HC Deb 22 June 1875 vol 225 cc317-50

rose to call attention to the present description of heavy guns as supplied for the Navy and for Fortifications, and to move—" That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable the Government should reappoint the Ordnance Select Committee." He said: Mr. Speaker—In rising, Sir, to call attention to the subject of which I have given Notice, I cannot but be aware that the House will feel that this is a matter of a somewhat technical character, and I know that to many Members it must appear dry and somewhat uninteresting; but whenever the question of Ordnance has been brought forward, this House has always accorded it full and ample discussion. Perhaps, Sir, at no time has it been so necessary as at present that we should take care that we have the very best guns that it is possible to obtain. If we look around us, and bear in mind the results of the late Continental war, we shall find that the importance of artillery has increased very greatly. It has been shown unmistakably that any inferiority in artillery is absolutely fatal, and in a small force like our Army such a defect would be aggravated a thousand-fold. In the Navy we have lately been placing in ships, costing from £250,000 to £500,000, a very diminished number of guns—in many cases not more than from four to six. And when we consider this, we must all look upon it as a question of the most vital importance, that guns so limited in number should be thoroughly efficient, that they should be guns selected by officers thoroughly competent, thoroughly unprejudiced, and thoroughly unbiassed. I think, Sir, therefore, that I am right in assuming that I may lay down the fundamental principle, that it is essential in this country that we should have thoroughly efficient guns; the best obtainable for accuracy of fire, for safety, and for simplicity; and that we ought to have them regardless of cost. We have, Sir, lately heard a great many statements of a pessimist character, from gentlemen who seem to look upon everything foreign as being perfect, and everything English as being bad. We have heard statements and theories of a most extraordinary character. We have passed through a little gunnery panic. We have had a score or two of inventors bringing forward their various theories and inventions, many of which have long ago exploded, but for which they have succeeded in finding new adherents and new sympathizers. Sir, we have heard within the last four months that our whole system is wrong. We have heard that our construction is wrong, that we ought to have steel guns rather than wrought iron; and breech-loaders rather than muzzle-loaders; and that we ought to have a different mode of rifling. It seems to me that it would be far better if the official restraint which is put upon those officers who are acquainted with the subject were sometimes removed, and that we should occasionally have some statements contradicting these assertions and showing their absurdity. As it is, the public mind becomes agitated, and we are in great danger occasionally of rushing into useless experiments and wasteful expense, I think we ought to limit this discussion entirely to heavy armour-piercing guns, because if we mix up field guns and great guns we shall be talking of totally different things. The debate which took place in this House a few months ago appeared to me to labour under that difficulty. Every artillerist knows that you cannot discuss a field gun as you would a great gun. You have enormous weights to move, and it is quite possible that the rifling that will do for one gun will be totally wrong for another. Therefore, as far as I can, I will limit this discussion to armour-piercing guns. I have carefully examined all the statements which have been made, and I hope I have thoroughly looked up all the authorities on the question; and, although it is some years since I was a gunnery officer, I hope my opinion will not be found unworthy of consideration. Well, Sir, I cannot help thinking that nearly all these adverse statements are wrong. I am quite certain that, so far as our heavy guns are concerned, comparing them with those of foreign nations, we have as safe a gun, as accurate a gun, and as durable a gun, as there is on the whole of the Continent. But when I say this, I do not wish for one moment to make it appear that our guns are perfect. I know there are many things still required. In the artillery experiments, which are going on daily, we see what improvements may be made. Nor do I think it is possible to put an end to gunnery inventions. We all know that inventions in gunnery come upon us day by day. We must look forward; and while I am anxious to show that our present system—so far I can see—is right, I do hope that we shall take especial care to continue in the right way, and not allow our system to go backwards. My principal object is to press upon the Government the great necessity of appointing an Ordnance Standing Committee of a judicial character, properly constituted, before whom all experiments might be sent; in whose impartiality and well-known scientific attainments the country would have confidence, and with regard to whom inventors would feel that they were dealing with a Committee thoroughly capable and impartial, which would look well into the whole of their proposals. We have—after a most elaborate, most careful, and most painstaking inquiry—decided on a certain system. We have on that conclusion—be it right, or be it wrong—spent a large sum of money, amounting to no less than £4,000,000, in arming our ships and forts, and placing ourselves in the highest state of efficiency. We have spared no money to arrive at this state; and I believe I am correct in saying that at the present moment we have nearly reached a point when we have sufficient guns of the newest pattern and latest calibre to arm the whole of our forts and our entire Navy. Then, Sir, at this point, when we have arrived so near completion, and when we have spent no less than £200,000 in experiments, and £4,000,000 in arming ourselves, we are quietly told that our construction is wrong; that we ought to have breech-loaders instead of muzzle-loaders; and that our rifling is wrong. Well, Sir, it seems to me that very many of these statements which appear daily in the papers, in lectures, and in letters to the public Press, show of themselves the great necessity of having some standing body—some Ordnance Council—before whom these people may be sent, and which would in that way act as a buffer between the Government and inventors, and, indeed, between this House and the inventors. We must remember that in this matter we have been entirely unfettered in our choice. We have had no political or economical reasons to mar our judgment; and if our artillerymen have not got the best guns, all I can say is that they ought to have them. And, looking at the reiterated opinion of all our great artillerists, I cannot help thinking that, if we are wrong, the onus lies upon those who say so to prove it. There is no doubt that inventors are a very peculiar species. They are a most irrepressible class. I know cases in which inventors have come before the late Ordnance Select Committees. They have obtained trials of their inventions. Those trials have gone on for years, and the country has been put to enormous expense; and then when it has been shown that their inventions are useless they have quietly gone home, made some small alteration, and have come before the Committee again and said—"We have entirely altered this; will you try it again?" Naturally officials are sceptical in such cases, and many inventors are now going about in that position. They have had their schemes tried, but because they think they have entirely altered and remodelled them, they come forward again and ask for new trials. They are your principal complainants; they are the people who say you have not got the right gun, and they are the people who try to overthrow and upset the whole of your system. In regard to Ordnance Select Committees, I find on looking back to the year 1797, that it was in that year we had the first Committee which sat off and on until the year 1855. In that year the Duke of Newcastle decided that that Committee was of too military a character, and not sufficiently scientific. He thereupon appointed what is generally called the first Ordnance Select Committee; a committee composed of the Director General, the Naval Director General, heads of Departments, a Lieutenant Colonel, a Captain of Royal Artillery, Officers of Royal Engineers and two civilians. Unfortunately this Committee did not work very well together. No doubt they went through a great many experiments and did a great deal of good; but I believe, Sir, it is generally admitted that the great stumbling block in the way of that Committee was, that you had too many officers upon it—officers who had other duties to perform, and who could not spare the full amount of time which was necessary to devote to that Committee. And, again, there was another reason. You had on that Committee the permanent heads of all your manufacturing Departments. Now it is well known that when an inventor comes before a Select Committee, or a judicial tribunal of that kind, and finds upon it a number of gentlemen whom he regards as rival manufacturers, he naturally thinks that they will not give him a fair and impartial trial. I know, of course—and it has been said to me many times—that our officers are quite unprejudiced. "You must remember," it is said, "that our officers have nothing whatever in common with the manufacturers. They are paid their ordinary pay, and they have nothing to make by it. They are therefore thoroughly unprejudiced and unbiassed; and the honour of a British officer is far above any sort of petty jobbery or petty spite or prejudice." But I confess I think the manufacturers and inventors have a fair claim when they say—" Will you let our inventions go before a tribunal which is thoroughly unprejudiced in our eyes. Do not let us have any men on the Committee who are heads of manufacturing establishments." I do not say I fully share that view, but I know it is a view expressed by very many inventors; and I think it is our object and the object of the Government that every inquiry should be not only full and impartial, but that it should be so considered by those who have to go before it. Well, Sir, in 1859 that Committee was abolished, and another Ordnance Select Committee was appointed of a more limited character, and the heads of Departments were not placed upon it or even attached to it. That Committee sat until the year 1868. They did very great good; but unfortunately the heads of Departments not being in some manner connected with the Committee, they were not consulted in the manner they ought to have been, and became to a certain extent antagonistic. Unluckily, this Committee, to whom we are certainly indebted for nearly all the experiments which have taken place, and, indeed, for having brought us to our present position, seem to have become inventors, and directly they became inventors they naturally lost confidence and became a far less judicial tribunal. In 1868, the Secretary of State for War, Sir John Pakington, now Lord Hampton, thought we had had experiments enough, and that we had come to the time when all those experiments should be made of some use. He thought that, although we had had Blue Book after Blue Book, and experiment after experiment, our armament was entirely in a state of inefficiency, our stores, scattered throughout the world, were all different, and it was absolutely necessary to take some determined stand against all this. He abolished the Ordnance Select Committee. His view seems to have been—"You have now got to that point when it is absolutely necessary to appoint a dictator. You must appoint some man who will carry out your decisions. You must have all your ordnance the same, and you must have all your stores throughout the world on a similar footing." So General Lefroy was appointed. Soon after that the Conservative Government went out of office. Then Lord Northbrook's Committee sat, and great alterations were made. Amongst other changes, the duties of Director of Ordnance and Superintendent of Stores were handed over to General Sir John Adye. Sir John Adye has had an enormous amount of work to do since that time. It would be presumption on my part to praise so high an official; but I am sure that anybody who has had any dealings with that officer must be well aware of the great care and the great pains he has taken to bring our armaments into a state of efficiency. He has appointed under him officers of great efficiency—officers well up in the experimental department. He has kept at Woolwich three officers—Major Anderson, Major Noble, and Captain Jones who are well versed in everything that took place under the Ordnance Select Committee, and these officers he has appointed secretaries to small sub-committees. He has, I believe, at the present moment, no less than nine small sub-committees enquiring into different matters. That system undoubtedly has worked very well so far. You have had a man who has been Dictator. He has said—"I am put here to carry that system out, and I will carry it out. I am prepared to go through every experiment, to look at every invention, and to have it thoroughly investigated. I will appoint sub-committees of competent men, who shall examine into all these different things." He has had an Explosive Committee, a Great Gun Committee, and numerous other Committees. But, Sir, whilst that has answered very well, I doubt very much indeed whether it is a permanent institution. I doubt whether what we have seen lately is not the first beginning of an agitation in which we shall soon find ourselves involved. We shall have inventors coming to the door of this House and to the public Press maintaining that our system is wrong. We have seen at this door inventors complaining daily, and asking Members of the House to go up to their own houses to look at inventions which they say have been refused a fair trial. I do not think that is a satisfactory state of things. Then, again, I would ask, is it fair to the heads of your manufacturing departments that they should be divided into these small sub-committees, and asked to devote their time to other matters than their own duty; to spend a great number of hours in investigating questions, no doubt of great importance, but questions far apart from their manufacturing business, and questions which ought not to come immediately under their cognizance? I know, of course, that these gentlemen do their duty, but many of them must do it grudgingly. They know that this is hardly their duty, and you cannot get that full amount of investigation and care which you would get if you had a Council or Select Committee whose sole duty it was to go thoroughly into each of these matters. Sir, as I have already said, I do not wish in any way to make the slightest reflection upon Sir John Adye. I know he has done everything he possibly could do, and has carried out the experimental branch as far as practicable. I would suggest that if you have a Select Committee you should appoint two civilians. I have been told by gentlemen in manufacturing districts—"Oh! these inventors receive no fair play. Tour officers were all prejudiced. What you want is some mechanical engineer to inquire into the matter." I have endeavoured to explain the absurdity of this, but I have said at the same time, "there cannot be any objection to having one or two mechanical engineers of the highest standing on such a Committee." If you appoint two engineers of great standing, far above any petty clique, or any petty prejudice for or against any one inventor or other, I am quite sure you will be doing not only great good to the officers of the Committee, but what would be only just and fair to the inventors and country at large. It may be said that you would not be able to get these engineers; but I cannot help thinking that if you paid them tolerably well you would get them. Of course, you must pay them. A Select Committee must be well paid, but it will be comparatively a very small amount. We talk of the expense of an Ordnance Select Committee when they are investigating cases costing thousands of pounds. If you fire a 38-ton gun only once the charge is £10; and that is only a small case. You can waste thousands of pounds in a very short time, and unless you have thoroughly competent men to deal with these experiments you will waste a great deal more with unsatisfactory results. The principal reason for asking for this Committee is this:—you have spent £200,000 in experiments, and £4,000,000 or nearly so in arming yourselves. It is quite possible that if you are not careful, you may find yourselves suddenly obliged to undertake some great alteration. You may, whether you like it or not, have changes thrust upon you; and you may be in that unfortunate position which I remember we were placed in a few years ago, when we were told by hon. Gentlemen in this House—" Oh! America is the country that you ought to get your guns from. They have gone through a great war; they have seen what guns are fit to do; and they are far better judges than we are." It is well known how that resulted. We unfortunately spent a good deal of money in proving and trying a 15-inch gun, and the result was nil. Since that we have had a very interesting Report issued, and in which the Committee of the Senate and Congress of the United States tell you what they consider had been the result of their own ordnance. I only mention this because it shows what had been done in a case of panic, and what may occur again unless you have some judicial tribunal before whom these matters may be placed. In that Report to Congress, dated February 15, 1869, they say that— Each system of guns introduced into our service … has failed when submitted to the real test of service; that 'experience had shown them to he inferior in range and penetration to the guns of foreign Powers, and unreliable as to endurance. "That the Rodman system of gun-making, while partially successful in smooth-bores and small calibres, has so far failed in rifles of large calibre as to show it to be unworthy of further confidence. Recent improvements in defensive works and armour-plating render heavy rifled guns the most efficient means of attack, and no system of fabrication which does not furnish such guns should be adopted or continued.' That 'the present system 'of procuring ordnance' has failed to answer the purpose for which it was designed, and the United States is in the position to-day of a nation having a vast coast-line to defend and a large Navy without a single rifled gun of large calibre, and a corps of ordnance officers who have thus far failed to discover a remedy for the failure of the guns, or to master the rudiments of the science in which they have been trained at the public expense. "In the operations upon Morris Island,' says the Report, '22 large guns was the greatest number mounted at one time, yet 50 in all burst during the siege, as is shown by the evidence of General Gillmore. In the attack on Fort Fisher all the Parrott guns in the Fleet burst, according to the report of Admiral Porter. By the bursting of five of these guns at the first bombardment, 45 persons were killed and wounded, while only 11 were killed and wounded by the projectiles from the enemy's guns during the attack,' I think that is very important as showing how entirely fallacious some of the arguments are—of a pessimist character, which we often hear against our system. I have looked through Hansard and found speech after speech praising these American guns, and I think only one Gentleman, the hon. Member for Heading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), expressed grave doubts on the subject and said he believed that we were right, and the Americans wrong. But notwithstanding his speech, the Government of the day were forced into expenditure to get a certain number of these guns, and trials of them were made. If this Committee is appointed, in order to overcome the difficulty of heads of Departments being permanently attached to the Committee, and so being to a certain extent rivals of some inventors, and at the same time in order to enable you to have the great benefit which must be derived from having the opinions of officers of so much authority and so much practical knowledge of the different subjects before you, I would suggest that you should attach to the Committee your different heads of Departments, but that they should not be permanent officers of the Committee, but ex officio members without a vote. I think if you did that you would avoid any difficulty. Now, let us see how far I was right in saying that I believe we have as good a gun as there is to be found on the Continent. I do not, as I said before, move for an Ordnance Council, because I think our guns are bad, and that therefore there must be a Committee of Inquiry; but I do so because I believe our guns to be on a very proper system, and I think we ought to have a Select Committee in order to maintain and expand that position. We have been told—"You must be wrong. Look abroad. Every foreign country has a different system from yours. Every foreign country has adopted steel guns. Every foreign country, or nearly all the principal ones, have adopted the Krupp guns." Well, Sir, I have gone into this matter, and I believe I am right in saying that in Italy they have got our guns; they have them in Spain, in Holland, in Denmark, in Norway, in Portugal, in Egypt, in the Turkish Navy, in Chili, and in Peru they have them. Of course, I shall be told—" Oh, but you have left out the four great countries, Germany. Russia, France, and Austria." That is quite right. No doubt, those four countries have adopted a different system from ours. But first of all, I believe I am right in saying that Prance does not agree with the other three any more than with us, and, as for field artillery, has at present come to no determination. At any rate, whilst many of her officers would like muzzle-loaders, she knows that there is such a strong feeling in favour of what is called the successful gun on the Continent, that she must keep a breech-loading gun. Austria at the present moment is in a most awkward position. They cannot come to any conclusion whatever, and do not know whether to adopt the Krupp, or some other gun. In Germany, undoubtedly, you have got the Krupp gun, but you must remember that in Germany you have no other manufacturer as against Krupp. Essen is the great national establishment. It has been the aim and ambition of Germany for many years to make a great national arsenal. They have fostered it, and have done their utmost to make Krupp the great national gun factory; but, although during the late wars they had considerable experience of field guns, they have as yet had no experience in heavy guns. But the Krupp has the name of being the successful gun on the Continent. Germany is fostering it, and undoubtedly they have produced some very good guns. What is our construction? Our construction, as is well known, is obtained from Sir William Armstrong. His plan has been adopted and carried out, of bars of wrought iron laid one on the other and welded together, so that all the parts bear an equal strain. That system has been modified by alterations from Fraser, from Sir William Palliser, from the French system, and from other sources. The merit of our construction—the construction of our present Woolwich gun—is that it gives us what we may look upon as a leathery gun. It is a gun which is a safe gun. It is different from the steel gun in so far as it never bursts explosively, and long before it can burst you are made aware by a slight crack that something is wrong. But no gun we have had in service has burst. In Germany, however, we have records of many of these steel guns bursting. You know that steel guns have burst continually, and that havoc and consternation has been spread around wherever that happened. I think we ought to lay very great stress upon the advantage of having a safe gun. I have read just now a quotation from a report to Congress mentioning the large number of guns which burst during the American Civil War. Sir, I do not think anybody connected with the Navy or with fortifications would dream of putting any gun into a ship or fort if they had the slightest idea that it would burst. I cannot imagine anything more dreadful or more fatal to steadiness than a captain of a gun feeling he had a machine to work, in which he had not complete confidence. For although 99, as Lord Cardwell said the other day, out of 100 were sound, yet if the hundredth burst it would be a blot on the whole system. On board ship, if a gun burst not only would it do an immense deal of harm on board that particular ship, but the alarm would spread like wild-fire through the Fleet; and I am sure that the Admiralty responsible for the construction of such a gun would rue the day. But I shall be told, of course—" Oh, but steel is yet in its infancy, and in due time these guns will take a place in our armaments." I do not doubt that steel is in its infancy. No one can doubt that steel is gradually assuming large proportions. We are gradually using steel for boilers; by-and-by we shall doubtless have steel armour-plates, steel plates for ships; and steel will take a large position in shipbuilding operations. That may be true, but at the present moment steel has not arrived at that stage. It is true that Sir Joseph Whitworth states that his compressed steel is beyond all doubt the metal of which you ought to make your guns. But I am told—and I think I had it from Sir Joseph Whitworth himself—that he is not yet prepared to make large guns of that metal. I say that with diffidence, because I am not quite certain; but of this I am confident, that up to this moment no heavy gun like our heavy ordnance has been made of compressed steel, which has been thoroughly proved and tested. I do not for one moment wish to cast the slightest imputation or doubt upon Sir Joseph Whitworth. He is a great mechanic, and what he says he will do, I have no doubt he will eventually carry out. Still, for a number of years we have heard a great deal of compressed steel and of yellow and homogeneous metal, without ever hearing of its obtaining a market value. Are there any guns of steel which you could be perfectly certain would not burst when they are made? Krupp guns undoubtedly are of steel; but Krupp has lately been obliged to strengthen even his smallest guns with steel hoops, and Krupp has never allowed his guns to be proved in the same way that ours have been proved. We prove our guns as we do our boilers—with a large surplus charge; but having made great inquiries I find that on the Continent practically they are not proved at all. In the Mediterranean Fleet I made inquiry, and I have been unable to find any single officer who had ever seen German guns fired at a target. I understand that in Russia they actually will not allow these large guns to be proved. They have now obtained from this country two testing machines that test guns by hydraulic power up to seven or eight tons to the square inch; but it is well known that we prove our guns up to 30 tons, and sometimes even up to 60 tons. I think this will show that however much Krupp may have succeeded in making his guns sound, he has not succeeded in making them sufficiently sound to give entire confidence either to himself or the Germans; and certainly in Russia, where they make a similar gun, they have not shown the same confidence that they would have clone if they had proved them in the same manner that we do. And now, Sir, I shall be told—"That may be all very well. You may have a very safe gun; you may have a gun which has never been known to burst on service; but you ought to adopt the breech-loader. Why adopt the muzzle-loader? The muzzle-loader is, of necessity, a very slow means of firing; and you want a rapid fire. You want guns that you can load quickly, and which will be under cover." I find that on the question of rapid firing popular opinion is in favour of a breech-loading gun. I am told that the great aim of the breech-loader is to enable you to have rapidity of fire. In discussing this question I have alluded solely to heavy guns. We must remember that we have not got here a small breech-piece, that we can screw in and out from time to time. You have an enormous block of metal that you have to take out and put back. It is all very well talking of a 7 or even 9-inch gun, but when you come to a 35-ton gun with a breech-piece weighing one ton, you will have great difficulty in getting that in and out. And when you come to a heavier gun—an 80-ton gun—you find that your breech-piece weighs no less than three tons. As regards rapidity of fire, I find that in Germany it is considered sufficient that you should be able to fire a large gun once in three minutes. I do not say there is any great necessity for firing more quickly, but I mean that three minutes is considered by the Germans to be the very quickest rate at which you could possibly fire your breech-loading gun. I have made inquiries as to what our muzzle-loading guns are able to do, and although I have no desire to trouble the House with many quotations, I hope I may be allowed to make this. I find that on board the Resistance an 8-inch gun, with the ship rolling during this time through an are of 25 degrees, 10 to 11 times a minute, fired 8 rounds in 8 minutes and 14 seconds. I find in the Minotaur, that a 9-inch and a 12-ton gun each fired 8 rounds in 8 minutes and 26 seconds. These, then, are your muzzle-loaders which are said to have no rapidity of fire. They hit the target each time. In the Iron Duke, a 9-inch gun fired 8 rounds in 5 minutes and 23 seconds, and also hit the target each time. I find that the Devastation, which is a turret ship with the largest guns at present afloat—35-ton guns—and is now in the Mediterranean, actually fired with these enormous guns 8 rounds in 14 minutes and 48 seconds, steaming round the target and rolling slightly—good shooting. Such rapidity of fire is really enormous. On land we have had an experiment with a 35-ton gun in a case-mate where, although they were crowded so closely, it 'fired at 2,000 yards, 3 rounds in 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Of course, being in a very limited space, it was not so quick as those on board ship. I think that will show that at any rate with regard to rapidity of fire our muzzle-loaders are far superior to the breech-loaders; and I have it on the very best authority that some of our greatest artillerists think that one reason for deprecating breech-loaders is, that instead of giving rapidity of fire, they very much impede your firing. Well, I am told that with breech-loaders there is a great saving of labour, because as the breech mechanism is so simple you are able to load with fewer people. But that is simply not the case. There is one thing which I ought not to lose sight of on the other side of the question. We have lately been experimenting with an invention which has been made by Mr. Rendel, one of the partners in the Armstrong firm, who has applied hydraulic power to loading and working guns in a manner that seems likely to revolutionize gunnery. That has certainly altered the argument very much against breech-loading. I have, thanks to the kindness of the First Lord of the Admiralty, seen this system myself of working guns on board ship, not only in harbour, but at sea firing. I have seen on board the Thunderer a 38-ton gun fired in a turret and worked for some little time, and I think everybody was perfectly satisfied. By the system of hydraulic loading you obtain an enormous saving of labour; for instead of having 20 men, six men are quite sufficient; and instead of having your power crowded in a small turret, you are able to take your motive power down to the main deck; a small pipe will convey, round any intricate turnings, water for the loading apparatus. Of course, here again we are told that this mechanism is complicated and that we had better have the breech-loader, because this hydraulic system will never answer. But this hydraulic system is not complicated and is very simple. I may be—" You will have it shot away, and then where will you be?" My answer is, that you have two, one on each side, and that there is no more danger than of the turret turn-table being shot away. It has this very great advantage. You are able to have as long a gun in your turret as you like, for you load from the outside, and there is no necessity therefore for leaving any special amount of space in your turret; and I am informed—though I will not vouch for it—that you are able to have a longer muzzle-loader than a breech-loader. Of course, it will be said that for a breech-loader you might have hydraulic loading also; but the thing here is that you have actually now got the simple muzzle-loader, which you are able to work so easily with this beautiful machinery. The House will hardly believe that with this hydraulic loading a gun mounted exactly in the same way as these heavy guns in the Thunderer, has been loaded and worked in 29 seconds. I do not mean to say that it was actually fired, but it was for all practical purposes; and I am told on the authority of the officers who worked the guns that they have no hesitation in saying that with hydraulic loading this could be carried out on board the Thunderer in 45 seconds. If you arrive at that, or anything like that, I am certain the House will agree that nothing more is required. An objection is taken that on board the Thunderer we had great depression, which it is said will, with a premature bursting of the cartridge, send the shot through the bottom of the vessel. That is the absurd notion which has appeared in some papers; but it is not well founded. I know that in "another place "a statement was made that the gun was depressed 50 degrees, but it was only depressed 11 degrees; and if a charge were to go off, the shot would go clear of the water line. And that was only an experimental ease. The Thunderer was made first, and the hydraulic system was fitted to it. The Inflexible, which you are now building, will only have a depression of three degrees, if not less; and, therefore, when you build a ship for your gun, there is no difficulty whatever. When you fit your gun to your ship there is, of course, more difficulty. One great advantage of this system is that you are able gradually to diminish your armour. In the Inflexible you are making the turrets with 18 inches of armour plate, whereas the armour plate at the water line is 24 inches. There is one point in this system of breech-loading which I know an hon. Friend of mine is very fond of urging, and that is the importance of cover. He says that, with a muzzle-loader, your men will be shot away, because you have no cover; but in a turret, with the hydraulic system, there can be no danger of that. But one or two men are in the turret, which is turned away from the point where you receive fire, and they are perfectly safe. The rest are all on the maindeck below, from which the loading is effected. But it is argued that, with broadside guns, the men loading them must be shot away. Surely the answer to that is simply that you have to run your gun in and lower your ports, and then your men will not be shot away. We have been told that a great number of men were killed at Lissa owing to this wretched system. I have made inquiries, and have not been able to hear of any men wounded with rifle balls in that engagement. With siege guns, too, you may be perfectly under cover by adopting the system of firing over a high parapet with the Moncrieff, or similar plan. I will not trouble the House much longer; but there is one point on which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Devonport will have something to say. That is the question of windage. No doubt, in a muzzle-loader, you have a considerable amount of windage, while in a breech-loader it is entirely prevented. The result is that in a muzzle-loader you have a certain amount of gas erosion; and according to the theory of the officers who adopt that view, your gun is very much deteriorated. But, Sir, what are the facts according to the experiments which have been made? Within the last year they have discovered a system of gas check which closes the windage and stops erosion, and increases the initial velocity by 30 feet; and you have also got a vent plug, which prevents the gas rushing out through the vent, and gives 6 feet additional initial velocity, so that you get over that difficulty. Experiments with both these inventions are now being carried out. I know my hon. and gallant Friend will be able to say a great deal in regard to erosion, and a great deal as to the question of rifling, and as to whether you ought to have a uniform twist instead of one accelerated twist, and so on; but I think these are mere matters of detail, which ought to be left for the inquiry of a Scientific Committee. With regard to the power of endurance, Returns issued this morning show that the question of endurance has assumed a more satisfactory aspect than I had any idea of. It will be seen from those Returns, giving particulars of all heavy armour-piercing guns, from your 7-inch 6½-ton gun to your 35-ton gun, that no less than 592 of those guns have fired over 100 rounds. As to the 7-inch gun, 367 of these have fired over 100 rounds, and five have fired over 1,000 rounds, and one has fired 2,342 rounds. One of these has been provisionally condemned, and one required new tubing after firing 1,770 rounds. Of the 8-inch 9-ton guns, although not largely employed, 89 have fired over 100 rounds each, and up to 753 rounds and 1,918 rounds, and none have been found unserviceable. The 9-inch 12½-ton gun will pierce every Russian ship except Peter the Great and the Kreutzer at 200 yards; while at 600 yards she will pierce every French, German, and Italian ship, every Dutch ship except the Buffel, and every Norwegian ship except three. Of these, 97 guns have fired over 100 rounds; 23 over 400; 5 over 1,000; and 12 have averaged 818 rounds. And now I come to the 10-inch 18-ton gun. I find that this gun will pierce at 500 yards every foreign ship afloat except Peter the Great and the Kreutzer, and that it will also pierce our own Hercules. Of this gun 14 have fired over 100 rounds; 1 gun has fired 693 rounds; and 1 has fired 889 rounds. Two of them required re-tubing after 534 rounds and 425 rounds respectively. We will, no doubt, hear a great deal about re-tubing from my hon. and gallant Friend; but he will find that only this very limited number required re-tubing. It was stated that an enormous number of the guns required re-tubing; and a statement appeared in the papers that a large number of the guns of the Hercules were hors de combat, and must be re-tubed. It turned out, however, that the gentle man who had made the statement, and delivered a most interesting lecture, had seen the broad arrow in the Return, and that he had mistaken the meaning of "serviceable," and had thus been led to an entirely wrong conclusion. A number of people that heard the statement made came away with the opinion that a large number of our guns would have to be re-tubed. I find that we have eight 25-ton guns in use which have fired from 100 to 485 rounds each. With regard to the 35-ton gun. Only six of these have been fired over 100 rounds, one over 207 rounds. The 38-ton gun has been fired 247 rounds. The general result is that 592 heavy armour guns have fired 20 per cent more shotted rounds than their full complement. In reference to the comparison of the power of penetration, I will not trouble the House at length; but if you take the German gun and the English gun—if you take the 28-centimetre gun and the 11-inch English gun, with a 10-inch iron target, the German gun would pierce it at 1,400 yards, while our 11-inch gun would pierce the same target at 1,600 yards. It must be borne in mind that our gun is two tons lighter, and that it has an immense amount of windage. The Return shows that, so far as experiments have gone, we have strong and powerful guns. I do not know that I need trouble the House with anything else except the question of cost. I have said that our guns are safe, simple, and powerful—that they are as good as can be got on the Continent; and I think, also, we shall be able to conclude that they are economical. I said at first that while it is necessary to have our armaments thoroughly efficient it is necessary to secure that efficiency, even without regard to the question of cost, and that we must have the best guns irrespective of expense. I find, however, in going into the question of cost, that our guns made at Woolwich are considerably cheaper than those made in Germany. Taking the 12-inch 35-ton gun, its cost at Woolwich is £2,156; the same gun at Krupp's establishment in Germany would cost £7,400. The 11-inch 25-ton gun costs at Woolwich £1,589; in Germany it costs £5,520. The 9-inch 12-ton gun costs at Woolwich £1,000, in Germany it costs £3,120. The result is that if we had armed with breech-loader German guns, and if they had supplied our guns instead of our making them ourselves, our armament, instead of costing £4,000,000 would have cost considerably over £7,000,000. I have now to thank the House for the kind manner in which they have heard me. I have endeavoured to show, as far as I could, that our guns are thoroughly satisfactory; but I by no means think that we would be justified in reducing our experiments or continuing satisfied with the present state of things. I think we ought to carry them on more rigidly than ever, and to look carefully into all questions affecting our armaments; and if the Ordnance Council which I propose, think that the system of breech-loading should be gone into, there could be no objection to have a gun of that class made at Woolwich, one by Sir William Armstrong, and others by other English manufacturers. We can obtain breech-loading guns without going to the Continent, and it is a long time since any system of breech-loading was tried in England. I am quite sure that if we had an Ordnance Committee acting in a judicial capacity, we should have no difficulty in getting the breech-loading system thoroughly tried. I hope the House will agree to the re-appointment of this Ordnance Committee. I am certain that it would be an immense boon to the Government. I am quite certain it would be a saving of expense—that it would be far better to have such a tribunal to hear the complaints of inventors, and that in all respects it would be more satisfactory than the present state of things. I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable the Government should reappoint the Ordnance Select Committee."—(Mr. Hanbury Tracy.)


, in rising to move, as an Amendment— That, in the opinion of this House, the condition of our heavy ordnance is such as to demand the serious consideration of the Government; and that a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the best means of supplying the Navy with guns of a more reliable and efficient nature, said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend that in regard to the question of endurance the conditions between light and heavy guns were entirely different; and there was also a great difference in the conditions required in the naval and in the land service guns respectively. If they compared the endurance of such breech-loading guns as they now heard of on the Continent and that of the muzzle-loading guns which were at present issued to our service, the comparison was much in favour of the former. As to the difference between the two systems in respect to the danger from rifle fire, that danger was easily guarded against on board ship. In dealing with the question of breech as compared with muzzle-loading, the hon. Member said that as regarded guns of moderate calibre, say of under 12 tons, whose projectiles could be lifted by human power, it really did not much matter which system of loading was adopted; but where the projectile was of such a weight that machinery had to be employed to raise it, all naval officers were unanimous in condemning the system of muzzle-loading for guns on board ship. The advocates of the breech-loading system were met by the objection that to change our system would entail an enormous expense, and would subject us to all the dangers arising out of a prolonged state of transition from one system to the other, while, at the same time, our guns were so good that there was no necessity for changing the system of loading. He joined issue at once with regard to the accuracy of those assertions. Some weeks ago the Surveyor General of the Ordnance had informed him that the authorities were so well satisfied with the present system that they intended to apply it to the larger guns that were now being manufactured. That satisfaction was not shared by artillerymen or men of science either in this country or abroad. The hon. Member then proceeded to quote the opinions of gentlemen of scientific eminence, who, he said, were unanimous in their condemnation of the Woolwich system of rifling guns. This country could not afford to despise the opinion and the example of foreign countries. It must not be forgotten that steam line-of-battle ships and armour plating were first adopted by the French, and that we had followed the example of the Prussians in adopting breech-loading small arms. Captain Simpson, of the United States Navy, who had been at the head of the American Commission appointed to inquire into the merits of the different systems of Artillery adopted in Europe, stated in his Report that our Woolwich guns were safe, but were short-lived. In 1866 the Ordnance Select Committee carried out a series of exhaustive experiments in order to ascertain the respective merits of the Woolwich, the Scott, the Lancaster, and of another gun. The Report of the Committee on Rifled Guns stated that the Woolwich guns, or guns rifled on the French system, had a lower velocity than the Lancaster or Scott gun—the difference between 1,600 feet per second as compared with 1,529 feet per second—the real difference in penetrating power being as the weight of the shot multiplied into the square of the velocity, which would make the difference very great indeed. With respect to accuracy, the experiments were slightly in favour of the Woolwich gun. With respect to naval guns, their best quality was not extent of range. According to Admiral Cooper Key, the best quality of a naval gun was endurance, the next was penetrating power, the next ability to use a powerful shell, the next simplicity; then followed accuracy of range under 1,500, and the last of all was extent of range. If that were so, there was a great difference between the gun required for the naval and for the land services. On the Committee of which he spoke of eight officers, but one was connected with the Navy; whether that officer agreed with his colleagues he had no means of knowing; but this he knew—that the Admiralty of the day rejected the system, and that since that time the 7-inch gun had been constructed on the uniform twist. The lifetime of the Woolwich gun had been variously stated in that House as being from 250 to 370 or 375 rounds. He would be glad to take it as at the highest figure, but could not do so, vas the Reports before the House showed that no experiment tried would warrant him in doing so. The facts he had adduced proved that we stood in a very dangerous position. Under the head of "endurance" they had "no test" or successive alterations of the gun. Endurance, however, meant the number of rounds a gun would fire without requiring repair, and what he feared was that our great ironclads would have to leave the seat of war, if war broke out, after firing 100 rounds of each of their guns, or, at all events, after a single naval engagement. Well, then, it might be asked, what would those guns do? They were told that they would penetrate so many inches of iron at a distance of so many hundred yards. So they would, but they would only do so when they struck the iron plate under certain conditions and angles, and when they struck point foremost. This was partly owing to their shape, their weak construction, and their extreme irregularity of flight. There was something to be taken into consideration in respect to the shape of the shot. In the museum of Sir Joseph Whitworth was a plate of iron perforated by two different kinds of shot—the one pointed and the other flat-headed. They were both fired from a gun of the same weight of metal and with the same charge of powder; but while the pointed shot failed to penetrate and glanced off except when it struck at an angle of 30 degrees, the flat-headed shot continued to penetrate at 50 degrees, and even as much as 65 degrees off the perpendicular. What would be the result, in the event of a vessel of the type of the Alexandra engaging a vessel like the Brazilian frigate recently built? The Alexandra would be armed with the Woolwich infant and would fire pointed shot, and the Brazilian frigate would fire flat-headed shot. Long before the Alexandra would be in a position in which her guns would be of any use she would be hulled through at every discharge of the Brazilian flat-headed projectiles. He might be asked what he thought was the cause of the defects he had pointed out in the endurance and penetrating power of our guns. Well, he would answer to that—and he had abundant evidence to prove it—that they were almost entirely due to the system of rifling which the Ordnance Select Committee adopted in 1866 and which gave the lowest initial velocity. This system was brought over from France and the Admiralty objected to it. The want of endurance and penetrating power of our guns was also owing in a great degree to the nature of the shot. It was proved that the great danger to a gun arose not from erosion, but from the local scoring that turned to cracking of the tube. The studs upon the shot hit the tube a violent blow, and the shot being started with great velocity was then by the system of rifling required to make a sudden turn. Hon. Members might advantageously consult on this subject the Reports made by Colonel Smythe of the Royal Artillery of the experiments made in India in 1872, when two guns burst. There was also great irregularity in the powder-pressure, and the shot was consequently irregular in its flight after leaving the gun. The damage done to the inside of the gun by the "wobbling" of the shot also caused irregularity in the flight of the shot. The House would remember the experiments with the Hotspur, when she fired her 35-ton gun at a painted mark in the centre of the turret of the Glatton. The distance was 200 yards and the sea was smooth, but the third shot missed, owing to the spiral direction attained by the shot after leaving the bore of the gun. The shot went straight enough for long distances. The corkscrew then straightened itself and the shot went straight to the mark. But it was no part of the duty of our officers to get a good way off an enemy, and we wanted a gun which would be equally effective at short and long distances. He would be told that we were making great improvements. We had been making improvements for the last 12 years, but what had been the result. The experiments had resulted in the gun which he had attempted to describe. The hon. Member moved for the re-appoint- ment of the Ordnance Select Committee; but the great defects in our system would not be cured in this way. It was not to them the House could look for a remedy, for it was to them that these defects were due. What we required was a perfectly unbiassed Committee, and he hoped that in future it would have upon it a greater number of naval officers; for hitherto, of the 15 or 16 members of the Committee, only one or two had been naval officers, and yet, if the guns came to be fired in earnest, the chances were that in 99 cases out of 100 it was naval officers who would have to work them. He would have a Committee of both Houses; they should decide what experiments should be made and what expenses should be allowed; and then a Board might be appointed to carry out the experiments. If it were decided that we could get as much as we wanted out of the muzzle-loader with improved mechanism, no great expense need be incurred, and the guns might be rifled on a mechanical plan. He hoped that never again would there be presented to Parliament a Report showing that our guns had not been practically tested with such charges as would be used in service.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the condition of our heavy ordnance is such as to demand the serious consideration of the Government; and that a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the best means of supplying the Navy with guns of a more reliable and efficient nature,"—(Captain Price,)

—instead thereof.

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


said, the House could not discuss any question of more enduring importance. It had been his lot to have much to do with our system of ordnance, and to see many of its shortcomings, and he certainly had never expected to hear a naval officer move a Resolution in favour of our present guns. He was amazed alike at the introduction of our present system and at the continuance of it. The wonder was that human ingenuity had been able to overcome a system so false even to a tolerable extent. Whether they regarded the gun or the projectile from a mechanical point of view, they seemed to be wrong in al- most every respect; and it was no wonder that so many shells had been found to burst. The origin of all the difficulty had been touched upon, and it was that the Ordnance Select Committee, instead of being a body of reference and of a judicial character, had turned itself into a body of schemers and partizans, and at one time the War Office went so far as to have a committee of inventors. Amid the diversity of opinions which existed on this question, it was very desirable to seek for some sound leading principles. In the first place, with regard to the constitution of the Committee which was to advise the Government, there were three things perfectly obvious. The guns had to be manufactured under the War Department, and therefore it was most natural that the officers of that Department should have something to say on the subject. Again, naval officers alone had experience at sea of the guns to be used, and of the defects which might be found in them, and, therefore, any advising body should have naval officers upon it. In the third place, as the construction of guns was a mechanical operation, persons skilled in mechanical operations should be also on the Committee. But then the last thing we ought to do was to substitute any Committee for the responsible Minister. One of the most serious disadvantages which the country had laboured under was that we had had so many subordinate bodies and Committees which had done so much, and that we had not been able to get the responsible Minister himself to devote time and attention to the subject. He hoped the present Secretary of State for War would find an opportunity of giving his personal attention to this question. Then, our guns should be made of the best material, and he would remark that it was high time that those references to iron and steel which were of such frequent occurrence in our debates should be dropped out. It was well known that there were materials of various grades and qualities, which it would puzzle people to define as iron or steel, but which, possessing the best qualities of both, might be used for the purpose. The Government were at this moment doing a most valuable work in building ships of what was called steel, but what was really a material between iron and steel, with the superior and none of the inferior qualities of each. He would say no more about such a material than this—that it was known to the world to possess more thoroughly than any other the qualities which would be required for the construction of a gun; and when he was under official responsibility he took some pains to bring that material to the knowledge of the Government. He would now come to the projectile, and would speak of one point which would condemn utterly the existing system of ordnance. A long shot when fired with the very same charge of powder as a short shot produced a penetrative effect vastly in excess of an ordinary short shot. But our system of rifling debarred us from using long shot. If the Government had adopted some years ago that other system of rifling which would be in the minds of those who had studied the question they might have enormously increased the power of our ships. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) had frankly admitted that any change in ordnance which would have to apply to the whole armament of the Navy would necessarily entail enormous expense; but he (Mr. Reed) maintained it was not a question of expense at all when you were dealing with a new ship. Take, for instance, the Inflexible. Why should we not adopt with regard to the very exceptional ordnance of that ship a system which would give us a penetrative and destructive power which would be vastly in excess of what could be obtained by adhering to the old system? He did not know how it happened that when men got into a responsible position they failed to see the force of commonplace arguments that seemed to him to strike every mind that gave attention to them. This question was one of great importance now, when other Powers, even secondary Powers, were adopting guns which would give them a very superior advantage indeed. Unless we altered our present course, we should find ourselves in this position—that Brazil sent into European waters guns pretty nearly double the power of our own guns of equal weight and size. He remembered that when a Minister was once proposing the Navy Estimates he spoke of providing a 12½-ton gun, but he spoke of the 6½-ton gun as more eligible, because it could be worked more satisfactorily; but recent experience had shown that the largest guns in the service were those which were now most easily worked. The guns, in fact, of the Hercules and her sister ships, which were the largest of all, were so; and so it would be, he could not help thinking, with breech-loading guns, the question in reference to which ought not to be treated as if they could derive no advantage from mechanical power. If breech-loading guns were to be kept out of the service, it would arise from some more substantial cause than that. For his part, believing as he did that the gun ought to be loaded at the breech and not at the muzzle, he hoped that breech-loaders would not be long kept out of the service. The great question was to know how they were to get the improvements which the country contained and comprised into the minds and proposals of the Government. That was the difficulty, and with a view to remove it he was anxious that there should be interposed between the Government and their ordinary advisers a Parliamentary Committee, who should make a thorough and independent inquiry into the subject, and he therefore supported the Amendment before the House. With the facts so obtained before him the Minister could then act on his own responsibility. Her Majesty's Government would, he believed, reflect honour on their administration by yielding to the solicitations addressed to them that evening from both sides of the House.


thought that changes should not be introduced in a hurry. The important propositions laid down by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Peed) were equally applicable to the subject whether the breech-loading or the muzzle-loading system was adopted for our guns. The desirability of using the one system or the other depended upon the description of gun that was used. In the case of the field-gun the question of cover was not of the same importance as in that of the heavier guns. A gun in the open could be served as well from the muzzle as from the breech, but the reverse of that was the case with respect to heavy guns. The Government had been wise, he thought, in the course they adopted in taking advantage of the simplicity offered by the muzzle-loading gun and in pinning their faith to that system for field guns; but the circumstances became changed when they considered the question of heavy guns. As they increased the size of their guns they increased the strain upon them, and must therefore seek to increase their strength. Beyond a certain point they could not do this, and had therefore been driven to use a milder description of powder, which drove them to the use of a longer barrel for the gun. He maintained that the gun at Woolwich which had attracted so much attention would not be the only one of its type. Could this be done without some system of breech-loading? Considering the question with reference to fortifications, unfortunately our fortifications were already built, and we had begun to put our guns in them; but we could barely get in our largest guns, and at this moment a Committee was sitting at Shoeburyness to consider the best means of loading them after they had been got into the fortifications. He feared they would have to diminish the speed of the projectiles, or to increase the size of the casements, or to take some system of breech-loading. They should seek to get a good system of breech-loading. He agreed with the hon. Member for Pembroke that it would be very satisfactory if the Secretary of State for War turned his personal attention to these questions; but with all his ability he could scarcely be expected to grapple with them without some professional assistance. He could not support the re-appointment of the Ordnance Select Committee, which to his mind partook too much of an experimental character. He should regret that the re-appointment of the Ordnance Select Committee upon a side issue should revive it in a permanent form, believing as he did that, though it had done good service in its time, it was better for the Service that it should be dead and gone. He was more inclined to the appointment of a Select Committee to consider the question of breech-loaders as against muzzle-loaders; and he should prefer that their attention should be directed to guns both for land and sea service. But it was a most difficult question to take up. He very much doubted whether any inquiry could ever really decide the matter, for it could not be decided on purely theoretical grounds. What he thought would be the best way out of the difficulty was to appeal to the great inventive power of the country by the Government offering a reward of sufficient amount to stimulate inventors to produce a breech-loading gun equal in penetrating power to our muzzle-loaders; for the reason why we had abolished breech-loading guns was because we could not get them to stand mechanically the strain they had to bear. If a Committee were appointed, no doubt a great amount of scientific information would be obtained; but he doubted if a satisfactory settlement of the question would thereby be attained.


remarked that the hon. Member who had just sat down had implied that the question of the cover to men who were loading given by the breech-loading system was of little importance as regarded field guns, and in this he could not agree. A perfectly dead flat for many hundred yards was most rare as a military feature in a field of action, the most trifling undulation or fold of ground would give a sufficient reverse slope to offer considerable protection to men and horses, and a commander of a battery would receive the censure of a general officer if he came into action where he had not such shelter. He therefore regretted that we had not breech-loaders for our field-service. With the present long range, the Artillery had a better chance of selecting their ground; it was generally possible for them to get some sort of cover for man and horse; and, in view of the importance of obtaining shelter, the breech-loader was as desirable in the field as it was in ships.


said, the broad question before the House was practically that of breech-loaders versus muzzle-loaders, and whether the responsibility of its decision should rest with the Government or with their professional advisers. He believed it should rest with the Government, which up to the present time had over-ruled its professional advisers. The Ordnance Select Committee were slightly adverse to breech-loaders for field artillery, and slightly inclined to them for heavy artillery, and in 1868 they sent a letter to the War Office recommending experiments with heavy guns; but the Government objected to go to the expense, and soon afterwards dissolved the Committee. The short endurance of our guns was an accident which it had been impossible to separate from our system, and the figures that were supposed to indicate the life of a gun were misleading, as the number of rounds recorded in these Returns were made up partly of so-called full charges, which were really less. The only charge which could be used in action was the battering charge—and it was not the full charges but the battering charges which affected the life of a gun. There were nominally full charges and reduced charges, but full charges were not used even in action, because they would require fresh machinery to check the recoil. He would certainly support the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain G. E. Price) if he went to a division; but the grand point to insist upon was that the Government was responsible, and nobody else, in that matter.


said, he thought the expression of opinion on that important question in that House was very much a reflex of the state of opinion out-of-doors—that was to say, there existed a very great diversity of view among those who were entitled to form a judgment on the subject as to the comparative merits of breech-loading and muzzle-loading guns. As was natural, therefore, the advice offered to the Government had been of very different kinds. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced the question (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) proposed the re-appointment of the Ordnance Select Committee. His hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Captain G. E. Price), on the other hand, was not satisfied with a Committee of experts, but wished the House to appoint a Committee of its own Members to consider that subject. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) appeared at the beginning of his speech to think that the Government ought to be responsible in the matter; but at the conclusion of his remarks he seemed inclined to send the question to a Select Committee upstairs. He accepted the view taken by the hon. Member for Pembroke in his opening remarks, that the Government ought to be responsible in the matter. He therefore could not agree to the re-appointment of the Ordnance Select Committee, which would to a certain extent be relieving the Government of responsibility; neither could he assent to relegate that subject to a Committee of that House. The hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) urged that the Ordnance Select Committee should be re-appointed, because when hon. Gentlemen were applied to by inventors they could then tell them to go to that Committee. But that was hardly a sufficient reason for re-appointing that body. The House had heard how that Committee, after a time, ceasing to perform judicial functions, had taken upon themselves to be more or less of an experimental Committee, and, like all those engaged in experiments and inventions, they became more or less partizans. They should therefore profit by the lessons of experience; and after the history which had been given of that Committee the House would hardly be willing to recommend its re-appointment. Then as to the suggestion that they should refer the matter to a Committee of that House, although Select Committees were very useful on many subjects, it would scarcely be advisable to refer a question so technical as the present to such a body. It would, moreover, hardly be becoming to throw upon a Committee functions which ought to be discharged by the Government itself. Therefore, he hoped the House would not assent to either the original Motion or the Amendment. The debate had chiefly turned upon naval guns. With regard to the question as to rifling the guns and preparing the projectiles for the grooves, it was a very technical one, and he did not feel at all competent to enlarge upon it. But these matters had been considered by experts who had been called upon to advise Government with reference to them, and from what he had read of their opinions it appeared that they opposed very strongly the views advocated by his hoc. and gallant Friend (Captain G. E. Price) behind him. Perhaps more generally interesting to the House was the question as to the respective merits of the breech-loading and the muzzle-loading guns. In regard to that subject it must be remarked that the case of the turret guns differed very much from that of the broadside guns. In connection with the former, allusion had been made to an invention which was now coming into practical use—the employment, namely, of hydraulic machinery in working the enlarged guns with which the turrets were provided. His hon. and gallant Friend (Captain G. E. Price) said that when experiments with that invention were made the other day on board the Hotspur, great defects were discovered. The information which had reached him (Mr. Hunt) was different. What had been said about the projectile not going home was, he believed, a mistake. It was a preliminary trial; a great deal of the machinery was not properly fixed, and consequently there were defects in the details of the arrangements; but they were of a kind which could be avoided in the future. He believed that those who witnessed the experiment were of opinion that it promised a great ultimate success. If that success should really be attained, he had no doubt it would put the muzzle-loading guns, as regarded rapidity of fire, pretty much on a par with the breech-loading guns. The hon. Member for Pembroke had asked why the hydraulic machinery could not be used for breech-loading guns as well as for muzzle-loading guns. No doubt, in the course of time, it would be made applicable to the breech-loaders; but as regarded the use of those guns in a turret, it was worth bearing in mind that there might be an objection on the ground of smoke which would come from them when the breech was removed. Even with a breech-loading fowling-piece hon. Members must have found, in certain conditions of the atmosphere, that it was sometimes difficult to get a second shot. That being so, it might be doubted whether the men in a turret would be able to breathe if breech-loading guns were used. As regarded the broadside guns, a superiority was attributed by many people to the breech-loaders on the ground of the rapidity of fire and the non-exposure of the men. As to the question of exposure, he could not see, after giving the best attention to it, that there was much difference. The real ground on which our gunnery authorities based their preference for the muzzle-loading guns was because of their greater strength and their greater simplicity, which would prevent their getting out of order in the heat of action, and so causing great loss of life through the breech not being properly closed. He admitted that, in the consideration of this question, there were pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, to be taken into account, and he was by no means prepared to put his foot down upon it, and say that on no future occasion should the subject be re-opened; but, as far as he was able to judge, it appeared to him that no case had been made out for the substitution of the breech-loading for the muzzle-loading gun. They knew, however, that they had got a comparatively cheap gun, which cost three-and-a-half times less than the Krupp guns in use in Germany, and in which their seamen gunners had the fullest confidence. The success of the Prussians in the late war had been attributed, in a great measure, to their artillery; but it must not be assumed that their superiority in that arm was the sole cause of their being victorious. From all that Her Majesty's Government had been able to ascertain, the Krupp guns had never been put to the severe test that our service guns had been. A statement had been made that a large number of the Krupp guns had become unserviceable during the late war, and it was said in the other House that no less than 200 of them had burst. That assertion had, however, been contradicted by the agent in this country of Herr Krupp in a letter which appeared in The Times, in which it was declared that only 17 of those guns had burst. Since that letter had been published, however, it had been maintained by many persons that, although the guns had not all burst, at least 200 of them had become unserviceable during the war. Under these circumstances, it was rather difficult to arrive at a conclusion on the subject. It was, however, an important fact that Herr Krupp had refused to sell Her Majesty's Government one of his guns—whether from fear of the severity of the test to which it would be put or not he could not say—and hon. Members would, therefore, hesitate in such a case to decide off-hand that his guns were preferable to ours. The House, however, might rest satisfied that Her Majesty's Government would keep their eyes open to all new inventions in artillery, and would give every attention to the subject.


observed, that before the Government adopted the breech-loading system instead of the present simple muzzle-loading system they must make up their minds to recommend to Parliament an expenditure of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


concluded by repeating that this increase of expenditure made the proposed change a matter for serious consideration.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


said, that the House was now enduring Morning Sittings as well as late Evening Sittings. If they were to have Morning Sittings regularly, there must be some limit to the Evening Sittings, yet the House had been far more than three hours committed to a discussion which ended in the withdrawal both of the Motion and Amendment. He moved that the House do now adjourn.

[The Amendment, not being seconded, was not proposed.]