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The Royal Navy

LINE OF BATTLESHIP OF NELSON'S DAY                                              H.M.S. VICTORY

THE invasion of England by the Romans, Saxons and Danes was only made possible by the non-existence of a fleet. The great Alfred remedied this by collecting a fleet and keeping it in a thoroughly efficient con­dition; later, after a period of immunity from further invasion the fleet was neglected, and the opportunity which came to the Conqueror again made it apparent that it was to the Navy that England must look for her first line of defence.

In the reign of John the Navy once more became thoroughly efficient; then followed the usual reaction and indifference. Edward III. realized the importance of a powerful fleet, but in a few years it again fell off, the result being that the French were able to ravage Portsmouth and Winchester in 1372.

By Henry V.'s time, however, these attacks had been effectually checked, and the birth of an established Mercantile Marine and of that Empire may be said to have commenced with the Elizabethan Navigators.

The Spanish wars and the attempted invasion of the Great Armada in the latter part of the sixteenth century, the final struggle with the Dutch in 1692, and the battle of Barfleur (which put an end to the plans of the French King) practically ended for the time any serious consideration on the part of any foreign power of being able to force through the line of the British fleet.

A century later, however, the strength of the Navy declined once more, with the result that the American colonies were lost. Then once again the vital necessity of re-organization and development became apparent, and the modern British Navy came into being, under the glorious guidance of Hawke, Rodney, Howe and Nelson.

The greatest change, however, in the Royal Navy came in 1832 with the introduction of steam power, which in that year was fitted to H.M.S. Salamander (a paddle steamer). In 1843 a screw propeller was fitted to H.M.S. Rattler, the immediate success of which, with regard to vessels of war, made its future universal adoption a certainty. It was not, however, until 1848 that steam was applied to the class of warships known as battleships, and then only as an auxiliary to full sailing rig. In 1856 the first iron-built war vessels were constructed, and in 1860 was built (in consequence of the success in France of La Gloire, an armoured vessel of great power and stability), the first armour-clad iron vessel, H.M.S. Warrior.

The earliest armour for men-of-war was made of wrought iron, but with the invention of hardened steel shot, a steel-faced plate, backed with a softer metal, became necessary. This in turn gave way to nickel steel or other forms of specially hardened metal which obviated the defects of the compound metal armour formerly in use.

The control and management of the Royal Navy is vested in the Lords of the Admiralty. The First Lord, who is a civilian, is responsible to the Sovereign and Parliament for all the business of the Admiralty. The First, Second and Junior Naval Lords are responsible for the personnel of the Navy and the movements and the condition of the fleet, the Third Lord (or "con­troller") for the Material, the Civil Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Finance, the permanent Secretary being in charge of the Secretariat under the First Lord.

There are five Royal Dockyards existing in England for the building, equipment and repair of "Men-of-War." These are at Portsmouth, Chatham, Plymouth, Pem­broke and Sheerness; also twelve smaller dockyards or Depots, one being located in Ireland, and the other more important ones at Malta, Sydney, Bermuda, the Cape of Good Hope, Gibraltar and Hong Kong.

A battleship takes from two to three years to build, and costs from £80,000 to £1,000,000 — a cruiser takes from one to two years, at a cost of from £160,000 to £400,000, or more. This is an increase of a very large percentage as compared with Nelson's day, when a Line-of-Battle-Ship was floated for about £70,000, and a small frigate for £12,600.

In former days the largest ships were called Line-of­-Battle-Ships; they were built of wood and were classed as first, second and third-raters, according to the weight and number of guns carried. Below this class ships were ranked as Frigates, Sloops and Corvettes.

At the present day the ships of the Royal Navy may be separated into two broad classes at least, with regard to efficiency and invulnerability, namely, "Armoured" and "Unarmoured," Armoured ships being those whose sides and guns are protected by vertical plates of armour. These ships are classed as "Battleships," and sometimes as "Armoured Cruisers." Unarmoured vessels are those that are without protective armour, and include Torpedo Boats, Destroyers, Gunboats, and other auxili­ary craft.

The three main divisions are First-Class, Second-Class and Third-Class Battleships — all of which, of course, are armoured vessels varying in efficiency according to size, number of guns, weight of armour and age.

Cruisers, whether heavily armoured, or, as is more usual, only partially so, are classed as First, Second and Third-Class Cruisers, according to their size, speed and age.

Destroyers properly rank next in importance, as being not only of very high speed, but powerful craft of high efficiency, well qualified to run down the torpedo craft of an enemy's fleet, to perform scout duty, etc. De­stroyers are unarmoured, and carry only the lightest guns, but are usually fitted with two or more torpedo tubes. Their steel plating is of the thinnest possible description, and they have proved to be very "risky" craft to navigate and control.

The Government have now under construction a new class of Destroyers called "Scouts." These are more substantially built than the Destroyers, and are to act chiefly as fast Cruisers, to obtain information of the whereabouts of an enemy, and to carry dispatches and orders — in short, to perform the same kind of services at sea as the cavalry perform on land. A former type of vessels designed for this object — viz., the Torpedo Gunboat — was not successful, and the vessels are now used chiefly for fishery protection duties.

Torpedo Boats and Torpedo Gunboats are classed as of small fighting power under all conditions, being for the most part only of value when an especially invulnerable point has been left open to attack. The smaller Gun­boats, while mounting rather heavier guns than Torpedo Boats, or even than those of the Destroyer Class, are perhaps more efficient than either of the other two classes, and, being of light draft, are especially valuable for river or harbour work, or in bombarding the coast from points of vantage where the waters may be too shallow for vessels mounting heavier guns.

The Submarine is a development in naval engines of war, which came to the front at the latter end of the nineteenth century. The earliest application of these miniature craft, which are propelled beneath the sur face of the water, to practical purposes was made by the United States and France. The first submarines to be constructed in Great Britain were five of the Holland type (called after the American inventor).

Other auxiliary craft are classed as Depôt or Supply Ships, Hospital Ships, Training Ships, Dispatch Vessels, Store Ships, Troop Ships, Surveying Ships, Coast Guard Cruisers, Sailing Cutters, Tugs, etc., and last (but not, it is to be hoped, by any means least as regards value in warfare) "Merchant Cruisers," which include the largest and fastest of the great "Liners" built in recent years by the leading Steamship Companies, and of whose efficiency there can be no doubt (in consideration of their high speed and great coal-carrying capacity, coupled with their great size and strength, which enable them to mount guns).

Much discussion has taken place during the last few years as to the efficiency of the new tubular boilers of the "Belleville" type, fitted to a large majority of our latest ships. The old form of steam generator — called the Scotch or locomotive boiler — has been in use for warships ever since the introduction of steam power, and the principle of the construction is that the flames are carried through tubes which pierce the boiler with holes, as opposed to the water-tubes running through the furnace. Experiments have been in progress some time and an interim Report, issued by the Committee appointed to investigate the matter, has been issued. This apparently condemns the "Belleville" type of water-tube boilers as being wasteful and dangerous. It appears, however, that other varieties of water-tube boilers will be adopted and not a return made to the older Scotch pattern; as the chief advantage claimed by the former type is in being able to get up steam quicker, owing to the larger heating surface. Without attempting to express an opinion where experts dis­agree, it may be mentioned that when the stokers have got used to the boilers, much good work has been got out of them, notably in the long voyages of the Powerful and Terrible.


For List of Ships in the R.N. see Part II.

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