"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)



My survey of the Admiralty "machinery" now brings me to certain Departments largely concerned with the practical work of the Navy - to Departments which are of much importance in themselves, but which, nevertheless, do not call for treatment at great length in this volume. The first of these Departments is that of Naval Intelligence, a recent addition to our naval machinery, which yet has come to he recognized as of such surpassing utility that it seems, at first, difficult to understand how we prospered so long without it. But the truth is, that the appointment of the Director of Naval Intelligence was enforced by a quickened consciousness of the vast increase in the scope and of the far larger incidence of naval affairs. The Director is an advisory and not an administrative officer. It is his work to amass the information which is necessary to enable the Lords of the Admiralty to form their judgment as to the sufficiency and employment of the fleet. The work of naval intelligence has, therefore, necessarily always gone on within the Admiralty, but the institution of a special Intelligence Department in 1887 has been found, under the new administrative conditions, of signal value. Some writers, indeed, regarding the Department as a new factor in Admiralty procedure, have gone so far as to describe it as a potential "Brain of the Navy," capable of assuming a high directive function; but the truth is that the First Sea Lord, who is the Superintending Lord of the Department, even if relieved of some of his many duties - and some slight relief was afforded subsequent to the report of the Hartington Commission - must always, assisted by his colleagues, bear the grave weight of his supremely important advisory duties. An insuperable difficulty has, indeed, been found in removing from his shoulders even any part of the administrative work which gives him the full grasp of conditions and affairs essential for his consultative function in regard to the more important part of the naval business of the country. It was the opinion of the naval officers who gave evidence before the Hartington Commission that the consultative function of the First Sea Lord could scarcely be divorced from any of his administrative duties.

The Naval Intelligence Department includes two branches, one of Foreign Intelligence, and the other of Mobilization, the latter charged more especially with the grave duty of preparing plans for the organization of our vast and varied resources in view of hostile operations, and also, upon receiving instructions from the Board, for the carrying on of war with different Powers, The Department, as I have said, is purely consultative, and in no sense administrative. The essence of its work is officially described as "preparation for war," that is to say that every information necessary for the carrying on of war is to be collected by it, and, through its operations, is to be made rapidly accessible both to the Board and the fleet. The Director of Naval Intelligence is accordingly charged to furnish to each Naval Lord all necessary information concerning that Lord's work or duties which the operations of the Intelligence Department make available.

The chief objects to be kept in view by the Director of Naval Intelligence are the gaining of an accurate knowledge of the naval resources of foreign nations, their preparedness for war, and their ability to carry on maritime war; the collecting of all information in a complete and readily accessible form; and the keeping commanders-in-chief and other officers in command supplied with such important information as the Board may consider necessary. To this end the Director of Naval Intelligence has particular instructions. He is to collect, sift, and lay before the Board all information on maritime matters likely to be of use in war; he is to keep ready a complete plan for mobilizing the naval forces of the Empire, and, when directed, is to prepare plans for naval operations for the consideration of the Board; and he is to bring to the notice of the Board all points touching "preparation for war." There is, however, an express injunction that the Intelligence Department is not to indicate to the Board any policy unless called upon to do so. Information is always to be immediately available concerning the distribution and condition of foreign warships in commission and reserve, the distribution of fast merchant vessels, both British and foreign, the resources in regard to reserve personnel of foreign Powers, and the state of their coast defences, the condition of our coaling stations, the state of our ships of war in regard to readiness for mobilization, and the number of officers and men available.

In short, the Department of Naval Intelligence is the repository of all information necessary for the conduct of naval operations, and of knowledge indispensable as a basis for adequate "preparation for war." Hence, in regard to naval policy and the framing of shipbuilding programmes, the Director of the Department is an officer often consulted; and he prepares alternative schemes for the manoeuvres. Periodically he lays before the naval members of the Board reports upon the work he is conducting and proposes to conduct, and he draws attention to deficiencies in personnel and material which may affect promptness of mobilization. His Department, therefore, deals with matters vitally important in regard to the effective value and employment of the fleet.

Another important officer of the Admiralty, supervised by the First Sea Lord, is the Hydrographer of the Navy, whose office dates from the year 1796. The King's Hydrographer, however, was an officer of importance in the days of the Stuarts, and at the present time the Hydrographer at the Admiralty carries on work of the very highest value to the naval service. He is the scientific adviser of the Board on surveying matters, and has charge of the scientific work which the Board delegates to him. He submits such surveys as he considers necessary to be made, and is responsible for the accurate execution of them. He watches the progress of foreign nations in hydrographic matters, and is the adviser of the Board on all questions connected with practical navigation, pilotage, and other subjects of a like professional or technical character. It is his work to obtain and publish information respecting navigation, and to prepare for publication charts and nautical directions, as well as tide tables and light lists for all parts of the world; and he supplies charts, chronometers, compasses, and scientific instruments to ships. Again, he advises the Board in relation to the conservancy of the royal harbours, and pilotage, and the appointment of surveying officers, and controls the scientific vote of the Navy estimates in regard to the contingencies of observatories, and the cost of preparing surveys, charts, chronometers, etc. He has charge, also, of questions connected with the Royal Observatories at Greenwich and the Cape of Good Hope, as well as with the Nautical Almanac. The operations he conducts are of the greatest utility to the merchant service.

The Director of Transports carries on the work of the Transport Board, which was instituted in 1689, during the struggle in Ireland, and re-constituted in the following year. The Transport Commissioners were reduced in 1717, and abolished in 1724, but many abuses afterwards prevailed, and the Commission was revived in 1794. The Transport Board afterwards took up the work of the Commissioners of Sick and Wounded, and, in 1806, the business of the Sick and Hurt Office was transferred to it; but this arrangement was done away with in 1817, when the Commission was abolished, and its powers transferred to the Commissioners of the Navy and of Victualling. The Comptroller of Victualling and Transport Services was one of the officers who, under the reforms introduced by Sir James Graham, carried on the work of the dissolved Navy and Victualling Boards. In the year 1862 the Victualling duties were separated from the office, and the Transport duties were placed under the Director of Transports,

Generally speaking, the Director of this Department is responsible, under the Board, for providing conveyance for troops and seamen, Navy and Army stores, and all persons of the Navy and Army departments proceeding on Government service, and he prepares the estimates for this service, and examines all claims before payment. He is charged with the control of the executive and financial duties connected with the conveyance of troops to and from India on behalf of the Secretary of State for India, and he keeps and renders accounts of all receipts and expenditure connected therewith. The charges on this head do not appear in the Navy Estimates, although the expense of the establishment for carrying out the duties does, being included in the transport establishment. An important change was made in the year 1869, when all the account work, which formerly the Director of Transports transacted for his own Department, was transferred to the Accountant-General of the Navy, whereby the office of Director of Transports became practically an executive office only. I have already gone, at considerable length, in preceding chapters, into the question of store accounts, and therefore need not enter into the matter here. In 1886, as was the case with all the Store Departments, the account work was given back to the Director of Transports, and it was certainly very much better that those who knew something about Transport stores should carry on the duties. An Assistant Director of Transports was appointed in 1880, when the Indian troop service was formed into a separate branch.

It will be well understood that in war time the work of the Transport Department must become of the very highest importance, and there can be no doubt that, as at present constituted, that Department would be put under very considerable strain. At the commencement of the Egyptian War the officers of the Department were working until twelve o'clock at night, temporary copyists were brought in, and people borrowed to help in the work. Mr. Baughan, Assistant Director of Transports, told the Royal Commissioners on Civil Establishments, in 1887, that, in the case of a great war, such pressure could not be borne for any length of time. I refer to this matter in order to indicate the very weighty business in the duty of preparation for war which rests in the hands of the Admiralty Board. The Director of Transports is supervised by the Junior Sea Lord.

The last of the greater Civil Departments of the Admiralty of which I have to treat is that of the Director of Architectural and Engineering Works. It is a Department of very high importance, charged with the outlay of vast sums of money, when it is deemed necessary to construct docks, fortifications, or other works on shore; and operations of repair and reconstruction are, of course, always going on. The Director of Works has charge of the architectural and engineering works of the service ashore, and of Admiralty property and establishments, including Coastguard building, both at home and abroad, except in London. He advises the Board concerning all new works, and the alteration and repair of existing buildings, and is responsible for the proper design and execution of any works decided upon, and for the purchase of the necessary materials. In this respect, his department is excepted from the rule which brings the duty of purchase into the hands of the Director of Navy Contracts. As in the case of contract-built ships, it is thought well that the Director of Works should be the purchaser of his own materials, and, considering that he is the officer who understands the work in hand, and is responsible for the proper execution of it, this disposition seems wise. In addition to the purchase of stores, the Director of Works is the adviser of the Board on all questions relating to the purchase and disposal of property. He prepares the estimates and rules the expenditure for the work to be carried out by his Department (Vote 10), except as regards the salaries and allowances of the officers superintending works in progress, which are furnished by the Accountant General; and the vote as a whole is referred for the concurrence of the Controller of the Navy.

The duties that devolve upon the Director of Works are very varied in character. It may fall to him to take charge of the repairs to a Coastguard station on the coast of Ireland, the extension of a mole, or the formation of a dock, at Malta or Gibraltar, the erection of a store-house at Bermuda, or the building of a breakwater at Jamaica or Singapore. If a dock is to be constructed, the Controller of the Navy, being responsible for the ships built and proposed, is asked to say what is the largest vessel that the dock should be fitted to receive. This information being supplied, the Director of Works makes a sketch of the dock, designed to accommodate the ship indicated, with the further assumption that the ship has been struck or waterlogged, and has an added draught of water. The Controller will probably make suggestions in regard to the design; and, the general character of the dock being agreed upon, and every officer whose opinion upon the matter is desirable having been consulted, the rough plans are finished. These are sent out to the station abroad where the dock is to be constructed, and the officers there who are to use it, examine the details of them, as for instance of the timber-slides and steps; and, when the report they make reaches the Admiralty, it is again submitted to the Controller, and the finished designs are completed.

All work of importance is conducted by means of contract, the contractors being taken from a selected list, and being generally invited privately, and not by public advertisement. Very great importance is attached to the matter of tenders, and to the manner in which these are dealt with, and many precautions have been instituted to prevent abuse. In regard to minor repairs, as, for example, at Coastguard stations, tenders arc procured from builders in the neighbourhood, and the lowest tender is generally accepted, unless evidence of collusion should have been discovered. In regard to new Coastguard stations, however, public advertisement is resorted to.

Mr. Forwood's committee, in 1887, recommended that so far as was possible, the purchases and contracts in the Department of the Director of Works, like those for the hulls and machinery of ships, should be placed under the Director of Navy Contracts, to be carried out on the general basis of the purchase scheme approved in July, 1883. This, however, was not done, and it is now generally admitted, that it is best the purchase of stores of the required nature should rest, under proper check, with the officer who is best acquainted with them, and under whose authority they are used.

It remains now, of the smaller Civil Departments of the Admiralty, to refer only to the Director of Greenwich Hospital. Much that is very interesting might be written about the history of this establishment, and I would gladly have entered at length into an account of it, but its work can occupy but a small space in a volume upon naval administration. It is, nevertheless, a very important duty that is carried on. The Director deals with all matters relating to the administration of the Hospital estates, revenues, and school, submitting such questions to the Civil Lord or Council as may be necessary. He reports and advises as to the property in the North, in Greenwich, and in the Isle of Dogs, which he visits when necessary. With him, too, rests the inspection of the collections of works of art, relics, plate, etc., in the Painted Hall and elsewhere at Greenwich Hospital, and he reports to the Board upon any matter that may seem to him to need attention. Lastly, he deals with the applications of widows of seamen and marines, and others, slain, or drowned in the service of the Crown, for pensions out of Greenwich Hospital funds, as well as with the question of allowances for their children, and with claims for gratuities to parents and other relatives of seamen and marines, consulting with the Civil Branch of the Secretary's Department when necessary in relation to this matter.

The building at Greenwich consists of four blocks, from designs by Sir Christopher Wren, named respectively after Charles II, Anne, William III, and Mary. It was the last-named queen who conceived the idea of converting Greenwich into a refuge for aged and disabled seamen, but the real origin goes back to the institution of the Chatham "Chest" by Drake and Hawkins. In 1716 the forfeited estates of Lord Derwentwater were added to the foundation. Greenwich was abolished as a hospital in 1869, and became an educational establishment for the Navy, with beneficial results, in 1872.

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