"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)



As I have explained, the supply of officers and the manning of the Navy are within the province of the Second Sea Lord, and I showed that the Secretary's Department forms a main channel for his operations. Two very important officers of the Admiralty are also under the same Lord's supervision for carrying on this vitally important work, viz., the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves, and the Deputy Adjutant-General of Royal Marines, the former charged with the important duty of organizing, inspecting, and mobilizing for service the secondary personal resources of the Navy, and the latter with the staff duties ashore of that admirable force which is so closely associated with the good work of our seamen afloat.

The Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves is placed in command of the Coastguard, and charged with the duty of generally supervising and controlling the Coastguard service afloat and ashore, as well as the Royal Naval Reserve. He is also instructed to co-operate with the Customs and the Board of Trade in seeing that the Coastguard is vigilant in the protection of revenue, and the repression of smuggling; in saving and guarding life and property; and in its duties in relation to the protection of home fisheries. The Coastguard, in short, is a reserve of the Navy - that to which resort is first had upon mobilization - consisting chiefly of former seamen-gunners, and other trained men, commanded by executive officers of the Navy who have elected to serve with the force. It is a body of about 4,000 men, appointed for preventive service upon the coasts, and the headquarters of its Divisions are at Harwich, Hull, Queensferry, Greenock, Kingstown, Tarbert, Holyhead, Portland, and Southampton. Upon mobilization the Coastguards men would be drafted to complete the complements of the ships that were but partially manned, and their staffs transferred to barracks and drill-ships, to embody and fit for service the naval pensioners and the men of the Royal Naval Reserve.

The appointment of the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves dates from 1874. Before the year 1857 the Coastguard was attached to the Customs Service for revenue duties, and was under the Controller-General of the Coastguard. The difficulty of getting good men at the time of the Russian War made the defects of this system apparent. The condition of the force was, indeed, far from satisfactory, but, after the transfer to the Admiralty, the Coastguardsmen becoming a reserve of seamen of the Navy, their quality was gradually improved. Admiral Eden told the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Board of Admiralty, 1871, that, as Controller of the Coastguard, it had been his practice each year to go round the whole coast of England, Ireland, and Scotland, see every man of the force, and inspect every Coastguard cruiser. One of the changes introduced under Mr. Childers' administration was the abolition of the office of Controller of the Coastguard, and, with it, that of Deputy Controller, and the work of inspection and control was then carried on under the authority of the First Naval Lord. In January, 1869, Captain Willes was called to the Admiralty to assist the First Naval Lord in conducting the duties of the Coastguard and the Royal Naval Reserve, as well as to give general assistance in other matters, and, in October, 1870, was confirmed in office with the title of Chief of the Staff. His duties were to superintend the Coastguard, as well as first reserve ships, tenders, and drill-ships of the Royal Naval Reserve, and to take charge of the management and supervision of the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Naval Volunteers, and the Seamen and Marine Pensioners' Reserve. The Chief of the Staff had also a large share in the business of manning the fleet. It will be remembered that, at this time, the office of Second Naval Lord was in abeyance. The Chief of the Staff was generally occupied at the Admiralty, but commanded the Reserve fleet on its annual cruise. The inspection of the Coastguard was intrusted to the Commanders-in-chief afloat as the men were embarked. At the same time the improvement of the force was continued, and the remainder of the civilians in it removed, while the Royal Naval Reserve, which had been instituted as a great experiment, was weeded and strengthened.

The office of Chief of the Staff was continued but for a brief term, and, by Order in Council of December 12th, 1874, an Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves was appointed to take charge of the Naval Reserve afloat, including the district ships, formerly called Coastguard ships, but since 1861 known as First Reserve ships, which then gave a force of nine ironclads ready at short notice for active service. He was also given charge of Coastguard stations ashore, the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, and the Seamen Pensioners' Reserve. A later instruction of the Board directed him to co-operate with the Commissioners of Customs and the Board of Trade in all measures necessary for the protection of revenue, saving and guarding life and property from wrecks, and the protection of fisheries. He was instructed to visit from time to time the district ships and coast stations of the Coastguard, and the drill-ships and batteries of the Naval Reserve. He was to submit to the Board promotions to the rank of Chief Officer, and the removals from station to station of the Inspecting Officers of Divisions, but promotions below the rank of Chief Officer were to be made on his own responsibility. The Admiral Superintendent was also instructed to visit mercantile training ships to take account of the training given, it being a wish of the Admiralty to admit suitable boys both to the Navy and the Naval Reserve. A final instruction was to keep the district ships ready and efficient for mobilization, with complete arrangements for making up their sea-going complements.

This outline of the Admiral Superintendent's instructions will show that - while exercising, in peace time, a high function of the Navy in keeping the peace and preserving the safety of the seas, in ministering to the welfare of the fisheries and the mercantile marine, and in protecting the Customs revenue of the country - he pursues the great work of preserving efficient the Naval Reserves in readiness for the war needs of the State. His operations are thus of far-reaching significance, and it will be seen that he must play a notable part in any mobilization of the fleet.

Important as are the duties of the Deputy Adjutant-General of the Royal Marine Forces, it will not be necessary for me to dwell upon them at any length. That admirable body of men, the Royal Marine Light Infantry, with its training depôt at Walmer, and its divisions located at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, and the Royal Marine Artillery, with its headquarters at Eastney Barracks, near Portsmouth, is a very valuable part of our naval personnel. Alternating their service between the shore and the fleet, the Marines are trained as soldiers, and to a considerable extent as seamen. Through the devotion of their officers and the thorough training of the men, they render most substantial service on board our ships. To deal with the entire economy and detailed service of the Marines, however, is beyond the scope of the present volume, and it must suffice to say that, with an establishment of 15,500, including 2,679 artillerymen, the force is maintained in a style of admirable efficiency.

When serving afloat, the Royal Marines are governed by the Naval Discipline Act, and are under their own officers, but subject to the captains of the ships in which they serve. Ashore, they are under the Army Act, and, so far as the exigencies of the training under Admiralty orders will admit, they take part under the general officer commanding the military district, in military manoeuvres and garrison duty in common with the other troops under his command. But, in regard to pay, interior economy, inspection and discipline, the Royal Marines are independent of that officer, and are under Admiralty regulations, enforced by the Deputy Adjutant-General, Royal Marines, who is supervised, as I have said, by the Second Sea Lord. A general commanding, for example, is not empowered to inspect Marine barracks, nor even to enter them without consent. Neither can he order a single man of the Marines on any duty without the authority of the Admiralty. If it were otherwise, the Marine forces would not be truly at the disposal of the Naval service upon emergency. The work of the Deputy Adjutant-General is accordingly to execute the orders of the Admiralty Board in relation to the forces under his command, to take charge of the Marine Recruiting Service, and to maintain these forces in the state of high efficiency to which they have been brought, and in readiness for immediate service if required. His Department at the Admiralty is noteworthy in this respect, that it numbers no civilian officials.

With the Departments of the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves and of the Deputy Adjutant-General, Royal Marines, I conclude my survey of those parts of the Admiralty "machinery" which are devoted to the work of constituting the personnel of the Navy afloat. Other officers of the Admiralty are occupied in duties to the personnel so raised. Thus, the Director of Victualling conducts operations of such magnitude as to demand a special chapter for an account of his department. The Medical Director-General of the Navy, of whom I propose now to speak, is an officer also of great importance. The health and hygiene of the fleet, and the surgical attendance upon the personnel, both in peace and war, are wholly in his hands. The Physician-General of the Navy was one of the five Principal Officers to whom, under the Order in Council of June 27th, 1832, the work of the Navy and Victualling Boards was transferred. His title was changed to that of Director-General of the Medical Department in 1843, and he had charge of all medical stores, medicines, and instruments, and superintended all professional duties connected with the various medical establishments.

The Medical Service of the Navy, over which this officer presides, is constituted of officers qualified under the Medical Acts, and admitted to the Navy after a severe physical examination, and further examination in medicine, surgery, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and materia medica, conducted by a board of medical officers under Admiralty regulations. Formerly, medical officers so accepted were put through a course of training at Netley, to the support of which medical school the Admiralty paid a contribution of £2,500 annually, but the system had disadvantages, and did not form a good introduction to naval life. There was need also for special training in the hygiene of modern ships, and the examination of naval Victualling Stores. Accordingly, the Haslar Hospital was made a teaching centre, through which naval medical officers now pass preparatory to going afloat, and where the sick-berth staff is trained. Surgeons are appointed to ships of war in numbers proportionate to their complements, and, upon return from commissions abroad, they are passed through Haslar and other naval hospitals for varying periods of service. Changes in the Department have made the medical branch of the Navy popular. The position of surgeons was much improved about 1859 under Sir John Packington's administration, and again in 1866 and 1875. In 1881 a new Warrant, giving satisfaction to the service, was issued upon the report of an Admiralty Committee, presided over by Sir Anthony Hoskins, which decided anew the pay and position of medical officers.

The Medical Director-General is supervised by the Junior Sea Lord, and is responsible under the Board for the administration of the Naval Medical Service both afloat and ashore, and is the appointed adviser of the Board on all questions connected with the appointment and promotion of medical officers, and of the nursing sisters and sick-berth staff. He is charged with the superintendence of all professional and administrative details in regard to the medical establishments; and is responsible for maintaining the necessary stores of articles required for the service. He has to prepare the estimates (Vote 8), and to watch the expenditure for the Medical Service so far as wages and stores are concerned, and is responsible for the examination of the Medical Store Accounts, which, as is the case with Naval and Victualling Stores, have been transferred from the Accountant-General's Department. For this work an audit branch was added to the Medical Department. He has, also, to prepare for publication the Medical Statistics of the health of the Navy, a work of much importance, to which great attention is paid.

The Director-General of the Medical Department is not a purchasing officer. All contracts are entered into by the Director of Contracts, whose department I have yet to deal with, and the conditions of supply generally resemble those which prevail in the Naval Store and Victualling Departments. Before the Select Committee on the Navy Estimates, 1888, the Medical Director-General stated, in illustration of the methods of supplying the fleet, that medical stores were always ready packed at Haslar Hospital for 6,000 men, at Plymouth for 9,000, at Malta for 15,000, at Chatham for 4,000, at Deptford for 5,000, at Hong Kong for 3,000, and so on at other stations, stores liable to deterioration being regularly removed and replaced by others. The medical establishments of the Navy are the Royal Hospitals ah Haslar, Plymouth, Yarmouth, Haulbowline, and Chatham, the Royal Marine Artillery Infirmary at Portsmouth, the Royal Marine Infirmaries at Portsmouth and Walmer, the Royal Marine Barrack Dispensary at Plymouth, the Royal Naval Barracks at Sheerness, the sick quarters at Portland, and at Dartmouth for the Britannia, and the establishments at Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Halifax, Jamaica, Ascension, the Cape of Good Hope, Hong Kong, Tokohama (sick quarters), Esquimalt, Coquimbo, Trincomalee, and Sydney.

It remains now, in this chapter, to allude to the Chaplain-General of the Fleet, who, in addition to his duties in regard to the chaplains in the service, carries on an important work in supervising naval instructors and naval schools, in relation to which duties he bears the further title of Inspector of Naval Schools. Between the Chaplain-General and a portion of the staff of the Royal Naval College, the duties formerly exercised (1864-74) by the Director of Education are now divided. In regard to naval schools, the Chaplain-General is supervised by the Second Sea Lord, and in regard to chaplains and naval instructors, by the Junior Sea Lord.

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