HC Deb 03 April 1873 vol 215 cc542-67

in rising to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the condition of the Naval Reserves, expressed his regret, in which they would all share, at the death of Mr. Graves, in whom the British seaman had lost a sincere friend and an able advocate. In discussing the question of Naval Reserve it should be remembered that the personnel was far more important and more difficult to create than the matériel of the Navy, and that the training required for the man-of-war's-man of modern times was more elaborate than was formerly necessary. History conclusively proved the essential importance of a merchant navy to any naval power, and if it was fair to take the mercantile navy as a basis to determine the relative strength of different maritime Powers, the situation of this country was pre-eminently satisfactory. The tonnage of the mercantile fleet of England was 7,142,000 tons, that of the United States 1,500,000 tons; Germany, 1,305,000 tons; France, 1,077,000 tons; and that of Russia 250,000 tons. With such advantages we ought to be absolutely secure against attack, and able to exercise a decisive influence in all questions of foreign policy, and especially the Eastern question, in which our interests were intimately involved. But, unfortunately, our maritime population no longer showed any tendency to increase, and our Naval Reserve, in consequence, exhibited a proportionate diminution of strength. The Royal Commission of 1859 recommended that the standard of strength for the Naval Reserve should be maintained at 20,000 men, and for the Naval Coast Volunteers at 10,000 men. The actual strength of the Reserve in 1866 was 17,000, and in 1873 it had been reduced to 12,000 men. The Naval Coast Volunteers scarcely exceeded 600. Considering the great changes which had taken place in the Navy since 1859, he thought a renewal of the inquiry which then took place most desirable, and that was his reason for now moving for the appointment of a Committee. He thought the reduction in the number of the Naval Reserve was very much to be regretted. As to the efficiency of the Reserve, we had had repeated assurances of a very satisfactory character from Admirals Cooper Key, Warren, Elliot, and others, by whom the Reserve had been officially inspected. The Reserve, however, might be made much more effective than it was if greater liberality were displayed in providing the necessary facilities for naval gun drill. The greater number of the guns on board the training ships of the Reserve were 32-pounder smooth-bores. Of 6½-ton guns—by comparison the general armament of iron-dads—there were only two on board the training ship, at which the whole of the Reserve men residing in the London district, some 1,200 in number, were trained. He might add that the cost of the ammunition was not an element for consideration in this case, as the guns on board the President were never fired. He had of late attended frequently at drill on board the President. Pulling the same ropes and manning the same winch-handles with the men, he had opportunities of forming an opinion of their personal qualities, and he could testify that the men belonging to the Reserve, as a rule, took a deep interest in their work. The Reserve suffered, however, in point of efficiency; not only from the want of more perfect appliances for drill, but also from the want of any pecuniary encouragement to attain the highest possible degree of efficiency. Tinder the rules, which until very lately were in force, a uniform rate of pay was given to every seaman in the Reserve, irrespective of his conduct or proficiency in drill. In the Navy, the system of rewarding good discipline and efficiency by pecuniary advantages had been developed to the greatest possible extent. In the gunnery line, more especially, the various classes of pecuniary rewards had been conceived in the most liberal spirit. If this system were found necessary in the Navy, where they had the means of preserving discipline and creating another and higher stimulus to exertion through the influence of an admirable esprit de corps, how much more necessary must it be in the Reserve, where the men were never assembled together long enough to afford their officers an opportunity of establishing a personal influence over the men? The revised rules contained a provision for giving a badge, with an allowance of 1d. a day, for every Royal Naval Reserve man passed out from the drill-ships as a trained man. The pay was the same as in the Navy; but in the Navy the seamen had an opportunity of earning 365 pence in the year; whereas, in the 28 days during which the Naval Reserve men were at drill they could not earn more than 2s. 4d. Again, the seaman in the Navy, on becoming a trained man in gunnery, was merely on the bottom round of the ladder. There were an infinite number of rewards for proficiency in gunnery to which he could attain; whereas the ultimate reward of the Naval Reserve man was limited to the paltry sum which he had named. He would recommend that a trained man in the Reserve should receive a gratuity of £1. The additional expense to the country would be slight, and they would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that the men who earned the gratuity possessed a respectable knowledge of the most essential part of a man-of-war's-man's duties. Within the last week a revised code of rules had been promulgated for the Reserve, containing amendments on the old rules, all of which he heartily approved. Almost every improvement which could be carried out without spending more money had been effected. The Government might object to the proposals which he had to make, because they involved some additional expense. He sympathised with the Admiralty in their anxiety to keep down expenditure, for there could be no doubt that in consequence of the increase that had taken place in the price of materials and in wages, and in consequence of the altered conditions of naval architecture, the old estimate of £1,000 per gun for a ship of war had been advanced to about £100,000 per gun; but, compared with the tremendous outlay on our iron-clad ships, the cost of carrying out his suggestions would be an insignificant item. The present scale of naval expenditure, if set down at an average of £10,000,000 a-year, constituted but a very moderate premium of insurance against the dangers of invasion or the anxiety and disgrace of a sudden panic. In 1858 the total value of our imports and exports was £234,000,000 and the tonnage of our merchant vessels was 4,211,000 tons. The value of our trade in 1870 was £547,000,000, and the tonnage of our shipping was 5,633,000 tons; while the expenditure on the Navy had been reduced, in the interval, from £10,590,000 in 1858, to £9,900,000 in 1872. He would now point out those other improvements which he regarded as essentially necessary. Why, he asked, were the numbers of the Reserve so considerably reduced? To some extent that reduction was due to the greater care exercised in the admission of candidates for enrolment, and to the dismissal of ill-conducted and inefficient men. The rules, however, formerly in force excluded a considerable number of seamen in every way qualified for the Reserve. Seamen could not be re-entered unless they were actually serving at sea. Under this rule many experienced seamen were ineligible. Again, the qualifications excluded all but bonâ-fide seamen from the second-class Reserve. Fishermen and boatmen were ineligible. Under the revised code, however, an acquaintance with square-rigged vessels, and residence on board a training ship while at drill, were no longer necessary. Under the regulations originally drawn up, the seaman enrolled in the second-class Reserve in the Port of London was compelled to attend drill on board the Penelope at Harwich, while the seaman of the first-class Reserve was allowed to remain at home and drill on board the President in the West India Dock. All that it was desirable to alter in the regulations as to qualification had been altered in the revised rules; but he much regretted that the allowance for travelling expenses was not more liberal. For seamen residing in London, there was only one ship or battery at which they could be drilled—namely, the President in the West India Docks. Either there should be another drill ship, on the Surrey side of the river, or the seamen's expenses in travelling to and fro should be paid. The removal of the restrictions on enrolment for the Reserve would, he hoped, have the effect of adding considerably to their numbers. But the severity of the restrictions was not the only reason why it had been found impracticable to keep up the number to the standard recommended by the Royal Commission. There were two other causes at work, the first of which was the tendency in our maritime population to decrease, owing to the immense increase in the number of steamers, which did not require so large a proportion of sailors as sailing vessels; and the second cause of diminution was found in the material reduction that had taken place in the proportion of sailors required in comparison to the tonnage of vessels. Since the opening of the Suez Canal, shipbuilders had been employed almost exclusively in the construction of steamers. In 1864 the total tonnage of the Mercantile Marine was 7,103,000 tons. In 1871 it was 7,142,000 tons. But while the tonnage of steam vessels in 1864 was 770,000 tons, it had increased to 1,412,000 tons in 1871. In 1868, 237,687 tons of sailing vessels were built, and 78,508 tons of steam vessels. In 1871 only 56,545 tons of sailing vessels were built, but the construction of steamers had increased to 297,810 tons. Again, owing to the substitution of iron for wood, the proportion of our ships was very different from what it was. Mechanical appliances had been multiplied. Patent blocks, steam winches, and other substitutes for manual labour had been introduced; and the result was that whereas, in 1854, the proportion of seamen to every 100 tons was 4.7, it had been reduced to 3.25 in 1870. It should not be forgotten that the value of the commerce which our Navy would be called on to protect in case of war had vastly increased, and that the withdrawal of our troops from the Colonies would make the task of defending them more exclusively than heretofore the work of the Navy. It had been stated that the number of British seamen had diminished by the introduction of foreigners; but this was not the case. In 1864 the number of foreigners in British ships constituted 12.6 per cent of the whole number of seamen employed. The percentage had been reduced in 1870 to 10.1. It was also affirmed that the seamen had not only diminished in number, but that they were inferior, both in character and skill, to their predecessors; but it was difficult to reconcile this opinion with the fact that our ships were manned by a smaller number of hands, made quicker passages than ever before, and were never laid up in winter. But in such matters they could not venture to dispute too obstinately with those who had the best opportunities of forming an opinion. The reports from Liverpool were most decided on this subject. The inferiority of our seamen, so far as it existed, might partly be attributed to the increase in the number of steamers. But in the Mercantile Marine, where speedy transit was all-important, the substitution of steamers for sailing vessels was, in many branches of the shipping trade, inevitable; and, pro tanto, the Mercantile Marine would not be so good a school as it used to be for training seamen for the Navy. The inferiority of our seamen had also been attributed to the abolition of compulsory apprenticeship. The repeal of the Navigation Laws had led to a great reduction in the number of apprentices enrolled. The number was—in 1845, 15,704; in 1846, 10,370; and in 1871, 4,111. The annual waste of British seamen was computed at 10,000, of whom, unhappily, 3,000 were lost by drowning. We had only 4,000 apprentices, and therefore 6,000 seamen must he supplied from foreign countries, or at least without apprenticeship. In the interests of the Navy, it was necessary to do something to increase the supply and improve the quality of seamen in the merchant service. The shipowners, however, were perfectly able to take care of themselves. There was no difficulty in obtaining men for steamers, because men on steamers were paid higher wages. The wages of ordinary seamen had not been increased for the last 20 years, and as seamen could turn their hands to anything, it could scarcely be a matter of surprise if many of them sought employment on shore in better paid and less arduous occupations. The training in the Navy itself far surpassed any other; but it cost £55 per head for every boy under training, as against £25 per head for boys trained in the ships maintained by philanthropic societies. The difference was caused partly by additional instructors. The ships of the philanthropic societies rendered however, excellent service. The Marine Society of London supplied 167 boys to the Navy in 1871, and since its foundation, in 1756, the Society had sent 26,754 lads into the service. But more instructors and better appliances were necessary in these ships, and, above all, brigs should be attached to the stationary vessels, in which the more efficient lads could be sent for a cruise at sea. The training-ship maintained by the City of Now York was kept constantly cruising in Long Island Sound. The expense of giving this more complete instruction was beyond the scope of private philanthropy, and it was questionable whether the Government should not assist these societies. The Royal Commission of 1859, at whose suggestion the Naval Reserve was established, strongly recommended that 12 school ships should be established at the principal ports, each capable of receiving 200 boarders, of whom 100 should be nominated by the State. After an apprenticeship of four years the young seamen entered in these vessels would be eligible for the Reserve. A somewhat similar plan had been proposed by Sir Frederick Grey; and Mr. Thomas Gray, of the Board of Trade, had suggested that the Government should take over one of the ships now maintained as a philanthropic institution on the Thames, and one of those on the Mersey, and that all boys entered in either of the ships taken over by the Government should, in consideration of the superior training which they would receive, and which would probably enable them to command superior wages in the merchant service, agree to serve for a year in the Navy on the completion of their apprenticeship, and afterwards to join the Reserve. Another proposition which he most earnestly commended to the consideration of the Rouse was that the Government should encourage owners of ships of an approved class to take apprentices, by giving a bonus for every apprentice on board their ships who had been duly indentured to the Registrar General as a Government apprentice, and had agreed, on the completion of his apprenticeship, to serve in the Navy for a year, and afterwards to join the Reserve. The number of apprentices should be limited—say one for every 100 tons—and the ships should be of an approved class. A bounty of £5 might be paid to the apprentice on joining the Navy for his year of service. The advantage of this plan over that of training-ships was that it would be both more practicable and less expensive. The officers of the Reserve also demanded attention. The half-pay list of the Navy contained a multitude of names of officers without private means, and eager for employment. Could not this be remedied by first creating a Reserve of officers in the Mercantile Marine, and then reducing the number of officers in the Navy to something like the number actually required in time of peace? Young gentlemen, socially qualified for service in the Navy, were being educated on board the Conway, in the Mersey, and the Worcester, in the Thames. If the Admiralty were to afford to these officers a competent knowledge of gunnery, we should have in them an invaluable reserve of officers. For this purpose a short practical course of gunnery and naval tactics should be arranged, in connection with the Excellent, analogous to the course of military instruction for Volunteer officers at Aldershot. Eligible young officers of the Mercantile Marine should be encouraged to go through the course by the offer of a premium, to be paid to them on their passing a satisfactory examination. The premium should be sufficient in amount to cover the expense of their residence in Portsmouth, and also to compensate them for their loss of income while remaining on shore for the purpose of study. The Board of Trade would do much to promote the success of this scheme by raising the standard of examination for the extra master's certificate, so as to include both modern languages and the more important elements of commercial science. The privilege of going through the course on board the Excellent might be confined to officers who had passed this higher examination. The creation of the Naval Academy at Greenwich would doubtless do much to facilitate the fusion between the officers of the Reserve and the Navy, which, from every point of view, was much to be desired. From the Royal Naval Reserve he would turn to the Coast Volunteers. Recent naval administrators had unaccountably neglected this branch of the Reserves. The Committee of 1852 recommended a force of 6,000 Coast Volunteers, and the Royal Commission of 1859 advised that the number should be fixed at 10,000 men. According to the latest estimates, the number had been reduced to 600. It could not be said that eligible men were wanting. The latest Return showed that 153,000 men and 14,000 boys were employed in the fisheries of the United Kingdom. In point of physical power the fishermen were superior to the seamen in foreign trades. Their local knowledge would be of immense value in coast defence, and the fact that they had fixed places of residence, and never sailed under a foreign flag, made it certain they would always be found when required. Of their moral character he could speak with the greatest confidence. The Coast Volunteer was not popular in the Navy, because the men originally enrolled, were admitted into the service for political purposes with discreditable laxity; but it would not be difficult to raise from among our fishermen a Reserve equal to the standard recommended by the Royal Commission. He trusted, from a perusal of the revised rules, that there was a disposition to induce the fishermen to join, not the Naval Coast Volunteers, but the second-class Naval Reserve. The means, however, which were proposed for carrying out this policy were inadequate. The fishermen were congregated in isolated communities on various points of the coast. They were men of domestic habits, and it would be difficult to induce them to join the Reserve if they had to be drilled far from home. The list of ships and batteries at which the Naval Reserve might take their drill, though imposing enough in point of numbers, did not include some of the most important fishing communities. There were batteries at Poole, where the number employed in fishing vessels was only 214; at Maryport, where there were only 69; and at Lynn, where there were only 266; but there were no establishments at Sligo, which had 4,800 men and boys in the fishing vessels of the port; none at Skibbereen, which had 5,500; none at Banff, which had 5,600; at Stornoway, which had 8,000; at Wick, which had 8,400; nor at Inverness, which had 9,000 fishermen. The Manning Committee of 1852 strongly recommended that the Scotch naval station should be re-established. Where the Navy was best known, there the flower of the population were ready to enter it. In 1852 there were more men in the Navy from the village of Cawsand, near Plymouth, than from the Port of Liverpool. The Return of the counties in which the boys in training-ships in 1871 were born showed that, out of 2,888 boys, only 90 came from the whole of Scotland, only 112 from Lancashire, including the Isle of Man as well as Liverpool, only 23 from Suffolk, 11 from Norfolk, and 18 from Wales. Could it be supposed that the great seafaring populations on those coasts had ever been made thoroughly acquainted with the advantages of service in the Navy and the Reserve? The fluctuating nature of their occupation would enable the fishermen to attend drill with little inconvenience. The drill could be taught in the most effective manner, and with the least expense to the Government, by sending a gunboat to visit the fishing ports at the slack season. These periodical visits of a smart, well-organized gunboat would do much to create a favourable impression of the Navy among the fishermen. The expense of keeping a few gunboats in commission for this purpose would be nominal; for we had more seamen at present in the home ports than it was possible to employ in sea-going ships. Some of these men might be attached to gunboats instead of remaining in stationary flagships. In addition to the various descriptions of forces already enumerated, an attempt had been made to extend the Volunteer movement to the coast defence service. A corps composed at present of 100 gentlemen employed in banks and private offices in the City had been provisionally enrolled, and several hundred additional applications for admission had been received. The Volunteers actually entered had attended drill on board the President, and he was enabled to state that, in the opinion of the instructors, they were the most intelligent gunners who had ever been drilled on board the ship. The movement had extended itself to Liverpool, where the First Lord of the Admiralty did so much to initiate it by an encouraging speech. It remained to be proved whether the idea was a practical one. Not until the Volunteers had been afloat in a gunboat for a few days, and had shown their ability and readiness to perform all the duties which devolved on a seaman in a gunboat, should he venture to regard the experiment, with which he had the honour to be associated, as an accomplished fact. Much of the success of the Naval Volunteer movement must depend on the readiness of the Admiralty to afford the necessary facilities. The most immediately pressing matter was the appointment of a commanding or inspecting officer. Until the Admiralty placed a naval man of rank and experience at the head of the Volunteers, an invaluable aid to efficiency would be wanting, and the formation of a contingent at many of the ports round the coast would be indefinitely delayed. The formation of an able staff of inspecting officers for the Reserve was essentially necessary to secure their efficiency. The Reserves, including the Coast Guard, now numbered not loss than 20,000 men. Surely, the supreme command of such a force was a task worthy of the most distinguished Admiral in the service. The Commander-in-Chief should be supported by a sufficient staff of naval officers, to whom should be assigned the supervision of the Reserves in the St. George's Channel and on the East coast of England. While hitherto there had been no inspecting staff for the Naval Reserve, a very different policy had prevailed at the War Office in providing a staff for the inspection of the land Volunteers. An Admiral sent on an occasional tour of inspection was not a sufficient substitute for an officer specially devoted to the duty. In urging the appointment of a staff officer, he did not undervalue for a moment the services of that admirable body of men, the seamen instructors in gunnery in the drill ships of the Reserve. It was impossible to speak too highly of their zeal, their intelligence, their discipline, and their consummate knowledge of the subject on which it was their duty to give instruction. But naval officers, judiciously selected, would exercise a higher influence over the morale of the Naval Reserve. The merchant seamen would feel themselves, in a larger sense than heretofore, an integral part of the Navy of England. They would be inspired by its great traditions, and the confidence which they would acquire in their officers would be an invaluable guarantee for their conduct and discipline should they ever be called upon to join Her Majesty's service. The hon. Gentleman concluded by Moving the appointment of the Committee,


in seconding the Motion, wished to call attention to the alternative scheme which the Commission of 1859 eventually wished the country to adopt. They proposed a Naval Reserve enlisted from the adult seamen as a purely provisional scheme, but pointed out with great force the obvious objections to dependence for all time upon a Reserve raised from the ranks of the adult seamen, and their real scheme was that a Reserve should be formed from boys trained in the school ships, a certain number of whom should be paid for by the State upon condition of their joining the Naval Reserve. The Commissioners said— Your Majesty will perceive that for the future maintenance of this force we propose to rely in a great measure on boys specially trained for this purpose, in conformity with the plan adopted in the Navy with so much advantage. He would not say a word in disparagement of the men now in the Reserve; but it was evident they could not compare with boys trained in discipline and obedience from their early years. They suggested that 12 training ships should be maintained at 12 of the principal ports of this country—and they made the statesmanlike proposal that boys of the merchant service and boys of the Navy should be trained together, so as to form associations which would last through their lives, and promote an esprit de corps that would raise the tone and character of the whole merchant service. But nothing had been done to give effect to this scheme. It had been entirely ignored. There were 13 training ships in this country, and £20,700 of public money was spent upon them, flowing in driblets through the channels of the penal departments of the Home Office. The Commission recommended that 2,400 boys should be trained, annually in these school ships, and the number of boys in training given by the last Return was 2,300; but many of them were in reformatory ships, and the rest in industrial school ships, to which boys were sent by magistrates' order. That was not the class of boys contemplated by the Royal Commission, who wished the retainer to be an incentive to good conduct offered to boys born of honest parents. But at present not a farthing of public money went towards the support or education for sea service of the children of honest parents; and the moral effect of what we were doing was rather mischievous. It was, of course, perfectly right to assist philanthropic efforts; but we were losing sight of the great principle put forward by the Royal Commissioners. They recommended that £40,000 a-year should be spent on school ships, which would have secured for us the services by this time of many thousands of boys. At the present moment we were spending over £20,000 per annum without educating a single child of honest parents for the sea service of the country, or securing for the Navy a single seaman. He hoped that in saying this he should not be supposed to be passing any stricture upon the existing institutions of this character—they were doing very good work, they deserved all support and assistance but they fell far short of the scheme which had been proposed by the Royal Commissioners. He believed it was very requisite that something should be done to raise the tone of the merchant service. Ever since the merchant navy had been freed from restrictions as to manning and nationality, great difficulty had been experienced in obtaining apprentices, and the want of them was often complained of at this moment. In consequence of the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV. having failed to bring into the Royal Navy a sufficient number of apprentices, pauper boys were forced into the merchant service, but a supply of only 5,000 or 6,000 was obtained. The effect of the compulsory Act, passed in 1844, was to increase the number from 6,259 to 15,740 in the first year of its operation; and when it was repealed the number of apprentices on the Register was over 30,000. In 1854, which was the first year of the absence of regulations with regard to the manning of ships, the number of seamen in the merchant service was 162,000, and the number of apprentices was 8,000; whereas, in 1870, while the number of merchant seamen was 196,000, the number of apprentices was only 4,200. In order to secure for this country in time of emergency an efficient Reserve, we must rely upon the co-operation of the shipowners. [Mr. GOSCREN: Hear, hear!] He was glad to see that the First Lord of the Admiralty recognized the truth of that remark; but he believed no steps had been taken to obtain the co-operation of the shipowners, either with regard to men or boys. It was very unjust for the Government to take from the shipowners their best men at the very time when it was most inconvenient and dangerous to part with them; and some advantages must be given, either in the form of money payment or in money's worth, in order to compensate the shipowner for being deprived of his best men in an emergency. At present there was a demand on the part of the shipowners for trained apprentices. The Report of the North of England Steam Ship Owners' Association, issued about a year ago, contained a letter addressed to the President of the Board of Trade, in which the following important passages occurred:— For some time past considerable difficulties have been encountered by shipowners desirous of obtaining competent seamen to navigate steam vessels. The number of apprentices to the sea has been for several years diminishing, and is now so low and disproportionate to the demands of the service as to cause serious apprehensions respecting the future supply of good and experienced sailors. That was a very grave statement. The shipowners also said that, of the very fine lines of steamers carrying coal and iron to the London markets from the north-eastern ports not one vessel in ten had an apprentice on board; and if that was true of other ports most lads must be found in sailing vessels. But it was complained that the regulations of the Board of Trade, being confined to lads trained on board sailing vessels, prevented parents sending their boys to sea, because the training they needed for obtaining active employment was only to be obtained on board steam vessels. The Report to which he had referred made this suggestion— Having carefully considered the whole question on various occasions, your Committee have arrived at the conclusion that the only way of checking the rapid decline of apprentices in the merchant marine is either to adopt an examination in seamanship and requirements of steam vessels, or to institute for such vessels quite a different mode of examination. Several suggestions had been made as to the privileges which might be extended to shipowners as a condition of their co-operating with the Government in raising an efficient Naval Reserve. He had heard it suggested on good authority that the Government should offer certain privileges to those shipowners on board whose ships a certain number of apprentices were employed—such as the use of Government dockyards in foreign ports and the right to gratuitous assistance in salvage from Government vessels. It might also be made a condition on which all subsidies were paid that the subsidized ships should carry a certain number of apprentices. He merely threw out these suggestions for consideration; but he wished strongly to impress upon the Government, that however the Naval Reserve might be formed, for its success we must depend upon the assistance of the shipowners. He wished to know what proportion the Reserve of 12,600 men at this moment bore to the Reserve of our ships. Was it adequate, or anything like adequate, to man the ships we might require at sea in case of emergency? To say that we were at peace was to take a narrow view. Recent wars had shown us that success attended the immediate concentration of the largest number of men, and could we presume that nations which had adopted this policy on land would neglect it at sea? The French Government could command the services of every available seaman on the coast in case of emergency, and would the Germans, with their organization, overlook the importance of such an arrangement? It would be short-sighted in us to lose the advantage we possessed for the sake of a few thousands a-year, which would secure us an efficient Reserve. We spent £20,000 annually in driblets, and secured not a single Reserve seaman for the money, and for £40,000 we could carry out the scheme of the Commissioners. We had done what they recommended as provisional only; but we had not carried out their more important recommendations, and he did not see any attempt to do it. He should like to see service in the Reserves of this country held up, not as a refuge for the destitute, but as an incentive to good conduct to the youth of the country. He should like boys to be taught in their schools that it was a privilege to fight for their country. He wished to see the merchant navy and the Royal Navy brought into more immediate association, and if this were done it would tend to the benefit and security of the country.

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 into the condition of the Naval Reserves,"— (Mr. Brassey,)

—instead thereof.

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


said, the last speaker had called attention to an important point which had previously escaped notice—the proportion of seamen in the Reserve to the number of ships in Reserve. A true Reserve must consist of ships, seamen, and officers; and there must be a due proportion of all three. To ensure a Navy efficient in the event of war we must either keep up a war establishment in time of peace, or else we must train men who would enter into a voluntary obligation to serve in the Navy, adopting the principle which we did in our Army, and which other Powers did in their Armies and Navies. But our naval authorities seemed to adopt the reverse principle, for they had allowed the Reserve of men to fall from 16,000 to 10,000, whilst they increased the number of seamen serving afloat. [Mr. GOSCHEN said, the number was 12,000, and it had never been as low as 11,000]. He did not contend that we had a larger number of men afloat than the affairs of the world required. For several years past he had endeavoured to impress upon the House that an annual drain of strength was going on from the Navy. In 1856 the 10 years' service system was adopted. Consequently in 1866 the services of a considerable number of men expired, and 1,500 men then took their discharge without entering into any engagement to serve again in the Navy if required. In 1871 he was told that 80 per cent. of the men re-entered the Navy; but he found that in 1871 there were 477 men discharged through their service having expired, and 440 men were paid off, making together 917; while the re-entries were only 402, making only 40 per cent. instead of 80. But even if the reentries were 80 per cent the system was not wise or satisfactory. In 1749 a scheme was proposed by Lord Barrington, then First Lord of the Admiralty, to make an annual allowance to men who had served in the Navy, with the view of rendering their services available in case of necessity, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Pelham) pronounced that no scheme was so good for the purpose as retaining supernumeraries at a small annual allowance. The House passed the Resolution, but forgot to vote the money for putting the plan into execution; so like many other abstract Resolutions it was never practically carried out. If that had been done perhaps the country would have been spared all the horrors of impressment, and the Navy would not have fallen into that bad odour which still clung to it among ignorant people. Now that impressment was doomed, it was more imperatively necessary than ever that we should form a Reserve of the trained seamen whom we were now allowing to slip from us without any reason whatever. Not one-third of the seamen were even proposed to be ready for the ships which were supposed to constitute our Reserve. Then, as to officers. Taking the present number of seamen at 39,000, the officers of all grades employed with them would amount to 1,224. They had then to consider the question of how many officers would be needed for the 11,000 or 12,000 who might be called out, and the number would be found totally inadequate. We had not even the sketch of a real Naval Reserve drawn out. What the Admiralty trusted to was to wring out of the House of Commons what money they could for building ships, and then to coax out of the merchant service as many men as they could. They ought to adopt a plan by which they could legitimately add to their maritime strength by discharging men annually into the mercantile marine, and at the same time commanding their services in adequate numbers in the event of war. The whole question urgently required investigation, and he therefore cordially supported the Motion.


said he was also in favour of the proposed inquiry. Of the 12,000 men who might be called out the services of a great many would not be available on the outbreak of a war. It might be useful if a Committee was to direct its attention to the class of men going to China, New Zealand, and California. It had been customary for hon. Members to lecture shipowners as to the number of apprentices they should have on board their ships; but he did not see why they should be bound to employ a certain number of apprentices any more than employers of labour in other professions. He did not believe the number of apprentices was as small as had been represented. He believed sailors were as good as in times past, drunkenness, indeed, having decreased in the merchant navy. He hoped the proposed Committee would be appointed, for it might be useful in preventing unnecessary expenditure.


said, that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty would have to speak on some other important questions which stood next on the Notice Paper, he would therefore ask permission of the House to reply to the hon. Member for Hastings. He concurred in the remarks of his hon. Friend on the loss of the late Mr. Graves, who had made this subject almost his own, and whose mercantile experience, sense of public duty, and freedom from party spirit rendered his advice most valuable. His hon. Friend, however, had shown that the task had not fallen into unworthy hands. He began his speech by remarking that though the question of the matériel was one of great importance in relation to the, Navy, that of the personnel was of still greater importance. In this he entirely agreed with his hon. Friend. The country had enormous resources in the way of shipbuilding, a Return before him showed that 391,000 tons were added to our merchant service in 1871, as compared with 212,000 tons in 1861, so that were it necessary to renew our fleet within a short time our private shipyards could do so; but if by any mischance a large proportion of the personnel were lost, it would be a difficult task to supply their places. The question of Reserves was, therefore, a very important one, but even here our resources as regarded merchant seamen were great, and he doubted whether, including our Colonial Empire, they did not exceed those of almost all the rest of the world put together. It was often said that the increase of steamers had greatly reduced the number of seamen in sailing vessels; but a Return showed that in 1854 there were 146,500 sailors in sailing vessels in the foreign and coasting trades, and in 1871 the number was 141,000, showing a reduction of only 5,000 men. In our steamers in 1854 there were 15,800 men employed, and in 1871 58,706, so that while there had been an enormous increase in the number of men employed in the steamers of the merchant service, there had been only a slight decrease in the number employed in sailing vessels. This showed that the increase of steam vessels had not operated so prejudicially, as was believed by some, on the sailing vessels. He was sorry to hear his hon. Friend give the weight of his great authority to the statement that our seamen were deteriorating. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) hesitated to express au opinion counter to the authorities quoted by his hon. Friend, particularly Mr. Graves; but when at the Board of Trade he had given great attention to this subject, and had visited all the ports and collected all the facts he could from the Mercantile Marine officers, and could not find that our seamen had deteriorated. Considering that the proportion of seamen to tonnage had greatly diminished, a given number of men doing more work than formerly, and considering also the enormous number of yachts and of seamen employed in them, he could not think there had been any falling off in quality. Steamers did not train men themselves. On the contrary, they paid high wages and wanted the best men. The question of seamen was a question of wages. Those who gave good wages and good accommodation, and sent their men to sea in well-found ships would have no reason to complain of any lack of good men. There were two ways by which a Naval Reserve could be obtained; the one was by passing men more rapidly through the service; the other, by enlisting men from the Merchant Service into a special Reserve. The former was more analogous to what among military men was called the Army Reserve, the latter, to the Militia. If he understood rightly, his hon. and gallant Friend rather advocated the first of these two methods. [Admiral ERSKINE: That of passing them through after their 10 years' service]. He would point out that we had Reserves of both kinds—the Coastguard and the Naval Pensioners were of the first kind, and the Naval Reserve men of the second kind. If the House would allow him, he would now answer the question put by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) and others, as to whether the Reserves we had already got were sufficient to man all our vessels. That was, no doubt, an exceedingly important point. He was glad to state that there was every reason to believe from the calculations which had been made that, taking the men in the Service, the supernumeraries in our ports, the Coastguard and the Naval Pensioners, we had considerably more than would be required to man the 23 ironclads which had been spoken of and every other vessel which we could possibly send to sea within any reasonable period, and a margin of something like 6,000 men would be left besides. How was that possible? The House did not, perhaps, fully understand the great change which had occurred in our requirements as regarded blue-jackets. Every year the number of blue-jackets required in proportion to other men was diminishing. By way of illustration he would take the old three-decker, the Victoria, which had been the flagship in the Mediterranean a very few years ago, and compare it with the Lord Warden, which was now the flagship there, and also with the Devastation, probably the fighting ship of the future. For the Victoria 1,100 men were required, of whom 600 were blue-jackets. For the Lord Warden 600 were sufficient, of whom 230 were blue-jackets. For the Devastation 300 men would suffice, of whom only 100 would be pure blue-jackets. Therefore, supposing we had a fleet of 10 three-deckers like the Victoria, we should require 6,000 blue-jackets, while for 10 Devastations only 1,000 would be required. That showed how much farther the force we now had would go than in former years, and it had a very important bearing on the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1859. If these recommendations were now applied, our resources were not such as we could wish; but with reference to the change which the fleet had been undergoing since that year, our resources were by no means deficient, and at the outbreak of a war we should be in a very good position, indeed. If a war were to arise we should have not only to man all the vessels we possessed, but to take up vessels from the private trade, fit them out as cruisers, and send them to distant parts of the world. During the war between the Northern and Southern States of America the United States Government fitted out no fewer than 750 steamers and manned them with 50,000 men for the purpose of cruising, blockading the ports of the South, and for other purposes. That would be the case with us should war break out. We should have to fit out an enormous number of vessels for various purposes; and though, as he had said, we had sufficient men to supply all our vessels of war, yet we should find employment for all the Reserves we could get. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that all these Reserves would not be employed in the same important work as would be required of the men in the regular fleet; they would not all be employed at the guns. A good deal was to be said in favour of passing men through the Navy into the Reserve, and if we could see our way to do so rapidly, it, no doubt, would be the preferable course. We already educated no fewer than 3,000 boys for the Navy, and that number was sufficient, but not much more than sufficient, to keep up the supply of 18,000 men for our fleet. There was much to be said for increasing the number of boys and passing the men through the fleet. But there was this difficulty. It was alleged by naval men that we had not room in our sea-going cruisers for more boys and young seamen than we had at present. If we were to increase the number of our boys we should be reducing the average age of all the men in the Navy which naval men said could not be done with advantage. The average age was sufficiently low already. But as the proportion of seamen required for ships of war was greatly reduced, it was of infinite importance that they should be thoroughly trained in every respect. It was necessary therefore to maintain the training ships. Therefore, he could not hold out the prospect that we could pass any large number of men rapidly from our fleet into the Reserve. That being so, we must look to the Merchant Service for our Naval Reserve. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) and others had pointed out that of late years there had been a tendency in the Naval Reserve to diminish in number. That was due, in a great measure, to the stringency of the Regulations of 1869, which were intended to increase the efficiency of the force by weeding it of inferior men. But he could assure the House that subject during the last year had received the most earnest attention. His hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Erskine) appeared to think that no scheme had been sufficiently considered But if his hon. and gallant Friend had been at the Admiralty and seen the mass of papers on the subject and the attention which had been given to it, he would have been of a different opinion. The hon. Member for Hastings had alluded to the changes which had taken place with respect to the First and Second Reserve, and seemed to have given his hearty approval to all that had been done in the matter. In the first place, as regarded the First Class Naval Reserve, the Admiralty had greatly increased the number of places where they could be enrolled. Formerly they could be enrolled only at a few places, but now they could at any Coastguard station. The restriction which before prevailed had kept men not only from enrolling, but from re-enrolling themselves after passing through the first five years of service. Twenty-eight days' consecutive drill were formerly required in the First Class Naval Reserve, and that was found to diminish the number who enrolled; but according to the new Regulations which have been framed, the men during the first year were only trained 14 days consecutively, and after the first year they might be drilled not less than seven days at a time. Again, they had provided that the trained men should receive the 1d. a day which was now given to the trained men in the fleet, though of course the former received the payment for a month only, while the latter had it throughout the year. His hon. Friend the Member for Hastings appeared to think that was hardly sufficient; but there was considerable difficulty in giving to these trained men a larger amount than the trained men in the fleet. At the same time, he recognized the fact that the Naval Reserve were not underpaid. Their pay was good and-amply sufficient. The difficulty did not lie in the direction of pay. They had done one other thing for the trained men—they had offered them a certain proportion—55 per cent of their entries—of appointments in the Coastguard. Hopes to that effect had been held out from the early days of the Naval Reserve, but it was not till now that these hopes had been realized. He now came to the Second Class Naval Reserve, where the changes had been so considerable as almost to amount to re-constituting the force. The Second Class Reserve up to the present time had been almost a total failure from the restrictions imposed by the regulations. Instead of confining it to seamen who had served in square-rigged vessels, they had opened it to all ordinary seamen and fishermen, who constituted so very large a force in this country, which they hoped would prove a mine of wealth to the Naval Reserve. There had also been an alteration as to the age at which men were to be entered. Instead of the limit as stated by the Regulations of 1869, of 18 to 20 years, the ages at which the men might enter were now to be from 18 to 30; and they had also provided that the Second Class might be enrolled, drilled, and paid at the same time as the First Class Naval Reserve. His hon. Friend the Member for Hastings appeared to think that if, as they hoped, the Second Class Reserve increased very largely the batteries and drill ships would not be sufficient for training purposes. Of course, if they found that fishermen were entering the Second Class Naval Reserve, it would be matter for consideration whether they should not increase the number of batteries or facilitate their being drilled in gunboats or drill ships, as proposed by the hon. Member; but it would be time enough to consider that point when the Second Class Reserve had considerably increased. The new Regulations of which he had spoken had only been completed within the last month. They had been most carefully considered, and had now been issued. There had not been time to ascertain what would be their effect; but he had reason to believe that the number of both Reserves would be considerably increased. He had consulted the Registrar General of Seamen, who was confident in his opinion that when the new Regulations were well known along the coast there would be a large accession of numbers to both First and Second Class Reserve. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) had alluded to the want of 6½-ton guns in the Reserve ships; but every one of the Reserve ships had two of these guns, besides others of smaller calibre. His hon. Friend spoke of 1,200 men taking their drill on board the President, but he very much doubted whether there would be more than 2,50 as an average at one time drilling on board that ship, and there would be nothing like that number in some of the drill ships—not more, perhaps, than 100 being drilled at one time. Spreading their drill over the time allowed, he believed all the men could be trained with the larger guns, and in the first instance they would be trained with guns of smaller calibre. With regard to batteries, they were nearly all formed before the 6½-ton gun was introduced into the service, and the general introduction of the 6½-ton gun would necessitate the complete change of the batteries. At the same time, it would be the duty of the Admiralty to supply proper and sufficient guns and batteries as occasion required. While he was on that point he should like to read to the House the Reports recently received from Admiral Elliot and Sir Henry Keppel on the subject of the Naval Reserve. They were most satisfactory and could not fail to give confidence to Members as to the present state of the force. Admiral Elliot said:— The inspection was entirely satisfactory in regard to the men of the Naval Reserve. Those I saw were as a rule fine active seamen, well suited to the true working of the guns with much spirit and goodwill, and showing a creditable knowledge for the amount of teaching they had respectively undergone. In every ship without exception the behaviour of the Naval Reserve was reported to be entirely satisfactory. Sir Henry Keppel, an officer of great experience, and one who was certain to speak what he thought, said of the men of the Dœdalus,As individuals they were fine able-bodied men, in the prime of life, and certainly superior in physique to the average of our own able seamen. Their rifle, cutlass, and great gun exercises were very creditably executed, without any noise whatever, and the men appear to have been carefully and well trained. On consulting with Commander Parsons, the gunner, and boatswain, they reported the men to be well-behaved and tractable. The gunner views the badge men as equal to our own trained men; 23 of the 42 on board are so qualified. The boatswain considers them more full of resource than our men. They are not equal to our men as leadsmen, nor would they be so smart aloft. The gunner states that notwithstanding the intervals of absence from drill the men appear to forget little of it. Of the men in the Eagle he said— They were scarcely so fine a body of men as those in the Dœdalus, but still contrast favourably with a similar number of able seamen from our service. With respect to the Naval Coast Volunteers, it was intended to allow those who now composed that corps gradually to die out, in order that men qualified for that corps might enter for the Second-class Naval Reserve; so that, in point of fact, there would then be only two corps—namely, the First and Second-class Reserves. The Admiralty hoped the effect of this arrangement would be that the number of men passing from the second to the first would greatly increase. As to the new force—the Naval Volunteers—being an extension to the Navy of the movement which had proved so beneficial to the Army, already two of these corps had been established, one at London and the other at Liverpool, and the formation of one at Bristol was now talked of. The Admiralty had cheerfully allowed the drilling of these Volunteers on board the President; and it would be a matter for further consideration what arrangements should be made with regard to future enrolment which could not take place under the existing law. The law relating to the Naval Coast Volunteers was not suitable; and it would, therefore, be necessary to pass a measure to regulate enrolment in the new force. The Admiralty approached the subject with every desire to avail themselves of the proffered aid, and it was intended to nominate an officer who should put himself in communication with the gentlemen who were forming these Volunteer corps, to render them what assistance he could in the matter of organization, and advise the Admiralty on all points connected with them. It would be necessary to determine in what way the new force could be assisted with gunboats, and to consider various other questions; and his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty would, no doubt, have to submit a measure to Parliament for the purpose of organizing the Naval Volunteers. The expediency of Government assisting the training ships of the Merchant Service was discussed last Session, on the Motion of Mr, Graves, and on that occasion the First Lord deprecated the Navy undertaking to train seamen for the Merchant Service, but expressed his readiness to contribute towards any scheme devised by the shipowners in proportion to the benefit which the Navy derived, while the President of the Board of Trade pointed out how a fund could be obtained from the contributions made by shipowners to the Mercantile Marine Fund, and invited the co-operation of the shipowners in the organization of a scheme; his right hon. Friend, however, the President of the Board of Trade had taken means to ascertain the views of the shipowners of the country, but he had not found a disposition on their part to contribute to the establishment of training ships for the Merchant Service. Of course the House would not expect the Admiralty to put a Vote on the Estimates to meet the cost of training boys for the Merchant Service. When the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) spoke of the loud demand there was on the part of shipowners for trained apprentices, he could not help inquiring where were the shipowners—Members of the House—while the discussion was going on. One who had been present (Mr. Alderman Lusk) had objected to the scheme of the hon. Member for Northumberland, and he now noticed but one other shipowner in his seat (Mr. Bates). The Admiralty had done what they could towards improving the First and Second Classes of the Naval Reserve, and he hoped the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) would be satisfied with what they had done and were doing, and with what they indicated as their policy for the future, and would not therefore press his Amendment.


said, as he had been pointedly mentioned by the hon. Member who had just sat down as a shipowner who had not spoken on the subject before the House, he would not remain altogether silent. It was said that there was not sufficient room in the ships for boys. He ventured, however, to suggest where it could be found. There were several old ships belonging to the Navy. Let one be adapted for the reception of boys at every port, under the direction of half-pay naval officers. Besides these old ships there was a large quantity of stores fit for nothing else. If we employed these old ships in the training of boys we should do away with the necessity of spending a large amount annually in repairing them at a cost above what they were worth when they were so repaired. In this way we should be able to maintain Reserves at little or no cost to the country.


said, after the explanations and promises which had been given, he would not press his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.