Page images


THE most significant thing about this batch of books is that they should exist at all. Ten years ago their appearance would have been a portent; they could never have appeared at all. Here, published within six months of each other, are five volumes, all of them dealing more or less directly with our maritime defence. Among their authors are representatives of navy, army, and marines, along with two male civilians and a woman. The books and their authors are of themselves an indisputable testimony to the existence in this country of some degree of public knowledge and a vast deal of public interest in naval affairs, which certainly did not exist as late as 1887. That, to begin with, is matter for sincere national selfgratulation. If our Navy is not yet all it ought to be, at least ignorance no longer affords any valid excuse for apathy. The nation is to day more widely awake to its fundamental interest than it has ever been without the harsh admonition of actual war.

Of this strange, but wholly commendable, direction of public at tention towards the Navy, the most striking evidence, no doubt, is furnished by the two biographies which we here place at the head of our list. In the adventures of fighting men, so long as they are fighting, a persistently unregener

ate world never ceases to interest itself. But until a very few years ago there was no spark of interest in admirals as such. It would have been hopeless to ask people to concern themselves with a dead admiral merely because in time of peace he did good work for the service. It is true that Hornby and Tryon, each in his day, was the real, if not the nominal, leader of the Navy. But Tryon never saw powder burned in earnest after the Crimean War, when he


under twenty-four, while Hornby's one experience of active service was the operations in Syria against Ibrahim Pasha when he was a midshipman of fourteen. Later, each became in turn the foremost tactician of his daybut who cared about naval tactics? Each became the idol, almost the infallible Pope, of the service-but who cared what naval officers thought of their leaders? To-day, most happily, we have changed all that.

The Navy is healthier, and so is the popular attitude towards it. And the sole interest of the two books-which interest, we are assured, will be wide and deepis that the two men here pictured did more, probably, to promote this healthier habit than others of their time. Because we are beginning to appreciate the Navy, we are also able to appreciate its makers.


A Biography. By

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, G.C.B. Mrs Fred. Egerton. Edinburgh and London: Wm. Blackwood & Sons. The Life of Admiral Sir George Tryon. By Rear-Admiral C. C. Penrose Fitzgerald. Edinburgh and London: Wm. Blackwood & Sons.

Naval Policy. By G. W. Steevens. London: Methuen & Co.

The Effect of Maritime Command on Land Campaigns since Waterloo. By Major C. E. Callwell, R. A. Edinburgh and London: Wm. Blackwood & Sons. The Navy and the Nation. By James R. Thursfield and Lieut.-Col. Sir George Sydenham Clarke, K.C.M.G. London: John Murray.

To attempt a nice comparison between the biographies would be rather difficult and quite profitless. As the presentation of a man Mrs Egerton's life of her father is not unnaturally the more successful; as an estimate of work done for the Navy Admiral Fitzgerald's book as naturally displays the more mastery. But this does not mean that either is deficient on the side where it is excelled by the other. Quite the contrary. Nothing, for example, could be much better than the portrait of Tryon which Admiral Fitzgerald draws in his introductory chapter: in the terse dignity and rhythm of its language it rather recalls North's Plutarch than the weaker biographies of today :


"Sir George Tryon was a man of tall stature and of a commanding presence; latterly he was also broad and stout-in fact, a portly figure but it was significantly remarked of him that his heart was big enough for his body. Some thought his manners brusque; some said they were imperious; but none ever denied the kindness of his heart, or his great generosity, in the most universal and best sense of the word. . . . There was generally a merry twinkle in Tryon's eye, and he was very fond of a joke, but he never allowed his

love of fun to interfere with the strict performance of his duty. He was of a restless and energetic disposition, but although he never spared himself he showed great consideration for the comfort of others. . . . He was undoubtedly ambitious, with the worthy ambition of genius: he knew he was clever-most clever men doand he was not only content, but proud, to devote his talents entirely to the development, the organisation, and the improvement of every detail of his beloved profession. ... By his contemporaries he was almost universally beloved, and he was 'dear old George' to them; and if perhaps his brilliant qualities, and the devotion with which he was generally regarded, excited in the breasts of

any of them some faint twinges of jealousy, it was but the usual tribute which mediocrity pays to exceptional ability."

Mrs Egerton's book contains no such formal appreciation of its subject; but the great number of private and public letters leaves a very distinct impression of "Uncle Geoff's" character. Modest, though without that affected self-depreciation which is immodesty under a mask; buoyant yet cautious; keen but always considerate; in dead earnest about his work, but genial and charitable even to First Lords of the Admiralty; knowing his own mind, but always remembering that other people had minds too; passionately loving the sea and the service, but loving his home and trees, his horses and dogs, hardly less,—we may say confidently that biography has hardly revealed a more completely lovable temperament. Mrs Egerton has drawn the portrait with a due tempering of tenderness and dignity which it is the happiness of few biographers to attain.

This said, we may leave the personal traits of both men to the appreciation of those who love loyalty, duty, and kindliness,

whether it be found in admiral or peasant. On the professional side the one was the direct successor of the other. Hornby bridged the gulf between sails and steam, wooden frigates and compound - armoured barbette ships. Tryon entered in the flower of his life into the age of ironclad steamers; he was the first commander of the Warrior, the first British sea-going ironclad. Hornby stands for the transition; Tryon for the development. In Hornby you find the gracious regret for the days of sails and spars; in Tryon the frank, clear-sighted ac


ceptance of the new conditions, and the vigorous grapple with the new problems. Yet in Hornby you detect no trace of the passive, half-sulky obstruction with which some of the older officers of our own, and still more of foreign services, have chosen to meet the growing domination of the inventer in naval warfare. Indeed it says more than any volume could say for the candour and elasticity of his mind that the man who clung to sail to the last, and never ceased to lament its disappearance, became none the less the prime master of steam tactics in his later days. "Being obliged to resort to steam, which always goes against the grain with me;" "All I can say is, 'More's the pity that it should be so rare a thing to see a ship come into harbour under sail'"-such passages these follow each other punctually. Yet as early as 1863-only four years after the laying down of the Warrior we hear the note of sturdy common - sense. "When these men sit down to plan a warship propelled by steam," he writes, after a visit to Glasgow, they make a steamship of her, and don't go puddling on drawing large sailing-ships to put engines into." Three years before he had written from the Mediterranean, where Sir William Martin was making the first experiments in steam tactics: "It is no "It is no use fancying that steamships can only form as sailing-ships used to do; and by adhering to those ideas, instead of following the new systems, which have been shown to be possible under most circumstances, we are throwing away the advantages that steam has given us." Probably the men of this generation can never appreciate the degree of robust honesty, even of self-abnegation, which a sailor

of Hornby's traditions needed thus to bridge the past and the future.

Sir Geoffrey Hornby's life was not, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, an eventful one. After his one brief glimpse of active service in the Mediterranean he served on the Cape station, and afterwards as flaglieutenant to his father in the Pacific. He was captain of the Tribune at Vancouver Island in 1889 when the San Juan boundary question arose with the United States, and it was due largely to his happy combination of dignity and tact that war was averted on that occasion. After a commission in the Mediterranean, he was Commodore on the West African station. While there he strongly advocated the combination of all the African stations into one command, so as to give the crews a change of climate. Seeing that he lost twentytwo men by yellow fever in less than a month, it is perhaps less wonderful that Hornby advocated the reform than that it was afterwards carried out. He next commanded the Flying Squadron on an eighteen months' voyage round the world. The mention of this suggests the question whether it would not be advisable to resuscitate this squadron, and thus to train our officers and sailors in the best possible school by sending them round the world in the best ships under the best superior officers we can find. The present system of using for the so-called Training Squadron old ships and old guns, which are fit for no other service in the world, is rather like teaching a soldier his business by casing him in plate armour and exercising him with a bow and arrow. A squadron of our newest cruisers steaming round the world would train men in the sort of ships and machines they may some day

be called on to fight. It would inure them to every kind of climate and weather. Further, it would display the flag all over the world, and do away with one excuse for keeping some of our best men in obsolete tubs on distant stations, when the first days of war would hand them over helpless to the first modern enemy they might encounter.

From the Flying Squadron Hornby went to command in the Channel, and thence to the Mediterranean. How much his blended discretion and firmness did to keep Russia out of Constantinople and Britain out of war, readers of Mrs Egerton's book may see for themselves. But the dominant impression of this chapter is not an agreeable one. To Hornby more than to any one Englishman it fell at this crisis to steer the country between war and dishonour. Yet the Government at home appears to have kept him systematically ignorant of its intentions. It may be, of course, that it was ignorant of them itself. Yet it is difficult not to blush in reading the correspondence between the Admiral and the First Lord. "The further," writes Hornby to the late W. H. Smith, "I can be informed of your views, consistently with State secrets, the more I believe I should be able to prepare to carry them out." They appear to have consistently ignored his representations as to the fortification of the lines of Bulair, above Gallipoli. It might have been indiscreet to take his advice; but it was surely a worse indiscretion to keep him in the dark as to the actual policy of the country to order him to keep the Straits open, while neglecting the only means by which it was possible to keep them open. They suddenly ordered him off from Malta

without giving him any coal to drive his ships. They ordered him up the Dardanelles, and then sent a despatch to meet him half-way and counter-order him down again. "I am sick of it," he writes most naturally, "and only look forward to returning to Malta."

It will probably surprise British readers to learn that their foremost admiral, in command of their greatest fleet, at a time of urgent crisis, is shifted to and fro like a chess-man by the superior wisdom of Whitehall. It probably did not surprise Hornby, for he had been a Lord of the Admiralty himself. This was in 1875 and 1876, when he was Second Sea Lord, under Ward Hunt. His first task was to determine how twenty-three ironclads could be kept in commission, with one for every four of them in reserve or building, when at the end of three years there would only be twenty-four ironclads altogether. He asked two millions and a half to bring the fleet up to its proper strength, and did not get it. that he began his Mediterranean journal with the words, "I left the Admiralty with less regret and more pleasure than any work with which I have been so long connected." Here are some of the delights in the life of a naval lord::

What wonder

[ocr errors]

"As if for the purpose of preventing him from turning his attention to any of the important subjects of the day, he has to direct such minutiæ as whether a man recommended for a truss shall be allowed one. With a hundred such ridiculous occupations his time is engrossed, and he has to scramble through important papers without sufficient time to consider them, and to leave most reports great fault is want of unity of plan. and experiments unread. The second

Of course there is no feeling of connection between the permanent

[ocr errors]

officials and the service, and therefore no care how the work succeeds afloat. The office is looked on as a department of the Civil Service... It is not to be wondered at that a naval man, who comes there to work for the benefit of that service in which he takes pride, should be disappointed and disgusted to find himself in company with those who have great powers of obstruction, and no desire to advance the service."

Of course the Admiralty-like the Government of Turkey-is always reforming, and doubtless this sketch of its workings is long since obsolete. It does not, however, appear to have been altogether out of date six years later, when Tryon was Permanent Secretary. At that time no lord ever saw the letter written from his minute, and a a Secretary who knew something about the Navy was found very useful in correct ing the miscellaneous blunders which arise from the system. In his tenure of the office, as at all other times, Tryon proved himself, what Admiral Fitzgerald calls him, a type of the true reformers of the Navy. The impulse to reform may, and often has, come from without; but the execution of it must be left to the man who understands the business. While at the Admiralty Tryon laid the foundations of the Intelligence Department. As Admiral Fitzgerald well says, this is like a good many other modern institutions: "we wonder how on earth we ever got on without them." It seems incredible that fifteen years ago it was nobody's business to gather the information necessary for the rational prosecution of war. If we had had to fight in those days, our officers would have been expected to find out the strength and nature of the enemy's force afloat and his defences ashore, by any sudden inspiration which Heaven

might have vouchsafed them on the moment. And the Admiralty would have been as utterly at a loss as to the expedient organisation of their own resources as they would have been ignorant of the enemy's. Admiral Fitzgerald may well say that if Sir George Tryon had never done anything in his life but give the impetus to the institution of this Department, he would by this alone have sufficiently merited the nation's gratitude.

But, as he significantly says, "Sir George Tryon was always preparing for war." So far as actual fighting goes, he saw little more of it than did Admiral Hornby. After the Crimea he was transport officer at Annesley Bay-"the hottest place on earth"

during the Abyssinian War; and in 1881 he represented British interests through the French bombardment of Sfax and the subsequent Commission. His colleague at Annesley Bay was Lord Roberts, and it was stated that these two were the hardest worked men in the expedition. Both services demanded tact beyond the common endowment. Yet, masterful as he was reputed to be, Tryon won nothing but praise and gratitude from everybody concerned in both affairs. Perhaps it was rather because of his masterfulness than in spite of it; and in days when Britain has almost forgotten the diplomatic value of this quality, it is worth while to point back to the eulogies which Tryon won from the French in the Sfax affair. After this Tryon saw no more of warfare. But after this, and even before, there was no intermission in his life's task of "preparing for war." Wherever he went he was always picking up information, making or suggesting reforms in discipline and organisation, trying

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »