§ MR. A. GUEST
rose to draw the attention of the House to matters connected with the armament of Gibraltar; and to move an Address for a Return. He did not mean to enter upon the question how Gibraltar should be armed, or the nature of the batteries to be employed. His object was to draw attention to the wasteful manner in which the public money had been expended in constructing the batteries and the delay in the works, and to show that a bad policy had been pursued in mounting the heavy guns, of which there were but few at present in position in a temporary instead of 772 a permanent method. He believed the matters of which he complained resulted from the system of centralization adopted at the War Office. Whilst on this subject, he would ask why all matters in connection with the works at Gibraltar were conducted by the Defence Committee, who could not be acquainted with the local requirements, and not by the Governor and the Officers Commanding Royal Artillery and Engineers who would, of course, be responsible to the War Office for their operations? It was generally admitted that Gibraltar was in a thorough state of defence so far as a land attack was concerned. There were about 600 of the old smoothbore guns, and 50 of the 7-inch breech-loading Armstrongs in position, and these would be sufficient in the event of an attack by land. But it was impossible to argue that Gibraltar could repel an attack from the sea. The rapid improvement of artillery rendered it necessary that they should consider the subject of re-arming that fortress. We might congratulate ourselves in possessing in the 12-ton Woolwich gun an arm second to none, if not superior to any; and it was evident from the Estimates of 1868–9, that the Secretary of State for War intended at the time to use guns of that class in fortifying Gibraltar. About £15,000 was voted that year for the purpose of making the necessary alterations in the works to provide for them; and it was also decided that 16 of those guns should be sent to Gibraltar, and they were sent out that year. In the Estimates for 1869–70 a sum of £15,000 was included as the probable cost of revising our magazines at Gibraltar. Nearly £30,000 had been spent upon the works, and £3,000 upon the magazines; and he believed an additional Vote of £15,000 for the purpose would shortly be asked for by the Secretary of State. He would explain to the House the results of this large expenditure. Of the 16 12-ton Woolwich guns he had mentioned, only three had been put in position, and of that number two had, in November last, been placed behind shields which the Committee of 1868 had condemned as utterly incapable of withstanding the continuous fire of heavy modern guns—a fact which was well known when the shields were erected. But, although these two guns were in position, the magazines for them were 773 not completed; and he trusted the Secretary of State would be able to explain why the course he had described had been pursued. The third gun, instead of being mounted on permanent works, had from some inexplicable reason, been placed upon a temporary platform, composed of wooden balks to carry the racers, the whole set in a bed of ordinary concrete. This had not been done as an experiment, for he was informed that eight other guns were to be mounted in the same way. It was evident that the guns could not remain long in that condition, and therefore the money expended on the process had been entirely thrown away. One of these guns had been tried, and after firing 10 rounds it was found impossible to traverse it, as the truck was broken and one of the racers had been forced out of its position. This might be all very well in the time of peace, but if such an accident occurred during an engagement with iron-clads, every habitation in the place might be destroyed, even if the fortress remained untaken. In turning to the subject of the works, he wished to assure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State that he brought this matter forward in no hostile spirit towards the Government. The new Mole batteries were allowed to be of the first importance and of the best construction. It was true that the battery, originally constructed for these guns, had not yet received its armament, and while the question of iron shields was still unsettled, it was undesirable that the Government should come to any hasty decision; but he should be glad to hear from the Secretary of State what kind of shield would probably be adopted, and when they would be sent out to Gibraltar. His complaint with regard to the manner in which the public money had been wasted in the construction of the works arose from the fact that the majority of the new batteries at Gibraltar had been suddenly abandoned, either because of the unsuitability of the positions selected for them, or because of the unsuitability of the carriages sent out. The works had been constructed for one class of carriage, and another of quite a different description had arrived with the guns. He thought this was evidence of gross negligence. And it must be remembered that when works were abandoned in 774 an incomplete state, they were much damaged by the weather. He had himself seen several batteries in the condition he had described. He had reason to believe that the magazine accommodation at Gibraltar was not only the laughing-stock of military men, but also of civilians. There was hardly a single magazine which could not be knocked to pieces during the first hours of a bombardment, and, to make the matter worse, in some instances batteries had been built so close to magazines that the fire of an enemy must fall upon them. He knew that many officers thought that it would be advisable to have 35-ton guns in revolving towers, and also that there should be rams kept there; but these were matters into which he would not enter. It might be said that Gibraltar was not now so important a place as it formerly was; but at all events it could very easily be made most important; and he might mention that no less a sum than £10,000 was annually received from ships entering the harbour. He hoped that the Secretary for War would assure them that the question should have his serious attention. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Return of the number of Guns mounted on the Fortress of Gibraltar.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said: Before I propose the Question, I wish to notice a practice which has lately prevailed of merely putting on the Paper a Notice to the effect that an hon. Member will draw the attention of the House to a certain subject and move a Resolution. On today's Paper, for example, there are two Notices in this form. Now, this is not enough to fulfil the obligations of Notice. The object of Notice is that Members should know beforehand what is to be the subject of consideration on a particular day, and, in order to fulfil the Rules of the House, it is necessary that the terms of a Resolution should be placed on the Paper at least a day before it is intended to be submitted to the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this
House, a Return of the number of Guns mounted on the Fortress of Gibraltar."—(Mr. Arthur Guest.)
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that he should be happy to give the Return moved for; and he quite agreed that the works that the hon. Member had visited during the Recess—and he hoped he had spent an agreeable holiday—deserved the fullest attention on the part of the Government. He was glad to find that the land defences were all that the hon. Member could desire; and that all the fault which he had to find was as to putting the heavy guns in the sea defences. He inferred from his remarks that he had been shown over the works by some gentlemen who thought they could have done the work better than it had been done; but he must dissent from him as to the way in which the public money should have been spent. He contended that when public money had to be spent they should put the matter into the hands of responsible persons at home rather than trust it to officers abroad, over whom they could not have such an immediate control. What had happened was this. In 1866, when the German War attracted attention to these works, the Secretary of the Defence Committee, Colonel Jervois, whose great ability in connection with works of defence had been recognized by some of the very first authorities in Europe, was sent to Gibraltar. He spent some days there in December, 1866. On his return his Report was considered by the Defence Committee; and they held a special meeting at Woolwich, where there was one of the most perfect models of Gibraltar that existed of any fort in the world. That meeting was attended by General Lefroy, who had professionally visited Gibraltar a short time before, and General Frome, who had commanded the Royal Engineers there. The works were devised by the Defence Committee upon the Report which had been so made to them, assisted by the counsel of those two very distinguished officers, with a most excellent model of Gibraltar before them. Now it appeared to him, with great deference to the hon. Gentleman, that that was a far wiser mode of proceeding than to trust entirely to the Reports even of the most competent commanding officers on the spot. It was determined, on the recommendation of the Defence Committee, 776 that 12-ton 9-inch guns should be used in certain positions at Gibraltar. Shortly after that time, however, thicker plating was used for ships, and it became important to have still stronger guns. Consequently, 10-inch guns were substituted by the Government for the 9-inch or 12-ton guns. About the same time, also, it happened that the interesting discovery of the Moncrieff gun-carriage was made, and it was not certain how far that system could be applied to Gibraltar, nor how far the system of shields could be applied. Now, it would have been most unreasonable, in their opinion, to hurry on without availing themselves of such inventions as these; and the consequence was, that when these 12-ton guns came to be utilized it was determined to place them in a different position from that for which they had been originally intended. He would not attempt to enter scientifically into the matter; but he understood that in the former position they would have been used upon an "A" platform, but on being put in the new position they had a "C" platform. These platforms were about to be sent out, and the only reason why they had not gone before was that the traversing gear was not yet ready. The hon. Gentleman had been informed by somebody that the Government had finished the works to the extent of two-thirds of the whole work, and had then abandoned them; but he (Mr. Cardwell) had very different information. The hon. Gentleman also said that the casemates had been cut out of the rock where it had not originally been intended to have casemates.
§ MR. A. GUEST
What I said was, that in certain places batteries had been abandoned, because it was intended by the Government to place the guns in rock casemates.
§ MR. CARDWELL
An experiment having been tried by firing from a Queen's ship on to the rock, it was found that the splintering from the rock just above the guns would be dangerous to the gunners, and therefore it was determined to make casemates. With regard to the shields, they were about being put up. Means had been taken to strengthen them, and this accounted for the delay. As to the magazines, it was quite true that it came to his knowledge in preparing the Estimates last year what the state of the case was. Provision was made in those 777 Estimates to remedy the mischief, and still further provision, with the same object, was made in the Estimates of the present year.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he was sorry that he could not regard the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman as quite satisfactory. If he understood the hon. Member correctly, he complained that the Government during the time that it had been in office had done nothing; and it seemed to him that the answer amounted to a plea of guilty. They were much indebted to the hon. Member for Poole for having devoted his attention during his accidental residence at Gibraltar to investigating the state of our defences in that most important fortress. No one could deny that it would be the duty of any Government to take care that all the modern appliances of war and of science should be applied to the proper defence of so important a fortress. The first complaint made was that the guns had been sent out, but had not been mounted. The late Government, if he remembered right, sent out 16 heavy guns to Gibraltar, and it remained for the present Government to send out the proper carriages, but, as he understood, they had done no such thing, and they were as much without carriages as when the late Government left office. Out of the 16 guns he understood that they had mounted three only, and one of these was so mounted that if anybody ventured to fire it it would tumble over upon the rash man who made the experiment.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he was informed that the late Government sent out the guns and the carriages both; and they would not send the guns without carriages.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he was informed that it was not so; and, besides, he could not reconcile what was now said with what had been said as to the Moncrieff gun-carriages.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, what he had said was this: that having gun carriages suitable for the position where it had been intended to place the guns, it had been determined to place in that position larger guns, and the old guns had to be mounted in a different position upon a different kind of carriage; that this carriage was nearly ready, but the traversing gear not having been finally decided on they had not yet been sent.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
That amounted very nearly to what he had said. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman was hesitating between the ordinary carriage and the Moncrieff carriage, and that that was the cause of the delay. He understood that the shields remained very much what they were. The shields that were sent out were condemned, and the decision arrived at was that they should send out sounder and better shields. But that decision was departed from, and the condemned shields had, by some contrivance, been fitted up so that, though considered too weak, they might be made to answer the purpose. It was much to be regretted that the place of those shields was not supplied by stronger and better ones. The real question was whether it was the duty of the Government to look to the fortifications of Gibraltar without loss of time, and he should have been glad of a distinct assurance that the fortifications of so important a fortress would not be neglected, and that every possible means would be taken to send the best guns there.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
could assure the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich that the Government were duly impressed with the importance of immediately completing the works and fortifications at Gibraltar. The delay that had taken place had arisen from the fact that iron-plated ships and artillery in their mode of construction did not stand still, and in this way it became a question whether they should not have heavier guns in the fortifications than those which had been originally intended. He would state the case as to the guns that were sent by the late Government. There were 16 9-inch muzzle-loading rifled guns, 13 of which had platforms of the Elswick pattern, and 3 of the service pattern, and these were sent out in 1867–8. None of these guns were mounted for some time after their arrival, because their positions could not be prepared until it had been decided whether the Moncrieff system could not be advantageously used. The second reason was that when the Defence Committee re-considered the defence of Gibraltar they placed 10-inch 18-ton guns where the 9-inch guns where to have been; and the third reason was that different platforms from those originally intended were determined on. The ar- 779 rangements now made were that the 12 9-inch guns upon Elswick platforms should be mounted at once, some temporarily and some permanently, and three of these were actually in position by the 1st of March, 1871; 13 other guns would be permanently mounted during 1871–2. There were four more guns and seven carriages under orders for Gibraltar, which would be sent as soon as the traversing-gear was decided on. Eleven 10-inch 18-ton guns were also under orders, and would be sent when the traversing arrangements were settled. By the end of March, 1872, 11 10-inch 18-ton guns, and 20 9-inch guns, would probably be in position. As regarded the shields, they would be strengthened so as to be capable of resisting the heaviest artillery, and other shields were intended to be ordered. There would also be mantlets for the defence of the men from splinters. With reference to what had been said about the plans and designs, he had to state that they were prepared on the spot by an officer of the Royal Engineers, in consultation with the officers of the Artillery; and when they came home they were sent to the Defence Committee for consideration and report, and finally submitted to the Secretary of State. The Director of Works was most anxious to have the co-operation of officers on the spot where works were to be carried out, and he believed they had been consulted whenever it was necessary to seek their assistance. With regard to the general question, he could only repeat that the Department over which he presided was most anxious about the arming of Gibraltar; and he therefore trusted that the House would rest satisfied that everything would be done to supply the means of defence to so important a place.
SIR JOHN HAY
wished to say a few words on the Gibraltar and Malta shields. Unless Gibraltar was kept for experimental purposes, he did not see that the purpose for which it had been kept for the last few years could be very satisfactory. It was known that rifled artillery was necessary, and rifled guns were accordingly sent out, for which carriages were adapted. The intention then was that the carriages which were to be sent out were to be adapted for these batteries, and the guns were to be 780 mounted forthwith, and the fortifications were to be put in a satisfactory state. Now, he had the satisfaction of hearing that heavier guns were to be mounted, but he did not understand from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman whether they were made or not. [Sir HENRY STORKS said they were all made, and would be sent out in the course of this year.] He was very glad to hear they were made; but it would take till this time next year before they could be mounted, and till that time Gibraltar would be in an unfortified condition. Gibraltar, Malta, and Bermuda were great fortified stations, on which the supplies of our fleet and the honour of the country depended. It would be remembered that Gibraltar was taken by surprise once before, and it was necessary to take care that it should not be taken by surprise again. At the present moment Gibraltar was not in a defensible condition. With regard to the shields themselves, the question had been asked if the test to which the shields had been put was not too severe? He had been Chairman of the Gibraltar Shield Committee, and the experiments had been decided upon in union with the other gentlemen on the Committee, and it was considered that they were a fair and proper test to which the shields should be put. At this interval of time he could not speak with precision, but if he remembered aright the 9-inch gun shield was entirely penetrated. Therefore he thought the Committee was right in reporting that the shields were not so strong as they should be. He did not think the Report was an unfair one, or that it was drawn with any prejudice to the character of the shields which were submitted to the Committee's notice. He could not think it was a wise arrangement that the guns, even for this year, should be left lying unmounted; and he urged that they should be placed in some position where they could be used for the defence of the fortress. He remembered having had, in former days, some service with a nation which made all its promotions by selection and by competitive examination—he meant the Chinese. He there found that they had platforms which would not carry the proper guns, and he trusted the Government of this country would not follow the same example, otherwise our warlike operations would terminate like that operation of the Chinese.
§ MR. A. GUEST
said, with regard to the battery which had been abandoned, they had been informed that it was abandoned because splinters of the rock would render the position dangerous. But he could only say that that very battery had been commenced in July of last year, and was abandoned in December. It had been begun in a great hurry. Certainly, if the Government had decided to place guns in rock casemates they might have waited a short time before they commenced these works, and thereby have avoided the throwing away of public money. He hoped the House would permit him to withdraw his Motion. He was perfectly satisfied with the short discussion which had taken place on the subject, and he hoped that the effect of it would be to get Gibraltar put in a proper state of defence.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.