HC Deb 16 March 1903 vol 119 cc875-6

I should like to say a word or two with regard to guns. There are, I know, some hon. Members who take an intelligent interest in this question of guns; and they have realised, as I and those who are compelled to inquire into this matter realise, that the question of the efficiency of the guns is a very important matter indeed. There are two things which have to be considered. One is, What is the total gun fire of the ship 1 which is important; and the other, which is still more important in these days of improved armament and improved torpedoes, the actual efficiency of the gun as measured by its muzzle velocity and by its striking power. These facts are not unknown to the Admiralty, though the attention of the Admiralty has often been drawn to their supposed short-comings in these matters. It has not been, and it never can be, an easy matter to revolutionise the whole gunnery equipment of our Fleet; but this I can say—that there is a steady progression in the direction both of increasing the amount of gunfire and the effective gunfire of our ships. With regard to the first point, we are now completing, or asking leave to complete, the protection of the whole of the guns of the "Royal Sovereign" class. We are putting new and more powerful guns into the "Barfleur" and "Centurion," and we are putting new 6 in. guns of the latest type into the remainder of that excellent class of cruiser, the "Talbot" class, instead of the 4.7 in. guns with which those ships have been hitherto furnished. We are making experiments with powder. I wish I could say—I cannot say—that we have reached an ideal with respect to our powder, though we are already getting a higher velocity in our guns, and we believe that the new guns we are about to fit in the ships now under construction will be an immense advance upon those we have at present. This will be due partly to the character of the construction of the gun, the length and the chambering and partly to the increased efficacy of the powder we have in use.

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