The War Office was carrying out certain experiments which could only be carried out under the authority of that Department, and his noble Friend depended upon the War Office for the result of those experiments. When once a gun that was approved had been selected by the Admiralty requisitions on the part of the navy were sent in to the Secretary of State for War, who was prepared, on all occasions, to supply the navy with everything which they sought for. He would not travel into a discussion of the merits of the Armstrong and Whitworth guns, but an explanation of the present position of the navy in this respect would, no doubt, be interesting. And first, with regard to the opinion expressed by the Committee on Iron Plates that the 12-ton guns were the least in weight that would be available against armour-plated ships. To that opinion of the Committee he must own that he demurred, thinking it rather hastily formed. Within the last few weeks very conclusive proof had been obtained that a gun, of which they were now making upwards of 200 for the navy—a rifled gun 6f-tons weight and 7 inches bore—could pierce the Warrior through at 200 yards. That, moreover, was a gun which they knew and felt confident they could carry in their broadsides. A time, no doubt, would come when they would be able to carry 12-ton guns all round the ship, but this point had not yet been reached, and prematurely to subject the country to the cost of making these large guns by wholesale would be, he thought, a very great piece of folly. It would not be advisable, even if it were possible, to state exactly everything that the Department had done or contemplated, but he might say generally that a requisition had been furnished to the War Office to supply as many 12-ton rifled guns as could be carried in our ships at present. Twelve-ton guns were accordingly being prepared for the Royal Sovereign, and other ships. If he were asked whether our ships at the present moment were armed in all respects as he should wish them to be, he should answer that they were not. There was a Committee going now carefully into the question of rifling. But he did not know why the hon. Gentleman should venture on the assertion that the French guns should be better than our own. Where was the report the hon. Member had alluded to? [Mr. PEACOCKE: Oh, you have it.] Undoubtedly, trials of the merits of the French system were going on in this country, but no conclusive results had yet been obtained to show that the French system of rifling was better in all respects than the shunt system of Sir William Armstrong. But the question for the House and the country to consider was whether at the moment when the whole question of rifling was undergoing careful consideration by a Committee the whole of the new guns in process of manufacture ought to be rifled without waiting for their opinion. It must be borne in mind that when once the guns themselves were made, the facilities for rifling them at the disposal of the War Department were very great. At present they were manufacturing 6|-ton, 9-ton, and 12-ton, guns, but it would be better to wait for the Report of the Committee, before rifling them. The system of rifling once determined upon, as many as six or seven guns could he believed be rifled in a week. Into the comparative merits of the turret and broadside systems he would not enter, but would defer any remarks he might have to make until the debate upon naval construction, which would be dealt with in the discussions on the Navy Estimates. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman, not to press to a division his Motion for a Committee, which, instead of accelerating, must retard the attainment of that object which they all had in view.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided;—Ayes 57; Noes 22; Majority 35.