§ MR. GOSCHEN
, on rising—To call attention to the loss of H.M.S. Vanguard and the proceedings taken subsequent thereto; and to move for a Copy of further Correspondence relating thereto.said, that a very few words would, he trusted, be enough to justify the course which he took. As he had said before, he should have preferred that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have himself delivered a statement upon the subject in the first instance, as it would, perhaps, have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman in that case to have given a clearer and more consecutive history of the transaction; but when asked to adopt that course, the right hon. Gentleman replied, in a tone of cheery pugnacity that he would give him (Mr. Goschen) an opportunity of taking the opinion of the House in the matter. But what it was desirable to know was, not the opinion of the House, not the opinion of outsiders—that had already been sufficiently expressed—but the views of the First Lord of the Admiralty himself with reference to the loss of the Vanguard and the many questions so vitally affecting the interests of the Navy which were involved in that disaster. All they knew so far of what the right hon. Gentleman had done, was contained in a Minute which scarcely covered a page. All they knew of what the right hon. Gentleman had thought upon the subject was derived from a gay and festive speech he had made at a civic feast, in which he spoke with enthusiasm of the ramming powers of the Iron Duke. It would not, however, do for the right hon. Gentleman to assume such an air of complacency, as if he had no story to tell unless he were challenged upon the 1027 point. It was not he (Mr. Goschen) who arraigned the right hon. Gentleman. He had been arraigned at the bar of public opinion, and he (Mr. Goschen) had brought forward his Motion in the interests of the Service and the interests of justice in order that the whole truth of the matter might be elicited. He might, indeed, have followed a different course. It would have been easy to frame a Motion for which everyone could have voted who on different grounds objected to the celebrated Minute. There had been few documents of so short a character to which more objections had been taken. He would state some of them historically rather than controversially. Some objected to the Minute because it superseded without reason assigned, and curtly enough, the decision of the Court-martial. Others objected to it, because it announced a complete and exhaustive inquiry, while it was believed that a complete inquiry had not been made. Others objected to it because it appeared lenient to the Admiral and captains and severe upon the lieutenants. Others objected to the Minute, because it did not seem to go to the root of the whole business, because, while the Court-martial had sat only upon the conduct of the officers of the Vanguard, the conduct of the officers of the Iron Duke had not yet been dealt with. It would have been easy enough to frame a Motion, and if he had submitted one—that in the opinion of the House the Admiralty Minute had failed to satisfy the exigencies of the case and was inadequate to the occasion, there would have been a very general feeling in favour of it, and as he was at present advised it would have received unanimous support out-of-doors. He said as at present advised, because he felt that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord had not yet been heard, and until he had heard him, he was unwilling to put a Notice on the Paper of what would have been a speculative attack; and hon. Members sitting on both sides of the House would not have been able to speak with that frankness and that impartiality which was so essential to the interest of the Naval Service, and he had therefore thought it best to simply call attention to the subject so as to have a frank and impartial discussion. They were there to hear the right hon. Gentleman now; and he hoped he had, in dealing with this matter, pursued a 1028 course which would commend itself to the House. How deeply the country had been stirred on this question was well known, but it was impossible to exaggerate the impression which this disaster had made on the Naval profession; and he knew that the words which would fall from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty and the mode in which the subject would be dealt with in that House would be watched with the deepest interest and personal anxiety by every member of the whole Naval Service. Let him state how the accident happened. The Vanguard belonged to what was called the Reserve Squadron, which was on its annual cruise, exercising the Coastguard men for a month at sea. At least that was the purpose; he should have to call attention to how that was fulfilled by-and-by. The fleet was under the command of Admiral Tarleton. It left Kingstown at 10.30 on the 1st of September. The Achilles parted company almost at once, and the remaining ships proceeded in single line, the Warrior—the flagship—being followed by the Hector; then came the Vanguard, commanded by Captain Dawkins, and the Iron Duke, commanded by Captain Hickley. The speed ordered by the Admiral was 33 revolutions, intended to give a speed of about seven knots. It was about a quarter past 12 when the Admiral gave orders to change the formation. The squadron was to be formed in columns of division in line ahead. To put it more popularly, the two sternmost ships were to take up positions parallel with the Warrior and Hector instead of following astern, and to effect this object the Vanguard and Iron Duke turned off at right angles from the other line. They proceeded four cables length—that was, 800 yards distance—and when they had reached that distance they had again to turn sharp round to the right and place themselves abreast of the Warrior and Hector. But the Warrior and Hector did not slacken speed, and as the Vanguard and Iron Duke, in order to get abreast the Warrior and Hector, had to perform a greater distance, the Vanguard and the Iron Duke dropped astern. The Admiral at the time was standing away. A little later, about 12.30, a fog descended upon the ships. At 12.26 a signal-gun had been fired by the Admiral, but it was not heard by the ships astern—in fact, 1029 the Admiral had lost control of the two ships. About the same time the captains of the two ships, the Vanguard and Iron Duke, left the deck, and the two ships were in charge of lieutenants. When the fog came on, the lieutenant of the Iron Duke, fearing to steer in the wake of the Vanguard, gave a sheer to port—that was, he moved a little out of line to the loft, in order, in this dense fog, not to be immediately behind the ship in front. The captain, coming on deck, said—"You have done wrong; you should have remained behind;" and he gave an order to turn back again to the right and get into position. Meanwhile, Captain Dawkins had also come on deck, and he, misconstruing the orders in the Signal Book, directed speed to be reduced, making such signals as occurred to him—but there was unfortunately some confusion on this point—to the ship behind. The ship behind did not answer the signals, and why? Steam had not been put on to the steam whistle on the Iron Duke. At this moment Captain Dawkins saw, or thought he saw, a ship in front of the Vanguard in the fog, and he ordered the engines to be stopped, and gave his ship a sheer to the left. At the same time the captain behind him was giving his ship a sheer to the right. The speed of the ship in front had been reduced, the speed of the ship behind had been increased, and the two ships came into collision almost at right angles, the Iron Duke striking the Vanguard a deadly blow. That was the case as simply as he could put it. He had said that the squadron were at sea for the purpose of exercising the Coastguard, in pursuance of a plan which was introduced in 1869 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) who had made changes in the organization of the Coastguard, eliminating the civilian element and creating a force of 4,000 picked men. It was arranged that, in order to keep them up to the mark in modern ships and modern guns, half of the Coastguard should be taken to sea every year for a cruise, and these men had been reported on by many Admirals, who declared that they formed the finest material for manning their ships. Captain Dawkins had stated in his evidence that upon that day he was short of his complement and had a young crew; but how about the Coastguard men? They 1030 had all been landed before the 1st of September, and the Vanguard was at sea with her depôt crew alone. She was undermanned, because she had been retained on the cruise after the object for which she had been placed on it—the training of the Coastguard men—had been attained. The ships, he might add, on board which the Coastguard were embarked for sea were iron-clads, and there were various reasons why that class of ship was employed in that service. Those iron-clads were stationed round the coast as administrative centres, and, being stationary for a great part of the year, they had small crews, because it was deemed undesirable to look up in stationary ships a larger number of men than was absolutely necessary. For the same reason no midshipman and no sublieutenants were on board them, and the work which should be done by those officers was done by warrant officers of experience. The ships, besides being administrative centres, took crews of Coastguard men to sea for a month or five weeks, and lastly, while they constituted a very powerful Reserve of iron-clads, available at a moment's notice for going into action, if required, by simply increasing their crews. They were, in short, most valuable ships, forming, as they did, a sort of Reserve Channel Squadron. He hoped the House would forgive him for so long a digression, but he thought he was in reality lightening the task of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty by entering into those particulars. He next came to the question how it was that Admiral Tarleton was in command of the Squadron. When his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract acceded to office the Coastguard Reserve was a separate establishment, and formed a small Board of Admiralty, with a Controller and 17 clerks, which carried on an elaborate correspondence across the street with the office at Whitehall, the post of Controller being held by Admiral Tarleton. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract abolished that office and 17 clerks, and took the management of the Coastguard Reserves into the Admiralty and put it under a Naval Lord, arranging for their inspection by placing them under the Admirals at Sheerness, Portsmouth, and Devonport, so that they should be under active naval inspection. The present Government had, however, reversed that plan, and they had re- 1031 stored in a different form and on somewhat different conditions the Controller-ship of the Coastguard, and the officer now occupying that position was called Admiral Superintendent of the Naval Reserves. The result had been, that choice was made for the position of an officer of administrative ablity for administrative purposes. But, owing to that arrangement, they so hampered themselves that the officer so selected also became the officer who had to take command of these iron-clads on their cruise. In 1869 his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract had sent to sea Admiral Sir Cooper Key, an experienced officer, and in 1870 Captain Willes, in command of an Admiralty cruise similar to that in which last year the Vanguard was lost. Captain Willes had an appointment under the Admiralty, but not one of so important a character as that of Controller of the Coastguard. The first year he himself was at the head of the Admiralty Captain Willes again took command of the Squadron; but in 1872 he had occasion to reflect who should have the command, and he would tell the House frankly he had a feeling, which might now be almost called a presentiment, that there were weighty objections to placing in command of an active Squadron a Colleague of the Lords of the Admiralty. The disadvantages of the adoption of such a course had, he feared, received but too sharp an illustration from what had occurred. In saying this he wished to guard himself against being misunderstood. He most warmly repudiated any suggestion that the Naval Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Admiralty were actuated by any feeling of partiality in the opinion which they gave. He did not believe there was any such feeling among the Naval Officers whom the right hon. Gentleman consulted. The Board was the Board of the right hon. Gentleman, but it was an honest Board of honest sailors. Out-of-doors, however, the suggestion of partiality had not been absent; and he could not help regarding it as a misfortune that an officer so intimately connected with the Board was placed in command of the Squadron, because it was most desirable that not even the slightest suspicion of partiality should attach to such Minutes as that to which he was about to call attention in the public mind. Admiral Tarleton, he might add, but for peculiar 1032 circumstances, would have retired from the Active List in 1872; but there was in that year a vacancy at the Admiralty, and he was anxious to secure as his adviser and colleague a man who possessed the confidence of the Service, of great administrative ability, and of high character. In the opinion of those whom he consulted on the matter there was no better man to take into the Admiralty at the time than Admiral Tarleton, who, although service afloat was always more popular with naval officers, did not hesitate to undertake the performance of administrative work. There was the difficulty, however, on joining the Board, in his case, that he had chosen the New Regulations—that was to say, he would have retired at 60 under those Regulations—and he held the belief, which was shared by many naval officers, that he would not command the confidence and authority at the Admiralty which were desirable if he were there in the position of a retired Admiral. He therefore asked to be allowed the option of going back to the Old Regulations, so that he would not have to retire before the age of 65. It had been said that he sanctioned Admiral Tarleton's reverting to the Old Regulations after he had retired; but that was not so, for he had not yet reached the age for retirement, otherwise he would never have sanctioned the step. But, Admiral Tarleton having joined the Board, he allowed him to reverse his option for administrative purposes alone, for to admit of his doing so with the view of giving him an active command would have been against the whole spirit of the Regulations of his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract. But, be that as it might, when Admiral Tarleton joined the Board they found him a wise and loyal officer, and it was but right that he should state frankly and fully that when he (Mr. Goschen) left the Admiralty he considered Admiral Tarleton his personal friend, and one for whom he entertained the highest esteem. He had now stated to the House the nature of the cruise during which the Vanguard was lost, and how Admiral Tarleton came to be in command. He would now proceed to explain to the House the orders which were given, because they showed the spirit under which the Squadron went to sea. The first paragraph stated that— 1033The Squadron was to proceed to sea for the purposes of exercise and evolution both under steam and sail, and also with a view to test the efficiency of the crews in regard to seamanship and gunnery.But looking further into particulars the House would see that their orders were that starting from Berehaven, the Squadron was to sail round Ireland to Queens-town. A very short time was allowed for the ships to be at sea, and if the House examined the Papers they would see that there were gaps of three or four days, during which the Squadron was to stop at certain places. Up to the 1st of September the Squadron had a very fine time of it indeed. The ships were not very much at sea; indeed they were scarcely at sea at all; they left one place at night and arrived at the next place on the following morning; and this was the Squadron which was to exercise its crews in "evolutions both under steam and sail." He had asked the First Lord of the Admiralty to state frankly how many entire days they had been at sea, and the right hon. Gentleman answered—"Seven teen days or parts of days," but did not state how many entire days the ships had been at sea. The fact was, that they had only been at sea four entire days, and that out of those four days they spent throe between Portland and Berehaven. This cruise, considering the immense importance of exercising both the officers and men in seamanship, was ill-advised and ill-arranged. If the Squadron had been a party of Cook's tourists, who had attempted to go round Ireland without being at sea more than was necessary, they could not have followed a course much different from that which had been taken by the Squadron. What were the ships about during those important four weeks? They spent a little time at Galway, where there was a ball. They were at Belfast on the 25th, and stayed there till the 28th. At Belfast there was a lunch, a ball, a dinner, and a series of special entertainments. At Dublin there was a dance, but they declined to attend a ball, because they were "behind time." These were significant words. What was done then in the way of exercises and evolutions in the course of that cruise? During the whole of that cruise, if he might say so without being thought flippant, the only signals' given were the waving of ladies' pocket-handkerchiefs, while 1034 the only evolutions practised were the intricacies of quadrilles. Why did the Squadron go to Cork? The instructions of the Admiralty to Admiral Tarleton were to the effect that it appeared expedient that the Squadron under his command should visit Queens-town in the first week in September for three or four days before the ships proceeded to their several destinations, and it was further ordered that the local authorities at Cork should be informed on this subject. But what had this to do with the exercising in seamanship and evolutions of the Coastguardmen, who only had an opportunity of being at sea for four weeks in the year? What was the meaning of their going to Cork? When he was in office a noble Lord who was not unconnected with the present Government and who had property in the North of Ireland, put some pressure upon him in order that the Reserve ships should visit the North of Ireland. He had not acceded to the request, but on the present occasion the Government had sent them to the North of Ireland, and the ships stayed there a long time; and he supposed that on the principle of concurrent endowment, this Squadron was afterwards to go to Cork. It almost seemed to him as if these festive arrangements had been made to celebrate the restoration of the Coastguard under a separate naval command. But whatever was the object with which the Squadron went to Cork and sailed round Ireland in this festive and triumphant way, it was a terrible comment upon these proceedings that before they had made the whole circuit of Ireland this terrible disaster occurred, reminding them that they should not tamper with these opportunities for exercising the officers and men. It was because he felt most strongly on this subject that he had called attention to it. He felt, and he believed the Naval Service also felt strongly, that such opportunities should never be neglected. The orders directed that on leaving Queens-town the Vanguard, after landing the men of the Southern Division, should proceed to Lough Foyle, there to remain till the end of October, and then to return to Queenstown. It was a very curious circumstance, however, that the Vanguard landed no men whatever at Queenstown, but that she landed all the; men at Kingstown. Why, then, did she go south? She had a depôt crew, and 1035 Admiral Tarleton said in justification of the courseh he took in regard to the handling of the Squadron that" the cruise had virtually terminated." He did not know how far this fact of the Vanguard being with a depôt crew when manœuvring in line might have created diffculties in saving the ship. She ought to have had a complement of considerably more than 500 men, but there were only 360 men on board when she went on the cruise to Queenstown; and he wanted to know whether if there had been 200 more men on board one day than the next this fact was not likely to produce disorganization? Indeed, Captain Dawkins admitted there was a difficulty in launching the boats and manning the pumps because the crew was a short one. An Admiral of considerable experience had told him (Mr. Goschen) that he would never allow a ship with a depôt crew to manœuvre in line with a Squadron—more especially after she had just discharged about 200 of her crew. His contention was that the Vanguard was not going to Queenstown for any naval or any Imperial purpose. The country would indeed be sorry if, in addition to the bitter humiliation it experienced at the loss of a ship of the kind, it had also reason to believe that the ship was lost for the sake of their going with four ships to show at Cork, and to enable the officers to attend a ball which was to be held there on the 2nd of September. He entirely agreed that there were times when the ships of the Royal Navy should be shown to the population, but for that purpose the Channel Squadron ought to be employed. The Reserve Squadron had such a short time allowed them, that great responsibility was cast upon the Admiralty if the cruise was not employed in the best way for training the officers and men. He now came to the circumstances under which the Vanguard was lost on the fatal 1st of September. The Iron Duke and Vanguard had moved to take a position abreast of the Admiral's flagship, and he would ask if warning had not been given as to the difficulties attending that manœuvre in the special circumstances of the case. As to the circumstances which preceded the collision, Lieutenant Thompson, of the Iron Duke, had described them very graphically. He said, the evolution having been successfully performed, and the flagship not reducing her speed, the Iron Duke was left very much astern. 1036 He called the attention of Lieutenant Evans to the fact, and said that he thought 50 revolutions did not appear to be sufficient. Lieutenant Evans then gave the order to go at the rate of 52, shouting down the tube to learn what that would be. Lieutenant Thompson then left the deck, but before doing so, he gave the following orders:—Steer S. ½ E., close order; columns of divisions in line ahead; on no account get astern; look-out men are on the top-gallant forecastle, although there is no fog; but I perceive hanks ahead, which will in all probability be on the ship in about half an hour.The deck was then left in charge of Lieutenant Evans, but Lieutenant Thompsonremained to assist the signalman, knowing the fog-signals are the most difficult of all, and expecting an evolutionary signal would be immediately made by the flagship, or some signal relating to guns during a fog.Thus there were warnings given before the collision. Almost at the moment that this officer was taking these precautions Captain Dawkins left the deck of the Vanguard, and Captain Hickley the deck of the Iron Duke, and a grave mistake was committed, a mistake which had been punished by the Admiralty—the mistake of sheering out of line. There had been warning as regarded the fog, but notwithstanding that, the steam was not put on to the steam whistle of the Iron Duke, and the consequence was that the Iron Duke was not able to make a signal at the critical moment. Why was this not done? Where was the judgment of the Admiralty upon this question? It was really not tried by the Admiralty. The result of the omission was that the Vanguard did not know when the Iron Duke was coming. At this moment the combination of circumstances appeared to have been exceedingly remarkable. The captains left the deck, the Admiral was standing away from his own signals, and though a gun was fired from the flagship, it was a small one. Two masses of iron, of 5,000 tons each, were ploughing through the water, the one in front reducing speed at the time when the ship behind was increasing speed. Who was in charge of the two ships? On board the Iron Duke, Lieutenant Evans, a lieutenant of three years', standing, about 460th on the list of Lieutenants; and on board the Vanguard, Lieutenant Hathorn, a lieutenant of one year's standing, who was 600th on the list. There was a million of money in these two ships; there were 900 lives on board; they 1037 formed an integral part of the British Navy; they were under the charge, as he had said, of two young officers, the one 460th, and the other 600th in The Navy List; a fog was coming down; both captains were off the deck; one then returned to rummage for his signals which were not ready; and the Admiral was standing merrily away. That was a picture which the country would not care to see repeated. Was seamanship displayed on this occasion? He hoped that in consequence of these sad events it would be the duty of the Admiralty to give naval officers increased opportunities of studying seamanship. At the same time, we must not decry science for the sake of seamanship. We wanted both. Scientific structures required scientific handling, and let it not be said that their naval officers studied too much. Seamanship and science both required honour at our hands. Upon that state of facts what was the judgment of the court martial? The court martial found that the collision was caused—The verdict was thought a strong one, but then it was a strong Court. The officers composing it were practical sailors and men of acknowledged ability, and their verdict commanded confidence. He turned now to the decision of the Admiralty. After reciting the finding of the court martial, the Admiralty Minute proceeded as follows:—
- "1. By the high rate of speed at which the Squadron (of which these vessels formed a part) was proceeding while in a fog.
- "2. By Captain Dawkins, When leader of his division, leaving the deck of his ship before the evolution which was being performed was completed, especially as there were indications of foggy weather at the time.
- "3. By the unnecessary reduction of speed of Her Majesty's ship Vanguard without a signal from the Vice Admiral in command of the Squadron, and without Her Majesty's ship Vanguard making the proper signal to Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke.
- "4. By the increase of speed of Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke during a dense fog, the speed being already high.
- "5. By Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke improperly sheering out of line.
- "6. By the want of any fog signal on the part of Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke."Their Lordships consider that the first cause assigned by the Court did not in any way contribute to the disaster. That the Vice Admiral in command was, under the circumstances of the case, justified in continuing the rate of speed ordered until the time when he made the signal to reduce it.…. Their Lordships are of opinion that the loss of the Vanguard is mainly owing, first, to the reduction of the 1038 speed of the ship, and, secondly, to the improper sheering out of line and quitting station by Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke, by the order of Lieutenant Evans, officer of the watch. Their Lordships attach no blame to Captain Hickley, of Her Majesty's ship Iron Duke, in respect of the speed of his ship at the time of collision, it being his duty to regain his station, and he being warranted in supposing that Her Majesty's ship Vanguard was maintaining the speed at which she was going when she was last in sight.This decision was directly contradictory to the decision of the court martial on two points—first, as to the speed at which the Admiral was going, and, secondly, as to the speed at which Captain Hickley ought to have gone. The court martial, he had stated, was a strong body; how about the Board of Admiralty, who gave an adverse decision? It might be easy for him to follow the course which was frequently taken when he was in office—namely, to speak of the Admiralty as a kind of phantom Board with a civilian head, and no doubt hon. Members opposite would have contrasted this strong court martial, with its immense authority and its judicial powers, with that phantom Board with its civilian head. That, however, would not be fair criticism, and he should take that spectral cloak from off the Admiralty and show the flesh and blood of some most excellent naval officers beneath. When he had charge of the Admiralty there was a vacancy in the post of First Naval Lord, caused by the promotion of Sir Sydney Dacres. This was a time at which political opponents thought it consistent with their duty and the public interest to lower the authority of the Admiralty as far as they possibly could. He, however, was determined to raise that authority, and accordingly he looked for the best man he could find, and his choice fell on Sir Alexander Milne, the First Naval Lord of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), who was partly responsible for the Minute before the House. At one time he (Mr. Goschen) also was in trouble, like the right hon. Gentleman, when the Agincourt ran on a rock, and there was a court martial, which was followed by a Minute. But here, unfortunately, the parallel ceased. It was his misfortune that, as the result of his Minute, two Admirals were deprived of their commands, while the right hon. Gentleman had been fortunate enough to be able to confine his severity to one lieutenant. Well, when he had to find a successor to the Admiral in command of the 1039 Channel Squadron, he took a man who was one of the best sailors in the British Navy, and also one of its most scientific officers—Rear-Admiral Hornby, now the Second Naval Lord of the right hon. Gentleman, and one of those responsible for the Minute before the House. The right hon. Gentleman's Third Naval Lord was Lord Gilford, who had commanded the Hercules for three years with signal success. He trusted the House would feel that he had done justice to the Advisers of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and if he had spoken of the strength of the court martial, he had also spoken of the confidence which ought to be reposed in the professional opinion of those Advisers. Hon. Members would understand that he considered it his duty to speak frankly on this subject, if even it was in praise of the present Board of Admiralty. But, it was said out-of-doors that naval officers became too official when they joined the Board, and that officialism might have hampered their judgment. He would reply, that it would be a great misfortune if the moment naval officers joined the Admiralty they ceased-to have the confidence of their brother officers out-of-doors; though in that House they sometimes found that when a Gentleman took office he lost the confidence of those whom he represented before. For his own part, he did not believe that the officers of the right hon. Gentleman were partial, and he had shown that they had strong sailor-like qualities for deciding questions of this kind. He had now, as far as any evidence of his own could do, set up for the right hon. Gentleman to the best of his ability the authority of his Board; but he was bound nevertheless to say that out-of-doors nine men out often, nay, 99 out of 100, had come to the conclusion that in this case the Admiralty had made a deplorable mistake. The House must distinguish between the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman and that of his Advisers. The First Lord of the Admiralty would incur an immense responsibility if he were to throw over the advice of his professional Advisers; but it was for him to see that that advice was embodied in a wise, discreet, and proper shape. If he (Mr. Goschen) had had to deal with the case he would no doubt have ultimately followed the advice given by his Naval 1040 Advisers; but he would have stared with astonishment when first told that the orders given to the Squadron as to speed had nothing to do with the disaster. Then he would have asked some pertinent questions. He would probably have asked Admiral Hornby, because he had most recently come from the sea, what was his own practice in a fog; did he generally go fast or slow? He would have replied either that he generally went fast or that he generally went slow. If he had said he had gone slow, he would have followed the instructions of the Signal Book; if fast, he (Mr. Goschen), as the Instructions of the Admiralty gave a different order, would have made a mental note of the matter as an element in the conclusion at which he should arrive. The Signal Book of the Admiralty stated clearly enough what the course was to be—namely—"During fogs, the speed of the fleet, except under special circumstances—['Hear, hear!']—shall not exceed three to four knots per hour." Then he would have got his answer—possibly he had got it as implied in that cheer. There were "special circumstances;" but, before he came to that point, he might have found out that in the opinion of some of the Admirals these Instructions would only hamper the discretion of Admirals, and that they dissented from the view that any hard-and-fast line like this order ought to be laid down at all. Then he would have made a note of that, in order to see how it might have affected their judgment. If the Board were unanimously of opinion that special circumstances justified the course that had been taken he would have given way, but only on one condition—that those circumstances were set forth on the face of the Minute. He would have said—" We are not going to abandon Admiral Tarleton, to a cry, if you are right. But, the fact that he is our Colleague, so intimately associated with us, increases the duty upon us to convince the Service that we are dealing with this matter in a fair and just spirit; and while I accept your advice you must accept mine upon one point. You must state the special circumstances in your Minute, and then offer it to the acceptance of the Service and the country." The Admiralty Minute, however, was absolutely curt; it reversed the opinion of the court martial, and it said simply: "under the circum- 1041 stances," leaving it to be imagined what the circumstances were. That phrase, "under the circumstances," was a delightfully elastic one. He did not presume that, under it, they were to include a desire to get to Cork on a particular day. They were not to remember the statement made that they were behind time. As far as he could learn, the "special circumstances" of the case were the setting of a current in the direction of the Kish Bank, that bank lying to the right of the Squadron as it proceeded on its course. It was stated in the Admiralty Minute that the speed of the current setting towards the Kish Bank was such that if the speed of the Squadron had been reduced there would have been some danger of getting on to the bank, and that was the reason which induced Admiral Tarleton to proceed at the speed of seven knots in a fog. It naturally occurred to one to ask why, in that case, he could not reduce speed and change his course, and steer a little more to the left? If there was this danger of a current setting him on the bank, why not give the bank a wider berth? The possible answer might be, that it was dangerous to give two signals in a fog, as they would have to make a signal for reducing speed, and one for steering another course. If the right hon. Gentleman laid it down as a doctrine that two signals could not be made in a fog in the course of half-an-hour, the sooner there was more practice in signalling, or the sooner the signals were revised, the better. But he understood there was no such difficulty, and it would have been perfectly possible to change the course, if the current carried the Squadron nearer to the Kish Bank. There was, however, a remarkable circumstance connected with this which must not be forgotten. The Admiralty Minute gave a different signal which it was said the Admiral should have given, and which, if given, would have kept the Squadron better together. The Admiralty said that Signal 017 ought to have been made. He was curious to know what Signal 017 was; and the right hon. Gentleman had given a diagram to show how the ships would have been placed had they followed that signal of the Admiralty. They would have been placed four cables nearer to the Kish Bank, which in consequence of the current, it was stated, they wished to avoid. Admiral Tarleton might have fairly com- 1042 plained of that Minute, and said—" Had I followed the signal which you point out, it would have placed me nearer the danger which I kept up my speed to avoid." How would the right hon. Gentleman explain that? It would have been satisfactory if some report had been produced from the Hydrographer of the Admiralty showing how the current set. As regarded the wreck, evidence might be obtained as to the extent of the current by watching to see how far the Vanguard drifted after she came into collision. The right hon. Gentleman had produced a chart within the last few days, taken from the log of the Warrior, and probably it would be of some use to his right hon. Friend in one respect that night, because it afforded one scrap of evidence which was not before the court martial, but was before him when he made his Minute. The chart of the Warrior was produced to show that the course of the Squadron was rather more to the westward and nearer the land than the course laid down by the Iron Duke and Vanguard; but the right hon. Gentleman did not bear in mind that if the Squadron was steering a course nearer the shore, it would only show that the wreck had not drifted so much towards the land as would appear from the other charts before the House. He should like to know whether it was sufficient, in dealing with Admiral Tarleton's case, to have gone simply on the questions of speed and signals. There was another point, which was, that Admiral Tarleton had reported that the two ships were four miles astern when the fog lifted about 2 o'clock. It seemed the ships had been in collision, guns were fired, which were heard on board the Warrior, but not understood, and that after the collision Admiral Tarleton steamed away without looking after the two ships. Why, then, was there not a court martial upon him and a Court of Inquiry? He thought that as in the case of the Agincourt the late Government decided not to hold a court martial, it would scarcely lie with him (Mr. Goschen) to ask his right hon. Friend why a court martial had not been held; but he submitted to the House that there was a difference between that case and the present, where the Government had reversed the sentence of a court martial. What was felt was that this reversal was a serious error, and that even if there had been no court martial, the inquiry had 1043 not been so exhaustive and complete as it was stated to have been in the Minute now before them. But although he (Mr. Goschen) had spoken frankly of Admiral Tarleton, let it not be supposed that Admiral Tarleton had got off scot-free. He ventured to think that of the many officers who had been censured in these proceedings—he would not even except the lieutenant who was dismissed his ship—there was not one who had suffered more than Admiral Tarleton. Naval officers were not like case-hardened politicians, though even politicians thick-skinned, as they were supposed to become, did wince sometimes beneath the flagellation of hostile criticism. But for naval officers to whom distinction above their fellows was as the very sunshine of their lives, and praise for service well performed as the very food of Heaven, men who preserved each scrap of paper bearing record of success, from the first certificate for seamanship of the delighted midshipman to the letter of thanks from My Lords to the gratified Admiral when he laid down his command for distinguished services—for men such as these to see themselves involved in disaster, and to be held up for weeks and months, guilty or not guilty, punished or unpunished, to reproof and reproach, and to see the heavy hand of public opinion write an angry final line at the bottom of an unblemished page of a service of 40 years, was more than pain, it was positive torture, and he grieved from the bottom of his heart that in discharging his duty in this matter he might have added to the pain of a gallant and distinguished man. He came now to the case of Captain Hickley, and from enquiries he (Mr. Goschen) had made, he could state that it was entirely against the ordinary practice of the Service for a captain to leave the deck while an evolution was still in progress, and that that distinguished officer Lord Lyons used so to inform his captains when he took the command of a Squadron. The court martial remarked on the fact that Captain Hawkins left the deck before an evolution which was being performed had been completed, but he was not the only man who left the deck while an evolution was being performed, because Captain Hickley left the deck under precisely the same circumstances, and naval officers would see how far he must be held responsible. Three mistakes were made on board the Iron Duke 1044 in the absence of Captain Hickley. In the first place, Lieutenant Evans sheered out of the line on an erroneous interpretation of the regulations of the Service, and if the captain had been on deck that would not have been done. The disaster occurred, however, not through Lieutenant Evans steering to port, but in the correction of his error by Captain Hickley. Then as to the question of speed, the Admiralty said there was no blame to Captain Hickley for the speed of his ship at the time of the collision, it being his duty to retain his station, and he being warranted in believing the other vessels would retain theirs; but Captain Hickley admitted in the evidence that the Iron Duke was going faster than he himself knew. He did not know the ship was going at 60 revolutions at the time, but he had left the question of speed with the lieutenant who had given the order. And thirdly, who was responsible for steam not having been put on the steam whistle of the Iron Duke? He might add a further question. Why did not Captain Hickley think of taking the Vanguard in tow and towing her into shallow water? The navigating lieutenant of the Vanguard was censured at the court martial for not having suggested this to his captain, the opinion of the court martial being that there was shallow water close enough, and that such advice ought to have been given. He should like to know why Captain Hickley was not asked why he did not take the vessel into shallow water; but the fact was there had been no inquiry into the conduct of the officers of the Iron Duke. He would ask a similar question with regard to Lieutenant Evans. That officer gave an order and committed an error of judgment, and had been dismissed from his ship by the Admiralty Minute. He did not question the power of the Admiralty in the matter; but he questioned to a great extent the discretion which they exercised in dismissing that officer. That was not a professional but an administrative question, and the right hon. Gentleman might well have said—"Many officers have been censured, but only Captain Dawkins has been dismissed from his ship. We will censure this young lieutenant, but we will not dismiss him from his ship." That would have been a wiser and fairer course, and it would not have caused that bitterness in the Service which had been caused by the 1045 Admiralty. Lieutenant Evans also had not been tried, and had not had the opportunity of giving any evidence which he might have adduced with respect to the practice of other officers. He heard that it was by no means uncommon, although it was against the Regulations, for an officer to take precisely that course which Lieutenant Evans took on that occasion. It was even whispered abroad—he knew not whether it had reached the right hon. Gentleman—that the Sector, the ship following the Warrior, the flag-ship, also sheered out of line on that particular occasion, and did not follow strictly in the wake of the flag-ship. [Mr. HUNT said, it had reached him only to be contradicted.] That was one of the inconveniences of his speaking before the right hon. Gentleman, who would pardon him if he raised points which, though perhaps easy of contradiction, ought to be put fairly before the House with a view to their proper explanation. But how much better it would have been if that contradiction had come out in evidence given before some Court of Inquiry, instead of after all that time had elapsed, and so much damage to the Service had been done! He had stated some of the points which made the Minute incomplete, and whatever explanations the right hon. Gentleman might give that night could not disprove that the Minute was too inconclusive, too curt, and very inadequate. He would only ask the right hon. Gentleman a few more questions. [Laughter.] If he did not ask them, they would be asked by the country and by the House. He wanted to know what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do in consequence of that disaster, and of the deficiencies which had been shown to exist in our naval officers? Let the right hon. Gentleman tell the House not only what he had done with respect to the past, but what he proposed to do about the future. For instance, as regarded the extract from the General Signal Book, that during fogs the speed of the fleet, except under special circumstances, should not exceed three to four knots per hour—had the right hon. Gentleman repealed that article or not? [Mr. HUNT: I have not done so.] Then they might expect to have this difficulty—that the special circumstances would be differently interpreted by different captains and Admirals. He thought the right hon. Gentlemen's Naval Advisers would have 1046 told him that while that might be a wise regulation in itself, it would not be wise to maintain the rule after the decision that had been given. Again, had he taken any measure with regard to the gun signals, which seemed to have been so inefficient? Captain Dawkins said that he had his guns loaded in the night, but not at the critical moment in the daytime. Other officers said there were no look-outs posted at the stern. Was that so? Had the right hon. Gentleman gone through that evidence and mastered it in such a manner as to be able to assure the Naval Service that every possible measure would be taken to remedy those evils which they knew had occurred? Again, let them hope as to the future that the right hon. Gentleman would not be discouraged by the disaster which had happened from sending the ships to sea, making them cruise in squadrons, and exercising the officers and men. If he were to relax his efforts because he was staggered by that calamity, his conduct would be both perilous and pusillanimous. But the right hon. Gentleman must draw the line. The cruises should be business cruises—not cruises in which there was more display and speech-making than actual exercise. And now he had discharged his task, and while apologizing if he had displayed any undue warmth, he would only say that he did not wish to treat that in any degree as a Party subject. He wished the truth to be elicited, and he said most frankly that in the interests of the service, against which so many reproaches had been levelled, in the interests of the officers incriminated, in the interests of discipline, which was so much weakened when any blow was struck at those set in authority, and in the interests, also, of justice itself, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make what was called a triumphant reply. But the right hon. Gentleman must remember that he had not only to defend himself, but that in the sight of England and of Europe the fair fame of British seamanship had been jeopardized by what had occurred. The right hon. Gentleman was not only the Member of a political Administration, which would suffer from blame imputed to himself; he was also at the head of the Naval Service; he was on that occasion their spokesman and champion, and if he wished to represent them worthily, he entreated him to discard the language 1047 of apology and extenuation, and to speak simply the language of determination and of truth. He must not speak again in that tone of jaunty indulgence about a few blunders having been made. He must show the House that he grasped the full import and appreciated the gravity of those great questions that so vitally affected the nation which had been involved in that sad disaster. The right hon. Gentleman coucluded by moving the Resolution.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That there be laid before this House, a (Copy of a further Minute relating to the loss of H.M.S. 'Vanguard.'"—(Mr. Goschen.)
§ MR. HUNT
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had told them at the beginning of his speech that he regretted that the First Lord of the Admiralty had not volunteered an official statement to the House on the loss of the Vanguard. That regret the right hon. Gentleman had expressed before; but he (Mr. Hunt) must say that he thought the course he had taken was the right one, because it was not usual for the Minister in charge of his Department to initiate discussion on the naval occurrences of the year, except in introducing the Navy Estimates. He had therefore contemplated introducing the Navy Estimates at an earlier period, and had made his arrangements accordingly, as that seemed to him the appropriate occasion for dealing with those occurrences, and, beyond all others, with the great naval disaster of the year. Having been anxious—most anxious—that the subject should come on at the earliest period of the Session, in order that the House might be put in possession of all the facts of the case as far as they could be explained by evidence taken before the court martial, he had given instructions that the Blue Book should be prepared months before. Parliament met, so as to be placed as soon as possible in the hands of hon. Members. Notwithstanding the somewhat critical speech of the right hon. Gentleman—of which he did not complain—he could not but feel grateful to him for giving him an earlier opportunity of addressing the House on that question. For months he had been assailed with a virulence and a persistency which he thought he hardly ever remembered in his experience to have seen directed against any public man. 1048 But he had been sustained by the consciousness that he had acted in that matter as he believed to be right and just; and he had always had full confidence that, when the subject came to be discussed on the floor of that House—the proper place in which to vindicate his conduct—full justice would be done him. He had had some advantage in hearing the observations and the questions of the right hon. Gentleman before addressing the House himself. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had not contented himself with asking him questions, and putting all the different points which occurred to him before the House, but had, he thought, gone a little out of his way to tell him the tone in which he should address the House. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to a speech made by him (Mr. Hunt) on a festive occasion, and he asked him not to repeat the tone of that speech, and he had recalled to the mind of the House the expression—"Two or three blunders." Well, he (Mr. Hunt) was not going to defend the expression, and the reason was, that he had never used it. It was true that during the slack part of the year there was some exceedingly smart writing on the subject, and hon. Members of the House, when addressing their constituents, had alluded to it; but he was indebted for the expression to the slovenliness or malevolence of a reporter—for it was not one which fell from his lips, and much of what he did say had been perverted and distorted in a way which he could hardly have thought possible. But he would pass on from that, assuring the House that he would address them in a spirit of seriousness and earnestness with regard to what he considered a very great disaster. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into the questions of the re-establishment of an officer at the head of the Naval Reserve, the orders given for the cruise, and as to whether on the occasion alluded to the ships were properly officered and manned. He did not expect that he should have had to go into the question respecting the Admiral Superintendent of the Naval Reserve, but, being challenged on the point, he was bound to refer to it. The right hon. Gentleman had complimented his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers)—who, he regretted, was not present—on the view he took with respect to the Naval Reserve. He would 1049 not, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, criticize his policy, except so far as it was necessary to vindicate himself; but when he (Mr. Hunt) entered on the office he held, he gave very great attention to the question of the Naval Reserve, and it appeared to him that all had not been done which was necessary to induce men to join that body, and that there was no stimulus to the officers connected with the Reserve to perform their duties with zeal and industry. It seemed to him that the chief reason was that there was not a proper head to that body, and in consequence of that he established the office of Admiralty Superintendent, and placed Admiral Tarleton in that position. Why did he do so? When he went to the Admiralty he offered Admiral Tarleton a seat at the Board for a limited period. He was anxious to have the assistance of the gallant officer who was in command of the Channel Squadron, but that was not possible at the moment. He, therefore, offered a seat at the Board to Admiral Tarleton, it being understood that he was to give place to Admiral Hornby when his services were available. But during the time he was at the Admiralty he was impressed with the ability of Admiral Tarleton and the great' amount of knowledge he possessed on the subject of the Naval Reserve. That gallant Admiral also accompanied him in a cruise round the coast of England to visit the chief drilling stations on the coast. They discussed the matter thoroughly, and he came to the conclusion that there was no man more fit to be placed at the head of the Reserve than was Admiral Tarleton. The right hon. Gentleman said that a man might be a good administrator and not a good officer afloat; but he ventured to say that the reputation acquired by Admiral Tarleton afloat was a distinguished reputation. The right hon. Gentleman had occupied a great deal of his speech with discussing the question whether the Vanguard was rightly sent to Queenstown from Kingstown, and whether she was properly manned and officered. He did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the Reserve Squadron was merely sent out to practise the Coastguard men. Under an arrangement made a few years ago the Reserve Squadron, instead of being left in port, had a regular complement of men and officers assigned to it, 1050 and it was as essential to them as it was to the Coastguard that they should be practised in naval evolutions and seamanship. The cruise of the Reserve Squadron, therefore, was as much required for that purpose as was that of the Channel Squadron. But the right hon. Gentleman had raised the question whether the complement of men and officers was sufficient for the purpose. Well, the complement was fixed by the right hon. Gentleman himself? It was fixed in 1871, he supposed, at the suggestion of his Naval Advisers, for at that early period of his occupation of the office he then held the right hon. Gentleman would hardly have ventured to fix it himself. But the right hon. Gentleman said the complement was fixed as a depôt complement. He begged to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the ships went out of harbour to fire their ammunition, and were in the habit of going from one home port to another; that the complement was fixed, and that no complaint was ever made of the ships being undermanned on such occasions. There was a great difference as to the number of men required for ships which were out for long, and ships which were out for short, cruises; for ships proceeding under sail and under steam. On the occasion of the voyage from Kingstown to Queenstown the ships were proceeding under steam, and, according to the opinion of his Naval Colleagues, the crews were amply sufficient for the navigation of the vessels. It was true that some men were disembarked; but, in the opinion of the captain, the number remaining was sufficient to work the ship; and it was at his request that the Admiral Superintendent consented to the men being disembarked, as they could be conveniently convoyed by Coastguard cruisers to their several stations. Again, the right hon. Gentleman criticized the number of days that the Squadron was at sea. He said it was sent out for the purpose of practising, and that the greater part of the time was spent in harbour. Well, he had referred to the orders which were given, when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Admiralty, with regard to the Reserve, and he found that hardly any orders were given at all. It was left almost entirely to the Admiral in command what the time of the Squadron at sea should be. He wanted to know why a Squadron on the cruise 1051 should have different orders from the Channel Squadron, for the right hon. Gentleman said it was all very well to send the Channel Squadron round the Coast, but why send the Reserve? But the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget, or to be ignorant of the fact, that going into and out of harbour was one of the most important things which officers or men could practise. In the case of the Channel Squadron they had every two or three years been sent round the Coast, learning the different ports and harbours of the country, and giving great satisfaction to the taxpayers of the country—keeping up the pride and spirit of the country with regard to our maritime affairs, and satisfying the taxpayers that they had a certain amount of work done for their money. That, he believed, was the policy which had been pursued by all Governments of late years. He believed it to be a good policy, and it was one he desired to see carried out; and if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know why orders were given to the Reserve Squadron to proceed to Cork the answer was this, that the people of Cork might have an opportunity of seeing the Squadron—uniting with that the practice which the Squadron would get during the voyage. Different ports in Ireland had been visited by the Reserve Squadron, but the people of Queenstown and Cork had not for several years seen a squadron of our ironclads, and on general grounds it was desirable that the natural and patriotic wishes of the people of Cork should be satisfied. It was for that reason that the Admiral was ordered to go with four of the ships of the Squadron to Queenstown. But really, though the right hon. Gentleman had laboured that part of the case very much, it was not, he believed, the question which the House wished to have discussed. The question was this—and it was a very important one—had the administration of the Admiralty in relation to the matter of the Vanguard been such as ought to satisfy the country? Had the action of the Admiralty been intelligent, had it been honest, had it been fearless, had it been impartial? He believed on those points that an examination of the question ought to satisfy the House that the administration and action of the Admiralty had not been wanting in any of those particulars. The right hon. Gentleman, though he had dealt with a great 1052 many topics in connection with this affair, and had asked a great many questions, had left almost untouched, or, at all events, dealt very lightly with a question which had been much agitated in the Recess—namely, Why did you not try Admiral Tarleton by court martial? That was a question with which he wished to deal. Now, there had been a great misconception in the public mind, if he might judge by writings in the newspapers, as to the authority of the Admiralty in relation to courts martial. Some people seemed to think that the authority of courts martial was greater than that of the Admiralty. But that was not the view of Parliament and of the Constitution; because Parliament had given statutory powers to the Admiralty to override the decision of courts martial, to annul, revise or modify their sentences—in short, to do everything but increase them; and, therefore, the Admiralty was an authority superior to all courts martial, and was bound to exercise an independent judgment upon all matters referred to them and to deal with them as they thought proper. Independently of that, the Admiralty had the power of dismissing officers from their ships and from the Service without a court martial. He could understand why the right hon. Gentleman had passed rather lightly over that part of his subject, because a question of this kind arose during his own Admiralty administration which he slightly hinted at—namely, the case of the Agincourt and the Northmnberland. And what happened then? There was a court martial on some of the officers of the ship that got on shore, and the right hon. Gentleman dismissed two Admirals from their command without putting them on their trial by court martial. [Mr. GOSCHEN: I said so.] Yes, the right hon. Gentleman just alluded to it; but he (Mr. Hunt) wanted to bring it out more prominently. He did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman's action in that case, and, indeed, it met with universal applause. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman was applauded when he dismissed two Admirals from their command without court martial, was he (Mr. Hunt) to be complained of when he exonerated an Admiral without court martial, and dismissed a subordinate officer on sufficient grounds? ["Hear, hear!"] He repeated, "on sufficient grounds." The right hon. Gentleman said that he was upheld by 1053 Parliament and the country in the line that he took; and what he (Mr. Hunt) had to show was that what he had done had been on sufficient grounds, and then the right hon. Gentleman could not complain that he had acted without authority and without precedent. He had said that the Admiralty had by law the authority to review and revise the sentence of a court martial, and what he said was that the gallant officers who did him the honour to sit at his Board were regarded by the profession as officers of the highest distinction and ability in the Service, and that on professional subjects they had the entire confidence of the Navy. On the subject, indeed, of squadron-sailing, at no period in the history of the Admiralty was the authority of the Naval Lords higher than at the present moment. He could not quite understand the view of the right hon. Gentleman as to his confidence in the Naval Council of the Admiralty. He said that the present First Naval Lord had occupied the same position at his own Board; that the Second Naval Lord he had appointed to a most important command of the Channel Squadron; and that the Third Naval Lord had gained great distinction in the Service. And then the right hon. Gentleman said that they were honest men. The right hon. Gentleman had not the slightest complaint to make of their honesty and impartiality; but he said that the country did not feel confidence in the advice they had given. But if they were honest, able, and competent men was not the country to have confidence in their advice?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I expressed unreservedly my opinion of the great ability and sailor-like qualities of the Members of the right hon. Gentleman's Board.
§ MR. HUNT
But the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the country deplored the advice that they had given. He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman did not deplore it, because if he thought them capable and honest he ought to repose confidence in their advice. "With regard to the court martial on the loss of the Vanguard it had, under the Naval Discipline Act, two functions to discharge. It was a judicial tribunal as regarded the officers of the Vanguard; and a Court of Inquiry as to the loss of the ship. Its finding as a judicial tribunal was confirmed by the Admiralty; but as regarded that part of the finding 1054 which referred to the loss of the ship, neither the Admiralty nor himself was able to concur in it. He had no wish to criticize in any captious spirit the finding of the court martial; but when he read those six causes which were alleged to have brought about the loss of the Vanguard, he was convinced from the first—although he did not know the facts—that it was the finding of a divided body, and that these six causes could never have been agreed upon by the whole of the Members of the Court. Any one who studied that finding must arrive at the same conclusion. What was his duty on receiving the finding of the court martial with the evidence that was put before it? It was to read most carefully—not only the evidence which came from the mouths of the witnesses, but the log-books of the ship. It was his duty to examine the charts and the sailing instructions, and to understand what was the set of the tides on the coast at the time, and, with the assistance of his Naval Colleagues, to come to a decision. The conclusion at which he arrived, with the unanimous assent of his Colleagues, was that Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley were blameless for the disaster; that the two causes of the loss of the Vanguard, so far as regarded culpability, was mentioned by the court martial as the 3rd and 5th causes; and it was on the officers responsible for the action complained of that the displeasure of the Admiralty fell. The right hon. Gentleman had called attention to the first cause, which he said was the high rate of speed at which the Squadron was proceeding, as he said, in a fog. He (Mr. Hunt), however, and his Colleagues were unable to come to the conclusion that there was any ground for that assertion, and it was obvious that the high rate of speed did not cause the disaster uncoupled with other circumstances, and that it did not contribute to the disaster so far as culpability was concerned. It could be shown mathematically that the high rate of speed was not the cause of the disaster. The Squadron, after the operation of formation, was going in two parallel lines, so that one division of the fleet could not collide with the other division. Then came the question of the ships that were following one another. Supposing that two ships were proceeding, one exactly ahead and the other following in the same line and keeping the 1055 same speed, it was quite clear that they also would not collide. And what happened? The starboard division, consisting of the flagship and the Hector, was proceeding at the speed ordered until a quarter past 1 on the day of the disaster—holding communication with one another and stopping together—and they proceeded at the speed ordered without accident; while the port division met with the disaster owing to their proceeding at an unequal speed. The Admiralty Minute pointed out that the signal made by the Admiral was not the best that he could have made. He had seen that signal described by some writers in the Press as a "bungling signal." There was, however, no question of a bungling signal in the matter. There were two signals in the Signal Book applicable to the circumstances—one No. 004 and the other No. 017—and it was optional with the Admiral whether he would give one or the other. Taking the Squadron as forming four ships in line, the signal that was given obliged the two hinder ships to go to the left and then to the right, and thus to get into proper formation; whereas the signal recommended by the Admiralty would have ordered the two leading ships to go to the right and then to the left. The result was, as the Admiralty Minute pointed out, that the evolution would have been performed in the least time and at the least rate of speed if the signal they recommended had been given. If that signal had been given, the ships would have proceeded at the rate of seven knots; whereas by the signal actually given, the speed of the two hinder ships had to be increased to eight knots to enable them to come to their station. The right hon. Gentleman said that the signal recommended by the Admiralty would have thrown the ships four cables nearer the shoal than that used. That was quite true; but if it had been used by the Admiral, he would have given the Kish light a wider berth before making the signal. The signal employed had been in use for many years, and until lately had been the only signal in use under similar circumstances. In the Detached Squadron it was the only signal used, and it was not until recently that it had reached the Signal Book. Therefore, the charge that the Admiral had used a bungling signal could not be sustained. He now came to the question what course the Admiral ought to have adopted as to the speed of 1056 the Squadron when the fog came on. No one would pretend to say that seven or eight knots an hour was an improper speed for the Squadron to make in fine weather. The Admiral and his Squadron having left Kingstown he had the choice of two passages, the inner and the outer. The inner passage was not recommended to any navigator not perfectly acquainted with the passage, and it would have been imprudent to adopt it with large ironclads. Therefore the proper course to go by was the outer passage, which the Admiral took, and having rounded the Kish light, he then shaped his course as described in the evidence given before the court martial, and he made a signal that he was proceeding at seven knots. The port division of the Squadron, the Vanguard ahead and the Iron Duke following it, performed the evolution which had been ordered by the signal; they had before the fog came on got into their proper course, though they had not got into their station; they were astern of their station, but they had got into their proper course. The fog came on very suddenly; it had been clear just before. The fog did not come up ahead of them; the banks were seen on the Welsh coast on their left, and ahead it was clear, or moderately clear. He was told that in the weather in the state in which it was described in the log-book ships would be visible at a distance of 10 or 12 miles, and it was known as a matter of evidence that the only ship in sight from the look-out at the masthead of the Vanguard was seven or eight miles distant, and the look-out man saw her hull and was able to describe her rig and the course she was steering. The Admiral therefore knew there was nothing ahead of him, and when the fog fell what did he do? What said the Admiralty Orders? They said the speed was not to exceed three or four knots, except under special circumstances; and there was a special circumstance which the Admiral was bound to regard. He maintained, therefore, that the Admiral was justified in increasing his speed. Alluding to the chart which had been produced, the right hon. Gentleman said the court martial did not have it in evidence, but the court martial had the log of the flagship before it, and if the of ficers had been asked, they could have marked out the course from it. To make the matter more intelligible—even to himself, for he did not profess to be a skilled reader of logs—he had requested 1057 the hydrographer to prepare the chart, and it showed the course steered by the Warrior according to the log. This was shown by a dotted line, and was considerably outside the Codling lightship. The difference between the dotted line and the full line showed the influence of the tide upon the ships in making their course at seven knots speed. There was a line of shoals extending for about 13½ miles between the Kish lightship and the Codling lightship, and the Admiral in his evidence gave as his reason for maintaining speed that he should have been brought in dangerous proximity to the shoals had he slackened his speed. It must be obvious that the action of the tide on a ship going at four knots must be much greater than on a ship going at seven knots, and it would not have been prudent in the Admiral to reduce his speed to anything much less than he had ordered by reason of the tide carrying him towards the shoals, which were in dangerous proximity. In order to illustrate that, he directed the hydrographer to show upon the chart where the starboard division of the Squadron would have been brought supposing the speed had been reduced to four knots; and he found that at 2 o'clock the division would have been in dangerous shoal water, and at 3 o'clock it would have been 1¾ miles inside the Codling light ship, outside of which he was bound to keep. It was on this ground that the Admiralty upheld the Admiral in not reducing his speed; and yet because they upheld him in maintaining his speed for what he thought the House would consider a sufficient reason—namely, to avoid the shoals—very hard words had been used about the Admiralty, and about himself in particular—it being said that he was wholly incompetent for the office he filled. The course recommended by his irresponsible advisers in the Press would have brought the Admiral upon the shoals. Was there any real risk in proceeding at the speed of seven knots? The evidence showed that just before a ship could be seen with great particularity seven or eight miles off; and his Naval Advisers informed him that in that state of the atmosphere 12 miles was a moderate distance for ships to be seen from the mast-head. Their opinion was that the risk of meeting anything was almost nil. The only sailing vessel they could have met had 1058 been seen at the distance stated away on their port bow and going away from them; and on the course they were pursuing no steamer could have met the Squadron before the speed was reduced by order of the Admiral, except for the space of something over a quarter of a mile. Therefore the risk of proceeding at the speed they did was almost nil, and the risk of reducing speed was very great indeed. The right hon. Gentleman had asked why the Admiral could not have altered his course and also reduced his speed, and that point was not omitted when the matter was under the consideration of the Admiralty. It could only have been done by two sets of signals by gun-fire, with intervals between, which would have sent the ships in the most awkward way across the usual channel for ships approaching Dublin—a double set of signals which no prudent Admiral in command of a Squadron would have thought of giving under the circumstances. He hoped he had said enough to justify the Admiral in maintaining speed, and to show that the Admiralty was not wholly incompetent because it had supported him. With regard to Captain Hickley, he remained on deck until his ship had made the two turns which had been already described, by which his ship was brought into her course, and when he left the deck his ship was in a direct line with her leader. According to the evidence he saw the three masts of the Vanguard in one line, and then came the question, to his (Mr. Hunt's) mind a very important one, whether having brought his ship into that position, he was justified in leaving the deck? The question he put to his Naval Colleagues was this—" Was Captain Hickley transgressing his duty in leaving the deck of the Iron Duke at the time he did?" and the answers of his Colleagues were unanimous. One replied—" When the Vanguard had made her second turn in the evolution order, there was no necessity for Captain Hick-ley continuing on deck. The officer of the watch had to perform the usual duty of keeping station by his next ahead." The second replied—" The captain was not bound to keep on deck." The third replied—" Captain Hickley was not to blame for leaving the deck. His ship had made the last turn required in evolution, and the officer of the watch had 1059 simply to do the ordinary duty of keeping station astern of his next ahead." Captain Hickley had been on deck for two hours and he left it for about 10 minutes, leaving his ship in her right course, and also leaving her—which was important—three cables astern of his leader, it being his duty when he came into station to be two cables astern, and a cable being 200 yards. On leaving the deck, he said he gave directions to the officer of the watch, Lieutenant Evans, not to get astern of his station, and he had only left the deck about 10 minutes when the officer on watch, notwithstanding the directions of his captain, gave the ship what he called a good sheer-out—that was, he left following the wake of his leader, and went out to the left or port, and that was in violation of the Instructions given by the Admiralty. The Instructions were—"During a fog the fleet is to maintain the same order and steer the same course as before the fog came on." Article 9 was to this effect—" Close order is as much as possible to be maintained in the fog." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had not fallen into the error, but a great deal of the commentary on the action of the Admiralty amounted to this—it was said they punished the man who did the right thing—to sheer out of the line and get rid of all collision. But that was not in the mind of those who framed the Instructions; in the wake of their leader they had to keep in line, and, therefore, to sheer out of the wake of the leader was wrong. The fault of the officer of the watch, therefore, was this—he neglected the order of his captain, and violated these positive Instructions during the fog. What did Captain Hick-ley do? When he returned to deck he said—" You have sheered out of the course; we must put her back again." The officer of the watch had increased the speed, and he made no alteration in the speed of the ship at the time. But they had it in evidence that the Iron Duke could not make more than 8½ knots. The Vanguard had immediately before the fog signalled that she was going 8 knots. No signal had reached the Iron Duke that that speed had been reduced, and therefore Captain Hickley was justified in supposing that she maintained that speed until another signal reached him. The Iron Duke was 1060 three cables astern of the Vanguard, one more than she ought to have been, and in regaining her position, the sheer-out by the officer of the watch of the Iron Duke would have put her more astern, because, instead of going in a straight line, sheering-out and sheering-in must have increased the distance; and the captain of the Iron Duke gave the order to sheer in again, it being his duty to regain the position which the officer of the watch had lost as soon as possible. What said the Instructions? The speed of the fleet during the performance of evolutions should be notified beforehand, and should not exceed that easily attainable by the slowest ship present, so that each ship, when manœuvring, should be able to hold on, and not resort to increasing speed, so as to regain her station without delay. It was therefore the duty of the Iron Duke to regain her position without delay. This matter had also been very carefully considered and worked out by diagram, and at the speed the Iron Duke was going, if the speed of the Vanguard had been maintained, at the moment the collision actually occurred she would have been more than two cables astern of her leader, and therefore in a perfectly safe position. If she had kept her course without having been sheered out, if she had gone in the straightest line, going at 8½ knots, the Iron Duke would have been two-and-a-quarter cables behind the Vanguard. On that ground the Admiralty upheld Captain Hickley with regard to the speed of his ship at the time of the collision. Now, as regarded Captain Dawkins, of the Vanguard—what, was his fault? His fault was that he suddenly reduced the speed of his ship from 42 revolutions to 25, and then to 18, in the course of two minutes without any answering signal from the ship behind him. That was a very grave error, and that was the error which mainly caused the disaster they were now discussing. He ought not to have reduced his speed without a signal from the Admiral. But he might have reduced his speed without a signal from the Admiral and yet done no harm. He might have fallen out of his station, but he need not have caused the destruction of his ship. It was a rule in the Service—and it was alluded to, for a question was put to a witness on the point before the Court-martial—that no signal was valid till it was 1061 answered. If he made a signal it must be answered before it was valid; but he reduced the speed of his ship twice without waiting for the return of the signal, and consequently without notice to the ship that was following her. No doubt what contributed to the disaster—and for which they must not very heavily blame Captain Dawkins—was an alarm of a ship ahead; but the fact was the order to reduce speed was given before the alarm was raised. Captain Dawkins himself said the order to stop had no effect, because he immediately saw his ship would clear the vessel, and the order was given to go on. Indeed, the vessel seemed to be the veritable "phantom ship;" he could not make out whether Captain Dawkins had any certainty in his own mind that there was any ship ahead, and certainly the man who gave the alarm had defective vision. There were several look-out men aloft and on deck, and none of them ever saw the ship at all. From the evidence there could be no such ship, because a few minutes before only one was seen, and that was steering a course away from the Squadron. The evidence of the lookout man at the mast-head of the Vanguard was that he could only see the fleet. If Captain Dawkins had his wits about him he would have said—" There can be no such ship ahead;" but he sheered out of his course. He did not attach much blame to Captain Dawkins on that head, because the collision would not have happened but for the improper reduction of the speed by Captain Dawkins' order, or, if at all, it would have been a very slight one, had it not been for the sheering out of line. The action of the officer of the watch of the Iron Duke contributed in no slight degree to the disaster. He believed he had now sufficiently explained the view he took of the real cause of the disaster. But there was another question—he did not think the right hon. Gentleman alluded to it—that was, the disapprobation expressed in the Admiralty Minute of the view put before the Court by the Admiral in command with regard to the reduction of the speed. He upheld him in continuing his speed, but when examined before the Court the Admiral was asked whether Captain Dawkins was justified in reducing his speed without his orders. He said that, as a matter of opinion, he might be. That was a curious answer. The evidence showed 1062 that no orders were given to that effect, because when the question was specially asked whether any such orders had been given he said "No." He had not asked the Admiral for any explanation of this, but he supposed that he was betrayed into that expression of opinion from an amiable desire to extenuate the error that had been committed. If he had said "Certainly not," Captain Dawkins must have been convicted, of course, at once. But he went further than that. Supposing that the Admiral had given positive orders to Captain Dawkins that he was at liberty to reduce speed without a signal from him, that would not have justified him in reducing his speed as he did—he reduced his speed without exchanging signals with those behind him. Then it was said—if not by the right hon. Gentleman, by the Press—why did we not bring the Admiral to a Court-martial? Now, that sounded very plausible, and it was the obvious course for a man in his position to take who wished to evade responsibility. To have had him tried by Court-martial, when he did not consider him to blame, would have rendered it necessary for him (Mr. Hunt) to have preferred a specific charge against him which he did not believe, and for which he thought there was no foundation; but then he should have escaped all obloquy from the public and the Press. He thought that would have been a weak, cowardly, and contemptible course. He satisfied himself after a most laborious examination of the evidence, assisted by his Naval Colleagues, and fortified by their deliberate opinion, that Admiral Tarleton was entirely blameless as regarded the disaster, and to bring Admiral Tarleton to a Court-martial on a charge he did not believe in, would have shown him to be entirely unworthy of the position he ought to hold. Mistakes he might make, and who did not? He claimed no infallibility of judgment; but no one could say that, being placed in a high position, he had shirked responsibility, and endeavoured to throw on others what he ought to take himself. Having made up his mind that the Admiral was not to blame, he felt bound to assert his opinion, and carry it out, and he was not to be deterred from doing so by any fear of newspaper vituperation or Parliamentary attack. Of course, he had known what was in store for him, for days before the official evidence of 1063 the Court-martial reached him, he had been told by writers in the Press exactly what he ought to do. But it was his duty to look for assistance in professional matters to his responsible Advisers, and having consulted them, he had stated in the Minute—which was his own—what he conscientiously believed to be right. It had been said that he would punish a lieutenant but not an Admiral. Well, in answer to that, he might remind the House that he had already shown that his Predecessor had punished two Admirals without a Court-martial, and beyond that, the first year he was in office an accident happened to a detached Squadron—two of the vessels got on the Solent rocks—and not being satisfied that the orders of the Admiral had not contributed to the disaster, he had him tried by Court-martial. On the present occasion he was satisfied that the Admiral was not to blame, and therefore no Court-martial was held. It was quite clear that the lieutenant of the watch had committed a grave error, but it was said he had been punished too severely. Those who held that language were evidently not aware of the difference of such a sentence in the case of lieutenants as compared with officers of higher rank. It was no doubt a sharp punishment for a lieutenant at the time, but it did not militate long against him, and he hoped the lieutenant in question would yet do good service to his Queen and country However, having neglected the injunctions of his captain and violated the orders given to the Navy with regard to proceeding in a fog, it was absolutely necessary that he should be visited with some degree of punishment. He believed he had dealt with all the points it was necessary to bring under the notice of the House. He hoped the House would be satisfied that the matter had not been treated lightly or without due inquiry and proper investigation with regard to all the circumstances connected with it. They had been told that the Admiralty ought not to deal with the cases of officers without subjecting them to a Court-martial. He admitted there were eases where it might be well to do so, and it sometimes happened that such inquiries did not elicit the whole of the circumstances. And sometimes there was a conflict of evidence on material points which would induce the Admiralty not to deal with the matter on their own responsibility. 1064 It was not so here, however; the inquiry was complete and full. There was no conflict of testimony upon any material point, and the facts were all clear before them. The only question was the right inference to be drawn from the facts, and the Admiralty was the proper authority to draw them, and state them in an authoritative manner. He had been asked what he was going to do with the Squadron in future, and his reply was that he hoped to give them more practice than they had had lately. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) that it was desirable to do so, but it was not his fault that he could not send the Reserve Squadron for practice in 1874, because in that year he had not a Reserve ship fit to go to sea. Practice was the soul of efficiency, but in 1874 no squadron evolutions could be performed with Reserve ships, and he had to send them out singly for the best practice that could be had. Last year, however, they were in a position to send out seven ships. It was his wish to give both officers and men more practice than they had had lately, and for the first time, and with the advice of his Naval Colleagues, he intended to utilize the training brigs in winter to practise young lieutenants and young men. Hitherto they had only been used in summer for training boys, but the last season they had to perforn double duty. There were five brigs, and he hoped that arrangements might be made to give more practice to the crews of the Reserve ships, and he felt certain that the more that was given to them both officers and men would become more efficient in duty, and that such disasters as these would not be repeated.
§ MR. HANBURY-TRACY
said, that the officers of the Navy with whom he had conversed were at a loss to understand how it was that the Lords of the Admiralty, whom he (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) believed to be able and competent men, could have issued the Minute referred to, except that they had been led into a very grave error. He wished to know who it was at the Admiralty that issued it, and why they punished the lieutenant and allowed the Admiral to go free, and why Captain Hickley had been let off and Captain Hawkins punished? There was an unanimous feeling in the Navy that a Court-martial ought to have been held on Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley, and the 1065 other officers of the Iron Duke, whereby they would have known more of the circumstances connected with the collision than was known at present. It was even a matter of astonishment that Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley had not themselves demanded a Court of Inquiry. For himself, he was quite sure that the holding of a Court-martial on those officers would have been to the been to the advantage of the Service. Analyzing the evidence given in the Court-martial upon the officers of the Vanguard, he drew the conclusion from it that upon entering the fog at a high rate of speed it was the duty of the Admiral to have made signals for slackening speed. Instead of doing so, however, he went ahead at the same speed which prevailed before the fog, and that was the result. The Vanguard and Iron Duke had to race into position and go ahead as fast as possible, at the same time the Admiral pursuing his course utterly regardless of the position of the two ships. Yet they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that speed had nothing to do with the disaster—that speed had not contributed to it; he contended, on the other hand, that the Admiral had not kept the fleet well in hand. The failure of the Admiral to do that was, in his (Mr. Hanbury Tracy's) opinion, and in that of many naval officers, the main cause of the disaster. It would have been desirable, with regard to the loss of the Vanguard, to know what the officers of the Hector saw, and until we did so we were not in a position to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion on the subject. He was well aware that the reputation of Admiral Tarleton stood very high; but then junior offices were punished, and, putting aside all matters of detail, there could be no doubt that, whether the Board of Admiralty were right or wrong in their decision, a Court-martial on the Admiral would have brought out many facts, while its appointment would have been far more satisfactory to the public as well as to the Navy. If there had been a Court-martial, he could not help thinking that the blame would have attached not to the Navy, but to the Admiralty. The First Lord had spoken of the Admiralty as being superior to any Court-martial, but up to 1860 Courts-martial were superior to every other tribunal—that was to say, there was no appeal from their decisions, which they could arrive 1066 at without any fear of an Admiralty Minute. Unfortunately, the Act of 1860 was passed, giving to the Admiralty an Appellate Jurisdiction. And why? It was acknowledged in the House of Lords that this Appellate Jurisdiction was asked for the Admiralty because it was necessary to have junior officers sitting at our Courts-martial. He apprehended, however, that it never was intended that the Admiralty should upset the decisions solemnly and deliberately arrived at of a Court composed of the senior officers of the Fleet. The First Lord had said that this was both a Court-martial and a Court of Inquiry. It was a Court presided over by an Admiral and Commander of the Channel Fleet. We had nine senior officers to inquire into the loss of the Vanguard, and no one could say that their decision was not arrived at with the greatest deliberation and without fear or favour. Was it right, therefore, that the Admiralty should go and issue a Minute upsetting that decision? The effect of such a course on the part of the Admiralty was to declare to the world that it did not agree with the professional opinions of our senior officers.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
Sir, as one of the very few naval officers who have seats in the present Parliament, I trust the House will allow me to say what I believe to be the general opinion of the Navy in regard to the deplorable accident dent now under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) has stated the case so fully and so fairly that I shall not weary the House by recapitulating the circumstances which led to and followed this great naval disaster. But, first of all, I must take exception to the new system, adopted of recent years by the Admiralty, of supplementing or reversing the sentences of Courts-martial, and I must express my surprise and regret that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has deemed it to be his duty to sanction the issue of this Minute, and now to justify it to the House. The first instance of attempting to reflect upon the judgment of a Court-martial by Minute was in the case of the loss of the Captain, against which I have, in common with many hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House, constantly protested; but I shall not further allude to that case 1067 except to express my sorrow for the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) from our debates, and my sincere sympathy for him in the sad circumstances which explain his absence. But it is the less necessary for me to allude to that Minute because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London also afforded an example of over-ruling the sentence of a Court-martial by a Minute in the memorable case of the Agincourt disaster. The Agincourt struck on the Pearl Rock; a Court-martial was assembled to try the captain and officers and crew of the Agincourt for the stranding of their ship. The Court-martial sentenced them as in their judgment it thought fit, and the sentence was discredited by the Admiralty of the day, over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, in obedience to ignorant public clamour. In this case the Admiralty acted by Minute because it thought that the sentence was not severe enough. Not only I myself, but, if I am not mistaken, my lamented Friend the late Mr. Corry challenged the course taken by the Admiralty with regard to the Agincourt disaster. I have always held, and I now hold, the opinion that Admiral Wellesley and Admiral Wilmot, two very distinguished officers, were very illused by being dismissed from their commands, and discredited without having the opportunity afforded them of defending themselves before a Court-martial. I do not say whether they were right or wrong. I express no opinion. They might have been found guilty if they had been tried, but they ought to have had that to which every Englishman has a right—a trial by his Peers. Now, this is the bad precedent which my right hon. Friend has thought it his duty to follow in this case; and I am the more surprised at it, because he has already shown the House that he knew what it was just and right to do under similar circumstances. In Admiral Randolph's case, to which reference has been made, my right hon. Friend took the right course. Admiral Randolph was much blamed by the Press, because two of the ships of his squadron went ashore on the coast of Sicily. The officers were tried by Court-martial, and so afterwards was Admiral Randolph, and upon his trial it was satisfactorily proved that he was not guilty, and that gallant officer must 1068 thank his stars that he was tried by Court-martial. In the present case it seems to me the unkindest thing ever done to Admiral Sir Walter Tarleton was not to submit his conduct to the judgment of a Court-martial. As it is now, he could hardly have been in a worse position if he had been tried and found guilty; his reputation is in danger of being shipwrecked, because he has had no opportunity of defending himself in a public manner before an open Court. I have the greatest respect and esteem for Sir Walter Tarleton. He has served the country with distinction and great ability for 40 years, and now he has not a fair opportunity given him to explain publicly his share in this deplorable disaster, and to show at least in what degree he is responsible for it. I say the same as regards Captain Hickley. I have not the honour of knowing that gallant officer, but I have always heard him spoken of as an excellent officer. Why has he had no opportunity of explaining the facts of the case, and his share in the transaction? My right hon. Friend asserts that he could frame no charge on which to try these officers; but it seems to me a charge could have easily been framed on which to try them, as it was against Admiral Randolph. By the course adopted by the Admiralty, my right hon. Friend has done much to discredit the authority of Courts-martial. These tribunals are the only means left to maintain the discipline of the Navy. It is very dangerous to tamper with their decisions; their judgments should be upheld; and I believe, in my heart, that the Admiralty is weakening the discipline of the Navy every time they publish wretched Minutes like these I have alluded to, disparaging the decisions of Courts-martial. In this case the Court was one whose authority was well deserving of respect. It was presided over by a noble and gallant Friend of mine, well known to many hon. Members—Lord John Hay. There were two Admirals on the Court, the President being at the time second in command of a squadron of iron-clads, and Admiral Chamberlain, an officer who had commanded an iron-clad. The seven captains all had commanded, or were commanding, iron-clads. These nine officers were all experienced in the subject they had to consider, and it must be remembered that in coming to the decision at which they arrived, they were establish- 1069 ing a precedent against themselves. A similar accident to that which befell Captain Dawkins might befall any one of them, and their decision upon Captain Dawkins might at any moment come to be applied to themselves. I ask—could there have been a fairer or more competent tribunal? Now, my right hon. Friend—not, of course, of his own authority—chooses to set at nought and to differ from the judgment of this Court. His naval Colleagues are personal Friends of mine. The name of Sir Alexander Milne carries the greatest weight with the naval profession; both he and Admiral Hornby have commanded fleets and squadrons, and Lord Gilford is an officer of very high reputation, who has also commanded an ironclad in a fleet. Their names as members of any Court-martial would add Weight to its decisions, or as witnesses before a Court their evidence would be entitled to the highest respect. I would not for a moment ask the House to accept my judgment in preference to theirs; but is it to be said that these three gentlemen, however distinguished, forming their judgment by reading the evidence and without hearing and seeing the witnesses, and without the weight of responsibility which devolved upon the sworn Members of a Court-martial could possibly come to a decision which would command equal confidence with that arrived at by the nine officers composing the Court. In my opinion the sentence was a stern and severe one. I confess, when I read it at first in the newspapers, I thought it a hard sentence, and regretted that the Court had not said something complimentary as to the discipline and good behaviour of the men of the Van-guard—had not entirely removed the stigma unjustly cast upon Captain Collins, a marine officer who had already elsewhere distinguished himself for conspicuous gallantry in action—had not said something complimentary of Lieutenant Hathorn, the officer of the watch of the Vanguard, the only officer of those tried who was entirely acquitted of all blame, and who the right hon. Gentle-men the Member for the City of London informs us was 600 down the list of lieutenants. But for all that the Court deserved to be upheld and its decision respected. My right hon. Friend the first Lord has said that the sentence was one which showed divided coun- 1070 cils. Why should he say so? There is no evidence of divided councils, nor is this a matter into which either he or this House have any right to inquire. The sentence of a Court-martial is the sentence of the whole Court. The decision is the decision of the majority, but the members are sworn to secrecy, and no knowledge of the votes of individual members can be obtained without breaking a solemn oath. In Admiral Byng's case this House was appealed to, to pass an Act to enable Members of the Court who were also Members of this House to divulge the individual opinions of the Members of the Court. It was refused, and since that no such attempt has been made, until my right hon. Friend has thought fit to allude to divided councils. I may mention that a naval Court-martial differs from a military Court-martial in this—that when it is once formed it owns no higher authority. A military Court-martial cannot promulgate its sentence or dissolve itself, until the sentence has been approved, by the highest authority. Its sentence may be sent back for revision, or entirely set aside; but a naval Court-martial cannot have its sentence revised, for so soon as it has decided upon the evidence it proceeds to pass its sentence upon the prisoner by dismissing him from the service or sentencing him to punishment under the Naval Discipline Act. It then dissolves itself, and exists no longer, and the Admiralty cannot express its disapproval of the sentence to the President or any other Member of the Court, because the person so accused may have voted in the manner the Admiralty may have desired, but is unable to say so for fear of violating his oath. It is true that sentence of death is not carried out without the approval of a higher authority, and that after sentence of dismissal the Admiralty have power to restore the officer to the profession, but the Admiralty cannot annul the sentence
§ MR. HUNT
By the Naval Discipline Act the Admiralty have a power to modify and revise the sentence.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
Yes, after it is passed; but the sentence cannot be annulled or sent back to the Court-martial for revision. All the Admiralty can do is to prevent the sentence being carried into effect. Now my right hon. Friend says the Court-martial was a Court-martial 1071 to try Captain Dawkins and his officers, and a Court of Inquiry to inquire into other circumstances attending the loss of the Vanguard. I entirely deny that a Court-martial is a Court of Inquiry. A Court-martial tries prisoners for stated offences submitted to it and the prisoners have the opportunity of defending themselves; but it has no power to inquire into the conduct or character of persons not before it. The Court-martial says that Captain Dawkins and others are culpable, and sentences them accordingly, and acquits others of blame. It further says that the evidence before it seems to make it possible that other causes are to blame. It is the business of the Admiralty to give the persons so reflected upon an opportunity of defending or explaining their conduct and this can only be afforded them before another Court-martial. I blame the Admiralty for issuing the Minute at all; but having issued the Minute, I blame them for this—namely, for justifying a fleet of iron-clads in the narrow seas, in steaming seven knots an hour in a fog. Instead of being a protection to our commerce they are a danger to it, and are not sufficiently under command to avoid collisions with peaceful traders. This speed is entirely at variance with the Admiralty Order in the Signal Book which enjoins an Admiral to reduce the speed of his fleet to three or four knots an hour. Will the House forgive me if I endeavour to explain the reason for giving this Order? I will endeavour to divest my explanation as much as possible of technical language, if the House will bear with me. A screw ship has a peculiar advantage over ships propelled by paddles or sails. If, even when the ship is at rest, the screw propeller is put in motion, and the rudder is turned to one side or the other, the water is thrown off the propeller against the side of the rudder, and the direction of the ship's head is at once altered by the stern of the ship being turned, and this before the action of the screw has caused the ship herself to be moved ahead through the water. I may say that on one occasion I commanded a screw line-of-battle ship, and brought her from Cape St. Vincent to St. Katherine's in a thick fog, and without seeing anything but one yacht under my dolphin striker. That yacht was so well handled that she may have belonged to my hon. Friend 1072 the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) and when his flare-up was burnt I ordered the screw to be turned rapidly for a few revolutions, which enabled my ship's head to turn so quickly as to slip past the yacht without touching her. But our speed was not more than three knots, for if it had been seven, my hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk might not have been here to give us the information which I am sure we shall hear from him in the course of this debate. The First Lord of the Admiralty says there were special circumstances, but what were the special circumstances? An hon. Friend of mine, a gallant Admiral, for whose opinion on all subjects I entertain a very high respect. Sir Cooper Key, addressed a letter to the newspapers, in which he justified Sir Walter Tarleton's speed by asserting that it was necessary to overcome the tide. I thought when I read that letter, and before I had seen the chart, that Sir Walter Tarleton had taken his squadron down the inner channel between the Kish Bank and Bray Head, in which case he would in my opinion, have certainly been justified in getting out of the dangerous channel as soon as possible, unless he had thought fit to bring them to an anchor. But I confess I do not see the necessity for maintaining a high speed to the eastward of the Kish Bank. In my opinion, unless there was some special circumstance with which I am unacquainted, it would have been best to have made a signal to reduce speed to that enjoined by the Admiralty, and to have altered course more to the east. There was nothing between the fleet and the Welsh coast, and a slight change of course would have overcome the in draught of the tide. Then I am not satisfied as to the reasons why signals were not made. My right hon. Friend says that the slackening of speed and the alteration of course would have involved two signals. Well, why not? One of the special objects of a squadron of evolution is to practise signals. The squadron had nearly completed its cruise, and no doubt had been properly drilled in this necessary duty. In efficient ships guns on the same side and of the same calibre are kept loaded, with a man ready to fire each in succession, and some spare guns ready to fire for fear any gun should miss fire, and an error be caused in the significance of the signal by a 1073 longer period elapsing between the discharges of the guns than is specified in the particular signal. In the evidence I regret to see that a gun of an improper calibre was fired at the wrong time, but this, no doubt, was not an error which can justly be attributed to the Admiral. Then there is the evidence as to the Vanguard and Iron Duke being seen at a distance of eight miles at two o'clock, just when one of them was sinking, instead of at four cables' distance, as ordered by the last signal. It surely would be to Admiral Tarleton's advantage to be able to explain to a Court-martial the special circumstances which prevented him ascertaining by signal the cause of these ships, half his fleet, being out of station—whether, in fact, it was ever reported to him. Again, I should like to know why Captain Hickley was right in being off deck before his ship had regained his station, and why Captain Dawkins was wrong? If there was an excuse for Captain Hickley, there might surely have been an excuse for Captain Dawkins. The Fan-guard would certainly not have been sunk if the Iron Duke had not run into her, and the Iron Duke would not have run into her if she had not altered her course at a high rate of speed. I must say that sufiicient importance is not attached, in my opinion, to Captain Dawkins' evidence as to the ship which was under his bows. I hold the Blue Book in my hand in which, no doubt, every hon. Member has read Captain Dawkins' letter, in which he states that he himself saw the vessel under his bows. He could hardly have been mistaken, and if he had not altered his course and perhaps slowed his engines, another catastrophe might have occurred with, perhaps, considerable loss of life. I have no personal knowledge of Captain Hick-ley, and I have a great respect for Sir Walter Tarleton; but, if I had been in the place of either of these distinguished officers, I would never have been satisfied until a Court-martial had been assembled before which I could have made my explanation and defence. In my opinion, it is not even now too late, and I see no difficulty whatever in framing the charges. I am sorry to differ from my right hon. Friend, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London is equally culpable with himself for setting the bad example 1074 of the course pursued. I thank the House for having heard me, and I trust the officers concerned will forgive me if I have said anything which may appear harsh with respect to their conduct.
, referring to the "phantom ship" alluded to by the First Lord of the Admiralty, said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the suddenness with which vessels came into sight out of a fog-bank, and, indeed, he was far from being satisfied that the ship in question had not crossed the Vanguard's bows just before the accident occurred, a fact which a second court martial might have elicited. He could not help thinking that it would have been a great advantage to Admiral Tarleton, if he had had an opportunity of explaining the extraordinary opinions he expressed with respect to the conduct of officers under his command. He did not, however, think that the speed at which the vessels were going was one of the main causes of the accident, and he believed that the collision was to be attributed to the conduct of the young officer of the watch, who had acted most unjustifiably in sheering the Iron Duke out of her course. The Admiralty had been more lenient in the punishment of that young officer than a court martial would have been, and he rejoiced to think that the time might come when that young officer would have an opportunity of redeeming his error and of becoming an ornament to the Service. He was satisfied that, even at this late hour, the appointment of a court martial to try Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hick-ley would meet with the approbation of the whole Service, and even if the verdict of the Court were against them, those gentlemen would stand in a far higher position than they did at the present moment in the view of all naval officers. Under these circumstances, he hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty would re-consider his decision.
§ CAPTAIN PIM
, in moving, as an Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Member (Mr. Goschen)—That, in the opinion of this House, the opportunity should be afforded to the Admiral in Command, Vice Admiral Sir Walter Tarleton, K.C.B. of clearing his reputation by being tried by a Court Martial,said, that during the 30 years that he (Captain Pim) had been in Her Majesty's service, in all parts of the world 1075 he had never heard of a more deplorable circumstance than the loss of the Vanguard. The Minute of the Admiralty on the subject had also caused great dissatisfaction throughout the Service. He was sorry to say that there was discontent both among officers and men in the Navy, and the extent to which the discontent prevailed among the latter was shown by the number of desertions which increased every year. In 1874 there were no fewer than 800 desertions, last year the number had risen to 1,100, and no doubt this year it would still further increase. He believed that if a court martial were granted to enable Admiral Tarleton to clear his reputation, it would give great satisfaction to the Service, and it was with that view he proposed the Amendment.
§ MR. NORWOOD
, in seconding the Amendment, expressed his opinion that the explanation given that night by the First Lord was not altogether satisfactory. The action of the Admiralty, on two points, had served to attract attention of an unfavourable character from the public at large. One was, that the Admiralty had absolved Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley from all blame, and had refused to submit their conduct to an inquiry by court martial, and the other point was, that, at the same time, they had dismissed a young lieutenant from his ship. What was the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman? He had said that the Admiralty had an Appellate Jurisdiction and possessed powers superior to those of a court martial, and that, having read the evidence, and examined charts, he had concluded that neither Admiral Tarleton nor Captain Hickley was to blame. Therefore, it was that the Admiralty declined to put those officers on their trial by court martial. But the nation had suffered a heavy loss in the sinking of the Vanguard, and in his (Mr. Norwood's) opinion every person implicated in that loss, however remotely, should have been brought to trial, and either punished or completely cleared of all blame in the matter. In the Mercantile Marine, whenever an accident occurred, a Board of Trade Inquiry was held, and the whole affair was sifted and its details laid clearly before the public, and it was of equal importance that the same course should be taken in the event of 1076 disaster to our Navy. It was most unsatisfactory to the country at large that the right hon. Gentleman and his professional Advisers should have thought fit to set aside the deliberate decision of a court martial of unexceptional authority, and should have refused to allow of further inquiry being made into the cause of the accident. As it was, the First Lord of the Admiralty had thought fit to screen two officers, one having command of a most important Squadron, the other commanding one of our largest ships, and to avoid the full inquiry which the nation had a right to expect. In his opinion, it was a most extraordinary statement that the high rate of speed at which the vessels were going in a fog had not contributed to the accident, and to show the difference of treatment as to the Mercantile Marine he might instance that one of his steamers had been found to blame by the Judge of the Court of Admiralty because she had run over another vessel while proceeding in a fog at the rate of only four-and-a-half miles an hour. The argument that it would have been difficult to alter the fleet's rate of speed, because it would have on-tailed a change of course to avoid running on to the Kish shoal was absurd, because there could be no difficulty in vessels obeying two simple and well-understood signals in succession. He could not attempt to vouch for the accuracy of the statement; but he had certainly heard it stated that the officers were feted in every place at which the Squadron touched; that the state of discipline was lax; and that, as a matter of fact, the ships were steaming at a high rate of speed at the time of the accident in order that the officers might reach Cork sufficiently early to be present at a ball which had been arranged for their amusement. Whether that was or was not true, he could not help regretting that the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London was not more definite in its character. The clear duty of the Leaders of the Opposition was to raise a distinct issue, and to ask the opinion of the House as to whether the First Lord of the Admiralty had performed his duty with a stern determination to maintain the high honour, position, and discipline of Her Majesty's Navy, and whether it was not just to Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley to deny them an oppor- 1077 tunity of defending their conduct before the Service and the country?
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "in the opinion of this House the opportunity should be afforded to the Admiral in Command, Vice Admiral Sir Walter Tarleton, K.C.B. of clearing his reputation by being tried by a Court Martial,"—(Gaptain pim,)
§ Question proposed," That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he fully endorsed the opinion of the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Norwood), that the Motion of the right hon. Gentle-man opposite (Mr. Goschen) was of a very unsatisfactory character; but he was bound to add that he did not think any Motion which the right hon. Gentleman could have brought forward would have been of a satisfactory character. He made that remark in no disparagement to the righthon. Gentleman, but on the ground that the subject was one which that Assembly, with all its talent and ability, was not competent to deal with satisfactorily, because it was a subject involving too much professional detail. When he first read the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman he did not anticipate any good result from it, and the debate upon it so far confirmed that view. Recently there had been a lively discussion as to whether a certain question, which had been before the House, was or was not a Party question. At all events, this could not be considered a Party question. Whatever blame they attached to anybody, both sides of the House were, in his opinion, equally to blame in the matter, for he had no hesitation in saying that the primary cause of the loss of the Vanguard was the constitution of the Board of Admiralty. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) that one of the more immediate causes of the loss of the ship was her being undermanned; but had not the late Admiralty been guilty of doing the same thing when they were in office? Before bringing forward the Motion then, it would have been well for the right hon. Gentleman to have remembered that when he left office the Navy was in a state of debility and destitution. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) 1078 had done something, but not so much as might be desired, to repair the errors of his Predecessor. He, however, fully exculpated himself, and made out an excellent case, in reply to the charges brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The subject had much better not have been brought forward for the credit of both sides of the House, for the present state of the Navy was a disgrace to the country. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) said that the ship was amply manned; but it was in evidence that she had landed 170 Coastguard men at. Kingstown, and they being absent she was not in a position to deal with the emergency which followed. The Vanguard ought to have been sent away from Kingstown as a crippled ship, not fit to be in company with men-of-war in Squadron. He did not pretend to censure the sentence of the Court-martial—it was composed of men of the highest character, and presided over by one of the most distinguished officers in the Service; but he would make one remark as to the Admiralty Minute. He lamented that that Minute should have endorsed the mischievous doctrine that steamers were to maintain in a fog the rate of speed at which they were going. Why, there was no more cogent cause of collisions at sea than such a practice, and to find it endorsed by the Board of Admiralty—and, therefore, encouraged—was a thing which he could not but deeply deplore. A high rate of speed was the immediate cause of the disaster; for he believed that if speed had been reduced the collision would never have occurred, no discussion would have been necessary, and the Vanguard would have been still afloat. It was urged that by reducing speed the vessels would have been set inside the Codling Bank. Well, he had known the Codling Bank for 50 years, and, unless the tides in the Irish Channel had very much changed of late, the Admiral, by altering his course two points to the eastward, might have reduced his speed and kept clear of the Codling Bank. With respect to Admiral Tarleton, he entirely endorsed the opinion which had been expressed by his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay). He looked upon Admiral Tarleton as a very ill-used man, and hoped he would be afforded an opportunity of relieving himself by the sentence of a Court-martial of pro- 1079 bably an unjust imputation. The same observation applied to the officer of the watch of the Iron Duke, Lieutenant Evans. He would not go into the question whether that officer was or was not guilty of a breach of discipline, or orders, in altering the course of the vessel and not reporting the fact immediately to the captain; but he maintained that to alter the course was a sensible and seamanlike thing to do; and further, that if the course as altered had been maintained and persevered in, the disaster which occurred would not have ensued.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
said, the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had told them that this was a question which the House did not understand—that it was so completely technical that it ought to be decided by another tribunal. Now, whether that House was or was not the proper tribunal to settle the matter under discussion, one thing was certain, and that was that the country at large had formed an opinion upon the causes of this great calamity—namely, that the captain of the Vanguard had been hardly dealt with. The Squadron was going at a reasonable rate of speed, a fog suddenly came on, a ship crossed the bows of the Vanguard, orders were given to change her course to avoid running down that ship, and before the effect of that change was perceptible the Iron Duke appeared, and in 30 seconds the collision occurred. Now, the two transactions were so entirely unexpected that he questioned whether any human foresight could have anticipated, or any human wisdom have prevented, the collision under the circumstances; and if a Court-martial sitting deliberately and determining upon rates of speed, points of steering, and various nautical matters without any sudden emergency to excite them, with plenty of time to deliberate, and no responsibility for the preservation of human life pressing on them, came to the conclusion that Captain Dawkins should have preserved the same coolness as they did when sitting weeks afterwards to decide these questions, he thought such a sentence was one that was eminently severe, rigorous, and unjust. The first charge againt Captain Dawkins was, that he left the deck before the evolutions were completed. He had sailed from Kingstown at half-past 10, and was on deck until half-past 12. The Squadron was then well clear of 1080 the Kish Bank, no possible danger was anticipated, and he went below for seven minutes and then returned on deck. It appeared that Captain Hickley, on board the Iron Duke, had remained on deck precisely the same time, and had curiously enough gone below for exactly the same time, and yet he was absolved, as if his ship had completed her evolution. He did not mean to cast the slightest imputation on Captain Hickley, but to a landsman it appeared that the same measure of justice should be meted to each, and he was at a loss to understand what neglect of duty there was in the one case that there was not in the other. They were told that there were indications of a fog, but an indication of a fog in the Irish Channel in the month of September meant nothing more than that the sky was not very clear, and most hon. Gentlemen who were in the habit of crossing the Channel must have had experience of fogs, and must know how suddenly they sprung up, particularly at that period of the year. Within seven minutes after Captain Dawkins had gone below he appeared on deck, and he had scarcely done so before it was announced that there was a ship right ahead of him. His first order was to change the course of the Vanguard, he ran forward to see that order executed, and in three minutes from the time when the ship was reported "right ahead" the collision took place. What possible arrangement could be made at that moment? Who could have anticipated that the Iron Duke was so near? There was no time to make any signal to the Iron Duke notifying a change of speed or course on the part of the Vanguard. Again, Captain Dawkins reduced speed, and they had the opinion of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Admiral Egerton) that in doing so he had committed no error. It was a matter of safety and proper precaution, and to condemn Captain Dawkins for lessening speed, while by the same Court-martial the Admiral was blamed for keeping up his rate of speed, was a thing which, to him, was altogether unintelligible. But it was said that Captain Dawkins did not take proper precautions to save the ship after the collision. But the evidence showed that the tremendous collision had misplaced the apparatus for closing the water-tight compartments, and the 1081 rush of water was so enormous and so sudden that the saving of the ship under such circumstances was hopelessly impossible. According to the report of the divers, the aperture made in the Vanguard by the collision was 15ft. high by 4ft. broad, and there were 350 tons of water per minute flowing into her, so that no human being could have believed that the vessel would stay afloat for 70 minutes. The likelihood rather was that she would go down in 15 or 20 minutes after the collision. One of the engineers had deposed that in a few minutes he was up to his thighs in water; and in similar circumstances, supposing there was to be a rush of water from the Thames into that House, he apprehended the first thing they would do, would be to look after their own lives, although the occupants of the Treasury bench might sit and deliberate on the best mode of pumping out the water; and so the first thought of the captain was to save the lives of his officers and crew. Captain. Dawkins was responsible for 350 lives. By the wise course he adopted he saved every life on board, and if he had wasted precious time in trying to pump out this deluge of water, or trying to stop this breach with sails, every life onboard would have been sacrificed. It was not feasible to take the Vanguard in tow, for she had sunk so low that the water had reached to the name of the ship, and if Captain Dawkins, in such a fog, had perilled the lives of his crew by taking such a course it would have been anything but judicious. It had been alleged that the line taken by the Admiralty in differing from the decision of the Court-martial had been adopted in order to screen Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley. He owned that the explanation given that evening by the First Lord of the Admiralty was perfectly satisfactory as to the reasons which had led them not to put Admiral Tarleton on his trial. It had been said that in justice to Admiral Tarleton, Captain Hickley, and the other officers concerned, they ought to have the opportunity of demanding that Court-martial. But by that Admiralty Minute Admiral Tarleton had been entirely exculpated from blame, and he did not see how, after that Minute, the Admiralty could call upon Admiral Tarleton to be tried by Court-martial. All that was imputed to any of the gallant officers concerned, 1082 whether condemned or acquitted, was an error of judgment, and the House would remember that 100 years ago a naval court martial had most cruelly condemned a gallant officer to death for an error of judgment. It had been said that Admiral Tarleton must keenly feel his present position, but he would feel it still more keenly, after having been exempted by the Admiralty from all blame, that he should be called upon by the House of Commons to stand his trial as a criminal. He could not help thinking that Captain Dawkins had been treated with great severity—nay, more, with considerable injustice in these proceedings, and trusted that both Captain Dawkins and Lieutenant Evans, who had been condemned, would be speedily restored to the Service.
§ CAPTAIN G. E. PRICE
said, he wished, as the Representative of a large naval constituency, to say a few words by way of protest against the course taken by the Admiralty in this matter. He wished to bear testimony to the moderate and truthful manner in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) had so well put his case, although he must take exception to one or two points of his speech. The first reason given by the Court-martial for its decision was the high rate of speed at which the fleet was going. As an officer who had had some experience of fleets of modern days both in and out of fogs, he saw nothing exceptional or out of the way in the speed at which the Squadron was going. So far as the fleet itself was concerned, five, six, or seven knots an hour was by no means an unsafe speed for the ships under the circumstances. But they had to deal with vessels not belonging to the fleet, and with which they might come into contact, and then arose another question altogether. Captain Dawkins was not called upon to determine whether seven or eight knots an hour was the proper speed. He had his Signal-Book to go by, and he considered that he was at liberty to cast off from the Admiral and fall back on the regular provision made for him by the Admiralty Instructions. The First Lord of the Admiralty stated that the Admiral was obliged to go at a certain speed in order to arrive at his destination at a certain time, and to this it had been very truly replied that it was not necessary he should arrive at Queenstown at any particular time. 1083 Even if two signals had been necessary instead of one, there would have been no difficulty in carrying out the required evolution. He had been in many fogs with the Channel Fleet, and as long as there was not a rough sea or gale blowing there was no excuse for a fleet becoming disorganized in this way. In a fleet properly organized and with a proper complement of signalmen there was not the slightest excuse for disorganization. With regard to Lieutenant Evans, he could not help thinking that one officer had been sacrificed to save another, A great deal had been said about the course of the ship, but he wished to say that during his experience, he had seen the same course taken in several instances, not only by the lieutenant of the watch, but by the captain in charge of the ship, and even by Admirals in charge of their Squadrons. In more than one instance he had known the rather particular formation called quarter line to be taken in a fog in preference to that commonly called line ahead. He could not think the course taken by Lieutenant Evans in sheering the ship to the left hand was calculated to bring about the accident, and it had been ably shown that if the course he began had been pursued no collision would have happened. What caused it was the improperly steering into line of the Iron Duke. When the captain came on deck he found the ship had been sheered out of her course, because Lieutenant Evans—holding views which, though possibly mistaken, were shared by others—thought it safer to be a little on one side than in a straight line with a fog. The captain thought differently, and, finding the ship in the position she was and going at the speed she was, instead of sheering her gradually, reducing speed, and ascertaining whereabouts the Vanguard was, sheered his ship at once towards the line she had been in, and naturally produced the collision. He could not have adopted any other course more likely to produce a collision if he had wished to bring one about, or if the Vanguard had been an enemy's ship which he had chased into the fog. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) had spoken of the fact that a large portion of the crew had been left at Kingstown, but he (Captain G. E. Price) did not think that that could have had anything to do with the matter, seeing that such 1084 ships were navigated less by blue-jackets than by stokers and officers in charge, and more especially by signalmen; and he regretted that the Returns did not show the numbers and rating of the different descriptions of men on board, because he feared there was not the proper proportion of fully-qualified signalmen. Then as to the purpose and intention of the cruise, though the right hon. Gentleman opposite was very moderato in the present tone of his speech, yet in one part of it he said in effect to the present Board of Admiralty—"Look at what you did; you sent the fleet round the coasts of the country for the purpose of gaining popularity." He (Captain G. E. Price) thought that was a pity', for he could say from his own experience that the Channel Fleet had visited more important places than this Reserve Squadron did, such as Belfast, Greenock, Liverpool, and Holyhead, stayed longer at them, and received more hospitality, extending to as many as 30 balls in 10 days, or three or four a-night; and, if the nursery of the fleet might accept so much hospitality, he could not see why the veterans of the Reserve should be denied their share. It had been said that if the Vanguard had been taken in tow she might have been saved to the country. He did not think that was possible. He had been concerned in the towing of the Floating Dock to Bermuda, and, therefore had enjoyed the advantages of some experience in such business, but he believed it would have been futile and absurd to have made any attempt to tow the Vanguard, full of water as she was, with her men trying to save the ship until they had to save themselves; and if the Vanguard had been towed into shallow water she would have been less safe than she was at present, because on the Kish Bank she would have knocked herself all to pieces. As to the popular demand for a Court-martial on the officers, and the reference that had been made to Admiral Byng, that officer was not shot in deference to public opinion; he was put out of the way to divert public attention from the mismanagement of the Admiralty. On that occasion, the public thought they saw an attempt on the part of a British officer to avoid an action with an enemy, and on this occasion they thought they saw officers screened from justice. Foreign nations looked up to us with the greatest 1085 respect in matters of organization and discipline, and it was to be regretted that there should appear on the part of the Admiralty a shirking of the fullest investigation. Notwithstanding his criticisms, he felt sympathy for the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was not so responsible for this result as was generally supposed. A good deal had been said as to the Naval Advisers of the Board of Admiralty; but if the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward this subject had been First Lord at the time this accident happened, and if he had received, as he would no doubt have received, the very same advice as the present head of the Admiralty received from his Naval Advisers, he doubted whether he would not have followed precisely the same course. If he did not, he would have been setting himself up with that consummate ignorance which all First Lords of the Admiralty had on naval affairs, upon a professional point against the advice of some of the best officers of the Navy. He could not vote for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but he must record his protest against the action the Admiralty had taken, and against the system which rendered such action possible.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, he had long been convinced that the Admiralty kept too large a proportion of our young officers and seamen in harbour ships, and, in his view, the necessity for increasing the number of sea-going ships in commission was conspicuously brought out in the course of proceedings at the Court-martial at Devonport. In order to show the urgent need for more experienced seamen in the Navy, he would refer to some details of the evidence given by various witnesses. "Was it not unsatisfactory that the men who were placed in the most responsible positions, such as look-out men and signal men, were only ordinary seamen? An ordinary seaman was stationed as look-out man at the top-mast head of the Vanguard who had been only eight months in a sea-going ship. At the topmast-head of the Iron Duke there was also an ordinary seaman who, when asked how many cables' length the Vanguard was distant from the Iron Duke when last seen, replied that he did not know the meaning of the word cable. The entire management and manœuvring of a, ship by the officers in command 1086 might depend on the experience and judgement of the men on the look-out aloft, and if they were not efficient the gravest consequences might ensue. The case of Lieutenant Evans had repeatedly been mentioned, and it must be a source of great regret to find that a lieutenant placed in charge of one of our most costly ships on a critical occasion was an officer who, although he had held a lieutenant's commission for three years, had only been three months in a sea-going ship. The seaman placed as a look-out on board the Vanguard was an ordinary seaman, and it was in consequence of his reporting a ship ahead that the Vanguard stopped and the collision followed. It turned out that this seaman had been treated twice for blindness in the right eye, which was the organ directed to the supposed ship. The state of the signal department in the Iron Duke was most unsatisfactory. Not only was the officer of signals imperfectly acquainted with his duty, but the signalman whose duty it was to report signals, and whose efficiency depended on the full possession of the faculty of hearing, was stone-deaf in one ear. The stoking department in the Iron Duke was also in an inefficient state. In short, the results of the inquiry as to the loss of the Vanguard had revealed the fact that there were a great many inefficient seamen in the fleet, and we had not been without a warning on the subject from other sources. Within the last 12 months two very able lectures on the condition and training of the fleet had been delivered by Captain Wilson, who had just completed a term of three years' service as captain in charge of the training establishments of the Boyal Navy. It had been shown that they only trained enough boys to keep up the number of seamen voted for service in the fleet, and yet while the number of boys was kept at the minimum, the seagoing ships in commission could only take three-fifths of those youths to sea who left the training-ships, so that the remaining two-fifths, instead of being sent to sea were sent to harbour-ships. Having shown some of the evils of the present system, he might be asked what remedies could be applied. He thought the initiation of the Flying Squadron by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract was exceedingly valuable. The annual cruise of the 1087 Channel Squadron was also valuable, and he was delighted to hear that it was in contemplation to extend the duration of that cruise in future years. These were steps in the right direction. It was, however, to be regretted that so many fine seamen were to be seen employed in harbour ships, and that something more should not be done with the view to give more thorough training at sea to the young seamen of the fleet. He trusted that the Admiralty would feel justified in making proposals for the building of vessels of a class which might be used for the purpose of instructing men in seamanship, and could be attached as tenders to our present training-ships at Portsmouth and Plymouth. It might be said that to send officers and seamen to sea in sailing-ships would be an imperfect preparation for service in iron-clads; but, on the other hand, many of the qualifications that were necessary for the management of an iron-clad ship could be acquired in vessels that would be built, equipped, and maintained at much less cost to the country. It had been pointed out by the Secretary to the United States Navy, in a Report which he made on the subject in 1869, that an iron-clad, which was always under steam, was a bad school of seamanship, and that promptitude and nerve, qualities so essential in naval battle, were not so constantly brought into play as they were on board a large sailing-ship. In conclusion, he would remind the House that our Navy presented an illusory appearance of strength, unless the seamen voted for the Service were thoroughly trained in their duties at sea.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, the inquiry that was made by the Court-martial was a full inquiry under Sections 91 and 92 of the Naval Discipline Act. The court martial, after full evidence, arrived at certain conclusions, and the question was to what extent were those conclusions borne out by the evidence, and to what extent the correction of those conclusions by the Admiralty Minute was justifiable. After the very full statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London and of the First Lord of the Admiralty, very few facts remained for discussion. There was very little discrepancy in the evidence. 1088 The evidence showed that the accident was owing to a reduction of speed by the Vanguard and to the Iron Duke sheering to port. He did not think anyone could have listened to this discussion and have read the evidence without coming to the conclusion that it was the duty of the Vanguard to maintain the rate at which she was going until her signal that she was about to reduce that rate was heard and answered by the Iron Duke, which was following her. The Vanguard reduced her speed from eight knots to six, and then to five. He thought it seemed clear not only to seamen, but to landsmen, that no man going ahead in a fog had a right to stop unless he had given a signal which was answered. The Admiral's course was laid for clear weather; the fog came on suddenly without giving him an opportunity of signalling to his fleet what they were to do, and he had laid a course which for 12 or 13 miles was a clear stage. Next Admiral Tarleton certainly had given an opinion by which it seemed that the captains of the vessels mighthave shielded themselves—namely, that they might have acted according to their own discretion in a fog; but that opinion only applied to single vessels navigating by themselves, and not to vessels immediately following one another, and that could not, therefore, warrant a leading vessel to alter her pace without communicating with her comrade. It had been urged that both the captains having gone below and having returned on deck at the same times, the one had been punished and the other had gone scot-free; but the leaving the deck and the returning had been attended by very different results—the captain of the Iron Duke, on returning on deck, had corrected the error of his lieutenant; Captain Dawkins, on returning, had slackened his pace, and so had led to the collision. The Admiral, having laid down a distinct course and the rate of sailing, could not have foreseen what did happen, the sudden reduction of speed and the sheering of the Iron Duke, and the return into the proper course which did produce the collision. For that disaster, it appeared from the full and very clear statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Captain Dawkins was primarily responsible. The whole facts were brought out by the court martial, 1089 and the eminent naval officers on the Admiralty Board no doubt drew the fair and just conclusion from them which was embodied in the Admiralty Minute. The right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had called the Admiralty Minute a "wretched" Minute—an epithet which he thought the right hon. and gallant Member would regret having used. The Minute went most carefully into the whole matter, going seriatim over the various points in the finding of the court martial; and the First Lord of the Admiralty had fully substantiated the judgment given in the Minute upon those findings. It was quite clear, upon a full perusal of the case and the evidence, that some of the findings were not borne out by the evidence, and, indeed, were inconsistent with each other. It had been suggested that it was improper to have a Court of Appeal like the Admiralty when there had been so eminent and well-qualified a tribunal as the court martial was in that case; but he maintained that there was great advantage in an appeal under such circumstances; and he denied that it was any interference with the rights of the Court below, or that it was at all giving it a "snub," for a body like the Admiralty to say to it—"We do not confirm your findings, but we negative a number of them." The Admiralty sat not only to consider sentences, but to consider findings on evidence. Some speakers had given a degree of countenance to the popular outcry about the great men having been let off, while the small men were punished. There was no justification whatever for that insinuation, and he was sorry to hear it sanctioned by anyone in that House; because, disastrous as it was that so great and expensive a work of English skill and English industry should lie decaying and silted-up amongst the sands of the Irish Sea, far more disastrous to the country than the loss of the Vanguard would it be if it were once thought that one whose name had always been distinguished for high honour and a love of fair dealing could be capable of sacrificing a subordinate in order to save one in high authority.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he did not rise to follow in the track of the observations which had been made by hon. Members 1090 on other parts of the case. His object was to impress on the Admiralty the necessity of considering how far the construction of the Vanguard had led to the disaster, and the means of preventing such catastrophes in the future, for we had six ships constructed upon the same principle as the Vanguard. In her case it was clear that the point most worthy of remark was that, had the bulkheads been absolutely tight, the vessel would not have been lost. The total extra immersion resulting from the inflow of the water at the place where the blow was struck would in that case have been something under two feet six inches. But the bulkhead doors did not act effectively, and the water, in consequence, went over the greater part of the ship. "Was this result to be looked for in the remaining vessels of the same class? If it was, and if doors were absolutely necessary in the bulkheads, it was clear they ought to be of a better description than those of the Vanguard—sliding doors, perhaps, instead of hinged doors; but in his opinion it would be perfectly possible to do away with them altogether at the point and in the position where their inefficiency resulted in the loss of the Vanguard. It was also to be observed that on board the Vanguard, not only the regular, but the auxiliary pumping arrangements were in the engine-room. Now, if the auxiliary pumps had been on deck they would have been available even when the engine-room was under water. It had been said that if Captain Dawkins had given his attention to rigging his pumps instead of getting out the boats he might have saved his ship. Now, he had gone carefully into the matter, and he could say the supposition was entirely erroneous. The effect of using all the available pumping power would have only been to keep the vessel afloat about three minutes longer than was actually the case. All this, as the House would see, pointed to the necessity of removing the auxiliary pumping arrangement from the engine-room altogether, and placing it on deck above water—a change it was most desirable should be carried out in the existing five vessels similar to the Vanguard. On the merits of the case which the House had been discussing he had only a word to say. He did not see how the Admiralty, on the showing of 1091 their own. Minute, could altogether absolve the Admiral from blame, and it appeared to him extraordinary that while Captain Dawkins and Captain Hickley both left the deck of their vessels, the one should have been punished and the other not, and that Lieutenant Evans should be blamed for altering the course to avoid danger, and Captain Hickley praised for a similar act done with a similar object, but which nevertheless resulted in disaster. The same description of inquiry, in his opinion, ought to have been applied to all ranks of the Service alike. He certainly thought, looking at all the circumstances of the case, that some further judicial inquiry should be made into the conduct of the Admiral and of Captain Hickley.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
said, the House of Commons was called upon to judge of the evidence which had been placed before them, and he hoped they would rise to the dignity of the occasion and decide it in a thoroughly judicial manner. They had heard both the charge and the defence which had been placed before them by the two right hon. Gentlemen, the Member for the City of London and the First Lord of the Admiralty, with equal ability, knowledge of details, clearness, and perspicuity. The manner in which they had handled the subject would go far to dispel the opinion entertained by many that civilians, assisted by a competent council of naval officers, were unable to conduct the business of the Admiralty. He admired the way in which the charge had been brought forward, and he still more admired the defence. But what was the charge? Shortly stated it was this—Why did you, the Board of Admiralty, not bring Admiral Tarleton and Captain Hickley to a court martial? Well, they had heard the reply to that. They could not try a man for what he said; they must try him for that which he did; and the gist of the defence was that the Admiralty were convinced in their own minds that Admiral Tarleton was not the cause of the disaster, and that he had nothing to do with the disaster. The First Lord of the Admiralty said, in effect—"I have taken the unanimous advice of my Naval Council, and they are convinced that the Admiral has in no way conduced to the accident." The right hon. Gentleman said further— 1092 " Feeling that strong conviction on my mind, I shall overrule that part of the court martial which said that the rate of speed was the cause of the disaster. I honestly believe that Admiral Tarleton in no way conduced to the accident, and how can I frame a charge against him which will justify me in bringing him before a court martial? "That was the defence, and it was an honourable defence. Was the charge sustained, or was the defence adequate and just? His conviction was that when the whole discussion went before the country—when it was found that the Naval Administration was composed of three officers to find whose equals they might search the profession through and fail—when it was found that, guided by such opinion as this, the First Lord could not make up his mind to frame a charge against the Admiral—his belief was that the country would acquit his right hon. Friend. There was one other point. Why had the officers not demanded a court martial themselves? Surely, if they had demanded it, it would not have been refused them? That was a course which he wondered the officers did not adopt; and if it had been adopted he believed their application would have been granted. He believed, however, that the defence had been well sustained, and that it was satisfactory and just.
§ MR. MOEGAN LLOYD
asked what was the direct cause of the accident? The direct cause appeared to be in evidence. When Captain Hickley came on deck the ships were in the relative position of departing from each other's course. It was clear, then, that had this course been followed out the accident could not have occurred. At that moment, however. Captain Hickley, though informed by Lieutenant Evans of the course the vessel was running, gave the order to port the helm, and thereby caused the Iron Duke to run into the Vanguard amidships, which was the immediate and direct cause of the accident. It was, therefore, clear that, whoever else might have been to blame, Captain Hickley was primarily answerable. It was also clear that Admiral Tarleton did contravene one of the Standing Orders of the Admiralty in allowing the Squadron to go at such a speed during a fog; and, that being so, both Admiral Tarleton and Captain 1093 Hickley ought to be placed on their trial.
§ MR. A. EGERTON
said, that no one objected to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), but he hoped the House would pause before accepting the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend (Captain Pim). The House was asked by that Amendment to order the trial of two officers by court martial without the intervention of the Admiralty. Such an Amendment, if carried, would sap the confidence of the Navy in those who were placed over them, and he trusted, therefore, that, whatever might be the result of the debate, the Amendment would be negatived. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken repeated the statement that Admiral Tarleton in going at the seven-knot speed had controverted a distinct Order of the Admiralty. This was precisely what the Admiralty contended that Admiral Tarleton had not done. They contended that he was perfectly justified in going at the speed which he ordered; and as to the course steered. South by East, there was no naval authority who would deny that that was the best course which could have been pursued under the circumstances. When he set the Squadron at the seven-knot speed the weather was perfectly clear. Was he then bound to reduce the speed directly the Squadron got into a fog? Certainly not. He saw before the fog came on that he had a clear course of 10 miles, and beyond that, the wind was light, there were no sailing vessels in the way, the course was out of the track of steamers, and the reduction of speed would inevitably have taken the ship too near the shoals. For these reasons it appeared to the Admiralty it would have been wrong to have brought any charge against the Admiral on the score of maintaining speed, while that part of his evidence to which exception had been taken had been misunderstood, for he had not meant to assert that Captain Dawkins was justified in reducing speed, without communication with the vessel following him; and even had the opinion expressed not been misinterpreted, the Admiral could not be tried for an opinion which had no effect upon the cause of the accident. As to the imputation that had been made on the discipline of the fleet 1094 by the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), he had been assured that it was in excellent order, and that no complaint had been made of the conduct of the crews at any of the places on the Irish coast which they had visited. He hoped, therefore, that the House would dismiss from its mind the issue brought forward by that hon. Gentleman. Some people said—" Why did you not dismiss Admiral Tarleton? "That was an easy enough question to put; but it did not really touch the point. Admiral Tarleton had served his country well; he was an able officer; he was an admirable organizer and administrator; and it would neither have been wise, just, nor right to have dismissed him for an accident which the Admiralty, after full investigation, had decided he was not responsible for. No one could doubt the justice of the finding of the court martial respecting Captain Dawkins, who, according to the views of officers of distinction and experience, ought not to have slackened speed except with the greatest caution and the most perfect understanding with the ship behind him. That was precisely what Captain Dawkins neglected, and this exposed him to the severity with which he was visited. It had been suggested that the ship was insufficiently manned. Her complement was 336; and there were 351 men on board; besides the ordinary proportion of officers, there were one extra lieutenant and two or three warrant officers, and it could not be contended that the total number was not sufficient to sail the ship. Passing from Captain Dawkins he came to the case of Captain Hickley, for not trying whom by court martial the Admiralty was blamed. Re-mark was made on the condition of the Iron Duke's steam whistle, but it seemed to be forgotten that the steam whistle could not be turned on at a moment's notice, and he could not see, therefore, that any accusation could be brought either against Captain Hickley or the officer of the watch with respect to the condition of the whistle. The truth was, that whether the steam whistle was blown or not was a matter which had very little effect on the accident. There was, further, no reason to suppose that Captain Dawkins had been guided by any signal from the Iron Duke, for he had reduced steam without any communication with that vessel. What led to the accident 1095 was that the Vanguard had been brought back three cables' length to a spot where the Iron Duke had no reason to look for her. It was also said that the fleet was ill equipped and badly commanded; but the equipment was, he thought, perfectly good; while as to the crews, the Admiral was entirely satisfied with them. Some of the ships, no doubt, were badly commanded; and with one that certainly was the case. Generally speaking, however, the fleet was as well officered as usual, and he hoped the effect of the long discussion of that evening would be to convince the House that the Admiralty had not issued the Minute without careful inquiry and without having obtained the best advice in their power.
§ MR. SEELY
, in moving the Adjournment of the Debate, said, that the main ground on which he relied as proving that the Admiral was wrong, was the finding of the court martial that the speed of the Squadron was too high. The statement of the First Lord, at the same time, he must confess staggered him; but as the subject was a technical one, and required considerable care in its examination, he did not wish the House to come to a decision upon it without having time to consider the arguments on both sides. It was alleged by some that a lieutenant had been dismissed unjustly while an Admiral had been also unjustly acquitted, and if an adjournment of the discussion, in order to give an opportunity of considering the arguments on either side, were refused, an impression would be created that there was a wish to favour the great at the expense of the small.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Seely.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, there is a Motion before the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, and an Amendment has been moved, without Notice, by some hon. Gentleman who sits on this side. I trust, in the first place, that both sides of the House will agree not to sanction Motions without Notice. The practice of proposing Motions without Notice, if of frequent occurrence, would completely destroy all our Parliamentary order; and if there be any subject on which such Motions should be particularly dis- 1096 couraged, it is a subject like the present—the gravest that can possibly be brought under our consideration. Whatever may be our decisions upon these matters, let them be mature decisions, after grave deliberation and with due Notice. I conclude, therefore, that there will be no encouragement given to-night on such a subject as the British Navy—for it is that, in fact, which is in question—to thoughtless Amendments. Then I come to the real question before us, which is the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. That Motion was brought before the House in a speech of exhaustive criticism, and I think that all who listened with the attention, at least, that I did, will willingly bear witness to its commanding merit. It was answered, on the other hand, by my right hon. Friend with a clear, a complete, and a manly statement. I have seldom heard in my Parliamentary experience a great and complicated case so completely put before the House as this case has been by the two right hon. Gentlemen. Well, the right hon. Gentleman moves for Papers of some importance—I have seen the heads of what he wishes to possess—and the Government make no opposition to his request. Well, then, why are we to adjourn the debate? The object is attained. Two of our principal Members—the two men most qualified to address us on the subject—have addressed us in a manner which has commanded the entire sympathy and respect of the House. We are now in possession of the case. An hon. Gentleman in the course of the debate spoke of the unsatisfactory character of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. In my opinion it was exactly the Motion that ought to have been made. The object of the right hon. Gentleman was that the House should be in full possession of all the facts. The right hon. Gentleman does not estop himself for the future, for the case being now before the country and the House, he will have an opportunity of considering what has occurred this evening, and it will be perfectly open to the right hon. Gentleman or to his Friends when they have the Papers to take any course they may think proper. With respect to the hon. Member for Lincoln, who has moved the Adjournment of the Debate, 1097 I must remind him, and I do it with great regret, that he would be disqualified from taking any part in it on account of the observations he has just made. Well, then, as I cannot suppose that the House will sanction a Motion without Notice, I must say I shall resist the Motion for Adjournment. In case it be persisted in, which I cannot contemplate, I must take the course which I think it my duty to take, not only on account of the manner in which the question has been placed before us, but also because the state of Public Business would render it most inconvenient that there should be any further discussion. As the Army Estimates will be introduced on Thursday, and the Navy Estimates on Monday, there will be ample opportunity for bringing forward any Motion connected with the Navy hereafter.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I hope that, at all events, the House may be able to come to some unanimous opinion upon this subject. I believe that the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln in moving the Adjournment of the Debate was that the House might have an opportunity of considering the statement made on behalf of the Government, and that he thought the most convenient mode in which the discussion could be renewed would be in the form of an adjourned debate, when it would be possible for any hon. Member to give Notice of his intention to move some Amendment expressing the opinion which he held. But, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, I doubt whether it would be necessary for my hon. Friend to persevere in his Motion. I think that some of us on this side of the House were doubtful whether it would have been better, or, indeed, entirely fair to the Government, after the question had been discussed throughout a whole evening, that it should be again raised; but, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, it is evident that there is no objection on the part of the Government to the question being again raised by any hon. Member who might wish to submit a definite Resolution to the House on the subject. [Mr. DISRAELI assented.] If that is the distinct understanding, I do not think that any object would be gained by adjourning the debate. The 1098 right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London has obtained what he desired—namely, a full exposition of the views of the Government in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty. The country will now have time to consider that statement, and my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln and other hon. Members will also have time to consider whether that statement can be or cannot be considered satisfactory, and whether they will take the sense of the House upon some definite Resolution. That is the view of the matter that I take at the moment, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln will do well, after the exposition of opinion elicited from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, not to press his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. STACPOOLE
asked whether it was incompetent for an hon. Member moving the Adjournment of the Debate to again address the House on the debate being resumed?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate were negatived, the hon. Member for Lincoln would not be entitled to address the House further on the original Motion.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
hoped that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gravesend would withdraw his Amendment on the ground that a division on the subject would be certain to embarrass any future action which might be taken with regard to it after the challenge which had been thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That there be laid before this House, a Copy of a further Minute relating to the loss of H.M.S. "Vanguard."