HL Deb 03 June 1902 vol 108 cc1229-55

My Lords, I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty what decision has been arrived at as to the respective merits of the different types of boilers consequent on the trials of H.M.S. "Minerva" and H.M.S "Hyacinth." Since this Question was placed on the Paper of your Lordships House, the discussion upon it has been partially anticipated in another place, where it was officially stated that the Belleville boiler had been practically condemned. However, I think that a debate on the subject here may be of some profit, as we have the advantage of having, as Members of this House, the present First Lord and several of his predecessors in office. The first point that strikes one on reading the Report of the Boiler Committee is the extraordinary care that was taken in these trials. Coal, water, engine-power, boiler-power—all these questions were carefully measured; the appliances were tested by which these measurements were made, and everything was done to secure accuracy.

Without going into a long review of the Report, which is full of interesting matter, I will briefly state some of the inferences to be drawn from it. First of all, the Committee point out the serious water losses that occurred in the "Hyacinth," which was fitted with the Belleville boiler, and go on to say that in their opinion the occurrence of these leakages is "inherent to the design of boiler used." Again, the water gauges fitted to the Belleville boiler were unreliable, and there was also the greatest discrepancy in the water-levels in the boilers. The boiler efficiency of the, "Minerva "—this ship was fitted with cylindrical boilers—when retarders were placed in the tubes, was found to be quite equal to that of the "Hyacinth." Attention is also called in the Report to the fact that whereas the "Minerva," which had been in service for four years, only increased her coal consumption by 8½ per cent.—and it is understood that vessels in commission invariably increase their coal consumption—the coal consumption of the "Hyacinth," which had had no previous trial, except that by the contractors, increased by 32 per cent.; and it is further pointed out on p. 17 that her radius of action was 830 miles less than that of the "Minerva." In the concluding paragraph of their Report, the Committee call attention to the fact that on the return voyage from Gibraltar, steam was raised in the "Minerva" in about equal time to that of the "Hyacinth," without the use of any auxiliary boiler or modern appliance or improvement for the rapid raising of steam. I should like to know whether, when the Committee ascribe the leakages as being "inherent to the design of boiler used," it is to be taken as applying only to Belleville boilers, and not to water-tube boilers generally; also, whether there is anything exceptional in the rapidity with which steam was raised in the "Minerva," or was it a test which any other vessel would have come out of equally well.

I observe that six cruisers of the County class are to be fitted with combination boilers, four-fifths water-tube and one fifth cylindrical, and I think we might well ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether that is merely by way of experiment, or whether it is intended that all ships are to be fitted with this double system of boilers. It was admitted in another place by an authority in these matters that in the case of the Belleville boiler the assistance of a great number of the deck hands is required in the stokehole, and that this difficulty can only be got rid of by having; stokers who are highly trained. It is now alleged that the intention with regard to the combination boilers is to use the cylindrical boilers for ordinary cruising purposes, and to only employ water-tube boilers on the quarterly trials and in manœuvres. This certainly strikes me as a serious disadvantage, for how will it be possible, unless the water-tube boilers are more frequently used, for the stokers to become highly trained in the working of them? Other countries are quoted as having employed this combination with great advantage, but I have always understood that the ships of no other Navy in the world are tested for sea-going purposes like our ships, and therefore other countries can hardly be quoted in regard to the successful use of this boiler until we know that their ships have been tested as severely as we test ours. I have complete confidence in the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty and his expert advisers, and I am sure they will do their best to secure the most serviceable boiler; but I should like to hear stated the decision that has been arrived at as to the respective merits of the different types of boilers.


My Lords, I confess I am glad that my noble friend has brought this question forward, and, in answering it, I shall appeal to the indulgence of your Lordships to reply in a fuller manner and at greater length than my noble friend has spoken in introducing the subject. After all, the boilers of the Navy are of the highest national importance, and not only both Houses of Parliament are, and ought to be, extremely anxious on the subject of their efficiency, but it is a matter which has commanded and will command increasing attention from the public out of doors. I ask your Lordships in considering this question to remember that boiler difficulties are no new trial of the Admiralty. Long before water-tube boilers were heard of, the Navy had difficulties with the various forms of boilers that preceded them. There were difficulties connected with leakages in the tubes; there were difficulties connected with the crowns of the furnaces; there were accidents ending in disastrous loss of life; but gradually by experience the Navy eliminated the obstacles that confronted the construction of an almost perfect boiler, and the cylindrical boiler was at last brought to a point that might almost be called perfection, but a perfection that had with it very distinct and serious limitations. The type of ships in which that perfection may be said to have been reached would be the "Majesties," the "Talbots," and the "Gibraltars." The cause of these limitations arose from the essential differences in the conditions of the Navy and the Mercantile Marine. In merchant vessels there is practically no limit to the space for, and weight of, machinery, but when you come to a man-of-war, all space must be carefully economised and every pound that can be saved in the weight of the machinery, is utilised in armour or armament. Pass from the engine room and stokehold of a large merchant ship to the engine room and stokehold of a man-of-war; it is like passing from the accommodation of a palace to a cottage; in the one there is ample space, in the other you are "cabin'd cribb'd, confined."

This affects every part of the problem connected with boilers; the boilers cannot be so big, the water space between the tubes cannot be so great, and, as a consequence, the Naval boiler is more prone, if forced, to leakages owing to the changes of expansion and contraction. That was one of the most constant difficulties the Navy had to meet, but it was at last overcome by the invention of the Admiralty "ferrule," which is not, I believe, used in commercial steamers. This "ferrule" proved a complete cure, for these leakages but when an attempt was made to force the boilers, these ferrules became liable to be "bird nested," as it was called; they became gradually filled up by a hard substance drawn in by the hot air and the aperture gradually narrowed. Take the ease of the "Minerva," alluded to by my noble friend; in her trial with the '" Hyacinth," there was an extreme case of bird-nesting there. The "Minerva" showed herself to be a splendid ship with splendid boilers and engines, but when she got to Plymouth bird-nesting had reached that point that even if coal had not given out the vessel could not have gone any further, the tubes were partly and in many instances almost completely closed. The tubes lasted as long as the coal did, but the ship could not be said to have been ready to go to sea again when she recoaled, for the ferrules had to be withdrawn and fresh ones inserted in their place, and men could not get to the tubes to withdraw the ferrules until the furnaces were cool. It was, therefore, very unlikely that she could have been got ready to go to sea again, as soon as she recoaled. I dwell upon this, not to detract from the admirable qualities of the boilers, as exemplified in the "Minerva," but to show that the advantages of the cylindrical boiler have very distinct limitations. To such an extent is this the case that the forced draught necessary to obtain the maximum speed is now never used except in special cases, but is kept in reserve for use in time of war. Cylindrical boilers had reached this point of development when the Admiralty had to consider whether they should use the new form of boiler called the water-tube boiler.

I would remind your Lordships of what was claimed for these water-tube boilers when this problem confronted the Admiralty. It was claimed that their military advantages were great over the cylindrical boiler for naval purposes; that steam could be more quickly raised from cold boilers; that the rate of speed could be varied with much greater ease; and that repairs could be effected with much less difficulty, because the armoured deck had to be removed to get at the cylindrical boiler, while for change or repair the water-tube boilers could be taken to pieces and removed. But the principal advantage claimed was greater horsepower with the same displacement, or, if you preferred to retain the same horse power, more weight left for armour and armament. After careful investigation and consideration the Board of Admiralty of that day—I think it was in the time of my noble friend opposite—decided to introduce the water-tube type of boilers and the type selected was that then most prominent and well known as the Belleville boiler. Now, I wish at once to confess that with the Belleville boilers in the Navy, we have had difficulties that apparently foreign navies have not had to contend with. I think it is not an exaggeration to say we have had much greater difficulties than foreign navies have had with these boilers. What has been the cause of this? It would be impossible to exhaust the subject without trespassing on your Lordships' time unduly, but I may summarise the causes of those difficulties under four heads—inferiority of manufacture, improper management, higher pressure, and greater use. There is no doubt the manufacture was at first inferior, and that is not surprising, for we had had no experience in this country in the making of these boilers, and as a great number were ordered at one, time, if they had all been made by skilled workmen, they would have been made without previous experience. But, as a matter of fact, these boilers wore, to a large extent, made during the period of the engineering strike, not by the best workmen, but by apprentices. As to management, no doubt—I confess it at once—it was not properly appreciated that they required much more careful management than cylindrical boilers, and much of our difficulty, certainly in cases like that of the "Hermes," was due almost entirely to mismanagement of boilers. Then, again, as to pressure. Our cylindrical boilers had been worked at 150 lbs. pressure in the boilers, but we jumped in the case of the Belleville to 300 lbs. in the boilers at once, which was considerably more than the same boilers were being worked at in France. Lastly, our cruisers, in which the difficulties specially occurred, are racketed about—properly racketed about—more than is the case with vessels in foreign navies.

But I wish, with all emphasis, to say this after our experience of Belleville boilers—that the difficulties we met with might have been met with in any other type of water-tube boilers, and what we have learned from the Belleville boilers we shall turn to account with other types of boilers we use. Much anxiety was expressed in Parliament and throughout the country, about these Belleville boilers being put into so many of our ships, when there was the constant difficulty like that in the case of the "Terrible" and the absolute breakdown with the "Europa," and eventually my predecessor in office appointed a Committee to inquire and report on the subject. Now, those of your Lordships who have looked at the composition of that Committee, and have examined the personalities of its members, and know the experience represented, will endorse what has been said by my hon. friend Sir Fortescue Flannery—that the Committee commanded a large measure of public confidence. That Committee has given its verdict on the Belleville boiler in no uncertain voice. It has condemned the Belleville boiler, and that condemnation has been accepted by the Admiralty. But I should like briefly to pause and weigh that decision of the Committee practically, and from the common-sense point of view of a layman interested in the question. Experts sometimes do not see the whole question in its broadest aspect, because they are necessarily immersed in technicalities.

Now, I agree and disagree with the verdict of the Boiler Committee. I disagree to this extent—that I do not think the absolute condemnation of the Belleville boiler by the Committee can be sustained to the extent the words they use would imply in face of the experience of other nations with the boiler, and of the experience we are now gaining with our battleships. I will quote examples presently. To this extent I disagree with the Boiler Committee—that I believe the Belleville boiler, well manufactured and well managed, will fulfil conditions that would make it a reliable boiler for the Navy for sea use in peace or war. I do not think it will ever be an economical boiler as regards coal, and it will cost more on an average of years for repairs than the cylindrical boiler. But it has not, in my opinion, under the conditions I have named, deserved the absolute condemnation of the Committee, Nevertheless, I have not only accepted but I agree with their advice—that we should not at present, at all events, instal any more of these boilers in our ships, because I think the other types of the water-tube boilers which we have in front of us are simpler in construction, and that they embrace all the merits—if merits there be—in the water-tube principle and are less complicated than the Belleville boilers. Therefore I prefer them to the Belleville type. But to illustrate why I said this about the Belleville boiler I will allude to two classes of battleships, one of which has wholly and the other nearly passed into commission—the "Canopuses" and the "Formidables." On the whole, I have excellent reports of their boilers, and I am very glad the "Formidables" have got Belleville boilers and not cylindrical, for this reason, that the "Formidable" in displacement is the exact repetition of the "Majestic." The general principle of armament and the armour are the same, only with the improvements that the lapse of time has given opportunity for. But the "Formidable" is a whole knot faster than the "Majestic." This is solely-due to the substitution of water-tube for cylindrical boilers. It is an interesting; fact that all our troubles with these boilers have been with the cruisers. The battleships were ordered later and came into commission later. The experience gained in the cruisers has held good, and the reports we have received about the battleships are undoubtedly, at present, satisfactory.

If all the experts agreed, the task of the Admiralty would be simple. But they do not. There is the widest divergence of opinion, and, after all, it is not wonderful, because the situation is really a very strange one. The Mercantile Marine, as a whole, will not use the water-tube boiler; but there is not a navy in the world that is not using the water tube boilers. Why? Because the conditions are totally different in the one case and in the other. I have a friend, whose opinion I very greatly respect, who maintains that the conditions are not different, but I must beg leave to differ from him and from others who agree with him. There is the case of the weight and space which I had already mentioned; weight and space are comparatively of no account in a merchant vessel, but they are of great importance in a battleship. I will give you instances taken from a lecture, by a very distinguished engineer, of typical modern steamers—the "Celtic" on the one hand, belonging to the White Star Line, and the "Juno" and "Doris" of the Navy, each of which has cylindrical boilers. The indicated horse-power of the "Celtic" is 4.37 for every ton of machinery, that of the "Juno" and "Doris" being 10.88. The indicated horse-power of the great German liner, the "Deutschland," is 6.35 for every ton of machinery; that of the "King Alfred," one of our latest and most important armoured cruisers, is 12 for every ton of machinery. Therefore, you may say that in a liner the weight of machinery, in proportion to the indicated horse power, is double that in a battleship The steamer is built to cover certain distances as far as possible at one definite speed. The conditions as to speed in the Navy are totally different. A battleship will generally go at a cruising speed of about ten knots, which is possibly not more than one-fifth of her horsepower, but she must be ready to increase from one-fifth to 90 per cent. of her horse-power or, to the whole, at the shortest notice. In the one case the speed is most constant, in the other most variable. Then there are the military considerations already mentioned. In view of the diversity of opinion on the part of the experts, what the Admiralty has done has been to follow the advice of the Boiler Committee, both as to the extent to which and the manner in which the Belleville boiler has been rejected, and also as to the new type of the water-tube boiler and as to the use of the combination of the water-tube and cylindrical boiler. Now, take the first interim Report of the Boiler Committee of February, 1901. The first paragraph of that Report is this— The Committee are of opinion that the advantages of water-tube boilers for naval purposes are so great, chiefly from the military point of view, that, provided a satisfactory type of water-tube boiler be adopted, it would be more suitable for use in His Majesty's Navy than the cylindrical type of boiler. That opinion has never been withdrawn, and that is the policy which we act upon. Then the Committee say in their second paragraph :— The Committee do not consider that the Belleville boiler has any such advantage over other types of water-tube boilers as to lead them to recommend it as the best adapted to the requirements of His Majesty's Navy. We have accepted and followed that advice. Then the Committee recommend, (a) as regards ships which are to be ordered in the future, that Belleville boilers be not fitted in any case; (b) as regards ships recently ordered, for which the work done on the boilers is not too far advanced, that Belleville boilers be not fitted; (c) as regards ships under construction, for which the work is so far advanced that any alteration of type of boiler would delay the completion of the ships, that Belleville boilers be retained; (d) as regards completed ships, that Belleville boilers be retained as fitted. That advice has been followed literally throughout. The Committee further said :— In addition to the Belleville type of boiler, the Committee have had under consideration four types of large straight-tube boilers which have been tried in war vessels, and are now being adopted on an extended scale in foreign navies. These are (a) the Babcock and Wilcox boiler; (b) the Niclausse boiler; (c) the Dürr boiler; (d) the Yarrow large-tube boiler; (a) and (b) have also been tried in our own Navy with satisfactory results and are now being adopted on a limited scale. If a type of water-tube boiler has to be decided on at once for use in the Navy, the Committee suggest that some or all of these types be taken. There is not one single word of that Report of February, 1901, which the Committee have withdrawn; and we have acted throughout on the general principles laid down by that Committee. Take this question of combination, one-fifth cylindrical, four-fifths water-tube, which we have adopted for the cruisers of the 1901–2 programme. That principle of combination has been acted upon on the advice of the Boiler Committee, for although the proportion of cylindrical boilers adopted by the Board was two-tenths instead of the three-elevenths suggested by the Boiler Committee, this trifling difference did not affect the principle laid down by the Committee. There is not one single Power which has a Navy that has not discarded the cylindrical boiler, but all have failed to agree on the type of water-tube boiler which suits naval requirements best. Therefore, I think the advice of the Boiler Committee to fix on four types and to combine them with a small proportion of cylindrical boilers, formulated a wise interim policy, and a policy which I should not be surprised to find ceasing to be an interim and becoming a perpetual policy. What are the advantages of the combination? The one-fifth cylindrical gives all the power for all work of auxiliary engines, and it gives power also for ordinary cruising speeds, and so gives the old economy of coal for all the ordinary work of the ship, and that without any serious addition of weight or space. In this one-fifth also every trial can be made of appliances for the improvement of the cylindrical boilers not hitherto adopted in the Navy. I allude to Howden's system of forced draught with closed ashpits, retarders, which, if a short experience in the Channel Squadron is any test, are certainly destined to be of great importance, and to the use of circulators for rapidly heating the water.

As regards the type of water tube boilers selected, there is not one of them that is not in use, either in a foreign navy or in the Mercantile Marino, or in both. Owing to the courtesy of the authorities in foreign countries and of the owners of steamship lines, the Boiler Committee have been able carefully to inspect all these types of boilers in the ships where they have been in constant use, and their original opinion in favour of these types has only been confirmed by what they have seen. I see it was stated, in a commentary in one of the leading papers on what was said in another place, that the experience of the personnel with the Belleville boilers would be of no use with the other types of water-tube boilers. That is not the case. The experience of the personnel, in which I include the stokers as well as the engineers, which they have gained with the Belleville will be applicable to all these types of boilers; and, indeed, in one case at least, the stoking appears to be a very simple matter. I will give you a curious instance. There is a ship called the "Martello," belonging to the Wilson Line, which has Babcock and Wilcox boilers, and the verdict on those boilers in one respect is unfavourable. They certainly are not so economical in coal as the cylindrical. On the other hand, by the end of last year this ship had run, with these boilers, over 70,000 miles in ten voyages between Hull and New York, and her firemen had been changed every voyage, but with the exception of two tubes injured, which could easily be repaired, her defects after doing 70,000 miles were practically nil, and no trouble whatever has been experienced in working the boilers.

Now, my Lords, there is not one of those advisers on whom the Board of Admiralty has to depend who will take the responsibility of advising the Board to return to the cylindrical boiler—not the Engineer-in-Chief, not Sir William White, the old Director of Naval Construction, not Mr. Watts, the new Director of Naval Construction who has come from one of the greatest private yards in the country and can have no personal interest in the matter, not the Boiler Committee; and yet I am urged by the advocates of cylindrical boilers, including some hon. friends of mine in the House of Commons, for whose disinterested patriotism I have the most profound respect, to disregard all this advice and to return to the cylindrical boiler. Well, I look about me and what do I see? I see that not one single foreign nation has taken that course. The Americans, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Italians, the Japanese, not to mention minor naval Powers, without exception have adopted the water tube boiler as the type of naval boiler; and though it may be argued that it is quite possible that they may all be wrong and that in these matters we should frame our own policy, yet it must be admitted that this, at any rate, is very strong presumptive evidence that there is a great deal to be said in favour of the water-tube boiler.

But I will turn to our own admirals who command squadrons in which are ships with these water-tube boilers. There are four of such squadrons—the Channel Squadron, the Mediterranean Squadron, the East Indian Squadron, and the China Squadron I cannot extract from the commander-in-chief of one of these squadrons a condemnation of the water-tube principle. So anxious have I been that the Admiralty should know the exact opinion of those gallant officers, who have had actual experience of these boilers with the responsibility of command, that I have endeavoured to extract from them a condemnation of the water tube principle, and I have absolutely failed to do so. In the case of the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons, it may, no doubt, be said that the gallant commanders-in-chief had a personal responsibility for these water-tube boilers, but they had upon them the knowledge of the responsibility that would rest upon them when they were called upon to use vessels fitted with these boilers in time of war, and yet they have not condemned them. In the case of the other commanders-in-chief, they have had no connection whatever with the adoption of the water-tube principle, and yet I cannot extract from them any such condemnation. There are twelve ships on the China Station with water-tube boilers, four of them battleships and the others large and small cruisers. I have been reading only today a private letter from the Inspector of Machinery at Hong Kong, and he speaks in the highest terms of the state of efficiency of the machinery of all of them with the exception of the "Glory" which, though it has given a good deal of trouble is now absolutely efficient. Tint that again was a case of mismanagement on the part of the personnel. Therefore, as a humble layman, and not making any pretence to expert knowledge, I do say that my judgment goes with the judgment of the Boiler Committee—that so far as we can see at present the water-tube principle has come to stay, and that, although the Belleville may probably not be the type which will suit our needs the best, yet we shall work up to a thoroughly satisfactory standard water-tube boiler, just as we did work up to a thoroughly satisfactory standard cylindrical boiler.

Now, my Lords, let me summarise how the balance-sheet stands at the present moment with respect to the water-tube boiler. I told you the original advantages claimed for it. Of these what now remain? As to the quicker raising of steam from all-cold boilers and engines, I do not think very mach of that remains, for two reasons. In the first place, the "Minerva" has shown that the cylindrical boiler can sometimes raise steam quicker than was supposed, though I think no engineer would advise its being done very often. But in neither case can you raise, steam quickly with cold engines. As to easier changes of speed, I think there is something in that. As to facility for repairs, I think there is no doubt that is a claim of greater convenience which must be allowed still fully to stand. As to lesser risk in action. I think that is a claim on behalf of the water-tube boiler the importance of which is greater and not less than it was. I may say that the Admiralty are having this question very carefully examined by high authorities; but have we had any experience? Does anyone know what the effect of a fracture by a fragment of shell in a cylindrical boiler at over 200 lb. pre sure would be Remember, the quantity of water to be flashed into steam in the case of a cylindrical boiler is ten times more than in the case of the Belleville, which has the least water of all types of water-tube boilers. It is more than likely that steam would only escape from the fracture in any case, but if there was an explosion with something like three tons of water flashing into steam at the fracture, it would be a very different story from the flashing into steam of the amount that would be liberated by the fracture of a water-tube boiler. I do not wish to dogmatise on this, I merely indicate it as of real importance, and to tell the House that the point is now being examined by experts.

It may be said, and fairly, that that danger would exist to a certain extent in a combination of boilers. Yes, that is quite true; but in the case of the boilers, as in the case of every other part of a battleship, the best you can hope for is a compromise. But the most important advantage of all remains, and that is the saving of weight will give you an instance which I think will strike your Lordships forcibly. The other day I asked the Director of Naval Construction for a rough sketch design for a cruiser that would have 25,000 horse power. I asked for alternative designs, one with water-tube and the other with cylindrical boilers, everything else being the same. What was the difference in tonnage? The design for the vessel with cylindrical boilers showed 1,500 tons more displacement than the other, and when I remonstrated and said it was impossible to go beyond the displacement fixed, the answer was, "If you insist on the displacement being the same, the ship with cylindrical boilers will have to be a knot slower." That advantage, then, remains, with this deduction—that there is a greater consumption of coal in the case of the water-tube boiler. It is quite clear that if you have two types of boiler in similar ships, each carrying 2,000 tons of coal, if one set of boilers consumes a higher percentage of coal than the other, of course it follows that that must be a set-off against the advantages of the water-tube type. What that excess of consumption is it is difficult to ascertain. I would not put it down at less than 10 per cent. I think it is probably higher; but as ships go on in their commission these drawbacks are partly overcome, and the extra consumption of coal decreases.

I will give your Lordships a striking instance of that. I take the case of the "Canopus" which has now been in commission in the Mediterranean for over two years. The average coal consumption of the "Canopus"—the auxiliary coal consumption in harbour—for the six months ended December 31, 1900, was 172 tons per day. The same coal consumption for the six months ended December 31, 1901, was 10.2 tons per day. The lowest daily record during the first period of six months was 9.1, 11.5, and 12.6 tons, and during the second period of six months, 6.8, 6.9, and 6.85 tons, and so on. I could give other instances where the assiduous attention of the engineers, the better understanding of the machinery, the detection of weak points in manufacture, and their gradual elimination have slowly worked down the consumption of coal to a more reasonable figure. But the fact remains, and it must never be lost sight of in weighing the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of boilers, that water-tube ships will never be so economical in coal as cylindrical ships. There is this further disadvantage, which was dealt with by Lord Charles Beresford in another place, that the deck hands have to be called upon to work in the stoke holes and in trimming coal on water-tube ships. But the deck hands are called upon to do similar work in cylindrical ships also, but not to so large an extent as in water-tube ships. That, however, does not mean that in action the deck hands on water-tube boilers would be taken away from attending to the guns in order to work in the bunkers or as stokers, for in time of peace stokers work in three, or not less than two watches, whereas in action all the stokers would be available. Still, I do not want to blur the fact that that is a real evil or difficulty. There is also extravagance in the use of water. That, however, is more a question of coal than a question of water, for this excessive consumption of water leads to the use of more coal for the purpose of condensation. Nor does it mean that water-tube ships carry more water than cylindrical ships. A ship can only carry the amount of water for which she has accommodation, and none of these water-tube ships are designed with more tanks than cylindrical ships.

But the greatest disadvantage of all still remains, and that is the waste of time and money in repairs. Our difficulties in that respect have been with cruisers rather than with battleships. A return is being prepared for Parliament which will show what the cost has been to the country, both in the loss of efficiency and money in the repairs of these water-tube cruisers. The results are startling. The cost in money has been very great, and the loss of efficiency, owing to the time the ships have been in dockyard hands, has also been very considerable. I do not wish to minimise that. But if I did not think this evil was in the course of cure I should not be so sure as I am about the future of water-tube boilers. This evil has arisen from two causes which I have already mentioned—imperfect manufacture and bad management. By far the greater part of the repairs has been owing to the decay of the tubes. That has for eighteen months past been absolutely arrested by the use of a process which ought to have been used three years ago and not eighteen months ago. Still, this question of repair and the extra cost to the country must be written down as a real disadvantage on the side of the water-tube ships. But, my Lords, when you come to examine the return you must remember that it includes the complete breakdown of the "Europa" and "Hermes," which of course makes the cost much greater than if the repairs had been merely for the ordinary wear and tear of the ships. The breakdown has been accounted for after the most exhaustive inquiries, and I may say—so far as it is wise or safe for a man in my position to prophesy—I do not believe it is going to occur again.

The Boiler Committee has for the time practically done its work, and I think the Admiralty and the country and the Navy ought to be most grateful to these gentlemen, naval officers and civilians, who have given their services to the country in this matter. The President of the Committee, the new Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, has already left this country, but not before the final report of the Committee had been drawn up for presentation to the Admiralty. As I have not myself seen or read the report yet, your Lordships will not expect me to say anything about it. But, in concluding their labours up to the point at which they could be concluded, the Committee have made provision for the completion of their experiments by retaining a certain number of their members under the vice-presidency of the Chief Inspector of Machinery, B.N., who is also a member of the Committee, to carry out the trials of the "Medea" and the "Medusa." The final results of the work of the Committee cannot, of course, be seen, nor can the final policy of the Admiralty be formulated, until we have had full trials in commission of all the ships that are now being built; but, subject to that consideration, what is in my mind now, and in the minds of my colleagues, is that we should strengthen the Admiralty in respect to the question of boilers in future, just as the Admiralty and the War Office have previously strengthened their hands in the matter of ordnance.

It has been of the greatest possible advantage to the Admiralty, and I believe also to the War Office, to have some of the highest authorities in the country, like Sir Andrew Noble, at their service to be called on for advice on special points and on special occasions in connection with ordnance. That is a principle which I think will be applied to the boilers, machinery, and engines of the Navy, and I hope we shall be able to find gentlemen who will give us their services in the matter. In conclusion, let me say a word with respect to a distinguished officer who has been the subject of much criticism in connection with the boiler, question. I mean the Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy. The criticism which has been levied against him has been misplaced. He is responsible only for the advice he gives the Board of Admiralty, and not for the decisions of the Board—each Board must bear the responsibility of its own decisions—and I desire to bear testimony to the devotion to duty, the ability, and the rare courage which he has displayed. With respect to the action of previous Boards, I think I may say if I may, with great deference in the presence of my two predecessors in office—that the same results might have been achieved, at a less cost by a more gradual process of experiment. But I admire their courageous reception of a new idea, and would ask Parliament and the public to contrast it with that deplorable prejudice which for years left this country alone among the nations with a Navy and an Army armed with muzzle loading guns.


The noble Earl referred to water-tube boilers wearing out and becoming inefficient by decay, but I would point out that the "Hyacinth" was a new ship. Are these defects liable in all water-tube boilers, or was the case of the "Hyacinth" an exceptional one? The noble Earl made no remark with regard to my contention that if the water-tube boilers are not used except on special occasions the stokers will not receive that training in the firing of these boilers which I understand it is most necessary they should have.


That is quite a misapprehension. It will be the duty of the officers to train the; staff most thoroughly in their use. There is no intention of tying them up in cotton wool. As regards the "Hyacinth," what happened was an extreme loss of water owing to leakages. That was not due to the decay of the tubes, it was caused by the state of the joints, and the evil is in process of being remedied. The defect was one of workmanship, not of management.


My Lords, I feel it my duty to say a few words on this important matter, but first of all I must I congratulate the First Lord on the very able and clear statement which he has made. He said that he almost wished that his two predecessors in office had more gradually introduced these tubulous boilers into the Navy. I do not know whether I ought to be included in that not very serious charge. The Board for which I was responsible, no doubt, took the first step in the matter, and in that perhaps I have a larger responsibility than the noble Viscount opposite, who followed me at the Admiralty. We acted on the Report of a Committee, presided over by that distinguished Admiral Sir Alexander killer, which recommended that these boilers should be introduced for experimental purposes, and we placed them in two of the largest cruisers then building, the "Powerful" and the "Terrible."' The noble Viscount who followed me at the Admiralty did a great deal more. If I am not mistaken there are at present about sixty-one ships of the Navy with tubulous boilers. As to the Committee, we have had from them an interim report, but many think that it is rather vague on certain points. They gave a general support to water-tube boilers, and recommended that the Belleville boilers should be left in the vessels in which they had already been fitted, and in vessels that were so nearly finished that the replacement of them by another system of boilers would be extremely difficult, it is certainly rather startling to find that, although they condemn Belleville boilers in one sentence, they do not wish to alter them in ships in which they have already been placed. I rather deprecate raising a discussion on this extremely important matter at present; it would have been much more satisfactory to have waited until this report had been considered by the Admiralty and presented to Parliament, which I presume will be soon. I am glad to find from what the noble Earl has said that the tubulous boilers are still considered to be right ones for the Navy, as we were responsible for their introduction. We know too, that they have been adopted in nearly every other Navy in the world. Whether the adoption of the Belleville boiler is justified remains more doubtful. As to that, the noble Earl seemed to be a little uncertain, and said that in certain respects, he did not agree with the Committee. The noble Earl used a somewhat curious expression; he paused, and then said he thought they were not to be adopted in the future, at all events at the present moment. I do not know exactly what the noble Earl meant by that.


There may be improvements in the Belleville, or any other type of boiler, in the future which I cannot foresee.


I heard what the noble Earl said with some satisfaction, because I am somewhat inclined to support the Belleville boiler. I understood that the officers of the "Powerful" did not condemn the Belleville boilers, but said that any defects that had occurred during her commission were defects in the engines.


There has been no trouble with the "Powerful" since I have been First Lord.


When water-tube boilers were introduced, it was done on what we considered very strong arguments in their favour. The noble Earl rather disposed of the argument as to the rapidity of raising steam, but he only quoted the case of the "Minerva." I should rather like to know whether general experience supports the theory that with cylindrical boilers you can raise steam as rapidly as you can with tubulous boilers. If so, I am rather surprised, for the greater rapidity in raising steam was one of the strongest arguments in favour of the tubulous boilers. I was glad to hear what was said as to the reduction to a minimum of the danger to boilers from shot and shell, and also as to the possibility of rapidly replacing a damaged boiler. There are other matters to which we attached importance. There is the question of weight, which seems to be of enormous importance. I should have thought that this question of space and weight was also of great importance to the merchant service. There can be no question but that the lesser weight of tubulous boilers is of very great value to a man-of-war, and enables much heavier gun fire to be given to the ship.

The accidents on ships with tubulous boilers, as is shown by an interesting report, are not greater than those which unfortunately must always occur with cylindrical boilers. There are, no doubt, certain drawbacks, such as the large coal consumption, and the expense of repair; but, in my opinion, judging by the arguments I heard while at the Admiralty, the advantages of the tubulous boilers greatly outweigh the disadvantages. It must be remembered, too, that there is a great difference in the skill displayed by the men who manage the stokehold, and these men are generally the least trained of any in the service. It depends a great deal too, on the artificers, a class not too numerous but very efficient in the Navy. I understand that in the French Navy they are now training a special and skilful class of stokers. If we are to have these water-tube boilers the question of how they are to be handled by the men becomes of very great importance indeed, and I should be rather glad to hear that the Admiralty are considering whether any particular training should be given to the stokers, or even whether a different class of men should be raised. The noble Earl said that the system of mixed boilers has been tried experimentally in other navies, and, as far as I could gather, he defended it a good deal on the ground that the use of one class of boiler or the other depends on the wisdom and discretion of the commanding officer. I think there may be some danger that when this mixed system is in vogue they will he using the cylindrical boiler in time of peace, and not practising sufficiently with the tubulous boiler, and that when the time of war comes they will not have obtained the practice and experience which are necessary. That is one difficulty which I think ought to be considered in the proposal that has lately been made by the Admiralty. I repeat that I regret this debate arose before the final Report of the Boiler Committee has been laid on the Table of the House, and though, probably, the subject is rather a dry one to any one who has not been actually at the Admiralty, the question of the boilers in His Majesty's Fleet is one of the greatest possible importance. If they are not efficient, not only in the manufacture, but also in regard to the men who are put in charge of them, serious disasters may come in the future, and I am sure we all wish to see this part of the splendid service of the Navy carried out with the utmost success and efficiency.


I would echo what fell from my noble friend opposite with regard to the extreme lucidity of the speech of my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should like to add that, from the first day he accepted office, I have been extremely struck by the manner in which he is able to place the most complicated naval question before this House. That is a great advantage, because it, enables our debates to be conducted on much more satisfactory lines, while, at the same time, it informs the public in a most authoritative manner of matters of vital importance to the interest of the country. I do not propose to occupy your Lordships' time many minutes with reference to any connection which I myself have had with this question or with a defence of the action which I thought it necessary to take. My noble friend, in one phrase at the end of his speech, suggested, but not without adding a compliment to his criticism, that possibly we went too fast at the beginning when tubulous boilers were first introduced. I will not entirely deny, judging ex post facto, that it might have been better if we had confined tubulous boilers to fewer ships, but I I doubt whether that condemnation of the boilers which has existed in some quarters would at all have occurred, and whether our action would not have been the subject of praise rather than of censure, but for those circumstances to which my noble friend alluded, and which damaged most seriously, if I may use the word, the prestige, of the tubulous boilers on their first introduction. Those were the drawbacks to which he alluded, of inferior manufacture, and the insufficient training of those who were put in charge of those engines.

With reference to the imperfect manufacture, of course, that is a matter entirely beyond the control of the Admiralty, though, so far as could be discovered by inspection, the work came up to the standard which was imposed. But I presume it is possible, in, the new developments which have taken place, to detect slight but most important imperfections, when the inspectors and every one connected with the management of these boilers have so much larger experience of them. With reference to the sending of men to sea in charge of these boilers who had not sufficient experience, it is possible that the extraordinary complication was not sufficiently realised. It was important, looking to the great advantages which the tubulous boilers presented, that they should be introduced, and it was difficult to manage the transition from the trained men whom I trust we shall have in the future to the necessarily untrained men we had in the past. My noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has explained how cases like those of the "Hermes," the "Europa," and many others which especially affected the public mind with reference to water-tube boilers were simply due to the want of management on the part of the engineers. The difficulty lay, not only with the stokers, but with the whole of the engineers of the Navy, who had to unlearn something they had learned before, and to learn afresh something they had not learned before.

But what is really important now is to look to the present situation, and I must say that I think there was a great deal of force in the comment which fell from my noble friend opposite that we are at some disadvantage in debating this subject without having the Report of the Boiler Committee before us. I would almost go so far as to say that my noble friend himself is at a disadvantage in not having the Report before him, and I should wish to say that I think he has been at a disadvantage in coming to a conclusion as to the course to be adopted in regard to the cruisers which are now being built without having the authoritative view of the Boiler Committee, upon which, practically, he rests the policy he is pursuing with regard to the boilering of the new ships. I think my noble friend is resting his case mainly on the Boiler Committee—in fact, he said so more than once. But we do not know what evidence the Boiler Committee had, nor do we know—at least, I do not know—what witnesses they have called with reference, for instance, to this combination of the tubulous boiler and the cylindrical boiler in the same ship. Have the Boiler Committee examined naval engineers and asked whether such a system could be managed conveniently? Has evidence been heard from naval officers as to the new departure? or has my noble friend been compelled to go to what I may call the recommendation of the Committee without the evidence which they have collected on this very important subject? My noble friend, as I have said, rests on the Boiler Committee. But then the Belleville boiler is condemned by the Boiler Committee, and the Dürr and Niclausse boilers are recommended for adoption.

While we have the Report of the evidence against the Belleville boiler, I myself have not seen any evidence or any arguments yet produced in favour of the Dürr and Niclausse boilers. I do not know whether my noble friend has had any evidence on that subject, but I can scarcely think he has. I do not know whether he has had access to the officers, at all events, who may have given evidence in favour of this combination. With reference to the condemnation of the Belleville boilers, my noble friend produced, if I may say so, evidence on the other side, though he did not mention the actual fact, from the commanders of all our squadrons. He stated very emphatically that he attempted to extract condemnation of the water-tube boilers, and that he had not been able to extract such condemnation. They were all in favour of what boilers? Of the Belleville boilers which have been condemned by the Boiler Committee, and which condemnation, subject to some modifications my noble friend accepts, and accepts to this degree, that he does not give a place to the Belleville boiler in the combination with the cylindrical boilers as he has given it to the others. That is the situation as far as the Belleville boiler is concerned. As regards the cylindrical boiler generally, my noble friend was, as I think he always is, most candid in summing up the pros and cons, but he gave a great deal of authority. He stated the authority of Sir William White and of others, and he pointed out how, beyond the Boiler Committee, there was a great deal of evidence to be adduced in favour of the tabulons boiler.

I feel quite certain, both with my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty and my noble friend opposite, that the case of the tabulons boilers apart from the question of the particular boiler in use, is absolutely concluded, and that no Admiralty would go back again entirely from tabulons boilers. My noble friend has gone back from tubulous boilers so far as to assent to a combination, but I refrain from arguing in favour of the water-tube boiler, because I consider the case is concluded in its favour. My feeling about the present situation is really this, that it is impossible on the data before us, to found any just criticism upon the course which His Majesty's Government, has adopted. I do not think we know enough with reference to this combination between water-tube boilers and cylindrical boilers, to be able to form an adequate opinion. I do not know how soon my noble friend will be able to put evidence before us. I sympathise in the wish that no long lime may elapse before we have that evidence. My noble friend has had to take his decision on the authority of the Committee, without submitting to public criticism, the evidence upon which that conclusion is founded. I gather that the Boiler Committee have distinctly recommended the combination.




I should also like to know the facts and experience as to the double training in management and stoking, and whether that knowledge is sufficiently interchangeable to make this combination wise. We know that the combination system is in use in the German Navy, and so far that is primâ facie evidence in its favour. I am most anxious not to prejudge the question, but so far my noble friend has only the authority of the Committee for the serious departure he is taking.


With the indulgence of your Lordships I will deal briefly with the more important points raised in the discussion. When this Question was put down there was no prospect, that I knew of, of the final Report of the Committee being so shortly received, and I do not know now how soon it will be possible for the Admiralty thoroughly to study it, and form its final conclusions so as to present the fullest possible information to Parliament. I am glad, however, of the opportunity of discussing the subject before the presentation of the Final Report. The question of training stokers has not been neglected. A large number are becoming trained with the Belleville in the ships in commission, and apart from that there is a tender now attached to each depôt for the training of stokers in water-tube boilers. The experience of the use of the combination system in the German Navy—the system is reported on highly by the Germans—and in the American Navy is, that there is economy of coal effected, and I have not even heard it suggested that there is any difficulty in managing the two types in one ship. The Admiralty will certainly take care that the stokers of these ships are properly trained in the use of both water-tube and cylindrical boilers. I have been in constant communication with the Boiler Committee, but it was impossible to wait for their Final Report, because that would have involved delay in finishing the cruisers. We have acted on the Committee's advice, and we have been cognisant of the evidence and experience which led the Committee to the conclusion they arrived at. As soon as possible the Final Report, and the evidence will be presented to Parliament.


Is the only advantage derived from the combination system of boilers that of economy of coal consumption?


I would not say that was the only advantage, but it is by far the greatest.


Is it not to I avoid the wear and tear of the water-tube boilers that for ordinary purposes the cylindrical boilers are preferred?


I would not go so far as to say that that is so. I hope that in future the wear and tear will be so reduced that I should not present that as one of the reasons.