HC Deb 27 November 1893 vol 18 cc1792-3

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether, out of a total of 77 armoured vessels which this country possesses, exclusive of the Abyssinia and Magdala of the Indian Marine, and the Cerberus belonging to the Colony of Victoria, 40 of them, mounting in all 355 guns, are armed with muzzle-loading guns which have long ago been discarded by every other nation; and, if so, whether the Admiralty will include the re-arming of these ships or any of them in the next Navy Estimates?


The figures given by the hon. Gentleman are practically correct. There is no doubt that breech-loading guns were introduced by other nations at an earlier date than in this country. But previous Boards of Admiralty have had to consider the question whether money could be more advantageously spent in re-arming the older broadside ships with breech-loading guns, or in the construction of modern ships and experience has led to the decision that the latter course is preferable, as re-arming these old broadside ships is very costly, and the advantage gained is not commensurate with the outlay. The proportion of ships with muzzle-loading gnus is diminishing every year, and each of them has been brought up to date as regards auxiliary armament with machine and quick-firing guns.


Does the right hon. Gentleman's answer apply to the turret-ships?


No, Sir; I carefully restricted my reply to broadside ships. As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, turret-ships, such as the Devastation, have been re-armed, but enormous additional expense would have to be incurred if we put breechloaders into all broadside ships.