HC Deb 05 August 1890 vol 347 cc1901-3
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what information he has as to the firing of the heavy guns of H.M.S. Hero and Inflexible (the most powerful ships of the squadron which actually fired their heavy guns) during the present manœuvres on Friday last; whether it supports the account in the Times, of 4th August, that— One of the turret guns of the Hero could not be fired during the greater part of the practice; that at the conclusion of her independent firing on Friday the Inflexible reported that— The guns could not be run in, and that it was therefore necessary to take the pistons out, which could not be safely done at sea. If the operation had been real warfare instead of peaceable target practice half the heavy armament of these two powerful ships would have been disabled early in the action, not by the fire of the enemy but by their own inherent defects.


I also beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is correct that, during the heavy gun practice off the Scilly Islands on Friday last, two of the four 80-ton guns on board the Inflexible were for a considerable time disabled by accidents to their hydraulic gear, and that, on Saturday, one of the 44-ton guns of the Hero was disabled from the same cause; and whether, in consequence of these (and similar accidents during the Manœuvres of last year), Her Majesty's Government will consent to the appointment of a Departmental or Select Committee, to inquire into the whole system of gunnery in connection with the Navy, and more especially for the purpose of ascertaining whether the proposals for arming the ironclads now building under the Naval Defence Act, with big guns, are the most suitable for Naval warfare?


I also wish to ask the noble Lord whether it is true, as stated in the newspapers, that at heavy gun target practice off the Scilly Isles, on Friday last, two of the four 80-ton guns on board the Inflexible, and one of the two 44-ton guns on board the Hero became totally disabled; and will he inform the House who is responsible for the defective construction of these guns?


No reports have as yet been received at the Admiralty of failure in the hydraulic arrange- ments for working the heavy guns of the Inflexible and Hero. As regards the Inflexible, all the 80-ton guns were in continuous use for 10 consecutive hours at the bombardment of Alexandria, firing the maximum charges of powder the whole time, and there was not the slightest failure of any sort whatever at any time in any of the hydraulic arrangements during the whole period of the action in question. As regards the Hero, her heavy guns have been continuously used for instruction during the last two years in the training of seamen gunners at Portsmouth, and during the whole of that period there has been no failure in the hydraulic arrangements for working the heavy guns. I have full confidence in my gunnery advisers and the Board of Admiralty are thoroughly satisfied as to the efficiency and system of working heavy guns in the Navy, and there is, therefore, no intention of appointing a Committee to inquire into the subject.