MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is able to make any statement with regard to the accuracy of the disquieting reports as to the marksmanship of the captains of guns of Her Majesty's ships which have recently appeared in the Press; whether there is 1237 any foundation whatever for the allegations that portions of the ammunition directed to be expended in the quarterly target practice have occasionally been expended by being thrown overboard, instead of being fired at the target; that, when the floating target has been hit and destroyed, the gunners have been directed to aim at the horizon; and that occasionally, when directed to open fire at 3,000 yards, as judged by themselves, the captains of guns have actually opened fire at 6,000 yards; and whether, with a view to increasing the attention paid and the importance attached to accurate marksmanship in Her Majesty's fleet, he will consider the advisability of issuing an order that at each annual inspection by the admiral of the ships on foreign stations, and also more especially at each paying-off inspection, the inspection in respect of gunnery shall always include an inspection in marksmanship, to be carried out by target practice at sea, under the supervision of the admiral's flag captain, with a half-quarterly allowance of ammunition, and that it is to be understood that the admiral's report on the captain and officers of the ship will deal with the proficiency of the ship in marksmanship as shown at these inspections?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The Admiralty have no reason to believe that there is the slightest foundation for the allegations quoted in the Question. On the contrary, they are convinced that in the great majority of cases commanding officers take the greatest interest in the target practice of their ships. With reference to the particular suggestion contained in the last paragraph of my honourable Friend's Question, I will confine myself to saying that the Admiralty are giving their most earnest attention to the best means of improving the standard of marksmanship in the Navy, and are carefully considering whether any further regulations on the subject are necessary.