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Army—Producing Power Of Our Arsenals—Question

Volume 203: debated on Friday 5 August 1870

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said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether he still adheres to the belief that the producing power of our Arsenals is sufficient to enable us in three weeks to replace such an amount of ammunition as was expended during the Crimean War; and, whether it is correct that there are not rifled guns sufficient to meet one-tenth of the requirements of the new Fortifications; that the only shields mounted are in forts at Gibraltar and Bermuda, there being none in position in England; that there are no torpedoes in store, and that we have not a single unit of field telegraphs ready?

Sir, my hon. and gallant Friend has not quite correctly quoted what I said. I laid down as a principle that it is not expedient to keep excessive stores of articles which are liable to deterioration by keeping, are subject to change of pattern, and of which our powers of production are great. In illustration of this remark I repeated what had been said to me at Woolwich, that in a few days all the small-arm ammunition, and in a few weeks all the ammunition consumed at Sebastopol, might be produced at Woolwich. Speaking of small-arm ammunition, I said that we could produce 1,500,000 rounds in a week. I may now say that our powers of production can be increased to 2,000,000 rounds. I may also say that in 1868 37,000,000 of rounds were condemned, having been spoiled by keeping. As regards projectiles for ordnance, there have been great changes since the time of the Crimean War. The guns are heavier and less numerous, and consequently the projectiles are so too. I am assured by the Director of Artillery that projectiles for every gun will be ready, as soon as the gun can be mounted, up to the usual supply, and that there is no fear of any inconvenience from deficiency of projectiles. As regards guns for armaments at home and abroad, of muzzle-loading rifled guns there are now in position just one-tenth of the number which will be required when the works are complete. There are ready, and making in the course of this year, all that were contained in the demand of the Engineers for the year, with a con- siderable surplus. In all, except the heavy muzzle-loading rifled guns, the supply is ample. The remaining muzzle-loading rifled guns are to be completed so as to be ready as the works are completed. It is quite true that the shields are not yet in position, and that there are no torpedoes in store. The shields will be put up without any unnecessary delay, and the subject of torpedoes has been under the joint and careful consideration of the Admiralty and the Engineers, and torpedoes are now about to be made. They require great care and skill in design, and no long time for manufacture. The unit of telegraph equipment on the peace footing is below that which would be maintained on the war footing; but it is susceptible of ready expansion, and there is no difficulty as regards either men or stores.