HC Deb 10 March 1879 vol 244 cc529-30

, in rising to call attention to the circumstances in which, the inquiry into the causes of the late explosion on board H.M.S. Thunderer, by which two officers and 11 men were killed, and 35 men injured, had been held, and to ask Questions relating to it, said, that the investigation of the Committee had been conducted without the assistance of men accustomed to the manufacture of guns. As far as he could see, the conclusion arrived at was a mere assumption. He wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, what course he intended to adopt for the purpose of discovering, by practical experiment, whether the gun was perfect when leaving the manufacturer? Some satisfaction must be given beyond that contained in the Report. The Committee, he found, too, commenced the inquiry on the assumption that the construction of the gun was perfect, and that because one gun had missed fire therefore the other had done the same. He therefore asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, what method he had adopted for the purpose of testing the material of which our large guns were manufactured, and whether the right hon. Gentleman intended, in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee, to have the remains of the exploded gun, and also the gun which was still perfect on board the Thunderer, brought to England, in order that a further inquiry might be hold into the cause of the explosion? If that course were taken, he suggested that it would be desirable that representatives of all the leading gun manufacturing firms in the Kingdom should be called in, as well as naval and military officials. He wished to know, also, how the men on board Her Majesty's ships were exercised in the use of these large guns; and, further, what was the opinion of the First Lord of the Admiralty with reference to breech-loading as compared with muzzle-loading guns? He put a Question last Session with the view of ascertaining whether officers and men on board Her Majesty's ships were regularly trained in gun drill. Officers and men in the Army were practically exercised in what would be required of them in actual war. He found from the Report of the Committee that the whole system of working the large guns was extremely defective. The question of breech-loaders for ships as compared with muzzle-loaders was also a very important one, and in his opinion the adoption of the former would be of great advantage, as many operations which were necessary in connection with muzzle-loaders would become unnecessary. He trusted that both the Admiralty and the War Office would learn a useful lesson on this point from the disastrous explosion.