§ The House went into Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. MELLOR in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ On the Vote for £3,463,000 for Shipbuilding, Repairs, and Maintenance,—
*MR. A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk) rose to move to reduce Vote 8, Section III., Subhead A (Contract Work—Propelling Machinery), by £100,000, the cost of the Belleville boilers in new first and second cruisers. The right hon. Gentleman said: I feel sure that I need make no apology to the Committee for occupying its time—it may be at some length—upon a matter which is possibly one more for the consideration of the technical expert than a Committee of the House. The sufficiency and efficiency of the boilers of our ships of war is, however, a subject of such vital moment to the protection of the interests of the Empire that I believe the Committee will regard a discussion on the matter as by no means time ill spent. No matter how liberal may be our grants for the Navy, they are wasted unless our ships are provided with good motive power. I freely acknowledge the difficult position of the Board of Admiralty when they are called upon to decide questions of a technical nature, when they have to weigh the evidence put before them by experts. The fault I have to find in the present instance is, that they have adopted, without sufficient evidence, an experiment on too extended a scale. It will be my endeavour to avoid technicalities as much as possible, for two reasons: I am not an expert, and therefore not able to place the subject before the
Committee with the authority of one acquainted with the theory of boiler construction, and few Members of the House can be regarded as having professional experience. My knowledge of the boilers and machinery of vessels has simply been acquired by practical experience extending over a great many years, and by having to pay largely out of my own pocket for mistakes and failures. In addition, the six years that I spent at the Admiralty gave me an opportunity of appreciating the mode in which matters connected with the machinery and boilers of vessels are conducted. It is impossible to exaggerate the immense responsibility imposed upon the Director of Naval Construction. Should his designs be faulty and found wanting in time of emergency, the lives of our men and the safety of our Empire would be at stake. Therefore, before dealing with the merits of the several class of boilers to which I wish to direct the attention of the Committee. I desire to trace briefly the procedure adopted in designing vessels, especially with regard to the relative positions at the Admiralty of the Naval Designer and the Engineering Chief. From time immemorial, the Naval Designer has not been an engineer, either by training or experience. His attention has been devoted to the form and strength of the vessels, the best position for her armour, and the accommodation for her crew. So far as the machinery is concerned he, by calculations based on previous results, can, and does, determine what power is required to propel the vessel he designs at a given rate of speed. The Engineering Chief and his Department have always been subordinate to that of the Chief Constructor, who, to-day, holds the position of Assistant Controller of the Navy. In any remarks I may make, I wish it to be clearly understood that they are intended to reflect in no way whatever upon that distinguished officer and man of science who, to-day, holds the position of Chief Constructor, Sir William White, or to his subordinate, the present Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy, Mr. Durston. I merely wish to emphasise this fact—that, whilst machinery has yearly advanced in importance to a vessel of war, no change has been made in the relative status of the Head of the
Engineering Department to that of the Chief Constructor. Both officers ought to have co-ordinate authority, subject to the Controller of the Navy. The speed which a vessel of war attains on her trials is, unfortunately, regarded as the proof of her success. The temptation on the part of the designer is, therefore, to press upon his subordinate to provide machinery that will occupy as little space as possible in the vessel, and which shall also be as light in construction as possible, so that the lines of the vessel may be made finer, and good results be obtained as compared with his foreign competitor. Were the Engineering Chief co-ordinate in authority with that of the Chief Constructor he would be in a stronger position to remonstrate, when asked to design engines of too light a type, than he can whilst he remains responsible to the Chief Constructor. This system has another disadvantage. The Naval designer, in the event of a failure, is not personally responsible. The engineering staff, on the other hand, can urge that they followed out the wishes of the Chief Constructor, and thus the Admiralty do not get that direct personal responsibility which is so essential to secure efficiency. In confirmation of my opinion on the present unsatisfactory position of the Engineering Chief to the Designing Department, I ask to be allowed to read from a letter from one of the largest shipbuilders in the country, and who has had great experience in constructing vessels for the Admiralty. He says:—
If we were asked by a shipowner to draw up specifications and make designs for engines and boilers to develop a given power in a merchant vessel we should require to considerably increase the dimensions of various parts of the engines and allow greater boiler power than is permitted in present Admiralty practice. In our opinion the margin of safety in the various parts of the engine and the margin for steam in an emergency are far short of what they should be, and without recommending that the machinery in Her Majesty's Ships should be made in every respect equal to that in the Mercantile Marine, we do think that the modifications suggested should be carried out and the necessary weight allowed for in the machinery. It appears to us that the Engineering Staff at Whitehall in designing machinery for new vessels are limited by the constructors to a maximum weight which we have shewn is insufficient to admit of the machinery of the necessary strength and endurance. This has been proved by the numerous failures that have occurred during the manœuvres, and which would be most disastrous if occurring during operations against a hostile
fleet. We are strongly of opinion that the capability of the machinery is sacrificed to the hulls and armament and it seems to us if this is the case that the Engineering Staff is not sufficiently represented at the Admiralty Board, and that those responsible for the hulls and armament have a preponderating influence on the sufficiency of such a vital part of a war vessel as is the machinery. We would suggest that if the Engineering Chief objects to the weight allowed for the machinery his ideas should be given effect to, and if disputed should be referred to a competent consultative Board, consisting of engineers only who have had great experience in designing and carrying their designs into execution, and who combine theory with practice.
It may be said that if such were my views on the matter why didn't I take some steps to give them effect? I confess that the system of a Public Department cannot be changed in a day, nor can you easily alter the status of officers now holding appointments; but the desirability, under such circumstances, of a discussion of designs is greater. About the year 1884 forced draught, as it is called, became all the rage. The demand for fast ships, and, therefore, vessels of fine lines, compelled the Engineering Department to apply the system of forced draught to boilers of all sizes and descriptions before adequate experience had been obtained. Forced draught in consequence of many failures of vessels obtained a bad name; but this, it is contended, was due not to the principle, but to its method of application, and to the design of boiler to which it was applied. In other words, had the engineers gradually made their experiments on a slowly ascending scale of ships and power they would have attained a success with the system instead of having to condemn it. The forced draught of that day was obtained by closed stokeholds into which the air was driven like into a diving bell when under water. Whenever the fire doors were opened there was an excess inrush of cold air which injured the internal parts of the boilers and the tubes. The boilers, for the sake of lightness, had only single combustion chambers. They were also deficient in strength. For example, had the boilers of the Blake type been fitted in a merchant ship, the Board of Trade would have restricted their working pressure to 114 lbs. to the square inch, whilst by Admiralty rules a working pressure of 155 lbs. was allowed. When this discrepancy between Admiralty
practice and Mercantile usage was brought to the notice of the Engineering Department, the idea of regulating the strength of Naval boilers by Mercantile practice was deemed a reflection upon the competency of the Engineering Department at the Admiralty. They claimed that instead of the Admiralty principle of Construction being too light, the Board of Trade and Lloyds' usage was too heavy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the inefficiency of the boilers of the Blake and other larger vessels constructed at that time, and the present large prospective demand for re-boilering these vessels, is a proof of the failure of the Department to provide boilers equal to the necessities of the Navy. I have called the attention of Committee to this point as regards forced draught, because I believe it has an important bearing upon the present proposal to adopt tubulous boilers. There is the same impulsive haste to-day as regards adopting tubulous boilers as there was from 1885 to 1889 in applying forced draught without sufficient previous experience. So strong was the prejudice on the part of the Admiralty against following, even at a remote distance, Mercantileusage with regard to boiler construction, that contracts for the first Naval Defence ships were made, and the vessels designed, with a provision for boiler power little in excess of that provided for the vessels which were then proving comparative failures. It was only after the contracts were made that the Authorities were induced to increase the size of the boilers, and then the increase had to be limited, not by the necessities of the vessel, but by the space available in the designs that had been settled. Speaking of these vessels, improved as they were by the change of boilers, the engineering firm whom I have already quoted, wrote that the specification was sufficient for the machinery to give on trial the power stipulated to be obtained under the contracts laid down, but if anything approaching the trial power was to be maintained for any lengthened period, the results showed that considerable modifications in the engines ought to be made, and that more boiler power must be allowed, and they went on to add that—
whilst machinery might on trial give the indicated power desired, it may be so constructed
that, when in a rough sea, it may prove to be insufficient in strength, and that the engines of Her Majesty's ships should be so constructed that they would proceed at their utmost power in moderately rough weather for any length of time without showing signs of weakness, and that boilers should be large enough to supply the engines with plenty of steam at that power.
In support of this contention, I may say that a fair example of the value to be placed on the horse power shown in the Navy Estimates would be 10,000 I.H.P. on trial, obtained with clean boilers, clean bottom, good stokers, picked coal, and smooth water, and only for four hours with forced draught. Under the same circumstances, with natural draught and for a period not exceeding 12 hours, she would indicate 6,600 H.P., but if required to proceed for 24 hours, the maximum expected from her engines was 4,000 H.P. I have felt compelled to give these details, so that the Committee, and especially those Members with a knowledge of shipping, may clearly understand the value of official figures representing the speed and coal endurance of our ships. I will now turn to the proposals in regard to the fitting of the vessels included in the Naval Programme for the coming year with Belleville boilers. I wish, at the outset, that it should be understood that I am far from averse to the Admiralty experimenting with this new arrangement of boilers or machinery, that promise fair results. My sole objection is to their risking the future efficiency of the Navy upon machinery as to which they have not had sufficient practical experience. The Civil Lord, in replying to criticisms of the hon. Member for Gateshead and myself on tubulous boilers, whilst expressing a wish that they had been able to give a longer trial to the Belleville boilers, said, that the Admiralty felt justified, in supplying the two great cruisers Powerful and Terrible with these boilers, and applying the same description of steam generators to the eleven cruisers that are to be laid down this year on the following grounds:—(1) The exhaustive trial of the system on board the Sharpshooter; (2) the favourable report from the engineer who made a voyage in a French mercantile vessel using these boilers; (3) their adoption in the French and Russian Navies; (4) the advice of the Boiler Committee appointed in 1889 that these
boilers should be adopted for the new cruisers; (5) that out of the boilers at present designed they did not get enough results; and (6) that certain torpedo boats between' 85 and' 91 had been fitted with water-tube boilers. I propose to examine the value which can be attached to these several pieces of evidence. As regards the Sharpshooter trials, I cannot conceive anyone accepting the results obtained by this vessel as justifying an extended use of the boiler in other cruisers, and so far from having influenced the adoption of the Bellevelle boilers, she had not been tried when the contracts for the Powerful and Terrible were made. The Civil Lord told the House that this vessel had been under steam on 13 different occasions, the longest continuous run being for 30 hours; that during that period she consumed 74 tons of coal, developing 2,326 H.P., or a consumption of 2¼lbs, per hour for every unit of horse power developed—a most wasteful consumption of coal, and sufficient to condemn the use of the boilers, whatever other advantages they may possess. Apart from this, the extent of the trials on the Sharpshooter were of such an insignificant character as to be worthless as any indication of the merits of her boilers. If any expert were to examine Mr. Durston's table of this ship's performance with these boilers, compared with sister ships, he would have no doubt of their unsatisfactory character as regards consumption. The second argument adduced in favour of the adoption of Belleville boilers was the report of their engineer who made a voyage on a French Mercantile vessel using the boilers. As to this I have only to turn to the interesting letter written by Mr. Samson (who is the managing partner of the firm in England who have the privilege of manufacturing these boilers), which appeared in The Times some days ago. In it he says that—
no engineer who knows anything of the subject would think of fitting the Sharpshooter's Belleville boilers upon a vessel of the Mercantile Marine.
With this evidence of the maker before us, how can it be urged that any value is to be attached to a trip in a Mercantile vessel using Belleville boilers, which are quite dissimilar to those to be used in
the British Navy, as providing any justification for the Admiralty in determining the use of such steam generators in our great cruisers? As regards the experience obtained of the use of these boilers in the French and Russian Navies, I believe I am correct in saying that out of the 13 French vessels which are said to be fitted with them, only one has been tried, and that for no great distance or time. The experience of Russia may be disregarded. A boiler on this system was tried at a very low-pressure and with a very old-fashioned pair of horizontal engines. Under such conditions no reliable data are afforded. The Civil Lord placed reliance upon the Report of the Boiler Committee presented in 1893, and said they recommended the adoption of tubulous boilers for the new cruisers. I think there is a very grave error in the complexion given by the Civil Lord to the Committee's recommendation. On page 7 of this Report they—
recommend the fitting of tubulous boilers in two vessels for experimental purposes so that data may be obtained for guidance as to the adoption or otherwise of this type of boiler.
I cannot conceive it possible that the suggestion of the Committee can be construed to mean that experiments should be made in two vessels of the enormous size and cost of the Powerful and Terrible. The context of their Report—
That one, at least, of any new cruisers should be arranged to receive tubulous boilers should the trials prove satisfactory
is a clear indication that they meant the experiment to be conducted on a moderate scale, and that whilst a new cruiser should be arranged to receive tubulous boilers, yet they should not be fitted until proof had been afforded of their success in smaller vessels. The next reason put forward by the Civil Lord for this wholesale adoption of Belleville boilers was that—
out the boilers at present designed they did not get enough results.
I am not surprised at this remark, seeing how persistently the Admiralty have failed to follow the best mercantile practice, and I think I shall, before I have concluded, be able to show the Committee that they could get even better results out of cylindrical boilers,
both as to power and economy, than can be obtained from the Belleville boiler. In recent Debates in the House a sufficient distinction has not been drawn between the various types of tubulous boilers. In torpedo-boats the tubes of water which are exposed to the flame of the furnace are of very small diameter, not inore than 1 or 1¼ inches. They are very thin and many in number. The Belleville boiler, which is also tubulous, is quite distinct in character, the tubes or pipes carrying the water varying from 4½ to 5½ inches in diameter as compared with the 1-inche pipe of the torpedo-boat destroyer. I am not standing here to condemn the Bellevile boiler, for I do not know enough about it to presume to do that; but there are some points connected with these boilers on which I can give such information as should induce the Admiralty to pause before they proceed with this huge expenditure. Touching first upon the question of coal consumption. I will give a few comparisons between the Belleville boiler and the recent type of cylindrical boiler used in the Mercantile Marine. On the Sharpshooter's trial of 30 hours she developed 30 per cent. less power than she did on her contractor's trial, and she burnt 2¼ lbs. of coal per hour for each unit of indicated horse power. I can give you my own experience of a vessel built two years ago, having a cylindrical boiler using a pressure of 180 lbs., which, on a series of voyages covering 70,000 knots in twelve months, has an average consumption of 1¼ lbs. per hour per unit of horse power developed, or 40 per cent. less than the Sharpshooter. I am not alone in this experience, for at the Institute of Civil Engineers particulars were given of modern merchant vessels voyaging out to Australia and home with a coal consumption of less than 1⅓ lbs. Apply this comparison to the Terrible and assume the possibility of her maintaining her full power of 25,000 horses on a long run. She would steam 528 knots in 24 hours, about the speed of the fastest Atlantic boats, and would burn 600 tons per day, or 265 tons more per day than on the basis of the ships I have quoted. Steaming from Portsmouth to Gibraltar she would therefore consume 530 tons more coal, and if the voyage was continued to Alexandria the excess
would be more than 1,300 tons, whilst the total consumption from Portsmouth to Alexandria would be 3,000 tons, or nearly double her coal capacity. Well might it be said that she would have to carry a coal mine with her.
§ MR. FORWOOD
It is not a question of speed. It is a question of the amount of horse-power to be developed per pound of coal. A vessel developing 3,000 horse-power would be more efficient than a vessel developing a 1,000 horse-power. But I know the reply will be that a full-powered run to Gibraltar or Alexandria would never be required, and that the full power will only be wanted for spurts in action. With every deference to naval opinion, I demur to this comfortable conclusion.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
My hon. Friend has not quite completed his comparison. Are the ships which he compares supposed to be steaming at the same high rate of speed?
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
Is it not the case that the consumption at high speed is greater than at moderate speed?
§ SIR EDWARD REED
Does the hon. Member ask us to believe that there is no greater consumption of coal when you are driving a ship at a high speed?
§ *Mr. FORWOOD
Not if you have sufficient boiler power. Before I leave this question of the Terrible I wish to say that I have no reason to suppose that the Belleville boilers are more dangerous when properly attended to than other boilers. As far as I understand, the question of safety only comes in connection with the feeding of the boilers. Now, Sir, what alternative designs are there? As regards torpedo boats, there is the locomotive boiler, but that is unsatisfactory, though the fault is not so much in the boilers themselves as in the forced draught and in their construction. These boilers have been built by marine-boiler makers instead of by locomotive-boiler makers, and from all I can gather, the unsatisfactory result from these boilers 80 has been due rather to faulty construction and the closed stokehole. Serious accidents have occurred with some of these boilers, fitted or being fitted. It is just, however, to such makers as Messrs. Yarrow and Laird and Messrs. Thorneycroft, who have had larger experience than any other makers of this description of work, to state that (so far as I am aware) no accident of moment has occurred to any of the boilers fitted by them. It must be borne in mind, however, that the experience of these boilers has been limited to trial trips, and not to constant wear and tear. I think the Admiralty were wrong in ordering over 40 vessels to be fitted with these boilers before a much better test of their efficiency had been had than has yet been obtained. Now, Sir, I would like to say one word on a point that I know will be urged, namely, that you must not compare a warship in this matter of boilers with a mercantile vessel, because the circumstances under which they work are very different. I think that is an entire mistake. Our cruisers are built to protect our commerce. What are the ships that will act as commerce destroyers? Such of the fast mailships as are possessed by France, Germany, Russia, and other countries, that can keep and maintain a speed of from 20 to 22 knots an hour continuously, through all weathers, for 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 miles, all being provided with quick-firing guns. What use then is there in building cruisers with Belleville boilers that can only stay for three, four, or perhaps six hours? No, Sir, the cruisers to be of any use must have staying power. They must be able to keep the sea and pick up improvised warships taken out of the mercantile fleets of other nations. But I think also that, from the point of view of naval strategy, it will be required that our cruisers should be fast and have great staying powers. I believe that among other purposes, our Fleet ought to be built for blockade purposes, and that will require vessels of immense coal endurance and stability and strength. It is well to remind the Committee what is meant by blockade. It is not impossible that such continuous services might be required from our modern fleets as were required by the fleets of 90 years ago. What that demand was may be judged by the reply to an inquiry I made of that distinguished 81 naval historian, Professor Laughton, who writes me that the blockade of Brest lasted from 18th May 1803 to 13th December 1805, practically without a break; and the Villa de Paris, on which Cornwallis hoisted his flag on 9th July 1803, did not come in till Christmas day, or 170 days, and again from 12th January 1804 to 20th March 1805, when Cornwallis' health gave way—which is 434 days. It is claimed that the weights of boilers on the water tube system are so much lighter than the cylindrical, that a small increase in the consumption of coal would be met. This is a fallacy, and I will compare the type of boiler placed on the latest Cunard ship, the Sylvania, with the proposed boilers in the Powerful, and the result as given on the trial trip of that vessel. The weight of boilers and accessories in the Powerful will be, I believe, about 1,200 tons. For a similar power on the Sylvania's principle the weight would be less than 900 tons; but the boilers in the Powerful will only contain 64 tons of water, whilst those in the Sylvania will require 348 tons. Taking boilers and water together, the saving in weight of the Sylvania's system would be less. There is no doubt greater safety in cylindrical boilers in case of an irregular supply of water. I feel bound to add that the result in the Sylvania is most remarkable, and much ahead of any previous mercantile experience. The boilers in this vessel are double the efficiency of those in the Admiral class, and more than 40 per cent. more effective than the boilers of the Naval Defence ships. I therefore repeat again that in coming to a conclusion in favour of Belleville boilers, the Admiralty had not the best information before them. In point of floor space, the Belleville boilers will occupy 30 per cent. more room, proportionately, than those of the cylindrical type in the Sylvania. Two advantages will I know be claimed for the Belleville boiler. One is the quick raising of steam, and the other is that they can be placed below the water line. No doubt steam can be raised in the Belleville in less than two hours, whilst six hours would be required for the cylindrical type. But when it comes to be a question of war, I do not think our ships are going to be caught napping with their fires out. Any admiral who allows his 82 fires to go out in such circumstances would, I should expect, go up to the nearest yard-arm. A good officer would keep his boilers under banked fires, and with banked fires he would be able to raise steam in less than two hours. The question of the quick raising of steam is comparatively of much less importance than we have hitherto been led to believe; and this is I think the only substantial element proved in favour of the Belleville boiler. The quick raising of steam is undoubtedly a great gain in torpedo boats, but in large cruisers it is of much less importance. The next point urged in favour of the Belleville is that it is placed below water. The height of the Belleville is eight or nine feet and that of the boilers in the Mercantile Marine 16 feet; therefore the difference is five or six feet; but with our present large vessels of war both types of boiler will be below the water line, and, therefore equally protected from projectiles. Therefore, there is no gain in this respect with the Belleville. The boilers adopted for the Powerful and Terrible are even a greater experiment than may at first sight appear. The pressure to be maintained in these boilers is higher than that so far used, but what is of greater moment in dealing with water-tube boilers is the pressure of the steam as it passes to the engine, which is to be much higher than any hitherto used. As this class of boiler has a tendency to "prime," which is a source of great danger and injury to the machinery, I think the proposal may almost be designated as rash when applied to such vessels. We know that boilers of this description generate what is called wet steam. If this steam enter into the cylinder, smash go your engines. Therefore, you have to take every precaution that the steam shall enter dry. To effect that it is necessary that the high pressure you generate in the boiler shall be reduced considerably on its entering the engine. For that reason it has to pass through a vessel in which the water is separated from the steam, so that the steam passes on to the engine and the water returns to the boiler. Therefore, it is a matter of serious importance to determine the pressure at which the steam from the boiler enters the engine. Now the Admiralty are making a rash experiment, 83 because in this matter they are going far ahead of any experience we have to guide us. I do not think we should do this by so great a leap; we should do it gradually and slowly by steps. We have engines of a certain type; we did not spring from engines of 1,000 H.P. to engines of 10,000 H.P.; but we went from 1,000 to l,500, and progressed slowly and surely. This is the principle I want to press upon the Admiralty. We are dealing with a very involved and technical question; but the country has a great issue at stake in the construction of its Navy, in the provision of ships with proper, sufficient, and safe motive power, an issue so enormous that it cannot be exaggerated. I ask the Committee and the Admiralty to pause and consider again and again before they run the risk involved in this enormous experiment. It may turn out well; if it does it will redound to their credit; I do not say it will not; but I say it is rash. All experience of past attempts to make progress warn us to proceed much more cautiously, and it is for this I venture to move the Amendment which stands in my name, which is to reduce the Vote by a sum less than the extraordinary cost of the Belleville boilers over those of the ordinary type. I do it because I desire in a spirit of caution to ask the Admiralty to proceed quietly, steadily, and carefully rather than rashly, as I believe they are doing.
§ *SIR EDWARD HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
said, that he wished to congratulate his right hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk Division on the admirable statement he had made in regard to the question of the Belleville boilers. With every word of that statement he agreed. As to the advice which the Admiralty had received from their Boiler Committee, he was glad that the House had been put in possession of some really authentic information on the subject. He understood that the Boiler Committee, while recommending two classes of tubulous boilers as worthy of serious experiment—one of them being the Belleville boiler—also recommended that, before either was finally adopted, a very full and exhaustive series of experiments at sea should be made. He insisted that they should have these boilers tested in rough weather, and it 84 was only after such that they could arrive at a decision as to the new class of boilers. It was to the absence of satisfactory experiments that he and others entertained so strong an objection. The results arrived at were partial and doubtful, and there was still an amount of speculation which, he was convinced, no steam shipping company would think of entertaining. Then it was said that the matter must be settled at once, but whether the order was given to-day or three months hence made little matter. There was an immense amount of work in these ships, the boilers were about the last thing to go on board, and they might have been left for two or three months longer before a final decision was arrived at. It was in these enormous cruisers that it was intended to fix this new-type boilers, and it was from these cruisers that they expected the best results. He had no prejudice whatever in the matter, or as to these tubulous boilers. His firm in 1880 had fitted a steamer of their own with the Perkins boiler at 500 lbs. pressure, and subjected it to the test of practical service, as a trading steamer for 1¾ years, after which they found that they had to fit the vessel with engines and boilers of the type now generally accepted in the Mercantile Marine. Since then they had been endeavouring to arrive at something satisfactory as to tubulous boilers, but up to the present they did not see that a really satisfactory tubulous boiler had been produced which they would be justified in recommending. He was not referring to torpedo-boats or small craft. In recent years marvellous strides had been made in tubulous boilers for such craft, but, so far as large cruisers were concerned, he was not aware that any such tubulous boilers had been produced which he should put in one of his own ships. He mentioned the Britannic and Germanic, which had been running for 20 years with the same set of boilers. Each had made about 300 round voyages to New York, equal to 1¾ millions of miles, in the heaviest weather to be found in the ocean; and it must be remembered that a trading company sought to have the benefit of the best class of boilers for the work before them. He thought such evidence should not lightly be put on one side. He disclaimed all idea of throwing cold 85 water on the progress or development of the tubulous boiler. The space set apart by the designers of the hulls for the engines and boilers was too limited, and here, he was convinced, was the source of great mischief. The consequence was that the engineering department of the Admiralty was tied to a ton or two where the horse power was 10,000, or more. Take the two splendid cruisers referred to. If they were made 10ft. or 12ft. longer, that would give sufficient additional displacement to enable the engineers and boilermakers to put in adequately and properly-designed engines and boilers, not tapered down to the lowest possible point, running great risk of breakage and fracture at sea, so rarely the case in the Merchant Service and so frequently the case in the Navy. They would have much better working engines and a superior class of boilers on board their ships. He was still further disappointed to find that two or three other cruisers were about to be built of the Talbot type, but shorter and broader. If they had more power they must have more coal; but where was the coal to go? They would be at least 50ft. too short. It was when we were called upon, as at the present time, for example, in Central America, to send our warships across the Atlantic that the want of coal capacity was found out. If a warship was wanted abroad, she was wanted as quickly as possible, and it was necessary for our warships to be able to go long distances at full speed. This they could not do unless they had ample coal endurance. In addition to coal bunkers they ought to have coal-holes. He would undertake to say that not one of the ships of Her Majesty's Navy was fitted with coalholes. It was a most difficult thing to get the coal out of their bunkers. It took more men to get the coal on to the stoke-hole plates than into the boilers. Nine out of ten of the qualities required for the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine were common to the two services. and it was very blind on the part of the Admiralty to shut their eyes to the qualities which made the Mercantile Marine what it was. Our possessions abroad were of great importance; the war between China and Japan had shown this. The Suez Canal might be closed, and our vessels, even our battleships, 86 might have to go round the Cape. Where, he would ask, was there one of them that could reach the Cape without coaling two or three times, or by going at only nine knots, in which latter case they might as well not go at all? The designs of the ships were very much at fault in their want of length, and he was satisfied that if the designers of the ships of the Royal Navy went more completely into that branch of the question they would find that, not only should they be able to satisfy the fair demands of the engine room, but also to give us ships capable of carrying a very much butter supply of coal, as well as obtaining a much steadier gun-platform, and with the further advantage that they would be very much better sea boats. He quite admitted that the longer the vessel the larger the circle necessary for her to turn in, but this was the only drawback to the increased length of the vessels in the Royal Navy. In the Merchant Navy they had much longer vessels, and officers of the Royal Navy would hardly attempt to manœuvre such vessels in the same space as was constantly done by officers of the Mercantile Marine. He regretted to find from the newspapers of the last few days, that the three new cruisers which were to be built would be positively shorter than the Powerful class of cruisers in proportion to their beam, and he would like to hear the reason for this. The hon. Baronet was proceeding to call attention to the absence of rams from all the naval programmes put forward since 1889, when
, interposing, pointed out that this did not arise on the Amendment which had been moved, and which was entirely confined to engines and boilers.
§ *MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
said, that it had been found necessary to have higher pressure than formerly, and to get this very large cylindrical boilers were necessary, and these had to be made of excessively thick plates of modern steel, and hydraulic power had to be resorted to in order to rivet them together. But, even then, they could hardly be said to have done their work in a satisfactory manner. His experience as a shipowner 87 confirmed the last speaker's view that the old boiler of 20 years ago still did its work at sea; but then those were worked at a much lower pressure of, say, 70lb. to 90lb., and even with that pressure great difficulties had been experienced. As the pressure required got higher and higher, the difficulties had proportionately increased, and attention was called to trials of water-tube boilers at sea. Experiments were made with those boilers in a particular ship by his firm on the understanding that the firm who supplied the boilers should take them out if they did not prove a success. The vessel had been at work since 1893, and the firm—an English firm—had not yet been called upon to remove the boilers. Other experiments had been made, but the matter assumed much greater importance when they came to consider this question of water-tube boilers in connection with larger vessels, and especially the immense ships of the Navy. He thought the remarks of the right hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division contained very severe reflection on the system of management at the Admiralty. It was a serious state of things when they were told that such a vessel as the Blake, though of 10,000 indicated horse-power, was not able to use more than 4,000 in a trial trip of 24 hours. The Committee had also been told there was not the accord that there ought to be between the constructors of Her Majesty's ships and the designers of the engines—that the former had precedence to the serious disadvantage of the latter. It was urged that the engine machinery had often to give way, to a dangerous extent, to the piling on of unnecessary weight upon the hull by armour-plating and in other ways. That was a very serious matter for consideration. Where was the remedy for it? It appeared to him that a stronger argument could not have been brought forward in favour of the adoption of water-tube boilers in the Navy than the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on that part of the subject. It seemed not to be generally known that the saving of weight in the use of the tubular boiler was a point of great importance. And not only would weight be saved, but engine designers would not be so pinched for space in the construction of the machinery. There were 88 yet other advantages connected with the water-tube boiler. Steam could be got up in very much less time than with the present boiler, and that in case of emergency was a fact of vital importance. The water-tube boiler, moreover, could be easily repaired; a few extra tubes meant a new boiler, and the tubes could be replaced, and the work of repair done, by the men on board. The saving of trouble and expense, that could be thus effected, as against the cost, and trouble, and inconvenience of repairing the present form of boiler, was very considerable. It would be found almost impossible to obtain the speed desired in our ships with the old form of cylindrical boilers, especially in ships of the torpedo-destroyer class. He looked upon the water-tube boiler as a great step in advance. Doubtless there were many interests affected by it and opposed to it; but this should be no hindrance to progress, for there was opposition to every new advance. Personally he had every reason to believe, from their experiments, that the Admiralty were proceeding in the right direction. It appeared impossible for them to get their machinery strong enough, and their boilers efficient enough, unless they adopted the water-tube boilers, which would limit the water carried to about one-tenth part of what was carried in the ordinary cylindrical boilers. At present there might possibly be some want of economy in the water-tube boilers, but a great many firms were bringing out fresh patents, and they would, no doubt, be improved. He had very little doubt that from its economy of weight, and of coal, its facility for getting up speed, and its safety, the water-tube boiler was the boiler of the future.
§ MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said, he could himself testify to the facts given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and he concurred in the views of the hon. Member for Belfast. He was not without a certain admiration for the defence made by the hon. Member for Hull of the water-tube boiler, but unfortunately he was not an engineer, nor had he much experience of the water-tube boiler. A small boat called the Nero, belonging to the hon. Member, had, he believed, done fairly well, but she was a little boat of only 89 about 450 H.P.; and that was the only datum the hon. Member could give with regard to these water-tube boilers. He admired his willingness to adopt a new thing: but, after all, what were the data for this great and hazardous experiment which the Admiralty were making? The Messageries Maritimes Company and the Belleville boilers were instanced, but the results given were inadequate. The points that an engineer required to know before he could justify such an expenditure of the national money were: What was the running of a vessel with such a boiler, the amount of her stoppages, the cost of her repairing, and the amount of her consumption? The Sharpshooter had been mentioned in The Times and other newspapers, and she had been marked down as a cause of anxiety and expense to the Government, and so she was. With regard to the Sharpshooter, it was stated by the Chief Constructor of the Navy that she would run 18 knots under 2,500 H.P., and 20 knots under: 3,500 H.P., but had she ever done it? No, they had never taken that horse power out of her boilers; and why had that not been done? That power was what they had paid for, and what they expected to get. There was another point which had been entirely overlooked by those who had spoken. He wished to approach the question in a calm and dispassionate spirit, as an engineer who wanted the best ships and the best machinery in the Navy. He wished the House to understand clearly that water-tube boilers could not go at full speed without a flaming at the chimney-tops like that of a blast furnace, which, by night would make the ships steaming on the ocean like moving lighthouses. He had himself seen them, and a little while ago a vessel of the Messageries Maritimes Company, which raced a P. & O. steamship, arrived in Sydney with her funnel red hot. The same was the case with torpedo boats, whose course would be marked by night by their flaming chimneys, which could be seen by an enemy. Several hon. Members had spoken of the advantages arising from being able to get up steam quickly, but he thought this was one of the biggest disadvantages that these boilers possessed. It showed that there was little water in the boiler, and the less water there was the 90 greater was the danger. The fact was, they would have to manufacture their engineers as well as their boilers if they were to use this system. The data he had given were all the data that the Admiralty had; and, he asked, would any engineer or shipowner in Great Britain spend the nation's money on such flimsy data? The procedure of the Admiralty in this respect was unworthy of them. He would ask, had there been no method by which our Admiralty officials could have obtained the same results without such an expenditure of money, and even better results in regard to consumption and steaming facilities in our ships? He had received a pamphlet the other day, and he had made inquiries in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool into the matter, which clearly showed that there was a system of forced draught which had been adopted in 400 of the steamers which performed the longest voyages, like those of the P. & O. Company, without the slightest leakage of the tubes. But our Admiralty officials had never sent a single man on board those ships to see the working of that system of forced draught. Was that the encouragement which British engineers should get from the Admiralty? He had no interest whatever in the system, and had never fitted a ship with it, but here was a system which, if it had been adopted, might have saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds. A challenge had been thrown out to Messrs. Maudslay by a firm of British engineers to make Belleville boilers which would compete with other boilers on the points of evaporation, pace, economy of fuel, consumption, and weight; and that challenge had not been accepted because, if Messrs. Maudslay were beaten, the Admiralty would be beaten also. If the Belleville boilers were all that had been represented of them, why had not the challenge been accepted? That was the encouragement which the Admiralty gave to British engineers. Then as regarded forced draughts, the mistake that the Admiralty made was to force cold instead of hot air into the furnaces, and thus they altogether wasted the hot air which was sent up the funnels instead of being made use of. Large sums of money were being expended upon these untried boilers. He should like to see the data upon which the Admiralty had 91 acted in regard to those Belleville boilers. They never accepted statements in the North unless they were accompanied by the data on which they professed to be founded. He believed that the expenditure to which the House and the country had been committed in connection with boilers like those which had been placed in the Powerful and the Terrible ought not to have been undertaken before that system of boiler had been thoroughly tried. Would any sane man or any competent engineer, who was worthy of the name, have recommended putting these untried boilers into two large and costly vessels like the Powerful and the Terrible, unless those vessels had been expressly designed for them. The House knew his views on the subject pretty well by this time, and he could only repeat that, before the country had been committed to this heavy expenditure, trials of these boilers ought to have been made on a smaller scale. He challenged the Admiralty to send the Powerful and the Terrible across the Atlantic and back again at full speed. The fact was, that the Admiralty only looked to the full maximum speed trials at the measured mile—a sort of drawing-room performance, instead of to the ordinary cruising speed of a vessel in all kinds of weather. He thoroughly endorsed the views of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood) opposite, and if the right hon. Gentleman went to a Division on this subject, which he hoped he would do, he should certainly support him as a protest against the unnecessary, unwarranted, and risky expenditure of the nation's money in such a manner that, if the vessels he had named were; run at full speed, as they ought to be, it would some day be proved to be a "Powerful" blunder and a "Terrible" mistake.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
remarked that, on a former occasion, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Forwood) had spoken on this question as though the lives of Her Majesty's seamen were going to be endangered by the adoption of these boilers, and he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman head altered his tone in that respect. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen had talked as though some perfectly novel and hitherto unknown experiment on a colossal scale was about to be tried in Her Majesty's Navy, and an uninstructed 92 person listening to them might well suppose that water-tube boilers arose only a few weeks or months ago. It was true the experiment with these boilers afloat was limited, and so had been the experience of every good thing afloat when it was first adopted. He was surprised that anybody should have made it necessary for him to remind the Committee of that obvious circumstance. Mr. Babcock, of the firm of Babcock and Wilcox, had stated—We make about 600 of our water-tube boilers annually at our works in this country, and the American house make also about the same number in their works at New York.So that they were dealing with a type and character of boiler of which one single firm turned out, for various land purposes mainly, 600 a year in this country and an equal number in the United States. That fact disposed of the idea that the Admiralty were going to experiment with unknown boilers. Nobody had ever stated in the House that the dangers to be incurred or the evils to be feared were the consequence of adopting in ships largely employed land boilers. [Mr. ALLAN: "The conditions are totally different."] His hon. Friend was an engineer, also an orator and a poet; but there was not an hon. Member who was not almost as capable as the hon. Gentleman of judging whether a boiler that had been largely tried and approved most valuable on land was going to be a source of danger and injury and alarm to the House and the country if tried afloat. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject put the case upon the ground of the large amount of money which was to be expended on these boilers. He spoke as if the money would not be expended if it were not expended on these boilers. The money, or the principal part of it must be spent on some sort of boilers. His right hon. Friend started with a sentence or two which rather showed he intended to point out some enormous difference between the Belleville boiler to be adopted in the Powerful and the Terrible and other water-tube boilers to be adopted in other vessels. The only difference was that the tubes of the Belleville boiler were somewhat larger than the tubes of other boilers. What was the fundamental change which was so assailed in the 93 House? It was that, instead of putting the water round the tubes and passing the fire through the tubes, the water was put in the tubes and the fire put round them. They were asked by a right hon. Gentleman of great experience, a gentleman who ought to speak with almost commanding authority, seeing that he had had six years' experience as Secretary to the Admiralty, not to spend the sum proposed because the Admiralty proposed, in the case of some ships, to put water inside instead of outside the tubes. It would be a strange phenomenon if the House of Commons withdrew the programme of the Government because they proposed to put water where they had previously put fire, and fire where they had previously put water. He did not know what it was that had attracted the noble Lord, the late First Lord of the Admiralty, to the House to-night. One thing he trusted had not formed any part of the attraction, and that was the severe and crushing censures, by implication, which the late Secretary to the Admiralty had invited the Committee to cast upon the Admiralty of to-day. Responsible as he was to nobody but his constituents, he would have been half-ashamed had he said that the Admiralty doctored their reports, cooked their representations, or, as the right hon. Gentleman put it—no doubt in choicer and better phraseology—put the best leg forward in the representations which they made as to the work of the Admiralty. But if he had been six years Secretary to the Admiralty, and if he bore the title by which they were so pleased to address the right hon. Gentleman, he would not like to get up and say, after he had left the Admiralty, what the right hon. Gentleman had said, and still less imply what the right hon. Gentleman had implied. If what the late Secretary to the Admiralty alleged about the composition of the Board, about the want of information on the part of the engineer, about the allowance by the engineer of sufficient weight for the machinery of the ships, be true, why did not the right hon. Gentleman himself alter all that? The noble Lord the Member for Ealing, who had distinguished himself as First Lord of the Admiralty in the late Government, for the admirable manner in which he discharged his duties seemed to have given the most careful consideration to the question of the 94 allowance of weight, for in printed documents presented to the House, he had said that, to meet unforeseen contingencies, he had always insisted on an allowance of five per cent. being made for displacement. He challenged the noble Lord to get up in his place and say that when he allowed that five per cent. he did it with a knowledge that the engines and boilers had not nearly enough of weight presented for them in the designs. He thought this was a serious matter. He thought it a terrible thing that high authorities like the hon. Member for Ormskirk should say things in the House which were calculated to shake the confidence of the House in Admiralty efficiency, unless they were absolutely certain of their truth. He did not profess to know what went on inside the Admiralty now; but he would be surprised to learn that when the hon. Member for Ormskirk sat at the Board of Admiralty as its Secretary, and the noble Lord the Member for Ealing sat as its First Lord, any representations made by the Engineer-in-Chief, as to insufficient amounts of weight being allowed in machinery, did not receive proper attention from the Board. He was, perhaps, a credulous man, and too ready to believe good of the Admiralty; but he believed that under the late Government all persons concerned in the designing of ships were fully and freely consulted, and that when designs of new vessels were put forward they were put forward with the approbation of the First Lord and the Secretary and of every member of the Board. He felt rather shy of dealing with the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Belfast, because on former occasions he had been represented as having attacked his hon. Friend when really all he had done was, in an humble manner, to make some defence of the Admiralty against the onslaught of his hon. Friend, which went to the very foundation of Admiralty efficiency. The hon. Baronet had said that if the Admiralty only added ten feet to the length of the vessels in the middle, they would have displacement enough for the extra boiler power which he thought was required. His hon. Friend was a naval architect of the very highest class, and he doubted that he ever adopted so crude an operation as to cut a design in two and add to its 95 length amidships in order to get extra displacement.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
said that only showed how necessary it was to correct the opinions of even the most eminent men. He could only say for himself that, in dealing with the designs of fast cruisers, he had never indulged in such schoolboy draughtsmanship. What was the merit of design? It was to make every foot of the length of a ship tell, and to improve its form so that the utmost speed could be got out of it. But there was another consideration. He could not help imagining the hon. Baronet in the position of adviser to the Board of Admiralty; and he was sure that if in that position the hon. Baronet recommended that a design should have 50 feet added to its length amidships, increasing correspondingly the cost of construction, the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, if the First Lord of the Admiralty, would be the first person to tell him not to be trifling with the Board in such a way. He did not think it was right to discuss this question in anything like great minuteness. But his hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead had brought the level of the Debate to a low point when in his forcible and eloquent speech he demanded why another person's boilers—Mr Howden's—had not been adopted by the Admiralty instead of the boilers that had been adopted.
§ SIR EDWARD REED
said he was perfectly familiar with the system. He had a very high opinion of it for certain purposes; but when he gave it a thorough consideration to see whether it was capable of being adapted to a design he had in hand, he found its excessive weight was so great that he could not use it. His hon. Friend was singularly at fault when he stated that the Admiralty would not look at Mr. Howden's boilers, for those boilers were 96 inspected by the Admiralty five years ago. The hon. Member for Gateshead was most inconsequential and illogical on the question of getting up steam. In the first place he said if they adopted the Belleville boiler they would have flaming funnels, and then he admitted that on one occasion he himself had charge of engines, the power for which was supplied by ordinary boilers, and which on that occasion produced a flaming funnel. This proved that there was a danger of a flaming funnel before the Belleville type of boiler was introduced. He could assure the hon. Member that the Admiralty knew their business too well to introduce a system of boiler which necessarily produced a flaming funnel in every ship to which it was applied. On the occasion of the last Debate, the hon. Member told him he should be ruining his reputation, or that it was ruined, by the remarks he had made. Let him, in turn, caution the hon. Member against ruining his reputation. He (Sir E. Reed) had sat in that House for 21 years, and he had come to the conclusion that the House had the skill and discernment to see the difference between the thing said and the way in which the thing was said. He knew that political men cultivated much persuasiveness of demeanour and manner of speaking, and thereby produced much effect, but stormy and violent expression of opinion would not prevail if the things themselves were wrong, and if the spirit in which they were delivered was ungenerous and inconsiderate to the Department criticised. The hon. Member for Belfast said he could not understand why the Admiralty limited the length of their longest ships as they did. Had the hon. Member ever considered that one of the most solemn responsibilities that rested upon the Admiralty in connection with the designs of ships was the question as to what extent they could be accommodated in foreign docks? The Board of Admiralty would look very unwise indeed if they were found to be building ships too long to go into any one of a certain number of foreign docks to which they 97 might be dispatched. The Admiralty had also other things to consider, and he had sufficient confidence in them to recognise that they had good ground for the course they took, especially when, unfettered by any conditions, they designed ships which were markedly different in character to those the hon. Member indicated. In these circumstances, they ought not to pester the Admiralty with their own particular views as to whether a ship should be shorter or longer, but should conclude that there was ample justification for the proposals which the Naval Authorities placed before them. He must say a word or two about the suggestion of his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Forwood) as to the great reduction of power on a voyage and long passages of Her Majesty's ships, as compared with the power on the trial trip of a measured mile. He wished he could, once for all, get into the minds of Members of the Committee that whatever a ship could do on the measured mile, and on the six hours' run, she could do for ever afterwards, provided only she was put under the same conditions. The causes of a falling off in speed hereafter had nothing to do with the engine or boiler; whatever they could do in the test trip they could do for all time, if the men were pressed to the same extent that they were when it was desired to prove the power and capacity of the ship. It was an easy thing to appeal to the prejudices of the Committee, and talk about trial speed and voyage speed. If the difference arose from any other causes than those he had mentioned, it would be a serious thing. Let him ask the right hon. Gentleman if he had ever proposed to do away with the measured mile test? It was by that trial that they could judge of what was the ultimate and greatest speed of a ship. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of the vessel being sent on this trip in smooth waters, with new engines, good coal, and so on, and had suggested that these tests should 98 not be made under such favourable conditions, but should be undertaken when the tides were running, or when there were waves, and with bad coal. But if they introduced any element of uncertainty into it, then they did not perform a trial they could use as a standard, but merely plunged into a mass of ignorance from which they would never afterwards be able always to extricate themselves. If this had been a Debate having for its object some practical and useful object, he should have been prepared to join with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in making some appeal and suggestions as to modifications, but when he found the Committee invited to overthrow the Programme of the Admiralty, and to remove £100,000 from the Vote in order to obstruct the efforts of the Admiralty to bring in boilers adapted to the modern circumstances of the time, then he could only express his surprise that such a Motion should have emanated from such a source.
§ MR. JOHN PENN (Lewisham)
was of opinion that the question came very much down to one of the endurance of these boilers. On that question he did not think they had sufficient data available. He ventured to make, with all humility, the suggestion that, to allay any well-founded anxiety as to these boilers, the Admiralty should consent to have the Sharpshooter run as hard as she could run, and keep filling her up with coal as long as they could find coal for six months, if possible, and then see in what condition her boilers would be at the end of that time. It was quite possible that the quantity of coal quoted by the right hon. Member for Ormskirk, 2¼ lb., might have been expended when the boiler was tried by people who were not fully accustomed to its manipulation.
§ MR. PENN
went on to point out that it was not quite fair to take the coal consumption of a man-of-war and that of a merchant ship being on all fours. An owner of a merchant ship knew roughly what power he would require to exert to run her from here to Australia, but in the case of a man-of-war a large number of differences came into play that did not apply in a merchant ship, and the comparison was not quite fair to the man-of-war, whether her boilers were Belleville or of the ordinary kind. The fact that the French Admiralty had been using the water-tube boiler for 18 years, went far to show that the boiler was one that could be relied on, or they would not continue to place it in their ships to that large extent. But he still thought our Admiralty had not sufficient data to justify their adoption of it on the very large scale proposed, and therefore he thought the suggestion he had made would put them in a position to say whether the Belleville boiler, as fitted to the Sharpshooter, was one which could with confidence be introduced into Her Majesty's ships.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
thought he might leave this highly technical Debate, so far as the technical parts of it were concerned, to the discussion that had already taken place between the experts. But, as regarded the attack of the right hon. Member for Ormskirk, he might almost rest the defence of the Admiralty upon the admissions made in that long, carefully prepared, and almost written speech. The right hon. Member admitted that the House was not the proper arena for the discussion of such a question. There was the professional Institute of Civil Engineers, where this question had been raised, and where his right hon. Friend did not appear to make the objections he made to-night.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
was quite sure objection would not be taken on that ground to any criticism that a responsible ex-official of the Admiralty might wish to make. There was the hon. Member for Gateshead, who, no doubt, was a member, and he was not present. But there were other members there quite competent, and when the question was started at the last meeting of the Institute, practically the Belleville boiler passed unchallenged.
§ SIR EDWARD HARLAND
said, that he was a member of the society, and was not present on the occasion referred to. He was of opinion that the subject under discussion was a proper subject for consideration in that House. Millions of money were involved. Members were entitled to explain their views on such a subject, and had a right to clear and explicit answers.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
remarked, that the hon. Member misunderstood him. He was supporting the proposition of the hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division, that in regard to technical questions of this kind the House, not being a technically educated Assembly, could not do more than the Government and the Admiralty did—namely, rely upon the advice of experts. Another of the admissions of the hon. Member for Ormskirk Division was, that he did not condemn the Belleville boiler; and, in respect of the question of danger, he abandoned the whole case upon which the hon. Member for Gateshead founded his tremendous attack on a former occasion. That attack was founded solely in considerations of safety; and terrible stories of dangers, of bursting boilers, of men killed, were unfolded to the House. But to-night the hon. Member opposite expressly stated that he had no reason to suppose that the Belleville boilers were unsafe. Finally, the right hon. Member, adopting the tone of the leading article in The Times, where almost 101 identical words occurred, declared that the question was how this great experiment would turn out, and that if it turned out well it would redound to the credit of the Admiralty. The speech of the right hon. Member, containing all these admissions, might almost be said to answer itself. As he had said, the allegation of danger had been abandoned that night: but not long ago the hon. Member for Gateshead had renewed it in a question to the President of the Board of Trade. That question brought to the knowledge of the House the second of the two deplorable accidents which served as a foundation for his wild and exaggerated statements. The accident at Barrow the hon. Member had not again referred to. That deplorable accident, he believed, was not due to the type of boiler concerned, which, by the way, was not a Belleville boiler, but to certain defects in the copper tubes. The second accident was the sad accident in Glasgow, where one or two men were killed and another seriously injured. This was an accident to another type of water-tube boiler, which was being fitted up in a company's works, and was not to be adopted by the Admiralty unless the experiment was successful. In the course of the experiment was a man pulled out one of the tubes from a portion of the machinery, leaving an aperture which was not filled up properly, but plugged with a piece of iron; and at the low pressure of only 75 this plug was blown out like a cork from a soda-water bottle. The accident had therefore nothing to do with the boiler itself. It was highly satisfactory that the wild and alarming statements which to some extent affected the House, and which would have affected the country, unfortunately, if they had not been contradicted, had not been repeated that evening, and that it was now recognised that the charge of exceptional danger was not a charge that could be brought against these boilers. In fact, safety was one of the merits which the Admiralty ascribed to them. He wished now to tell the House 102 something more about the history of the Belleville boilers. The attention of the Admiralty was first called to it by two distinguished naval attachés—Captain Sir Cecil Domville and Captain May, the captain of the flagship in the Mediterranean. These gentlemen drew attention to the subject in their Reports in 1891 and 1892. Subsequently an engineer officer of Her Majesty's Navy was instructed to report upon the boiler, and he took voyages in the vessels of the Messageries Maritimes in order to collect information. Then the Engineer-in-Chief, who was the official mainly responsible for the adoption of the boilers, expressed his approval of it, although at first his feeling was opposed to it. He had fallen into some confusion in speaking of a Boiler Committee. There were two Committees—one was a Boiler Committee, which made suggestions; and the other was a Committee of Reference, which expressed its satisfaction that it was proposed to proceed with water-tube boilers. [Mr. FORWOOD asked whether the Committee of Reference was wholly composed of Admiralty officers?] He believed that was so. The next step was the fitting up of these boilers in the Sharpshooter. The Messageries Maritimes boats were practically, as he understood, fitted with the same boilers, slightly smaller, that it was proposed to put into the Powerful and the Terrible. That was the history of the water-tube boilers at the Admiralty; it was on these suggestions, by these steps, and on this evidence that the First Lord last year, and not now, for the first time, announced that the Admiralty were adopting Belleville boilers in the Powerful and the Terrible. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of taking a leap in the dark; but, if it were one, it was first taken by the noble Lord opposite when he introduced a water-tube boiler for torpedo destroyers. [Lord G. HAMILTON: "In one only."] He gave the noble Lord credit for originality and independence of judgment in taking the first step, which was a greater change 103 than taking the second. Whether the noble Lord took that step in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman he did not know; but it was to be observed that the right hon. Gentleman was extremely cautious in the scope of his Motion, in which he spoke specifically of Belleville boilers, and did not attack any other water tube boilers. That, therefore, would place him in opposition to the hon. Member for Gateshead, who condemned them all round, whether small or large, whether in torpedo-boats or in cruisers. The engineer and others who reported to the Admiralty pointed out certain specific advantages which water-tube boilers, and the Belleville boilers in particular, appeared to possess. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken vaguely of weak points, and had made the most of the magnitude of the step involved in passing from the Sharpshooter to the Powerful, which, he said, could not be justified. Much had been heard from engineers and shipbuilders; but nothing had been heard from Naval officers. Members might like to know what naval opinion was on the points raised; and after all the Board of Admiralty contained a majority of naval officers, the most distinguished men in the profession. He would read a short summary not of all the advantages of the Belleville boilers—not of the economical, because, after all, they should be secondary—but of what he might call the tactical advantages. There was a great difference in many respects between a merchant ship and a warship; and the discussion had ignored all those considerations that were special to ships of war. The first advantage mentioned in the statement before him was that steam could be raised from coal up to 250lb. pressure in one hour, against from six to 12 hours required with cylindrical boilers. The importance of that could not be overestimated. That alone was sufficient to justify the action of the Admiralty. Another point was this—a point which had never been 104 mentioned before—the engines could be suddenly stopped at full speed without steam pressure rising or injury to the boiler, as the control over the steam pressure was greater than in the boilers of the cylindrical type. Further, if a boiler was damaged in action the danger to the stokers and the ship was far less than in the cylindrical boiler, because the water capacity of the boiler was only 1–15th to l–30th of that of the cylindrical boiler. Again, with the water-tube boilers, instantly on anchoring, the fires could be drawn, the grates cleaned, the tubes swept, and the ship ready to start again with clean boilers in three hours, which was impossible with the cylindrical type. Lastly, the water-tube boilers could be renewed without wrecking the ship as was necessary with the cylindrical boiler. The ordinary repairs were of a much lighter nature, and every part was very accessible for cleaning and examination from the stoke-hole. He thought all these were points of technical advantage, and that the Committee would consider them strictly relevant to the discussion. He wanted also to show that there were other advantages which had been more or less dwelt on by other speakers, but taking the war advantages alone, the Admiralty held that they were justified in doing, and were bound to do what their technical experts recommended them to do, in adopting the Belleville boilers even for the largest war cruisers that had yet been built. Those were the circumstances in which the boilers came to the notice of the Admiralty. He had mentioned the experience of the Messageries Maritimes. Seven of their finest and largest vessels were fitted with the water-tube boilers, and he would not say more about them than this—that he had been furnished with a copy of a recent letter from the chief engineer in charge of one of those vessels, written on the completion of her 13th voyage to Australia, he said:—We have just had a splendid trip, and engines and boilers have worked to my entire 105 satisfaction. I cannot give better praise to the boilers than to say that on our arrival in Marseilles we could have gone back at once to Australia.He would not say anything about the experience on torpedo-boat destroyers; but so far as the boilers of the Sharpshooter were concerned he believed they had given perfect satisfaction, and he would willingly hand to any hon. Member an elaborate diary of the engineer that contained every detail in respect to them. The most practical suggestion that had been made in the course of the Debate, was that of his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, who suggested that the Sharpshooter should be tested as much as it was possible to test her. She would soon be ready for sea again, and he thought he would be justified in promising that no objection would be raised to the Sharpshooter being kept for testing in the way suggested, that she should be continuously used for testing purposes, in order to ascertain thoroughly the working of these boilers. Whatever reasonable test could be devised ought, it seemed to him, to be allowed. There was also the experience of the French and the Russian Navy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ormskirk had provided himself with a formidable batch of information on this question, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman's correspondents had posted him up as to the use of the Belleville boilers in the French Navy. He believed that the majority of new warships in the French Navy were being fitted with these boilers. A striking thing was that a first class French cruiser had just arrived in the China seas boilered with Belleville boilers, and it had performed the voyage to China with every success. The right hon. Member for Ormskirk had talked about the Russian Navy. But the Russian Government had done precisely what the Admiralty proposed to do as to the use of the Belleville boilers. The hon. Member for Gateshead made a good deal about certain American lake steamers, 106 the North-West and the North Land (which was to be a sister ship), and alleged that the failure of the Belleville boiler in the North- West was so complete that it had been abandoned for the North Land. But the engineer responsible stated that the Belleville boilers for the North Land had been in active construction since October last, and that the Belleville boilers in the North-West had given entire satisfaction to all concerned. The Admiralty had not bounded up from a small inch tube of a torpedo-boat destroyer to a 5-inch tube, but had simply taken one of the boilers which had been tested satisfactorily in the Sharpshooter and multiplied that by 48, and put it in a ship that required it; and they believed the result would be satisfactory. If they failed they would be damaged. They might succeed; then they would be glorified. With the experience they had he submitted that they had not done a new or rash thing in their application of Belleville boilers. He must say something about the somewhat astonishing tone of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with reference to the Admiralty. Those observations would not have been made in the House unless the right hon. Gentleman had believed them to be founded on knowledge; and what knowledge could he have, but that derived from his experience as Secretary to the Admiralty? In denouncing the Admiralty for doctoring its reports, and closing its eyes to what went on in the world, the right hon. Gentleman must be speaking from his own experience. He made the most serious charges as to the relations between the engineering staff and the head of the constructing staff.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
said that he had referred to the relative status of the two departments, and not to the relations of the individuals.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said that the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was that the Engineer-in-Chief had to submit to the Director of Naval Construction, and had to accept 107 lower weights than he would otherwise have demanded.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
said that what he alleged was not that the Engineer-in-Chief had to accept lower maximum weights, but that, owing to the relative status of the two officers—the one being subordinate to the other—the Engineer-in-Chief had not a fair chance of representing the facts, if he found the weights insufficient in his judgment. It made him take a risk which he would not otherwise take.
§ MR. ROBERTSON
said that he would accept that statement, though it seemed to him to be new. But at any rate it did not conform with the experience of the present Board. The Engineer-in-Chief was not subordinate to the Director of Naval Construction; he was responsible to the Controller. It must he understood that the censure pronounced by the right hon. Gentleman upon the constitution and practice of the Board of Admiralty, if true at all, was only true while the right hon. Gentleman was a responsible Member of the Admiralty administration, and was not to be accepted as true of the present Board. Finally, the Admiralty was not committed—and he wished everybody who had doubts to note his assurance—to the Belleville boiler or to any kind of water-tube boiler; nor would it close its eyes to any type of boiler which could be proved to give satisfactory results. He wished to thank his hon. Friend, the Member for Cardiff, for the great assistance he had given him in these controversies. The House had learnt with great regret that the hon. Gentleman did not intend to renew his Membership of that House. He had always admired his hon. Friend's great technical skill and debating power, but he valued more highly than all his hon. Friend's generous appreciation of the work and achievements of younger men.
§ *LORD GEORGE HAMILTON (Middlesex, Ealing)
considered that the 108 introduction of this subject—though it was doubtless technical—had led to a most interesting and valuable debate, which was in part due to the masterly speech of the right hon. Member for the Ormskirk Division. Of all the questions which the Admiralty had to deal with, none was so difficult as that which related to boilers. Difficulties in regard to ships, guns, and engines, and men, were not to be compared to the difficulty of boilers. Of all the dangers which they had to confront there was nothing to be compared to the dangers as to the boilers. Just think what it meant. Practically on their boilers depended their supremacy. The mobility of their fleet depended on the boilers. If the boilers failed to give the necessary power the ships failed to develop the necessary speed, and combinations of the utmost importance were impossible. A ship was unable to develop steam, and she would thus hamper all the movements of her sister-ships. He was not exaggerating when he said that of all the questions which came before the Admiralty this was the most difficult to deal with from time to time. It was a very technical question. Naval Lords who were responsible for naval affairs might be experts as to the requirements of armaments and armour, they might be authorities upon all questions of supply of food, &c., but the moment they came to the question of boilers their knowledge ceased. What they wanted to have in the Navy was a boiler that would in times of emergency develop the greatest amount of power and speed, and therefore it behoved them to recall what their past experience had been. When the Naval Defence Act was under consideration officers of experience were got to go through every design, and to make suggestions and improvements. But when the question of machinery and boilers was arrived at it was seen that there was not at the Admiralty the ability to check the proposals of the Engineer-in-chief. It was 109 too much for one man, and a committee of three practical engineers was, with the consent of the chief constructor, appointed to look into the specifications and to say whether the boiler power was sufficient to drive the machinery for a certain time at a certain speed, and they at once advised a large increase of boiler-power, which, however, could only be obtained by absorbing a considerable amount of weight and space. He found that the older vessels, the Blake and the Blenheim, for example, could not develop the necessary horse-power because the boilers in them were not capable of doing this, and, therefore, those vessels were carrying all over the world an unnecessary weight. As to the torpedo-catchers, as Messrs. Thorneycroft gave a guarantee to construct a water-tube boiler with a three years' guarantee and a promise to replace it with another kind of boiler if not found satisfactory, he had thought it right to introduce water-tube boilers into the Navy, and he was obliged to do so on his own responsibility. They succeeded admirably so far as small vessels were concerned, and his right hon. Friend did not blame the Admiralty for introducing the principle, but for its wholesale adoption. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken on behalf of the Admiralty had, in a very plausible manner, stated the reasons for approving the water-tube boiler; but the vital point, on which he gave no information, was whether the water-tube boiler would enable a large vessel to continuously steam in a sea as well as the cylindrical boiler. That was really the question at issue. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that experimental tests had been made with a number of vessels abroad, but he did not say that any tests were made with large vessels at home. So that they were in this position—they were suddenly jumping from experiments in small vessels of about 800 tons to experiments with large vessels of 15,000, 11,000, and 8,000 tons. That, he thought, was a little too rash. The chief points they had to consider in this 110 matter were the safety of the country and the efficiency of the Navy; and it seemed to him to be rather risky to rush into these wholesale experiments without first fully testing the new system with smaller classes of vessel. He desired to pay his personal tribute of confidence to the Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy, Mr. Durston, who succeeded to the post at a critical time, and inherited a great legacy of difficulty from his predecessor. But Mr. Durston had faced that difficulty in a manly way. He was, therefore, disposed to place very great reliance on the judgment and ability of Mr. Durstou, but, at the same time, he did not think that the whole responsibility of this change should be placed on the shoulders of one man. The peculiar feature of the treatment of that House by the present Admiralty was that they gave hon. Members but little information. If hon. Members looked at the Estimates for this year, for the last year, or the preceding year, they would find placed opposite the statement of a vessel being built simply the words "designs not completed." That was practically all the information given. The question of the boilers involved a tremendous change, and information ought certainly to be laid before the House respecting it. Mr. Durston had read a most valuable paper on the subject before the Institute of Naval Architects, and he had suggested that the Admiralty should publish it as a Parliamentary Paper. The Secretary to the Admiralty, however, had replied that the opinions expressed in that paper were simply the private opinions of Mr. Durston, and that the Admiralty could not make themselves responsible for the opinions of a private official. But he had found that the acts and figures stated by Mr. Durston were official, and consequently they must have been before the Admiralty. What he would suggest, therefore, was that the technical advisers of the Admiralty should prepare a paper and lay before the House the facts upon which they had based their 111 conclusions, and the reasons for approving the change in the system of boilers. He could not help thinking that one of the reasons why we had got into such difficulty as regarded our boilers in the past was, that the Admiralty had not sufficiently consulted outside opinion. He did not say that in any spirit of censure, but he remembered the immense improvement which his right hon. Friend Mr. Stanhope made at the War Office by increasing the Ordnance Committee. So long as the manufacture of guns in this country was confined to Woolwich the guns would undoubtedly be inferior to those of other countries. Although we were the greatest iron and steel producing country, France had gone ahead of us in the quality of her productions, the reason being that she had utilised persons of inventive talent and genius, whom she kept for a time in her employ. When Mr. Stanhope largely increased the Ordnance Committee, he brought in outsiders, and amongst others Sir Benjamin Baker, the most distinguished civil engineer in this country; and from the time the Committee was so enlarged, and outside opinion consulted, we had gone ahead. But we were also the greatest marine-engineering country, and he could not help thinking it might be possible to organise a small Committee, resembling the Ordnance Committee at the War Office, when the Admiralty were about to undertake any change such as that which they were now discussing; and he believed it would give great satisfaction to the House and to the country. It would in no sense diminish the personal responsibility of the Engineer-in-Chief, but it would associate with any change well-known outside names, and so the House and the country would have a guarantee that when any new idea was adopted wholesale it would only be after thorough examination not only by the naval experts, but by those outside who had the highest knowledge and experience.
§ *MR. FORWOOD
said, the Debate had been not without interest and object, and he was glad to hear from the Civil Lord that he accepted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Lewisham to have the Sharpshooter thoroughly and effectually tested with these boilers on board, and he believed good information would in that way be obtained.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
said, he had received a letter showing that the French Government were not at all wedded to water-tube boilers. The letter stated—We may inform you that we have received an order for 40 circular furnaces for the boilers of the French cruiser Etreeastenx.This letter clearly showed that the French Government were not satisfied with the Belleville boiler.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Progress reported.