rose to call attention to the statement on Admiralty policy recently pre ented. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Memorandum presented to Parliament by the late Board of Admiralty, to which I de ire to call attention, deals with changes, which may be justly described as reforms, undertaken during the past three years. The responsibility and the merit are shared by Lord Selborne and by Lord Cawdor, whom we are glad to see in his place, restored to health. The merit, if not the responsibility, is shared, as Ministers would be the first to acknowledge, by their naval advisers.
On the leading features of recent Admiralty policy I have no unfriendly criticisms. It should be the aim of every Naval Administration to maintain the fleet at a sufficient strength, with the least addition to the public charge. The liberal supplies voted by Parliament have been effectively applied. In resources for the manning of the Navy, in battleships and in cruisers, we are far above the two-Power standard. The fleet has been redistributed. The squadrons on distant stations have been reduced. The squadrons in home and European waters have been strengthened. We are powerful where power is needed—near the centre of affairs. Mobilisation has been perfected. Every effective ship is ready for any service. The exercises of the Fleet have been carried out on a scale without precedent. Gunnery, under Sir Percy Scott and Captain Jellicoe, is greatly improved. And the Estimates have been cut down in the last two years "by £5,000,000. Economies have been made where they had been long called for.
In the manning of the Navy we have wise change of policy. We had been 222 adding 5,000 men annually to the naval force. In ten years the Manning Votes had been increased by more than £3,000,000. That increase has now ceased. In the last three years there has been some reduction. It may be carried further. A Return presented in August last gave a total exceeding 41,000 men in shore establishments and ships in reserve at home. It is not well to keep large numbers away from sea service. Our permanent men should be sufficient in number for ratings which need special training. We may fill up from Reserves. I will take a later opportunity of dealing with the Reserves of the Navy. In the Ship-building Votes large economies have been effected by putting aside ships of obsolete type, yet costly to maintain.
Are the Estimates, as reduced, sufficient to maintain our naval supremacy in the future? We have the assurance of the Admiralty that full provision has been made for the fighting efficiency of the Fleet and its instant readiness for war. In the number of ships building we are below the two-Power standard. The deficiency in numbers is made good by greater rapidity of construction. We build more cheaply than is possible in foreign countries. With an appropriation of something under £10,000,000 for shipbuilding for the British Navy, and limiting the comparison to European Powers, we are well above the two-Power standard in building.
I turn to branches of administration in which it seems possible to submit suggestions for the consideration of the Admiralty. Under an able Administration such suggestions must be few. There must always be something which occurs, whether rightly or wrongly, to the looker-on. I will deal first with the important changes lately made in the education of naval officers. The statement issued by the Admiralty deals fully with the new system of entry and training. The time has evidently come when engineer officers should no longer constitute a separate branch, and all naval officers should be instructed in the management of machinery. As an initial step, all candidates for commissions, executive, engineering, and marine, enter under the new scheme 223 through the same channel. They are educated at the same schools, and are taught the same subjects.
The course of instruction has been revised. To the regret of all lovers of sailing, the seamanship of former days has become a lost art. A knowledge of the management and upkeep of machinery has become essential as well for the executive officer as for the engineer. It has been necessary to extend technical and professional training to the exclusion of other subjects. The classics are not included in the naval curriculum. In English literature, history, geography, and French, more instruction is given to cadets than to boys of the same age in the public schools. Every scheme of education must be a compromise, and fall short of an ideal standard. It would be desirable to give more instruction in modern languages at Dartmouth. It would be desirable, but it is impossible. The cadets work hard, and nothing which is now taught can be given up. That knowledge of languages which is of such great practical use in the Navy must be obtained later. The knowledge of languages should be more general. We have more than 5,000 officers in the Navy above warrant rank, but only 60 have qualified as interpreters in French. Officers should be encouraged to qualify as interpreters by more liberal rates of pay. I venture to suggest that in the examination of lieutenants more marks should be given for modern languages.
On naval education generally, the report of the Committee on the Higher Education of Naval Officers may still be consulted with advantage. The President, Sir Charles Shadwell, was distinguished for his scientific attainments. Comparing the system pursued in the British Navy with those prevailing in foreign services, the Committee specially insist on the difference in the age of entry—fourteen to eighteen years in foreign navies, and under thirteen in the British Navy. The Committee held that the foreign cadets, with a more extended school training, had advantages in mental training and must be better qualified to enter on more advanced studies, and to improve their general and special education.
224 What would the Committee have said if they had had the opportunity of walking through the engineering shops at Dartmouth, and seeing the cadets at their work? They might, perhaps, have said that, as a method of engaging all the faculties upon the work in hand, and cultivating habits of accuracy, the new mechanical training could hardly be surpassed. No mechanical training, however, can supply the qualifications required in the higher ranks of the service, and these should certainly be kept in view in any scheme of naval education. It should be possible to extend the period of education while holding to our traditions as to early service at sea. It is proposed, as I understand, that cadets, on leaving Dartmouth, shall go to sea, for the first six months, in ships commissioned and organised for special service as training ships. Extend the term from six to twelve months. In the longer period much may be done under good instructors to complete general education.
Looking to all the demands which must come upon a naval officer as he advances to the highest ranks in the service, adequate preparation is not possible in early youth. In their observations on the early age of entry in the British service, the Committee on Education insisted on the paramount importance of making provison for professional improvement in after years. Under existing regulations, ample provision is made on the professional side. The Admiralty should do more to encourage the study of modern languages. For the general qualifications we must trust largely to self-teaching. Its results have been wonderful in the Navy. Nor is the naval the only profession in which the best men have acquired by self-teaching the highest qualifications they possess.
The Admiralty Minute deals at length with the future career of cadets. A certain interchange of duties as between the executive and the mechanical branches is proposed. It is not universally approved. It seems premature to discuss matters with which the Board of Admiralty of the future will have to deal, and will be fully competent to deal. At an early stage the naval officer 225 will see for himself the line in which he can best succeed, and remain in it. Engineering duties will be attractive to officers with a mechanical turn. There should be advantages in pay and good prospects of promotion. Many appointments may be reserved for the engineer officers at the dockyards and at the Admiralty. It is well to raise the standard of the engineering branch to a level with that of the executive officers. In the senior ranks interchange of duties can hardly be possible.
The Admiralty statement deals with the obsolescence of warships—a fatal subject for naval administrators. The shipbuilding of the Navy is a problem of exceeding difficulty. We have proof in the fact that 150 ships, costly and of recent date, have been put aside as obsolete. It may be that too many have been put aside. Let us hope that the ships we are building to-day will remain longer on the list. All belong to types which every naval administration approves. Programmes of construction for the British Navy have never been fixed upon abstract principles. We have looked to the construction in hand for other Powers, and we have tried to go one better. In dimensions, in armament, in armour, in speed, in coal endurance, the "Dreadnought" has no rival afloat. There are criticisms on the "Dreadnought," those relating to the removal of the secondary armament being perhaps the most serious. Leaving technical questions to experts in Parliament, it is an agreeable duty to give the acknowledgments which are due, for the design, to Sir Philip Watts and his assistants, and to the officers and workmen at Portsmouth Dockyard for the performance of a memorable feat in completing such a vessel for launching in four months from the date of laying down. The shipbuilding officers in the Royal Yards may claim a further merit. The ships they build compare favourably in point of cost with contract-built vessels. That is a result not attained in other countries.
The occasion seems fitting for calling attention to the position of the chief professional officers of the dockyards. I may, perhaps, claim a hearing as Chairman of the Departmental Committee on whose Report made in 1883, the con- 226 structors were organised as a Royal corps. The scheme submitted to our Committee had been drawn up by the late Sir Houston Stewart and Sir William White. It gave to the professional officers a more defined position in the service, with suitable gradations of rank. The additions to pay were slender. Salaries should be more liberal in a position so responsible as that of the manager of a dockyard, charged, as at Portsmouth, with the building of the "Dreadnought;" and the direction of the labours of many thousands of men. The technical assistants to the Admiral Superintendents—an office lately abolished—with no direct responsibility, received £1,000 a year. It would be no unreasonable reward to raise the salary of the manager of the three principal yards, by increments, to a level with that of Superintendent of Construction Accounts at the Admiralty. Prizes should be offered to the corps of constructors. The resistance of the Treasury in these matters is not always for the public advantage.
Returning to shipbuilding policy, it is I necessary to provide vessels for scouting duties. Eight ships have lately been completed, especially designed to act as scouts. They cost some £300,000 each. Their high speed is their only merit. Too restricted in dimensions, they are neither cruisers nor combatants. For scouting within close range, destroyers are available, and they combine fighting qualities with ability for gath ring information. For a wider range, let us look to the ocean-greyhounds of the mercantile marine. They were strongly recommended by Lord Charles Beresford to the Committee on Steamship subsidies. No ships, he said, could do their work better than the ocean-greyhounds built for speed in any weather. Mercantile scouts were used largely by the United States Navy in the war with Spain, and did good service. In France opinion grows in favour of building only battleships for the Navy, the scouts of the Fleet being drawn from the subsidised mail-services. With the double purpose of expanding their trade and creating a reserve of merchant-cruisers, all the maritime Powers are liberal in steamship subsidies. The wisdom of such a policy for ourselves was admitted when the agreement was entered into with the Cunard Company. It does 227 not appear necessary to have insisted on a speed of twenty-five knots. Nor, on the other hand, should vessels be accepted of the class included in the Return moved for by Lord Spencer. Of thirty-eight vessels, five only had a speed of twenty knots and over. Speed of twenty-one to twenty-two knots should be ample at the present time. Lord Charles Beresford asked for ships having what he called the speed of the day.
In urging a policy of subsidies, political considerations should not be put out of view. We desire to strengthen the unity of the Empire. We cannot better promote that great object than by accelerating transportation for mails, emigrants, and merchandise. There is a further argument in support of the policy I am endeavouring to recommend. We can build ships for peaceful service without creating that rivalry in preparations for war which every statesman would wish to avoid. The last of the old contracts shortly expires. The opportunity is favourable for a new departure in the policy of the Admiralty in relation to mercantile auxiliaries.
The ever-growing expenditure on works has at last received a check. The Admiralty announce a saving on former estimates of £5,000,000 sterling. Has the last word been said in regard to reductions on works? The naval force at the Cape has been lately reduced to four crusiers, of which the flag-ship only is of the first class. Is the commitment to an expenditure of £4,000,000 in Simon's Bay irrevocable? Is it too late to cut down the present scheme? We are bound to maintain our base at Cape Town, where alone the mercantile marine can coal and repair, and where all trade is centred. It is not policy to duplicate establishments in close proximity—within a morning's ride on a Cape pony—and both of which must be adequately defended. We have to look, not only to the cost of works, but also to the cost of maintaining large bodies of skilled workmen at Colonial rates of pay. Graving-docks are useless without artificers and labourers. Is it proposed to maintain a dockyard establishment at Simon's Bay on a scale commensurate with the new works? Could continuous employment be found? The scheme 228 was authorised during the pressure caused by the war. No European Power is in a position to despatch a powerful fleet to the South Atlantic.
The proposals now under consideration in Canada and Australia for the creation of naval forces for local defence give promise of far-reaching results in the future. It is vain to look for contributions to the Imperial Exchequer. That opinion, as I know, was strongly held by Sir Cyprian Bridge, when Commander-in-Chief on the Australian Station. The taxation necessary for such a purpose would be unpopular in the Colonies. Contributions have been given grudgingly in Australia; we have received none from Canada. The true policy is to encourage the Colonial Governments to organise naval forces for local defence. With or without express agreement, the Colonial forces are certain to-aid in the defence of the Empire in any emergency. I fully subscribe to the observations recently made in this sense-by my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
rose to draw attention to that part of the Memorandum of Admiralty Work and Progress, 1905, which deals with the education and specialisation of naval officers; and to ask that the Report of the Committee, presided over by Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas, dealing with that question be laid on the Table.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I ask for your kind indulgence while I make a few remarks upon the Memorandum last issued by the Admiralty, which bears at its foot the signature of Earl Cawdor. I think it is due to the Lords of the Admiralty to congratulate them on the able Memoranda which they have issued to the country during the last five years. Their Memoranda bear traces of the highest ability and grasp of the subject, and of due consideration to the exigencies of the Empire. I think that the last Memorandum which we are now considering is by no means the least able of them all, and although I am going to make some criticisms on the policy in the Memorandum of 1905, which deals with the education and specialisation of naval officers, they will 229 not be criticisms of an unfriendly nature, and I am sure they will be received by the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty in the spirit in which I offer them.
I spoke on the subject of the education of naval officers three years ago. I was then like one crying in the wilderness; I had no support either in the public Press or in either House of Parliament. But things have changed since then. The opinion of the country is beginning to alter. In the newspapers we see criticisms of the system of naval education, and the other day, in another place, the Secretary to the Admiralty, in answer to a Question addressed to him, had to admit that representations have been made by naval officers to the Admiralty unfavourable to the system of education. I would like to say, with regard to the Memorandum which is now before us, that the important point in it, so far as education goes, is this—
A Committee was appointed under the presidency of the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas, G.C.V.O., K.C.B., to consider whether the time has arrived to formulate regulations for the allocation of the duties of future officers in the various branches of the Service, and to report—
The Report of that Committee, the Memorandum goes on to say—
has convinced the Board that there will be no need for a final division into the three branches, and that specialisation for a period only is necessary, as opposed to permanent classification into separate lines.
§ Now, I would like to remark on that point that I think the fundamental objection to the Admiralty system of education is the interchangeability which is at the back of the want of specialisation in the different parts of the Service. If you do not specialise, you will be completely reversing the practice in every 230 other employment in the kingdom. In every employment where special trades are being worked you find that from the time when their apprenticeship is over lads are specialised to a certain branch of the work in that employment.
§ The idea of the Admiralty seems to be that the cadets are to be educated at the college up to a certain time, and that then they will be turned out so crammed with knowledge that they will be able to take up any one of three distinct branches of the Service at any time when called upon to do so. That is the fundamental objection, so far as I can see, to the manner in which the Admiralty propose to educate the young officers of to-day, and it is in contradiction to a certain extent of the project which was brought out in 1903. In that year it was stated that the cadets should all be trained on exactly the same system until they had passed for the rank of sub-lieutenant between the ages of nineteen and twenty, and that at about the age of twenty these sub-lieutenants should be distributed between the three branches of the Service which were essential to the fighting efficiency of the fleet—the executive, the engineer, and the marine. It seems they are not to be permanently specialised, but only temporarily. The fact is, the whole scheme is in difficulties. If all the young men in the Service were exceptionally able, it might be carried out. If they were all as clever as the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, there would be no difficulty. But the mistake of the First Sea Lord in bringing forward this scheme is that he forgets that all young officers in the Navy are not as clever as himself. You must have a scheme that can be carried out by young men of ordinary education and talents.
I now turn to the question which come next in this Memorandum—the question of the Royal Marines. We are told that—
The Royal Marines will hot in future possess a staff of officers entirely distinct, as at present, from the Officers of the Royal Navy, but the Board see no reason why the historic traditions of this famous corps should not be carried on with a solidarity enhanced rather than diminished by the closer association of its officers of every rank with the sea service, of which it, as the sea regiment, has been for more than two centuries the honoured and invaluable ally.
If you turn to page 14, you will find a statement which I regret appears in this Memorandum. It is to the effect that—
Apart from questions of rank, the Royal Marines have been always intimately associated with the Navy, and it is no disparagement to the marine officer to state that the efficiency and character of these military corps are largely due to their service under naval officers on board ship. In the last ten years some 8,500 marines have been annually borne on the books of H.M. ships, and of this number one-third have been serving on ships without any marine officer on board.
I think it is a disparagement to the Marine officer to state that the efficiency and character of the corps are largely due to their service under naval officers. That statement is not fair to the officers of the Royal Marines. Then the Report states that—
The naval officer who qualifies in military duties will be thoroughly competent to undertake the duties of the captain and major of Royal Marines at the divisions as well as afloat, and as the Royal Marines as a body can never be available for brigading with the Army (their services being required for the Fleet), there can be no reason for maintaining a connection with the Army which is one of name only.
I do not know what the Marines will say to that. Is it not almost Gilbertian to think that a corps of 19,000 men are to be deprived of their officers, and to serve under the officers of another branch? Such a thing was never heard of before. Will the officers like it? Will the rank and file like it? What share have the naval officers in the glories of the Marine Service, and why should they be sent to officer that corps? These are questions that deserve the serious consideration of the Admiralty. It is stated in the Report that—
It is not proposed in any way to alter the organisation of the Royal Marines or to change the uniform or titles of the rank and file.
That looks as though it was intended to change the uniform of the officers.
Then there is another point with regard to the Marines. It is stated in the Memorandum that—
The system of training of officers for military duties [Lieut. M.] will be based on the probable nature of the work to be done by naval landing parties in war time or when undertaking isolated small expeditions. The course will include a study of the principles governing the attack by ships on coast defences and on objectives on land or in harbour, and will also combine a sufficient knowledge of
Army organisation to ensure efficient co-operation between the two Services in the case of a joint expedition.
§ The co-operation of the two services on shore! The Marines when on shore consider themselves a land force. They have always been intended primarily for service afloat, and only to land if required. Can it be said that such emergencies will never occur again? And if a Marine officer in future is to be educated to be one-third an engineer, one-third a naval officer, and one-third a military officer, will he be a good military officer when sent on shore? In the Army it takes an officer all his time to learn his duties properly and I submit that military duties are all that a marine officer should have to learn.
I now turn to the engineers. On page 4 of this Memorandum it is stated that—
Sir Archibald Douglas's Committee was also asked to report on the methods for providing warrant officers capable of taking charge of the stokehold and engine-room watches, so as to relieve the more highly trained officers of the ship from the routine duty of engine-room watch-keeping.
It has long been felt that the stoker class should have better opportunities of advancement, and in the Memorandum of December, 1902, the creation of the new chief petty Officer rating of mechanician, to be filled from the stoker class, was announced.
Further consideration of the various duties in the stokehold and engine-room led the Committee to recommend that in future the highly trained engine-room artificer class should not, as heretofore, be called upon to undertake ordinary watch-keeping duties, but should be enabled to devote all their time to their real calling of artificers, and that watch keeping duties should be undertaken by men selected from the stoker ratings after a suitable course of instruction.
It appears to me that here we have the true inwardness of the treatment of engineers. I wish it to be understood that no one has a higher regard for the engineers as a branch than I have—for engineer officers and for the engineer department in the Navy; and my remarks must be taken as in their defence and in their praise rather than against them. The result of this policy, as far as I can make out, will be this, that on board men-of-war there will be a certain number of watch-keeping warrant officers. They will keep the watches, the artificers will keep the machinery in order, and what
s there left for the engineers to do? In my humble opinion one engineer in each ship would be enough, and he would have charge of the discipline and go round and see that things were all right. And then we should say that the result of the agitation of the engineers to better themselves had resulted in their entire disappearance. I am very sorry. I wish they had been left alone, as I wish that the Marines had been left alone.
§ Now I come to the reason why I submit that the Report of the Committee of which Sir Archibald Douglas was Chairman should be given to the public. I am very glad that the Admiralty took the step of appointing a Committee to inquire into these matters; but I should like to know why, before inaugurating such a revolution in the education of the Navy, they did not have a Committee of the senior officers of the Navy to consider the subject. If they had done that, this education scheme would never have survived its state of embryo. Sir Archibald Douglas is an officer in whom the Services place great reliance, and for whom they have very much respect. The Committee have sat, and we know the result at which they have arrived; but we do not know the process of reasoning by which they came to their decision. We want to know who composed that Committee, what was the evidence put before them, and what were the reasons they had for coming to this conclusion. The conclusion to which they have come is that, after the present Naval College has been in existence for only two years, they have sound sufficient encouragement to say that for all future time it will be a success. Why, the success of this scheme will not he known for twenty years. How, then, could they come to this extraordinary decision? Has any other country followed this example? Has any other country tried the procedure of turning all the officers into one mould and making them all engineers, deck officers, and marines? Can it be denied that this is a leap in the dark? Is it not terrible to think that this country, which depends on the Navy for its defence, which has built the most magnificent force of ships that has ever been seen, will be in suspense for the next twenty years before it knows whether the officers who will 234 then be called upon to command those ships will be fit for their work or not?
§ I spoke on this subject with great reluctance in 1903. I took the liberty of suggesting three things to Lord Selborne, the then First Lord of the Admiralty. I will summarise very briefly those suggestions. The first was that specialisation should take place when the cadets left the college after their three years course there; that the future deck officers should then go to sea for three years, that the engineers should go to Keyham College, and the Marine officers to the Naval College at Greenwich as at present for the studies for which their previous training would have qualified them. I said it was believed that the three branches of young officers would find that they would then have a full curriculum of work amply sufficient to occupy them until they were ready to pass through their next examination, and it was certain that if the young engineers did not begin the study of their own profession until they were nineteen they would never become engineers at all. Secondly, I said it was hoped that interchangeability would not be resorted to after they left the Naval College; and, thirdly, I said that I thought 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 was over. I submitted that the advice which, according to the Memorandum, Marine officers were 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 submit that that advice is just as worth listening to now as it was then. It may be thought by some people not to be worth listening to; but I submit that it is the only safe way in which the education of the officers of the Fleet can be carried out, and I hope and trust, whatever may be the result of this Memorandum, that when the next Board of Admiralty comes to the head of affairs we will see a different course of education for naval officers.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, it was a happy idea on the part of my 235 noble friend Lord Brassey to take this opportunity of bringing the Memorandum of the late First Lord of the Admiralty under the notice of your Lordships' House. The moment is well chosen, because we have the Memorandum before us, and because the time constitutes, I may say, an interlude between the reigns of two First Lords. The present First Lord, whom I congratulate upon his appointment, having been so short a time in office, nothing which falls from us in this debate can possibly be considered to be directed against him. Party spirit, therefore, entirely vanishes, not only for the present, hut, I hope, for the future. I am sure the noble Lord will have heard that successive First Lords of the Admiralty have done all they could in late years to support each other, irrespective of Party, for the furtherance of naval efficiency, and it is in that spirit, my Lords, that I wish to speak to-day upon the Memorandum which has been justly praised for its ability by my noble friend who has just sat down. It is a document brilliant, literary, explanatory, congratulatory to a very great extent, and one to be read with interest; and I think that when the First Lord peruses its forty pages he will realise the immense and wide responsibilities that rest upon him. The mass of materials, the mass of subjects with which he has to deal, are almost oppressive.
The speech of the noble Lord who initiated this discussion has already illustrated the number of topics that have to be dealt with, all of which deserve attention. I do not propose to follow my noble friend and enter in detail into the great changes made. Those changes have been vast. To many of them I give hearty and entire support, upon some I am doubtful, and from others I dissent; and if to-night I dwell more upon those that I have to criticise it is because the others have been generally accepted and pronounced upon by the public and the service as having much to recommend them. I congratulate the Board upon many of the changes which they have made during the last three years.
My noble friend Lord Brassey did not allude to one far-reaching change which 236 has been received with great applause, and justly so—the new strategic distribution of the Fleet. The new strategic distribution of the Fleet shows how the Admiralty have appreciated the changes-in the situation to-day; the progress made in the naval power of other countries, the rise in the naval position of the United States and of Germany, the expansion of Japan, the destruction of the Russian Fleet—all these changes must necessarily influence, and have necessarily influenced, the Admiralty; and I congratulate them upon the changes they have made. The strategic redistribution of the Fleet led to another great reform on which I have nothing but personal commendation to bestow—the arrangements for nucleus crews and the new distribution of the reserve. By that reform the Navy is more ready for immediate action, with the crews told off to the ships in such a manner that they can be more rapidly sent to sea with homogeneous crews than was possible before. That is a great improvement.
Other administrative reforms, for instance, those in relation to dockyards, are in the right direction. The elimination of obsolete ships has been carried very far in a rather sensational and dramatic manner; but probably a right principle has been followed, and a considerable reduction of expenditure has-resulted.
Now I come to a point in connection with the reforms which is not mentioned in the Memorandum, and on which I should like to have some explanation. I refer to the changes that have been made in the means for protecting some of our home waters and ports. I have seen it stated that the arrangements which had been elaborated for defending; such places as the Firth of Forth and Berehaven by electric lighting and submarine mines have been given up by the Army. I think Mr. Arnold-Forster said they did not want to have any of these military aquatics. Upon this matter I should like to be informed whether the Navy has undertaken these duties, and how. There were a great many Naval Volunteers along our coasts who were thought specially competent to deal with these mining arrangements—men coming from the great engineering works; and 237 I should like to know, among the various changes that have occurred, what has become of the men who were elaborately trained in submarine mining, and whether their services will be utilised for defensive works.
I pass now to that to which I wanted mainly to devote myself this evening—the questions of the personnel. I would wish to know more of the proposed changes in the Coastguard Service. The Coastguards have been a very valuable body of men, and service therein has been looked forward to by blue-jackets as of very honourable character. I do not know whether I am correct, but I understand that great changes are to be made in that service. Then there is the Royal Navy Reserve. That is a force in which during my time of office I took a very considerable interest. They number about 25,000 men, and very high authorities pressed the Admiralty that that was by no means a proper and right number, but that we ought to have 60,000, 70,000 or 80,000 men in the Reserve. Now I understand—and again I wish to have information on the point—that the Royal Naval Reserve is no longer looked upon with the same favour. The Memorandum states, I think, that entries have been stopped. It seems to me to be a matter of great importance that you should have a large number of reserve men upon whom you could put your hand immediately on the outbreak of war.
I would regret if the importance of having a large Naval Reserve is not fully recognised by those at present at the Admiralty. It is not so easy to secure men. It is said that they would go to sea for three months. But will they be ready to go to sea for three months? Have the authorities connected with the Reserve been consulted on that point? When we made changes in the direction of offering a certain number of men the opportunity of going to sea we consulted all those who might be able to give us a valuable opinion on the habits and disposition of the fishermen and sailors round our coasts. It is not enough to say a thing shall be done. It is most important that we should know that we should be able to get the men, 238 and I trust that on a future occasion we may hear up to what standard the Admiralty desire to work in that direction. The arrangement was that the Royal Naval Reserve were to be called up early on the threatening of hostilities. It was arranged where they were all to be sent. Officers were ready appointed to train them and be at their head, and I should like to know whether that old arrangement has been superseded, and, if so, why?
I pass to another most serious change-which is proposed, of which it is impossible to judge unless one knows more than is recorded in the Memorandum—I refer to the question of short service. The glory of the British Navy has been long service. Long service has made our blue-jackets what they have become. No doubt it has been an expensive system, but many naval officers competent to judge consider that long service is one of those parts of the naval system which it would be very dangerous to touch, and the touching of which they would deprecate with all the energy in their power. I do not say that changes may not be necessary to a slight extent, because no-doubt there are many functions in a man-of-war which can be performed by men more hastily recruited and of less training, but the steadying influences of long service must be very strong in a man-of-war, and I am sure the Service would be glad to know from those in authority to what point short service is to supersede long service. I have not expressed that very well, because short service is not to supersede long service, but there are only to be a certain number allowed on long service. The proportions have not yet been put before the country, and I conclude that no final decision has been arrived at by the Admiralty as to the proportion which short-service men are to bear to long-service men. I trust that the disproportion will not be great.
I hope your Lordships will recognise that I do not approach this question from the point of view of the old-fashioned administrator who is not amenable to the influence of new ideas. I admit that some change may be desirable, but I do think it necessary at the same time to warn the First Lord that this is a matter 239 of stupendous importance to the Navy and to the country.
I pass now to the most important part, in my judgment, of the Memorandum, a part which has been touched upon already by my noble friend who spoke last—the training of naval officers. This is a question which every Member of your Lordships' House must see affects vitally the whole future of the Navy, the whole efficiency of the Navy, and the whole contentment of the Navy. The change is nothing less than a revolution, and it is needful that the House and the country should see whether it is founded on sound principles. On my responsibility as an old First Lord of the Admiralty, I state—and I say it with regret, because I am always so anxious that the Service and the Board of Admiralty should stand in the most friendly and confidential relations—I state to your Lordships and to the public that there exists in the Navy, to my certain knowledge, a wide-spread alarm, a deep apprehension and anxiety with regard to this scheme of interchangeability which is to be the foundation of the future officering of the Navy.
I use strong language—I am bound to use strong language, because I have heard what I cannot call less than utterances of despair on the part of naval officers. Do not let it be said that those who express these fears belong to the old-fashioned school, or that they are faddists or factious people. I can tell the House that there are amongst these critics many men who would command great authority for their opinions were their names to be made known, as thoroughly experienced men acquainted with all the necessities of the Service; and many of them are opposed—and opposed to a degree which I cannot exaggerate—to the proposed plan of interchangeability. While I will not argue the question now, I entreat the First Lord and all those who can exercise any influence to look thoroughly into the subject. I hope they will not consider this as finally settled, but will consult the best authorities on the question.
On what authority is the change based? What is urged as the authority for this scheme is the Report of the Committee presided over by Sir Archibald Douglas—.a Report which we have not seen, and of 240 the composition of which Committee we are ignorant. It is little short of an injustice to the Service and to the public to withhold the names of those who recommended this revolution, the terms in which it has been proposed, the evidence taken by the Committee, and whether or not there was a Minority Report. We want to know the whole truth about the question. I observe that the Secretary to the Admiralty has refused the information in the other House; but I cannot believe that the noble Lord will refuse it to your Lordships. When a Department quotes an authority and relies upon it, then the names ought to be produced.
This great scheme of interchangeability demands that an officer may be either a marine or an engineer or an executive officer. The argument is not only new, but it is almost ludicrous, that because of two years' teaching at Osborne a boy when he arrives at the age of twenty will be able to perform the duties of an engineer, a marine, or an executive officer. In passing, I may say that nothing could be more splendid than the organisation of the college at Osborne. It does the Admiralty and the authorities the greatest credit. Both Osborne and Dartmouth are schools of the very highest merit. I doubt whether there is any public school that could give a better, if as good an education as that imparted to the cadets at Osborne. But it does not follow, because these little fellows do well for a couple of years, that when they grow up their brains will be sufficient to take in all that is to be taught.
What is it that officers in the Navy have to learn? An executive officer has to learn strategy, diplomacy, languages, manœuvres, tactics, the methods of command at sea, and some knowledge no doubt of engineering, sufficient to be able to have a general acquaintance with the propelling power of his ship. Then consider what the engineer officer and the marine officer have to learn. How is it to be supposed that one man will be able to acquire in the course of a few years the whole of this knowledge? By the time an engineer, for example, is twenty or twenty-five he has to keep in touch with the progress of science, with all the inventions in engines and boilers, as well 241 as with the progress of lighting and chemistry. Is the acquisition of such knowledge not enough for a man, and do your Lordships believe that if his time were divided among other duties he would become the equal of the man who devoted himself to specialised study in the work which falls to the engineer?
The noble Earl who preceded me made an eloquent speech with reference to the Marines. I do not think I need add to what he said except to tell your Lordships that I understand the Marines are broken-hearted; they look on the changes which are to be introduced as striking at the whole vitality of the corps. The 19,000 men in this splendid corps are seasoned men, men of finer physique than the men in the Army and better shots, and is it to be supposed that that corps will have the same at ractions if the proposed change is carriedout? I think that that part of the scheme might be abandoned. My noble friend has vast changes to make. Let this one be postponed. Let there be restored to the Marines a feeling that no destructive hand shall fall on them, and that justice will be done to them. They want officers belonging to their own corps, inspired by their own sentiments and traditions, men under whom they have served, and with whom they have been brought up since they were cadets, and between whom those ties exist which stand for so much in the relations between officers and men. The corps ought not to be officered by temporary officers belonging to an entirely different department. The system of interchangeability between Marine officers and engineers will have this result, that eventually the sergeant of Marines will practically rule the corps and the engine-room artificers will by degrees push themselves up by a way which has been mapped out for them by the proposals of the Board of Admiralty. The whole of this movement had its origin in the circumstance that the social standing of the engineers was not satisfactory; their emoluments, I believe, were not unsatisfactory, but they were dissatisfied with their position in consequence of the increasing importance of their duties. That was a matter that had to be dealt with; but is it wise to apply a remedy which may be far more serious than the grievance?
242 The common entry for Marines engineers and executive officers was claimed as a very wise proceeding. These various classes were all to be educated together up to a certain point, so that class feeling might be eliminated. When that certain point came they were to be specialised, and a certain number were to be made Marines, a certain number engineers, and a certain number executive officers. There the difficulty arose The Admiralty did not see how to deal with the choice between the men among these three branches, and I understand they were rather afraid that parents would not wish their sons to be put into the engine-room. They thought it would discourage parents if they thought the future of their sons was to be in the stokehold, and in order to meet this difficulty they stumbled or hit upon this scheme of interchangeability against which I venture to enter my protest.
In these days it is held by naval officers with passionate conviction that specialisation is more than ever necessary in the engineering branch and in the engine-room; and why at this moment specialisation in an important branch should be discouraged and discarded is what they cannot understand, and they hold that there has not been sufficient authority or evidence to justify it I assure the First Lord that I am anxious to do all I can to support him. I think, however, that my noble friend has assented too soon to this interchangeability, and I trust it is not too late to reconsider it.
I hope I may be allowed to make an appeal to a patriotic Press not to discourage criticisms of the Admiralty proposals, or to treat honest criticism as merely fractious or old-fashioned. Those who are on active service are practically restrained by discipline from communicating with the Press, and it is a pain to every naval officer who respects himself if he has any public criticism to make upon his chiefs. Besides that, a naval officer has to depend on the Board of Admiralty for promotion and for appointments. There is every consideration for his remaining silent. But there is all the more reason, surely, if they have no access to the Press, that 243 those who feel for them, and who believe they know their sentiments, should speak out.
I assure your Lordships that it is profoundly distasteful to me to have to pronounce so strongly on one of the most important subjects that can be brought forward, but I have felt it my duty on this occasion to speak out. Twice I have had the honour and proud privilege of presiding over the naval service, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to think that I succeeded in winning, to a great extent I hope, the confidence and regard of the service. I feel sure that my noble friend the First Lord will give his best efforts to this matter. If he will communicate—as the etiquette of the service allows far more than in the case of the military service—with all classes of officers, my noble friend will realise what the service really thinks; and if he can persuade the Government to alter such errors as may exist in the system, my noble friend will reap the richest reward in the gratitude of the finest service in the world.
My Lords, there has been continuity in the administration of the last two First Lords of the Admiralty, and I hope that this continuity will be adhered to under the present First Lord, especially as regards the system of entering officers. I am a believer in the present system of testing the capacity of a boy before allowing him to go through the whole course at Osborne. At present the examination practically lasts a year, during the whole of which the candidate is under supervision both in working hours and in playtime.
If the thousands of boys who wish to become officers in the Navy were given a year's education as a test it would cost too much money. Therefore the commonsense plan has been adopted of giving a larger number of nominations than the number of cadets required, of interviewing the boy, and of subjecting him to a qualifying examination, before allowing him to go to Osborne. As regards nominations I can well understand that a First Lord would personally be glad to be relieved from the necessity 244 of refusing some hundreds of applicants, but I think that it is a duty which should be performed by one person only, and if that person's task were lightened, the service would suffer. Naval cadets should be selected from among the sons of educated men. The tone of boys brought up in good homes is likely to be superior to that of boys brought up anyhow. To go back to a competitive examination for candidates of tender years would be a most retrograde step, and I hope that the present First Lord will not surrender the principle of nomination, in compliance with a cry got up by persons who know little of the Navy. Horses are not allowed to be raced until they are two years old, and even then it is not good for them.
The question of interviewing the boy has been much discussed. It is a simple and commonsense plan. In business and in private life, almost every employer interviews a person before taking him into their service. The three interviewers, who are constantly changed, represent the country, and they have, I believe, done their work at least as well as the, average employer. It is, however, a new idea to professional examiners and schoolmasters. In my opinion it is a very much better plan than the old Chinese system of a paper, pen and ink examination, lasting three days. The only improvement I can suggest would be to nominate more competitors and to send more of them away during the first year. As I said before, we want the very best. At the early age at which boys enter the Navy, what you want to find out is not so much what they actually know on joining, but what capacity they may have for absorbing the knowledge that you intend to impart to them. This can be more easily ascertained during their residence at Osborne than in a three-day examination at Burlington House.
I heartily congratulate Admiral Sir John Fisher and his colleagues on having shaken off the yoke of the public schools with their Elizabethan education, and on giving lads destined for the sea instruction more suited to a post-Victorian age. The supporters of instruction in the dead languages say that their system produces statesmen, but it is not their little grammatical tricks or their barbarous pronunciation of the languages of 245 Cicero and Demosthenes that makes statesmen, but a knowledge of history, and that subject I am glad to see is not neglected either at Osborne or at Dartmouth. English, too, is also taught at both these places. These subjects are unfortunately too often neglected at scientific middle-class schools. The old public schools and modern technical schools have much to learn from one another. In their play-hours, boys at public schools are taught to look upon good cricketers as demi-gods. But games are kept in their proper place at Osborne. It is, I think, at present the best school in England for any boy who is not specialising for the Church or the Bar, and if our public schools do not mend their ways, I hope that the War Office will take courage, follow the lead of the Admiralty, and establish schools of their own. As for those boys who have the misfortune to be removed from Osborne, I am sure that they will feel grateful in after life for the time spent there, and that they will have learnt many things necessary to a man who has to live in this age of machinery, the twentieth century.
The cadets who now go on to Dartmouth have been found much superior in knowledge and general intelligence to those who came direct from public or private schools. When I visited Osborne, I was glad to see from the cadets' work-books that mechanical drawing is properly taught there. When I became a first lieutenant I felt the greatest inconvenience from being unable to draw sketches to scale of the work I Wanted done by the ship's artificers. I do not approve of over-working boys, but a knowledge of shorthand is of the greatest help in all walks of life in enabling a man to take rapid notes of any conversation on duty or on business. I believe that very few, if any, naval officers can write shorthand, so that they do not know the value of it. I think that the question of adding it to the curriculum might be taken into consideration, and I should also suggest that Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley's opinion might be taken on that point.
As regards our future engineers, it is Intended to change the system laid down in 1902, and to "specialise" for the 246 different duties without separating into permanent and distinctive branches. But since 1902 it has been decided that only three engineers are to be borne in a battleship; that artificer engineers are to go through a severer course of study; that they are to be relieved from watch keeping, so as to have more leisure to work at repairs; that the best men among the stokers are to be made warrant officers and given charge of a watch. I will not express an opinion of my own on a subject on which I find so many well-known officers differ, but I will point out that many of them think that it will be very difficult for an engineer to keep up his knowledge of manœuvring during six or eight years of duty down below. Modern men-of-war may appear to be very easy to handle, but they are not so in reality. When turning, more especially when in a current or tide-way, they are liable to what might be called side-slip, and in that respect are as bad as motor omnibuses on a slippery wood pavement. They have no centre keel to keep them straight as the old-fashioned ships had.
The charge of the engines in a battleship or a cruiser will take a man all his time, and though marine, torpedo, and gunnery officers can be on deck when a fleet is manœuvring, or when their ship is going in or out of harbour, the engineer officers would usually have their own work to attend to below. We have, as it is, far too many collisions in the Navy, and a fear exists that under this system their number will be increased. But Admiralty regulations are not the laws of the Medes and Persians. For instance, the rules for specialisation have undergone a change since 1902, and are sure to undergo some further change before any of the Osborne entries reach the rank of lieutenant. The difficulty may, I think, be overcome by giving a substantial increase of pay to officers who specialise for ever between the ages of twenty-five and thirty. Mankind, even if it runs machines, is very human. The young men who wish to marry at that age would accept the increased income. The engine-room would then be run by young married men, while the more ambitious and hard-hearted bachelor would remain on the bridge.
247 If during the next five or six years our inventors continue to progress at the present rate there will be great changes in the material of the Navy. The engines may all be turbines. There will also be another Admiralty. The present First Lord may or may not be there, but his naval colleagues will have completed their period of service. That new Admiralty will be able to sort out its engineers, artificers, and warrant officers very much better than the present one, because it will have the actual men and ships before it, whereas the present Administration has before it only the imaginary type of officer, artificer and warrant officer that it expects the new system of education to provide. We must trust to the Admiralty of the future, and hope it will not put round men into square holes. There will be ample time for those opposed to inter-changeability to assert their opinions. In the meanwhile, we must rest satisfied with the knowledge that a considerable number of lads and young men are being given the best possible education for the different branches of the service, and that future executive officers will be able to carry out all repairs connected with their guns, torpedoes, and telegraphs without perpetually requiring the assistance of officers whose chief duty it is to attend to the propulsion of the ship.
The re-stationing of our men-of-war has been rendered necessary by the change in the balance and bases of Naval Power, and by the substitution of fast steamers for sailing ships. I have always held that the greatest danger that this country is exposed to is surprise in the time of peace. This redistribution has greatly lessened the risk of such a misfortune. We must be supreme in Home waters first. If we are, the supremacy of other seas will probably follow. I hope that this necessity will not be forgotten, and that while our manœuvres are being carried out in the Atlantic in June, a sufficient force will be left in Home waters to guard our coasts against a possible attack.
I am also glad to see that an endeavour is to be made to make merchant ships understand that they run a risk of capture in war time. The managers of 248 those firms whose ships will not be allowed to assist in the manœuvres, and whose vessels decline to look out for signals, would probably be found among those who would shriek the loudest if their ships were captured at the commencement of a war.
Rapid shipbuilding is most desirable. I congratulate Admiral Sir Henry Barry and those engaged in the construction of the "Dreadnought" on their successful experiment. The keel of the "Dreadnought" was laid on a Monday at 7 o'clock. I saw that vessel on the Tuesday, and again on the Saturday after her keel was laid. The amount built into her in that short time was wonderful. Whether on another occasion more men could be employed with less overtime, requires consideration. Overtime is all very well for a short period, but when too prolonged, it exhausts the workmen and makes them discontented. The present First Lord will hear a great deal about this point when he goes to Portsmouth. It is also a question as to what date should be looked upon as that of the commencement of a ship, when comparing the time of construction with that in private yards. If many hundreds of tons of material have been cut into shape before the keel is laid, it is scarcely fair to take the date from the laying of the keel as that of the commencement of the ship.
Some writers in magazines and in the public Press are alarmed at the comparative number of battleships that other countries will possess in a few years time. At the present moment I do not share these alarms. I think that the Admiralty should watch foreign yards more closely than foreign programmes. If our Admiralty consider that foreign yards are too active, they should at once alter their own programme, and lay down more ships without talking too much about it. They should not give an enemy a six months start, because Parliament is not sitting. If it was necessary to do such a thing Parliament would pass a Bill of Indemnity. The present House of Commons would do it, and the last House of Commons would have done it, and I am sure that it would 249 be difficult to find in English history two successive Houses more differently constituted. If Parliament was specially summoned to vote the necessary money, such a proceeding might be taken as a threat, and put further strain on the diplomatic situation.
I see that non-continuous service is to be established concurrently with the present system. It can only be looked upon as an experiment. I hope that it may have the effect of increasing our Reserves, but it will take some years to see how it answers. This will also be a question for Admiralties of the future to deal with.
The new system under which the Royal Naval Reserve will have to serve part of their time on board a man-of-war at sea, instead of merely going on board a drill ship in the morning, will greatly increase their efficiency. I am, however, somewhat anxious as to how far this change may affect their numbers. The Memorandum says that gunnery is a duty that is unlikely to fall on Reserve men in time of war. I hope that that does not mean that they are not to be taught gunnery. Means ought certainly to be taken to ascertain if there are any exceptionally good shots to be found among the 27,000 men who constitute that force, in which case such men might be dealt with by special regulations.
The improved pensions for chief petty officers will tend to attract and keep in the service the best men, and I think that the country will get full value for it. The system of continuing allotments when ships have sailed for foreign stations will be of great benefit to the seamen's relations. It ought to have been done long ago.
I shall only make one remark about gunnery. It has immensely improved since Admiral Sir Percy Scott has been allowed to take it in hand. The competitions between ships are, I understand, all carried out in fine weather because any competition would otherwise be unfair. But I see no mention of practice in bad weather. Perhaps this is only an omission. The battle of Tsusima was fought in very bad weather, and men should have experience in handling their guns under such conditions.
250 I am glad to notice that 1,000 undesirables have been removed from the Navy. There is always a small percentage of such men in every ship. Their removal makes life much pleasanter on the lower deck, and greatly reduces the number of minor punishments. In one ship that I was in, the commanding officer reported that the number of minor punishments might appear large for so small a ship, but half of them had been inflicted on one man, who never refused to work, but never did any work. Imprisonment in cells he delighted in, as there was no hard labour. He happened to be a stoker, and as there were only two stokers in each watch, the life of the other stoker was not a happy one when under steam. We afterwards found that he was a deserter from the Militia. We tried to send him back. The military authorities, however, refused to take him, and asked us to forward to them a penny a day for money he owed to their department. It took us about two years to get rid of him. His leave was never stopped for long, for it was hoped that he might treat the Navy as he had treated the Militia.
The new arrangement for refits, by which only a certain number of our ships are to be undergoing repair at any one time, will lessen the chances of our being surprised in the time of peace.
Obsolescence is a new word to me as a naval term. I have always known the process as "scrapping." Judicious scrapping has been the basis of the prosperity of many business firms, more especially those more or less connected with iron and steel, and in these days of perpetual invention the policy of scrapping all ships of a certain age is undoubtedly the correct one. It is better to spend money on ship-building than on extensive repairs. Look how quickly men change their motor cars, not because the engine is worn out but because new improvements have made them out of date. The "Victory" was forty years old at Trafalgar, and served a commission in the Baltic afterwards, but those days are long past. Old ships are over-weighted with weak armour and have less powerful guns; most of them have less speed, and yet they must still be manned by our best seamen, whom we could not well 251 spare in war. For many years, when roughly estimating the forces of different fleets, I used to take the tonnage of the different ships and subtract five per cent, of that tonnage for every year of their ags, so that at twenty years a war ship would be considered valueless. But many officers now-a-days put the useful life of a man-of-war at only fifteen years.
I am glad to see that arrangements have been made for supplying periodicals and newspapers for the use of the men. When they are off duty and leave cannot be granted, life is often very dull on board ship, and reading will tend to increase the general knowledge and intelligence of the man. I agree with the remarks made by the noble Viscount who preceded me on the number of naval officers who are practically self-educated. To what degree a man can be self-educated largely depends on the libraries to which he has access.
If the Admiralty wish certain subjects of study to be taken up in the Navy, I suggest that they should not always make them compulsory with examinations, but merely place books on those subjects in the ship's libraries. Some officers would be sure to read them.
Not a word is said in this Memorandum about either submarines or mechanical or electrical mines. But in another document we are informed that eleven submarines are being built. As I think that there is much to be said in favour of keeping secret the details connected with submarines, I shall say nothing about them either. But I shall take this opportunity of voicing the gratitude of a number of my countrymen in regard to those who serve on board these vessels, who for the benefit of their country are constantly running war risks in time of peace. From the experience of the Japanese war, I should, think it a great mistake to dispense entirely with electrical and mechanical mines. Recollect that the only Japanese battleships sunk in the war were sunk by Russian mines. At any rate, as our enemies are sure to employ them against us in shallow water, our men ought to have experience in laying down and sweeping for dummy mines.
Our fleets cannot always be attended by submarines when in distant harbours, 252 and when refitting at a temporary base in a state of comparative unreadiness, whether alone or in company, they will be much more exposed to attack by other ships if they are known to be unprotected by mines of any description. During the civil war in America it was the constant practice of both sides to eke out a short supply of mines by anchoring logs of wood so as to induce the enemy to act cautiously. But if it is known that we are unprotected by mines of any description we shall be unable to deceive an enemy in this manner. He will attack us instantly without waiting to sweep for mines, instead of giving us time to prepare for him. Patterns of sweeping apparatus that have stood the test of experience ought to be kept in store, so that officers should know how to fit up the cheap merchant ships that would be used for sweeping.
I must call attention to another matter. The King's Regulations and Admiralty instructions have been out of print for two years and a half. I ordered a copy about eighteen months ago, but could not obtain one. Last week I made a further application to a Portsmouth bookseller, who tells me that they have been out of print since the latter end of 1903. I well recollect the inconvenience caused by delay in republishing the Queen's Regulations many years ago, but I thought that such procrastination was a thing of the past. There are now 129,000 men in the Navy, some hundreds of whose officers cannot get a copy of the King's Regulations except by borrowing a copy from a senior, who is not likely to be able to spare his copy for any length of time. I say this advisedly, for many hundreds of officers have obtained their commissions and many officers of the civil branch have joined the service since the King's Regulations have been out of print. I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will lose no time in re-organising the department responsible for this mischievous and unreasonable delay.
In conclusion, I wish to express my regret that during the short time that the noble Earl was at the Admiralty ill-health prevented him from taking as active a part as he might have wished, and to state that I consider that he and his 253 colleagues have handed over to his successor a most efficient Navy, and that I hope the present First Lord will be able to maintain that efficiency. But that cannot be done by sitting still and changing nothing, or by accepting the advice of theorists and faddists, some of whom believe that a paper treaty declaring private property at sea to be inviolable in time of war will be sufficient to secure our food supply. Paper will not secure our daily bread in time of war; but well-handled steel maybe able to do so. I also hope that the First Lord will turn a deaf ear to those who think more of conciliating a small portion of the electorate than of the interests of the nation as a whole. I wish the noble Lord every success in his administration.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long, but there are some points in this debate on which the House will expect me to make some observations. First of all, may I say that no one in my position, nor in that of the noble Lord opposite, can for a moment object or demur to the tone of the criticisms which have been made to-night by noble Lords who stand high in the knowledge of naval matters, and who have criticised what they have had to criticise in a friendly, if in a very decisive, spirit.
The noble Lord who raised this debate spoke first of the efficiency of the Fleet, and I was glad to notice that in all the subsequent speeches much the same view was taken on that point. May I say upon that subject, that the effect of removing obsolete vessels from the Fleet has been that we are now enabled to maintain sixteen more fighting ships in full commission and 154 more ships in partial commission, while saving £1,292,000 in upkeep as compared with the Fleet in January, 1904? I think that is not a very unsatisfactory state of things to have achieved in a very short time.
Lord Brassey seems to think that at Osborne and Dartmouth hardly sufficient attention is given to foreign languages. The noble Lord, I think, went so far as to suggest that we should discard French in certain cases and teach German; diminish mathematical teaching to some 254 extent, and teach more of foreign languages. If the noble Lord looks carefully at what is being taught at Dartmouth, he will find that the essentials of naval training are being taught there very well, and that there is really no time for any addition to the syllabus.
The noble Lord seems to have some doubt as to whether it was wise to do away with intermediate armament. I can only say that the almost unanimous feeling of experts, so far as I have been able to judge, is in favour of getting rid of the intermediate armament and going in for smaller guns for protection from torpedo-vessels and one gun of very considerable power. It is rather interesting to learn, too, that foreign countries have, since we adopted this plan, come to the conclusion that it is the right thing to do. I find that the Reporter on French Navy Estimates for this year points out that this intermediate artillery ought to disappear from their battleships, and that it is only necessary to have guns of large calibre, and, for preference, of a single type.
The noble Viscount (Lord Goschen) than whom no one is more beloved in the Navy as one of the best First Lords they have ever had, spoke with regard to the interchangeability of officers and of the widespread alarm and the utterances of despair there were amongst the opponents of the scheme throughout the Navy. I do not know who those may be, though I think I can guess some of them. But the real fact is that those who are opponents of these schemes are people who make themselves very much heard. Those who accept the schemes and approve of them do not rush into print with the same vivacity or virulence of expression, but quietly and confidently wait for the reforms of which they approve to be carried out.
§ EARL CAWDOR
But they have, somehow, made their opinions known to the noble Viscount; and it is undoubtedly the fact that those who are opposed to the scheme do make their opinions more 255 generally known than those who approve them.
§ EARL CAWDOR
I could tell the noble Viscount of a number of very distinguished naval officers who approve entirely of this suggestion of interchange-ability. I think the noble Viscount put the case too high when he said there was widespread opposition to this scheme among the senior officers of the Navy. I know of many who approve of it. The interchangeability and training of officers is a question of great importance, and I think I can satisfy your Lordships that it is not such a foolish scheme after all.
I venture to say that no school in the country gives an education nearly as efficient as that which is given at Osborne and at Dartmouth. It is admirable all the way through, and it is admirable to a great extent on this ground—that the cadets are taught in small classes by most skilled teachers. I would urge the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty to see that that part of the scheme is adhered to rigidly. I hope in any conversation he may have with the Treasury he will be determined in getting the best teachers and seeing that they are properly paid. I do not know the exact state in which those proceedings may be, but a Committee was, I believe, appointed to consider the matter. I do hope it will be borne in mind that it is of the essence of the success of the scheme that the classes must be small and the teachers absolutely first-rate.
Now, with regard to the teaching given. The cadets have four years at Osborne and Dartmouth Colleges, and six months on cruisers undergoing special skilled training, and then they go on for three years as midshipmen. At Osborne and Dartmouth 30 per cent. of their time is taken up in engineering, 50 per cent, in mathematical and general subjects, and 20 per cent. in executive seamanship. They are then drafted to sea as midshipmen. They are trained with other midshipmen of their own age, and heir study is not interfered with by the intervention of cadets of 256 an older class. We are told that we ought not to have come to a conclusion at the present time on this question of interchangeability; that it was much too soon, and that we should have waited. It is very easy for the critic to wait; it is not so easy for the person who has to deal with this matter and see it through. We had pressed on us the view that both cadets and their parents were entitled to know what; their future was going to be. But that would not have made us, under any circumstances, come to a conclusion before we thought we had sufficient facts upon which to form aur opinion. The result of two years training of boys from thirteen to fifteen at Osborne did give us, with the assistance of our skilled advisers in educational matters, a very good idea of what the result of that education would be. We were satisfied with the progress made during these two years, and we thought that we were justified—and I hold that we were—in coming to the conclusion that the interchangeability of officers so trained would be possible.
In former days officers were non-interchangeable. You had on your ships executive officers for fighting, for navigation, and for supreme control; you had, secondly, Marine officers to assist in fighting, but to have no concern with navigation or propulsion, and no executive control; you had, thirdly, engineers who were classed as non-combatant to control the means of propulsion. Surely it is a strange thing that the officer who has absolute control of the propelling power of the ship should be debarred from rising to the highest commands in the Service. That has been the case up to the present time.
In future, instead of that scheme, executive, engineering, or marine duties will be performed by officers of common entry and common training. They will specialise for different duties without separating into permanently distinct branches. Each officer will have special knowledge in one particular branch of the Service, but all officers will have a general knowledge of the different branches, and all will have an opportunity of fitting themselves for the position of a captain of a ship: indeed, of rising to the highest positions in 257 their profession. If that scheme can be properly carried out I maintain that it must largely increase the efficiency of the officers, and therefore the efficiency of the Navy itself.
I may be asked what is the prospect of the efficiency of future naval officers under these conditions. I will take them one by one. The general service lieutenant who does not specialise will be far better trained in deck duties as a midshipman than formerly, and will have considerable training as an engineer in the engine-room. All round, he will be a better trained officer for general purposes than he was before. The gunnery lieutenant's career will be practically unaltered under the new scheme, except that he will have a far better mechanical training than he had before, and to that extent must be a better officer. The torpedo lieutenant, as far as electrical matters are concerned will have a far better early mechanical training. The navigating lieutenant will have engineer training, which, if not necessary for him, perhaps, as a navigating lieutenant, will be of great value to him when he becomes, if he should become, captain of a warship. These points are not so much in dispute.
I Will now come to the cases upon which the noble Viscount holds so strong an opinion, and upon which he has expressed himself so forcibly this afternoon. I mean the cases of the marine officer and the engineer officer and their proposed interchangeability as executive officers. In future, the Marine officer will be trained as a naval officer. He will undergo a period of military training sufficient in our opinion, to make him an efficient military officer for the duties he will have to perform as a Marine. He will be able to look forward—and this is an enormous improvement—to filling high posts in the Navy. There are at the present time hardly any high posts that can be filled by Marine officers. It has always been a trouble to those in authority at the Admiralty that they have had so little to hold out to Marine officers in the way of high posts. For general service the Marine officer will be the same as the other naval officers we have discussed. He will have an eighteen months' course in addition to the small 258 arm and company drill he has had as a midshipman, and sea life will enable him to carry out his duties as a Marine officer far better than if he had not had it.
It is a mistake to suppose that there is any regimental system or any long-continued association between officers and men in the Marine corps, except during the commission of a ship, and that will not be interfered with at all under the new proposals. When a private of Marines returns from service to barracks, he is detailed to a company commanded by a captain he does not know. When he completes his time on shore, and goes to sea, he again serves under Marin officers who are strangers to him. Under the present system we have constantly at sea Marines under the control of naval officers, and bluejackets under the control of Marine officers. I think the noble Earl who spoke second quoted the fact that in the last ten years some 8,500 Marines have been annually borne on the books of His Majesty's ships, and of this number one-third have been serving on ships without any Marine officer on board. I do not know that any evil effect has resulted. If that is so, what is the objection to Marines being officered on shore by naval officers? The noble Viscount said we were striking at the vitality of the corps. I will venture to say that we are doing nothing of the kind. I cannot follow the noble Viscount's argument, nor can I accept his conclusion. I suggest that there is really nothing in this proposal that will in any way reduce the efficiency of the Marine corps as a whole, but the efficiency of the officers and their usefulness to the Navy will be, in my opinion, very largely increased.
It has been said that we propose to do away with the Marines. No one outside of Bedlam would dream of doing anything of the kind. The Marines bear a splendid record; we admire their brilliant services, and we know them to be as fine a corps of men as exists in any country. What we wish to do is to maintain and strengthen them by adapting their officers somewhat more to the modern fighting requirements of the Navy.
259 Now, my Lords, I must say a word with regard to the engineer officers. Here, again, I think there is some misapprehension. It seems to be thought by some that an engineer officer requires the same training and the same apprenticeship as a skilled artificer or skilled workman. That is quite a delusion. Prolonged apprenticeship is necessary for the artificer to train eye and hand and muscle, and to give him the necessary practice, to enable him to do perfect and accurate work. A far shorter apprenticeship will enable the engineer officer, well trained as he will have been from youth, to judge between good and bad work, and to know how repairs should be properly carried out. An engineer officer needs to be a thorough judge of work, and of the essentials of mechanism. How are we training the future engineer officer for this? Before an engineer officer can have charge of the engines he will have spent a considerable part of four years at college, studying engineering subjects, and working in shops. Thirty per cent. of his three years midshipman time in engine-room watch-keeping, one year's special engineering course to study modern developments, and seven years practical engineering work on board ship. His training for executive duties will be the same as gunnery and torpedo lieutenants receive, and there has never been any complaint that these have been found incapable of carrying out their executive duties. Of His Majesty's battleships and first-class cruisers I am informed that 50 per cent, are commanded by captains who have been gunnery and torpedo lieutenants; that does not look as if their training for executive duties had failed. Engineer officers will have a training which will fit them to take their place beside gunnery and torpedo lieutenants, and there is not the shadow of a reason why the efficiency of the executive or the special branch should be diminished. On the contrary, there is every prospect of the standard of efficiency being materially raised in both cases. It may be thought that the proposals contained in this Memorandum have been made in haste. There is no truth whatever in the suggestion. The matters dealt with—important and far-reaching as they are—are the outcome of much thought and consideration for many years. We be 260 lived, when I was at the Admiralty—I believe to-day—that they will tend to-strengthen and make more efficient than ever the great service of which we are all so proud.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord TWEEDMOUTH)
My Lords, I confess that the pride and satisfaction that I have in answering for the great Department of which I have the honour to be at the head, is not a little tempered by a sense of the heavy responsibility which I feel rests upon me. It is no small matter to be responsible to Parliament for the great Department which really controls the supreme power of this country, and I think that the course of the debate to-night has brought home to me this fact with full force.
I entered office under somewhat trying and unusual circumstances. For the last twenty-five years the Navy has been going through a great revolution in personnel, in tactics, in strategy, in ships; and this fact has been acknowledged by successive Boards of Admiralty, who have given full effect to great changes, and, as sequence to these great changes, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary also to make great changes in the method of entry and training of officers for the Navy. They came to the conclusion to adopt wthe plan which as so much discussed three years ago. I came into office two months ago and found this determination arrived at. I have been congratulated because I retained the old Board, who acted with my noble friend opposite. Retaining that Board, and considering it a proper body to advise me, I felt bound to pay the greatest respect to the resolutions they had arrived at after the most careful and serious consideration.
Both sides of the question have been clearly stated by the noble Earl who spoke second, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen on the one side, and by my noble friend the late First Lord on the other. Those statements of the case will, I think, be read with eagerness. What I have to do to-night is to state the view that I take of the situation. This plan, this new arrangement, has been in operation now for only three years, and while the tree is growing it is not 261 good to pull it up to look at its roots. My belief is that the proper course for us to take is to allow the tree to grow, to see what fruit it will bear, not neglecting it, but manuring, trimming, pruning, if necessary cutting it back, but watching it and giving it a fair trial.
Let me just briefly run through the education of a boy entering the Navy under this new system. The boy enters Osborne as near as possible at the age of thirteen. There he works for forty hours in the week, twenty-four and three-quarters hours in professional subjects, such as seamanship, navigation, practical engineering, mathematics, physics and chemistry, and for the remaining hours in general subjects. He stays there for two years, and then goes to Dartmouth. At Dartmouth he works forty-one and a quarter hours in the week, devoting twenty-eight hours to professional subjects and thirteen and a quarter to general subjects. Four years he passes at these two schools or colleges—institutions which I believe are models to every school in the world.
I have not seen Dartmouth myself, but I have most carefully watched the proceedings at Osborne. The staff, of course, is enormous. You have thirty-four masters on the civil side and you have a great number of naval officers on the disciplinary side, as well as a great number of petty officers and seamen who help the cadets in their laboratory work and in their studies in the workshops. These boys have the greatest care taken of them. It is a very different thing from what we were accustomed to when we were in the public schools. Learning is made very easy, and the boys pick up the knowledge imparted to them with extraordinary quickness and intelligence. Their chances for those four years are very great, and I am sure that at the end of that period nine boys out of ten will come out very accomplished young officers with a great deal more knowledge, both special and general, than the ordinary boy of sixteen or seventeen as he then would be. Then, after leaving Dartmouth, the lad goes on board a cruiser for six or seven months, where his education is carried on in special subjects as well as in general seamanship. 262 After that he spends three years as a midshipman on board ship, and at the end of that period passes an examination, and for two years is a sub-lieutenant. Of those two years one is spent ashore and one afloat, but both under most careful supervision and training.
The young officer is then 22½ or 22 years of age. He has had every chance, and in most cases will be a very well equipped officer for his age. It is not till he has passed the examination for lieutenant, after all this training, that he becomes a specialist. When the young officer becomes a lieutenant he then specialises. It does not matter on what subject. He may be a navigator, he may be an engineer, he may take up gunnery or torpedo work. Depend upon it you will find all the best of these young men specialising in one subject or another.
During his time as lieutenant the specialised work will be continued, so that, whether it be one sort or another, you will find that these men will excel each in his department as much as we now find the torpedo and the gunnery specialists excel. Why, then, should this system of training not apply to the engineer officer also? I believe that many lieutenants will stick to particular subjects right on through their career, but if they show a particular aptitude for the command of a ship or for general executive work, depend upon it they will be brought back, either with the consent of their equals or by the orders of their superiors, and they will do good service. While I am ready to keep an open mind on the subject, I do think that there is not evidence sufficient to stop this experiment. We ought, therefore, to go on with it, in order to see what kind of officer will be produced in seven or eight years and then judge by the result of the experiment.
The Committee referred to by the noble Viscount was a Departmental Committee, and I have no objection to lay the Report on the table of the House if there is a wish shown to have it. As to the protection of our ports by searchlights and submarine mines, it is the fact that the submarine mining establishments have been handed over from the War Office to the Admiralty, and I understand that 263 the searchlights are still kept in then-position. The question of submarine mines is an argumentative one. It very often happens that your mine is as dangerous to yourselves as to your opponent. The Admiralty hope that the defence of our ports in future will be cared for by means of the new submarine boats. There has been a great deal of discussion about the possible changes in the coastguard. Nothing much has been done as yet Some of the smaller coastguard stations have been abolished, but no decision has been arrived at as to the force in general, and as far as I know there is no intention at the present moment to make any considerable change.
The object of the Admiralty in respect of the Royal Naval Reserve has been to secure the greatest amount of efficiency at the lowest possible cost. The old fashion of training the Naval Reserve was to scatter round the coast a number of batteries—I think there were thirty-three altogether—many of them equipped with obsolete guns. There were also nine drill ships, but the late Board came to the conclusion that it was far better to have the Reserve men thoroughly trained under modern conditions than to keep them under a system of different and costly training. The changes in the arrangement of the Fleet lent themselves to such a new system. On account of the new Reserve Fleet, with the nucleus ships, the Admiralty were provided with suitable vessels always ready round the coast to receive the Reserve men for training. It was accordingly arranged that the Royal Naval Reserve men now under engagement could, if they did not like to go to sea, fulfil the remainder of their number of years engagement at eight batteries and with three training ships conveniently placed round the coast where they might go for the time which elapsed between the new system and the end of their term of engagement. What we want to encourage is the coming forward of the men for training on board the Reserve ships.
The new system is this. The Reservist during the first year of his engagement goes for three months on board one of 264 these ships. Every other year after that he goes for twenty-eight days training in a Reserve ship, choosing himself the month when he will be able to go on board. Thus the Reserve men have the advantage of practical training under such conditions as actual service to-day, with new guns, and of being able to see what service in a modern warship is like. I think it will be found that we shall thereby obtain a much more useful number of men in the Naval Reserve. From a monetary point of view, the new arrangement is better than the old one, for the men are provided with board and lodging. We have increased considerably the Royal Fleet Reserve. There has been a little falling off in the Royal Naval Reserve; but the total of the Royal Fleet and Naval Reserves together is fully as large as under the old conditions. We believe that the men obtained in the Royal Fleet Reserve will be extremely useful.
The noble Viscount asked me a Question with regard to short service. A very few men have as yet been enlisted under the short service conditions. It is believed, however, that there is a great deal of work in modern warships which can be done by men not of the first skill, and that good men can be got on short service able to do that work, while providing a considerable number for the Reserve. There is no intention of applying the short service to the skilled ratings or the higher ranks of the Navy. The men upon whom we shall most depend will be men of long service, on the same conditions as before.
I think I have touched on all the points raised. I can only say, in conclusion, that so far as I have the power of influencing the naval policy of the country, I shall endeavour to make it progressive and not aggressive, while I shall consider fully and attentively the views of naval officers and experts. I hope that in this work I shall have the assistance of the noble Viscount and others of his predecessors in office so as to help me through with the difficult task I have undertaken.
§ House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.