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but just now we are only marvelling at the fact that in a question where clear-headedness is of such obvious and primary value, the First Lord should be driven to any shiftings and windings at all. In introducing last year's Estimates he promised that they would bring us to some point where we may stand." This year he proposes to build fresh ships costing several millions-which may or may not be advisable, but which can hardly be called standing. Last year he casually alluded to the naval pensioners as a possible source of reinforcement to the fleet in war-time. This year the pensioners, who in other respects have not changed their character during the twelve months, find themselves promoted to a force of 10,000 available men, which is practically added to the sea-strength of the Navy. They may be available or not; but if they were not counted in last year, why should they be this? In one of his speeches this year Mr Goschen returned to his "point where we may stand" in another form. There is a balance of naval power in Europe, said he, and if this is disturbed by abnormal effort on the part of any Power, we shall restore that balance. If this means anything, it means that at the moment the desirable equilibrium exists-that our side of the balance is satisfactorily weighted. Yet in the very same speech we find him turning to his critics with words of earnest deprecation. His programme, says he, is not an ideal one; it is simply the best possible at the moment. Now, what is an ideal programme? It can only mean a sufficient one for possible exigencies; since it is nobody's ideal to spend his money in more preparation than he deems necessary. So that on the evidence of the "balance" phrase the
Navy is sufficient; on that of the "ideal" phrase it is not. But both these phrases are in the same speech! We could multiply such contradictions, but what is the use of it? It is plain enough, and only too plain, that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not clear in his own mind whether the Navy is strong enough for its duties or not. As long as he knows not what is wanted, it is vain to be very confident that he will see it provided.
It would indeed be asking too much of any Admiralty to expect it to calculate down to the last penny the sum which would make the difference between readiness for war or unreadiness. The subject is not an exact science, and does not admit of such calculation. Yet there are Governments which seem to be able to make up their minds on the point. That of Germany, for example, which has the needs of possible war ever before its eyes, has found no difficulty in fixing its naval requirements as far ahead as 1902. It is not to the present purpose to ask whether the Kaiser's Government has or has not overstated its requirements, nor whether the Reichstag ought to grant them. As to the first point, it is enough that it has been found possible to make a definite estimate of the shipbuilding desirable during six years. As for the second, the Kaiser may go back upon his demands, but no British Government can shelter itself behind the precedent. The Government knows, and Mr Goschen freely admitted in his speech of March 5th, that this country at least will give all it is asked for. It has only to make up its mind and it will get what it wants. Nor is Germany our only example. It is not the custom of Russia to unveil her designs to the world, yet it can hardly be doubted that
the abnormal activity of the dockyards accords with a definite and far-seeing design. The advance of the Russian fleet has been among the most remarkable movements of the present decade. The Russian navy is formidable by its numbers alone, but doubly and trebly formidable by reason of its rate of increase. Of modern battleships, well - armoured and carrying heavy breechloaders, and huge calibre quick-firers, she had but five last year; two years hence she will have thirteen. Some of these are small, but it would need a large British vessel to go to meet them and defeat them. On top of this striking increase comes this year's new programme. Russia does not publish her programmes to the world, and it is therefore difficult to speak with confidence of her intentions. But so far as can be gathered she is maintaining the activity of her construction: two first-class warships, one second, and one third are spoken of. Adding these to the vessels already in hand, we get twelve new battleships to be completed for the years 1897-1900. Here is a rapid regular progression, and it is not too much to assume that it is intended to be a definite fulfilment of a definite need. For the calculation of such necessities and the orderly satisfaction of them we may search Mr Goschen's speeches in vain.
On the contrary, there seems direct evidence that no such calculation has been made, and no such satisfaction resolved upon. The fleet as provided for on last year's Estimates-that is to say, the fleet as it should stand on March 31st, 1899-was, on Mr Goschen's view, or rather on one of his views, sufficient for the likely demands upon it. We do not share that view, but for the moment we will allow its correct
ness. If the fleet was adequate on last year's Estimates, what did Mr Goschen need this year to maintain that adequacy? Russia, as we have seen, will probably lay down four ships; France certainly one, and probably more: what ought we to lay down? The guiding principle in such matters is believed to rest on the declaration of three admirals consequent on the manoeuvres of 1888. We ought to possess a strength "beyond comparison with any two Powers." Yet in face of this most authoritative declaration, Mr Goschen is only proposing to lay down four battleships, as against a probable five of the next two Powers. Is that "beyond comparison"? He may reply, as in effect he has already replied, that this is only probability; as soon as it becomes certainty we can lay down other ships, and, thanks to our more rapid construction, can have ours ready for sea as soon as theirs. But can we? The truth is that our superiority in rapid construction is speedily becoming a delusion. We possess it, no doubt; but of what use is that if we do not use it? Now, Mr Goschen is not proposing to use it. He is going to build three of the 1896 battleships within a couple of years or so. But the other two, on the showing of this year's Estimates, are not to be finished until after March 31st, 1899, though they were provided for the financial year beginning April 1st, 1896. That is to say, there will be more than three clear years between the provision for them in the Estimates and their completion for sea, which is constructing rather slowly than otherwise. Three of this year's four battleships tell the same tale. They will be voted by April 1st, 1897, but they will not be laid down
till about December. Their completion cannot but fall very late in the financial year 1899-1900, and what guarantee have we that the foreign ships they are built to neutralise will not be ready months before that date?
No doubt we can build faster than others, but what does that avail us when we begin to build later? What it comes to is thisthat of the fleet which Mr Goschen told us would be adequate for the financial year 1898-99, two important vessels will still be unfinished at the end of that year. Of the fleet which is presumed to be adequate for 1899-1900, three important vessels will not be ready until quite the end of that year. No doubt these ships can be accelerated, as Mr Goschen, to his credit, has accelerated two ships which were to be completed in 1898-99, and which have now been set forward to the present financial year. He has told us about these, though he has been very quiet about those which have been set back. But this, perhaps, is only human; what we complain of is the manifest vagueness of Mr Goschen's intentions. If he does not know when the ships are to be ready, it is fairly plain that he has not considered when they ought to be ready. If he has not considered what force we shall need at each stage of the future, he ought to have done. If he has, then why this vacillation in providing it?
The mention of ships postponed for a later date of completion suggests another point of comparison between the directors of the British empire and those of any other going concern. The Admiralty, so far as we can recollect, has never within recent years pretended to have an opinion as to the number of cruisers necessary for the British Navy. For battle
ships it has a rough standard— loosely comprehended and languidly pursued, it is true-of a force equal to the next two powers; for in the dictum of the admirals, above quoted, it has quickly weakened "beyond comparison" into "equal." In respect of cruisers it would appear to be a complete blank. Hence it is not in any way surprising to find that, of the ships authorised last year, besides the two battleships mentioned, five first-class cruisers also are not to be completed till the financial year 1899-1900. Yet these were part of the equipment presumed necessary for the country in 1898-99. Similarly, five first-class cruisers authorised in March 1895 are not to be ready till 1898-99; they were part of our equipment for the present year. Similarly the Vindictive, which was to be ready this summer-a promise repeated in Mr Goschen's published statement-is set down in the Estimates themselves as not to be ready till some time next year. In this case, therefore, the Admiralty not only does not know when the ship is needed, but has not even made up its own mind when it is to be ready. What is the excuse for all this? It is found set forth more than once in the printed statement which accompanies the Estimates. "The extended use of water-tube boilers in ships of large displacement and power involved unusual demands upon the tube manufacturers at a time when exceptionally large orders had been placed in their hands in connection with industries other than shipbuilding. This circumstance has caused delays in the construction of the boilers for certain ships." The "certain ships" number thirteen on Mr Goschen's own showing, and probably a good many more.
Now is not this the directors of
the British empire all over? Here is the most important branch of its work unsupplied with plant. The deficiency might at any moment involve enormous loss, possibly ruin to the whole concern. Eight of the ships delayed for want of boiler-tubes were provided for in the Estimates of March 1895-two years ago. Is it conceivable that the directors of any private firm would dare to advance the difficulty of getting tubes in two years as an excuse for the non-fulfilment of their duty? Is it conceivable that such a difficulty could not be surmounted, given only the determination that it should be surmounted? By a private firm it would have been surmounted. But because it only concerns the British empire, the boiler - tubes on which the empire's salvation or ruin might depend may be delayed months and years in the interest of somebody's high-grade bicycles. It is one of the most mysterious of the many mysteries which enshroud the working of the Admiralty, that it is always finding difficulties in buying what it requires. A few years ago it was for guns that everything was kept waiting; then it was for armourplates; now it is for boiler-tubes. With regard to the supply of armour, it is significant that last summer Mr Goschen declared that further battleship construction must be postponed for want of it. This spring he has again mentioned the subject; but now his main point is that we do not need new battleships, however able we may be to build them. Now certainly nothing can have happened in eight or nine months to enlarge the supply of armour-plate which could not have been perfectly well foreseen and arranged for beforehand. The inference is that it is not circumstances which have
changed, but only Mr Goschen's way of concealing them. In fine, we do not believe in any of these pretended difficulties in getting material from contractors. The Government is one of the largest buyers in the country at any time, and certainly the most constant. Any manufacturer will be too glad to increase his facilities for supply if only he can be assured of a continuity of demand. Is not the national demand continuous, and likely to be so? It ought to be. But the directors of the British empire comport themselves on each occasion as if they had never built a warship before, and were never likely to build one again.
The one valid excuse for limiting the material of the Navy this year Mr Goschen did not and could not use. He had hopelessly cut himself off from using it. This is the futility of building ships without providing the crews to man them. But Mr Goschen could say nothing of this, for his whole position has been that the numbers provided this year, with a similar increase of 6300 next year, will be sufficient for all our needs. Even here, on his strongest ground, he has not been able to escape self-contradiction. His admission that we had not reached an ideal standard in point of ships any more than of men seems to cut away the ground from his elaborate demonstrations of the adequacy of the present complement. It is no ideal standard to have more men than we can put aboard ship; therefore if we are still short of the ideal we must be short of the necessary.
Now, what do we require for our whole fleet, and what have we? The total required for all the ships, up to March 31st, 1896, has been put by Mr Goschen himself at 99,232. The crews of the ships laid down in the financial
year just ended and of those provided for the year 1897-98, Mr Goschen has recently fixed in the House at 11,620 and 3780 respectively. The grand total required is therefore 114,632. What have we to set against it? Mr Goschen's figures are these: in the active list 100,050 men, 25,000 reserves, 10,000 pensioners; these, with 6300 men to be added to the active service ratings next financial year, make up a total of 141,350 men and boys enlisted by the time all the ships provided for will be ready for sea. Is not this satisfactory enough? On this showing we have indeed men and to spare. But, alas! we must begin to subtract. Of the 100,050 active service ratings only 91,513 are set down in the Estimates as available for sea-service. The rest are cadets and boys training, and various non-combatants. Next year's 6300 men, we may roughly take it, will in the main replace those whose training will have been meantime completed; but we ought to take off at least 50 for increase in the non combatant branches. The 106,350 active - service men who will be enlisted by March 31st, 1899, are therefore reduced for purposes of sea-service to 97,763, which is probably a generous estimate.
Now, as to the pensioners. Mr Goschen counts on 10,000 of them, 6500 of whom are in the Pensioners' Reserve. The 10,000 thus includes 3500 men who are bound to serve in emergency, though not in receipt of reserve pay; but it does not take in 2000 or 3000 who are incapacitated for service by age or other circumstances. There are none of them young men, but they have all seen twenty years' service or upwards in the fleet: the one qualification may be held to balance the other.
It looks, therefore, as if Mr Goschen had discovered a very valuable source of strength which had somehow escaped the notice of his predecessors. But again we must deduct. Many of the pensioners, as Sir Charles Dilke pointed out in the House, would be required for the coastguard service. The Estimates put the numbers of the coastguard at 4200 men. These are all included in the numbers available for sea-service; in war-time they would have to go on board the ships. Now the coastguard is the one service that could least be neglected in war, since it would be a most valuable branch of the intelligence department. Readers of last month's Maga' will have noticed how fatally Admiral Baird was handicapped in the manœuvres of 1888 for want of a system of coast intelligence. We could not dispense with it in war; therefore we must take 4200 pensioners for the service. This leaves the pensioners at 5800even if they could all be got hold of and if all proved efficient. The numbers available for sea therefore sink to 103,563 trained men with the Reserve. That is still including next financial year's enlistments; without them the number is but 97,313-to do the work of 114,632. Counting next year's addition-who, of course, will not be ready for their work next year nor the next-we are still 11,069 men short.
There remains the Reserve. This year the Admiralty has decided to make an effort to increase the efficiency of this force. There are to be two classes: the qualified seamen will have served six months afloat, and will be encouraged to serve six more by the promise of a pension of £12 ayear on reaching the age of sixty. The seamen will include such men