Our fleet to-day
One of the greatest reforms which has taken place during the last ten or ﬁfteen years in our navy is the increased rapidity with which all classes of ships are built in the dockyards. Formerly they were under construction for ﬁve or six years, receiving leisurely alterations from time to time, until on completion they differed materially from the original design, and in several instances the added weight caused them to draw more water than what they were intended.
It had long been a reproach to the dockyards that they could not, or did not. turn out a war~ship in anything like the time that private shipbuilding yards could produce the same vessel.
The increased interest taken by the nation at large, which culminated in the Naval Defence Act of 1889, and a number of war-ships being given out to contract, infused the dockyards with such enthusiasm that they determined to wipe away the reproach, and demonstrate that in speed of construction as well as in excellence of workmanship they could equal—if not surpass—the great industrial organisations that had provided war-ships for half the world. The result was highly satisfactory, for the ‘ Royal Sovereign’ was completed in two years and eight months from the date when the keel was laid, an unprecedentedly short time for a ship of her size and type. Commissioned at the end of May 1892, her qualities at once commended themselves to naval ofﬁcers, and it was seen that we had arrived at a type of vessel which could be repeated without hesitation. Certain modiﬁcations only appeared necessary. Moreover, it was evident that, unless some great change took place in naval warfare, unless some new, or hitherto untried, weapon forced its way to the front, we had reached a point of some permanence in ironclad construction. And it is curious to see how in this, as in other affairs, history tended to repeat itself. In thirty years we had passed from the two and three-decker of 70 to 120 guns to the broadside ironclad frigate with 20 to 40 guns. After a time this had given place to the turret ship of4 guns.
We then revert to a combination of the two, with an increased number of guns, for practically the turret and barbette are the same principle differently appliedj and lastly we embody this system with that of the old ship, adding to the broadside armament and placing it on two decks. We may be within a measurable distance of having the three-decked ironclad.
Able thus to have at an early date practical experience of the ‘Royal Sovereign’ class, our next step was to lay down a pair ofvessels, the‘ Majestic' and ‘Magniﬁcent,’ of similar but improved type. The new 12-in. gun was ready, but more important still, a great step had been made towards increasing the resistance of armour against projectiles. As steel had now entirely superseded iron for the hulls of warships, so it also replaced compound armour for their protection.
By hardening the surface under the Harvey process, the power of the steel plate thus treated of keeping out shot and shell was enormously increased. A 9-in. Harveyised plate became equal in protective capacity to that formerly secured by a thickness of 18 in.
It was a great stride, if tardy of accomplishment. It enabled you either to keep the same area covered, and diminish the weight of armour carried, or to increase the protected area with the same weight, or to add to the protection with at the same time a sensible decrease of weight. The third alternative was clearly the best. In the ‘Royal Sovereign’ only four of the ten 6-in.
guns are in casemates, the other six being much exposed to the attacks of medium-sized projectiles. In the ‘Majestic’ class, which now includes eight others— ‘Magniﬁcent,’ ‘Czesar,’ ‘Hannibal,’ ‘Illustrious,’ ‘jupiter,’ fMars,’ ‘Prince George’ and ‘Victorious ’—the principal auxiliary armament is twelve 6-in. guns, and allare in casemates . Then the 12-in. barbette guns have armoured
hoods 9 in. thick in front, which, secured to, and revolving with, the turntable, protect the breech mechanism and enable certain appliances connected with its manipula— tion to be brought above the top of the barbette. As regards defence of the hull there is a 9-in. belt, not so long as in the ‘Royal Sovereign,’ but broader, so as to come higher up the side above the water line. The armoured deck is differently arranged. Instead of meeting the top of the belt, it is sloped at the sides so as to reach the lower edge of the belt. Thus, a projectile passing through the latter would ﬁnd in its way to mischief a further inclined plate 4 in. thick. This is a great addition to the defence of an important part. The armoured deck also extends on the ﬂat fore and aft the ship. Another feature in these ships is a battery of sixteen 12-pounder quick-ﬁring guns. These are primarily to resist torpedo-boat attack, it having been found that the 6-p0under could not in all cases be relied upon to disable or stop the approach 'of the craft now constructed for such work. The 12-pounders would also, in action against a ship, seek out the unprotected portions, though themselves exposed to equal injury. It is doubtful, therefore, whether their crews should be so employed or kept as a reserve to ﬁll up casualties in other portions of the armament.
It was considered that these ships should not have less speed than the ‘Royal Sovereign’ class, so they have been given as powerful machinery, but increased accommodation has been provided for coal, by which 1800 tons can be carried when required. These various modiﬁcations have added to the length and displacement . The ‘Majestic’ class are 390 ft. long, and the displacement is 14,900 tons. They have more than come up to expectations, proving themselves to be excellent sea boats and carrying their heavy guns well above the water, having practically 6 ft. higher freeboard forward than their predecessors. This is an excellent feature fully realised in steaming against wind and sea. The torpedo equipment consists of four submerged tubes, two on each side, and one above water tube right aft.
Up to this time, although we had in our later battle ships increased the length of the armoured belt beyond that given to the ‘Admiral’ class, it still terminated a considerable distance from the bow and stem, leaving those portions without external or vertical armour.
Unprotected ends to such vessels, especially in the forepart , had always been considered a weakness by many ofﬁcers. In chasing a retreating opponent, her stern ﬁre, even from moderate-sized guns, might perforate the bow of a ‘ Majestic’ sufﬁciently low down to cause a great inrush of water, which would be difﬁcult to stop without reducing speed, if not stopping altogether. It is obvious that the sharp bows of modern war-ships could not conveniently bear the thick armour placed on the broadside, but thinner plates would deﬂect most projectiles and prevent such an entry of water. In the ‘Formidable’ class, which followed the ‘ Majestic’ group, this provision was made. Equipped with the same type and number of guns, the armour differs in that 2-in. steel plating prolongs the 9-in belt forward to the stem, and is then carried down to the ram, thus strengthening this part and being an additional safeguard in case of the vessel pitching when in chase.
There is also an increase of speed to 18 knots, which necessitates more powerful machinery. Such additions involve a longer and heavier ship. We appear to have reached a maximum in these attributes with the ‘F ormidable’ and her sisters, the ‘Implacable,’ "Irresistible,’ ‘Venerable,’ ‘Bulwark ’ and ‘London.’ Their length is 400 ft. and displacement 15,000 tons. Such a length at one time was associated with unhandiness and a large circle in turning. Twin screws, improved rudders and alterations in form, have overcome these defects. The principle of reducing the length of keel—retaining a long overhanging bow—carried to its extreme limits in the racing yacht of to-day, by which she turns like a top, can be applied to some extent to larger craft. In the ‘Formidable,’ instead of the stem coming down to the keel, that part is removed, if the term canbe applied to what never existed, and the keel goes up to the stem. In the same way aft the dead wood under the counter is removed and the keel turns up, forming an overhanging stern. We thus not only dispense with some weight of material, but add to the facility with which the vessel turns.
Such represents a ﬁrst-class battle ship of to-day. What a marvellous production it is, what testimony to the mechanical genius and progress of the human race it affords. In its creation more than one hundred different industries are concerned. May we not feel pride also in knowing that practically all portions are British made?
We require to go outside this country for only a few small and insigniﬁcant articles out-of the million sterling which the ‘ Formidable’ represents when she hoists the pennant. This means that if we spend ten or twenty millions on an increase to our ﬂeet, the money is spent in Britain, adding to the prosperity and happiness of thousands of homes, while giving security to the whole Empire. This is why the nation never begrudges money to our navy if the Government of the day will have courage to ask for it. There is no question that the ‘Royal Sovereign,’ ‘Majestic’ and ‘Formidable’ groups compose not only magniﬁcent specimens of naval architecture, but most powerful ﬁghting ships. There are many, however, who hold that the same aggregate tonnage distributed over a greater number of somewhat smaller ships would be more advantageous. Now, the twenty-three vessels composing these groups make a total of 337,300 tons, which would give us twenty-seven battle ships of 12,500 tons, an increase of four. Put in this way the game seems hardly worth the candle, but if we say that the Empire needs a very large number of all classes—which is conﬁrmed by history—and viewing the cost of these monster ships, then we may consider it desirable to associate with these others not so large nor so costly. There is not only the gun to provide for and against, but also the ram and torpedo, which are as effective against 15,000-ton ships as against the smaller type.
Whether such views actuated our rulers I do not know, but we have latterly added to our navy several battle ships smaller than the ‘Royal Sovereign.’ The ‘Barﬂeur’ and ‘Centurion’ were admittedly weak in having only 4.7-in. guns for an auxiliary armament. In the ‘ Renown ’ that followed those ships, the displacement was increased to 12,350 tons, which enabled her to have besides four 10-in. guns ten 6-in. quick ﬁrers, while her 8-in. belt of hardened steel armour was more than equal to the 12-in. compound plates of the ‘Centurion.’
It will be observed that two Io-in. 29-ton guns about equal in weight one 12-in. 5o-ton gun. It may be asked why, if a battle ship cannot carry two of these, she should not have a single piece of this calibre rather than two of inferior power. There is much to be said on both sides, but my own opinion inclines to the single gun of greater efﬁciency. If you select a 12-in. 50-ton gun as giving the best combination of armour penetration , shell power and ease of manipulation, with adequate rapidity of ﬁre, there seems no good reason to adopt an inferior weapon, even if duplicated. The difference between a large and smaller battle ship would then be in number of the superior guns carried, a principle also applicable to the auxiliary armament. If, on the other hand, the Io-in. gun is capable of doing all the work required of it, why use heavier metal, which must entail some corresponding disadvantages? The ’ general principles affecting the armament of war-ships are not altered by improved ordnance, any more than steam has changed our views of what should now guide naval strategy. It has always been customary to have a special gun at the ends of a war-ship as a bow and stem chaser, able also, owing to the reduction of breadth at these parts, to ﬁre on either side, but the chief power rested on the broadside ﬁre, because there could be located the greatest number of guns. Occasionally the idea crops up that ships will ﬁght end on, and artiﬁcial means are employed to increase the ﬁre in this direction, only useful if the broadside is not thereby weakened.
In other cases, especially abroad, we see what should be end guns mounted on the broadside in order to have more heavy pieces, but it is at the expense of the more suitable armament, and the result is not satisfactory. In this country we have wisely limited the heavy guns to the ends, but continue in battle ships to mount them in pairs, except in a single instance, the ‘Benbow,’ where we gave one 110-ton gun instead of two 67-ton pieces.
Not a few consider this ship the most formidable of the ‘Admiral’ class. The ‘Renown’ has proved an excellent vessel, and what may be called her successors, the ‘Ocean,’ ‘Goliath,’ ‘ Albion,’ ‘Canopus,’ ‘Glory’ and ‘Vengeance,’ exhibit the satisfactory tendency of adding to the offensive power with a reduction of weight carried in armour. Though 2000 tons smaller—12,950 tons— their armament is practically the same as that of the ‘Formidable,’ but their armour at the water line is 6 in. thick instead of 9. Further improvements in hardened steel plates have led to this modiﬁcation, but the bow has the 2-in. armour as given to the ‘ F ormidable,’ and these 2 in., it must be remembered, are in addition to the steel skin forming the hull of the ship. Besides the usual protective deck, the ‘Ocean’ class has a second steel deck above, I in. thick, in place of what ordinarily constitutes the wooden main deck. Experience has shown that the danger of ﬁre in action still exists, though ships are no longer built of wood, and that this material should be eliminated as far as possible in all war vessels. Equal in length to the ‘Majestic,’ and with more powerful machinery, the speed of the ‘Ocean ’ will be a knot more, while her draught of water being a foot less, she can pass through the Suez Canal without difﬁculty, and thus rapidly proceed to the East if required.
Having for twenty years viewed with complacency armour placed on battle ships varying in thickness from 9 to 24 in., it was natural that some observed with apprehension such a decline as an armoured belt of 6 in. They went so far as to deny the term battle ship to such a construction, and would place the ‘Ocean’ in the category of armoured cruiser. Though it is on power of offence that ability to lie in the line of battle mainly rests, the authorities perhaps felt that the defence had been somewhat unduly curtailed, for in the next group, represented by the ‘ Duncan,’ ‘Cornwallis,’ ‘Exmouth,’ ‘ Russell,’ ‘Albemarle’ and ‘Montague,’ while retaining the same armament, the water line protection is increased to 7 in. The belt is extended to the bow, gradually diminishing in thickness to 3 in. At the present time there is a great demand for high speed, not only in cruisers but also in battle ships. For some years 15 or 16 knots was considered sufficient for this class, but now we are not satisﬁed with 18 knots, so the ‘Duncan’ class are actually being equipped with engines and boilers able to drive them at 19 knots an hour. Their indicated horse power is 18,000,_as compared with 13,000 given to the ‘Royal Sovereign,’ or nearly three times as much as sufﬁced for the ‘ Inﬂexible’ twenty years ago.
There seems a danger that the demand for speed in battle ships may be carried too far. All that adds to their capabilities to keep the sea—which means large coal supply—and to their offensive power—heavy armament—are undeniably valuable, so that if we propose to increase the displacement by another 1000 tons, and an additional knot will absorb any considerable portion of them, I should be satisﬁed with a sea speed of 16 knots, appropriating the surplus tonnage to coal and armament.
To obtain the additions considered desirable in the ‘ Duncan ’ class, the displacement goes up to 14,000 tons and the length to 405 ft. Of such vessels it is easy to be hypercritical, and they are worthy to take their place with the ‘Majestic’ and ‘Formidable,’ that only require the test of battle to conﬁrm the favour in which they are now held by naval oﬂicers.
In the chapter on cruisers it is stated that the ‘Imperieuse’ and ‘Warspite,’ which gave most satisfactory results, and have been almost continually employed on distant stations, were not followed by others of similar type. The nearest approach to them we made at that time was the construction of seven belted cruisers of 5600 tons—‘ Aurora,’ ‘Australia,’ ‘Galatea,’ ‘Immortalité,’ ‘Narcissus,’ ‘Orlando’ and ‘Undaunted.’ They carried a single 9.2-in. gun in bow and stern, and ten 6-in. guns on the broadside. The belt of Io-in. compound armour only covered a portion of the water line. Though nearly 3000 tons smaller than the ‘Imperieuse,’ they were faster vessels and excellent sea boats. Then, as mentioned before, the armoured cruiser, so distinguished by having side armour, went out of fashion with us, and though armour was not abolished in this class it was all distributed internally. But actions between foreign vessels protected in these two different ways have demonstrated that it is better to keep the shells out if possible, rather than seek to minimise their effects after entry. Hence the armoured cruiser has again come into favour.
Whether armoured or protected there is one attribute which the cruiser at all hazards must possess, and that is speed. It should be considerably in excess of the battle ship or she will fall an easy prey to the latter in war. The usefulness of our frigates of old was in their superior sailing qualities to the two and three decker. They could dog their steps, hang outside the enemy’s ports, and laugh at the attempts of the more powerful ships to catch them. Steam speed is the valuable adjunct in the modern frigate. We must sacriﬁce offensive and defensive power to ensure this and its maintenance for considerable distances. If a possible enemy has battle ships capable of sustaining 17 knots in chase, our cruisers must, under similar conditions, keep up 20 knots. For this a measured mile speed of at least 22 knots is necessary. Alive to the obligation, we are adding to our ﬂeet two groups of armoured cruisers in which high speed is given its proper position. The ‘Cressy,’ ‘ Hogue,’ ‘Aboukir,’ ‘Sutlej,’ ‘Bacchante’ and ‘Euryalus,’ ships of 12,000 tons, will have machinery of 21,000 horse power. When we remember that the ‘Renown,’ of 12,350 tons, required 12,000 horse power tp drive her 18 knots, we can realise what every knot means after that in machinery when it takes 9000 more horse power to get the additional 3 knots which the ‘Cressy’ class are to have. The armament consists of two 9.2-in. guns —one at each end—and twelve 6-in. These are distributed on two decks, as in our battle ships, with casemate protection. They have a belt of armour 230 ft. long, 11% ft. wide and 6 in. thick. Forward of this to the stem is 2-in. steel plating. Within is the protective deck going down to the lower edge of belt. But at the time we began to build these vessels, constructors in foreign countries had designed and commenced special commerce destroyers of over 22 knots. Of course, all cruisers are for the attack or defence of commerce, according as the opponents have goods at sea in greater or less degree under its own ﬂag, and we must have equal if not superior vessels to any that an enemy can send to sea for this purpose.
Advances abroad in the construction of swift and powerful cruisers have Constrained us to make an advance upon the ‘Cressy’ in four ships, named the ‘ Drake,’ ‘ King Alfred,’ ‘ Good Hope’ and ‘ Leviathan.’ With machinery of 30,000 horse power they have an extreme speed of 23 knots, the extra 2 knots thus involving an addition of 9000 horse power. In armament they will carry four more 6-in. guns, while their protection is similar in thickness of belt and general distribution. What differentiates them from the 14,000-ton battle ship is that they carry no heavier gun than the 9.2-in., and only two of that calibre, instead of four 12-in. guns, the weight thus saved being applied to machinery and fuel to enable them to cover long distances at high speed. So equipped, they will bear comparison with any foreign cruiser, building or projected.
Much smaller, but equally fast, are the ‘ Monmouth,’ ‘ Kent," Bedford ’ and ‘ Essex,’ of 9800 tons. In these we have given up the big guns at bow and stern, restricting the armament to fourteen 6-in. guns with ten 12pounders , of which latter the bigger ships have a good supply. The water line armour is thinner, being 4 in. thick. This, by the improved hardening process devised by Messrs Krupp, is quite as effective in stopping and breaking up projectiles as the Io-in. compound armour of our earlier belted cruisers. The protected ship of the ‘Blake ’ and ‘Royal Arthur’ type had, however, some notable successors before being put aside. The ‘Powerful’ and ‘Terrible,’ of 14,200 tons, were considered leviathans a few years ago, but are only a little in excess of the ‘Drakes’ of to-day. Their principal characteristics are high speed-22 knots—and large supply of fuel. They can carry 3000 tons of coal.
This enables them to proceed rapidly to any desired point, even if 2000 miles distant. In September 1899 the ‘ Powerful ’ was at Singapore. Ordered to proceed to the Cape vz'ci Mauritius, she left on the 24th, and reached Mauritius on October 3rd. She coaled and embarked a battalion of troops, and left on the 6th, arriving at Durban on the 10th, the day we received an ultimatum from the Transvaal Government. The subsequent services of her ofﬁcers and crew are well known, but they could not have been utilised had the ship not made such a speedy passage from Singapore. It was a complete answer to all who originally questioned the utility of such immense craft. It is also a reply to those who urge that her two 9.2-in. and twelve 6-in. guns are an inadequate armament, because greater offensive power could only be secured at a sacriﬁce of some quality which in a cruiser is more valuable. The only objection to having any number of ‘Powerfuls’ is their cost, which runs up to about £700,000, and doubtless this inﬂuenced the design of the next group of protected cruisers—the ‘Diadem ’ class. Of 11,000 tons, they have a knot less speed, diminished coal space, and four 6-in. guns, two at bow and stern, in place of the 9.2-in. guns. There are eight of these—‘ Diadem,’ ‘Andromeda,’ ‘Europa,’ ‘Niobe,’ ‘Amphitrite, ‘Argonaut,’ ‘ Ariadne’ and‘ Spartiate.’ Allowing. they show great improvements over the ‘Blake’ and ‘Blenheim ’ in most respects, the substitution of two 6-in. guns for a 9.2-in. has no
advantage, being mounted separately on each side, and liable to be dislodged by the projectile of a similar gun.
In the ﬂeets of old, cruisers were represented by large and small frigates, in which the latter predominated . Though we had 40 and 44-gun frigates, the most numerous classes were those mounting 38, 36 and 32 guns. The smaller sailing ships, known as sloops, were not found . as efﬁcient as frigates for working with a ﬂeet, so usually were employed on independent service. They lacked the speed of the larger vessels.
Modern ﬂeets must also have their different classes of cruisers, and they are now divided into ﬁrst, second and third class. A number of the intermediate category were built under the Naval Defence Act, of 3400 tons. The value of speed being then recognised, the ‘Apollo’ class, 300 ft. long, had machinery to propel them 20 knots an hour, and they took into action two 6-in. and six 4.7-in. guns. Experience demonstrated that, whether for independent cruising or work with a ﬂeet, the size was inadequate for eﬂicient service. The advance came in the ‘Astraza’ type, of 4360 tons, which had the advantage of being sheathed with wood and coppered, while they carried two more 4.7—in. guns. Still we found that, in power to keep the sea for considerable periods, and for distant stations, we must further increase the dimensions, and conse* quently the second-class cruiser of to-day is represented by a vessel of 5600 tons, and practically the same size as the ‘Inconstant,’ which was our ﬁrst-class cruiser in 1870. By the increase of dimensions we get a longer vessel—and therefore better able to maintain speed at sea—a larger coal supply, and a more powerful armament.
In the‘ Talbot’ class the latter consists of ﬁve 6-in. and six 4.7-in. guns; but in later vessels, like the ‘ Hermes’ and ‘ Hyacinth,’ the dual armament is given up and they carry eleven 6-in. guns. These vessels represent, therefore, the smaller frigates which we found so useful in former wars, and though we had at such times about one hundred in commission, the cry was always for more. The lack of frigates with Nelson nearly upset all his plans, and our commerce would not have suffered to the extent it did if more cruisers had been available at the beginning of hostilities. Scouting to a ﬂeet is as important as to an army. Adding battle ships makes a better show to the popular or Parlia— mentary eye, but half their value will be discounted, when the hour of trial comes, if they do not have the essential accompaniment of a ubiquitous scouting force. At present it is inadequate.
Besides ﬁrst and second-class we have what are called third-class cruisers, but they cannot fulﬁl the foregoing function, as was the case with the sloops of old. A few years ago the class was represented by vessels like the ‘Archer’ and ‘Serpent,’ of 1800 tons, heavily armed, but of insufﬁcient speed and coal endurance. As dimensions advanced certain cruisers were relegated to a lower class. Thus the ‘Marathon’ group, just under
3000 tons, are now called third-class cruisers. The latest additions are the ‘ Pelorus’ and her sisters, of 2130 tons, with a speed of 20 knots and a light armament.
But they do not carry coal enough to work with a ﬂeet, and should be viewed as—if not named—— despatch vessels. They can be considered as successors to the ‘Surprise’ and ‘Alacrity,’ two excellent little vessels of 1650 tons, built some years ago, and are capable of short runs to and from a base, but not qualiﬁed to carry out the demands of ﬂeet cruising. Under such considerations we should divide cruisers somewhat as follows z—First-class—vessels upwards of 7000 tons. Second-class, 5000 to 7000 tons. Thirdclass , 3000 to 5000 tons. Despatch vessels—under 3000 tons. The various ships of war which we still call sloops and gun vessels do not call for detailed description. They are for peace duties in certain localities demanding a special type, but which is not suitable for the duties which war with a maritime country would impose upon our ships. They would then be put aside and their crews utilised for the mobilisation of our ﬂeet. In addition to their guns all cruisers carry a W'hitehead torpedo equipment. Originally intended to restrict this weapon to battle ships, it was afterwards considered that other classes should not be deprived of such a defence against a more powerful adversary. In an action between two cruisers the issue should be decided by the gun long before torpedo range is attained ; and in a retreat, if the pursuer has reached such close quarters as to employ his guns to advantage, he will not require to come closer. If giving torpedoes to cruisers involves their use from above the water line, they had better be omitted from the equipment.
Nets, small guns and search-lights having been found, even when combined, to be an inadequate security against a determined torpedo attack, two further defences are now customary. For an anchorage to be safe in time of war it should, where possible, be enclosed by breakwaters, which a torpedo boat cannot jump or break through. High explosives have facilitated the breaking of booms, chain cables and other such obstructions. But this security cannot be everywhere provided, and it does not prevent torpedo boats operating on ships outside the harbour. The best plan is to set a faster and more powerful craft to seek for and destroy them before they can execute their purpose.
This idea is carried out in the Destroyer, a craft looking for all the world like a huge torpedo boat—as she is—but also considerably faster, and armed with light guns, so that she can overtake and destroy the other. Having attained to a speed of 24 knots with the latest torpedo boats, the ﬁrst Destroyers—as the ‘ Havock,’ built by Messrs Yarrow—had a speed of 27 knots. With a length of 180 ft. and displacement of 220 tons they carry a 12-pounder and two 6-pounder guns. Following the ‘ Havock’ came the ‘ Hornet,’ by the same ﬁrm, very similar in most respects, but having an important innovation. In place of a locomotive boiler the second vessel had one of Mr Yarrow’s now well—known watertube boilers. At the trial trip the ‘Hornet’ made 28
knots, considered then a wonderful speed. These craft have twin screws, and since their completion the type has progressed in size and speed. First came an advance to 30 and then to 32 knots. In the ‘Albatross,’ built by john Thornycroft & Co. of Chiswick, we have the latest example of the improved Destroyer. With a length of 227 ft., and displacement 400 tons, she has machinery capable of developing, under forced draught, 7500 horse power: which is in excess of what we gave large cruisers and battle ships a few years ago. This vessel, no larger than a gunboat, thus attains to a maximum speed of 32 knots—equal to over 35% miles an hour. For sinking, stopping, or disabling the torpedo boat on arriving within range she has one 12-pounder gun mounted on the small conning tower forward, within which the vessel’s movements are controlled—and thus having a large area of training and command of ﬁre—besides ﬁve 6-pounder guns, one on the centre line aft, and two on each broadside. We now have over one hundred Destroyers, and they form not only an effective weapon of defence against the extensive torpedo boat ﬂotillas which other nations have acquired with such persistence, but afford in peace time excellent schools for training. Young ofﬁcers obtain in their handling nerve, conﬁdence, and experience which must prove invaluable when, later, they have to command larger vessels. Although as yet only in the experimental stage, the next advance may come in the adoption of Mr Parson’s ‘Turbinia,’ where the steam acts direct upon the propeller shafts without intermediate rods and cranks. This enables higher revolutions to be imparted to the screws with a corresponding accession of speed. Thus a rate of nearly 40 knots an hour has been obtained in a craft the size of a torpedo boat. In all vessels, however, the power of going astern at some speed proportional to their progress ahead is essential, and especially to war-ships of this description. Here the turbine principle is at a disadvantage , but it can be overcome by special arrangements , though entailing probably the loss of a knot or two in speed ahead. This will not impair the advantages of a system which may ere long be applied more generally to steam navigation.
Such is our ﬂeet to-day. Suffered to decline from 1868 to 1888, it has since recovered lost ground, and now is worthy of the country whose position depends upon maritime supremacy. If it was a reproach to us one hundred years ago that the greatest value of a captured vessel was as a model to show our constructors and shipwrights how to build, we can now say that our warships are second to none; that they in turn are models to others, and that if occasionally a foreign cruiser may seem superior in some particular point to one of our own of similar dimensions, we feel conﬁdent the balance of power is not thereby disturbed and that we possess a corresponding gain in some other direction.