asked the Surveyor General of Ordnance, On what system the 81-ton guns are to be rifled, and what nature of projectiles are to be used; whether he will state to the House the greatest and next greatest number of battering charges which have been fired from any 35-ton or 38-ton gun rifled on the Woolwich system, without requiring repairs (including re-venting); whether it is a fact that the process of re-venting cannot be performed on board ships at sea in the presence of an enemy; whether he is aware that although the stock of projectiles on board ship may be replenished at a distant seat of war, guns of 35 tons or 81 tons weight cannot be replaced without sending the ship home; and, whether he can state to the House, that it has been shown by actual experiment or otherwise, that our heaviest guns can stand such a practical test as they might be put to in war time; and, 51 if they have not been so tested, if he would explain why?
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
, in reply, said, that complete answers would involve too much detail, and would also lead him into scientific controversy which had better be carried on outside the House. It was from no want of courtesy, but with a view to save the time of the House that he gave brief Answers to somewhat unusual Questions, which were more fit to be put to men of science and constructors and manufacturers of heavy guns than in that House. The system on which the 81-ton gun was to be rifled was the present, or Woolwich system. Heavy guns were not fired continuously with battering charges, and he could not say what was the greatest number of charges ever fired from any 35 or 81-ton gun without requiring repairs. The process of re-venting could be performed at sea if required. A reserve of heavy guns was maintained at their stations abroad to meet casualties in the fleets, and therefore the ships need not be sent home. The tests to which their heavy guns were subjected and the experiments made showed that they would stand the practical tests of war.
gave Notice, that in consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the noble Lord's reply as to the battering charges, he would move in Committee of Supply on the Naval Estimates, that it was undesirable to proceed with the Inflexible or any ship carrying 81-ton or other heavy guns, until those guns had been subjected to a trial such as they might reasonably be expected to undergo in war.