HL Deb 22 July 1908 vol 193 cc46-51

*LORD BRASSEY, in rising—"To call attention to the inadequate means of educational training available for officers of the Mercantile Marine, and to urge that some provision should be made for the education of cadets of the Royal Naval Reserve during the period of apprenticeship,"—said: The point on which I wish to insist is this. Whilst the Admiralty have bestowed, and rightly bestowed, the utmost care on the education of officers for the permanent service of the Navy, and Parliament has been lavish in appropriations, the early education of officers enrolled for the Reserve has been neglected. The Admiralty have relied unduly on the inadequate means of instruction obtainable outside the Royal service. The Admiralty have shown their sense of the importance of providing a Reserve of officers for the Navy by enrolling them in large numbers. Their names fill many pages of the Navy List. We look to out Reserve of officers, not only in war, but in the ordinary conditions of peace service.

In the school-ship stage, it does not seem necessary to call for assistance from the State. For cadets aspiring to the more responsible positions in the mercantile marine, and it from these that the Navel Reserve in recruited, two school-ships have been established by private effort; the "Conway" in the Mersey, and the "Worcester" in the Thames. Those ships should be able to turn out midshipmen every year in numbers sufficient for the requirements of the Naval Reserve. When we pass from the school-ship to the important period of apprenticeship at sea, the need, is urgent for some assistance from the State. For those entered as cadets and midshipmenin the Naval Reserve sea-going training-ships, such as that formerly maintained by the P. and O. Company, are necessary. The P. and O. ship has long since disappeared. To-day we have one ship, and only one ship, the "Port Jackson." sailing under the flag of Messrs Devitt & Moore, in which the education begun in the school ships is systematically carried forward. Another ship of a similar character is reported to be fitting out by the powerful combine over which Mr. Ismay presides.

It is obvious that two sea-going ships will not adequately provide for the educational training of the number of young officers required for the Mival Reserve. The majority of those who are enrolled as officers for the Naval Reserve have to go to sea as apprentices under conditions far from favourable to education. They go to sea as apprentices in the mercantile marine. Under the pressure of severe competition, our merchant ships are worked, and necessarily worked, with the strictest regard to economy. The apprentices do the duties of ordinary seamen. At sea it is good that the apprentice should take his part in working the ship. If his whole time in harbour is given to chipping paint and similar occupations, his naval education cannot be carried up to the standard required for efficiency in the Royal Navy. Steps should be taken to afford greater equality of opportunity. Adenquately to extend the facilities for the education of officers of the Reserve, state-aid should be given to a limited extent, and under conditions which would insure that public money was well applied. As to the conditions, it should be insisted upon that competent naval instructors should be carried. For training in seamanship the ships should be fully rigged. To maintain an effective supervision over the prograss of education and professional training, every boy should be examined on the completion of each voyage by an inspecting officer of the Admiralty. The incompetent would be weeded out, and any defects in the system of education would be discovered and remedied. At the completion of four years service at sea, the cadets wrould pass the Board of Trade examination. Some further tests might perhaps be insisted upon.

Assuming that the policy of grants for the training of Reserve cadets were approved, the charge to the State would be inconsiderable compared with the vast total of our Navy Estimates. The number of Reserve cadets would be determined with reference to the establishment of officers of the Reserve, as from time to time fixed by Order in Council. The scale of payment to be made by the Admiralty would be best considered by a small committee, or by conference between the Reserves office and the shipowners. Let it be assumed that the amount for each cadet need not exceed £25 a year. Assuming forty cadets to be carried, the annual grant for each ship would not exceed £1,000. Four or five ships would supply the full number of young officers required for the Reserve. With some encouragement from the Admiralty, ships would be promptly fitted out by the leading shipowners of this country, and if that were done we should be following, where we ought to have led, the example set to us by Germany. It is not going too far to say that a Teal blot on our naval administration would be removed. I may briefly refer to the instruction in engineering, which has become necessary for every officer trained for the sea service. It can be provided for the Naval Reserve at small expense. Midshipmen of the Naval Reserve should go through a six months' course at approved schools of engineering. The necessary cost should be covered by a grant, under suitable conditions. The expenditure I have ventured to recommend would be inconsiderable, whilst the results would be more than commensurate. The officers of the Reserve would be more efficient. In the mercantile marine the standard of education generally would be raised, and the bonds of discipline strengthened. With the general question of technical education for our seamen, I do not propose on the present occasion to deal. An inquiry was held a few years ago by the Royal Geographical Society, the results of which were given in a paper prepared by their able Secretary, Sir Clements Markham. There are some admirable schools, but they are all too few. A strong case was made for more liberal appropriations from the large sums voted by Parliament for technical education. And now I have only to express my acknowledgments to Lieutenant Bosanquet, of the Marine Society, and to Captain Barker, of the Worcester," for the aid they have given in preparing the brief statement I have ventured to submit to your Lordships.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Lord would rather give the idea that the officers of the mercantile marine are slightly deficient in education. I do not think that that can be held for one moment. Most young officers now go in for passing for the extra-masters certificate. We find young men of twenty-four or twenty-five who have passed for that certificate, and. I do not think that any man who has passed the very special examination that he is required to pass to obtain that certificate can be said to have anything deficient in his education. In his Motion, the noble Lord mentions cadets for the Naval Reserve. I do not know what he means by that. I have never heard of such a thing before. But if the noble Lord means cadets for the mercha it service, which I presume he does, we know that at the present time there are two very good school ships and other nautical establishments which give a very excellent education, and a turn-out of a quite sufficient number of officers for the merchant service. As a matter of fact there are, at the present moment, hundreds of captains and officers, fully qualified and able men, out of employment, and I do not think there is ground for any complaint of a shortage of officers or need of more training ships leading to the greater overstocking of our mercantile marine.


My Lords, the noble Lord seems to consider that there is a great lack of opportunity for members of the merchant marine to acquire knowledge. I do not think that is the case at all. I have made some inquiry into this matter, and I find that there are schools in nearly every big port in this country where persons wishing to embrace the calling of the sea can study all matters connected with it. In addition to this there are two ships, the "Conway" and the "Worcester," which render very valuable service in this respect. Owing to the new regulations brought in by Lord Selborne, an officer serving in the Navy is bound to acquire a knowledge of engineering. That has not been the case so far in the merchant service. It seems to me quite proper that officers of the merchant service should if possible acquire some knowledge of engineering. The "Conway" people inform me that they propose placing in the course of instruction on that ship a course of engineering. The noble Lord referred to a new ship fitting out by the White Star Company. I have no particulars to hand about that, but I understand that this ship was going to carry about sixty cadets, with instructors who will be competent to teach them all branches of marine knowledge. The question now is as to how is the Navy served with regard to the Royal Naval Reserve. The facts of the matter are simply these. Generally, every year we have in the Navy about seventy-five to eighty vacancies for officers of the Royal Naval Reserve; for those positions we generally have 400 to 500 applicants, and we are able, therefore, to take the pick of those men, and from the reports that are to hand the efficiency of the officers of the Royal Naval Reserve is beyond doubt. I was talking the other day to an Admiral of the Coast Defences, and he informed me that these men were everything a captain of a ship could desire. Therefore, from the point of view of the Navy, it does not seem necessary that we should spend any more money as suggested by the noble Lord. We are able to get a sufficiency of candidates desirous of joining the Naval Reserve, and, therefore, much as I sympathise with the objects of my noble friend's speech, I think no case has been made out for spending any extra money on this matter.