HC Deb 04 December 1890 vol 349 cc517-9
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he would state how many magazine Infantry rifles of the present pattern were sent to Hythe for trial and report prior to the adoption of the new arm; when they were so sent down and reported upon; who is the official at Hythe responsible for such Reports; whether the Report was favourable or the reverse; and whether he will lay such Report or Reports upon the Table of the House?

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

No rifles were sent to Hythe at that time, and, as I understand, for the reason that the Commandant, Colonel Tongue, was one of the Committee who chose the new rifle. One rifle was sent there in September, 1888. In August, 1888, five magazine carbines were sent there for trial, and the Report upon these and upon the rifle, which appears to have been tried with them, was received in November, 1888. The officer generally responsible would be Colonel Tongue, but, in the circumstances, he very naturally offered no remarks on the Report. The Report was generally unfavourable, and was curiously at variance with the tone of all the Reports which had been made by regimental officers and others, after the rifle had been placed in the hands of the private soldier. I will not produce any particular Report by itself, but I have not the least objection to producing all the Reports made before the adoption of the rifle, if the House wishes to have them.


Will the Reports be laid on the Table?


I will begin by placing them in the Library, where any hon. Member can see them. Although it would involve considerable expense, I would not oppose the printing and circulating of the Reports if it is desired.

In reply to a further question by Mr. HANBURY,


said no orders had been given to withdraw the ammunition marked I. for the magazine rifle.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state who is the official responsible for the introduction of a new small arm, such as the magazine rifle, into the Navy; whether he will lay the Report of such official upon the Table; and what trials were made by naval experts before it was adopted?


The Director of Naval Ordnance is responsible for the introduction of a new small arm into the Navy. There is no Report such as is implied in the question, since the rifle was accepted as adopted by the War Office. Before the magazine rifle was accepted a certain number of the rifles were issued to Her Majesty's ships for trial, and the Reports were generally favourable.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he will place in the Tea Room drawings or models of the mechanism of the new rifle, and also a detail of its trajectories at various distances?


I shall have much pleasure in meeting the wishes of the hon. and gallant Member.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he will explain the reasons why it was necessary to introduce Mark II. of the magazine rifle?


The reason why Mark II. is to be introduced is that an improved magazine has been adopted, which presents several great advantages, especially because it is easier to load and holds 10 cartridges. The other small improvements which are being adopted could easily have been introduced (and some of them have been introduced) into the manufacture of Mark I. Perhaps I ought to explain that we allowed the new rifle to be used in the drilling of the troops this year, in order to expose it to the roughest possible test, and we ordered that at the end of six months the rifles should all be examined by experts. Out of this examination have come various suggestions, some of which have been adopted. If the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, would like to see them, I will direct that rifles of Mark I. and II. shall be brought down to the House at 5 o'clock on Monday. I may perhaps add that all my advisers, technical as well as military, are absolutely unanimous with respect to the general merits of the rifle.