GUNNERY ON THE CHINA STATION
A Return to Gunnery at Sea - Results of the First Prize Firing - A Machine to increase the Efficiency in Loading - The Deflection Teacher and its Effect in Shooting - Remodelling the Target - Target Practice of the Fleet - Underlining an Inference - Admirals and Prize-Firing - Back at Hong Kong - Raising the Dredger Canton River - Lieut. Sims, U.S.A., and Gunnery - Sir Edward Seymour's valuable Reforms - Admiralty Opposition Prize Firing of 1901 - First Ship of the Navy - The Barfleur and the Terrible’s Example - The Admiralty and Improved Shooting - A Disastrous Order.
WITH the conclusion of the Pekin operations, H.M.S. Terrible had been a year in commission, and we had done no gunnery practice, as most of the crew had for seven months been employed as shore artillerists. Their experience had demonstrated to them the value of shooting straight, and the ease with which it can be carried out on shore, where the platform is steady. They had now to learn to manipulate heavy guns at sea when the ship is rolling. Both officers and men worked with a will at the instructional "dotter," and in October, 1900, after a month's course of drill, the ship carried out her first prize firing, and made 80 hits out of 104 rounds, a percentage of 76.8. The men were very disappointed at not reaching the 80 per cent, made by H.M.S. Scylla.
A percentage of 76.8 hits to rounds fired was far above anything that had ever been done before
THE DEFLECTION TEACHER
with a 6-inch gun, but I could see that better results ought to be obtained.
After carefully analysing the firing I came to the conclusion that the loading was not rapid enough ; that the men had not had sufficient practice in quickly altering the deflection on their sights if the shot went right or left of the mark ; that the men under some circumstances could not see whether they had hit the target or not, and were therefore not to blame if they missed. These three defects had to be remedied,
To increase the rate of loading, I had an arrangement made for giving the men the requisite practice. It consisted of a breech block mounted against two stanchions with a tray behind to take the projectiles as they were put in. To ensure the ramming being of sufficient force to drive the band into the rifling, the men were compelled to send the projectile with such velocity as to make it travel the whole length of the tray. The guns' crews were frequently practised at this machine, and in a very short time their efficiency in loading was doubled.
To teach the men to alter the deflection on their sights quickly and correctly, I had an arrangement made which was christened the "Deflection Teacher." It consisted of a miniature rifle, fixed to a gun in such a manner that although it could be given a small vertical and horizontal movement, the shot from it could never go anywhere but into an iron box fixed to the muzzle of the gun. Attached to a boom over the centre of the gun was a wooden frame, into which paper targets could be placed. The boom could be traversed
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
backwards and forwards by means of lines and a winch. Constant practice with this machine had the following results :-
- It taught the men to readjust their sights in accordance with their last shot.
- It convinced them that if they did adjust their sights correctly the shot would hit the mark aimed at.
- It gave the firing number practice in ordering the necessary alteration of sight, and the sight-setter practice in carrying out the orders.
Teaching the men to be certain whether they had hit or not was not as easy as I anticipated it would be. One captain of a gun, as they were then called, who fired eight rounds and made seven hits, told me that he never saw a hole made in the target after his fourth round, although he made three more.
I had some targets made of different colours, and cut a hole six inches in diameter in each one. From a distance of 1600 yards all the captains of guns examined these targets through their telescope sights, and it was demonstrated that a hole can only be seen in a target if there is a distinct contrast between the colour of the target and the colour of the water which forms its background. Hence if the water is white you want a dark target, and if the water is dark you want a white target. We most of us thought that the sea was always the same colour, a sort of dark greeny-blue, but it is not, for sometimes it is white and sometimes it is dark, and sometimes it changes from one to the other quite suddenly. This to the layman may sound peculiar, but I shall explain it later on.
THE COLOUR OF THE SEA
In all our practices, while one man was firing, others were exercised in judging whether the target was hit ; if it was a miss, they had to judge how far it was left or right, or how much it was short or over. The sailors called this "spotting drill," and christened the officer or man who was spotting the "Spotter."
Four years later, when their Lordships had learned that the only way to hit was to spot, they acknowledged the necessity of a spotter, but they objected to the name, and ordered him to be called the " Range Officer." This was stupid, because the spotter need not necessarily be an officer - our best spotter in the Terrible was a cook. Spotting is a gift.
Nor did their Lordships' pedantry achieve its object ; the officer or man who spots is to this day called, as the Terrible seamen christened him, the "Spotter."
To revert to the change in colour of the sea. When one looks along it as in firing at a target, it is of one colour in sunshine and of another colour if there is no sun. Consequently, when the sun goes behind a cloud you get a quick change from one to the other. Another element that causes a quick change is the wind. Many may have noticed that when a meadow has been harrowed, the grass differs in colour according to the way in which the harrow has passed over it. It is the same with the sea ; in a calm, if a slight breeze springs up and passes along the surface of the water, you get a similar change of colour as with the harrow and the grass.
The pattern of prize-firing target then in use
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
was very unsatisfactory. The mass of wood above water meant additional weight without additional buoyancy. The masts which carried the sail were frequently knocked down, and then the whole thing collapsed and took hours to repair. To obviate this state of affairs I obtained the Commander-in-Chief s permission to remodel the target. I placed the masts at the end of the raft, suspended the canvas from them and did away with all the unnecessary wood. This alteration was approved, and in the following year's prize firing we had little or no trouble owing to the shooting away of masts.
Details of the alterations were sent home in June, 1901, but the Admiralty declined to adopt the plan, preferring the old pattern. 1
After every target practice I used to have posted on the notice board my comments on the shooting. On this occasion I praised highly nine out of the twelve guns' crews, but I characterised the shooting of three of them as most discreditable. This opinion found its way into the Press, and one paper commented on it as follows : " The three guns that Captain Percy Scott refers to as most discreditable scored nine hits out of twenty-two shots, or 41 per cent. No other ship in the Fleet armed with these guns that year had made as much as 41 per cent, of hits, and the average was only 28 per cent., so we may infer that Captain Percy Scott considers the firing of the British Fleet as something much worse than 'most discreditable’." That certainly was my opinion, for if two ships by
1 This improved pattern was not adopted for general use by the Admiralty until 1905.
A GLARING CONTRAST
giving proper instruction to the men and by using extemporised appliances could obtain 80 per cent. of hits from these guns, whereas the average of the Fleet was only 28 per cent., then the Fleet was 52 per cent. of hits behind what it might have been, or in other words the British Fleet was only half as powerful as it ought to have been.
Mr. Arnold White, who took a great interest in the gunnery of the Fleet, hit the Admiralty very hard by publishing the fact that in our most up-to- date Channel Fleet, the three most modern ships, Magnificent, Mars, and Hannibal, each armed with twelve 6-inch guns, had with their thirty-six guns made only eighty-four hits, while the Terrible with twelve guns had made eighty hits. By way of making the comparison still more pointed he added that two out of the three ships were Admirals' flagships.
There were very good reasons for the gunnery of the Fleet being in such a deplorable condition. The Director of Naval Ordnance, who should be the most important man at the Admiralty, was not even a member of the Board ; he carried no weight and was unable to improve matters. There was no competition and consequently no incentive to improve. No notice was taken of suggestions made by officers who wished to improve the gunnery of their ships: they were frequently snubbed and from personal jealousy their ideas were boycotted.
The prize firing, which was a test of the ships' proficiency for battle, was, by Admiralty order, to be carried out once a year, but any excuse was accepted for not obeying the order. The following
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
table shows the number of ships that disobeyed the Admiralty order :
|Number of ships of the Fleet that obeyed the order
|Number of ships that did not obey the order
Admirals seldom or never attended on board their flagships when firing was taking place.
I remember when I was in H.M.S. Scylla the case of an Admiral who devoted two days to the inspection of his ship. He visited every part of her, looked at all the paint-work, went most carefully into the dress of the men, the length of their hair and the cleanliness of their clothing. As regards housemaiding and tailoring no inspection could have been more searching. On the third day of the inspection the ship carried out the annual prize firing with her heavy guns. It might be taken for granted that the Admiral, having so carefully inspected the housemaiding of the ship, would have remained on board to witness her proficiency or otherwise in target practice, and from the results form an opinion of her fighting value. I made a bet that, as the Admiral did not attach any importance to target practice, he would take himself on shore before a shot was fired. I won the bet !
The annual return of the results of prize firing was never issued till late in the following year, when every one had forgotten all about it. It was a natural consequence of the absence of all interest in the shooting of the Fleet that no attempts were made to improve the gun-sights. In 1900 they were almost identical with the sights in use when I first joined the Navy in 1868.
A FEAT IN SEAMANSHIP
On the 22nd November, 1900, we left Wei-hai-wei, and after a visit to Japan arrived at Hong Kong. The island had been recently visited by a typhoon which did enormous damage in the harbour and caused an appalling loss of life amongst the Chinese, many of their junks going to the bottom with all hands. Among other wrecks was a dredger called the Canton River. She had come from England to work on the new Admiralty Docks. She was 180 feet long, with a beam of 36 feet, and displacement of 1000 tons. During the typhoon she was blown over and sank, three hundred and eighty feet from the sea-wall, turning bottom upwards. The first operation towards getting her up was necessarily to right her, and attempts had been made to do this, but without success.
On the 17th December the Terrible arrived at Hong Kong, and, finding the dredger still bottom up, I made an offer to right her. The offer being accepted, work was commenced on the 2nd January, and she was righted on the 18th.
The turning of the dredger was effected mainly by parbuckling, but this was assisted by lifting her on the opposite side with " lumps," and by forcing air into her, which displaced a large amount of water and thereby lightened her. The parbuckles were four in number, three of them capable of giving a pull of 100 tons each, and the fourth 50 tons - total pull: 350 tons. The parbuckles were wire runners and tackles, with manilla five-fold purchases, the hauling parts of which were taken to steam winches on shore. The standing parts of the wires were taken to anchors
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
buried in concrete. In all eight anchors were used, varying in weight from 2½ tons to 15 cwt. In order not to bring too great a strain on any part of the sea-wall, they were distributed over a length of 100 feet.
The parbuckle chains were three double and one single part of 1⅝-inch cable : they were passed with a complete round-turn round the vessel, the bights of the double ones and the end of the single one being secured by shackles or lashings to suitable places on the upper deck ; the opposite ends were brought up over the bilge and on to a barge where the purchases were secured. Cradles were placed on the bilge of the dredger to distribute the strain and give leverage ; the barge was relied upon to ensure an upward pull. (See Plate 1.) The connection between the parbuckle chains and the purchases offered some slight difficulty, as it was found impossible to get any block which would stand a strain of 100 tons. It was overcome by making extemporary blocks out of the dredger's spare links, which had holes in them at both ends. Sheaves were cast and mounted between the links on a pin of the same diameter as the holes ; at the other end a similar pin was put through with a sleeve piece on it to prevent the two parts closing in. This sleeve had two thimbles on it, round which was passed a bale-sling strop, the bights being shackled to the ends of the parbuckle chain. This precaution was taken to ensure the chains bearing equal strains. (See Plate 1.) Counter parbuckles were laid out to prevent the vessel coming bodily in instead of turning.
A lift on the opposite side was obtained from
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
the bow of a tank steamer, and from two " lumps." These were filled and hove down at low water, and pumped out during the operations as the tide rose. (See Plate 2.) Air was pumped in by the destroyer Handy, and the water in the upper compartments of the vessel thus forced down to the level marked X on Plate 1, materially assisted.
All being in readiness, on the 18th January the winches were hove round and the vessel turned over without a hitch.
When a purchase became " two blocks " a carpenter's stopper was put on to take the strain, and the block shifted. These stoppers were invaluable, and in future I had no hesitation in trusting the heaviest strains to them. In the righted position the vessel's upper deck was 9 feet below high water, and an examination of it by divers disclosed considerable damage. The bulwarks being crushed in had opened the deck where it joined the side, and several iron stays were forced through. The leaks were mended, coffer dams, raised above high water, placed round each hatch-way, and by the 1st March she was ready for pumping up.
Four pumps were started (12-in., 9-in., 8-in. and 6-in.) ; the vessel, lightened, was turned round at right angles to the sea-wall, and dragged into shallower water. (See Plate 3.)
On the 2nd pumping was resumed, the idea being to drag her along the bottom into still shallower water. The stern purchase was hauled taut, the vessel rose slightly, and there was every appearance of her coming in, when, unfortunately, a bad leak developed on the port side which the
MEETING WITH ADMIRAL SIMS
pump failed to keep under. This caused an excess of buoyancy on the starboard side, giving the vessel a list ; the great amount of top weight then came into play, and she turned over.
On the 11th March operations were started to turn her back again. Nine anchors were laid out in a line at right angles to her keel, and three par- buckle tackles of 100 tons each were rigged from them to six chains passed round the dredger. The hauling parts of two of the tackles were taken to the Centurion's foremost and after capstans ; the third was taken to the capstan of the mooring lump, which was secured to the Centurion’s stern.
The total strain on the Centurion's moorings was 75 tons. To assist, her port bower anchor was laid out.
On the capstans being hove round the vessel was turned to an upright position without any difficulty. For a plan of the arrangement of tackles reference should be made to Plate 3.
It was while stationed at Hong Kong that, early in 1901, I had the pleasure of meeting Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Wm. S. Sims, U.S. Navy, at that time serving on board the battleship Kentucky. He was a gunnery enthusiast and was trying to impress upon his Naval authorities the necessity of a reform in heavy-gun shooting. He based his arguments upon a comparison of the very bad shooting of the American Fleet at that time and the records made by H.M.S. Terrible in China in 1900 and 1901, pointing out that the fundamental defect in training was that American scores were based upon observation of the splashes of projectiles,
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
while British scores were a record of actual holes made in a canvas target.
It is not inappropriate to my own reminiscences to recall the part which Admiral Sims, as he afterwards became, took in reforming the gunnery of the United States Navy. Though then a junior officer, he felt impelled to report to the Navy Department at Washington on the unsatisfactory methods of training men in gunnery. He little anticipated the opposition which would be offered to his suggestions and the annoyance which would be occasioned by his criticisms. He began his campaign in a moderate spirit as befitted a junior officer addressing his seniors, observing all the ordinary regulations in bringing his views to the attention of the authorities. His memoranda reached Washington and were acknowledged, but he got little more satisfaction out of it than that. He wrote again and again, and at length the Naval authorities at Washington did not even take the trouble to acknowledge his communications. At last, this young naval lieutenant became desperate. He sat down in his cabin and prepared a report on the state of gunnery in the United States Fleet and mailed it in duplicate, sending one copy to President Roosevelt at White House, who since the time when he had acted as Assistant Naval Secretary had taken a great interest in everything connected with the Fleet. I forget at the moment to whom he sent the other copy. It was, of course, a gross act of insubordination for a junior officer to address the President, who was technically the Commander-in-Chief of the whole Fleet, ignoring the American Admiral on the station and all the
A FIGHT FOR GUNNERY
senior officers at Washington. But Lieut. Sims accepted the risk. By some good chance the letter to Mr. Roosevelt actually reached his own hands. He sat down to study this young officer's letter. He was rather shocked by his criticisms of existing methods, but equally impressed by his suggestions for reform. So he forthwith sent a communication to the Navy Department stating that this young man was to be immediately sent for, given an opportunity of proving his contentions, and then, if he failed, it was significantly added, the senior officers in the department could do with him what they liked without consulting the President.
So in due course an order reached Lieut. Sims, directing him to return to Washington. When he got there he found that, though the President had shown that he was concerned in the matter, he had not by any means rendered the path of Lieut. Sims smooth and comfortable ; on the contrary, quite a lot of people in influential positions were prepared to put obstacles in the way of this upstart, as they regarded him. Lieut. Sims worked on for some time, and then he saw that he could make little headway. Fortunately, one of the Admirals serving in the department was impressed by his knowledge, energy, and courage. He went to White House and represented the position of affairs to the President. The result was that Lieut. Sims was forthwith appointed Naval Aide-de-Camp to the President, which gave him freedom of access to Mr. Roosevelt and insured his support.
In this way the traditional conservatism of many older naval officers of the United States Navy was
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
broken down. At length, this daring lieutenant was not only promoted, but a new office was created for him, and he became Director of Target Practice. Before he relinquished that appointment, the gunnery of the United States Navy had been reformed, and he had become one of the outstanding officers of the Fleet.
Some years later Captain Sims was in England, and committed another indiscretion. In a speech at a public dinner, given by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House, he said that if England was ever menaced by a foreign power, "You may count upon every ship, every man, every dollar, and every drop of blood of your kindred across the sea." As American naval officers are not allowed to express in public opinions as to their country's policy, Captain Sims was admonished ; but when the United States decided to intervene in the Great War, and Mr. Wilson had to select an officer to command the American naval forces in European waters, his choice fell upon this "upstart" of earlier years, who was thus able to show once more that "blood is thicker than water."
In this connection I may quote a letter I received from an American officer giving an account of the progress of reform : "With regard to our target practice, a new billet has been created. The Chief of the Bureau of Navigation considered that one man ought to be responsible for the shooting of the Fleet, and selected Sims. His position is a peculiar one. Nominally he is on special duty acting under the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, but really he is the chief adviser on all gunnery matters. Theoretically he has no
THE VALUE OF COMPETITION
authority, practically he has a lot, because the chief does not fool around with what is on file, but acts on his suggestions in the full belief that he has studied the matter, and thereby can arrive at more correct conclusions than those who have only considered these matters incidentally. Lieutenant Sims centralised the whole system of the training of gun pointers, and made prize firing squarely competitive, so that all ships might be graded on a basis of their rapidity of hitting. The very first practice under his system convinced the authorities that he was right and that much of the gun gear was all wrong."
The United States Navy made wonderful strides in perfecting their shooting and quickly went ahead of us, while we, for our part, were strenuously resisting the competition the Americans believed in. In the words of Lieutenant Sims himself, "Competition is the chief incentive to do well. To do well you must have good men and sound gear. Competition will not only improve our men, but it will force the authorities to bring our fighting machines up to date."
Lieutenant Sims held the position of Director of Target Practice until February, 1909. Eventually, as I have said, he became Aide to President Roosevelt, in addition to his other duties, and subsequently he was appointed, by order of the President, to the command of the battleship Minnesota, being the only man of his rank to have such a command. Upon the completion of his two-year term of sea service, he was ordered to the Naval War College, at Newport, from which he graduated two years later and
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
received the command of the Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla. During his administration of this latter command, the efficiency of the torpedoes and guns of the destroyers was, I am told, very considerably increased. He was singled out for special service by President Roosevelt, and when the United States entered the War in April, 1917, a guarantee of effective co-operation between the British and American Fleets was supplied by President Wilson's appointment of Rear-Admiral Sims - for he had reached that rank - in command of the United States forces sent to British waters.
From this digression I return to the subject of gunnery on the China Station. Early in 1901 Sir Edward Seymour, 1 the Commander-in-Chief, discussed with me the extraordinary results obtained by H.M.S. Terrible in her prize firing of 1900, and ordered me to preside over a committee to draw up suggestions for improving the regulations for prize firing in H.M.'s Fleet. I was to be assisted by Captain John Jellicoe, Captain Sir George Warrender, two Commanders, and ten Gunnery Lieutenants. Every detail was gone into most carefully, and a concise set of regulations were drawn up. The Commander-in-Chief approved of these, and they were adopted forthwith for use on the China Station.
A copy of the committee's report was sent to their Lordships the Commissioners of the Admiralty, but they did nothing. I heard that they would not accept the proposed reforms, and discountenanced the modification of the target. Furthermore, they highly disapproved of placing
1 Afterwards Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Seymour, O.M.
the ships in order of merit in the annual return, instead of alphabetically. In short, they were quite satisfied with everything as it was, and strongly objected to encouraging emulation.
The report, of course, never got to the Lords of the Admiralty. They did not trouble their heads about gunnery suggestions coming right away from China Seas. The report went to a very junior lieutenant of H.M.S. Excellent, the gunnery establishment at Portsmouth. A good many people in the Service, I believe, regarded the results which we obtained in the Scylla and Terrible successively with not a little suspicion. I dare say that this young officer, familiar with the ordinary shooting of His Majesty's ships in those days, could not believe that it was possible for any ship with proper instruments and decent training to do as well as we had done. So he turned the report down, deciding there was nothing in it of importance.
It may seem strange to readers who are unfamiliar with Admiralty methods that a very junior lieutenant should have been in a position to turn down important recommendations of a very strong committee of officers, one of whom was afterwards to become Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet and responsible for the safety of the whole Empire and the success of the Allied cause. These officers who formed the committee possessed a wide experience of gunnery, and had proved by results that the methods they proposed had greatly increased the fighting efficiency of the ships which had adopted them. This incident furnished an illustration of bad administration. A
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
junior officer was able to hold back the whole movement of gunnery progress, and thus placed the Royal Navy at a disadvantage if war had come before there was time to remedy the mistake. 1
Sir Edward Seymour's decision was not affected by the disapproval of his proposals. The committee's reforms and rules were brought into use, and the shooting of the Fleet in China went ahead enormously - a fact which later on extracted an official acknowledgment.
In order further to encourage quick hitting on the China Station, Sir Edward Seymour presented a shield which was to go to the ship on his station making the highest score in prize firing. This, of course, the Admiralty could not stop. In his determination to encourage emulation Sir Edward Seymour went further. He issued an order that the ship making the highest scores in prize firing was to take the right of the line at all parades on shore or whenever a brigade was landed. This the Admiralty promptly countermanded by a curt telegram, which I saw. On a later occasion a question on the subject was asked in the House of Commons. The Admiralty's reply was, to say the least of it, strange. I leave the record of question and Answer to speak for itself.
" Gunnery in the Navy.
" Mr. Harmsworth asked the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Admiralty had countermanded Admiral Sir E. H. Seymour's order when the Commander-in-Chief
1 The Committee's proposals were subsequently adopted in 1905 by the Admiralty of which Lord Fisher was First Sea Lord.
THE VALUE OF EXAMPLE
in China, to the effect that the ship holding the Seymour Challenge Cup for good shooting would always take the right of the line at all parades on shore or whenever a brigade was landed.
" Mr. Arnold Forster said the Admiralty had given no orders with respect to this question, which was one entirely within the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief on the station."
I found a great many officers were sceptical as to whether the Terrible had really made in 1900 nearly 77 per cent, of hits ; 1 it appeared to them impossible. To obviate a recurrence of this doubt, I took out in the ship seventeen independent umpires for the 1901 firing, among them being Captain Jellicoe, Captain Sir George Warrender, and Captain Windham.
The firing was not as good as I anticipated it would be, as we had some miss-fires due to bad ammunition, but the men were delighted to find that they had equalled the Scylla and were again first ship of the whole Navy. The twenty-four men competing fired, in twenty-four minutes, 128 rounds and made 102 hits, which is 80 per cent. The use of the loading teacher, which I have mentioned, had increased the rate of fire from 4.3 in 1900 to 5.3 in 1901. One man, named Grounds, actually fired eight times in a minute and made eight hits. Such a feat of shooting was then unprecedented.
Captain Sir George Warrender, of the Barfleur, adopted the method of teaching employed in the Terrible, and after a month's training carried out prize firing. The result was conclusive. The ten guns on the Barfleur fired 159 rounds and made
1 Seven years after this the average of the Fleet was 79 per cent.
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
114 hits ; the year before their record was 111 rounds and 47 hits. They had therefore nearly doubled their fighting efficiency.
Apropos of this, Sir George Warrender told me rather an amusing story. Being anxious to encourage his men to beat the Terrible, he promised to pay two dollars to every man who made over a certain number. The 114 hits rather astonished and delighted him ; he had to pay £20. When the payment was being made, one man, in gathering up about £2, looked very glum. To an inquiry if he did not like it, he replied with an indifferent air, that he did not mind it. What, asked Sir George, was the matter ? " Well," said the man, "it is the way you very kindly give us 4s. a hit ; we would have given you £1 a hit to have beaten the Terrible." This trifling incident revealed in a flash what was wanted ; but the Admiralty were blind to revelations.
I was within signalling distance of the Barfleur when she carried out the firing. At the conclusion of it Sir George made the following very pleasant signal to me: "We have done splendidly 159 rounds, 114 hits. This is nearly three times our score of last year. We owe our success to your instruction, and thank you."
In reporting to the Admiralty the great improvement in the Barfleur's shooting, Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge, who had become Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, wrote -
" This shows that the advantages of Captain Scott's system are not confined to his own ship, but are making themselves felt in other ships of the squadron.
"I have carefully examined the system at work, and have been much impressed by its efficacy. It is based on recognition of certain fundamental characteristics of human nature. It allows for excitability and moments of 'exaltation' in men loading, aiming, and firing ; and goes a long way towards neutralising both, by making provision for an immediate sedative. In my opinion it is, in the highest sense of the term, scientific. Therefore it is widely different from ordinary systems of training men to shoot, which consist essentially of mere repetitions sure to degenerate, in time, into formalism. Captain Scott's system is devised to put drill in its proper place ; to make it an assistant in attaining efficiency, not a master whose predominance renders the attainment of efficiency impossible. I trust their Lordships will prohibit attempts to spoil it on the plea of improving it.
" CYPRIAN A. G. BRIDGE,
Their Lordships did not take Sir Cyprian's advice ; they tried to improve it and spoilt it.
In November, 1901, the Commissioners of the Admiralty wrote directing me to report fully upon the nature of the arrangements invented by me and stated to have improved the shooting of H.M.S. Terrible and Barfleur.
I reported fully, but the only action taken by their Lordships was to issue an order which entirely spoiled the shooting of the Fleet with the smaller class of guns. In the Terrible the Commander, Commander F. C. Ogilvy, and two Lieutenants, Lieutenants R. Hutchinson and G. P.
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England, had taken infinite pains in training the crews of the 12-pounder, 6-pounder, and Maxim guns. Telescope sights had been fitted to them, and other arrangements had been brought into use which I was anticipating would greatly increase their rapidity of fire. The telescope sight on the Maxim gun we found doubled its efficiency.
This training was entirely thrown away, for under the Admiralty orders referred to the target was at such a distance that the men could not see whether they were hitting or missing. In these circumstances skill was eliminated ; all the gunners could do was to fire as fast as possible and trust to luck. 1
I may conclude this chapter with some observations on firing at long range. The South African War had taught us that our guns on shore could make good practice up to 16,000 yards, and that from an elevated position we could spot the fall of shot at that range. On board ship we had never fired a gun at more than 1600 yards, which is very little over the range used in the time of Nelson. We knew that if we went into action we must fight a long way outside this range to avoid the risk of being sunk by a torpedo. We knew that, whether firing across a room with a saloon-pistol or firing a 12-inch gun at 16,000 yards, there is only one way to hit the mark ; that is to spot where your last shot or broadside has gone and then alter your aim accordingly. We could not do this as we had then, in 1902, no electrical contrivance aloft (where the spotter must be in
1 This fatal error was not put right till March, 1905, when T became Inspector of Target Practice.
LORD FISHER'S MISTAKE
long-range firing) for conveying to the guns the range of the enemy, although I had devised and used such a machine in H.M.S. Inconstant, twenty years prior to this date.
All we had in 1902 was a voice-pipe, which was, of course, useless when the guns were firing. Consequent on this state of affairs, we could only train our men in individual firing at a range short enough for them to see whether they were hitting the target or not, and they never fired a shot at the range they would have had to use in action.
In 1901, Admiral Sir John Fisher attempted long-range firing in the Mediterranean. His idea was really to demonstrate to the Admiralty that long-range firing could not be successfully carried out without the necessary implements, and so force the Admiralty into supplying the instruments. His intention was undoubtedly patriotic, but as it so happened it was very bad for the country.
The Admiralty seized on it at once, and, through Parliament, announced that successful firing had been carried out at 6000 to 7000 yards, and that orders had been issued that all fleets and squadrons were in future to carry out their firings at these or even longer ranges. This reply was good enough for the House of Commons, and enabled the Admiralty to continue jeopardising the country, by not supplying instruments which were necessary to enable the Navy to fight at the ranges they would have to use in war-time.
An Admiral, writing to me on the subject, asked me, since the Admiralty had issued no instructions as to how the long-range firing was to be carried
GUNNERY ON CHINA STATION
out, to make a suggestion. I replied that the Admiralty had not given any instructions because they knew they could not be carried out without the necessary instruments, and these they did not want to supply. I advised him to inquire of the Admiralty how, without the necessary instruments, he was to carry out the long-range firing. This, I added, would corner the Admiralty, and force them to do something. The gallant Admiral did not approve of cornering the Admiralty; he pointed out to me that it was the duty of every Naval officer to do as he was told, and make the best use of the appliances that were supplied to him. This was undoubtedly a very proper reply, but if I had abided by such a sentiment, the gunnery of the Navy would never have improved.
About a year afterwards, as Inspector of Target Practice, I was on board this gallant and very proper Admiral's ship during her battle practice. The bugle sounded the "commence firing" and after the allotted time the "cease firing." The ship then closed on the target to count the hits. There were none.
I dined with the very proper Admiral that night and we discussed the shooting. He admitted that his ship's bad shooting was due to the Admiralty, but argued that they were not to blame because their money was controlled by politicians who did not consider the welfare of the nation, but only whether any proposal would tend to keep them in office or not. Under these conditions he did not agree with the five years' attack that I admitted having made on the Admiralty. I replied that possibly to some extent
AN ADMIRAL'S CONVERSION
the politicians were to blame, but that as I could not attack them, my only course was to "go for" the Admiralty. I think in the end he agreed with me, for I saw afterwards a very strong letter from his pen pointing out that long-range firing could be no more carried out without the necessary instruments than one could make bricks without straw.
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