HC Deb 10 June 1869 vol 196 cc1570-2

rose to call the attention of the House to the Expenditure to be incurred in completing our Fortifications, so far as it relates to the protection of Guns by means of Shields or the use of the Moncrieff Gun Carriage. The hon. and gallant Member said that twenty years had elapsed since we were called upon to look for something to offer resistance to the increasing powers of modern ordnance; he mentioned the appointment of the Iron Plate Committee, which sat from 1861 to 1864; of the special Committee, better known as the Gibraltar Shield Committee, which reported in 1868; and of the Select Committee, a committee of scientific officers and others, sitting en permanence, who gave place, in 1869, to the Committee on Inventions, now sitting. The experiments made by the Iron Plate Committee divided themselves into three classes—first, experiments on solid cast iron and laminated iron; second, experiments on targets which offered an artificial resistance to the shot, and of which the Chalmers target was a fair type; and third, experiments on targets of winch the Gibraltar Shield was the type. At the time the Gibraltar Shield was under consideration much ambiguity prevailed as to the direction, in which improvements were to be sought. But it had since been suggested—he could hardly say by whom—that if the plates were separated from each other by a cortain distance, the result might be successful. Accordingly, an experiment had been tried at Shoe buryness of three plates. the thickness of each of which was five inches, being bolted together, six inches apart, and the interval filled up with asphalts cement. The experiment was highly satisfactory; and from further experiments that had since been made he thought that this description of shield would be the shield of the future. He: would now come to Captain Moncrieff's gun-carriage, which, as the House was aware, resembled in its mode of action a child's rocking-horse with the gun mounted on the tail, a heavy weight being attached between the fore legs, which overbalanced the weight of the gun. The recoil depressed the gun and raised the weight, which was held in that position till the gun was loaded. The weight was then let go, and its fall elevated the gun into its firing position. The gun had been tested as to its offensive powers, but it had not been tested at all as to its defensive capabilities. He thought the Government had been somewhat premature in buying up the system—if it did all that was expected of it., they had given too little—if it should prove a failure, the money had been wasted. The gun-carriage ought to be tried in every possible way, precisely as it would be tested in action, and this had not yet been done. he thought there ought to he a fair trial of the relative advantages between shields and this gun-carriage. There was a proposition now before the Secretary at War, to which he hoped his right hon. Friend would give favourable attention, of what might be called a competitive trial of shields. It was proposed that the War Office should make a standard shield, and then that the inventive talent of the country should be called on to compete with it the reward of the successful competitor being a contract for a certain number of shields, for he was opposed to Government work wherever private enterprise could be introduced.


said, he was much, obliged to his hon. and gallant Friend for having postponed bringing forward this question upon a previous occasion; but he hoped he would not expect him to go at length into the subject at midnight, especially as his opinion upon scientific subjects would not be highly valued by the House. Still he must observe that gun-carriages and shields were not things which could be contrasted with each other in the way the hon. and gallant Member proposed. Mr. Moncrieff's most skilful scheme had been brought before him first by the Ordnance Committee, which had considered it most carefully. It had received the entire approval of the authorities at the Horse Guards, and within the last few days he had laid upon the table the Report of the Committee appointed by his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington), likewise speaking in the highest terms of the invention. Under these circumstances it was unnecessary for him to enter further into the subject. He had not the least doubt that the shields would soon be in their places. And when the House voted, as he felt persuaded they would do, the sum warded to Mr. Moncrieff by Lord Northbrook's Committee, they would have made, he believed, a most satisfactory arrangement.


, as Chairman of the Iron Plate Committee and of the Gibraltar Shield Committee, confirmed the statement of the Secretary of State for War. that it was impossible to contrast the two subjects of iron shields and the Moncrieff gun-carriage, both of which were extremely valuable inventions, and both of which, when properly placed, would become highly serviceable additions to the defences of the country. The Moncrieff gun-carriage had been referred to as a kind of hobbyhorse, and he hoped the hon. Member opposite (Captain Beaumont) would not attempt to ride that hobbyhorse to death. It would be very useful in its proper place, and he hoped his right hon. Friend opposite, and everybody who might follow him in the Office of Secretary of State for War, would see that the invention was only applied to its proper purpose.

Main Question. "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to.