§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
, who had given notice "to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty if steps have been taken to ascertain the general opinion held in the American Navy as to the success or otherwise of the system now in use in that service for the training of young naval officers, which system is very similar to that set forth in the Memorandum presented by the First Lord to both Houses of Parliament in December last; and, if such report exists, whether he would lay it on the Table," said: My Lords, I put the Question standing in my name on the Paper, with the object of drawing attention to the new naval training scheme published in the Memorandum of December last. I did not do so without giving the noble Lord private notice of my intention, and as he very kindly assured me that nothing would give him greater pleasure than a debate on the subject, and that he welcomed criticism, I was encouraged to persevere in what I felt to be a very difficult task. To criticise adversely a scheme which has been brought out under the auspices of the noble Lord, which has had such an enthusiastic welcome from the public Press headed by The Times, and which has at least the tacit approval of the country, not to speak of the support of a majority in another place, is to speak under great disadvantages, more 156 especially as it is plain that nothing will now prevent the Admiralty from going on with the scheme. Still, as it is con fessedly a tentative one, lam not without hope that this discussion may lead to some modification.
Having the honour of being President of the Institution of Naval Architects, I feel that I should announce that I am speaking to-day simply in my own private capacity and not as a member of that institution. I shall speak as one who has the welfare of the service in which he spent the best years of his life at heart, and who gives his views because he knows that they are also the views of the great majority of the executive officers on the Active List of position and experience, whose lips are closed by their loyalty to their chiefs, and who are thus debarred from making their views known. The new training scheme is to come into operation at midsummer, and I wish to point out that the Memorandum does not allege any real necessity for making such a momentous alteration in naval training. One would have thought that we would have been told what are the shortcomings in the old mode of training, but from beginning to end not one word is to be found hinting at any fault with existing methods. It lays stress, indeed, upon more naval engineering knowledge being necessary for the future executive officers, but there is not even an attempt to prove that this cannot be gained under the present system. Yet the careers of the future young officers of the service are flung into the melting pot with a spirit of cheerful optimism which is truly wonderful. The only approach to a reason is to be found in the following paragraph—The strength which its unity gives to the service can hardly be over-estimated, yet in respect of this very matter a strangely anomalous condition of affairs exists. The executive, the engineer, and the marine officers are all necessary for the efficiency of the Fleet; they all have to serve side by side throughout their career; their unity of sentiment is essential to the welfare of the Navy; yet they all enter the service under different regulations, and they have nothing in common in their early training. The result is that the executive officer, unless he is a gunnery or a torpedo specialist, has been taught but a limited amount of engineering, although the ship on which he serves is one huge box of engines; that the engineer officer has never had any training in executive duties; that from lack of early sea training the Marine officer is 157 compelled, sorely against his will, to remain comparatively idle on board ship when every one else is full of work; and that the spirit of unity has not yet been carried to its full development.I submit that this sentence lays itself largely open to criticism. I do not quite see where the unity of the service comes in. Did it ever possess this quality, and, if so, when did it disappear? I will only say that during my service at sea I never heard about "unity," and, what is more, I do not think we would have heard anything about it now if it had not been for the desire to weld the executive officers, the engineers, and the marine officers into "one harmonious whole." No, my Lords, unity was never heard of in those days. "Duty" was, and is still, the watchword of the Navy. Devotion to duty produced efficiency: what unity is expected to do I, for one, do not know. This is the only sentence in the Memorandum which can be called any approach to a reason for the new training scheme. What has led to the issue of this Memorandum? The Admiralty have for years been straining every nerve to increase the personnel in proportion to the enormous increase of late years in matériel, and it says volumes for the energy and ability of their Lordships that they have been so far successful. They have been yearly adding to our Naval forces, which fifteen years ago only amounted to 60,000 men, until they now amount to, I think, 127,000, and this year I understand provision is being made in the Estimates for 4,500 more. I regret to say that it has been no secret that among a section of the engineers of the Navy there has been discontent for some time past. As the great increase of officers and men of all ranks took place, the Admiralty's difficulty in getting the number of engineers required became the opportunity of the malcontents. I believe they then began an agitation, if it had not been started before, which was carried on outside their own body, and they succeeded in enlisting the sympathies of several very distinguished members of some of the great engineering institutions, and other prominent men. The result was that on July 16th, 1901, a deputation of these gentlemen waited on the First Lord of the Admiralty to lay before him the alleged grievances of the naval engineers. According to the Press reports of the interview the noble Earl did not appear to be much impressed by what he heard, 158 and, as far as I am aware, nothing further was made public on the question until the issue, in December, 1902, of the Memorandum dealing with the entry, training, and employment of officers and men of the Royal Navy and of the Royal Marines. Can it be that the deputation of 1901 and the Memorandum of 1902 stand to each other in the relative positions of cause and effect?
Why have I made this statement to your Lordships? It is not because the engineers have got nearly all they asked for, and probably more than they expected, but because this new training scheme appears to be drawn up to some extent in their interests, and in such a manner as to affect the future combatant officers. Your Lordships will also observe that while the engineers laid their grievances, through their friends, before the First Lord of the Admiralty, the opinion of the executive officers has not, as far as I am aware, been ascertained. It is possible that some officers have been consulted, but it is certain that many most distinguished officers—the very heads of the profession—upon whose opinion the country sets a high value, have never been consulted, and although the noble Lord has every right, by virtue of his high office, to act without consulting anyone, yet I do submit that upon an occasion of such transcendent importance, when a stop is being taken which will affect for good or evil the future well-being of the Navy—a step the future success of which is most problematical—the noble Lord might well have taken into his counsels those eminent naval officers whose whole lives have been spent in the service, whoso devotion to it is well known, and whose opinions could not fail to have the very greatest weight.
I must now refer to the Memorandum, to which it is difficult to do justice within a small compass. Let me first allude to those parts of it on which all are agreed. First, the return to the early age of twelve to thirteen for entry as a cadet. I think this alteration is absolutely necessary. There is so much to learn that it is felt that the sooner the boys begin the better. The other parts which are generally approved are those dealing with the training of warrant officers, petty officers and men, and also that dealing with promotion to lieutenants from warrant rank. I also approve of 159 the idea of utilising the services of marine officers on board ship to a larger extent than has been the custom hitherto. These are the only portions of the Memorandum, I am sorry to say, which appear to me to merit unqualified approval. The introduction to the Memorandum gives a brief sketch of the changes which have taken place in the Navy since early times, emphasising the necessity for the executive officers of the present day possessing a more extensive knowledge of naval engines, machinery, and engineering than has hitherto been the case, as to the propriety of which there cannot be two opinions. I will now read the first paragraph under the head of "New Scheme—It has been decided that henceforth—1. All Officers for the Executive and Engineer branches of the Navy and for the Royal Marines shall enter the service as Naval Cadets under exactly the same conditions between the ages of twelve and thirteen.8. That these Cadets shall all be trained on exactly the same system until they shall have passed for the rank of Sub-Lieutenant between the ages of nineteen and twenty.3. That at about the age of twenty these Sub-Lieutenants shall be distributed between the three branches of the service which are essential to the fighting efficiency of the Fleet—the Executive, the Engineer, and the Marine,The result aimed at is, to a certain point community of knowledge and lifelong community of sentiment. The only machinery which can produce this result is early companionship and community of instruction. These opportunities will be secured by a policy of—One System of Supply.One System of Entry.One System of Training.These sentences place the scheme in a very attractive light, and I read them in order that you may be reminded of the scope of the proposals. Without going into details, I will just point out that for the first four years the cadets are to be trained at the naval college, and that they then go to sea to keep watch on deck, all three branches, for the next three years. At the end of these seven years, when they have passed out of the college at Portsmouth as sub-lieutenants, their careers for the first time begin to diverge, and they will be posted to the Executive, the Engineers, or to the Royal Marines, and, as far as possible, will choose their own branch, subject to the provision that all branches are satisfactorily filled. It is from studying this 160 part of the Memorandum, dealing with the future training of the three different branches of young officers, that one observes how tentative the whole scheme is. And when we turn to the conclusion we for the first time notice its full significance—The cardinal feature of the scheme is the-homogeneous training of Executive, Engineer, and Marine Officers. The policy of the Board is to create a body of young officers who at the moment of mobilisation for war will be equally available for all the general duties of the Fleet and to consolidate into one harmonious whole the fighting officers of the Navy.So we now see that this system of possible interchangeability of officers from one to the other is the policy at which this Memorandum aims.
My Lords, the scheme stands condemned, in my mind, because it is directly contrary to the verdict of modern experience, which desiderates specialists in every branch of scientific work. Yet it is proposed that, after specialising our young officers, we are to expect them to be able to take up any one of three different branches of naval duties, at the shortest notice, and to perform them equally well. Has any one of our great steamship companies ever dreamed of making their captains and chief engineers, their deck officers and engineers interchangeable? I lately put that question to the chairman of one great Transatlantic company, and he replied very shortly to the effect that the idea was fundamentally absurd. And yet that is the idea underlying the naval training scheme. With regard to the specialisation of young officers, the Memorandum proposes to allow them to choose their particular branch of the service so long as they are all satisfactorily filled. But will not this be what will take place? When they have passed for sub-lieutenants, will not the Admiralty take those who have passed the best examinations into the Executive line? I know that it has been answered that so many names are down for nominations that the Admiralty are not prepared to take any who are not willing to join any branch to which they are posted. But if those who pass best are chosen for the Executive branch, which will be doubtless the most popular, will it tend to give able engineers and Marines? Of course, I am 161 well aware that many will wish to join those branches from the first, but I can also understand young officers going into them against their will, and, if so, they would then be anxious to leave the service. I know that it is intended to allow young officers to choose their line if possible, but suppose all the branches are not satisfactorily filled? I cannot help thinking that if this part of the scheme is persevered in the Admiralty are laying up a very unpleasant future for themselves and their successors.
Now that I have shown what the Memorandum means, I ask—Did I exaggerate when I said a few minutes ago that the subject is one of the most transcendent importance? Am I using inappropriate language when I call it a most unfortunate proposal? My Lords, I believe the general opinion in the service about the new training scheme coincides with my own. I think, in the first place, that it is unnecessary in the interests of the service. In the second place, I think that it will not be workable; and, thirdly, if it does prove to be workable, I think that the result will be less efficient officers of all three branches than we have at present. Up till the present time we have had a sound system of training in the Navy which has produced our present admirable officers, and which only wants a little development from time to time as may be found necessary. For instance, now that the First Lord of the Admiralty has decreed the extinction of masts, yards, and sails in the service, the cadets' seamanship studies have approached the vanishing point, and they will have a little spare time to devote to attaining a greater knowledge of engineering, engines, and machinery, which is very necessary, and nothing more is required, in the interests? of the service. What is most strongly objected to is the interchangeability of officers, the possibility of which pervades the Memorandum. It is felt strongly that the attempt to educate officers to such a pitch that they will be expected to be equally proficient in duties on deck and in the engine room cannot succeed among the average cadets, and that to enforce it will not make for efficiency.
In a speech which the noble Lord made on March 17, at a banquet given by the Institute of Civil Engineers, he laid it down that we can no longer 162 afford to divide our officers into what he called "watertight compartments." I confess I think the noble Lord's metaphor, on this occasion, was not a happy one. Watertight compartments are a source of strength and safety to a ship, and the abolition of them means at least a higher rate of insurance, if not disaster. I believe that, in the same way, interchangeability of officers—that is, the abolition of the watertight compartments which the noble Lord so desires—is an unnecessary and dangerous innovation, which might lead to want of efficiency. But there is another sort of watertight compartment which I do not think the noble Lord has taken into sufficient account. I allude to the head of the ordinary naval cadet. If all the future young officers in the Navy had the ability of the noble Earl, there would be no difficulty in carrying out the interchangeable scheme, but we must be guided by the average ability of the cadets, and the general conclusion is that average ability is not sufficient to make the scheme a workable one. You are going to enter a large number of lads into the Naval College between the ages of twelve and thirteen; you are then going to subject them to a thorough system of education; but, in my humble belief, you are expecting too much. The success or otherwise of the new proposals depends, not upon what the cleverest boys can do, but upon what the average boys are able to learn. With regard to what I have just said, let me quote from a letter written to me lately by a most distinguished officer, now retired, who has had much to do with naval education. He writes—As regards making the future lieutenant a sailor, soldier, and engineer all in one, no one who has learnt the holding capacity of a midshipman's head regards the thing as possible. I have no theories on such a subject. I know it is impossible. To know is one thing, to prove is another. The proof must be obtained by experience. Then it will be too late.With regard to the Marines I think it unfortunate that they are included in this scheme. There are no finer troops under the Crown. They number 20,000 of the finest soldiers in the world. They are proud of their officers, and their officers of them. We do not hear that officers in the Army are ordered to learn 163 seamanship, or astronomy, or geology. It is considered that if they study their profession thoroughly they have a life's work before them. Why should Marine officers have different treatment? Simply because the Admiralty cannot leave well alone.
There is an excellent proposal in the Memorandum, however, that the services of the present Marine officers on board ship should be utilised to a greater extent than they are at present. But why should this not be the case with future Marine officers as well? They all go through a gunnery training and could be placed in charge of divisions of guns and be otherwise made useful on board. Just thirty-nine years ago I was first-lieutenant of a corvette which had no gunnery lieutenant, but there was a smart young lieutenant of Marine artillery on board. I asked the captain to assign to him the gunnery lieutenant's duties, which he performed all the time the ship was in commission with much pleasure to himself and to the entire satisfaction of the captain. Why it has not continued to be the custom since I do not know. The idea of utilising the services of the Marine officers on board ship meets with every one's approval, but to put a soldier to do a sailor's duty on deck does not find any favour. Formerly, in jest, Marines used to be called the amphibious corps, but now they will be said to be neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. I hope this part of the scheme may yet be reconsidered, and the future Marine will then be able to study his own duties.
With regard to the future of the engineers' branch, it appears evident that what is contemplated is the gradual abolition of the engineers in the Navy as they are at present, and as they have been ever since there were engineers at all. I am afraid that the result of the agitation which has existed among a section of their number has been this—that they have engineered themselves out of the service. If that is so I greatly regret it. They have always been considered the finest specimens of their class in the world, but they will now vanish and their place will be taken by a new class, accepted in the first place by nomination, and educated from twelve up to nineteen with the executive branch 164 and the Marines. Whatever social class they may come from, I am afraid they will be the inferiors of the present officers in practical knowledge of their profession. They will, I understand, have more of a theoretical and less of a practical training. The result will be that the engine-room artificers and mechanicians (who will be drawn from the same class as our present engineers come from) will be better practical workmen than their superior officers, which will be apt to produce friction. I admit that something may have been necessary to meet the engineers' claims; possibly the proposal to make them into a Royal corps, with their own designations. But it is, I think, a matter for regret that the designations or titles which were up till now indicative of the executive officers of a ship should now be used for a purpose for which they were not originally intended. Every one knew what the ranks of admiral, captain, commander, and lieutenant meant. The captain was the captain of the ship, the lieutenant was his deputy, and so on; now these titles are put to other uses. Time was when titles were given to indicate the duties of the holders, but now they appear to be given to conceal them. And now this concession is made to the engineers. I can only say that if I were an officer in either of those two fine professions, the medical or the engineers, I should be very unwilling to adopt a designation which might possibly confuse me with another branch of the service to which I did not belong.
My Lords, I am positively assured that a large majority of the engineers do not want this change in their titles. But what I do most particularly take exception to is what I must call the flagrant misuse of the rank and title of Rear-Admiral as now bestowed on chief inspectors of machinery. I have as much respect for those distinguished officers as anyone. I would like to see them receive as high relative rank as they may be found entitled to, and as much consideration as possible. But just conceive, my Lords, the title of Admiral—that glorious appellation which is inseparably connected in the mind of the country with the command of our squadrons and fleets, that title which is so bound up with all the glorious memories of the past, which our departed naval 165 heroes were proud to bear, and on which they bestowed such lustre—just conceive that title being bestowed upon the senior officers of any other class, no matter how meritorious, how distinguished! There is a good deal of allusion to sentiment and harmony in the noble Lord's Memorandum, but I hardly think a greater outrage on the traditions of the service could be devised than this.
I now leave this most painful and humiliating subject. Let me just put shortly what must always be the relative positions on board a man-of-war of the executive officers and the engineers, when on duty. The man on the bridge is the man who fights the ship; he controls the movements of the ship, and therefore of the man in charge of the engines. All the circumlocution in the world cannot alter that fact, and I am sure that no one knows it better than the engineers themselves. Yet I cannot help thinking that their friends may have pressed this interchangeable scheme on the Admiralty in the hope that it will improve their position by giving them sometimes the duty on the bridge. I feel quite certain that it will not work. If the terms insisted on by the friends of the engineers have brought about the momentous change contained in the Memorandum, then upon them all will fall the most tremendous responsibility that ever rested on any one, for it will not succeed, and if it does not succeed it will be the ruin of the service, unless it is modified. My argument is that it is practically impossible to have officers equally efficient on deck and in the engine-room. It is I too much for the average lad to under-take. Whatever may be the future status of the engineer officer the combatant officer's position must be the highest, and the engineers will not be able to disguise that fact by annexing the combatant officers' titles.
I now ask leave to summarise very briefly the suggestions which I take the liberty of making to the noble Lord. The first is, that specialisation should take place when the cadets leave the Naval College after their four years course there, that the future deck officers should then go to sea for three years, the engineers to Keyham College, and the marine officers to the Naval College at Greenwich, as at present, for 166 the studies for which their previous training will have qualified them. It is believed that the three branches of young officers will find they will then have a full curriculum of study, amply sufficient to occupy them until they are ready to pass their next examination; and it is certain that if the young engineers do not begin the study of their own profession till they are nineteen they will never become engineers at all. Secondly, it is hoped that interchangeability will not be resorted to after they leave the Naval College. Thirdly, I think that it would be a distinct improvement to the scheme from the noble Lord's own point of view if the Marine officers were left out of it, after their training in the Naval College. I submit that the advice which, according to the Memorandum, Marine officers are to be authorised to give with respect to landing parties and operations on shore would be more valuable if it came from officers who were able to turn their whole attention to military subjects.
I have now come to the end of my criticism of the new Admiralty training scheme, and I can sincerely say that the more I study it the more I regret its introduction. I think that it is the most unfortunate proposal that has ever been made with respect to the Navy. It is not, and cannot come to, good. It is a gratuitous change called for by no one and satisfying none. It is tearing up by the roots the traditions of the service for I know not what doubtful benefit. It is like swapping tried horses for untried ones in a stream of which you cannot see the other side; it is quitting a sound, tried system of naval education which has been justified by experience for one of which you can only say that you do not know how it will turn out. The Navy has had to face many dangers during its history. The greatest, I think, were the mutinies off the Nore and at Spithead, which threatened for a brief time its very existence, and it was through the courage and conduct of the gallant officers then commanding our fleets that they were so thoroughly quelled, that, shortly after, the Battle of Camperdown was fought and won by the same brave seamen who had so lately been misled into rising against their officers. My Lords, is it possible that a more formidable 167 danger now menaces it? Can it be that in the future the naval authorities may have to fight against trades unionism? It will be an unhappy day for Great Britain if ever the amalgamated societies attempt to dictate to the heads of the naval and military services of the King. In making these remarks I must be allowed to say that nothing can be more painful to me than to have to question the propriety of any measure of the noble Lord, feeling as I do the highest admiration for the manner in which the Board of Admiralty is doing the rest of its great work, and I trust that nothing has fallen from me to which the noble Lord can take exception, though I may have said much with which he does not agree.
I now come to the Question of which I have given notice. As I do not expect that the noble Lord can lay on the Table the Papers I ask for, I may state that it is commonly reported that in the year 1900 the Admiral on the North American and West Indian stations sent to the Admiralty more than one report obtained by officers of the squadron as to the general opinion in the United States Navy of the results of the new training system in that service. I have not personally had communication with any of the officers who were concerned in the inquiry, but it is currently reported that in a large majority of cases, if not in all, the replies were unsatisfactory. It is said that the captains had no confidence in the young engineer lieutenants when on the bridge, and that the chief engineers had equally little confidence in the lieutenants sent down from the deck to the engine-room; and the opinion was expressed that the system tended to make "Jacks of all trades and masters of none" rather than competent officers. I have even heard, but I know not with what truth, that the American inventor of the scheme was no longer enamoured of it himself. The American scheme is not precisely similar to that of the Memorandum of December last. For one thing, the Marines are not included in it, but the general tendency is the same, and the object of each is, in the words of the noble Lord's Memorandum, to—Create a body of young officers who at the moment of mobilisation for war will be equally available for all the general duties of the Fleet.168 The report of the Vice-Admiral in the West Indies was made three years ago, and I gave notice of this Question partly because it was possible that since, that date the noble Lord might have heard more favourable reports of the working of the similar system in America, in which case he would be glad to have this opportunity of making the fact known. But from information which I have received lately I have learned that even those American officers who favour the new United States scheme admit that its success is not yet assured. If this is the case, there is all the more reason for profound astonishment that such an unprecedented and revolutionary system of training should be introduced into our naval service, on the efficiency of which depends the very existence of this country. My Lords, I thank you for the patience with which you have listened to me and I beg to ask the Question.
§ EARL SPENCER
, who also had a notice on the Paper to call attention to the Memorandum and to move for Papers, said:—My Lords, I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I, who have another notice on the same subject, should follow at once instead of allowing the First Lord of the Admiralty to make an immediate reply to the noble and gallant Earl. I have not had the experience in the Navy which the noble Earl who drew attention to this subject has had, and though I have had the honour of being at the head of the Admiralty Board, a considerable interval has since elapsed. I am, therefore, at a great disadvantage in following the noble Earl. I am afraid I was not able to follow conclusively all the arguments he used, and I shall leave it to the First Lord of the Admiralty to answer them. Though I cannot go the length of calling these changes a revolution, I do agree that they are of transcendent importance, and must have a great influence for good or evil on the Navy. I do not take the same view as the noble and gallant Earl. I think there is reason to change a great deal and to introduce a large number of reforms such as those which are included in the able Memorandum which came out on Christmas Day. Our Navy has never been under a rule that no 169 change should be made in its administration. The progress of science has made enormous changes in many departments of life, and especially in the Navy, yet the Navy to-day remains as efficient as it was 100 years ago. The reason is that Administrations and Boards of Admiralty one after another have not stood still but have kept up with the changes that are going on. I have seen it suggested that possibly the present changes have been brought about owing to trade unionism. But although trade unionism, in my experience, tried to interfere with the dockyard workmen, I never knew any interference of trade unionism with the complements of what were then Her Majesty's ships. I should hardly think that there has been any change in that respect. I know, however, that we are changing very much in this country in regard to the force of public opinion, and the feeling of independence which exists among every class; if there is a grievance it is at once taken up and agitated in the papers, considerable pressure may be brought to bear on the Admiralty, difficulties may ensue, and, what is far worse, real discontent may arise among the men and complements. I think the First Lord and his Board have dealt very comprehensively with many of these matters in a way which I think must benefit all those concerned.
I have been referring more especially to the engineers. As to the position in which the Marine officers are placed, that is perhaps a very delicate matter, and one on which very strong feeling has existed in the Navy. I always thought there was considerable injustice with regard to the place of that noble force the Marines. For instance, if there was a Court-martial on one of their body, by the statute which regulates these matters no Marine officer was allowed to sit on that Court-martial. That appeared to me to be very unjust and to require changing. I am not for a moment saying anything against the imperative necessity that the executive officers on board should have supreme command. But one of the reasons why this scheme seems to me to be very far-reaching and wise is because, by putting the officers of all the three branches of 170 the Navy on exactly the same status, with the same education, such changes as that to which I have just referred must almost inevitably follow. In the old days there were military admirals; we have got seamen admirals, and now we require also engineer admirals.
The noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty states in his Memorandum that the modern battleship or cruiser is a huge box of engines. That is very true, and when I was at the Admiralty and visited the ships of the Fleet, I remember being struck by the number of engines there were on a man-of-war. As an example I would take one of the latest type of battleships, the King Edward VII The machinery carried by that ship may be grouped under the following heads—1. Propelling, and other steam machinery; 2. Hydraulic machinery; 3. Electric machinery. Under the first head falls all the machinery used for the propulsion of the ship, steam pumping engines for the hydraulic service for the guns and boat-hoisting gear, air compressing machinery for the torpedo service, and the steam engines driving the dynamos and the steam boats. For the propulsion of the ship, besides the main engines, other separate auxiliary engines are necessary for various services, such as circulating engines, air pumps, feed engines, fire and bilge pumps, turning engine, ventilating fans for stokeholds, distilling machinery, injectors, hot well pumps, etc.; so that the complete installation in the machinery spaces of the ship totals up to forty-two separate steam engines. Adding to these the steam engines required for steering gear, capstans, ice-making machinery, those required for the gun and torpedo services, and those carried in the boats we obtain a grand total of sixty separate engines driven by steam. I now come to the second head—hydraulic machinery. Hydraulic machinery is used for working the 12-inch and 9.2-inch guns, and for boat-hoisting machinery. In connection with the 12-inch and 9.2-inch guns, separate machines are provided for turning the barbettes, elevating and depressing the guns, taking the recoil of the guns, for rammers and buffers, and for the complete working of the shell and cordite from the bays of the shell rooms and magazines up to the guns. For 171 opening and closing the breech, and for washing out the guns after firing, other separate hydraulic machines are fitted, and the total number of such machines for the 12-inch is sixty, and for the 9.2-inch guns twenty-eight. The boat-hoisting derrick is worked by two large hydraulic machines. The total number of separate machines worked by hydraulic power in the ship is, therefore, ninety. Under the head of electric machinery is included the dynamos and all motors provided for working the ammunition to 6-inch and 12-pounder guns, for the ventilation of the ship and engine-rooms, for driving the workshop machinery, the after capstan, and for the working of coaling whips. The number of electric machines required for these purposes totals fifty-five.
Under these three heads there are thus 205 separate engines in a ship of the "King Edward VII." class. Besides these engines there is a mass of mechanism contained in the ship, some of which is of a highly complex nature, and generally it may be said that the whole of the fittings of a modern battleship require mechanical knowledge for their proper understanding and use. The modern battleship or cruiser is an elaborate museum of intricate mechanical inventions. It would be quite impossible for any officer of 100 years ago, or of the period when steam first came in, to control such a ship. And the whole fighting power of the ships really depends on the effective management of the engine-rooms and their complements. Masts and sails have now disappeared from the Navy, and that is another reason why at this moment a great change should have taken place. There are two aspects of this question, There is the question of the entry and of the status of officers, and there are the educational changes. It is needless for me to say that if you enter boys for the Navy at the early age of twelve or thirteen it is impossible to enter them by open competition. I very heartily approve of the change as to age, because I believe the experience of all the great officers of the past who were sent into the Navy at this early age, was that to come under naval influences and to be connected with naval objects from the 172 very beginning was a very important incident in their education, and one which tended to make excellent officers. I am quite aware that when the noble Lord the predecessor of the noble Earl, Viscount Goschen, who I am sorry is not in his place to-night, was at the Admiralty he raised the age of boys going into the "Britannia." He did that with the hope, I think, that boys would come direct from the public schools. That, unfortunately, has not been the case, and therefore the great object which Viscount Goschen had in view has not been realised. What wi11 happen under the new system? As I understand it, the boys will enter under the same terms as they entered before, though that is not very clear. Perhaps the noble Earl will explain that when he comes to reply. I am also not very clear on this; but as I understand it all the younger boys will go to Osborne, and the older boys will go to Dartmouth, and, after two years, or two years and a half, at Osborne, those boys will go on to the "Britannia," and continue to the same age as those who are now going to Dartmouth.
We come now to the question of education. It has been said that to have boys at this naval college at so young an age will have a bad effect on their general education, and that their education will be specialised too early. I cannot see that that necessarily follows from the arrangements proposed by the Board of Admiralty. It entirely depends on those who have the regulation of the education; and I do not myself see any difficulty in giving special facilities for the acquisition of knowledge of all that is mixed up with their profession without in any way interfering with, or destroying the imparting of, a general education. I feel very strongly as to the next stage in the education of these boys. It is left rather vaguely in the Memorandum of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Are the boys, after four years at the schools, to be sent to take their places in a man-of-war at sea, or are they to go to a training-ship? I sincerely trust that these boys may get the immense benefit which always has been got from becoming part of the officers of a great battleship. They will learn more in that way than they are ever likely to learn, 173 crowded as they must be to a certain extent, in the training vessels. What you want to ensure is that they shall acquire the habits of command, self-reliance, fertility of resource, and fearlessness of all responsibility. Those qualities are developed very much more on board a man-of-war than they would be in any other ship.
I at once admit that there are considerable difficulties attendant upon the changes, and I desire very much to hear what the First Lord of the Admiralty will say with regard to them. We are told, for instance, that there will not be many candidates coming forward for cadetships in the naval schools in consequence of these changes. I suppose by this time the First Lord has had a great many applications for nomination to the naval schools, and I should like to know whether in practice this difficulty has been found to exist. Then there is the question of competition. I have expressed my regret that the competition which now exists for entrance to the Keyham College of Engineers has to be done away with, because I should be sorry to think that a class of men who had done very well may be entirely precluded from becoming engineers or officers in the Navy in the future. It has been broadly said that this is class legislation—that it prevents a great many men from being able to enter the Navy. I have always been in favour of competition. It not only relieves the heads of departments of what is a most onerous task—namely, that of patronage and selection—but it also does away with the possibility of anything like favouritism being shown to one class or to particular individuals. At the same time competition has its weaknesses and defects, and I am afraid that in many cases it comes to the power of the purse. We find this power of the purse protruding into many relations of life, and I wish it could be more absent with regard to those who are anxious, by open competition, to get into the Service. I am afraid it almost invariably happens that, unless one is assisted with the generosity and enlightenment of a rich friend, those who have a long purse succeed best. I hope the noble Earl and his colleagues at the Board of Admiralty will meet this objection as far as they 174 possibly can. I notice that there is some scheme of allowing certain young men, an account of the poverty of their parents, to come in at a lower rate than the others. I am very glad to see that, and shall hope to see it further extended.
I come to another point, which I think is a very difficult one indeed—I mean the question of interchangeability. Are the engineers in the future to be interchanged with executive officers exactly in the same way in which, special gunnery officers, torpedo officers, and navigation officers are now? Some people say that when a young man enters the engine-room he will always remain there, that he cannot be removed to the deck or the bridge. Other people say they cannot see why there should not be this interchangeability — why, after some years in the engine-room, an officer should not obtain the experience of the deck and the bridge. Of course, under the old system, this interchangeability between the officers of the three branches of the service would have been difficult, if not impossible; but in future all the young officers will receive the same education up to the age of nineteen;. they will all be fused into one body, animated by the same ideas; and under these circumstances the success of the proposed interchangeability will depend on whether it is a feasible working scheme. That is a point upon which I should like to hear the views of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I should like to know what the noble Earl thinks will take place when the young men arrive at the age at which they will have to choose their branch of the service. Those of us who are landsmen, who know nothing of life in the Navy from personal experience, may naturally think it very undesirable indeed to live in the engine-room instead! of on the deck or on the bridge. For myself, I think I should feel reluctant always to be on duty in the engine-room. It may therefore happen that young men trained together for the Navy under the same conditions, imbued with the same ideas, animated by the same ambition to serve their country, may be reluctant to serve in the engine-room rather than on the deck or on the bridge. However, I trust that this great scheme—for it is a 175 great scheme—will have the effect not only of satisfactorily removing many of the grievances which exist in the different branches of the Navy but will add considerably not only to the greater intelligence of officers but greatly increase the number of officers capable of discharging the many duties which fall upon officers of the Navy. At this moment the Navy is hundreds short of the number of officers it may eventually require in war. But when this scheme comes into force 1,500 men will be available for any service that may be required of officers. Nothing would give me more satisfaction than to learn that this scheme has not only maintained but increased the efficiency and power of the great Navy of which we are all so justly proud.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (The Earl of SELBORNE)
My Lords, the noble Earl who introduced this subject to-night is a staunch opponent of the scheme. The noble Earl who spoke last is a friend. I am equally obliged to them both for the courtesy and kindliness of manner in which they have framed their criticisms. I doubt if the noble Earl who introduced this subject thoroughly realises himself how far his admissions carry him. He agrees with the change back to the early age of entry, and he agrees that the executive officers ought to be taught much more engineering.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
And the noble Earl agrees that the Marines should be more used. Those are three fundamental principles of the scheme; and although the noble Earl may object to their application, yet it is going very far that he should be obliged to express his assent to three of its main principles, even as a preliminary to his condemnation of the scheme. He asked what I meant in my Memorandum by laying stress on the value of the unity of the Navy. It is a strange, and yet not a strange, question to ask; because when the noble Earl was serving in the Navy he took the unity of the Navy in the same matter of course as the air he breathed; and it perhaps never struck 176 him what was undoubtedly the fact, that one of the great glories of the Navy, its main source of strength, is that it is one indivisible service. It is differentiated absolutely from the Army in that respect. The soldier never speaks of his allegiance to the Army; he speaks of his regiment or his corps. With the sailor it is his service. That is a fact which carries more consequences than is generally understood or allowed. You cannot exaggerate the value of that unity, though it has not been carried as yet to the fullest development of which it is capable. I hope that one of the main results of this scheme in the years to come will be that that unity will be carried to a greater extent, to a wider radius, than obtained even in the days when the noble Earl went to sea. The noble Earl said that changes so momentous ought not to have been made by me without consulting the senior officers of the Navy. My Lords, these changes are not my changes. I am proud to have the main responsibility for them, but they are the changes of the Board of Admiralty—a Board, which, I believe, never has contained naval officers who more commanded the respect of the Service than those who now sit on it. The noble Earl asked if I could lay on the Table a report of the amalgamation scheme in the United States Navy. I could lay on the Table very strong reports as to the admirable effects of that scheme. Some of them, already at my disposal, I could give, but as to the others I should first have to ask permission before I could publish them. I do not think anything would be gained by doing so, because I could also lay on the Table strongly adverse opinions of that amalgamation. The United States Navy is divided on this subject, as naval officers are here over the scheme of the Admiralty, but I must say there is a steady change coming over the reports that we are receiving as to the way that amalgamation scheme is working. At first those reports were almost all unfavourable, and now everyone that I see is more favourable than the last. But it is no slight thing, no accidental consequence, that the United States, France, and Great Britain should be discussing simultaneously such changes as are being made in our Navy. It indicates the existence of real forces and facts 177 which have to be dealt with. It shows that it is no mere whim, no mere eccentricity of the administrators of this great service that this great question has been dealt with in our Navy.
I am on my defence to-night for the scheme of the Board of Admiralty; and I am glad the occasion has come. I ask you and the country what is the most important thing on board a battleship to-day? The machinery. I defy any one to give any other answer. Lord Spencer has enumerated the quantity of that machinery, giving some faint idea of the extent and complexity of the engines. I should like to supplement what the noble Earl said by reading a description written by a distinguished captain in the Navy. These are his words—Everything in the modern Fleet is done by machinery, be it steam, hydraulic, compressed air, electricity, to which will probably be added, in the near future, explosive oil and liquid air. Not only are the ships propelled solely by machinery, but they are steered by machinery. Their principal arms—gun and torpedo—are worked by machinery. They are lit by machinery; the water used by those on board for drinking, cooking, and washing is produced by machinery; messages which were formerly transmitted by voice-pipe, now go by telephone. The orders which the Admiral wishes to give to the Fleet could formerly only be made by flags in the day, and by lamps at night; they are now made by electricity, that is, wireless telegraphy and electric flashing lamps. Orders which were formerly written out by hand are now produced by the typewriter or by the printing machine. Formerly the Admiral visited another ship in his pulling barge; now he goes in a steam-boat which has been hoisted out by means of a steam-engine. The anchor, formerly hove up by hand, is now worked by an engine. The live bullocks which were formerly taken to sea are now replaced by frozen carcasses maintained in that condition by machinery. If a fire breaks out in the ship the steam pumps drown it. If the ship springs a leak, steam pumps keep down the water. The very air that those on board between decks breathe is provided by a fan driven by machinery.I say, therefore, my Lords, that it is an indisputable proposition that the most important things on board a ship are the machinery. Who are the most important officers on board ship? I do not say the most important officer. He is, of course, the captain, from whom all orders must be taken. The captain must always be the most important officer. The most important officers are those who are going to be the captains and the admirals of the future. Is it right that 178 the most important officers should have to depend upon others for a general knowledge of the most important things on board ship? Is that right or possible as a permanent system?
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
I beg the noble Earl's pardon for interrupting him. I stated very distinctly that I thought the captains and lieutenants of the future should be better instructed in machinery than at present, and that that could be done under the present system.
THE EARL OF SELBOKNE
What is the advantage of having two sets of officers do the same thing? The noble Earl admits the whole of my premise, but he denies my conclusion. My conclusion is that therefore these most important officers must obviously be trained to understand these things. The noble Earl agrees with that, but he wishes to keep up two classes of officers, both trained in the same thing.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
I am afraid I am not understood. I do not admit the whole of the noble Earl's premise.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Perhaps the noble Earl will let me develop my argument in my own way. I say that these officers must therefore be trained to understand these things. It is so now in respect of navigation, gunnery, and torpedoes. Every one of the arguments used by the noble Earl was used against instructing the executive officers in navigation, for there was a time when the executive officer was not trained in navigation. There have been occasions when His Majesty's ships could not leave port because the special navigating officer was ill. Is there any one who will now contend that it was a mistake to train the executive officer in navigation? We are only applying the same principle now; and I say it is just as wrong as a permanent system that he should not be trained in engineering, as it was in the old days that he should not be trained in navigation. It is quite true that it would not be correct to say that 179 no executive officer knows anything about engineering. Very many of them have acquired an excellent knowledge of engineering, but that has been through their own efforts, and no thanks to the Admiralty. If these officers are to be trained in gunnery, torpedoes, and navigation, why are engines only to be excluded? Why is their training to be stopped there? If my arguments have been sound up to now that all officers hereafter must be taught engineering, just as they are taught navigation, gunnery, and torpedoes, I say it follows absolutely, though the noble Earl does not admit it, that they must be trained and entered together. So much for the engineering side of the case.
I now come to the Royal Marines. The noble Earl, up to a certain point, admits the truth of some of my contentions in respect of the engineers; but I think he differs from me altogether with regard to the Royal Marines. He said, "Why should the Royal Marines be taught things that nobody thinks of teaching to a soldier? Well, because the Royal Marine is not a soldier, and because he is a Royal Marine. The Royal Marine is an integral part of the naval service, and will have to work and fight nine-tenths of his life on board ship, and not on the land.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
He is not a soldier in the sense that the soldier who fights only on land is a soldier. He is a soldier and a sailor too, as one of our national poets has told us. The present position of the Royal Marine officer on board ship is very unsatisfactory to himself and indefensable on the most elementary business principles. It is unsatisfactory to himself because I can imagine nothing so heartbreaking to a young, willing Marine officer than that he should find his work restricted as it is now. He has no training in naval duties; all that is forbidden to him. When all others are overburdened with work he may be practically doing nothing. It cannot be good for him, it cannot be good for the service 180 that that state of things should continue. The Navy Estimates have reached a total of nearly £35,000,000, and there will be an ever-increasing demand in the future for more naval lieutenants, and yet at the same moment, with the demand for naval lieutenants increasing every year we have a body of nearly 500 officers who are unavailable for naval duties, and who have a great deal of time and leisure at their disposal. The principle is absolutely indefensible—that you should have so much wasted energy on the one hand and so much demand for increased strength on the other. It is the duty of the Admiralty to find a remedy for both evils at the same time by so training the Royal Marine officer that he may be available for these naval duties as well. Will this early naval training be a cause of deterioration in the officer of Royal Marines in his more strictly military duties? Will he be the worse for seven years of naval training in the place of a similar period of training at some school or "crammer's." If anybody thinks that, I do not share the opinion, and I would point to a rather singular coincidence. The number of officers in the Army who have commenced life as sailors is very small compared to the total number of military officers, and yet there are at this moment to my own knowledge no less than three of our most distinguished generals who were trained as boys in the Navy. The remedy, therefore, my Lords, in the one case is the same as in the other—-it is to enter and train these boys together, It is said that it is all very well to theorise on this subject, but it cannot be done; that there will be too much to learn, and that all the classes of officers—Executive, Engineer, and Marine—will be equally spoiled. That is a matter of opinion. I can only say that I absolutely differ. After all, what has been the glory of the naval officer? He has been known as "the handy man." Why is he to be unhandy only in respect to the most important things in a ship? The whole of the work of navigation under masts and sails has gone with all its elaborate training. Nobody ever thought it absurd that a naval officer should be trained in gunnery, torpedo practice, or navigation, and also have a complete knowledge of the motive power of a ship when that motive power was wind; why, then, should it be considered absurd that 181 he should be trained on exactly the same principle when the motive power is steam? Why, in fact, should his education be arrested at a certain point, and why should that development which has been constant in the history of the Navy suddenly come to an end in his case, Again I would ask the House to allow me to read the words of the naval captain I have already quoted on this subject. He said—and Lord Spencer alluded to the same point—The Admirals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not so much 'Seamen Admirals' as 'Military Admirals'. They did the fighting, whilst the sailing or seamanship part was done by specialists. They gradually became Seamen Admirals, and continued so throughout the great wars of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. As the nineteenth century advanced they had to deal more and more with steam. Now and henceforth they are essentially 'Steam' Admirals.It has been said that these engineer duties which it is proposed to teach executive officers are not really duties for combatant officers. Brushing technicalities aside, who are the combatant officers? I say that every officer is a combatant officer who is essential to the fighting of a ship. It would be very unfortunate for a ship, bat if you landed every doctor, every surgeon, every naval instructor, every officer of the accountant branch, and the chaplains before action, the ship could be fought just as well as if they wore on board; but if you landed the seamen, Marines, and their officers the ship would be helpless, and she would be equally helpless if you landed the engine-room personnel. Therefore I say, that so far from it being derogatory to an executive officer to learn engine-room work, he is only completing the education necessary for a combatant officer.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
I never meant to say that there was anything derogatory in an executive officer learning engine-room work. What I contend is that the combatant officers of a ship must be superior to those who work the engines.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The noble Earl seems to think it perfectly impossible that the officer who works the engines should be a combatant officer. That is where we must 182 agree to differ. I have been asked some questions by Lord Spencer as to what is to be done when the time comes for these young officers to choose the particular branch into which they will go, and a fear has been expressed that enough young officers will not be found to volunteer for all branches. That for the present must remain a matter of opinion. If there is any difficulty, it is the business of the Admiralty to offer sufficient attractions to secure the filling of each branch. One of the attractions to a great number of young men is the whole science of the glorious profession of engineering; and I can conceive no more attractive form of engineering than that which is a combination of naval officer and engineer. In the same way the corps of Royal Marines has special attraction; and though I maintain absolutely that Marines are not soldiers in the sense that men are soldiers who are under the War Office, yet, of course, there is a special military side to their career not enjoyed by the naval officer. Therefore there are attractions which will, I do not doubt, be felt by a sufficient number of these young cadets. This liability to serve in one branch or the other has not been in the least degree deterrent to applicants for nominations. I admit it was to a certain extent experimental how many boys would be tempted by the new scheme, but the number of applications has exceeded my wildest expectations. There will not be the slightest necessity even to consider the application of any boy who has not volunteered for all three branches. The field of choice will then be so large that it will be a matter of the greatest difficulty to make a proper selection Again there has been anxiety lest the engineer officer in the future may not be so good in his particular work as he has been in the past. This is really a simple question of training. These boys will begin to be taught their work as engineers while children, from the moment they go to the college, they will begin to handle engineer's tools at the age of twelve, and there will be no period up to the time when they select the engineering branch as their permanent sphere when they will not be developing their education as engineer officers. I 183 would say of engineering what I say of gunnery and the use of torpedoes—you do not want every officer to be educated to the highest possible extent in gunnery, you want a large body of gunnery lieutenants who know exactly how to manipulate guns, train men, keep the guns in order, and shoot straight, but you only want a few scientifically-trained artillerists to fill staff appointments in the Admiralty of the future and to make those experiments and developments we so much need. So in the case of the engineer, the bulk of the officers must thoroughly understand how to use machinery and keep it in repair; we only want a small proportion so highly trained that they may be called designers or architects of naval machinery. The whole of the education from the Royal College at Osborne up to the course at Keyham for those who choose engineering, and the further course at Greenwich for those who are selected from Keyham to receive the highest training possible, will give us a body of officers graduated in engineering knowledge and, I believe, of equal, if not greater, merit professionally than any engineers we have yet had. This is not only my opinion, it is also that of those engineers we have consulted, naval and civil.
Now, my Lords, I come to what I quite agree is one of the most interesting and important points in the whole scheme. I will take the engineers first. Are the officers who have taken the engineering branch to be interchangeable with the executive branch? As the scheme now stands they will not be interchangeable; that was specially laid down for this reason—it was not essential to decide the matter now. If it had been decided that they were to be interchangeable, and the cadets had come into the college on that understanding, no Board of Admiralty could have gone back on that decision. If, on the other hand, in the scheme under which the cadets entered they were not interchangeable, then the Board of Admiralty would be absolutely free on further consideration to make them interchangeable. There is no doubt how the scheme stands at present. I fully believe and hope that they will be made interchangeable, and that engineers as a special branch will disappear altogether, and that specialised engineer lieutenants will be only known by the letter E after their name. 184 The noble Earl asked how it is possible for an officer who has spent his years in the engine-room to be fit to command a squadron. Now, I should say that depends very much on the work he has been put to, and the exact story of his life from the moment he has been specialised as an engineer officer. But surely, even if you accept the fact that it will be impossible for him to keep up his acquaintance with duties on deck, that does not dispose of the question. Are all admirals on the flag list equally capable of the same work? Is there no diversity of gifts among flag officers? The duty and responsibility rests on the Admiralty to appoint the best man for any job on hand. There are on the flag list, as every sailor knows, officers fitted in the highest degree to command a fleet at sea, but who might not be so well fitted to administer the Navy on land. There are others, born administrators, but not born seamen. There are others who are the greatest authorities on gunnery, electricity, and navigation. In fact, you can pick out half-a-dozen different special lines of qualification at the present moment. No Board of Admiralty would think of sending to command a fleet at sea an officer whose special gift was notoriously to do office work on shore. So it will be in the future, after, as I hope, the engineer branch is amalgamated with the executive. If an officer who has passed on to the flag list after specialising as an engineer is not qualified to command squadrons at sea the Admiralty will not select him to do so.
The case of the Royal Marines, I agree, is different. The object of the Board of Admiralty must be to open an adequate career right to the end for the able and ambitious officer. The difficulty will be no greater in the future than it is now, and I think it should be capable of solution. Already I would ask your Lordships to notice how largely the scheme of the Board of Admiralty has enlarged the scope and utility of the Marine officer, and what fresh fields of employment it has already thrown open to him. Both the noble Earls who have already spoken have agreed in approving of the alteration of the age of entry. But there is a large quantity of capable opinion, not naval chiefly, but to 185 a large extent Parliamentary, that is opposed to that alteration, and says that the movement ought to be the other way, and that cadets should be entered to the Navy at the ages of eighteen or nineteen. The service, however, is almost unanimous in favour of going back to the early age of entry, and I have a specially interesting expression of opinion on this subject that I would like to read to your Lordships. It is the educational authorities generally who advocate the older age of entry. It is not often that there is a combination of a distinguished professor at Oxford and a naval captain in the same man, but Professor Montagu Burrows, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Oxford, was a captain in the Royal Navy, and he still retains his affection for and interest in the service. He writes to me—I may say his letter was written some time before this scheme was published, and, so far as I know, he was not aware that we were considering any changes of the nature dealt with in the scheme, as follows—Finally, I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that I trust the system of taking boys into the service may never be exchanged for a system of competition amongst older youths. We can make what we like out of boys, if we only have perfectly efficient men at the helm.I think that opinion, coming from a man of great ability who knows the educational world and also the Navy, is of great interest and importance. These boys can be taught what they have to learn, and it will be the fault of the Board of Admiralty if we do not make our colleges at Osborne and afterwards at Dartmouth the best secondary schools in the country existing for a special definite object.
The noble Earl asked me what kind of education we are going to give. I will not describe it at length, but without pledging myself to exact detail I will give a general sketch of the kind of education that will be given. It includes not only that special education for which the school will exist, but that general education which every officer and gentleman ought to have. History, geography, physical geography, English, and French will be taught. I do not say that other modern languages will not be taught. Mathematics, algebra, arithmetic, trigonometry, mechanics, physics, laboratory work, seamanship, 186 drill, and engineering will be taught. There will be laboratories and workshops in which the boys will be accustomed to the use of tools from the very commencement. There will be vessels of all sorts for use and demonstration, from a steam launch to a battleship, and generally an effort will be made, while not neglecting the general education of the boys, to start them from the moment of their entering the college on the education of a naval officer. Mr. Robertson, I think it was, said in the House of Commons that there is no necessity to bring in the boys so young or to train them like this at the colleges. You only have, he said, to tell the public schools what you want, and they will produce you the article at eighteen or nineteen years of age. Public schools could not do it. How could public schools provide launches or cruisers or battleships, or workshops and laboratories in sufficient quantity? How could they give the boys that flavour of naval education which is essential? Although Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman says he does not believe in it, I do believe in it, and am convinced that if we want to get the finest article we must take the boy young and give him the naval flavour from the commencement. Of course this proposal raises the difficult question of competitive examination. Those words have been invested with a halo of infallibility and democracy which I do not think they in the least deserve. Competitive examination for boys at the age or twelve or thirteen would be altogether out of place and perfectly disastrous, and I do not think anyone seriously proposes it. But I deny, even if it were possible, that a competitive examination of boys between twelve and thirteen, or even of a greater age, would give you any indication of what kind of men they would be at the age of twenty-three. I also say I can think of no less democratic instrument than competitive examination, because, as Lord Spencer so well put it, the boy who succeeds in a competitive examination is the boy who has had the best teaching, and the richer the parent, the better the teaching he can afford to give his son. I want to take this opportunity of pointing out a fact which I think is too seldom remembered. You have the opportunity of testing the two systems. The executive officers of the Navy have never been entered by open 187 competition, but always by strictly limited competition. The officers of the Army are entered by open competition. The officers of the present engineer branch of the Navy are entered by open competition. Can anyone say that naval officers as a whole are richer men than military officers? They certainly are not, and therefore the system of limited competition has not favoured the richer classes at the expense of the poorer. Can anyone say that the naval executive officer is a less able or capable man than either his engineer shipmate or the military officer? It is perfectly impossible to maintain that, and that, I contend, disproves the contention that the competitive examination is the surest way of getting the best men.
If you do not have competitive examination you must fall back on the development of the system of nomination. With one or two exceptions it is the First Lord of the Admiralty who will be responsible for nominations. It would be nothing less than a scandal which would very soon terminate the system if that patronage were used with the slightest suspicion of jobbery. I think there is great advantage in retaining that nomination in the hands of the First Lord, because he is a person who can be brought to book in Parliament. As to the principles on which he should act in giving nominations, I have not the slightest doubt that his sole object should be to get those boys who would afterwards make the most competent officers, and in making his selection he should know no other guide of conduct than that. I have been thinking very carefully what steps I can take so as to surround myself with the most efficient and sure machinery for ascertaining which of the numerous boys who apply for nomination are really likely to make the most competent officers. I have some hope that I may succeed but not on any account by the introduction of anything in the nature of competitive examination. When the nominations are made the boys who receive them will have to pass a qualifying examination. If they do not pass that examination they will not enter the Navy. Any boy who passes will enter the Navy; but, once entered, the process of elimination will begin, though without the slightest stigma or reproach. When we are assured that a boy is not 188 up to the proper standard of naval efficiency, or has not got sufficient ability or those qualities essential for naval officers, he will have to leave; but it will be while he is still young and able to receive education elsewhere and take to other occupations. As to the effects of competition on boys at too early an age, I have very strong information, even in respect of the present competition, that it has had a bad effect on the boys, and that much of the sickness that unfortunately prevails in the "Britannia" arises from the fact that the boys have been weakened in their constitution by the previous excessive cramming to which they have been subjected.
The noble Earl asked whether Osborne and Dartmouth Colleges are to be arranged as two separate colleges in which a boy will spend the whole of his four years, or whether they are to be worked as one institution, the younger boys being first sent to Osborne, and then passing on for their last two years to Dartmouth. Either of those plans has much to recommend it. At present we propose to work them as one college; the younger boys will go to Osborne and pass on for the second part of their training to Dartmouth. When they go to sea the noble Earl expressed a strong hope that they would go into ordinary sea-going ships and not special training ships. That is a point we have not settled. I appreciate what the noble Earl said as to the great advantages of the boys serving as midshipmen in ordinarily commissioned battleships and cruisers; but since he was at the Admiralty we have had some experience which I think will interest him greatly. We have now had for the best part of a year the "Isis" as a sea-going training ship for the boys of the "Britannia" in their last term of training, carrying from sixty to seventy. Now we have had to commission a second ship, the "Aurora," for the same purpose. So far the experiment has been so extraordinarily successful, the reports on the boys on these ships have been so excellent, that I am not prepared to pledge myself in advance that the system may not be continued in future, and that from the college the boys will not pass first of all to a sea-going training ship and then to a ship in ordinary commission.
I have no time to deal at length with that part of the Memorandum which 189 dealt with the lower deck; all I can say is that we are endeavouring to deal with the training of the boys and men of the Fleet on the same principles as in the case of the officers—that is to say, all useless knowledge is to be eliminated from their training, and they are to be taught all those branches of work which the future seaman must know, not only ordinary seamanship, gunnery and torpedo work, but every man who in future is rated A.B. will have to possess an elementary knowledge of the use of tools as a mechanic, and also an elementary knowledge of engine-room and stoke-hole duty. We have paid special attention to the engine-room ratings. We have given increased advantages, especially to the stokers; and I am sure your Lordships will be glad of that, because the value of that great body of naval ratings cannot be exaggerated. I am particularly glad that the Board of Admiralty have been able to open the commissioned ranks of the Navy to the lower deck by promoting sixty of the warrant officers to be lieutenants, and more promotions will follow in due course. This scheme has been subjected to great criticism, and that is quite natural; but I maintain that, although there have been many expressions of opinion, nobody has yet hit on a cardinal defect in the scheme, and everybody who criticises it makes admissions, as did the noble Earl, that largely destroy the strength of that criticism. More than that, nobody who has dealt with this subject has suggested anything in the nature of an alternative. There is a school which says, "let things alone;" but things, when they are great forces, will not let you alone; and it is not my idea of the functions of the Board of Admiralty that it should sit still and be moved in spite of itself, by forces which it did not recognise until it was overwhelmed by them. Again, I am told that everything that is given to any other officer is so much detracted from the value of the executive officer's position. That is base coin, and it exasperates me when I hear it jar on the counter. The naval officer is loved and trusted by his countrymen because he is what he is, not because somebody is or is not something else.
190 There are those critics who dislike al change; I sympathise with them greatly; it is very natural when you have come to love an institution in all its details to be averse to a change in it. But I summarise the functions of the Board of Admiralty as follows—To venerate the past, to guard the present, and to live for the future. It is with a sense of our responsibility for the future that we have conceived this scheme. One argument that is brought forward I have not yet mentioned. At present, if we were to mobilise for war we might have a surplusage of young executive officers and a dearth of young engineer officers, or a surplusage of young Marine officers and a dearth of young executive officers. In neither case could the surplusage be utilised to make good the deficiency. But when this scheme is in full operation, at the moment of mobilisation for war, as at any other moment, there will be hundreds of young officers of from seventeen to twenty-two years of age who could be utilised, so far as young officers can be utilised, wherever they are wanted by the Board of Admiralty, whether in the engine-room, in the Marines, or as executive officers. And the importance cannot be over-estimated of having, at that supreme moment in a nation's history, hundreds, almost thousands, of officers, not shut up in watertight compartments, but available where they are most wanted. And yet a friend of mine, an officer of great experience, whose dislike to the scheme is founded, not on ignorance, but on a careful study of it, summarised his objections to the scheme by putting this, in his opinion, appalling dilemma to a friend the other day. He said—Why, at a time of war I might be ordered to commission a ship and I would find no officers in the barracks and in the depot except officers who, under this new scheme, had become engineers or marines. What could I do then?He put that as a final argument against the scheme. Why, my Lords, he really presented a strong argument for the scheme. The situation is improbable, almost impossible. It would, however, he no more probable when the new scheme is in operation than it would be to-day. But if he found himself with orders to commission a ship today and had nothing but 191 engineer and Marine officers, he could not commission that ship at all; under the new scheme he could.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, even if it were in order I do not propose to make another speech. But I maintain that the noble Earl has not proved that interchangeability of officers will be a success. I trust he will be so kind as to consider the three suggestions I threw out, and that some means may be found for modifying that part of the scheme.