Page images

astonishment, when, as a boy of twelve and a half, he went up tremblingly for his examinationin much doubt and anxiety as to whether his stock of Latin, French, and Euclid would be deemed sufficient to gain him admission into the Navy-he found sums in simple addition and subtraction placed before him! However, it is a significant comment upon the mode of educating boys in this country, that the majority of lads who fail in the examination upon joining the Navy, even to this day, break down in writing from dictation, being in some instances quite unable to spell even the easiest words!

For the further instruction of the youngsters, after joining the service, naval instructors in all the larger ships were supposed to teach the young gentlemen the mysteries of navigation; the gunnery officer instructed him in the great gun and small-arm drills, and his duties on board in the course of time taught him seamanship. And so, after six years in a midshipman's berth, he faced his examiners with a beating and anxious heart, only too thankful if he passed through the dreaded ordeal, and received the precious document setting forth that he was duly qualified to take upon himself the charge and command of a lieutenant in her Majesty's fleet. The amount of instruction which the young gentlemen received varied exceedingly. In those ships whose captains took an especial interest in the welfare of their midshipmen, and were themselves men of cultivated minds, able to appreciate rightly the inestimable advantage of a good education, the naval instructors were supported and encouraged in their duties. And for the first two years of their service, or until they became midshipmen, the youngsters were excused from all other duty during school hours, the claims of the naval instructor upon their time being considered paramount to all others. Even during the later part of the midshipman's career, when

his services were daily becoming more and more valuable to the firstlieutenant, a captain who had at heart the future prosperity of the young officers under his command, would take care that their study hours were interfered with as little as possible.

But this was the bright side of the picture. It not unfrequently happened that, from peculiar circumstances, the school hours were unavoidably broken into; the captain's cabin- the usual place of study-might be otherwise occupied; and it was not always easy, or even practicable, to set apart any other place where the studies could be carried on with any degree of satisfaction. And it must be confessed that while many-and those our best officers-took the greatest pains in the improvement of their youngsters, instances to the contrary were unhappily not rare; and the want of interest evinced by the captain produced its effect in the indifference of the instructor, and the consequent backwardness of the pupils. For the effectual carrying out of a system of schoolroom instruction on board a sea-going man-ofwar must, under any circumstances, be a difficult task, and can only produce satisfactory results when encouraged to the utmost by the officer in command. In many cases the studies were suffered to be considered as subordinate to the ordinary work of the ship; and when the naval instructor had, after some difficulty perhaps, obtained a place for his duties, and came to assemble his pupils, he would find that Mr A. had been sent away on boat duty, Mr B. was particularly required on deck, and Mr C. had been given leave to go on shore. And in cases where the naval instructor was left wholly unsupported, as sometimes happened, some of his pupils, preferring a caulk on the lockers of the midshipmen's berth or the charms of a new novel, would give themselves leave of absence from school, in confident security from any unpleasant consequences.

Although then, the naval instructors were, as a body, able and zealous, and always anxious to impart to the young officers under their instruction such knowledge as lay in their power, yet in cases such as these it was not in human nature that they could avoid falling into despondency at the difficulties which beset them in the first place, and into utter indifference thereafter.

Moreover, it was only in the larger ships that naval instructors were borne. In the very numerous classes of vessels commanded by commanders and lieutenants there is no accommodation for a naval instructor, and it was left entirely to the option of the master or second-master to undertake the teaching of the young officers in the intervals of his regular duties; the only encouragement afforded him for so doing being the magnificent sum of five pounds per annum for each pupil! And the complement of officers in these vessels being small, the services of the midshipmen for the duties of the ship could not be often dispensed with; therefore in many instances the knowledge acquired by them in any branch of their profession, beyond that of seamanship, was of the smallest amount.

The consequence of all this was, that many fine young men-whose ill-fortune had placed them during the greater part of their midshipman's time in small vessels, or whose studies had, from the causes we have pointed out, been neglected-found themselves, when the period arrived for their examination, utterly unfit for the trial; and preferred leaving the service of their own accord to the discredit of being rejected again and again.

The subjects in which the candidates were examined to qualify for the rank of lieutenant were threeseamanship, gunnery, and navigation. The examination in the first of these was of a very unsatisfactory nature. It could take place

either at home or abroad, wherever three captains or commanders could be assembled together; but the very nature of the subject prevented any set form of questions being put, or any scale of numbers attained, and necessitated the viva-voce form. Therefore the degree of strictness of the examination depended entirely upon the disposi tion of the examining officers, and varied through every stage between excessive harshness and extreme laxity. Thus it often happened that officers notoriously incompetent were returned as qualified, while others-young men of good ability and much promise—were turned back for months. The gunnery examination on board the Excellent was a very strict one; it was conducted by regular examiners, and lasted three days; it required a complete knowledge of the subject to receive a certificate of qualification, and on this head there was nothing to be desired. The examination for navigation at the College was carried out, as far as it went, with the greatest strictness and impartiality; but it consisted of only the mere practice of navigation, required no mathematical knowledge whatever,* and obtaining even the highest honours implied no more than a superficial knowledge of the subject. Yet it was quite suitable to the amount of instruction which the midshipmen had, as a general rule, been able to receive.

Passed through this ordeal, and arrived at the position of a commissioned officer of the fleet, a young man found himself, except in rare instances, entirely devoid of any save professional knowledge, and that even of a very limited nature. Foreign languages, history, mathematics, the natural sciences, and even the fundamental laws by means of which he carried out the practice of navigating his ship-all were known to him by name only; and every year of service, every step

*We are now speaking of previously to 1857.

he gained, brought his deficiencies more forcibly home to him. Thus at the age when education is usually completed, and young men are settled down to the duties of their professions, those naval officers whose minds recoiled from the thought of passing their lives in such a state of general ignorance, were compelled to begin at the very rudiments of learning, and in many cases to sit down to decimal fractions, the elements of algebra, and the first book of Euclid. That this is not only not an overdrawn picture, but a case of constant occurrence, every naval man will readily allow. To their credit be it said, a large number of officers, dissatisfied with their very limited knowledge, applied themselves with diligence in their intervals of employment to this-in many instances distasteful-task; and numerous are the names famous in the service by scientific attainments, whose information was only acquired by indomitable resolution and unremitting perseverance at a comparatively late period of their lives. Fully sensible of the deficiencies of the midshipman's education, though taking no steps to improve it, the Admiralty did certainly offer some slight encouragement to these officers, as will be seen hereafter.

Those officers who had joined the service through the College were of course not to such an extent deficient in educational acquirements; but as they went to sea at the age of fifteen at latest, their proficiency at an after period depended to a great extent upon how they kept up the knowledge they had gained while at the College. Still, if any proof were required of the valuable results to be derived from a course of training, such as that in practice at the Naval College, it may be found in the fact, that many of our most distinguished officers passed through that establishment at the outset of their career.

This most unsatisfactory state of matters continued until 1857, when -acting upon the report of a com

mittee appointed in the previous year-the Admiralty adopted the plan of a training-ship for naval cadets, through which all those joining the service for the future were to pass. The age of entry into the training-ship was to be from thirteen to fifteen, and a candidate was required to pass an examination in the following subjects: Latin or French, geography, Scripture history; arithmetic, including proportion and fractions; algebra as far as fractions, and Euclid as far as the thirty-second proposition of the first book. Candidates over. fourteen years of age were also required to have a knowledge of the use of the globes, with definitions, algebra to simple equations, the whole of the first book of Euclid, and the elements of plane trigonometry. Six months was the minimum and twelve months the maximum time allowed in the training-ship, according to age, those joining under fourteen being allowed the whole year's instruction. At the termination of the regulated period, the cadet had to undergo a second examination, including all the subjects of the previous one, except Latin; and in addition to these, involution and evolution, simple equations, the elements of geometry, and of plane and spherical trigonometry, the simple rules of navigation, the use of nautical instruments, French, and a slight knowledge of surveying and constructing charts. If the cadet passed this examination satisfactorily, he was forthwith appointed to a sea-going ship, and at the expiration of fifteen months' service he was eligible for the rating of midshipman upon passing a further examination. If he failed in the examination on leaving the trainingship, he was to be rejected from the service entirely.

The plan of instruction in the training-ship likewise comprised an elaborate course of seamanship, as follows :—

"First Instruction. --A general knowledge of the different parts of the hull of

a ship, and how they are connected; the names of the masts, yards, and sails, and how lower masts and yards are built; to make all the bends and hitches, and to know the purposes for which they are used; to know all the signal flags and pendants, and to paint them in a book. "Second Instruction.-Boat exercise, rowing, and sailing; to be able to pull an oar, to steer, and to understand the principles of managing a boat under different circumstances; to know the particular use of each signal flag and pendant, and be able readily to look out a signal in the signal-books; to be able to heave the log, and to calculate the length of the line for each knot.

Third Instruction. -Knotting and splicing; cutting out, fitting, placing, and setting up rigging; questions in the standing rigging; names and use of all the blocks in a ship.

"Fourth Instruction.-General principles of stowing holds and provisions; position and arrangement of all the stores; the general internal arrangement of a man-of-war; general principles of berthing, messing, watching, and stationing men; general duties of officers and petty officers with regard to the different parts of the ship.

"Fifth Instruction.Methods of setting, reefing, furling, shifting, and taking in sails, and making them up; shifting a topsail and a topgallant-yard, and a topgallant-mast; principles of securing the yards for hoisting in boats; to learn how all the ropes are led, and their use.

"Sixth Instruction.- Knowledge of the compass, hand and deep-sea leads, use of the helm, and the general principles of manoeuvring a ship; to know the names of the different parts of an anchor, and the gear used for stowing anchors; to understand the use of chain and hemp cables; the method of letting go and weighing an anchor, and passing messenger, nippers, and stoppers, and bending and bitting a cable, and the use of compressors; method of mooring and unmooring, keeping a ship clear of her anchor, also the method of clearing hawse; the effect of wind on the sails in turning the ship; the direction of pressure on the masts; the effect of altering the trim of the ship on the helm, and how she is balanced by

the sails."

When it is considered that, in addition to all this, the cadets were likewise to learn drawing, and to attend lectures upon steam, chemistry, astronomy, mechanics,

and hydrostatics-not to mention the athletic exercises of the cutlassdrill, swimming, and gymnastics— and that the time allowed for the raw schoolboy to get through this programme was from six to twelve months; it may well be imagined what a process of " cram" it must have been, even to gain a superficial knowledge of such a variety of subjects, all previously unknown, and many perhaps even unheard of, by him; and how extremely improbable it was that learning thus preternaturally acquired could be afterwards retained. In fact, the Admiralty had overshot the mark, and had gone to the opposite extreme. In their laudable anxiety to steer the educational bark clear of the rocky Scylla of neglect, they had wellnigh swamped it in the Charybdis of excess. Not that the course of instruction was ill-calculated to the wants of the Navy-far from it; a better-digested scheme, one more suitable, could not have been planned; but the time allowed to get through it was far too limited. Two years at the very least should have been passed in the training-ship, and even this would not have been sufficient to gain a satisfactory knowledge of all the subjects embraced in the above scheme of instruction. This is strikingly evidenced by an anecdote related in a very interesting pamphlet, written by Captain Harris, R. N., late in command of the Britannia, from which we have obtained the above sketch of the past history of naval education. Captain Harris relates that he " was much struck with a remark made by an Austrian professor, who had been sent by his Government to visit and report upon the system of training British cadets. After careestablishment, he asked, 'How many fully investigating every part of the years were allowed for this course of study?' And the same question was asked by an intelligent Swedish captain, who had been at the head of their Naval College."

At the same time that the above

nia were excellent as far as they went. There was abundant work to be done, and there was not much fear that the boys would fall into mischief through lack of employment, at all events. But the period of training was still far too short, and the principle upon which the system was based is an erroneous one, as we will endeavour to show presently. Moreover, the situation of the Britannia was open to grave objections, moored as she was in Portsmouth harbour, within a stone's throw of the dangers and temptations of a seaport garrison-town. Every precaution was taken by the gallant officer in command to keep the lads clear of the snares which surrounded them, and he was zealously seconded by the staff of officers and instructors under his orders: in fact, it may without fear of contradiction be said, that in no public school in the country are the boys more carefully looked after than on board the Britannia. it was felt, nevertheless, that Portsmouth harbour was not a desirable situation (morally speaking) for a ship full of young lads; and the Admiralty, taking advantage of some cases of fever which had occurred, and which had caused a good deal of unfounded alarm in the mind of the public, sent the Britannia to Portland Roads as her future station, and since then she has been again moved to Dartmouth. And although the close vicinity of a first-class dockyard is a thing very desirable, for the purpose of practical instruction in many subjects which cannot be A so well studied elsewhere, yet we think, under the circumstances, the removal of the Britannia from Portsmouth harbour was a very judicious and proper measure.


system was instituted, the final The arrangements of the Britanexamination of a midshipman for the rank of lieutenant was extended so as to be in accordance with the new course of instruction. The Illustrious, an old two-decker, was the first training-ship established; but she was soon found to be too small for the purpose, and the Britannia was fitted to take her place. In 1860 and 1861 the system was modified to that now in force. The age of entry into the Britannia is now from twelve to fourteen; the examination on entry is the same as that above mentioned for boys under fourteen years of age, except that any foreign living language may be substituted for Latin or French, the Euclid is reduced to the definitions only of the first book, and no algebra is required. The course of instruction is now uniform -twelve months; general quarterly examinations are held, and those cadets who do not exhibit satisfactory progress, or whose bad conduct shows them to be unsuited to the service, are reported to the Admiralty with a view to being dismissed. At the completion of the year's instruction, the cadet undergoes an examination, as before, on leaving the training-ship. The full number of marks obtainable at this examination is 3000; and if he gains 2100, he gets a first-class certificate, which entitles him at once to the rating of midshipman, and gives him a year's sea-time. 1500 numbers give a second-class certificate, with six months' sea-time: in this case the cadet must serve six months as such before he can be rated midshipman, for which he must pass a further examination. third-class certificate requires 1200 numbers: this gives no sea-time, and the cadet must serve twelve months before he is eligible to pass his examination for a midshipman's rating. If he obtains less than 1200 marks, he is discharged as unqualified for the service. Prizes and distinctive badges are also awarded for good conduct and proficiency in studies.

We have seen that in 1837 the Royal Naval College was closed as such for the education of volunteers -as naval cadets were then called. It was reopened two years afterwards upon a totally different footing, and for a different purpose;

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »