HC Deb 14 April 1899 vol 69 cc1120-3
SIR E. GOURLEY (Sunderland)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if his attention has been called to the evidence given at the coroner's inquest on the accident to the boilers of the "Terrible," by Mr. Harold Morley, in which he stated that he believed that all the burst tubes were welded, but that all the others were drawn on the solid; whether, prior to the accident, the Admiralty were aware that it is almost impossible to manufacture welded tubes perfect; and, will he state whether any other vessels, and which, are fitted wholly with welded, or a mixture of welded, and solid drawn weldless steel tubes?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)

The depositions taken at the coroner's inquest do not show Mr. Harold Morley to have made the statement attributed to him in the honourable Member's Question.? The Admiralty are aware that welded tubes are not as efficient as solid-drawn tubes, and consequently all ships built since the "Powerful" have been fitted with the latter, which were not available before that time. The only vessels other than the "Terrible" fitted with water-tube boilers having welded tubes are the "Sharpshooter" and "Powerful."

MR. ALLAN (Gateshead)

Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that solid-draAvn tubes fitted in water-tube boilers burst equally as readily as welded tubes?


That is a scientific question, but the Admiralty consider that solid-drawn tubes are better than welded tubes.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, before completing Her Majesty the Queen's new yacht (now under construction at Pembroke Dockyard) with Belleville boilers, it is intended to hold further inquiry regarding the desira- bility of doing so, owing to the recent accident to this type of boiler on board the "Terrible"?


The answer to the honourable Member's Question is "No." The occurrence of an isolated accident involving loss of life, although very deplorable, is not a sufficient cause for any change of policy as regards boilers.

MR. FISON () York, W.R., Doncaster

On behalf of the honourable Member for West Belfast, I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can now state the precise nature and extent of the recent accident on board H.M.S. "Terrible"; and whether any public inquiry, by court martial or otherwise, will be held for the purpose of investigating the whole of the circumstances attending the explosion?


The House will pardon me if I answer this Question at some length. The main facts of the recent accident on board H.M.S. "Terrible" have been made public by the evidence given at the coroner's inquest, whose verdict and rider were published in the Press. The causes of the accident have been carefully investigated since by the Inspector of Machinery of the Reserve, the Chief Engineer of Portsmouth Dockyard, and the Admiralty Chemist, who are making a thorough examination of the whole of the boilers, and have now made a preliminary report giving the result of their examination. It is necessarily of a very technical character. The main facts are that seven tubes in all have split open, or been burnt through and fractured. These tubes are contained one in each of five boilers, i.e., Nos. 17, 47, 4, 23, 44, and two in one element of a sixth boiler—No. 6. Two tubes, those in Nos. 17 and 47, have split open for a considerable length in the weld on the upper side. The one in No. 17 was in the third row from the bottom of its element, and it was the escape of steam from this tube, together with the furnace gases through the fire door, which had unfortunately been opened, 'which caused the fatal accident. None of the other cases which occurred when the doors were closed caused any injury to the men, as the steam and gases escaped up the funnel. The non-return valves on the circulating system of this boiler, No. 17, are much worn, and while the damaged element is fairly clean, it is considered from the deposit of sulphates and oxides in the adjacent elements, that some obstruction to, or defect in circulation, or both, caused the tube to fail from over-heating. In the case of the tube in No. 47, which was in the bottom row, the upper tubes in its element were found choked with salt, and the tube burst from overheating caused chiefly by this obstruction. The other five tubes in boilers 4, 23, 44, and 6 were all fractured slightly or fractured and burnt through on the under side, and were all in the bottom rows of their elements except the second tube in No. 6, which was in the row next above that of the other defective tube. In the case of two elements in boilers 4 and 6 containing three of these five defective tubes, it has been found that the upper tubes of each element have become choked with salt, thus probably causing these three tubes to be over-heated by obstruction. In the remaining two cases, 23 and 44, the tubes of the boilers are comparatively clear of salt deposits, but in these and all the cases quoted above, there has been considerable corrosion, especially of the separating plates in the steam collectors, and accretions of iron oxides, sea salts, and other impurities have been found in various parts of the boilers. The non-return valves and their fittings for ensuring circulation have also been much worn. Subject to further investigation, the defects are thought to be generally attributable to obstruction of circulation by sea salts, and by accretions of foreign matters, and in some cases these causes may have been aggravated by failure of circulation or of water supply, all resulting in overheating. In all cases the chief contributing cause has been the free use of sea water, and its leakage through the auxiliary feed sea suction sand condensers, and steps have been taken to prevent this in future, in all ships with these boilers. It is not intended to hold any further public inquiry.


Arising out of that Answer, may I ask the right honourable Gentleman if the boilers of the "Terrible" are to be renewed?


All the boilers are being examined, and any tubes that are found bent or damaged will be renewed. It is one of the advantages of the water-tube boilers that in case of accident the renewal can easily take place by the substitution of fresh tubes, whereas in the old cylindrical boilers the whole Ship had frequently to be taken to pieces in order to repair them.


May I ask how it is that sea water was used in these boilers, and whether it is not understood that it is one of the advantages of water-tube boilers that sea water could not prejudicially affect them?


No, Sir; I think it has always been admitted that sea water would affect these boilers as it would affect any other boiler. The admission of sea water is partly through leakage and partly through the use of sea water. A circular has been issued to the Fleet which will, we hope, check the use of sea water in the future.

COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

Is it not the case that the Yarrow water-tube boilers were specially tested with sea water without bad effects?


That may be so. I did not say that all water-tube boilers would suffer in this way. It is certainly clear that sea water ought to be excluded from all boilers so far as it can be done. That is now accepted as an axiom. The House must excuse me if I make any slight error in replying to Questions put in this way.