HL Deb 04 June 1886 vol 306 cc994-6

, in rising to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether all the unarmour-ended ships of the Admiral, or of any other class such as the Agamemnon, Ajax, Edinburgh, and Colossus, are designed as has been stated by the Chief Constructor of the Navy to be sunk 15 or 18 inches by the admission of several hundred tons of water before going into action as a means of maintaining the requisite trim; whether such orders have been issued as to make it perfectly clear to officers in command that this method is to be adopted by them when an immediate battle is expected; and whether the Admiralty intend to issue instructions, or have already issued any, for experiments to be tried with the object of ascertaining the effect of such a system? said, he asked the Question with the object of ascertaining if it were the serious intention of the designer of these vessels that this plan should be adopted. He understood that the Chief Constructor had stated that there would practically be no reduction in speed by the adoption of this plan. It was very important to ascertain that, because all the vessels he had named were totally incapable of being steered at a greater speed than 10 knots, and if any reduction in that amount of speed were made their powers in action would be altogether crippled. He thought the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Ripon), and everyone who occupied his post, should be careful that officers should have, before the critical moment of action arrived, every possible means of satisfying themselves as to the conditions under which they were expected to fight.


said, the noble Viscount was, he thought, mistaken in the first part of his Question, the statement referred to having been made by the late Chief Constructor, and not by the present. It was by no means intended that, under all circumstances, water should be admitted into these vessels before going into action. If the vessels were properly laden with all their usual stores, there would be no occasion for admitting water. This plan was only intended to be adopted when a vessel happened to be light and the trim required to be corrected. There was no Regulation laid down nor any Order issued, nor was it the intention of the Admiralty to issue any Order that upon all occasions water was to be admitted to any extent at all, and certainly not to the large extent mentioned in the noble Viscount's Question. It was quite likely that in action one of the compartments of a vessel might be pierced by a shot, and in such an event it might be desirable to admit water into another compartment in order to set the trim right. It was clear that the matter was one which ought to be left entirely to the discretion of the gallant officers commanding the vessels, who had at their disposal full information in regard to every part of their vessels and everything connected with them. The noble Viscount was, of course, aware that water ballast was very extensively used in the Merchant Navy. An experiment in connection with this matter had been made some time ago with the Howe, and the result was that the ship was immersed 13 inches deeper, with the loss of only half-a-knot per hour in speed. Therefore, there was reason to believe that generally there would be very little loss in speed. He quite admitted the highly scientific character of these vessels and the great responsibility which the nature of their construction had thrown upon naval officers, who, he believed, were fully competent to discharge the important trusts committed to them. As to 43-ton guns, he desired to supplement what he had stated the other evening. They had now 10 of these guns. Six of them were to be replaced by six land service guns of a better type, and the Admiralty had taken steps to order six new guns. They were to be of the best description, and would be supplied as speedily as possible, although he was afraid they would not be able to have them for some 12 or 14 months.