HC Deb 17 March 1887 vol 312 cc549-53

Completed Ships.

In the Estimates for 1886–87 (Appendix No. 37) it was anticipated that the following new vessels would be "passed into the 1st Reserve" during the financial year:—

3 armoured ships.
1 protected ship.
13 unprotected ships.

According to the latest Reports, it appears that the actual figures for the ships named in Appendix No. 37, as to be completed in 1886–87, will stand at the end of March, 1887, at 1 armoured ship, 1 protected, 13 unprotected.

Two armoured ships—"Rodney" and "Warspite"—have not been completed as was intended; the "Warspite" because of changes in rig and certain details, resulting from experience with "Impérieuse" at sea; the "Rodney" because of delays in supply of guns and gun-mountings.

Three unprotected ships—"Fearless," "Lizard," and "Bramble"—have been delayed in delivery by contractors, and, consequently, have not been completed by the date they would have been had contract terms been kept.

Besides the ships that have been completed, or will be finished in 1886–87, it is anticipated that thirty-five out of the fifty-five first-class boats of 125 feet to 150 feet in length will be completed in 1886–87; the remaining twenty torpedo-boats are complete in armament, and will be ready for service in June.

Furthermore, it must be noted that out of the sixteen ships shown as to be passed into 1st Reserve in 1885–86 (Appendix 37, Navy Estimates for 1886–87), fully one-half (including 2 armoured, 3 partially-protected, 3 unprotected ships) had money spent upon their actual completion in 1886–87.

The whole addition to the Fleet in 1886–87, excluding small craft, has therefore been:—

3 armoured ships.
1 protected ship.
3 partially-protected ships.
13 unprotected ships.

Under the Orders issued by the present Board, every vessel when passed into the 1st Class Reserve is supposed to be ready for sea in forty-eight hours, and the officers of the respective yards are held responsible that all vessels so passed are maintained in that condition.

Advancement of New Ships.

The general character of the work done on new ships in 1886–87, besides the completion of those above named, may be best described as rapid advancement. For the dockyard work, the facts are set forth in the draft programme for 1887–88, the most notable examples of rapid progress being the "Trafalgar," "Nile," *See p. 14. "Immortalité, "and" Aurora. "Results have amply justified the decision taken in framing the Estimates for 1886–87 to make liberal provision for the expenditure on labour on each of these vessels.

Causes of Delay on New Ships.

Some difficulties have arisen, as was anticipated, from the circumstance that so many of the armoured ships laid down previous to 1885 are very nearly in the same stage of advancement towards completion, requiring hydraulic machinery and gun-mountings simultaneously. Until the "Collingwood's" barbette-mountings had been actually tested, work on the corresponding mountings for other vessels of the "Admiral" class could not be taken in hand. When these trials were completed the orders given for other ships were of exceptional magnitude and urgency, greatly taxing the resources of the manufacturers.

The great exertions which the contractors have made to improve their means of meeting these special demands render it improbable that there will be in future a recurrence of delay from ships being in advance of their gun-mountings.

Delays in delivery of guns by the War Office have also affected the completion of some ships.

Contract Work, 1886–87.

The work on now ships building by contract has been pushed forward with great rapidity, and the sums earned have exceeded those provided in the Estimates for 1886–87.

During the financial year there have been delivered:—

6 torpedo cruisers ("Archer" class).
1 torpedo cruiser ("Fearless").
4 composite gun-boats ("Battler" class).

Four out of the five belted cruisers have been launched, and the fifth is to be launched on the 10th March. It is anticipated that the first of these vessels will be delivered early in 1887–88, and that all of them will be in the dockyards nest summer, and it is hoped that they will all be completed by April, 1888.

The "Renown" and "Sanspareil" are also advancing rapidly. The former is to be launched in April, and the latter in May, 1887, two years from the date of signing the contract.

The "Benbow" has been delivered by the contractors, has made her steam trials, and is now being completed at Chatham.

The six torpedo cruisers of the "Archer" class recently delivered have given some trouble in their preliminary steam-trials, and their completion has consequently been delayed. It is hoped, however, that two of them will be practically completed this financial year, and the others advanced. It may be anticipated that their speed on the measured mile will be 17 knots.

The "Fearless," sister ship to the "Scout," was delayed by a fire at the contractor's premises, otherwise she would have been completed this financial year.

Torpedo Flotilla.

Passing to the smaller vessels of the torpedo flotilla, the "Rattlesnake" has been delivered and tried, attaining a speed of 19½ knots, the estimated speed being 19 knots. It is probable that by changes in propellers a better performance will be obtained.

This vessel is the first of the "torpedo gun-boat" class. She was practically completed at the works of the contractors, and will speedily be ready for her sea trials, which will furnish very important information.

Now that her machinery trials are over, the other three vessels of the class building in the dockyards will be pushed on.

Experimental Trials of Now Ships, 1886–87.

During 1886–87 the sea trials of two important armoured ships, the "Colossus" and "Impérieuse," have been made. In the "Colossus" very few alterations have been suggested as the result of experience at sea. In the "Impérieuse," and following her, in the "Warspite," it has been decided to abolish the sails, and to depend entirely upon steam-power applied to twin screws.

With the important exception of being more deeply immersed than was anticipated, the "Impérieuse" in her trials fully realized the expectations of her design. Notwithstanding her deep draught, she is now, taking the essentials of speed, armament, and armour into consideration, if not actually the most powerful, one of the most powerful iron-clad cruisers afloat of her tonnage.

Sails have also been removed from the "Neptune" during her present refit, in order to increase her efficiency as a fighting machine.

The protected cruiser "Mersey" has been completed and sent on experimental service to test systems of submarine torpedo discharge Her steam trials, and those of her sister vessels, "Severn" and "Thames," have shown the class to possess a smooth-water maximum speed of 18 knots.

The first of the torpedo cruiser class, the "Scout," has also been completed and commissioned in 1886–87, as well as the torpedo gun-vessels "Curlew" and "Landrail." Both of these represent new classes in the Navy.