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member of the Cabinet not to press, the argument he used being, Suppose your theory is correct, do you think it would be to the advantage of England to show other nations that thirteen out of twenty-two of her first-class battle-ships are inferior to those of France, and that they can be made dangerous from small gun-fire ?' The right hon. gentleman quite forgot that it would be still worse for other nations to discover this when the thirteen ships in question went to the bottom in war time by turning turtle with their crews. His argument, however, was sound, and the motion was not pressed. It is notable that the next battle-ships laid down had their belts considerably increased longitudinally.
Looking to these facts, which can be proved or disproved, it does appear extraordinary that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have assured the House of Commons that there would be a 'sensible decrease in the ship-building vote' for 1897–98. There is some hope that the First Lord may think fit to somewhat modify his statements in that direction, after the recent debates in the French Chamber on the strength of the French fleet. It certainly gives him an admirable opportunity.
COMBINATION BETWEEN THE SERVICES
This was a point specially emphasised six years ago by the Hartington Commission.' Let us see how it has been carried out. There ought to be yearly combined operations of the Army and Navy at all naval bases, under conditions similar to those which would obtain in war. Yet this rarely takes place. If done, the value of it for instruction and practice would be enormous.
Even in the ordinary drills there is no combination.
In April 1891, during one of my visits to Malta, I obtained permission from the Governor to attend with him and view a night attack. The object of the operations was to practise the artillerymen at repelling a supposed attack on the harbour by the enemies' torpedo boats. To my utter astonishment the boats used for this were two mining launches, the speed of which would roughly be about five knots, while the absence of system was pretty well marked by the projectors being under the charge of the Royal Engineers, the guns under the Royal Artillery, and the cables which worked the projectors being under the Ordnance Department, so I was informed. The absurdity of the situation struck me, as indeed it did all the military and naval officers present, as very great. Here were men being practised at firing at two launches going five knots in order to teach them how to meet an attack of torpedo boats going from fifteen to twenty-one knots. At the time this occurred the majority of the Mediterranean fleet were at Malta with their hoist in' torpedo boats on board, besides which there were the usual torpedo boats in reserve there. Yet the fleet took no part in the night attack, and the torpedo boats were not used.
Of course 1891 is a long time ago. The Hartington Commission' had barely reported a twelvemonth, but to show that things have not altered, I may point out that in January 1896 I was at Gibraltar and found exactly the same state of things existing there. On the 13th of January, 1896, there was to have been gun practice at two towed targets, but only one boat was available, and that a steam launch belonging to Messrs. Haynes. This launch is used as a tug, and is hired out, so it was only allowed at their will. Often the men were marched to the batteries, and a message came to say that either the tug was employed or the owner thought it too rough for it to go out. This happened while I was there. At the time there were seven first-class torpedo boats, two second-class torpedo boats, and H.M.S. Polyphemus and Skipjack in the harbour. The artillerymen never get a chance of practising at anything moving faster than five knots an hour.
Take the case of the Brennan Torpedo at the Needles—a torpedo boat was refused for the trial, and eventually a tug was used.
At all naval bases the Army and Navy should go to 'general quarters' once in three months, or once in six months at least. Commanders-in-Chief should be encouraged to combine with the military authorities in operations in peace which would have to be performed in war, and on the success of which the one service absolutely depends on the other.
The expenditure of money would be very little. The ships, guns, and men are there. There might be a few accidents, but it is far better to have accidents in time of peace, and give that experience which is almost certain to prevent them in time of war. The ccidents in peace will only give the personnel a useful lesson. The same accidents in war may lose the action and might lose the campaign. I am sorry to say that during my experience, in the majority of the cases that have come to my notice where the Army and Navy have not combined, or rather where difficulties have been raised to their combining in certain operations, almost invariably the difficulties have been raised on the part of the Navy. This is a mistake. The men want more exercise, and such operations as I have described would give the men that healthy and interesting exercise which it is so difficult to obtain for them now that masts and yards have been abolished.
At present the two services, by this want of combination and cohesion, often cause sad waste of money. Naval men ought always to be on Fortifications Committees at naval bases, for instance, and this would prevent such a lamentable disgrace as the building of Fort Zoncor at Malta at a large cost.
The fort was erected in order to prevent an enemy's ships shelling
the naval arsenal at Valetta, which from the position was three miles off. The enemy's guns would have to be given sufficient elevation to fire over two hills at an object which was completely obscured by the height of the hills. In addition to this the bill in front of the fort has a rise superior to the fort itself, which would effectually prevent the guns of the fort from hitting the vessel located below the hill.
Referring to guns, it must be remembered, although a number of the old guns have been dismounted at Gibraltar, and the implacements for the new guns had had to wait for months because the Royal Engineers could not get the pivots, the last heard from there in April 1896 was that this work was at a standstill, and they were not to get a single gun out there for a year. Since that these matters have been hurried. It has been stated over and over again that things are different at the Admiralty now, and that they have a proper plan of defence. If this be so it is extraordinary that our most important naval base abroad should even now have large sums of money expended on an incomplete scheme.
Although arrangements are being made and carried out for extending the mole, for docks, and for artillery armament, still nothing has been done with regard to the Mercantile Mole, an all-important feature for making the new harbour thoroughly protected, and without which the mercantile fleet cannot possibly coal in war time. The importance of this question cannot be overrated, as Gibraltar must be the point of departure, whether the narrow sea route through the Mediterranean or the blue water route to the Cape be used by our water-borne commerce.
It would be possible to continue a list of startling and serious facts about our administration and its want of method, so as to fill up more than one number of this Review, but it would not be wise to reveal too many of our weaknesses at once. Foreign Powers know them. The British taxpayer is the only person who does not. Of course their Lordships at Whitehall know all these facts, but under the 'system'they are not supposed to do anything; and it is an act of patriotism rather than a duty if they tell the First Lord what the naval requirements of the country are, vide Hartington Commission, page ix, paragraph 27, referring to a former First Sea Lord's evidence.
All of these points, however, are questions that the Council of Defence ought to take up, inquire into, and get remedied at once. If the Council of Defence does not, or is not competent to deal with them, then you might just as well have the Beadle of the Burlington Arcade and his associates to superintend our defences.
If ever war comes and finds us unprepared, it will bring with it a terrible load of responsibility to those who have been trusted and paid by the country to see it adequately defended, and while the system' is largely responsible for the evils that did and still exist, yet in the past individuals have also been to blame, and the sentiment . It will last my time' has been a common one with those holding high positions.
The Navy League has done most excellent service in informing the press and the public, 'with whom lies the ultimate issue of all these questions. I trust it will continue its work as successfully in the future as in the past, and this it will undoubtedly do, if it sticks to its rôle of pointing out defects and deficiencies, and does not try to dictate how these shortcomings shall be remedied.
To summarize the points raised in this article is now necessary.
(1) Imperative necessity of laying down what the numbers are which Authority considers necessary as a standing number for active service, long service ratings.
(2) A thorough, drastic, and complete re-organisation of the R.N.R., both in pumbers and training.
(3) Necessity of re-arming the seventeen useful old ironclads we possess.
(4) Elimination from the list of fighting ships (i.e. in commission or reserve) of all those obsolete ships which by their age, steaming power, and armament must be totally lost in an engagement without any adequate recompense. New ships to be laid down to take their place.
(5) Yearly manæuvres between the combined services at all naval bases of operation.
(6) A definite plan of defence, and evidence that it exists by our important strategic bases, like Gibraltar, &c., being put in a proper condition to make such a plan effective.
THE serious outbreak of plague which has recently taken place at Bombay, and which is assuming such alarming dimensions, has again called attention to a form of disease which in former times was one of the most grievous scourges of the human race.
The name of plague,' or 'pestilence,' was given to any sudden, mysterious, and fatal epidemic. Many such severe visitations are historically on record of which the nature is still more or less uncertain. Such are the plagues of Egypt; that which visited the Jews in the wilderness; the plague of Ægina, and that in the Grecian camp at the siege of Troy; the plague in Canaan ; the plagues which occurred at Rome in 738 B.C., 461 B.C., 451 B.C., and 433 B.C.; the plague of Athens in 430 B.C. recorded by Thucydides; and those at Rome in 363 B.C., 295 B.C., and 175 B.C.
The first undoubted historical allusion to true plague was made by Rufus the physician, who is supposed to have lived in the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117). He states that pestilential glandular swellings are mentioned by the contemporaries of Dionysius, who lived at the beginning of the third century B.C., or at an earlier date, and adverts to the disease as described by Dioscorides and Poseidonius in the second century of the Christian era, and which existed in Libya (Egypt) at their time.
In the sixth century A.D. the plague called the plague of Justinian, from its having occurred in his reign (A.D. 565–74), spread over the whole Roman Empire. Originating, as supposed, in Egypt in the year 542 A.D., it extended in an easterly direction to Syria, and in a westerly to Constantinople, where a thousand persons died daily. The disease then overran the whole of Europe, spreading devastation wherever it appeared, and receiving the name of pestis inguinaria or glandularia,' which it retained until the seventeenth century.
Severe pests occurred frequently in the middle ages, some of which were undoubtedly examples of true plague. Since, however, the description of the disease is in most cases limited to an announcement of the date of its appearance and the number of victims, while