"Naval Administration" by Sir Vesey Hamilton
"Naval Administration" by Sir Vesey Hamilton

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



I endeavoured, in the first part of this volume, to indicate in a general manner the nature of the duties of the Controller of the Navy as a supervising Naval Lord, These duties, in relation to the machinery by which they are executed, now claim closer attention. The business of building up and maintaining in efficiency, abreast of the latest scientific developments and of the greatest triumphs of mechanical skill, the material side of the Navy, is vast, complex, and surpassingly important. It is a business that has increased by leaps and bounds with the expansion of the fleet, the progress of shipbuilding, and the increase of Admiralty establishments; and it has brought into new prominence the array of Departments and branches over which the Third Naval Lord and Controller presides.

As I have explained, the Controller became only within recent years a member of the Admiralty Board. He took his seat in 1882, under the Order in Council of March 10th of that year, when his duties were merged with those of the Third Naval Lord, but he had previously, from 1869 to 1872, been temporarily a member of the Board, and, in the interim, had possessed the right of attending the Board, and explaining his views, whenever the First Lord submitted for opinion designs for ships or any other matters emanating from the Controller's Department. The anomaly, already described, which led to the inclusion of the Controller in the Admiralty Board lay in the fact that - as one of the five Principal Officers who transacted the business which, before Sir James Graham's reforms, had fallen to the Navy and Victualling Boards - he was supervised by the First Naval Lord, the officer responsible for the efficiency of the fleet, and therefore interested in increased expenditure, and yet, at the same time, the only officer in a position to enforce economy. The business of the Controller, moreover, had vastly grown. Representing the old Surveyor of the Navy rather than the Comptroller of the Duke of York's instructions ("The Œconomy of His Majesty's Navy Office," 1717.), he had received the title of "Controller" in lieu of "Surveyor," under Order in Council of January 23rd, 1860, when enlarged powers in regard to the management of the dockyards were added to his office; and this great increase in his duties made his inclusion in the Board highly advantageous for the public service.

It is unnecessary at this point to repeat what I said in describing generally the Controller's duties (Part I., chap, iv.). By the Order in Council of March 19th, 1872, he was made responsible to the First Lord for so much of the business of the Admiralty as related to the material of the Navy. Let me say here, however, incidentally, that, in dealing with the administration of naval business, hard and fast rules are difficult or impossible to draw, and can rarely be drawn with advantage. The affairs transacted by the Controller of the Navy, or under his responsibility, might be described under many heads, but they fall reasonably under five principal ones. His first duty, naturally, is in regard to the design and construction of ships and machinery, upon which he advises the Board, the practical work resting with the Director of Naval Construction and the Engineer-in-Chief. This is the branch of the Controller's Department which I propose to describe in the present chapter. His second duty is in regard to the armament of ships of war, and here he is assisted by the Director of Naval Ordnance. Further, the Controller is charged, not only to initiate proposals in regard to work, but also to see to the practical execution of it, and to carry out the orders of the Board that concern his Department; and hence the third branch of his duty is that of dockyard administration, with responsibility for the work done at the dockyards. Here he is assisted by the Director of Dockyards, whose office, replacing that of the Surveyor of Dockyards, was created, with larger powers, in January, 1886. The work of shipbuilding, and the local administration of the yards and other establishments, form, however, a subject that lies beyond the scope of this volume. The fourth branch of the Controller's work - as I classify the branches for convenience - is the superintendence of the Stores Department, which has at its head the Director of Stores; and, lastly, he has the supervision of the Dockyard Expense Accounts, which are under the Inspector of those accounts. It will, of course, be understood, in regard to each of these branches of work, that the Controller is supreme, and can overrule officers under him. From this brief general survey of the machinery at the disposal of the Controller for the administration of his Department, it will be seen that his energies, and those of his departmental officers, like the labour of the huge army of artisans in our dockyards and other naval establishments, are all bent to the building and maintenance of the material elements of the fleet.

It being well understood that the place of the Controller in the Admiralty, as a working administrative machine, will be dealt with in the last part of the present volume, and the ground being cleared somewhat by an enumeration of the branches of the Controller's Department, I feel free now to turn to a consideration in some detail of the manner in which the work of warship designing and warship construction are carried on under his supervision - to the duties of the Director of Naval Construction and of the Engineer-in-Chief.

The Director of Naval Construction - upon whom devolve the constructive duties formerly executed under the old system by the Surveyor (or Controller) of the Navy as one of the principal officers - is also Assistant-Controller, having received that title in December, 1885; and, as Assistant-Controller, be acts in the absence of his chief in relation to all matters save ordnance and torpedo material. His opinion is expressed through the Controller upon the shipbuilding programme in regard to constructive possibilities. He is also, as Director of Naval Construction, chief of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, of which I shall have something to say presently. His duties have been officially laid down as involving responsibility to the Controller for all matters touching the design and construction of the hulls of ships and boats, including masting, torpedo and electric light apparatus, and all nautical apparatus, whether building in the dockyards or by contract. The Director of Naval Ordnance consults with him upon matters connected with gun and torpedo mountings before they are sent to the Controller, and drawings and specifications in this regard are signed by both officers. The Director of Construction is further responsible for the surveying of merchant ships, as to their suitability for engagement as armed cruisers, and for keeping a list thereof. He is also directed to visit and survey the various ships in progress at the dockyards, and contract-built ships in private yards, as may be necessary, in order to see that the designs are being carried out in all their details to his satisfaction.

This outline of duties can give but an imperfect idea of the mass of complex business that passes through the hands of the Director of Naval Construction in his work of ship designing. In the last part of the present volume I propose to deal with the framing of shipbuilding programmes, and with the selection of types and classes of vessels, these being matters which rest with the Admiralty Board. They are questions necessarily left largely to the decision of the naval members of the Board, and it is only when a conclusion as to naval requirements of armament, desirable speed, coal endurance, protection, complement, and so forth, has been arrived at, that instructions regarding designs for ships come through the Controller to the Director of Naval Construction. I shall not dwell upon the supremely important character of the work of warship building, a work demanding in the designer the most complete knowledge of naval architecture, and of the scientific means and practical resources within the reach of engineering skill. This importance is sufficiently obvious. It is the duty of the Director of Construction to take advantage of every new light that is thrown upon the stability and fighting efficiency of warships. All reports received from ships in commission are studied from the designer's point of view, to gain experience and knowledge for the improvement of future designs; and the character of foreign ships, and all advances in naval architecture and engineering made abroad, are diligently investigated and recorded with the same purpose, and independently of the work of the Naval Intelligence Department. Moreover, a new and practical character has been given to the work of the Director of Naval Construction. Thirty years ago there were clever men at the Admiralty who had been designing ships for half a lifetime, and who yet had never had to do with the building of ships; and there were practical shipbuilders at the yards who knew nothing of designing. Now all this is changed. The operations of design and construction are carried on hand in hand, and the Admiralty designers are in close touch with the work going forward in the dockyards.

This change has been brought about largely through the creation of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, which has the Director of Naval Construction at its head. The corps was instituted in 1883, chiefly through the advocacy of Admiral Sir Houston Stewart, who had been for ten years Controller, and possessed a vast knowledge of dockyard work. At that time young men could only enter the Admiralty service on the shipbuilding side as workmen, and there was little inducement for those of superior or scientific education to join. It was desired also to open a career to the students trained by the Admiralty at the School of Naval Architecture, and thus to retain them for the public service, which some of them, paid a fine of £250 to forsake. At the same time no bar was placed to the advancement of the workman class, from which many able constructors come. A student of naval construction under the new system begins his training by spending five years in the dockyards, learning the practical work of shipbuilding and engineering by going through all the shops, after which he passes to the Naval College at Greenwich for three years, where he is trained for nine months of the year as a naval constructor, spending the rest of the time at the dockyard. He is then, upon examination, admitted an assistant-constructor of the lowest grade, and a member of the establishment of the Corps, and is subsequently promoted by selection. I have dealt so far with the training of naval constructors, which involves interchangeability of designing at the Admiralty with technical experience at the dockyards, in order to show the character of the personnel in the constructive branch of the Controller's Department.

The Director of Naval Construction is responsible, not only for the design of ships, but for their construction, He is responsible for bringing together in one ship, so far as is possible, all the qualities intended by the Board, subject to data given to him by the Engineer-in-Chief and the Director of Naval Ordnance, and upon him chiefly devolve the guarantees of speed, coal endurance, draught, stability, structural strength, sea-going qualities, accommodation, and equipment. He is responsible for construction in this sense, that he approves a vast number of working drawings of structural parts prepared at the dockyards. In laying down plans for a warship, the Director of Naval Construction works in conference with the Director of Naval Ordnance, the Assistant-Director of Torpedoes, and the Engineer-in-Chief. A sketch design embodying the requirements is first made, which the Controller submits to the Board; and this, upon approval, is worked out in detail, or modified with a view to ultimate adoption. The Controller next sends the design, with a full and complete description of the expected qualities and capabilities of the ship, to the Secretary, who circulates it among the several members of the Board, prior to its consideration at a Board meeting. After a design has once been approved and received the Board stamp, no alteration or addition either in hull, machinery, armament, complement, boats, stores, or other details is permitted, without the concurrence of the Board.

The drawings, when prepared, with specifications and a bill of quantities, are sent to the dockyard, and, the ship having been "laid off" to her full size, upon a kind of huge drawing-board known as the "mould-loft" the making of working drawings begins. Those drawings, where they concern the armament or fighting quality of the ship, before being sent up to the Admiralty are examined, for approval or comment, by the gunnery and reserve officers of the port, and at the Admiralty are considered, amended and approved by the Director of Naval Ordnance, the Controller, and, it may be, the First Naval Lord. Meanwhile, the question of an estimate of cost has been considered, a provisional estimate presented by the Director of Naval Construction in conjunction with the Engineer-in-Chief being replaced by a detailed estimate prepared by the officers of the yard, whose work in this matter is facilitated by the improved system which has been introduced in regard to the Dockyard Expense Accounts. At the same time, at the Admiralty, steps have been taken to arrange contracts for all the materials of the ship, a work which is undertaken by the Director of Navy Contracts.

It thus appears that the Director of Naval Construction is at the head of a very powerful organization for work, and that he is in constant communication with all the other heads of branches in the Controller's Department. At the dockyards the actual work and organization are, as I shall subsequently show, under the Director of Dockyards, but the practical progress is constantly watched by the Director of Construction or his assistants, and the frequent presence of officers knowing the designs intimately is found to facilitate the economical and efficient arrangement of work in a high degree.

The system in regard to ships built by contract, the conditions of which will suggest themselves to the reader, is similar, but presents points of difference. The Director of Naval Construction is responsible to the Controller for the whole of the contract work, and expresses his opinion as to the firms who should be invited to tender, for which purpose his officers inspect the works and plant of manufacturers, as well as upon the tenders when sent in. The designs prepared at the Admiralty and sanctioned by the Board are sent to the contractor, as plans are to the dockyards, but no bill of quantities accompanies them, and the Director of Construction supervises the working drawings as in the case of dockyard-built ships. But the main difference in regard to ships built in private yards, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, lies in the fact that before the work is begun there is a clear understanding with the contractors as to the cost of the vessel. Resident overseers, who are officers of the Director of Naval Construction, supervise the workmanship and building operations, and see to the fulfilment of the intentions of the designer; and there are resident overseers also at the works in which armour is made, where steel is manufactured, and where chain cables are produced. Stringent supervision of this kind is not necessary at the dockyards, where the officers are familiar with Admiralty practice, and supervise the workmanship through the foremen of the ships being built. It is sometimes found advantageous to send as many as three or four overseers to private yards to assist the constructors in getting out working drawings in accordance with Admiralty practice, a duty additional to that of inspecting works and materials.

When a ship built by contract is received, it is the duty of the Director of Naval Construction to see, through the dockyard officers, that the conditions of the contract have been fulfilled. The vessel will be docked for outside inspection of her hull, and perhaps for coppering. There are steam trials to undergo, guns to hoist in, and sometimes confidential details of torpedo or other armament to add, with various adjustments. The stores also are to be put on board, and this always involves work upon the ship. When all is done, both in the case of dockyard and contract-built vessels, the Director of Naval Construction advises the Controller as to the completion of them according to design, and their seaworthiness; and before any new ship goes to sea a "statement of stability" is inserted in a book which is placed in her captain's hands. He thus leaves port well informed as to the sea-keeping qualities of his vessel, and with any special recommendations that her constructors deem it well to give in regard to the handling of her. The present eminent Director of Naval Construction has stated that the captains of Her Majesty's ships do, in fact, go to sea with a wealth of information concerning the qualities of their ships which is not paralleled anywhere.

In regard to alterations in ships during service, or refits, it is an order of the Board that none shall be introduced without the sanction of the Director of Naval Construction, which practically involves the submission to that officer of every estimate for a refit of any importance. But, apart from the question of repairs, which are in the nature of up-keep, additions and alterations are often made upon the suggestion of officers in command, or owing to progress in construction or in service matters, such as better armament, magazine construction, improved protection, the ventilation of coal bunkers, modern engines and boilers, and the introduction of electricity for lighting or other purposes; and here again there is a wide field for the work of the Director of Naval Construction. Upon this matter, and upon the question of ultimate responsibility for seaworthiness after repairs and alterations have been made upon economical considerations, much might be written. It has happened at least once that the captain of a ship refitted and altered has differed from the officers of the Constructive Branch as to the seaworthiness of his vessel. In the particular case referred to, the Controller and First Naval Lord, taking the statement of stability and other circumstances into consideration, dismissed his plea, and ordered the vessel to sea.

It remains to be said that the Director of Naval Construction has to do with salaries and wages as head of the constructive corps, that, in conjunction with the Director of Stores and the Director of Dockyards, he advises the Controller in regard to materials for shipbuilding and repairing, that he is responsible, with the Engineer-in-Chief, for the survey and valuation of any vessels purchased for the Navy, and, with the Director of Naval Ordnance, in the matter of gun mounting, etc., and, lastly, that he surveys vessels secured as reserve merchant cruisers, assesses their qualities, and supervises the arrangements made for the installation of armament.

From this survey of the very important duties of the Director of Naval Construction, it appears that the relationship of that officer to the Engineer-in-Chief is close and constant. This, from the universal employment of steam machinery in modern men-of-war, is necessarily so. The Engineer-in-Chief, however, is not a subordinate of the Director of Naval Construction. He is an independent officer, responsible directly to the Controller for all matters concerning the design and construction of steam machinery in ships and boats, and is jointly responsible with the Director of Naval Construction and Assistant Controller and with the Director of Naval Ordnance for the design and manufacture of gun mountings, and for the mechanical arrangements connected with the supply and fitting of torpedo apparatus, and the electric lighting of ships and boats. By his instructions he is to give such professional assistance as may be requested by the Director of Dockyards relating to the extension, improvement, and maintenance of the machinery in dockyards and factories, as well as to the repairing and alteration of machinery in ships and boats. He also submits to the Second Naval Lord questions relating to the engineer training establishments, and advises on matters concerning the engineers of the Royal Navy, submitting to the same Lord the appointment of all engineer officers.

The manner in which the Engineer-in-Chief is called upon to collaborate with the Director of Naval Construction in the preparation of plans for warships has already been explained. His procedure in regard to engines resembles that taken in the matter of contract-built ships. The general design is prepared by him at the Admiralty, with complete specifications; and tenders from selected firms are sought, the lowest being usually accepted, save when the plans submitted are deemed unsatisfactory. A tender being accepted, detailed designs are prepared by the builders, which are examined in the office of the Engineer-in-Chief on behalf of the Admiralty; and, during the progress of construction, the machinery is inspected from time to time, and, in some instances, resident engineers are sent to works. It usually happens, in the case of ships built by contract, that the engines are supplied by the builders. The trials of all new machinery fall under the Engineer-in-Chief, and he follows that machinery through its existence so long as the ship remains in commission, in the sense that engineers of the Navy are under him, and he advises upon the appointment of engineers to the fleet. Theoretically, however, I believe he has no concern with machinery fitted on board, though he would be responsible for a breakdown due to want of strength. When machinery calls for repair, it passes beyond his purview, the work being carried out under the Director of Dockyards, who, for this purpose, has a distinct engineering personnel, by whom the machinery is afterwards inspected. I may here observe that this is an arrangement which has met with adverse criticism. If a ship in commission should require new machinery, the Director of Dockyards and the Engineer-in-Chief would jointly report upon the facts, but these would come before the latter upon a question of management, to ascertain if defects had arisen through mishandling. At the same time, the Director of Dockyards is empowered to call upon the Engineer-in-Chief for professional assistance and advice, and periodical reports upon machinery from the engineers of ships are passed from the former to the latter. As I said above, outside the Controller's department, the Engineer-in-Chief has a responsibility to the Second Naval Lord for advice concerning the engineer training establishments and the appointment of engineer officers to the fleet. I may add that the training of engineer students is carried on at the Royal Naval Engineers' College, Keyham, where they spend five years, having practical work in the yard at Devonport, and at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, followed by further dockyard experience.

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