§ LORD BRASSEY
My Lords, in calling, attention to the insufficient strength of the Reserve forces of the Navy, my first duty is to pay a just tribute of praise. Our continuous service system has raised the permanent establishments to the highest standard of efficiency. It cannot provide for the full demands of war. It is necessary to have the power of expansion in an emergency. No nation has maintained in peace the numbers required in war. That is what we have been attempting to do. The recent increase in the numbers voted for the naval service was little anticipated by those who, within quite recent years, have been responsible for the administration. In his memorandum of 1891–2, Lord George Hamilton wrote as follows—In looking ahead to the increased demands which the gradual completion of the new shipbuilding programme will make upon our manning resources, I have endeavoured to keep in view and combine certain definite objects. It seemed to me to be quite unreasonable to expect that the whole of the extra force required to man, three years hence, our greatly increased fleet, should exclusively consist of officers and men on the permanent establishments of the Navy, of continuous service and entitled to pension. I was therefore anxious to associate the increase of the permanent establishments with a steady growth in the numbers and efficiency of the Royal Naval Reserve.Acting on the principles laid down in his memorandum, Lord George Hamilton 221 raised the personnel of the Navy to 71,000. He proposed gradually to work up in subsequent years to a total of 75,000. Ten years only have elapsed, and this year Parliament has voted, on the recommendation of the Admiralty, no less than 119,000 men. The country is fully resolved to maintain a strong and well-manned Navy. Cordially accepting the national policy, I do not urge any reductions. Looking, however, to the future, I submit that it may not be necessary that the recent rapid increase in the number of men should be continued in future years. The strength of the permanent force for the British Navy must be determined by a comparison with other Powers. In the present year the numbers may be taken for the French Navy at 49,000, for Russia 45,000, for Germany under 30,000. We have added in the last ten years 50,000 to our permanent force, as against 12,000 for the French Navy. Our Votes for pay and victualling amount for the present year to some £8,000,000, as against £2,640,000 for the French Navy. We have to add the charge for retired pay which will fall on future Estimates. When we compare our numbers and contrast our expenditure with those of foreign Powers, it seems fitting to review our policy for the manning of the Navy. We have to take care that we do not allow the permanent establishments of men to grow perhaps unduly, and the Reserves to decline to an extent which may ultimately prove a cause of weakness. The personnel of foreign Powers is less considerable than ours in relation to matériel because they rely upon reserves which as yet we have failed to raise on any adequate scale for the British Navy. Including the valuable force which the Admiralty has lately organised our Reserves number in all some 36,000 men. Our expenditure on the Reserve is under £300,000. In comparison with the Votes for the permanent forces the Reserve Vote is scanty. The Inscription Maritime, the creation of Colbert, gives to the French Navy a muster roll of more than 100,000 men, of whom at least 50,000 are effective. The British Reserves should not be less than those of France; we have many more ships to man.
A large permanent force is essential—it is the point of the spear. It is the only source from which specially trained 222 officers and men can be supplied. Seamen and stokers, requiring less training, can and should be obtained in an emergency from a reserve force. With much concern it must be admitted that the resources we formerly possessed for manning the Navy from the Reserve are failing. British seamen hold their own in the fisheries and the coasting trade. In the over-sea trade they are rapidly disappearing. The falling off is the more deplorable because it is chiefly among the younger men. If the present movement continues unchecked our shipping in the over-sea trade will shortly be manned mainly by foreigners, not always, perhaps, under the command of British officers. Sir Charles Dilke has lately said, in addressing the Shipmasters' Society—Their secretary had investigated the composition of the crews of half the transports to South Africa, and found in one case all the deck hands and firemen were foreigners, and in other cases fourteen nut of sixteen, fourteen out of nineteen, and nine out of fourteen, were aliens. Moreover, some ships were commanded by aliens, and he need hardly point out the difficulties which might arise, and the serious results that might occur, through such a state of things, if we were at war with any great continental Power.The opening up of the Suez Canal route and the substitution of steam for sails, the pay (poor in comparison with the earnings in employments on shore), and the insufficient number of boys in training—all these causes have led to the diminution in the number of British seamen. Training being the initial step in any remedial scheme, I will deal with this point first. For advice we must look to the Commissions and Committees which from time to time have been charged by Parliament with the duty of considering the subject. The report of the Royal Commission on the Manning of the Navy, to whose recommendations we owe our existing force of Royal Naval Reserve, is still the leading authority. The Commission included two shipowners, Mr. W. S. Lindsay and Mr. Richard Green. The chairman was Lord Hardwicke. A most active member was Lord Cardwell. To him is due the signal honour of having originated the plans on which we have been working for the establishment and maintenance of Reserves both for the Army and the Navy. All the recommendations of the Manning Commission have been adopted, except those relating to school ships, which they 223 recommended should be established at the principal ports, half the cost being contributed by the State. The ships were to be under the Board of Trade, the military part of the training being conducted by the Coastguard. School ships were also strongly recommended by the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships, of which I had the honour to be a member, and by the Manning of Merchant Ships Committee, of which Sir Edward Reed was the chairman. These recommendations in favour of school ships, though renewed again and again, were not adopted because no difficulty was found in providing the numbers required. The conditions are changed. It is no longer possible to maintain the Reserves at the strength voted by Parliament. State aid, judiciously applied, is necessary to maintain the supply of seamen. The Government should begin by combining their efforts with those of the committees of management of training ships already established, at which boys suitable for the Navy are received. The Admiralty should enter boys for the Naval Reserve, and pay for their training. The system should be extended gradually by establishing ships directly under the Board of Trade at the principal ports. The training in the school ships should include not only seamen, but firemen, and possibly mechanics. I may mention that a decree for the organisation of technical naval schools has just been promulgated by M. de Lanessan, the French Minister of Marine. The harbour training for the Reserve boys must be followed up by apprenticeship in sea-going ships, on the lines suggested by the Manning Commission. After serving in the Fleet, reservists would return to the mercantile marine. At this stage we stand face to face with a grave difficulty. I assume that by the aid of the State the seaman of the Reserves will have received a thorough training, in harbour, in his school ship, and at sea as an apprentice, and have gained a valuable experience by his service in the Navy. He will have become, in the best sense of the familiar term, a handy man. To men so highly qualified the merchant service offers few attractions. The only remedy which can be suggested is an increase in the pay of the Reservist.
Having dealt with the seamen, I turn to the officers. We have a large number of midshipmen on the Reserve List. No 224 qualifications are insisted upon, and the Admiralty does nothing for their professional education. For those aspiring to high commands in the mercantile marine two school ships, the "Conway" in the Mersey and the "Worcester" in the Thames, give a satisfactory preparatory education for the nautical profession. The more important training at sea is left to chance. The cadets from the "Worcester" and the "Conway" go to sea as apprentices, the premiums paid being, as a rule, insufficient to cover the cost of proper arrangements for education. The life is hard. I have known cases where apprentices who have come out to Melbourne, personally known to members of your Lordships' House, have been employed, during the whole stay of their ships in port, in chipping paint, and this at an age when it was most desirable to carry on professional studies and drills in gunnery, torpedo work, and other subjects in which it is essential that officers of the Navy should be instructed. Reserve midshipmen, whose professional education is completely neglected, are a mere force on paper. The subject should be taken in hand by the Reserve Office and the Board of Trade. Arrangements should be made with the owners of suitable ships to provide the instruction required. It should be compulsory to take advantage of the facilities afforded. It would be for consideration in what proportion, if any, the cost of professional training for its Reserve officers should be borne by the State. I will not detain your Lordships by entering upon the questions of colonial naval reserves or a revival of the disbanded force of Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers in the more suitable form of a reserve to the Royal Marines. From both sources valuable men for the Navy could be obtained. In conclusion I claim that the policy I have endeavoured to recommend may in some degree tend to relieve pressure on the Exchequer, give the Navy a greater power of expansion, and enable us to apply the moneys voted by Parliament in larger proportion to the building of ships. If, as a further result, we can make the crews of our merchant ships more worthy of the ancient renown of British seamen, we shall have achieved a double purpose.
THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (The Earl of) DUDLEY
My 225 Lords, as my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will deal presently with the main portion of the noble Lord's speech, it may perhaps seem unnecessary that I should intervene at all in this debate. But as the noble Lord has alluded to certain matters with regard to the Department with which I am connected, I would ask your Lordships' indulgence while I say a few words in reply. The argument of the noble Lord comes to this, that the mercantile marine of this country is the source on which the Navy must chiefly depend for replenishing the wastage in its ranks which we must inevitably expect as the result of a great naval war, and that it is therefore of national importance that the mercantile marine should be maintained in such a condition as to be available for that purpose. The noble Lord went on to point out that owing to the large and increasing influx of foreigners into our merchant ships the mercantile marine is becoming less useful every day from that point of view. With regard to the question as to how far it is possible or necessary to utilise our merchant sailors as a Reserve for the Navy in time of war, it is not for me to express an opinion. My noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will probably deal with the point, and I therefore do not wish to touch upon it except to say that it is obviously impossible to maintain at the present time the mercantile marine as a reserve for the Navy in anything like the same proportion as in days gone by. At the present moment there are 247,000 sailors in the mercantile marine as compared with 119,000 in the Navy. Thirty years ago there were 197,000 in the mercantile marine as compared with 48,000 in the Navy, so that it is obvious that, even if all the seamen in the mercantile marine were of British nationality, they would not constitute a source of supply for the wastage of a naval war to anything like the same proportionate extent as was the case in old days.
If, therefore, it is essential to our national safety that the old proportion should be maintained, it is clear that we shall have to look elsewhere than to the mercantile marine for our Reserve. I do not agree with the noble Lord that the employment of foreign seamen in our mercantile marine necessarily con- 226 stitutes an appreciable danger to those ships, for the foreign seamen in our merchant vessels are drawn from so many different nationalities that unless we were opposed to an alliance of a most inconceivable kind it is difficult to understand how sufficient unanimity of purpose could be aroused among the crews to constitute any danger to the vessels. In fact, so little was the employment of foreigners in our mercantile marine regarded as a danger at the beginning of the last century, that in 1803, despite the pressure of the great French War, the Navigation Laws were partially suspended, in order to enable three-fourths of the crews of British vessels to be composed of foreigners instead of one-fourth. As regards the theory that a foreign captain in any English vessel is able to obtain a knowledge of our ports which would enable him to act as pilot to an enemy in case of war, it is, I think, an extravagant contention. I would point out that the foreign captain obtains no more information of our ports in an English ship than he does if he commands a ship of some other nation, and enters our ports for the ordinary purposes of trade. Unless, therefore, we decide—which, of course, is absurd—to keep all foreign captains outside our ports altogether, it seems to me to make no difference at all, as far as the obtaining of information goes, whether these men command our ships or the ships of some other nation. It is undoubtedly true that, in spite of the fact that the mercantile marine at present employs considerably more seamen than it did thirty years ago, the total number of British seamen is less by about 5,000 than it was at that time; and although I agree with the noble Lord in deploring that fact, I do not think the conclusion which is often based upon it is true, namely, that because there has been a falling off in British seamen during the last twenty or thirty years, we are necessarily losing, as a nation, our seagoing tendency. In order to prove that, it would have to be shown that a much smaller proportion of the population went to sea now than was the case thirty years ago.
What are the facts? We own at the present time 51 per cent. of the gross steam tonnage of the world. In these ships 247,448 seamen are employed, and of these 36,023 are Lascars and 227 36,893 foreigners, leaving a balance of, in round numbers, 175,000 British seamen. If this figure is applied to a population of forty millions, the estimate in 1898, the result is obtained that one in every 229 people becomes a merchant seaman. But as under one-half of our population are males, this gives the figure that one in every 112 of the male population becomes a merchant seaman. In order, however, to form a correct estimate of the sea-going tendency of the nation, the men employed in the Royal Navy must also be taken into consideration, because there are many men who, had they not served as Royal seamen, would have gone afloat in the merchant navy. If we add the 119,000 men of which the Navy now consists to the 175,000 British seamen of the mercantile marine, we get a total of 294,000, and this, applied to 20,000,000 of the population, gives the result that at the present time one out of every sixty-eight males goes to sea either in one service or the other. How does that compare with thirty years ago? In 1871, of the 197,000 seamen in our mercantile marine, 180,000 were Britishers and 17,000 were foreigners. This 180,000, applied to the population as it then was, shows that one in eighty-five males became a seaman, but if we add the 180,000 to the 48,157 employed in the Navy at that time we get the result, applying it to the population, that one in sixty-seven males went to sea either in one service or the other. Therefore the comparison shows that the sea-going tendency of the nation has not decreased, and that at the present time, more or less, the same proportion of the male population go to sea as was the case in the past. Although the gross number of British seamen is less, it must not be forgotten that the Navy has been increased from 48,000 to 119,000 men in thirty years, and that this has had a considerable effect on the supply of seamen to the merchant service.
Simultaneously with the naval increase, there has been an increase in the men employed in the merchant service from 197,000 in 1871 to 247,000 to-day, and there is no doubt the demand has been met by a considerable influx of foreigners. What is the cause of this? The shipping industry is subject to the 228 laws of supply and demand, like other employments. The conditions of life in the British merchant service are better than those in any other mercantile marine in the world, and as a consequence foreign sailors are always ready and anxious to engage on board British ships; but those conditions are not as good or as attractive to the Britisher as those which prevail in the majority of employments on shore. Therefore the shipping industry comes off badly in competition with shore employments, but that is a state of things which there is every reason to hope in course of time will cure itself. The British seaman is better off now as regards pay and comfort than he was twenty or thirty years ago. I am glad to say that the improvement is being maintained, and when it reaches a certain point I do not think there will be any difficulty in obtaining British seamen. When the merchant service offers greater advantages, or advantages as great as the ordinary shore employment, I believe it will be able easily and readily to draw seamen from the working classes. But until that is done I do not think we can reasonably expect a greater proportion of men to go to sea than is the case now.
One word with regard to the noble Lord's proposal as to school-ships. There is much to be said in favour of the extension of training ships. But there are already a certain number of these ships round our coasts, and although the training imparted upon them is, as a whole, satisfactory, they are not made use of to the fullest extent. What guarantee is there that if their numbers were increased we should be able to fill them with boys? Again, what guarantee is there that boys so trained would permanently adopt a seafaring life? You cannot apprentice them for ever, and once they were released from their indentures it appears to me they would be subject to the same influences which at present keep the sea-going population at the level at which we find it. I do not suggest for a moment that these difficulties are insuperable. It is quite possible that in the future some system of training ships may have to be tried. But in view of the difficulties obviously connected with the subject, I am inclined 229 to think it would be wiser, at any rate for the present, to await the result of the very interesting experiment which is being made by the Shipping Federation, which has recently called upon every shipowner in the society to carry at least two boys upon ships of a certain size. As the Federation embraces four-fifths of the total shipping of the United Kingdom, it is obvious that even if the scheme is partially successful a large number of boys will be trained. But if it is not, it will be a step in the right direction, for it shows that the shipowners are alive to their responsibilities in the matter, and for my part I feel convinced that it is much more in the direction of private effort of this kind than by artificial means such as pecuniary considerations or the re-enactment of the Navigation Laws that the solution of this problem is likely to be found. The forces on which we have to rely are those which make for improvement and progress in the standard of comfort in all the conditions of life; and it is because I believe that that fact is now being realised by the large majority of the shipowners of this country, and that the seagoing instinct of the people of this country is as great as ever, that I am, personally, not in the least apprehensive of what the future may have in store for us in this matter.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, I desire to associate myself entirely with what fell from my noble friend Lord Brassey, that, looking to the immense increase in the personnel of the Navy, it is necessary more and more to give attention to the Reserves. It is impossible to go on increasing the personnel of the Navy at the ratio of increase of the last twelve or fifteen years. Immense additions have been made, but it must be remembered that it is not only the number of the men you have to increase but the accommodation for training, hospitals, and all the other appurtenances of this vast system, and there must be also an immense increase in the Reserves. I must pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Brassey, whose efforts at home and in the colonies have been so strenuous. He has done much to interest our colonial fellow-subjects in the question of Naval Reserves. I think it is highly satisfactory that the experiment in Newfoundland has succeeded so well, for there have been 230 obtained a body of men who have gone to sea in His Majesty's ships, and have qualified themselves in that way to be good Naval Reserve men. During the time I was at the Admiralty there was one point which it seemed to me essentially necessary to keep in mind, and it was that the Reserves should not be paper Reserves, upon which we could not count in time of war, or who had not had the necessary training. In order to meet that contingency, the Board of the Admiralty, of which I was a member insisted that the Royal Naval Reserve should go to sea in one of Her Majesty's ships for six months during their first period of training, so that they would acquire the perfect discipline only to be found on a man-of-war. The necessary result would be that a man would be much more valuable in the Naval Reserve. Another natural result was that this regulation would necessarily diminish the numbers, because no doubt it is a heavy demand to ask a man to leave his occupation and go to sea for six, or even for three months. This measure then led to a certain diminution in the numbers, but, as I said before, we knew that every man that had gone through that training was one we could place with satisfactory result on a man-of-war. Now, seeing that there was that diminution, we took another step, and established what we called a Fleet Reserve, consisting of men who had been in the Navy, and accustomed to the discipline of a man-of-war. For these men it was less necessary that they should go through that part of the training necessary for sailors of the mercantile marine. I hope my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to tell us something with regard to the progress of that movement, to which I attach the greatest possible importance.
As to the general subject which has been treated of by my noble friend, it must be borne in mind that in modern ships you do not require the same number of men who are accustomed to seafaring life in the mercantile marine. Fishermen can be trained as gunners, and disciplined to do a great part of the work which formerly could only be done by sailors; and you can tap the fishermen with this advantage, that they are on the spot, and can be more easily secured in the event of war than the mercantile 231 marine, who are scattered over the different parts of the globe. I agree with my noble friend that it would be much more satisfactory if we could largely increase the Naval Reserves, and I am sure the First Lord of the Admiralty and his able advisers will steadily keep their minds applied to the subject. I should hope that the federation of the Australian colonies may make it easier to come to some satisfactory arrangement as to the naval assistance to be given to the mother country than when they were separate colonies. The colonies have shown a very great readiness to assist not only on shore but at sea, and during the earlier stages of the present operations, valuable contingents of Naval Volunteers came from our Australian colonies. I will now pass to another subject, on which I hope my noble friend will give us some information. Before I left the Admiralty he appointed a Committee to inquire into the victualling of the Navy. Some of us were struck not only with the rations of the men, but also with the unsatisfactory time of the meals, and we appointed a strong Committee, presided over by an admiral of great experience. I hope my noble friend will be able to give us some information as to the result of the investigations of that Committee. I have observed that two gentlemen have gone to the Mediterranean to make investigations into this matter, and have themselves partaken of the rations of the sailors, in order to be able to inform the public of the state of victualling in the Navy. I have little doubt, of my noble friend introduces some reforms in victualling, due to the Committee, that the post hoc, ergo propter hoc view will be taken by these gentlemen and their friends. Valuable recommendations were made by a Committee which inquired into the training of naval officers and I should be glad to know how far the Committee found that that training was on a satisfactory footing, and whether any serious changes were made in consequence of the recommendations of that Committee.
I wish also to refer to the speed of construction of our men-of-war. There is a fallacy existing that it is possible now, or might be possible, to build the largest battleship in two years. The feat was once accomplished in the case of the 232 "Magnificent" and the "Majestic," and it is supposed that because these ships could be built at that speed that it might be possible to return to that as a kind of standard of rapidity of shipbuilding. But every advance in shipbuilding in the direction of greater complexity of machinery and greater horsepower must necessarily increase the time which it will take for a ship to be built, and the astounding progress which had been made in the requirements as regards horse-power for ships throws some light upon the difficulty of building the ships in the same time in which it was formerly possible to build them. I will give an idea of the progress that has been made. The "Magnificent," as a ship of 14,900 tons, had 10,000 horse-power. The "Formidable," a 15,000 ton ship, only 100 tons more, has 15,000 horse-power—an increase of 50 per cent. It stands to reason that it cannot be expected that a ship will be built in the same time under those circumstances, because it is not the hull or ship proper which takes the time, but the machinery, the boilers, and all that relates to the engineering of shipbuilding. One more case is the "Monmouth," one of those new armoured cruisers. Her tonnage is 9,800, and her horse-power is 22,000; whereas the "Impérieuse," an earlier cruiser of 8,400 tons, has only 8,000 horse-power. We have, I think, done extremely well as compared with our foreign rivals, and if some of our ships are put back owing to accidents, I think a reference to foreign programmes will show that the same disappointments which are inflicted upon the Admiralty are inflicted in a greater measure upon our competitors abroad. Anyone who reviews the progress which we have made in the supply of our ships in the last year, and compares it with that of France, or Russia, or other Powers will find that our rate of construction has been certainly as satisfactory as that of other Governments. I should be glad if my noble friend could give us any additional information on the subject, and perhaps he will consider whether it is possible to give a Return showing the dates of the commencement of the building of British and foreign ships and the dates of their completion.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (The Earl of SELBORNE)
My Lords, the noble Lord who commenced this debate has introduced to your Lordships a subject full of national interest and full of difficulty for the Admiralty. I think I shall be borne out by my noble friend who has just spoken, and by Lord Spencer, when I say that questions affecting the personnel of the Navy are even more difficult than those which affect the matériel. Now, as Lord Brassey has pointed out, foreign countries depend to a far greater extent than we do on reserves for the complement of their ships when mobilised for war, and that, so far as we are concerned, must always be so. That is to say, we require, we have always required, and we must require, a larger proportion of active service ratings to reserve ratings than the necessities of other countries demand from them. In the first place, the Navy is of more importance to us, and the result of any naval war would be of far greater importance to us than it would be to any other nation. In the second place, the nature of our Empire is such that we are obliged to have a much larger proportion of ships in commission in time of peace than is the case with any other country; and when ships are commissioned in time of peace, as I explained the other day, the reserves cannot be used, and you are dependent entirely upon the active service ratings. I agree with the forcible remarks Lord Goschen has addressed to your Lordships about the continuous increase of the personnel. It is a matter of grave concern at all times to the Admiralty, and I am quite sure that, whatever the ratio of increase hereafter found to be necessary, we are bound to spare no efforts to increase and improve our Reserve. Lord Goschen asked me how far the new Fleet Reserve was succeeding. The scheme has only been in operation a few weeks, and it is too soon yet to tell to what extent our expectations are going to be realised. But at the present moment about 1,800 men have enrolled themselves in this new Fleet Reserve. I need not add much to what Lord Goschen and Lord Brassey have said about the Royal Naval Reserve, except to dwell for a moment upon that most interesting experiment which was initiated when Lord Goschen was First Lord—the 234 establishment of a branch of the Royal Naval Reserve among the Newfoundland fishermen. Fifty of these men went to sea in one of Her Majesty's ships for six months, and at the end of that period they received a most excellent character, and most admirable reports were made by the officers under whom they had served. I think the credit of that result is due not only to the men themselves, but also in a very high degree to the officers who trained them. These men came into the ship without any previous experience of discipline, without any knowledge of the routine of a man-of-war, and the life they had to lead was about as far removed as it could be from the life of Newfoundland fishermen; and yet the excellent tact of the officers enabled the experiment to be conducted with equal satisfaction to the men, to the officers, and to the Admiralty.
There is another point connected with the Reserves I should like to mention. Your Lordships will remember that there was at one time a corps called the Naval Artillery Volunteer Corps, and that corps was, I have no doubt for good reasons, finally disbanded. But a proposal has been made to revive that corps in a new form—not to create a corps of naval artillery Volunteers, but of naval Volunteers, though I do not pledge myself to that particular name. That proposal is now under examination, and all I can say at the present moment is that we are sincerely desirous, if possible, of adding to the reserve forces a corps of naval Volunteers. But one condition is imperative, and that is thoroughly understood by the gentlemen who are interesting themselves in this scheme. No Volunteers can be of real service to the Navy who are not prepared in time of naval war to serve anywhere where their services may be required, and to do any duty which the captain of the ship in which they serve calls upon them to do. It is too soon to make any pronouncement on the subject, but I am very hopeful that something may come of our arrangement. As regards the manning of the mercantile marine, I do not think Lord Brassey will expect me to add anything to the exceedingly interesting and exhaustive reply of my noble friend. Of course the attitude of the Admiralty in the matter is one of cordial interest, and 235 whatever may result from the considerations now going forward will always be listened to with great attention by the Admiralty. But until I know what the proposals are I can pronounce no opinion upon them. As to the question of the training of midshipmen belonging to the Naval Reserve, I do not know whether Lord Brassey meant that they had no opportunity of receiving any training, because if that is his impression it is not quite correct. These young officers are required to undergo each year a course of twenty-eight days drill and gunnery instruction on board one of the district drill ships, or, if abroad, on board a ship commanded by a captain or commander, if permission be first obtained from the senior officer. Officers who are specially reported as competent to instruct and drill men of the Reserve will only be required to undergo seven days test drill in each year, if such drill be performed to the satisfaction of the superintending officer. Service on board one of His Majesty's ships in commission is reckoned as equivalent to the annual test drill, provided a satisfactory certificate for service be obtained. The drill will comprise heavy gun, rifle, pistol, and cutlass exercise. The Admiralty consider applications from officers who, in addition to their annual drill, volunteer for temporary service in the Navy or for a course of instruction in the gunnery or torpedo school ships. Midshipmen are not appointed for such service or for instruction in the three courses unless they have a first mate's certificate of competency. In such a case they may be appointed as acting sub-lieutenants. Six are now serving in the Fleet. I do not say that that is a final or full and complete statement on the subject, and, as in the case of lieutenants of the Royal Naval Reserve, these sea-going services may be voluntary. The statement, however, does show that these young officers are not left entirely without instruction, as might be supposed from the speech of the noble Lord.
I should like to take this opportunity of saying a word about the education not only of the men but of the officers of the Navy. First of all, as regards the men, your Lordships must remember that every bluejacket enters as a boy or a youth, and is trained on board the 236 "Northampton" or one of her tenders. There they go through a most careful and elaborate course of instruction, including seagoing service in brigs, in which they learn all mast and yard drill, to which naval officers have attached so much importance in the past. That brings me to a most burning controversy, in which I feel it very difficult to interfere with discretion. Your Lordships may be aware that very strong opinions are entertained in the Navy by two different schools of officers on the subject of training in mast and yards. I do not profess to be able to give an opinion myself on that burning subject; but I understand that the officers who agitate for the resuscitation of the mast and yard training for all young seamen of the Fleet beyond that which they get as boys do so not because these young seamen will ever have in a fighting ship to work at masts and yards, but because it is in their opinion the best training for a seaman. As to that, I have no opinion to give. What I want to put before your Lordships to-day is that this question is governed by facts which speak for themselves, and I want to inform your Lordships and the naval Service at large as to the state of the case. I want the Navy to thoroughly understand the reasons which have guided the Admiralty in their decision on this point. At the present moment we have no ships available for the purpose. The ships of the old training squadron are either past their work or are inadequate to accommodate the men who would have to go through this training. Anyhow, as a matter of fact, at the present moment no ships are available for this purpose. Therefore, if the training squadron was resuscitated we should have to build ships for the purpose. The old ships did not hold more than 150 to 180 men, and if we built larger ships to accommodate 250, such ships would cost from £120,000 to £150,000 each; and if every young seamen went through six months training of this kind we should require twelve ships, the capital value of which would be no less than £1,800,000, or the price of three armoured cruisers. I think, therefore, your Lordships will see that at the present time, when we want every year large additions to the fighting strength of the Fleet and when our 237 Navy Estimates have reached the huge figures they have, it would be a very strong measure to spend the price of three armoured cruisers on these training ships. Moreover, if all young seamen went through six months training of this kind the number of seamen that would be locked up in these ships, that is to say, so far as the manning of the fighting ships is concerned—would be no less than 4,528, and 84 lieutenants would be required, and that at a time when a lieutenant is worth his weight in gold, and when every lieutenant is kept steadily at sea or is at one of the schools. If only half the young seamen got this training, or even a third of them, you would still run into a large figure; and I think that when once these figures are placed before you you will see that while we are continually being pressed to find fresh complements to put fresh ships in commission and to build new ships, it is Impossible to do what is advocated by this school of naval officers. We cannot afford the men, and we want the money for fighting ships. It is no argument to say that foreign nations still continue the system, because their requirements are different from ours. They do not require to keep so large a proportion of ships in commission as we require. The pressure on the Admiralty is not to diminish but to increase the number of ships in commission. The Board have therefore reluctantly, but quite clearly, come to the decision that in the present circumstances the training squadron cannot be resuscitated.
I want now to say a word on the training of the men in gunnery. It is of cardinal importance to the Fleet that the training of the men in gunnery should be as high as possible, and that is the raison d'être of the great gunnery schools, of which the "Excellent" is the best known. Hitherto every seaman has gone through a course of gunnery at one of these schools in the early days of his naval career, and every three years he would have to go back and re-qualify in the manufactory in which captains of guns and captains of turrets are manufactured. The Board have resolved to make a change in this respect. Every young seaman will in future go through his first gunnery training in one of these schools, but after that he will not be sent 238 back to re-qualify. Only those who show special aptitude and are likely to become captains of guns and captains of turrets will go back. The other seamen will requalify at sea on board their ships. Now, my Lords, there is another branch of naval training about which I should like to say a word, and that is what I may call cruiser training. That is a subject to which a great deal of attention has been directed among those who take interest in naval matters, and it is not a subject the Board has neglected. It is our intention to increase the cruiser squadron which took the place of the old training squadron, and with a larger number of cruisers attached to the Channel Squadron and, I hope, to the Mediterranean Squadron, the result will be that there will be a large number of crews constantly being trained in cruiser work; and the manœuvres of this year will be of such a kind that I hope special opportunity will be afforded for the practice of cruiser tactics. As regards the education of officers and men generally, I have myself taken the opportunity of asking admirals and captains fresh from the sea what their view of the personnel of the Navy is, and one and all, with one voice, have said that, so far as the personnel goes, it is scarcely possible to improve the officers or the men. They say, with extraordinary unanimity, that, subject to some improvements in details, the general system of training of young officers and seamen leaves nothing to be desired.
My noble friend asked me about the Report of the Committee which sat a short time ago to consider a limited part of the training of officers. It was not a Committee appointed to consider the whole subject of the training of naval officers, but their training in the earlier years of their career. That Report has been laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament, and the Admiralty have adopted it and are carrying out all its recommendations. The most important of them seems to me to be this, that henceforth no young sub-lieutenant on passing from the college, however well he may have done in examination, will be entitled to promotion until he has received a certificate from the captain of his ship, after six months service, that he is capable of keeping a watch at sea. 239 In fact, he must have a certificate from the most competent authority—his own captain—to show that he is equally good at the practical work as he has proved himself to be at his books. This subject of education of officers is always occupying the attention of the Board. Although I believe the results to be as good as I stated them to be, it does not follow that we consider that no improvement can take place. On the contrary we welcome suggestions. We are constantly receiving suggestions, not only from naval officers, but from other gentlemen who take a deep interest in the Navy and study naval matters. Every one of those suggestions is always welcome, and is always considered and weighed.
Before I pass from the subject of naval education, I must allude to a new development which took place recently at Greenwich in the direction of a school of naval strategy. The present course has been a great success. I hope it will be the beginning of large developments, and no pains on our part will be spared to develop from this small beginning a school of naval strategy such as has existed for a long time in the United States, and ought, I think, to have been developed in this country at an earlier time. As regard the Report of the Victualling Committee, that Report has been received. It will be laid on the Table of both Houses. The subject is a large and a complicated one, involving a great many problems; and all I can say at present is that we are dealing with it to the best of our ability. I have to answer one or two questions that my noble friend behind me put in reference to shipbuilding. Before I answer his questions I should like to notice some very friendly but pertinent criticism on the same subject which I think Sir Charles Dilke enunciated in another place. He was discussing, as I understand, the difference between a programme such as the old Naval Defence Act and the announcement of the building of a certain number of ships from year to year, as has recently been the case. I do not doubt that when the Naval Defence Act was passed, it was a necessary measure, a necessary expedient, to meet an abnormal state of affairs, but it seems to me to carry with it objections which make it necessary 240 to relegate it to the category of expedients only to be used occasionally. The objections I put forward are these. If you announce a large programme of shipbuilding to be spread over several years, you are, I think, unnecessarily announcing to all the world what your plans are. In the second place, if you build all your ships from one design and at one time you lose that advantage of progressive improvement in the design which has been such a marked feature in the Majestic class and the "Formidable" class. Finally, one day you have a large number of ships all becoming obsolete at the same moment. Therefore, I am strongly of opinion that the true policy of this country is steady, persistent, and continuous shipbuilding from year to year. Such shipbuilding will keep the Navy up to the full strength which is required to enable it to perform its service to the country, and will not necessitate sudden and panic-stricken efforts to bring it back to a position from which it ought never to have departed.
Sir Charles Dilke criticised severely the fact that a very small sum is laid by in the Estimates this year for commencing the ships to be laid down this year. There is a real reason for that which I think will commend itself to the country when it is fairly explained. If you have a new type of ship, as is constantly occurring, and even when you have not a new type, but an improvement of an existing type, that involves weeks and months of most careful and elaborate consideration I am sure Lord Spencer and Lord Goschen will bear me out when I say that the settlement of a new type, or a large improvement of an old type, is one of the most anxious duties that can fall to the Board of Admiralty, one which cannot possibly be hurried, and for which much time is necessary. In the second half of the financial year—from Michaelmas to 1st April—the Board of Admiralty has no time for the purpose.
The strain—and a great strain it is—of preparing the Estimates is upon the Board of Admiralty, and the Board has none of that spare time and freedom from anxiety in regard to the Estimates which is necessary in order to deal with such a question as a new type or the improvement of an old type. Therefore the free time of the year to work out these all- 241 important problems is after the Estimates have been disposed of. So far as the Board of Admiralty is concerned, that is the beginning of the financial year. Then, after all these momentous questions are settled, six more months are required in order to work out in the minute detail necessary for the instruction of the contractors or the dockyards the designs and the plans of the ships. That brings you to the close of the financial year. So when a small sum is taken to commence a large programme, the proceeding really is based on a sound principle, and on a principle which experience has shown to accelerate work in the long run. I emphatically say that the proper time for commencing ships is the end of the financial year, and that gives you the next financial year for continuous, steady progress on that new ship. I wish to make that explanation because the matter did not seem to be entirely under stood by some of our critics in the other House. Lord Goschen asked me if I could give any information to the House in respect to the comparative rates of shipbuilding, and he pointed out to your Lordships some reasons why it is not probable that the feat would ever be repeated of building a battleship within two years. He showed to your Lordships that the governing factor is not so much the hull of a ship as the machinery, and he pointed out by what giant strides the indicated horse-power had gone up since the days of the "Majestic." I agree with Lord Goschen in thinking that ships will never be built again within two years; but it is also true that the arrears in shipbuilding, as to which I spoke the other night, have brought us to a slower rate of progress than I hope we shall ever have again in the future. We shall never get back to the days of the "Majestic" and the "Magnificent." But we shall do something, I hope, much speedier than has been done recently. Even, however, at the slow pace at which we have been going recently, so far as I can see from the figures which are at my disposal, we have been building faster than any foreign country except the Japanese ships built by Armstrong in this country, which, however, are not two, but very nearly three years ships. As an illustration in this matter I will take the case of the "Bulwark," nearly finished, at 242 Devonport. The "Bulwark," I hope, will be commissioned well within the three years from the time at which she was laid down. But the order for her machinery was given about six months before the ship was laid down. This shows that what really governs the rate of shipbuilding at the present moment is not the hull, but the machinery. I think that is an interesting and instructive example.
I should like to say one word about the Controller's department. I think it is extraordinary, considering that the head of that department is not a trained business man, but is always a sailor fresh from the sea, and who is going back to the sea in four or five years time, that such business aptitude should be shown by these distinguished naval officers. I think it is not a question of increasing the staff of that department. However much you increase the staff there must always be a neck to the bottle. You never can multiply two men in that department—the Director of Naval Construction and the Controller. The work of the department has reached such a pitch that the country cannot be too appreciative of the manner in which the officers carry out their duty. At the present moment I calculate that there are actually building or designing no less than 102 vessels. That involves on the part of the Director of Naval Construction and on the part of the Controller a great amount of work. So much has been said recently in criticism of that department that I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to give you a brief summary of the results in connection with the last important ship completed for the Navy—a ship of very special interest, because she is the first ship completed belonging to the new class of armoured cruisers. I allude to the "Cressy." The designed draught of the "Cressy," under ordinary conditions of loading, was 26ft. 3in., and the displacement 12,000 tons. The corresponding completed draught is 25ft. 9in.—or about 6in. less—with about 11,700 tons displacement. In other words, the ship can carry about 300 tons more coal than was promised at the designed draught, and in the deep-load conditions draws 6in. less water than designed. As regards her speed, at the designed draught 243 the promised speed on an eight hours trial with 21,000 horse-power was 21 knots. Three ships of the class have been tried at the designed draught with the following results:—"Cressy," 21,200 horse-power, 21.437 knots (in unfavourable weather); "Aboukir," 21,350 horse-power, 21.6 knots; "Sutlej," 21,260 horse-power, 21.77 knots. The actual speed for 21,000 horse-power is therefore about half a knot greater than the speed promised in the design. These three ships have also realised a speed of about 20½ knots on their thirty hours trial—a very good performance. As regards their stability and manœuvring power, they have more than answered all that was expected of them. In conclusion, I wish to correct a misapprehension with reference to what I said the other day in regard to the strength of the Mediterranean Fleet on a war footing. It appears not to have been wholly understood that I meant, of course, a war footing after war mobilisation. Again, it has been noticed that I did not say anything in reference to what Mr. Arnold-Forster said in the other House about combined exercises of the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons. I did not do so because I felt I had already trespassed too long on your Lordships' indulgence; but those combined exercises, which were a constant feature in the past, are now going to be revived, and I hope the first of these combined exercises will take place this autumn. Lastly, in giving the names of the three first battleships of the new type I said the first of those was to be called "King Edward." That was a true but not a complete statement; I ought to have said "King Edward VII."