HC Deb 19 July 1867 vol 188 cc1724-6

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Why the Fleet did not leave its anchorage and perform the evolutions contemplated in the programme of the Review?


said, he could assure his hon. Friend that the whole Board of Admiralty had been most anxious that the ships should have weighed anchor and carried out the programme; but they thought that to have manœuvred so large a fleet, composed of such heavy vessels, in narrow waters and in such thick and boisterous weather, would have been an operation attended with great risk. Accordingly, they made the signal to annul weighing, but not without having previously ascertained that the highest and most competent practical authorities concurred in their opinion. His hon. Friend was good enough to give him private notice yesterday that he would put his Question, and as the House took some interest in the subject he had telegraphed to Portsmouth to request that the officers in command on the occasion would give him their opinion in writing. The following were the answers received. The first communication he would read was from Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, the Commander-in-Chief—

"Victoria, at Spithead, July 18, 1867.

"Sir, —With reference to the non-fulfilment of the programme of the Naval Review yesterday, I beg leave to state for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that I am of opinion that the weather yesterday was such as to render it highly inexpedient for the purpose."

The next communication was from an officer in command of the Channel Squadron:—

"Minotaur, Spithead, July 18, 1867.

"Sir,—In reply to the question respecting the fleet weighing yesterday, I beg to say that under all the circumstances of wind and weather, I believe it was quite a wise measure, so far as an effective display was intended, to annul the weighing."


"H.M.S. Duncan, Spithead, July 18, 1867,

"Sir,—In reply to your question, whether in my opinion, it would have been advisable that the fleet should have weighed yesterday for the purpose of review, I have the honour to state that, considering the force of the wind and narrow waters in which the ships were anchored, I should have deemed it imprudent. The operation of weighing in succession would, in the first place, have been most tedious; some of the low-powered ships would not have gathered sufficient way to make them manageable. There was not room for the faster ones to attain sufficient speed, and I apprehend that the consequence would have been that the ships would at last have presented a very irregular appearance, unsuited to a review, while there would have been great risk of collision.

"I have the honour to be, Sir,

"Your obedient Servant,


The next letter he would read was from Captain Mainprise, Master Attendant, who said—

  1. "1. That the boisterous state of the weather would have made it absolutely necessary for the ships to have weighed in succession—the eastern or leewardmost ships first—and from the quantity of cable necessary to hold the ships at their anchors not less than fifteen minutes must have elapsed between each vessel weighing, thus occupying three and three-quarter hours. [Therefore, if they had weighed at twelve the ships would not have left Spithead until nearly four, and could not have returned till about ten p.m.] Under these circumstances the lines could not have been preserved.
  2. "2. The ships must have stood far out to sea before the lines could have been reversed.
  3. "3. I am of opinion that to manœuvre so large a fleet, composed of such heavy and large ships 1726 in narrow waters in such stormy weather, accompanied with occasional thick rain, would have been most imprudent, and attended with very great risk, and only justifiable in a case of necessity."

In the original notice of his Question his hon. Friend alluded to the fact that the passenger ships were under weigh on Wednesday; but it must be remembered that all those passenger ships got under weigh in Portsmouth Harbour, and that the Serapis and the Malabar, the only ships of that class at Spithead, did not got under weigh. Under these circumstances he (Mr. Corry) thought the House would agree with the Board of Admiralty, that a wise discretion had been exercised in refraining from ordering the fleet to weigh.


said, that as one of those who were visitors on board the Tanjore on the day of the Review, he was anxious to say that nothing could exceed the excellence of the arrangements on board that vessel for the entertainment and comfort of the visitors; and he was sure he was only expressing the general fooling entertained by the visitors when he stated that they were much indebted to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and to the noble Lord the Secretary of that Board for the opportunity which had been afforded them of witnessing the Review with the greatest possible comfort, convenience, raid enjoyment which the circumstances allowed; and although, for the satisfactory reasons just given by the right hon. Gentleman, the ships did not weigh, the spectacle was, he believed, in the opinion of all who witnessed it, a most magnificent one, and worthy of this country.