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Navy—Naval Stores, &C

Volume 203: debated on Monday 8 August 1870

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Question

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, If it is true, as reported in "The Western Morning News" of the 3rd August, that the "Agincourt" and "Northumberland" having been ordered to sea, it was found that they could not leave in consequence of the almost total absence of shells and ammunition at the Bull Point Magazine; whether the "Audacious," "Iron Duke," and "Vanguard," now fitting at Devonport, will be delayed for want of tanks, of which there are none in store to fit them, several of that size having been sold three or four months ago; if it is true that the "Captain" and "Monarch" are 246 Palliser shot short of their complement, or half the number, and that there are none in store, and that the plant at Woolwich can only turn out seven or eight a day; and what steam factory accommodation the Admiralty possess in the Thames and Medway for refitting a North Sea fleet since the closing of Woolwich Dockyard and Factory?

Sir, the Questions of the hon. and gallant Gentleman concern the War Office more than the Admiralty, as the Secretary of State for War has under him the establishments at Woolwich and the magazines; but I have my right hon. Friend's permission to reply to so much of those Questions as concern him. In answer, then, to the first Question, I have to say that it is not true either that the Agincourt and Northumberland were delayed in going to sea, or that there is an almost total absence of shells and ammunition at the Bull Point Magazine. Both ships went to sea to the hour, and there is an ample reserve, both of shells and ammunition at the magazines. The origin of the rumour is that for some short time past the Palliser projectiles have been in course of examination, and that, in consequence, on the day when the ships sailed, out of 2,380 projectiles, which was the complement of each, 180, or 8 per cent, were short in the Agincourt, and 119, or 5 per cent, were short in the Northumberland. These were sent out on the following day in the Monarch. There is not a word of truth in the report as to the tanks of the Audacious, Iron Duke, and Vanguard. The Audacious and Vanguard, had their tanks on board a long time ago, and the Iron Duke, which recently came round to Plymouth, will have hers in good time. There is no deficiency in the store of tanks. The tanks which were sold some time ago, were unserviceable, and were only sold without being broken up for old iron because it was anticipated that they would, as they did, fetch a better price. As to the projectiles in the Captain and Monarch, the facts are these — The full complement of shell is on board, and there is a sufficient supply in store of shot of the old pattern; but recently the Admiralty have agreed with the War Office to make shot for the 12-inch guns of an altered pattern, and when these ships went to sea it was thought better only to take a half supply of the new pattern than some of the old and some of the now. They therefore took 80 rounds per gun of the new pattern, which is far more than sufficient for an experimental cruise. I find from Colonel Milward that, instead of seven or eight, the plant at Woolwich can turn out 25 to 30 projectiles a day—and more with a small expenditure if necessary—and the Admiralty have arranged with the War Office the proportion of shot and shell. As to the last Question, the hon. and Gentleman, who has been at the Admiralty, knows the capacity of the factory at Sheerness, and the amount of factory work which has been done at Chatham. I presume, however, that his Question points to some supposed work which cannot now be done for a fleet such as the Channel Fleet, after an action in the North Sea, in consequence of the closing of Woolwich. To that I have only to reply that not one of the iron-clads in the Channel Fleet could have gone into Woolwich Dockyard had it been open, and that its factory could only have been of service to the smaller class of ironclads, none of which are in the Channel Fleet.

said, seeing that the condition of things is altered since the first Naval Votes were allowed by the House, he would beg to ask the First Lord, Whether he would feel him- self bound by the statement made on Vote 11 of the Navy Estimates, that no expense would be incurred on the Chatham Extension Works beyond that provided in this year's Vote?

Sir, I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for giving me Notice of his Question. In the debate on Vote 11 of the Navy Estimates I gave him a pledge that we would not spend on the Chatham Dockyard Extension Works more than was clearly provided in those Estimates. But the circumstances under which the House has voted us a large credit justify me, I think, in saying that I do not consider myself bound by that pledge; and I hope by about Christmas next to have finished the first basin, two docks, and the approaches from the workshops, and also to have dredged the river so that they may be available for our largest iron-clads.

Navy—Case Of Serjeant Jacob Hill— Question

said, he would beg, in the absence of his hon. Friend (Mr. Pemberton) to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether he will lay upon the Table of the House a Copy of the Correspondence relating to the trial by Court-Martial of Serjeant Jacob Hill, of the Marine Light Infantry; and whether the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown has been taken on the legality of the sentence?

said, in reply, that Serjeant Jacob Hill, of the Marine Light Infantry, was charged, he believed, with procuring or assisting in the desertion of some men from a Regiment of Militia, was found guilty, and punished by reduction to the ranks. After the trial a solicitor wrote to the Admiralty on his behalf, raising some technical objections which the Admiralty were advised had nothing in them. He did not think that was a case in which Parliament would wish to have before it the correspondence on the subject. It would be quite contrary to all precedent; and he must, therefore, respectfully decline to lay the Papers on the Table.