HC Deb 05 March 1918 vol 103 cc1870-1

In order that I might personally obtain a fuller knowledge of the existing conditions and of our officers in charge of operations abroad, I went to Rome for the meeting of the Committee, and proposed to the Cabinet that thereafter I should proceed upon a tour of inspection in the Mediterranean. It was with their full concurrence that I did so. The meeting of the Committee—which was representative of all the Allies with naval forces operating in European waters— accepted fully the anti-submarine proposals put forward by Vice-Admiral Calthorpe, the British Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, who acts under the orders—as I have stated—of the French Commander-in-Chief, and it was agreed that we should forthwith adopt and adapt to the Mediterranean the measures which have given such success in the waters around these Islands, and that the main anti-submarine operation decided upon should be undertaken under Admiral Calthorpe's orders. This arrangement was agreed to with the greatest good will and cordiality by the Committee, and is one of the first fruits of the Allied Naval Council, from which we hope to derive material and increasing benefit.

It may, perhaps, interest the House to hear for a moment about my visit to the Mediterranean. By the great courtesy of the Italian and French naval authorities, I was able to get a personal knowledge of the work and dispositions of their Fleets at the various bases, and, at the same time, I was also able to inspect the large establishments for combined aerial and naval warfare which are being set up at various points in the Mediterranean and Adriatic by the British Navy. I visited the British Naval Commander-in-Chief at Malta and inspected the dockyards and other establishments there, discussing with him matters of considerable administrative importance under his command, and also questions of organisation, etc. I took the opportunity of visiting Mudros and conferring with the naval authorities there, as also with those of the Greek Navy at Piraeus and Salamis.

It will be of interest to the House to know that, at the request of the Greek Government, British naval officers are assisting our Greek Allies in the reconstruction and reorganisation of their Navy and Dockyard, and Captain Clifton Brown, of the British Navy, is head of the British Naval Mission to Greece, and is Chief Naval Adviser to the Greek Minister of Marine, with the rank of Rear-Admiral in the Greek Navy. The reorganised naval forces of Greece are already co-operating in the War in the Mediterranean, and rendering increasingly valuable service to the common cause. I would like to say here that Admiral Clifton Brown is enthusiastic about the Greek Navy, and cannot speak too highly of the keenness and increasing efficiency of officers and men alike. I feel confident that, in the light of this account of the reason for my absence from this House and from the Admiralty, it will be excused, especially when I tell the House that before my departure special and complete arrangements were made for the carrying on of Admiralty business, and that I was daily in telegraphic communication with the Admiralty.