HC Deb 23 February 1910 vol 14 cc200-2

asked whether the 12-inch guns of the "Invincible" have been fired since her commissioning on 20th March, 1909; if so, on what dates were they fired and from which turrets; and what regular gun practices has the ship failed to carry out since the date of her commissioning?


The "Invincible" fired her 12-inch guns on 14th March, 1909, and she has not since fired them until yesterday, when she fired all her turrets after having been delayed for a considerable time by bad weather. As this reply by itself may lead to misunderstanding. I would like to supplement it by a detailed explanation which the House may wish me to make. In May, 1905, approval was given by the then First Lord of the Admiralty to fit the "Invincible" with turrets to be worked electrically. The firing gun trials of the "Invincible's' turrets were carried out in October, 1908 and only a few defects appeared, which were then thought to be of minor importance. These were remedied, and a second trial for a rapidity series was carried out in March, 1909. The turrets had been made by two firms, and one turret of each make was tried. The other two turrets drilled only. The report stated that there were no very serious hitches during the trial, but there were numerous minor mishaps, especially in the mountings of one of the firms. The ship was commissioned in March and joined the First Cruiser Squadron. While working up for gun-layers' test numerous failures occurred with the gear of the same firm, and in June the turrets were examined by Admiralty officials and a representative from the firm, and, after discussion, certain modifications were decided on. While these modifications were under discussion and preliminary work was being done by the firm for carrying them out, the ship remained with the Cruiser Squadron, going through the ordinary exercises and gaining further experience of the working of the gear. During this period other defects in another part of the gear were discovered. If the ship had been required to go into action whilst the modifications were taking place she would have had four of her 12-inch guns efficient and the other four could have been worked, though at a rate considerably slower than the normal. Meanwhile in all other respects full advantage was gained from keeping the ship with the Squadron with men and officers under training. In August the "Invincible" went to Portsmouth to have the approved modifications made in her electrical gear, and by the third week in November the turrets were believed to be ready for trial. During this period the ship was held at a fortnight's notice. It was found, however, on trial that the gear was still not satisfactory, and a further modification was decided on which was completed by the end of December. So far as working the turrets electrically is concerned, the "Invincible" is an experimental ship, having been so designed by the Government which was in office in 1905. It was very important that as the experiment had been resolved upon, ample time should be given for the investigation and remedying of defects as they arose, in order to get a fair comparison with the hydraulic system.


Is it correct to say that the "Invincible," since she was commissioned on 20th March, 1909, till 10th February, 1910, had never fired her 12-inch guns—that not a shot had left the guns' muzzles between those dates?


I have stated to the Noble Lord in the completest form all the facts.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, as a result of the firing that took place yesterday, the mountings of these guns and their electrical control are now satisfactory?


I have not had the report yet. The ship has been waiting some weeks for an opportunity for firing, but, as the hon. Member knows, the weather has been very bad. I hope to have the report very shortly.

Captain FABER

Who were the makers of the turrets?


They were made by two firms. I do not think it desirable to give the names.


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it in the public interest that these questions should be answered in such detail?


No, Sir, I do not think it is in the public interest; but, on the other hand, so much has been said on this subject outside that I have thought it necessary to give this full explanation on the floor of the House.