§ SIR GEORGE S. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in view of the important international question of the defence of merchant steamers in time of war, he is aware that the steamers of the Russian Volunteer Fleet in the Far East are at present equipped for war, with ammunition and armament on board and with efficient gun's crews, partly made up of seamen of the Imperial Navy; and whether these vessels are at the present time commissioned war vessels of the State, or in what category they would stand should war break out?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
I am not aware that the vessels of the Russian Volunteer Fleet are at present equipped for war with ammunition and armament on board, as suggested in newspaper reports. The vessels belong to a private company and sail under the mercantile flag of Russia, with a special device, but officers and men are lent from the Imperial Navy to the company to complete the crews. The position of these vessels in time of war would depend upon circumstances the exact nature of which I am not prepared to anticipate.