HC Deb 05 November 1908 vol 195 cc1387-9
MR. GIBBS (Bristol, W.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the recent cruise of the Home Fleet constituted the first occasion on which the three divisions were so assembled together for training purposes.


The reply to the hon. Member's Question is in the negative. The vessels of the Home Fleet were assembled for training purposes last year in August; they were also together during the July marnœuvres of this year.

MR. DU CROS (Hastings)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the number of ships actually present with the Channel Fleet on 2nd November last exceeded seven battleships, four armoured cruisers, two small cruisers, and ten destroyers; and, if so, to what extent.


The vessels of the Channel Fleet present with the Commander-in-Chief on the 2nd November, were: seven battleships, three armoured cruisers, four other cruisers, one scout, nine destroyers.


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it "overwhelmingly safe" that the Channel Fleet should be constantly depleted of one-half of its strength?


The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. Those battleships of the Channel Fleet not with the Commander-in-Chief at the time were left elsewhere by him in the proper exercise of his discretion. He left some at Portland and some elsewhere. I see no reason to interfere with his discretion.

EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many ships were actually at sea and how many were in dock?


Four ships were refitting at that moment—one just completing. There other ships were elsewhere.


Am I right in supposing that none of the four ships, except the one just completing, would be ready for sea at forty-eight hours notice?


No. Does the noble Lord consider that a battleship should never be refitted?


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty for how many days during the eight weeks ending on 26th October last the flag-ship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, the "Dreadnought," was at sea.


The answer to the hon. Member's Question is, twenty-one days.

MR. STAVELEY-HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, during the recent cruise of the Home Fleet, the three divisions then assembled comprised only nine battleships and eight cruisers out of twenty four battleships and twenty-two cruisers; will he state the whereabouts of the remaining ships, and why they were not available; and whether, seeing that less importance is now attached by the Admiralty to the retention of the Channel Fleet in its full strength, it was the intention to dispense with combined Fleet training.


During the period in question, there were in the Home Fleet, twenty-three battleships, eleven of them being special service vessels, and thirty-two cruisers, fifteen of them being special service vessels. The special service battleships and cruisers were not ordered to take part in the cruise, and were at their ports, except a few engaged in conveying relief crews to foreign stations. Of the remaining twelve battleships, ten were in company and two exercising independently. Of the seventeen cruisers, thirteen took part in the cruise, one was refitting, one was conveying reliefs to foreign stations, one was exercising independently, and one was at her home port after return from abroad. It is not intended to dispense with combined Fleet training as occasion requires it.