HC Deb 31 July 1873 vol 217 cc1386-9

said, that as it appeared that the discussion on the Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella)—which under the circumstances of the Session was only worthy of a debating society—was to be postponed to another day, if the debate on the Indian Budget were not concluded to-night, he would ask the indulgence of the House while he called attention to a Vote in the Schedule of the Appropriation Bill affecting the Naval and Military Services—especially if it should turn out that the money had not been well expended. He understood that in the trials that had taken place on board the Devastation, the 35-ton gun, had not given satisfaction. He had been informed by an eyewitness that the brass studs of the bolts were shorn off before leaving the muzzle of the gun—the proof being that on the deck of the vessel in front of the turret there were several deep jagged cuts which could not have been the result of unexploded pebble powder as some sup- posed. The consequence of a stud being shorn off would be that the grooves of the gun would be injured and the gun become unserviceable. As a proof that something of this kind had happened to the guns of the Devastation, he was informed that a shot, which at the beginning of the trials, was easily rammed home by two men, required eight men after several rounds had been fired. If this was the case with respect to the grooving and studs, what was the effect on the flight of the projectiles? He was told that the missile, after going steadily through the air for 200 or 300 yards, was seen gradually to turn until its side was presented in the direction of the object at which it was aimed, and only after a considerable further flight recover itself and point straight to the object it was to strike. Now, if it should happen that the projectile should strike an enemy's iron-clad while in its sidelong flight, instead of penetrating, it would rebound, doing little injury. That, he believed, was not denied. [Mr. CARDWELL: It is denied altogether.] He had heard the same thing at Shoeburyness. It had certainly been admitted in the House that these guns were too short, and that in future they would be made longer. The general conviction was, that the system of rifling with studded shot—which was borrowed from the French—was not sound. His belief was that the smooth-bore Lancaster system had not had a fair trial, and he recommended that the question as between it and the Woolwich system should be settled at once by full tests, both as to range, accuracy of flight, and endurance. He believed the result would be greatly in favour of the Lancaster smooth-bore system. The cost would be small, and at any rate they would have an opportunity of judging which was the sounder system. He would suggest also, in order that the authorities might judge of the effect of firing on the 35-ton gun, that two "squeezes" should be taken—one from the gun as it was turned out perfect, and the other of the gun after it had been discharged—they would then be able to judge whether the present system was attended with the defects which were charged against it. The matter was of consequence. Enormous sums had been already spent, and much more was to be spent; for the War Office were now making a 35-ton gun which was to throw a projectile of 700 lbs.—and he believed they were about to undertake a 70-ton gun which was to throw a projectile of 1,600 lbs. It was, therefore, of great importance to ascertain that we had got the best system of rifling.


said, he did not know that the noble Lord was about to raise this question or he would have been prepared with diagrams and the reports of the officers who were present to show how completely the noble Lord had been misinformed as to the result of the firing on board the Devastation. The deck in front of the turret was not ploughed up by studs shorn from the shots, but was scored to some extent by the pebble powder—some grains of which would always be blown from heavy guns in an unconsumed state. With regard to the unsteadiness of the flight of the projectile, and the statement that it had been seen to turn broadside in its flight towards the object aimed at, he defied anyone to see anything of the kind while the projectile was in its flight, and he had the authority of Captain Hood, the Director of Naval Ordnance, for stating that he had observed no unsteadiness in the flight of the shot; and that in firing two guns simultaneously at an elevation of 14 degrees, both projectiles struck the water at the full range of 6,900 yards, close together, and at the same instant—a pretty good proof of the accuracy of the guns. Five rounds were also fired at 1,000 yards, with 110 lbs of powder and a 700 lbs projectile, and at this range the guns would hit a man. The noble Lord said that, after a few rounds had been fired eight men were necessary for working one of these guns; but Captain Hood said that four were sufficient; and both he and Captain Boys of the Excellent agreed that the trials on board the Devastation were highly satisfactory. If the noble Lord would communicate to him privately the names of his informants he would communicate with them, and any representations they might make would receive every attention.


said, that the noble Lord had remarked that the Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) was better suited to a debating society than to that House; but he put it to the House whether the subject introduced by the noble Lord was not better suited to the United Service In- stitution. He should not now further discuss the question of little bores or great bores, among whom he did not include his right hon. Friends below him. He hoped the Indian Financial Statement would not be further delayed.


strongly condemned the practice of deferring to the extreme end of the Session the discussion of the affairs of India, when there was barely time for the Under Secretary of State to make his statement to the House. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the Report of the East Indian Finance Committee, and that they should have a better opportunity of discussing the subject next Session.