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William Loney RN - Background

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"Naval Administration", by Sir Vesey Hamilton, G.C.B. (1896)



THE Director of Naval Ordnance, advised and assisted on all torpedo matters by the Assistant-Director of Torpedoes, stands to the Controller in the same light as the Director of Naval Construction and the Engineer-in-Chief; that is to say, he is the head of an independent branch, and is directly responsible to his chief. Yet in all departments of Admiralty work, as the reader will have seen, the duties of branches are so closely inter-related, that no real separation exists, and this is especially true in regard to the Ordnance. A ship being a fighting engine, her guns and torpedoes are a primary consideration with her constructors, and hence in all matters of the design and construction of warships, the Director of Naval Ordnance acts in close consultation with the Director of Naval Construction. So intimate and sustained is the relation of the Ordnance Department to the fleet, that scarcely a case can arise of any considerable repairs to ships in which the Director of that Department is not concerned, either in regard to guns, gun-mountings, magazines, torpedo apparatus, electrical fittings, or other fighting gear. Not only, therefore, in regard to new ships, but to those which call for repair, it is his duty to advise as to their being brought up to a proper standard of gunnery efficiency, and hence estimates for large repairs find the refitting of vessels are invariably sent to him for the expression of his opinion.

Yet it is curious to reflect - though the Master of the Ordnance was an officer of high consideration in former times, an Ordnance Department having been in full operation as far back as the days of Henry VIII, and the Board of Ordnance a department common both to the sea and land services, but instituted for the Navy - that the Navy afterwards fell, in this matter, into dependence upon the military, through the work connected with naval gunnery devolving in the last century upon the Master-General of the Ordnance, and the duties of the Board of Ordnance being vested, in 1855, in the Secretary of State for War. Upon this subject a great deal has been said in Parliament and the press. The evil system remained in force until recent times, but has been progressively modified by the appointment, as a responsible officer of the Controller's Department at the Admiralty, of the Director of Naval Ordnance in lieu of the naval officer who formerly advised the Director of Artillery at the War Office; by the gunnery charges being transferred from the Army to the Navy Estimates; and by the institution of the Naval Ordnance Store Department, over which the Director of Naval Ordnance presides, directing a Storekeeper-General, with civil assistants, and ordnance officers at the ports and other establishments.

The question of transferring the responsibility for naval armaments from the War Office to the Admiralty, long debated, rose to new prominence in 1868, in relation to the guns for the Hercules, in the provision of which there had been much delay. At that time naval gunnery requirements were provided for in the Army Votes, and in November of each year it was the custom for the Admiralty to furnish to the War Department a list of ships intended to be commissioned in the ensuing financial year (and in three subsequent months) with the detail of their armaments and complements, as well as particulars of the guns which should be completed, or partly completed, to meet the wants of ships, and of the necessary reserve of guns to replace those which became unserviceable. The result was unsatisfactory. In addition to the practice, scarcely sanctioned by the constitution, of charging naval outlay upon army estimates, and yet leaving the administrative direction of the vote in Admiralty hands, the Admiralty itself found grave practical disadvantages, and even danger in the system. The following tabular statement of naval gunnery votes between 1881-82 and 1886-87, compared with the amounts asked for by the Admiralty, will show how disastrously the arrangement affected the public service upon the ground of naval efficiency. Nothing, said the Director of Artillery in 1884, could be more unsatisfactory than the manner in which the naval gun estimates were put forward year after year to be criticised, manipulated, and reduced by the War Office.

 Asked for.Granted.

At the same time the Admiralty was left in ignorance as to the number of rounds in store for the various types of guns in the service, except of those in reserve at the foreign depôts, and the same was the case in regard to fuses, tubes, etc. Neither was there any means of discovering whether the stock of naval material increased or diminished from year to year. Again, no account was given to the Admiralty of the amount actually expended yearly by the War Office on naval guns or other material, nor was there any exact account of the yearly production. No distinction between naval expenditure and army expenditure was made, and the classification presented was admitted on assumption. Although the general system found some defenders among military officers, it was condemned by the naval service, and most of the high officials at the War Office utterly disapproved of it. Lord Cardwell, Sir Henry Storks, Sir G. Balfour, Sir H. Gordon, Sir H. Lefroy, Sir John Adye, Sir F. Campbell, and many more advocated a change, and their views were shared by several Secretaries of State, notably by Mr. Childers, Lord Hartington, and Mr. W.H. Smith.

The question of the transfer had been considered by the Royal Commission of 1837 and the Select Committee of 1849, and after 1868 a long correspondence took place between the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Treasury, which it would be tedious to recapitulate (In the report of these inquiries, and in the Appendix to the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on Army and Navy Estimates, 1887, much information upon the subject will be found). On one hand it was urged that both economy and efficiency would result from the change, that divided responsibility must lead to delay, confusion, and danger, that the War Office could not check Admiralty demands, and that the Admiralty, not being directly responsible to Parliament, had no sufficient motive for economy. On the other hand it was argued that a really divided control did not exist, that the relation between the Departments was the same which subsisted between the Admiralty and the Board of Ordnance from early times, that the increase of officials and stores would lead to unnecessary outlay, and that the Admiralty would be looked upon as responsible without having power to control the manufacturing departments which it would be obliged to employ. In order to bring the matter to a settlement, an Inter-Departmental Committee was proposed, and on June 22nd, 1886, representatives of the Admiralty and the War Office met to discuss what the scope of the Committee's inquiry should be. It was afterwards reported to the Treasury that both Departments were strongly of opinion that the divided responsibility should end, that, upon the Navy Estimates, the Admiralty should be alone responsible for procuring the armaments, as well as the other warlike stores required for the use of the Navy, and, further, that the question of the making of naval guns at Woolwich should be settled each year by the two Departments as the necessities of the service might require, and as was already done in regard to gun-mountings, but that neither Department had any intention of creating a second Woolwich purely for naval use. The matter was further considered by the Royal Commission on Warlike Stores, 1887, and the Committee on the Organization of the Army Manufacturing Departments, 1887.

The somewhat divergent recommendations of these Committees were not adopted in the form in which they were made. The Ordnance factories were placed under a single head, the Director-General responsible to the military Financial Secretary, instead of being given over to an independent Ordnance Department, and Vote 12 (Ordnance and Warlike Stores) of the Army Estimates was so changed that afterwards the whole cost of naval ordnance and warlike stores was borne upon the Navy Estimates. At the same time the military authorities retained the inspection of warlike stores supplied to the Navy either from the manufacturing departments of the Government or from contractors, and the contracts for such stores were entered into as formerly by the Director of Contracts at the War Office. Save, therefore, for guns obtained by contract, the Director-General of Ordnance Factories is responsible, in regard to the practical work of supply from the Government factories, for both naval and military guns, while the Director of Artillery at the War Office is instructed to "control the Ordnance Committee," a body composed of naval and military officers and civilians, which is held directly responsible, save in special cases, for the design of all guns for Her Majesty's services. This last arrangement presents some peculiarities, and its tendency seems to be to render real responsibility in the matter indefinite. "The Admiralty," said Sir Frederick Richards, in his memorandum attached to the Further Report of the Hartington Commission on the Internal Administration of the War Office, "object to their officers, who are members of the Committee, being responsible for designs, so that the question as to the responsibility for designs of ordnance is decidedly complicated."

The result of the dispositions thus taken was to make the business of the provision of naval guns in the nature of purchase and supply as between the naval and military departments. Full satisfaction has not resulted from the changes. Thus Sir Frederick Richards, in the memorandum referred to, said that a careful study of the evidence before the Commission, oral and documentary, had convinced him that the system of the Ordnance Department was already condemned, being altogether unsuited to the magnitude, variety, and vast importance of the duties to be administered. He advocated a step which had been forcibly urged by the Admiralty upon the Treasury in May, 1887. "Enough, and more than enough, is to be found to show, not only that the Ordnance Department is in its constitution defective, but that it is altogether too big a business to be worked as a weak division of the War Office administration, and that there is no remedy applicable to the case short of the re-establishment of the Ordnance as an independent Department of State on a scale commensurate with its importance, and under a separate roof." Since these words were spoken the Naval Ordnance Department has been established (1891) at the Admiralty, charged with the business and custody of ordnance stores and the duty of maintaining munitions of war for the Navy at all naval stations.

Such is the recent history of the supply of guns to the Navy. It will be seen that, in the discretion of the Admiralty, they are procured either from the Government factories, which are directed by an official of the War Office, or by contract from private firms. In practice, large numbers of guns are obtained from both sources. The Controller of the Navy is responsible that her Majesty's ships shall be well constructed as fighting engines, duly supplied with guns, carriages, slides, gunnery stores, small arms, accoutrements, etc., and fitted with, proper magazines, shell-rooms, turrets, mountings, and other gear, as well as with torpedoes, torpedo stores, and fittings. Further, in the gunnery branch, he has supervision of gunnery and torpedo drill and practice, submarine defences, the gunnery work of coast batteries, etc. I have shown how, as the Controller's responsible officer, the Director of Naval Ordnance collaborates with the Director of Naval Construction and the Engineer-in-Chief, in the design of warships. It is his principal duty to advise the Controller on all questions concerning the ordnance and torpedo material of the Navy, relating either directly or indirectly to the design, construction, repairing, or fitting of ships, their guns, gun-mounts, torpedoes, and carriages, and the electric fittings connected with armament, as well as concerning magazines and shell-rooms, and every arrangement necessary for the proper and efficient working and maintenance of the armament. As advances are made in gun-construction, or otherwise, it is his duty to advise the Controller as to such changes in the armament of ships as he deems advisable. Upon all questions concerned with the mounting of guns and torpedoes he consults with the Director of Naval Construction, and drawings and specifications of these are signed by both officers. In relation to the practical work of gun-construction, and of warlike material supplied by the War Department, the Director of Naval Ordnance is in personal communication with the Director of Artillery at the War Office, and he communicates directly with the captains of the gunnery ships and torpedo schools on ordnance and torpedo subjects. Another duty is to prepare and submit for approval the estimates for the material of his Department during the ensuing financial year.

I have made allusion above to the Assistant-Director of Torpedoes. This officer is the assistant of the Director of Naval Ordnance, to advise upon all torpedo matters. The appointment is a comparatively recent one, made necessary by the introduction of a new arm into the fleet. Whatever concerns torpedo armament falls within the purview of the Assistant-Director, and it is his especial care to watch diligently the developments of torpedo warfare, and to keep himself informed of all inventions that concern his work, into the merits of which lie must diligently inquire. Practically, he sees that all ships are provided with torpedoes, torpedo carriages, fittings, search-light apparatus, and the necessary torpedo stores approved, as well as to the provision and readiness for service of the proper reserve stores at torpedo depots, so that there may be no depletion; and he advises the Director of Naval Ordnance as to experimental and instructional work in the torpedo school ships. He watches the progress of expenditure in his branch of armament, superintends the carrying out of work, and visits torpedo depots and factories, so as to gain personal acquaintance with it, or to witness trials and experiments with torpedo material. He is thus in a position, according to his instructions, to advise in regard to the design of ships and boats touching torpedo armament and electrical fittings, and the equipping of torpedo boats and destroyers with, all requirements for their special services.

In addition to these and other associated duties, the Assistant-Director is prepared when called upon to submit plans for torpedo-boat exercises and manoeuvres, suggesting the special points that need to be worked out, as well also as for submarine mining practice; and he is the channel through which much information concerning torpedo questions reaches the Intelligence Department. The Assistant-Director of Torpedoes is instructed in general to consult personally with the Directors of branches of the Controller's Department, but the Director of Naval Ordnance remains primarily responsible for the whole work of the gunnery branch.

In concluding this account of the Ordnance work under the Controller, it remains to be said that the Director of Naval Ordnance is responsible also to the First Sea Lord to advise upon all questions concerning the gunnery and torpedo training establish merits of the Navy.

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