HL Deb 02 July 1880 vol 253 cc1383-5

rose to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether, after the bitter experience of the loss within two years of the training ships "Eurydice" and "Atalanta," the Board of Admiralty contemplate building one or more sailing ships expressly for "training" purposes; and, if so, what is the type of ship they propose to build? He observed that the loss of those two ships, with 600 gallant young lives, was a calamity which had sunk very deep into the heart of the nation. But there was mingled with the sense of national sorrow at that sad event something akin to the feeling of doubt and apprehension in many quarters whether we had at our disposal the best possible ship for training purposes. It was, therefore, with a view to ally such doubts and apprehensions that he had put his Question on the Paper; and he hoped that satisfactory information on the point might be supplied from the highest official source. It was well known that seamen to be properly trained must be on board sailing ships; and if there were any attempt to combine steam and sail they must sacrifice some advantage or other. He assumed, therefore, that they must continue to employ sailing ships for the purpose of training their young seamen, if they intended to keep up the reputation of this country for seamanship. His own opinion was that they must employ smaller sailing ships. The very size of the vast structures in our Navy rendered them unsuitable for this purpose. Perfection had by no means been yet attained in shipbuilding; but probably the introduction of steel as a material for ships would very materially tend to solve the problem in reference to acquiring lightness and speed. It would, however, be a calumny to say that we had not in the Navy the most magnificent type of sailing ships that the world had ever seen; but if, however, there were not now to be found either in commission or in reserve vessels in every respect adapted for training ships, he thought that no time ought to be lost in constructing one or more. He meant by perfect in every respect that they should be perfect in seaworthiness, perfect as to accommodation, and perfect in the possession of every appliance which art and science could suggest for obviating the dangers of the sea. Of this he felt certain, that whatever the highest ingenuity might contrive in regard to the construction of the ships of the Royal Navy, we should have, whenever the hour of trial came, to depend, as we had depended hitherto, on the skill, the smartness, and the pluck of the British sailor; and his contention was that if the interests of the Navy were to be maintained, they would never be able to dispense with that part of the sailors' education which was conducted on board of a sailing vessel. The noble Earl concluded by asking the Question of which he had given Notice.


said, he fully appreciated the motives of his noble Friend (the Earl of Ravensworth) in bringing the subject forward. In answer to the Question which he had been asked, he had to say that the Admiralty were not about to build a sailing ship for training purposes. The programme of shipbuilding for the present year had for some time been settled, and it was impossible to make any considerable alteration in that programme. The matter, however, did not press. The Board of Admiralty thought that the decision of the question, whether any change should be made in the manner of training seamen for the Fleet, should be deferred until the Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the loss of the Atalanta had been presented. The inquiry of that Committee would not be made specifically into what was the best kind of ship to be used for the training of seamen, because that was a subject which he thought would be best determined upon the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty. At the same time, it was possible that the question might be affected to some extent by the Report of the Committee. In the meantime, he was not able to give any further answer to his noble Friend, except to assure him that that subject was one which the Board of Admiralty deemed to be of very great importance, and one to which they would direct their most serious attention.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till Monday next, Eleven o'clock.