§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £36,464, including a supplementary sum of £6,500,. be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st clay of March, 1910, for sundry grants in aid of scientific investigation, etc., and other grants."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)
The Vote is a civil one, but it touches the Departments of the Navy and the War Office, and it is impossible to segregate the scientific elements in the Vote. In the discussion of the Vote, therefore, a little latitude should be allowed so that we may travel over the general field. This is the more necessary because the subject is such a new one. The Committee will be interested to know what progress has been made in aeronautics as applied to war purposes, and the answer must be from the very nature of the subject—not very much. There has been certain progress, and it will be found to be more substantial than it appears at first sight. I do not believe that so far that department of the subject with which this House is primarily concerned—the service of defence—any very rapid progress is being made all over the world. Great strides are being made, in the preparation of machines, but it is not enough to make machines that will fly, whether dirigibles or aeroplanes. They must be machines which can be made available for the purposes of war, and the difficulties which surround us are still so great that progress can only be made after exact and careful study and by the adaptation of inventions as they are brought forward to the peculiar conditions which must be fulfilled if effectiveness in war is to be secured. I only remind the Committee that, in war there is very little use for anything unless it can be applied with some certainty, that it would do what we 1565 want it to do, and unless you have some exactness in results. Now that stage has not been reached, and that has an important bearing on what I am going to say. The Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty some time ago asked me to take in hand the general consideration of the principles which underly this Vote and the devising of the machinery which should be called into existence, and after some study I made up my mind that there could be no real progress unless we proceeded scientifically and in order; that is to say, unless we were perfectly clear about what we wanted and as to the structure of the machines which were to be used to fulfil the purposes in view and the production of them in a way which would be at least effective. But I know that that is a very slow process. It is very damping to some ardent spirits, and yet I am sure that in the long run it is the best way of going. Accordingly, the first thing we did was to ask the Committee of Imperial Defence to investigate the subject, and to discuss it with the technical sub-Committee, which could take evidence and go into matters. That the Committee did, and they proceeded rapidly. We had the Report in a comparatively short time. The Report was to the effect that the class of machines must be divided into three heads—rigid dirigibles, non-rigid dirigibles, and aeroplanes. These belong to different spheres. For Naval purposes the rigid dirigible is probably the only instrument of the kind that is of real value—at any rate, in the present state of knowledge. It may be quite different in twenty years, or even ten years' time, but I am talking of present conditions. For the Army the rigid dirigible has certain disadvantages. It is more difficult to turn, bring back, and bring to rest. It is more difficult in the Army than the Navy, and, therefore, in this matter we can only proceed tentatively, and it seems that the non-rigid dirigible is best for Army purposes. The aeroplane may become available for the Army, but at present there are certain defects. It will have to rise much higher before it can be safe for reconnoitring, and great strides will have to be made in the control of its flight. The remarkable events of the last few days—M. Blériot crossing the Channel, and other things that have been accomplished in the United States, and elsewhere—all point to this, that at some time hereafter the aeroplane will be an instrument which will be capable of effecting in 1566 all probability great results. But that is not so at the present moment, and even if the British Army had 200 aeroplanes of the best present construction we should not be one bit further on than we are at the present moment.
That being so, obviously there is a great deal of scientific investigation to do. We distribute that work by assigning to the Navy the investigation and, in a tentative way, the construction of the rigid dirigible. To the Army has been assigned the work of experimenting with non-dirigible machines of varying type, and also with aeroplanes. But the Committee of Defence reported that the non-dirigible was a long way further on, and much nearer being of use than the aeroplane at present, and, therefore, we set ourselves under the obligation to give our first attention to the non-rigid dirigible. But, in order to work these things out, it was necessary to get a great deal of knowledge. From what I have said it will be obvious that you cannot go fast in this matter. You must feel your way and make experiments. Another thing which is obvious is that what is being done in other parts of the world includes to a large extent in this class of work investigations which are available for everybody. Flying machines, whatever forms they take, are very simple machines, and you cannot keep secret very long any advance that has been made in their construction. Moreover, private inventors have been largely at work, and I doubt whether any machine which the Government possess would retain its secret for more than a very limited time. Therefore, I cannot say that I feel much concerned over what is a fact, that in this country we have not made the amount of initial progress that has been made in Germany, France and, perhaps, in the-United States. But I reflect that much the same thing was true of submarines. To-day, by our scientific procedure and by the work that has been done in the Admiralty, we stand, it is no exaggeration to say, at the head of the world as regards submarines. Then again, in motor cars also we were behind. I am no expert in motor cars, but I know enough to have a strong impression that if we are not up to the best Continental countries in every way, we are getting very near it in the construction of motor cars. Therefore, being more or less responsible for this matter, I felt myself able to advise my right hon. Friends that science should come first. I did not mean by that that we should not construct or experiment, 1567 but it did seem to be vital that the mass of scattered information that had been accumulated should be investigated in its scientific order.
For that purpose the Department constituted the Advisory Committee under Lord Rayleigh's presidency, on which the House knows it is not too much to say we bave got some of the finest scientific training in the world. That Committee has held various meetings since it was appointed, and, of course, continuous work will be going on under its direction in the National Physical Laboratory. Meetings have been held there, and also at Alder-shot and in the War Office, and in a moment I will tell the House some things on which the Committee has agreed. The Committee is not intended to construct. It is appointed to advise. It is not even charged with the duty of investigation, but its purpose is to scrutinise investigations which are submitted to it in the course of the work of the Departments concerned; and it has also had to conduct systematic experiments and has had to be furnished with the proper apparatus for that purpose. I hope in a few days that the first Report of the Committee and its work—of course, it is only in a tentative state—will be made public; but I may tell the Committee, meantime, the general character of what has been done. One very important thing was, we should make systematic arrangements under this Committee for getting the fullest knowledge of what was going on in aerostatics all over the world. The Reports, some of them very technical and in different languages, bad to be digested and collated, and observations had to be kept of what is going on in scientific periodicals and the publications of the Departments of State of the various Governments; all that is being done. The work of anybody dealing with this subject of aerostatics is becoming more and more scientific in character. I went over not long ago to my old University at Gottingen, and I found there a chair which has been founded by the German Government, of which the standard of technical knowledge was so high that no student was admitted to the lectures who was not capable of devoting his whole attention to aerostatics. That is a rather heavy demand, but one cannot keep abreast of these things unless one has a very high theoretic knowledge as well as practical experience. The two must work together; and the Committee 1568 that has such men as Lord Rayleigh and Dr. Glazebrook upon it, and such men on the practical side as Mrs. Lanchester and Mr. Mallock, and others, like Professor Petavel and Mr. Shaw, and also such high authorities on the Army and Navy side as Major-General Hadden and Admiral Bacon, is a Committee which is well furnished from the various points of view.
Accordingly this Committee has been at work, and the first thing they have done is to determine the general questions which should be studied. There have been memoranda by the experts on stability, screw propellers, wind structures, petrol motors, light alloys, and a very difficult thing which has arisen in connection with balloons, the accumulation of electro static charges on balloons. Everybody knows what a peril electricity is in the air. And the Committee have mapped out the general field of their work. There are certain very general questions in aerodynamics which are very technical, and with which I need not trouble the House, questions specially relating to aeroplanes, such as the mathematical investigation of stability, the effect of sudden action of gusts of wind, and half a dozen other things which are the subject of particular experiments. Then there are questions relating to these motors, which have to be of special construction for air work, and there are questions relating to airships and meteorology; because when you get up into the air you do not go up into a body which behaves uniformly, but into an infinite variety of gusts and disturbances which makes it necessary that you should be prepared for a great deal that you do not think about when you are in safety on the earth below. That is the class of work which the Committee is doing. They lave been furnished with a considerable scientific equipment already. There is a wind channel, and there is a whirling table; there are wind towers for experiments in the open; and there are other apparatus of a special character. Then the National Physical Laboratory already have a tank under construction for experimenting in ships' models, and that has been further adapted for this kind of work, and for which it will be very useful. The Committee has wisely entered into communication with the Aeronautical Society and the Aero League. The design of the Committee is to afford assistance to private inventors wherever this can be properly done, because we feel that progress will be not only a Government but a national matter. We hope that there will be close and friendly communications 1569 preserved throughout between the Government Advisory Committee and those bodies, to which it will render all the assistance in its power. One other matter I will mention. The private inventor is always a great anxiety. If he sends in his invention before he has taken out a patent he will be sure afterwards to say that you have helped yourselves to his idea. Moreover, it is not always clear that you have not done so, because it is impossible to learn a thing of this kind and then exclude it altogether from your brain. Consequently we are asking private inventors to cover their inventions by patent before they come to us, so that we may not incur undue odium. I told the Committee what the Advisory Committee is doing—the class of its work. Of course, it is in very close relation both with the Admiralty and the War Office. The Admiralty is concentrating, under Admiral Bacon—whose record in connection with submarines and deep diving and other highly successful enterprises I need not dwell on—on the building of a rigid dirigible of the very largest kind, at least the size of the Zeppelin. That is being built at Barrow-in-Furness by Messrs. Vickers. It is an engineer's business, and Messrs. Vickers, who are eminently qualified for this purpose, are working out construction in this matter together with the Admiralty. I hope the combination of experts and practical men may give us a practical result some time next spring. Anyhow, it will be a very large dirigible.
I pass to what the War Office is doing. The War Office, to begin with, is reorganising its factory at Aldershot. We are separating the instruction which is at present given to balloonists from construction, and we are at present preparing for construction of a very large shed to take in the very largest size of a dirigible. We have also ordered a gas-bag for balloons of considerable size, which I trust will serve some better purpose than that of merely advertising the existence of the balloon. Anyhow, that is coming from a firm abroad, who have had the special construction of these things, which we desire to possess, and we have a car and an engine which will be used for this particular dirigible. Then a very patriotic enterprise has been undertaken by two bodies, a Parliamentary Committee of this House and the "Morning Post." The "Morning Post" has collected a large sum, and proposes 1570 to present the War Office with a non-rigid dirigible. Then the Parliamentary Committee offered to put up a shed.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The "Daily Mail," working in conjunction with the Parliamentary Committee, have made the generous offer of a shed. The War Office has provided, with the assistance of the London County Council, a site at Wormwood Scrubbs, and the shed is in the course of rapid construction. When it is completed I understand it will be handed over under the auspices of the Parliamentary Committee for the accommodation of the dirigible. The "Morning Post" have also contracted for a dirigible, and the result will be that the two will come, and if they are satisfactory and come up to the test, which will be very carefully looked to, one, I understand, will be presented, and the other the War Office propose to purchase. That is how the matter stands just now, so that we ought to be in possession of three dirigibles of a new type before a long time is over.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I cannot tell the hon. Member off-hand. As regards aeroplanes, we hope before long to be in possession of two for experimental purposes, and on these we will experiment de novo. We are at present carrying on the old order of experiments, but we have to develop this side of the matter still further. On that, as on the construction of non-rigid dirigibles, the Advisory Committee is making experiments for us at this moment. This is the work that is being done. We have a very efficient staff of engineers for the manipulation of these things when they are once in existence. There is a great deal of knowledge of them at Aldershot. Colonel Capper has spent a great deal of time abroad, and has investigated everything to which he could obtain access, and study has been continued at the War Office itself. To sum up the position, the Admiralty has in prospect one great rigid dirigible, the War Office has three, and besides those we have, of course, our balloons for war purposes. At the present time we have certain aeroplanes on which we have been working, and the prospect of two new aeroplanes, which are to be presented for experimental purposes, and may hereafter be acquired. That is the actual condition of things now.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
The right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech said there were special difficulties which so far prevented the present flying machines from being effective and accurate as war machines. I suppose we ought to know of those difficulties, and if the right hon Gentleman would summarise them it would perhaps help the Committee to understand the situation.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I will answer the question of the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pike Pease) first. The Naval balloon will carry about twenty men; the Army semi-rigid dirigible will carry about 8 to 10 men. That is as far as we can say just now. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) said, the difficulty in the way of all flying machines is, first, that when they get up in the air it is even chances that you may find a bank of mist below you which prevents you from making observations. The amount of observation that can be done even with the best machine is very limited, that is if you go high especially. If you go low, as you would go with an aeroplane at present; the position of the unfortunate aeroplanist sitting on a seat like a bicycle seat, and with perhaps a battalion of marksmen below him, is a very disagreeable one. Consequently, it comes to this, that if you wish to be really effective you must fly high, and if you do you must be able to come back to the position from which you started. The starting off of these machines is by no means an easy business and the bringing to land is an almost equally difficult business, so that, taking one thing with another and considering the difficulties of starting and landing, in the present state and knowledge of construction, the use of these instruments for war is not very great. But still we should be very foolish indeed if we neglected this side. It is vital that we should push ahead and we believe that the steps we have taken are steps which will presently carry us a great deal further on. Last year we spent a very small sum upon these things. This year the Committee will see from the total that the figures are very much greater. The Admiralty are spending £35,000 for these purposes. It may be necessary to come for more money, and I am sure the House of Commons and the Committee will not grudge for the purpose which is of such importance. The War Office are spending altogether upon these things over £36,000, taking the Estimates in various shapes and forms except one sum.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I will tell hon. Members generally. There will be a considerable expenditure on these machines and that will be the largest sum. The shed which we are building will cost £6,000, and there will be £6,000 odd for stores. There is expenditure upon personnel, and there is the other expenditure I have spoken of. Taking this sum of £35,000 of the Admiralty and that of the War office, the country will be spending in the course of this year about £78,000 on aeronautics for the purpose of defence. If you compare that with expenditure of other countries we are not so badly off in spending what is being spent this year. Last year France spent, as far as I know, £47,000; Germany spent £133.000, but of that, £26,000 was spent on balloon battalions, making the amount £107.000.
§ Lord BALCARRES
That was only on machines. That does not include sheds and other things in Germany.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I cannot answer for that. This is the amount spent on experiments for military purposes, and I am taking the figure from a return of the other day. It may be that there is further expenditure outside that. Then there was a large private subscription in Germany of a sum of £265,00. How that has been, spent I do not know. Austria-Hungary spent £5,500, and we only spent £5,270. I have not got the figures for the United States, but that is the general position. The Government are so fortunate as to have the co-operation and stimulus of various bodies. There is the Parliamentary Committee over which the hon. and gallant Member presides. There is this very valuable work of the "Morning Post," collecting funds in patriotic-fashion, and presenting a dirigible to the nation. There is the action of the "Daily Mail" in presenting sheds, a very valuable action, arid there is the work of the Aeronautical Society and Aero League. It is very difficult for private persons to render as effective assistance in a matter of this kind as they do in other things. There never will be, as far as I can see, any very large private ownership of these machines. No doubt, country gentlemen will hereafter have these aeroplanes, and have pleasant aeroplane parties and weekends; but when you come to dirigibles, rigid and unrigid, I fancy very few people will possess dirigibles. At the same 1573 time, there is an enormous amount of construction going on all over the world, and the study of these societies is consequently very valuable as a means of acquiring information of what is going on. As to the construction of engines of great bulk, all the knowledge has come through other forms of motor, and through motors we have seen. I think the country is to be congratulated upon the amount of voluntary work that has been organised in connection with these things, and I have the hope that the combined work of the Government and of these Societies will, as soon as we have got the scientific question settled, and which lies at the root of the whole thing, enable us to make such progress that when the time arrives for these machines to be adopted for war that we will be no more behind the rest of the nations of the earth than we are to-day with submarines.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
The right hon. Gentleman, in his interesting speech, said truly that this was a new subject to the House of Commons. I believe this is absolutely the first occasion upon which it has ever been debated in the history of Parliament. I hope, therefore, that Members of this House will forgive those of us who have not a very wide and deep experience on the subject. I am reminded of a remark which was made by the present Lord Chamberlain some years back when he announced to an electrified House that he was not an agricultural labourer, and I feel bound to admit on this occasion that I am not a practical aeronautist. I am of a very cautious disposition, and whilst the Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee will be very glad to afford any facilities they can to any of their colleagues, particularly on the other side of the House, to make trips, I personally propose to watch those operations on terra firma. The note running through the right hon. Gentleman's speech was perhaps a little over optimistic with regard to the state of affairs in this country. It is true that he began by saying that not very much progress had as yet been made, and I am afraid if we analyse his subsequent account of what has been done that there is only too much truth in that statement of the position. We are very much obliged to him for having informed us so precisely of what the Government is doing. That will be of great interest at any rate to Members of the Parliamentary Committee, because they have had an uneasy feeling, and I think there has been 1574 also throughout the country for some time past, that we have been allowing foreign countries to outstrip us in this matter, and that we have allowed them to gain an initial advantage which in the event of war might be very serious. The right hon. Gentleman quoted previous experience with submarines, and said that experience in the past has shown that we shall probably be able to catch up. I hope we may, and I agree that the analogy of the submarine is a very important one. But, on the other hand. I do not think it does to go upon the principle that we can always afford to wait in the hope of catching up; because some day, in connection with some warlike invention, war might come before we caught up, and the enemy would have a tremendous initial advantage. In our case I think we are a little more behindhand than the right hon. Gentleman suggested, because we lack not only plant and the airships themselves, but also what is more important and difficult to obtain, namely, experience in handling these craft. I am aware that we have this advisory scientific committee. I do not wish in the least to indulge in any captious criticism upon it, but I cannot help thinking that more confidence would be felt in the working of that Committee if there were upon it, in addition to distinguished scientists, some really practical aeronauts. I do not believe there is a single practical aeronaut on the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, is very much enamoured of, I will not say hypnotised by, the blessed word "Science"; but, whilst pure science is very well in its way, I think this is a case where it is of more value when diluted by a good deal of practical experience.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I was only drawing attention to the fact that at present there is not on the Committee a single practical aeronaut, as far as I am aware. I doubt very much whether the brothers Wright, M. Blériot, or even Count Zeppelin are either familiar with or much troubled by the integral calculus or the differential calculus. It is important that all the scientific matters to which the right hon. Gentleman referred should be studied, but, meanwhile, while these investigations are being carried on, men are actually flying about in other countries, and Frenchmen are landing like migratory birds upon our shores. Of course, we are very pleased to welcome them; but I cannot help 1575 thinking that it is time we got on with the matter in a practical way, and that, instead of devoting our energies so exclusively or so largely to the study of pure theory, we might go further than we have done in the way of purchasing accumulated experience that is being gained in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman spoke feelingly about private inventors and their offers, which are no doubt made frequently to sell their apparatus. I have suffered like the right hon. Gentleman, because I also am not immune from the private inventor. For some reason or other, because I am connected with the Parliamentary Committee, private inventors keep writing to me and offering their machines. I always refer them to the right hon. Gentleman, who, I hope, is doing what is necessary in regard to them. The fashion at the present moment is to be either over-sceptical or else over-sanguine with regard to the possibilities of aerial navigation, particularly in connection with national defence. But the whole thing seems to be coming to a head so suddenly, and the developments are consequently so incalculable, that I cannot help thinking that in the very near future it is going to be a practical condition in warfare with which we shall have to reckon. After all, if you look back you wall find that the way in which aerial navigation has come to a head is far more rapid than has been the case with almost any other form of locomotion. Certainly it has come to a head mere rapidly than motor-car locomotion, or than steamship, and certainly than submarines, which were in use even in the American Civil War, but have only come into practical use within the last few years. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out some of the difficulties of these air machines—the difficulty of starting, and so forth. Probably all owners of motor cars here, at any rate a year or two ago, found that those machines were occasionally very difficult to start. I do not think, therefore, we should be discouraged by the fact that these machines are not yet perfect. At any rate, we cannot afford to be left behind, but I am afraid that so far there is no doubt, even from the right hon. Gentleman's account, that we have been.
I want to approach this question only from the standpoint of national defence. Of course, it has many other aspects. There is the sporting aspect, which is very interesting; and there is the social aspect, which is very disturbing. We do not 1576 know what disturbance it will cause in our laws, customs, and convenience; but these matters will no doubt be adjusted. With regard to the really important question of defence, how do we stand? We have got at Aldershot a small experimental airship, which is really no more than a toy. It is an experimental craft, and I do not wish to criticise it beyond saving that it is of no value for war purposes. We have also an aeroplane which will not fly. That is the full extent of our national equipment in this matter of aerial navigation. When we ask why this is so, I believe it is due, in the first place, to the absence of funds, at any rate, up to the present, and certainly the absence of proper expenditure in the past. We cannot get these things without spending money upon experiments. The right hon. Gentleman told us just now that last year we spent only £5,270, whereas France spent £48,000, and Germany £10.3,000, apart from private efforts. I do not think that that is a very creditable showing for us. It has been made public at last that the Admiralty are really doing something important: they are building a large rigid dirigible. The right hon. Gentleman said that they were concentrating. I am very glad that they are concentrating their energies and forces upon this very important, matter; but it does not seem that the War Office are doing quite so much. Whilst the Admiralty are concentrating, the War Office, according to the right hon. Gentleman, are experimenting, and they have begun by ordering a gas bag. That is not a very large outlay, and it does not show a very forward spirit, as compared with the Admiralty. I think we should be more interested if we knew that the War Office was actually engaged in building one of these non-rigid dirigibles, which we are now told are more suited for Army purposes, in order that the nation might be provided with both types.
§ Mr. HALDANE
We are organising construction plant in a considerable way. Before the year is out we shall have construction plant; at present we only put things together.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
It might be possible to do, as the Admiralty are doing, and have a non-rigid airship built by contract. In the meantime, until the right hon. Gentleman's Department is organised, we are losing valuable time. That is my point. While we are doing something, according to the right hon. Gentleman's account, we are doing nothing commensurate either 1577 with the importance of the subject, or with what is being done by foreign countries. The Prime Minister has assured us more than once in this House that ample funds will be forthcoming for the purpose of aerial navigation, and we should like to see some use of those funds at a somewhat earlier date than the right hon. Gentleman forecasts. He refers to what, in addition to public expenditure, has been done by private beneficence. The Parliamentary Committee, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, feel very strongly that this question is one which ought to be dealt with by public funds rather than by private subscriptions. I do not wish in any way to criticise, indeed, I think everyone must applaud the public spirit and patriotism which has been shown by the "Morning Post" and the "Daily Mail" in raising funds. But, after all, the necessity has been forced upon them by the deficiencies of the Government. I think we are proceeding upon a wrong principle in attempting to provide the necessary money, not out of taxes, as we should in order to provide ourselves with ships or guns, but by making appeals to the public, who are already sufficiently pressed by demands of that sort.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
That really is no argument, because in both Germany and France the Government are spending very large sums; anything raised from the public is in addition, and has enabled them perhaps to go in for the thing on a more luxurious scale. Therefore, speaking for the Parliamentary Committee, I think we are entitled to press upon the Government the necessity of spending whatever money is necessary upon this matter, rather than to expect the public to provide the money for them. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the case of the Zeppelin airship, and the money which has been raised by public subscription. I think he has forgotten that when the Zeppelin airship was wrecked last August the German Government provided £25,000 within 24 hours to replace the loss, and, on account of the public enthusiasm in connection with the event, before October £300,000 were raised. He said that he did not know how that money had been spent. I can tell him. That money has been spent in putting up a large factory at Fredrichs-haven, with a capacity of 8 to 10 Zeppelin airships a year. So that the business has actually advanced very much in the case 1578 of Germany. We know also that in both France and Germany there are actual effective squadrons of these airships in existence, whilst we have not even one single unit belonging to the British Government. I do not wish to suggest that these foreign airships are by any means perfect. They must necessarily be largely experimental; but the fact remains that they have already shown their capacity to travel long distances of 200 to 300 miles, and to return to their starting point. They have developed a speed up to 35 miles an hour, and have shown themselves capable of carrying from seven up to 25 men, or, besides the crew, they have a carrying capacity of something like 3,000 lbs. of explosive or incendiary material. These are very serious qualifications, which I think make these vessels, even in the present stage of development, serious engines of war which have to be reckoned with. I consider that we ought to have some that are at least as good, even though we may look upon them at present as experimental ships. The right hon. Gentleman said that we must proceed in this matter with certainty and exactitude. I think that is rather too severe a standard to set up. In all these engines of war, particularly in their earlier stages, it has never been the custom of countries to wait until they could get certainty and exactness in their operation. Take the case of the fire-ships at Port Arthur and Santiago de Cuba. They were a hazardous experiment. At the same time it was considered worth doing, and was of very great value. Therefore I do not think we in this country ought to wait until an absolutely perfect airship is produced, or we shall find ourselves very far behind. At this stage the Government, I think, ought to take advantage of the power which it has to buy the accumulated experience of others. Airships of different types are in the market. They have been evolved from a long series of experiments. They can be bought to-day if only the Government is willing to buy them. If the Government accumulates specimens and samples of the different and best foreign types for the purposes of experiment, I believe the money will be very well expended. I was, of course, extremely glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that if the Parliamentary Committee is successful in its desire to bring the Clément-Bayard non-rigid dirigible over here early next month, and if it will fulfil certain tests and conditions, the Government will be prepared to buy it. I only ask the right hon. Gentleman at this 1579 point not to be too exacting in the test and conditions that are to be applied. He cannot expect to get a perfect article. If this ship can demonstrate its capacity to sail from Paris to London, and execute aerial manœuvres during the said month, without demonstrating its incapacity, then I do think the Government ought to buy it, although it does not satisfy certain ideal conditions which the War Office is apt to lay down; because there is the most important point of all to my mind, and that is that it is necessary to get on at once with the training of our personnel. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that we have an efficient staff at Aldershot for manœuvring these airships. The staff that he has is an extremely small one, and is doing extremely little practice—certainly no practice at all with really efficient airships. Therefore I cannot see how he can claim that it is efficient. The inventions maybe more or less common property. This matter of training is at least not common property. I am informed by the experts that navigation in the air is quite as difficult as navigation on the sea. It takes years to make a seaman, and it takes a very long time to make an airman. One thing is not uncertain, and that is you cannot make an aeronaut without airship training. The right hon. Gentleman's statement was too optimistic on that point. In this matter I believe the French are further advanced than any other country. Their balloon division is better equipped, and their men are better trained than any other in the world. It has been clearly demonstrated that an inexperienced aeronaut in charge of an airship is worse than useless. Certainly the Americans found that out in the Spanish-American War. If the Committee will allow me I would like to tell them of a little personal experience that I had at that time near Santiago de Cuba. It was before the battle. An American column was marching through the jungle for purposes of observation. It had a captive balloon attached to a waggon, and this proceeded at the head of the column. It was impossible to see for the dense vegetation of the jungle. It was thought that this captive balloon would enable useful information to be obtained as to the position of the enemy. It soon became apparent that an extraordinary amount of fire was being concentrated upon the head of the column, which lost very heavily. A gallant but inexperienced officer was up in the balloon, and after a very long time 1580 he succeeded in getting down a telephone message, in which he said: "I can see the enemy upon the hill, and they are firing at the column." That was the only information which was received, because at that moment a providential shrapnell shell destroyed the balloon. The officer was fortunately able to descend without serious damage to himself. From lack of experience and wrong handling there is no doubt that immense and unnecessary losses were caused to the American troops. I only quote that as a practical observation that came under my notice personally as to the positive disadvantage that may result from airships in the hands of untrained men.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The same thing happened in Morocco with the French. They were located by the Moors in consequence of their balloon, and it appears from the official reports that they sent back the balloon to the base.
§ Mr. A. LEE
I am afraid that the management of the French must not have been very good in that case. If the right hon. Gentleman presses that to its logical conclusion that would be an argument for not going in for airships at all. I do not think he wishes to go so far as that. But there are other matters beside aerial navigation. There is the training in war operations, such as dropping explosives and so on. Whilst that sounds very easy I am told that, on the contrary, it is extraordinarily difficult, the fact being that the balloon has both a horizontal and vertical motion, which makes the operation extremely difficult. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we have men trained in that work? The French have carried out a series of very interesting experiments in connection with that. I doubt very much whether we have. It is highly necessary to have experimental airships in which to give the necessary training to our men. I do not wish to discuss the question of type. That obviously must be left to the expert advisers of the right hon. Gentleman. The whole object of my remarks is to try and press upon him and the Government to secure representatives of all types in order that they may experiment with them, and be able to come to a practical decision as to what is most suited both to the conditions of the Admiralty and the War Office.
And in this connection the first essential is obviously the provision of a shelter. It is no good the War Office purchasing balloons or building them unless there are an 1581 adequate supply of shelters. These shelters, according to the right hon. Gentleman's figures, cost very little—about £6,000 each. It seems to me that the first step on the part of the Government ought to be to erect a number of these shelters at different strategical points of the country, in order, when these vessels are procured, that it may be possible to experiment with them on a practical scale, and to take them wherever it may be desirable. That is an expenditure which, at any rate, the Government might get on with at the present time. As a matter of fact, they are only providing a shelter at Farnborough, while the "Daily Mail" are putting one up for them at Wormwood Scrubbs. I think it is time they got on with this first essential. Certain ideas have been expressed this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) and others as to the advantages or disadvantages of these machines for the purposes of war. I have made as many inquiries as I could on the subject, and it seems to me that one or two points are pretty clearly established. I will be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman will tell as whether he has any reason to differ from them. The first is that it is absurd to suppose that the airship is going to expose us to any greater danger in the shape of invasion, or that they can be used for the transport of troops to this country. That, I think, is an absurd idea. Then, of course, their use is limited by the fact that at present, at any rate, they are fair-weather craft. Their use is therefore limited and uncertain. On the other hand, I think it would be rash to say that within a very short time an improvement in construction, especially of greater engine power, might make them quite independent of normal weather conditions. In that case they will be a very serious matter to reckon with. The chief point which has been established, I think—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear me out—is that they have already an enormous value for the purpose of reconnoitring both by land and by sea. [Mr. HALDANE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman is in some doubt of that. Their radius of action is at present so great and their power of observation, owing to the enormous elevation at which they can observe, is also so extended, that I think a great many days in the year—possibly we cannot deal with fog and such like—they will completely cancel or do away with strategy in the sense of concealing the dispositions of armies, or making a surprise 1582 movement with a large body of troops possible. I they can do that it makes an enormouse change in warfare. Aeroplanes may come in useful. The right hon. Gentleman, rather, I thought, dismissed the aeroplanes too lightly in connection with reconnoitring because he said that they fly rather low. Yes, but their speed is enormously great. If the right hon. Gentleman has ever tried to drop a driven partridge with the wind behind him he will have found the difficulty in taking aim and also in hitting it. In any case, even if one of these aeroplanes, carrying a single man or two men, is hit, the loss will be very trifling both in life and money, and risks of that kind will certainly not deter men in time of war from taking them if any useful object can be gained. Then, I suppose, the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that the moral effect of these airships may be very serious indeed—more so, probably, than their material effect. Their power of appearing over such places as the capital of a country, centres of mobilisation, bases of operation, and so forth, at the very commencement of hostilities—indeed, almost before war is declared—at a time when these places are considered to be secure against attack, and dropping explosives and bombs quite at random, must have a very demoralising effect upon military operations. This applies particularly to the possibilities of their use at night. The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about that. Surely at night airships must be to a very large extent immune themselves from any form of attack, and it is just at night that they are able to come closer to us, and do the greatest damage in those particulars to which I have just referred, in the way of creating demoralisation and so forth. The last point I wish to refer to—very little reference has been made to it—is the enormous value, even in their present stage, of these vessels in connection with a punitive expedition.
Taking the case of the average punitive expedition, whether in Western Africa or the north-west frontier of India, its object is generally to travel over a short distance in order to destroy or defend some stronghold. It is attended with difficulty as to lines of communication, and very often there is great loss of life from sickness, whereas it seems quite possible for one of those airships to travel to the scene of these occurences without loss of life within quite a few hours and with very little expenditure of money for the destruction of the offending village or stockade, which 1583 could be carried out under these circumstances with far greater effect upon savage people than these military expeditions, to which they are only too used, have. I think the limited value of airships at the present time has been pretty fully established. There is one thing I think very clearly established, and that is the danger which would result to us or to any other country if we allowed ourselves to be without an experimental equipment for the use of them any longer. I think that danger applies particularly to any Power which has to rely for its security mainly upon its naval supremacy, because if you assume the case of a foreign enemy which has a weaker fleet, but which has command of the air, it would be possible for him on the outbreak of hostilities to create an immense initial damage to any of our fleets which might be lying in our dockyards or harbours, or so forth. And in that way the disparity between the two fleets might be removed even before they came into contact upon the seas. I think that is a danger which we cannot altogether ignore. But, apart from that particular contingency, or indeed any other contingency which may be the subject of controversy, I do not think there can be any difference of opinion as to the earnest and vital necessity of our keeping abreast of foreign countries in this calculable factor in the warfares of the future. Therefore, while thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the information he gave us to-day, I venture to press upon the Government the necessity of making use of these ample funds which they say are available and employing them at the earliest possible moment in the purchase of experimental types.
§ Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH
My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) began by apologising for not being an expert in aeronautics, but I do not think any Member of this House need ever apologise for not being an expert, because, if we are to judge by the many Debates in this House, experts are at an entire discount amongst us. My only experience or knowledge of this subject must be less than the hon. Member for Fareham. Indeed, my only experience in aeronautics was to travel in a balloon, I think it was from West Ham, and to alight some considerable distance away in a turnip field, and I cannot honestly recommend the experience to the favour of the Members of 1584 the Committee. I should like to be allowed to join in thanking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War for the very frank and full statement he has made, and I may perhaps also be permitted to congratulate him and the Government on what they have done already, because, although what they have done may not seem to be much, in my opinion they are far in advance, and have shown themselves to be so, of the public opinion of this country. As far as I can gather, the people in this country, until the arrival the other day of M. Blériot, regarded dirigible balloons and aeroplanes with about as much interest as they do the flip-flap at the Imperial International Exhibition. I think it was generally felt, and believed in this country that very little has been accomplished, and that there is not much in the future before these different types of aerial craft. I was a little surprised to hear my right hon. Friend say that so far not much has been accomplished. It seems to me that from a practical point of view an immense amount has already been accomplished in aeronautics—
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
Oh, for war purposes! But for other purposes an enormous amount has been accomplished. I think Count Zeppelin, if I am not mistaken, has travelled nearly a thousand miles in one of his dirigible balloons, and, as far as aeroplanes are concerned, the achievements of M. Blériot have been greatly surpassed by those of the brothers Wright. One of the brothers Wright has travelled, I think, over 75 miles, and, as we all saw in the newspapers the other day, a most satisfactory achievement was accomplished by one of the brothers, who carried a passenger with him. But I quite agreed to a very large extent with what was said by the hon. Member for Fareham in his criticism to the effect that the Government seems to be relying far too much on theory in dealing with this matter. It is most satisfactory that they have formed this highly scientific advisory Committee, but I entirely agree with the hon. Member opposite. I speak with great diffidence when I say that in all probability the scientific investigations will lack a great deal of their value unless accompanied by practical experiments on a very lavish scale. I, of course, have no views in regard to the use either of dirigibles or of aeroplanes from the military and naval standpoint. I 1585 should judge, if I may say so, that they must be in the future of enormous value in scouting. It is idle to prophesy, but that may turn out in the long run to be perhaps the only value they have from the military and naval point of view. I often thought what an enormous value some sort of dirigible balloon would have been to General Buller when he lay his three months in front of Ladysmith.
But it seems to me it is rather a pity that we are obliged to dwell so much upon the military and naval aspect of this question. I am inclined to think that in all probability they will be found to have much greater use from other points of view, and I trust that the scientific bodies that are considering this question will devote some part of their attention to that aspect of the matter. I read in the papers that they have already promoted a line of airships from one place to another both in Germany and in Switzerland, and there is only one bar to the complete success of this undertaking, and that is, I understand, the entire lack of passengers. I hope the Government will make lavish experiment, and that they will relax none of their efforts, because I feel it to be of the utmost importance that, if there is any practical use for military or naval purposes in dirigible balloons and aeroplanes, that we in this country and the people of this country should be fully informed as to those particulars. Only the other day a certain section of the people in this country—not, I think, a very large number of people—were greatly alarmed by the alleged appearance of dirigible balloons, in various parts of the country. I venture to think that if the people of this country knew that our Government were informed and fully prepared in every possible respect in regard to aerial navigation such a scare as that could not possibly take any hold in the country. I can scarcely agree with my right hon. Friend that we ought to lean so much either on private or semi-private munificence or foreign experience. I think it is only due to ourselves that we should take our share in this great branch of invention and discovery. I was glancing only this morning through one of the newspapers which is devoted to the question of flying, and I thought it a little humiliating that from one end to the other of the journal there was absolutely no reference or nothing more than a passing reference to any achievements accomplished either in this country or by people of our race. In fact the only 1586 British names that appeared from one end to another of that paper were those of American investigators.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I was very much struck with the same thing, but I noticed that in the case of all the foreign investigators they were private owners.
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
Yes, but I was pointing to the fact that so very few of these people mentioned in that paper were people of our race. The only ones, that bore even British names were Americans, and even more humiliating, was the fact that so uncongenial was the atmosphere of this country to these investigations that even those who were colourably British by name conducted their operations in foreign countries. In addition to the scientific studies that my right hon. Friend and the Members of the Government have given into the charge of this Advisory Committee it is quite clear that experiments of every kind are of the first necessity in this new realm. There is everything to discover, I should imagine, not only in regard to different types of machine, whether they are dirigible or aeroplanes, but there must be almost everything to discover as to the material of which these machines should be constructed. There is the very important question which is already engaging the attention of foreign investigators of the different types of engines. No engine has yet been used that could be described as by any means satisfactory and more important than all I should have thought is the training of the necessary navigators. We might have in this country, if my right hon. Friend acted on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Fareham, in a few months a great number of dirigibles and aeroplanes, but there are not in this country at the present moment any people who could manage them, and I quite agree—and this is an important point—with what the hon. Member for Fareham said, that it is obvious that training in this branch must involve many years of application and experience. I conclude by congratulating, if I may, my right hon. Friend in showing himself to-day, as he has on all other occasions, so much in advance of the public opinion in this country.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
In regard to some matters, it may be said of the right hon. Gentleman that he is a most expert theorist, and the most logical theorist in the country. There is one direction in 1587 which he has shown an extraordinary practical knowledge, and in regard to which he has organised upon an extraordinary practical basis.—and that is the Army. With regard to aeronautics, the right hon. Gentleman, I am afraid, has not lived up to his reputation as an expert theorist, and I am quite sure he has not convinced us that in this matter he is living up to the reputation of his name. We are not convinced that the right hon. Gentleman or the Government have done as much in regard to aeronautics as they might have done. Take one illustration which was referred to by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. A. Lee), namely, the Advisory Committee. There is not a single man upon that Committee who has had any practical knowledge of the subject, and there is not a handful of expert aeronauts in the kingdom. This is due to the fact that there has not been the same encouragement given to this matter as there was in the case of wireless telegraphy. This country led the world in the matter of wireless telegraphy, and gave encouragement to our own inventors and experts here. We were in close touch with Mr. Marconi, who was himself not only a great theorist, but also a highly practical man. The Government were not in the least behind with regard to wireless telegraphy, and, as compared with the inventions of other nations in this matter, we were not only on a level, but well ahead, of them. I was a member of the Wireless Telegraphy Committee appointed by this House, and I was astounded by the revelations made before us as to the amount of progress which had been made. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has convinced a single Member of this Committee that the Government has done much in the matter of aeronautics to preserve our prestige as a scientific nation. It should not be left to other countries to teach us in this matter, and undergo the initial expense of experiments in order that we may take advantage of their investigations. The Secretary of State for War said that all the inventions which have been made are patent to him who choose to look them up, but that is not an occupation which will give great gratification to the patriotic citizens or' this country. In the development of aeronautics Germany has spent £107,000 during the year against our £5,000. I believe France has spent £48,000, and the United States has spent a sum proportionate with that spent by France and Germany. We have gained a great advantage by 1588 their experiments, but is that a satisfactory state of things? I think the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has set down in the Estimates £78,000 shows that in the past our Government had not quite lived up to its opportunities, and has not done as much as the people of this country would encourage them to do. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated that this Government is ahead of public opinion in this matter, but I do not think that statement is at all warranted. If there is one thing in regard to which this Government has been pushed and pressed forward by public opinion it is aeronautics. The people of this country have not looked upon this as an August Bank Holiday entertainment, but the majority of the people have taken it seriously, and I do not think what my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham has said upon this point is an accurate anticipation of the scientific and practical development of this question.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I said these machines might be used for transport in a limited sense, but they could not be used for transport of large bodies or of stores for the purpose of invading this country.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Ordinary commonsense tells us that such machines will probably never be used for the carrying of large bodies of troops and ammunition. I think, however, we should be very foolish if we did not take to heart the lessons of the past in regard to every invention. It is quite true that people never anticipate the vast advantages which frequently arise from inventions of this kind. Take, for example, the case of cycling; it began about 60 years ago at the early part of Queen Victoria's reign, and it was given up almost, but to-day it is an absolute and necessary part of transportation in this country. It is used by the Army and by all great commercial and industrial organisations. The same thing happened in regard to motoring and steamships, in regard to which progress has been very rapid. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that progress in aeronautics came very quickly to a head. I think experiments in aeronautics have gone on since a certain gentleman tried to fly and his wings melted, and there is no inventive principle which has ever been applied which has engaged the attention of inventors so much as aeronautics. I do not agree that this science has suddenly come to a head, and that is the only point upon which I differ from the 1589 hon. Member for Fareham. In this matter experiment is the whole secret of development. We have had practically no experiments, either privately or on the part of the Government, in this country, because they are extremely expensive. Mr. Edison or Mr. Marconi were able to experiment with very little money in regard to electrical inventions, but it is very difficult to experiment with aviation, because it is extremely expensive, and it is only rich men in Germany and France, or men like the Wright Brothers, and M. Blériot, who have been assisted by rich men, who can afford to conduct these experiments. If this science means a great deal for the national life of a country, if it is going to be used for war purposes, quite apart from the commercial application of the principle; if it is going to be used for commercial, social and transportation purposes, then I think it is the duty of this Government to spend money freely upon it, and, above all, to spend money not only in buildings and providing shelters, but in encouraging men to practice with machines which the Government ought to place at their disposal. The Government ought to have a little regiment of aeronauts devoting themselves professionally to this work, and this would give encouragement to private individuals to conduct experiments. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will redeem his character in regard to this question. If the Government will seriously take this matter up, if the right hon. Gentleman, knowing that he has public opinion behind him, realises that we have arrived at the stage where progress can be made by experiments, will do all he can under the guidance of the Government and under his own guidance, and set up a practical school for the application of this principle, backed up by his own scientific sympathy and the encouragement of the people of this country, I have no doubt when he makes his statement next year it will be far more satisfactory, so far as practical results are concerned, than the statement which he has been able to make to-day.
§ Mr. A. P. DU CROS
The hon. Member for Droitwich stated in the course of his remarks that he did not think the public were greatly interested in the development of this science.
§ Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH
I did not say the public were not interested in this question. What I said was that an intelligent public interest in it should be cultivated by the Government.
§ Mr. Du CROS
I believe the public is not only greatly interested in the development of this question, but they are watching its progress with great interest and with some amount of anxiety. I think the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman will be received with some disappointment by the public. I am sorry that I cannot share to a large extent the satisfaction shared by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the statement he has made. From a practical point of view what has been stated on behalf of the Government falls far short of the requirements of the case. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself felt the inadequacy of the position when he was refering to what had been done by the Army in the past. The statement made in regard to the Advisory Committee I think was eminently satisfactory. I understand that Committee is solely intended to deal with abstract questions, and will be engaged in theoretical and experimental matters of research. It will not be the duty of that Committee to initiate or to construct anything, but simply to advise when it is called upon to do so. I quite agree research is necessary and indispensable, and I think the action of the Government in appointing this Committee to undertake this work is deserving of the highest commendation. At the same time, this must necessarily be a very slow and tedious process. The right hon. Gentleman has said so himself.
There is one suggestion I should like to make with regard to the Advisory Committee which the right hon. Gentleman may, perhaps, find worthy of his consideration. At the present time there is no machinery by which the executive officers of the Army and Navy Departments can consult and assist each other upon aerial matters. I quite understand that each Department may refer to the Advisory Committee, and that the Advisory Committee, in advising the two Departments upon one subject, will, no doubt, be quite consistent, but there must be many matters of detail arising in connection with the ordinary practical work and construction of an airship that will never be referred to the Advisory Committee, and upon which the executive officers of the two Departments must therefore act independently. It would be a useful thing if some machinery were devised by which the Executive officers of the two Departments could consult and assist each other upon practical details in connection with a subject which is common to both Depart- 1591 ments. I am not sure that one Aerial Department would not be the proper and most efficient method of dealing with this matter. I cannot see why two Departments should be dealing with the same subject, when, by making a joint Department, the experience and knowledge of the Executive officers of two branches of the Service would be combined to the general advantage of both. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give that point his consideration. I think, as one who has had a good deal to do with the organisation of Departments on a large scale, that it possesses some practical merit. I know, of course, that the type of airships to be adopted by the Army and the Navy may possibly differ, but it does not alter the fact that the scientific considerations governing the whole subject remain the same, whatever the particular type of airship adopted may be.
With regard to the general policy of the Government, as outlined by the right hon. Gentleman, my contention is that we had reached a stage long before this Advisory Committee was appointed when airships had become so practical and so efficient that they were a very important consideration indeed in any scheme of national defence. I think the duties of this Committee should have commenced at that time. They should have been in a position to examine the airships of to-day, practical and useful as I consider them to be. That, however, is not what this Committee proposes to do, for the very sufficient reason that we do not in this country possess one single practical airship of any kind, notwithstanding the fact that airships have been in being and in the air in foreign countries since 1900. We are, as a matter of fact, the only European Power which does not to-day possess an airship, and, as regards the Army Department, we are the only Power which is not engaged on a definite constructive programme. It happens also that there is not a single private firm in this country with any practical knowledge or experience of this subject. There is not one firm which can undertake and execute an order for a modern dirigible airship complying with the conditions laid down by the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is not the duty of this Committee to make itself responsible for the construction of airships, and that is where his statement falls short of the hopes of the Committee. He has given 1592 us no information as to the practical constructive proposals of the Government. There is a strong contrast in regard to the way in which the Navy and the Army have dealt with the matter. The naval authorities having made up their minds that airships were necessary and indispensable —perhaps very late in the day and many years after other nations had done so—dealt with the matter in a practical way. They made up their minds as to the type of airship most suitable for their requirements; they then proceeded to build, and next year we shall have an opportunity of judging of the success or failure of their efforts. The expenditure undertaken by the Admiralty, although estimated at £35,000, must reach a far larger sum, I should say £45,000 or £50,000, for one single airship, and I cannot understand why the Army Department will not vote even a fifth of this sum, which would be sufficient, for the construction of an airship suitable for Army requirements in its own Balloon Department.
The right hon. Gentleman has to some extent thrown a scientific glamour over the subject, but it is a practical subject as well as a scientific one, and the position of the Army Department, so far as I have been able to gather from the statements made by the Government from time to time, is this: They commenced in 1906 to experiment in a practical way with the construction of a dirigible airship. It was launched in 1907, and it proved to be a failure. I do not blame anybody for that; the Government could not expect to jump at immediate success in regard to a subject on which other nations had experimented for so many years. It was not until 1907 that the first Army airship was constructed, whereas foreign countries had experimented since 1900. I do not know what was done by the Army Department n the intervening seven years; if anything was done it has never transpired, and, as a matter of fact, I do not think anything was attempted. That airship having failed, it was dismantled and reconstructed, and it appeared again in 1908. It failed again. The Army Department, however, must, in the course of its construction and trials, have acquired a vast amount of useful information and experience, and it strikes me as a curious thing that at that point the whole subject, so far as practical experiments were concerned, should have been dropped by the Army Department, because, with the exception of launching 1593 the model airship which has been referred to, nothing further was done. We have it from the right hon. Gentleman that no airship is in course of construction at Aldershot, that no airship is contemplated, and that no airship at the present time is on order from foreign countries; and that notwithstanding the very definite pledge given about three months back in this House by the Prime Minister, when, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Leicester, he stated that certain dirigibles will be constructed by the War Office balloon factory at Aldershot, which is about to be reorganised. I have not been able to understand why that pledge has been set aside, as it apparently has been, by the Army Department, because the right hon. Gentleman himself, in reply to a question on 19th July, stated that the construction of an airship of any type has not yet been commenced by the Army Balloon Department, and again, in response to another question, he stated that until further reliable data are obtained the War Department does not propose to construct an airship.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us to-day that he sent the Superintendent of the Balloon Department in the early part of this year to the Continent, and that he investigated all that was to be seen in Germany and France. I am quite certain that in his Report the Superintendent did not state that more data is required before building or that foreign airships are not practical enough to warrant immediate action on the part of the Government, That is why I absolutely differ from the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that nothing practical or sufficiently practical has been done to warrant a constructive programme on the part of the Government. The War Office itself has formulated the conditions necessary for a serviceable airship for Army purposes. I do not think I need apologise for giving some of the particulars laid down:—(1.) The balloon to carry a crew of six, together with wireless telegraph apparatus up to 3001b. in weight. and petrol and ballast together making up a total weight of not less than one-fourth of the full total lift.(2.) The balloon to have two similar engines of equal horse-power, all parts of which are interchangeable. Either engine independently or both together to he used at will in working propellers.(5.) The balloon to be portable, that is, to be capable of being taken to pieces easily when deflated, and packed on waggons for land transport.(7.) The balloon to be capable of anchoring in the open for 24 hours in moderate winds up to 20 miles an hour.(8.) The stability and steering capability of the balloon must be satisfactory.(9.) The balloon envelope not to lose by leakage more than one-hundreth part of its capacity for every day of 24 hours.1594 Then these most important stipulations, to which I respectfully draw attention, follow:—(10.) The balloon must be capable of rising to a height of 6,000ft, with its full crew and wireless apparatus, and must have ill hand then fuel sufficient for three hours' run at full speed.(11.) The balloon must complete a triangular course of 100 miles each side, that is, a total course of 300 miles, in not more than 14 hours, travelling fully equipped. For four hours of this journey the height above sea level not to be less than 3,000ft.(12.) The speed of the balloon on a measured course shall not be less than 32 statute miles per hour.The significant part of this is: these particulars are issued in connection with a national airship fund supported by the right hon. Gentleman. He wishes to assist that fund and to take possession of the airship. It is not the right hon. Gentleman's wish to put any difficulty in the way of the organisers of that fund which will prevent them realising their ambition. Therefore, in issuing these conditions, the War Office considered them to be practical. As a matter of fact they are practical, and that is proved by their acceptance by a foreign firm, which certainly would not have undertaken an order of that kind subject to the conditions if they were not perfectly certain of carrying them out. The firm which has undertaken to build the balloon is a very experienced firm, which has already supplied six to the French Government, and I repeat, I am sure Messrs. Lebaudy Fréres would not have undertaken an order of this kind unless they were perfectly certain of being able to carry it out successfully. I know their balloons to be perfectly practical, and I cannot agree with the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman, who declared that nothing practical for war purposes has yet been accomplished. The fact that the French Government are building and acquiring a fleet of air vessels, with which very successful results have been achieved, is sufficient proof that the time has come when we may venture to follow their example. When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is not the intention of the Army Department to proceed with the construction of airships until further reliable data are obtained, I really hope that he is not meaning to wait until a national airship has been delivered in this country, because if that is the case it is impossible the ship should be delivered until the month of May next year, and it would really be a very unfortunate thing if the balloon department's action were to be postponed for so long a period. The relative position of this country with Germany and France is well known. France has at least seven of these 1595 vessels in commission, and Germany has more than seven, and there are a large number of vessels building. The possible output in Germany and France, and in private factories, cannot be less than 30 in a year. I think it is perfectly safe to assume that in a year or two the German fleet will number from 24 to 30 airships. In 1908, when we were dismantling the British airship for the second time, the French Government had announced that they had a vessel, called the "Republique," capable of carrying nine men at 32 miles an hour and lifting a dead weight of 3,000 tons, while at the same time the German Government had the "Zeppelin IV." which was able to carry 26 men at 35 miles an hour with a dead weight of 4,600 tons. Again, I must say I cannot agree when results such as these have been realised that the Government are justified in saying that no practical results have been achieved. I think that offers a very startling contrast to the action of this country as compared with other countries. It is due to the indifference shown on this question, and upon that point I have in my hands a statement published in the Press art; the time which was headed "The Official View." I will just give one or two extracts from it. It states:—In the highest military circles in Great Britain it is accepted that so far airships are a failure.It was at this moment that the "Republique" and the "Zeppelin IV." were being launched. Then it goes on:—The military authorities have had experts employed in watching the flights of the various airships, and the impression is that for a long time to come there is nothing to be feared…. From time to time reports are received of the performances of various airships on the Continent, and in every ease details of the mechanism and construction have been available.We launched a British dirigible at that time which was inferior in every respect to that in use in France and Germany. As a matter of fact, the only real failure since 1908 was in regard to a British vessel alone. The official view appears to me to be borne out by the Estimates of the year for the Army Department. The amount allocated for aeronautical work, including the ordinary balloon service of the Army, was £13,750—lower than in any year since 1902, notwithstanding the fact that through the whole of these years this great development has been taking place in these other countries. It has been said that we are backward on this question owing to the lack of ability of the officers of the balloon department. I do not believe 1596 that that is the case. I believe, as the right hon. Gentleman said in introducing the Estimates this year, that they were very capable officers. But we cannot expect them to make bricks without straw. As a matter of fact, the Department has been starved, so far as money is concerned, and £13,750 is an absolutely insufficient sum when you consider that the cost of a single airship amounts to £10,000. The German estimate for the same year was something over £100,000. I should like to ask what is the practical constructive policy of the Government I They did nothing until 1908. In 1907 they constructed a ship, which they tried again in 1908, and just when their experiment might be expected to realise results, owing to practical experience gained, it was suddenly dropped altogether. That appears to me to be going to the other extreme altogether. On 4th March the right hon. Gentleman assured us that rapid progress was being made, but four and a half months later it was stated that no ship was under construction, and it was not contemplated that any ship should be constructed until further reliable data was available. It is not a question of finance. We have been assured that ample funds have been placed at the disposal of the Army Department, and therefore I do not think that even the purchase of an airship or the acquirement by the nation of a national airship is a sufficient constructive programme. In my opinion, the Army balloon department should be placed in a position to organise and construct an airship, and sufficient money should be placed at its disposal for such a purpose. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the National Airship Fund. A similar fund was started in Get many, and in a very short space of time it reached £260,000. I do not think the British public is less patriotic than the German public. There was a reason for the response in Germany, which does not exist in this country, because, rightly or wrongly, the opinion is held over there that the creation of an aerial fleet would do something to nullify the strength of our fleet. I know that is the opinion very generally entertained in Germany, and it is a very natural ambition. It is our business, however, to see that it is never realised. I believe that in this country such a fund would not meet with much success, because there is a very general feeling that the defence of the country should be undertaken by the Government, which under no circumstances should be 1597 relieved of the responsibility. Personally I am very much in sympathy with the efforts of private individuals to strengthen the hands of the Government. It has been said that the effort of the individual in this matter means that the efforts of the Government will relax. There appears to be some reason for this, because we have been assured that the money is available and that the Government are fully alive to the requirements of the case. I think some assurance is needed that the National Airship Fund will be accepted as an addition to the programme of the Government and not in substitution of any part of it, in the same way as they are dealing with the "Dreadnoughts" offered to us by the Colonial Governments. I mention this matter in order to afford an opportunity for an assurance to be given, which will be of great assistance to the National Airship Fund which has suffered from this view. I do think that the British Army Balloon Department should be placed in the position to construct an airship of British manufacture, material, and organisation. I do not think that that is an extravagant idea. The question of personnel has been touched upon. It is perhaps a more important branch than any other branch of this service. I believe I am right in stating that we have not more than about 50 men in the Department in this' country, whereas, as a matter of fact, in Germany they have 600 or 700 men trained in aeronautical work. I know of no other country so far behind in this matter as we are. I have not referred to the question of aeroplanes. I look upon that as a matter of the future. I have refrained from discussing the general utility of airships because I think their utility for present purposes is absolutely demonstrated by the conditions which the War Office has laid down, and which have been accepted by responsible firms for the construction of airships. It is quite apparent that it will be possible in war time, under certain conditions, for hostile balloons to find their way over London. I know a great deal has been written, in a somewhat sensational and alarming strain, on these matters, and I do not wish at all to associate myself with that, or to exaggerate the position at the present moment; but I agree that we cannot afford to shut our eyes any longer to the fact that aerial fleets are being created on a large and comprehensive scale by foreign countries possessing great possibilities, putting it no higher than that, both for offensive and defensive purposes, 1598 and I am satisfied that, whatever the demerits of airships may be, and there are, of course, drawbacks—that whatever they may be, the whole subject has advanced sufficiently far to warrant the Government in dealing with it in a definite, immediate, and effective manner. I do not think in this matter we are pursuing the will-o'-the-wisp, as has been said. The problem has been solved; flight has been accomplished, not by chance nor by luck, but by years of toil and expenditure and of patient study, and it only remains to improve and perfect the means at our disposal; and therefore I say that no nation can afford to be without the airship as a permanent weapon today in its armoury. Therefore, I do sincerely hope that the Government, in addition to the labours they have undertaken; from the scientific point of view, in addition to the proposals for the purchase of foreign dirigible airships, will organise our own factories here at home and train: men in this advancing science.
§ Mr. J. DUNDAS WHITE
I am sorry I am unable to speak with the experience of a practical aeronaut, but, as a member of the Aeronautical Society for some ten years, I have been following with very great and close interest the development of flying machines, the mechanism of flight, and the gradual improvement that has been made in what I have always considered a most interesting and most difficult mechanical problem, namely, that of flight. I was particularly interested in what the Secretary for War said with reference to the grants which were being made on the subject, because early last year I put a question to find out what our expenditure was, and ventured to call attention to what, I thought, would be found in the future—the paramount importance of the command of the air. It was interesting to hear what the Secretary of State said with reference to dirigible and flying machines, and he did, it seemed tome, put too much stress upon the dirigible. Of course that is a matter which will be largely decided by this Committee which is being formed, which is certainly very strong on what is called the scientific side; but I think we must remember that science does not only consist of theory; it consists of experiment as well, and this seems to me a matter in which experiment is bound up with the progress of science. If we take the successful aeronauts of recent years, they were their own engineers and aeronauts; and if we look at the progress in the past, we shall in the same way see that the aeronaut and the manufacturer of 1599 the machine were working together; and I am convinced that if we are to make the progress we ought to make we ought to have actual experiments going hand in hand with study, until we have an actual machine in working order.
It is doubtful whether we can get sufficient data for our theoretical development unless we have experiment. Indeed, I was much surprised some time back, when there was in existence in Paris and on the Continent aeroplanes in operation and making considerable nights, that we at Aldershot were only making experiments on a very small scale, and with an aeroplane which certainly has not been a very great success. With a view even of getting men who are accustomed to the command of the air, it really did seem most desirable that we should have got one of these aeroplanes from Paris, because they were to be sold in the open market, and that we should have trained our men and taken a machine in being rather than have tried to invent a new one, which went over the ground which had been traversed before. There I do agree with the criticisms which have been passed on this Committee, that it is comparatively weak on the practical side, although I do not agree with the hon. Member for Derby, because I think he went a little too far, as one of the Members of the Committee is Mr. Lanchester, who is a great practical engineer, and brings great practical knowledge to bear on the subject. I myself am hardly inclined to agree with the view which has been expressed in regard to dirigibles—in favour of them rather than in favour of aeroplanes, because it seems to me that they involve considerable difficulties. First of all, there is the question of form and the difficulty of the engines, and then there is the fact that for military purposes they are of very great size, and this renders their an easy target for gunfire. Then again, the cost is very great, about £10,000 for one; and it must also be remembered that, with its great bulk, a dirigible for practical purposes can only make one flight. It may stay some time in the air, but I do not think any of them have stayed in the air for more than 20 hours, but when it once comes down it cannot go up again until it has been refilled from some centre where it can obtain gas. If the weather is stormy it cannot be anchored; it must remain in the air, and if any attempt is made to anchor it the strain will 1600 be so great that it will probably be torn to pieces. Although the aeroplane has not yet come into the realm of practical action for war purposes, the development of it is being marked with very great success, and I myself consider that the possibilities with regard to it are very great indeed. It has further developed a much greater speed than other machines, and speed is a very essential factor. We are told it cannot rise very high. I agree it does not rise very high, but that is a question of engine power, and with greater engine power it may be able to raise at a steeper gradient and to a greater height than it has reached at present.
For Army purposes, the carrying of weights, which has not received much attention from experimenters, and the question of automatic stability, are questions to which I hope this Committee will devote their special attention, because, for warlike purposes, they seem to be matters of very great importance. Assuming that a person is taken up for a few moments to make observations, it is of the utmost importance that there should be such automatic stability that the machine should go on for some little time and maintain its position. That is one of the great problems which is before us. As to the two classes of machines, if we were to pit the one against the other I think the Committee would agree that the aeroplane has some advantages, with its power of rising in the air independently of the state of the atmosphere, which the dirigible would not have, and the contest would resemble the old contest between the hawk and the heron. One hon. Member seems to think that these vessels would be particularly of use for scouting purposes, and another hon. Member went a step further and spoke of their being of great use in punitive expeditions against uncivilised natives, but I would point out to the House that if these airships had attained such a state of improvement that they were able to carry on at a considerable distance operations against an uncivilised tribe they would also have attained to such a condition that they could be similarly used against some civilised nation. That is one of the great military problems which will have to be faced, and I say frankly that I do not regard the airship in any of its forms as ancillary to the Army and Navy, but I think it will become a branch of the service, standing by itself, and in the long run will be more powerful than either of the other branches. The historian of the future may perhaps comment upon the fact 1601 that when we had that important Debate upon the constructional Vote for the Navy on that very day we found in our morning papers that the Channel had been traversed by a purely mechanical flying machine, and I am sure that the thought must have occurred to many hon. Members who were at Spithead, whether our Fleet, which we then viewed, could meet a fleet of airships hovering above them.
I think in such a case a fleet of airships would stand a very good chance, but there probably would be nothing of the kind, because if these ships could go through the air and utilise high explosives in the way it is suggested they would not direct their methods against fleets or armies, but go straight for the capital of the enemy and endeavour to strike at the heart of the State. That seems to me to be one of the dangers which we have to guard against, and various attempts have been made to deal with it by high-angled firing guns, but I doubt whether such guns would be of any use, and whether the problem would be solved in that way. This is particularly the case at night, when the airship would be out of sight, and out of sight would be out of range, so that nothing could be done, and the city would be exposed to the danger of anything which the airship could do. Therefore, if we are to protect ourselves against a possible danger, I think we may safely say this, that the only weapon which can be safely brought to bear against airships with a certainty of success is other airships of a superior and more formidable character. That is one of the problems which I believe we have to face in the future, and it is because of the gravity of the task that I have listened with very great interest and pleasure, to the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has unfolded to us this afternoon, and I venture to hope that in this Committee there will be brought in a little more of the actual experimental element of those who are accustomed to the use of the machines, because I believe that that will be a very great step towards their improvement.
I for one would like to join in thanking the right hon. Gentleman for all that he has done in this respect, and for that organisation which he has formed and which, I believe, will be the basis of an ever-growing organisation in the future, which will increasingly provide for the national defence of the country.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I certainly think the £5,000 spent last year, in 1602 comparison with the £40,000 odd spent in France and the £100,000 odd spent in Germany, reflects not much credit on our Government. In the face of all that has been done abroad, I do not think we have much to boast of. Economy may have its virtues, but it may go too far. I welcome the statement that £78,000 is to be spent this year. That is certainly something. I wish it was double, because aviation has come to stay, and all the encouragement which can be given to aeronautics ought to be given. The committee which we are asked to vote this £6,000 odd for is entirely, so far as I can make out, a scientific one. I should most thoroughly welcome another committee of practical men. There are plenty of practical men in this country, and plenty more who would come to this country if it was made worth their while, and, although the differential calculus and all these scientific things may be very good and very necessary, a pound of practice is worth a ton of theory, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that in the future. Progress in this matter should be made without delay. France has six of these large dirigible balloons, and Germany has more. What have we? We have nothing. It is most necessary that the Government should wake up and bring this subject full speed ahead.
§ Mr. HAROLD COX
I should like to say a few words to defend my right hon. Friend from the more or less friendly criticisms which have been directed against him because the War Office is not doing quite so much as some hon. Members would like. I think the War Office is doing quite as much as it ought to do, perhaps even a little too much. I have been surprised at the way in which Members on both sides have assumed that if this country is to maintain a commanding position by aeroplanes and airships it can only be done by means of the War Office. I have the greatest respect for my right hon. Friend and for his versatile talents, but I do not think the efficiency of this country in the matter of airships or aeroplanes can be secured by trusting entirely to him or to any Department, or to any Government. It is not a reflection on him, but on all Government Departments and all Governments. After all, is it a fact that in France and Germany progress is due to the action of the Government? It is obviously not. It has been done almost entirely by private persons until quite 1603 recently they voted a little money, but even now the bulk of the work is being done in France and Germany by private persons. If private persons have failed to do it in this country the Government have also failed, because no Government can be better than the people it governs—it is generally worse. What we have to do is to wait until our own people have the in telligence, and the energy, and the patriotism to develop this new method of locomotion or of warfare, whenever it is to be, in the future, and I personally believe it is going to be a very big thing indeed. We cannot do it by waiting for the Government, and if the Government is to do anything at all, instead of expending money in experiments which were denounced by the hon. Member for Hastings as failures, and which were failures—
§ Mr. HAROLD COX
I grant that, because we have reached nothing. Meanwhile, the foreigner has been experimenting at his own expense and produced successes.
§ Mr. HAROLD COX
No, there also it was done by private persons. I challenge the hon. Baronet to point to a single invention that the Government has ever made. Did the Government invent telephones? When the telephone was first invented the Post Office sent over an agent to America to investigate it, and he came back with the report that it was a harmless toy. That is the attitude that Governments usually take in regard to inventions. In this particular case we have a more intelligent Government, and it has appreciated the importance of it. But it cannot invent. The Government has no organ with which to invent. Possibly if the country retains the right hon. Gentleman's services permanently at the War Office we might feel more confident, but, broadly speaking, it is absolutely impossible for the Government to invent, or even to experiment successfully, because a Government must be always subject to Treasury control.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent anything that has been said. What I said was that the Government had assisted very materially the progress of wireless telegraphy by assisting Mr. Mar- 1604 coni and acting in close relations with him and the Navy in particular, and assisting him to make this experiment which put us at the head of all other nations.
§ Mr. HAROLD COX
My hon. Friend is to a certain extent right. The Government latterly has entered into a working arrangement with Mr. Marconi, but at first Mr. Marconi got a great deal of opposition from the Post Office. Is it really suggested that the present Postmaster-General invented wireless telegraphy? It was Mr. Marconi who invented it, and when he made a big success of it at his own expense the Government stepped in and utilised it. That is the rôle for Governments to adopt. If my right hon. Friend finds that English manufacturers and men of science are behind Frenchmen and Germans in this wonderful new invention, it is his duty to buy the best aeroplanes and the best airships he can get abroad and use them. We shall be far more strengthening our national position by buying the best that foreign inventiveness can give than by making wasteful experiments at our own expense. I hope, if there is to be any buying at all, the right hon. Gentleman will proceed on these lines, and if he does I have sufficient faith in my own countrymen to be certain that in a very few years they will come out top again, as they have done in every other invention before. Generally we lead the way in invention, and when we are not sufficiently intelligent to do that we wait a few years and then catch up the others. I hope there will be a strict limitation on the amount of money which is spent in experimental work by the War Office or the Admiralty, and that we shall take advantage of all that has been done by foreigners, and challenge our own men of science and our own manufacturers to go one better.
§ Mr. J. S. ARKWRIGHT
It has been impossible to listen to the discussion this afternoon without coming to the conclusion that it has been a very serious discussion, and that this Committee has fully recognised the awful possibilities of destruction which a very slight advance in the manufacture of airships might suddenly confront us with. I should wish the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House and the country that he really seriously considers that the airship is a matter of serious significance in warfare, at any rate in the matter of scouting, even if not in the matter of carrying dangerous explosives and doing actual destructive harm. I 1605 cannot agree entirely with the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Harold Cox), because it seems to me that if we regard this as a matter about which the right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to take the House to a certain extent into his confidence, so far as that is wise, one of the things that is important is that this House in its discussions should educate the country in the matter of its seriousness. The same applies to the Government of the day. If it is plain that the Government regard these engines as dangerous engines in future warfare, one of the best things the Government can do is to experiment to a certain extent, and that will be the best way of stirring up our own people to make similar experiments. When it is actually seen that the War Office and the Admiralty and the Government consider this matter as one with which they ought to hurry, and ought not to lag behind, that, to my mind, is a far more effective way of getting the country behind you in this matter, which would enable the House to vote supplies, than the old game, which has so far not failed in this country, but which has failed in other countries, and that is to wait a little longer in the hope that when our hour of danger comes we may just have been lucky enough to catch up with that particular form of warlike operation in which you have been lagging behind, for the reason that the House would not vote the money because the experiments of our authorities and the education of the public by discussion have not advanced sufficiently to justify the House in doing so, or to justify the Minister in asking the House to do so. I think the right hon. Gentleman would not accuse us in any way of doing more this afternoon than expressing the opinion that what has happened here will justify him in going rather faster with the actual work of construction, and in saying that he has this House with him in what he has done, and, if anything, this House is agreed that he ought to do more.
To my mind, the matter of the personnel as everywhere is one of the most important matters of all. We are told that we are going to have some of these airships, possibly in the spring, possibly later. When we have them it seems to me that a considerable further length of time must elapse before there are sufficient men to work them, and a sufficient margin of men to take the place of those men if any accident should happen to them or if they leave the service. That puts us a little 1606 later still. Are we to understand that a year perhaps is to pass before we really have anything like an effective personnel who are able to work the two or three airships in the possession of the Government? That is a serious matter about which we are justified in pressing for an answer. I think we have recognised on these benches that this may be one of the matters on which it is not always wise to ask the questions which occur to one first, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that we have not pressed hard this afternoon, but that what we have pressed is in favour of his doing more and doing it quicker and of not hesitating to ask for supplies if he considers it really necessary.
§ Mr. A. MOND
I would not have intervened but for the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who wished to have some practical men on the Committee of Investigation. I hope the time has come when we have heard the last of the so-called practical man whenever a scientific problem is to be investigated. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Haldane.) has pointed out, in his able speech, that among the people who have been appointed to investigate this problem is Mr. Lanchester, who is recognised as one of the greatest experts on motor engines, which is perhaps the most difficult matter in connection with the whole aeroplane problem.
§ Mr. MOND
I say that with considerable authority, and I think the Noble Lord will find that that is so if he goes into aeronautic circles. The difficulty in regard to the motor is one of the reasons why aerial navigation has made such slow progress. That slow progress is due to the unscientific manner in which the problem has been handled, and if we want to make real progress we can learn a great deal from the investigation of the question of suitable motors, instead of by making a bamboo frame and fitting to it a motor which may or may not be suited to the requirements of flight. One of the most difficult questions also is that in connection with wind resistance, which has been studied too little, and it is only by acquiring accurate knowledge on that subject that we shall be enabled to understand the fundamental principles of the problem, and be thereby enabled to turn what is at present an interesting toy into a useful instrument. I do not think anyone can say that either a dirigible or non-dirigible is 1607 really serviceable at present for the purposes of war or commerce. That they may become so seems likely. Take the Zeppelin dirigible. I do not think it is looked upon by the German military authorities at present as of very much use. He must have an extraordinary length of inflated bag, and he must also have a very large space to come down in. His dirigible can carry very few people except the crew. The idea that there could easily be dropped from such machines explosive materials with any chance of hitting any particular object has been entirely disproved by all the experiments that have been made in that direction. No doubt an explosive dropped from an aerial machine would hit somewhere, but that would not be a very useful or scientific method of bombardment. It is a curious fact that the hitting from a moving object in the sky any object on the ground is very much more difficult than an untrained person would suppose. I do not think that a fleet of airships moving over a fleet of ships on the water would ever hit them at all except by a very lucky accident. I think a dirigible would be more easily brought down by the use of some kind of shrapnel than that a dirigible would be at all likely to damage a warship. I do not think that nations in the future are going to conduct their battles by scattering explosives over houses. That is very unlikely to take place. It would be the very reversal of the rules of war which have now existed for a long time. Nobody expects an enemy to bombard a seaside place like Brighton. With civilised nations warfare is not conducted by simply destroying property and killing civilians, or by dropping dynamite about London, Paris, or Berlin. Such a proceeding would have no effect at all on the ending of the war. No nation would make peace because the enemy was killing civilians. So long as the naval and military forces were not attacked they would be perfectly ready to go on. It is entirely contrary to all practise to scatter explosives in the way suggested, and that such a brutal and futile proceeding would be resorted to is one which we need not contemplate.
The question we have to contemplate is how the problem, as it affects this country, is different from that affecting Continental nations. It seems to me that a dirigible is more suitable on land than at sea. It will be remembered that in the 1608 case of the Franco-German war the balloons which were employed enabled the French to communicate with their lines in the South of France. In that case a dirigible would have made those communications infinitely more certain than was possible by means of balloons, which could only drift with the wind. Therefore, if we were in a beleaguered position, such as occurred at Colenso, dirigibles would be immensely useful. As a sea Power we are not likely to wish to communicate with Continental nations in this way, and I do not think that a dirigible is likely to be of much service in travelling over a large amount of ocean and returning. No dirigible has yet crossed the German Ocean and come back. Anybody who has studied the problem will see that there is a limit to the use of the dirigible. It cannot be expanded to an indefinite size. The greater the size the larger the engine power becomes, and therefore a larger quantity of petrol has to be carried, and at best the number of persons you would be able to carry would be few.
What you have to study more is the aeroplane, and I do hope that the Committee which has been appointed will be supplied with more considerable funds than they have been in the past. I think it would be a good thing if they were in a position to purchase the best types of aeroplanes which already exist. There is no reason why, in this mutter, we should begin at the beginning. We should rather endeavour to improve upon what has already been accomplished. It you want to buy a steam engine you do not begin with the type invented by James Watt. You buy the best type of engine that has been introduced. If we bought three or four of the best aeroplanes we could go on in the direction of making further improvements. I think also the Committee ought to turn their attention to the instructing of men how to handle these machines. We have in this country at present very few people who can handle an aeroplane even if it were put into their hands. Mr. Wilbur Wright has given instruction to the Americans in the handling of aeroplanes, and I think we should not be too proud to ask him to come here to do the same for us, rather than wait until we have invented an aeroplane for ourselves. I do not think it is quite realised how much has already been done in the construction of dirigibles. There is one three years old which belongs to a private gentleman in Cardiff, and I think for about £200 you can get one which will carry a man and his family 1609 about. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members receive that statement with doubt, but I think it is quite conceivable that such a machine might be constructed. There are a considerable number of private individuals who are spending their own money and working on this problem now, although they are, wisely, not saying too much about it. I think we ought not to allow the impression to go forward that nothing is being done by private enterprise in the country, and that the Government has practically to push its own way still. The Government can do a great deal to encourage the investigation of the subject through the central Committee, and in that way both time and money might be saved. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Harold Cox) that it is the function of the Government to sit still and do nothing at all. I think in this question my right hon. Friend (Mr. Haldane) is on the right lines. I hope that the Government will not show any niggardliness in the matter of funds, but that the Committee will really be put in a position to carry out the work which it is so important should be carried out.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I wish to make one or two observations on the strategical value of airships, though I do not profess to be an expert. The hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Mond) said that it was established that explosives could not be dropped from great heights with serious effects. That is quite true, but it does not follow that the difficulties are perfectly insurmountable. There is no necessity for the hostile airship to be at a great height when the explosive is dropped. The hon. Member said again that it was almost impossible for high firing guns to strike hostile airships. That again is quite true. The idea has been practically abandoned of piercing an aeroplane with a bullet. That is not how modern science is attempting to devise methods to destroy them. It is by making such a great explosion in the air within 200 or 300 yards of the machine as would shatter it. I felt very strongly in regard to what the hon. Member said when he refused to contemplate the possibility of airships of any description dropping explosives for purposes of war. He said they could not hit a fleet of ships, and he refused to contemplate the possibility of the bombardment of towns.
§ Lord BALCARRES
I do not share that optimism at all. A German airship carried one ton of explosives. These explosives are carried for a definite hostile purpose. The hon. Member says that in modern warfare towns would not be attacked in that way. The enemy might attack Portsmouth by dropping explosives from airships, and they might destroy thousands of lives and smash up the whole town. If the hon. Member is right in saying that no civilised country would ever do such a thing, is it too much to ask the Government to make inquiries of the great Powers of Europe with the view to adding to the Geneva Convention a clause providing that high power explosives will not be used by aeroplanes for the purpose of war? If the Powers are agreed that they do not wish to smash up civil property, perhaps they will not object to agree to that. Very often for adequate reasons undefended towns might be attacked for the purpose of destroying stores or something of that kind. It is, at all events, worth while that the Government should take that aspect of the problem into consideration. Some hon. Members seem to think that airships are not going to realise the hopes that are entertained. The realisation of what five years ago was a dream has come to us with dramatic suddenness, and I should be surprised if five years hence did not see great progress made in this direction. A few years ago there was a tentative understanding that balloons should not be used for the purpose of dropping explosives. That understanding might be made concrete if other nations will agree at some national convention to that course.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The Debate has been an interesting one and also a practical one. It has been conducted with a spirit and a desire on all sides of the House to get at the truth in legard to these things rather than to score points, and I think it has been a practical Debate, especially in spirit. I think the general criticism has taken the form of doubting whether the Government are doing enough. At the beginning I spoke of the enormous difficulties of this question. I quite agree that the work that has been done abroad has been far greater than has been done at home. One cannot but admire the splendid progress that has been made by men like Count Zeppelin and some of the great French inventors in this matter. But after all they have worked in large measure apart from their Governments. The 1611 Governments have come in afterwards, and we are not very much further forward than we were at the beginning of the question of how far these things can be made available for war. That they will be made available for war in time I do not doubt. The point I am making is whether the success in flying these machines under the artificial conditions—for they are artificial—which obtain does not leave us a long way from the attainment of the goal of the practical application of these things to war. Therefore I am not afraid of the rapidity of progress of which some hon. Members have spoke. There is abundance of time if we use it, and the great point which I wish to make is that we cannot give too much attention to the scientific side of this problem. I am not suggesting for a moment that we ought to neglect the practical side, but I agree entirely that one is apt to hear too much of the practical side in these Debates. I cannot quite agree with the horn, and gallant Member opposite (Major Anstruther-Gray), whose speech may be summed up in "spend plenty of money and damn the differential calculus." On the other hand, I quite agree that science is no use except as a basis to make practical progress, and if we are concentrating on science at this moment it is with a view to springing forward when we can, when we get solid ground under our feet. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. A. Du Cros) also spoke of the difference between the Army and the Navy, and said that the Navy has got a practical thing and is concentrating upon it, while the Army is working all over the place. I do not think that is so. The Navy has been given the problem of the rigid dirigible. That is a comparatively simple matter compared with the things with which the Army has got to deal, namely, the non-rigid dirigible and the aeroplane. The Navy may require science too, but they have not constantly to go to the Committee to the extent that we have to do. We have to work out a more complicated set of problems, because the non-rigid dirigible, while essential for an army which cannot use the great cumbrous construction of the rigid dirigible, presents problems which the rigid does not present. I am not quite sure that we are so far behind as is assumed. We have not yet set up our construction department, which will be done very shortly. We have got to get the right people and the large shelter that we wish and certain other things. But we have not let the grass grow under our feet on 1612 that account. We have the engine which we think is the best engine, or, at least, one very suitable for our purpose; and we have the cars and all we want is the envelope or bag, which is coming from a particular firm in France. This envelope we think will be most likely to suit us. That will be with us in a very short time, and then we shall have a non-rigid dirigible to work with. Then there is another coming from the National Fund of the "Morning Post," and there is a third which, if the conditions are satisfactory, we propose to purchase. That is one of the two that are coming over. If that is carried out it will leave us with three non-rigid dirigibles to work with. Before the end of the year I think we shall have enough to work with.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I hope so. I do not know how long. The order is placed. Perhaps I am over-sanguine—but shortly.
§ Mr. HALDANE
And the Clement next month. Then there only remains the other, which will take only eight or ten months. I do not think we shall be very far behind the Admiralty, who, I hope, will have one actual going machine by the end of the financial year. That is the situation. It is perfectly true you could buy a great many machines of different types, and you could experiment with them, and you might probably find three out of four would be failures, and I do not believe you would be as far on as you are with the careful study and work with the various types with which we are trying to deal. At any rate, that is the plan on which we are proceeding, and I think there is a good deal to be said for it. Then there was another criticism made by the hon. Member for Hastings, who said, "Your Committee ought to be more practical, and you ought to have your executive officers." Admiral Bacon and General Hadden, who are not only the heads of the Executive Department, but highly trained experts, are both members of the Committee.
§ Mr. Du CROS
I referred to the officers actually responsible for the construction of these air vessels who might be in consultation with the officer of the Navy who was responsible for the construction of the naval airship.
§ Mr. HALDANE
We have not yet found a head of the construction department of the Army balloon factory. We have been looking about for him very carefully within the last few weeks, and we hope to get the very best man that can be found to put at the head of that work. He will be a practical man, a civilian and an engineer; but I think that the hon. Member must be referring to the head of the balloon school, who has the fullest opportunity of being in consultation with the Committee.
§ Mr. Du CROS
Has he any opportunity of consulting the officers responsible for the construction of the naval airship at Barrow-in-Furness? I think he has no facilities in that connection.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I cannot see what the distinguished soldier who is at the head of the balloon school of construction has to do with the work of the Admiralty, in constructing the rigid dirigible, The Admiralty will be only too glad to see him if he has anything to say to them, and he will be only too glad to give the Admiralty any information he can; but I do not see any material connection between the two different pieces of work at the present moment. Certainly there is no difficulty in bringing the two together hi occasion renders it desirable. I doubt whether there is any man of more inventive skill in the country than the distinguished engineer who sits on that Committee—
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Is it the intention of the Committee to request gentlemen of proved experience, like M. Blériot, M. Latham and Mr. Wilbur Wright, to appear before them and give evidence and an accurate statement as to their experience which would assist the Committee in solving the problem?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Yes; the Committee has full power to do that, and also to form special sub-Committees, but I cannot make it too clear that the work of the Committee is rather to investigate things submitted to them and to report upon them than it is to initiate. Certainly it is not the work of the Committee either to construct or to experiment on a large scale. Suppose the Committee had all the aeroplanes to which the hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Mond) referred, where would they fly them? The experimental work ought to be done at the various places where experimental work can be done—Farnborough, Salisbury Plain, and Wormwood Scrubbs—and the members of the Committee, or such of 1614 them as require to be, will be there when they are wanted for the purpose of making observations. There has been a good deal of discussion on the uses to which these machines can be put. That is extremely vague at the present time. We have investigated these things carefully before the Committee of Imperial Defence, and we had the best expert assistance we could get, and the result is with us—and, I suspect, with all the experts of the Continent—that we do not know how far these things may be applied. Certainly in France in particular there has been a great deal of practice in dropping explosives, but what the result of that may be I do not know. On the other hand, there is only one practical use so far clearly demonstrated, and that is for the purpose of scouting; and even that is attended with very considerable difficulty. An hon. Member opposite (Major Anstruther-Gray) said that these machines might be of very great use for punitive expeditions. What an effect it would have on the Mad Mullah if we had an airship with dynamite. I am not sure that that is not one of the most hopeful military directions in which to proceed. I think the substance of the Debate has come to this: the Committee would have been glad if the British Government had got on faster and further. So should I. We are behind, and we are only just beginning to pick up. I think that at any rate we have laid the foundation on which the progress ought to be pretty sure. It is impossible to be over-confident. The Committee, for instance, settled its own estimates, and sent them into the Treasury, and they were adopted without a farthing being deducted. At any rate, I have had no difficulty with the Treasury, nor, I believe, have the Admiralty, in the matter of national defence. I say again, that it is not by wasting money progress is made, but by finding out what is wanted, and taking the best means to obtain it. As that process goes on we shall see more clearly where we are, and then we will be able to experiment on a larger scale, and, it may be, to purchase on a larger scale. As soon as we have experimented and purchased, I hope we shall be able to construct, and I trust the Admiralty will have such success with their first airship that they will get a clear hoe on which to follow out construction.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
There is the question of the provision of shelters about which the Parliamentary Committee feel especially strongly. Some steps should 1615 be taken to provide shelters suitable for these experimental airships. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will inform us what is being done?
§ Mr. HALDANE
We have got a very considerable shelter at Aldershot, and we are building another much larger one. As airships are provided, we shall have to develop the shelters. For instance, a large shelter will have to be provided at Salisbury Plain. I quite perceive that. We are quite alive to the necessity of keeping apace with the work in the matter of shelters, for it is obvious that without shelters we could make no progress with the machines.
Mr. PIKE PEASE
Do the Government propose to take any steps with regard to rules being established between this nation and other nations in regard to the use of airships? It seems to me that the question of rules does affect to some very con siderable extent the character of the dirigible balloons or aeroplanes which are used. I asked a question of the Prime Minister the other day—
I think I have already allowed this Debate a wide range, and I cannot allow it to become too wide.
§ Mr. GEORGE HARWOOD
I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it may not be advisable to consult some other Departments of the Government as regards this matter. It seems to me that we have been looking at it exclusively from the military point of view. But there is another possibility about these airships—they may do away with our Customs House offices, and it is possible that we may see Customs officers flying about in the air. That is a possibility which ought to be considered. It is not merely a matter of war, but of business, and I think there are very great possibilities in the future.
Obviously, there are a great many considerations which arise on this matter, but this Vote was put down in order that the Government might explain what they are doing about experimenting, and how they are dealing with the question themselves. The question of Customs officers, and the question raised by the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pike Pease) are all subsidiary matters, which have to do with airships, but not with this Vote.
§ Mr. H. W. FORSTER
The major part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman 1616 was directed to the question of dirigible balloons, and he has dealt much less fully with the provision of aeroplanes. I feel satisfied in thy own mind that it is in the provision of aeroplanes that we stand to gain. I want to ask the, right hon. Gentleman whether he can hold out any hope that the Government or the Committee of Research are going to invest in some of the improved aeroplanes. While we are conducting scientific investigations, men on the Continent are flying, and what I want to ask is whether the Government can hold out any hope that they will buy some of the improved aeroplanes in order that they may apply their theories to them with a view to seeing whether those theories are borne out by experience. On the Continent aeroplanes are flying for an hour and two hours, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will be very well advised if he would purchase some of the machines which do fly, and also secure the services of some of those who have brought them to their present state of perfection. While the subject is being scientically investigated, the right hon. Gentleman might secure some of these successful aeroplanes and so be able to carry out the training of a large number of men who would be required to work in the development of these machines. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some satisfactory assurance on that point. The hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Mond) referred to the aeroplane as a useful toy at present. I think we are all of us apt to forget what enormously rapid strides the aeroplane has made. It is only 18 months since the first aeroplane was only able to lift itself off the ground. I think the advance that has been male is remarkable and gigantic. Within 13 months it has got from merely lifting a machine off the ground a few feet to flying for two hours and to carrying two passengers for a very considerable distance. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us he is considering the aeroplane side of the question as well as the dirigible balloon. I am sure if he does that he will be well advised.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The Committee who are making special investigation into the question have relegated aeroplanes for the practical purposes of war to a much inferior position to that at present occupied by the dirigible airships, whether rigid or unrigid. The War Office and the Committee who have charge of the aeroplane question are not losing sight of the 1617 matter; on the contrary, as I have said before, through the instrumentality of two gentlemen, very distinguished in the aeroplane world, we are to be put in possession of two machines in a very short time. They will be lent to us for experimental purposes, and we propose to work them. If we find that progress is made with them we shall acquire them, or others. We are not overlooking the matter. But the aeroplane will have to fly much higher and with much greater security before it can be used for war purposes. It is in a very different position in that respect from the dirigible balloon.
§ Vote agreed to.