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Although then, the naval instructors were, as a body, able and zealons, and always anxious to impart to the young officers under their instruction such knowledge as lay in their power, yet in cases such as these it was not in human nature that they could avoid falling into despondency at the difficulties which beset them in the first place, and into utter indifference thereafter. Moreover, it was only in the larger ships that naval instructors were borne. In the very numerous classes of vessels commanded by commanders and lieutenants there is no accommodation for a naval instructor, and it was left entirely to the option of the master or second-master to undertake the teaching of the young officers in the intervals of his regular duties; the only encouragement afforded him for so doing being the magnificent sum of five pounds per annum for each pupils And the complement of officers in these vessels being small, the services of the midshipmen for the duties of the ship could not be often dispensed with; therefore in many instances the knowledge acquired by them in any branch of their profession, beyond that of seamanship, was of the smallest annount. The consequence of all this was, that many fine young men—whose ill-fortune had placed them during the greater part of their midshipman's time in small vessels, or whose studies had, from the causes we have pointed out, been neglected—found themselves, when the period arrived for their examination, utterly unfit for the trial; and preferred leaving the service of their own accord to the discredit of being rejected again and again. The subjects in which the candidates were examined to qualify for the rank of lieutenant were threeseamanship, gunnery, and navigation. The examination in the first of these was of a very unsatisfactory nature. It could take place
either at home or abroad, wherever three captains or commanders could be assembled together; but the very nature of the subject prevented any set form of questions being put, or any scale of . numbers attained, and necessitated the vivá-voce form. Therefore the degree of strictness of the examination depended entirely upon the disposition of the examining officers, and varied through every stage between excessive harshness and extreme laxity. Thus it often h \ppened that officers notoriously incompetent, were returned as qualified, while others—young men of good ability and much promise— were turned back for months. The gunnery examination on board the Excellent was a very strict one; it was conducted by regular examiners, and lasted three days; it required a complete knowledge of the subject to receive a certificate of qualification, and on this head there was nothing to be desired. The examination for navigation at the College was carried out, as far as it went, with the greatest strictness and impartiality; but it consisted of only the mere practice of navigation, required no mathematical knowledge whatever,” and obtaining even the highest honours implied no more than a superficial knowledge of the subject. Yet it was quite suitable to the amount of instruction which the midshipmen had, as a general rule, been able to receive. Passed through this ordeal, and arrived at the position of a commissioned officer of the fleet, a young man found himself, except in rare instances, entirely devoid of any save professional knowledge, and that even of a very limited nature. Foreign languages, history, mathematics, the natural sciences, and even the fundamental laws by means of which he carried out the practice of navigating his ship—all were known to him by name only; and every year of service, every step he gained, brought his deficiencies more forcibly home to him. Thus at the age when education is usually completed, and young men are settled down to the duties of their professions, those naval officers whose minds recoiled from the thought of passing their lives in such a state of general ignorance, were compelled to begin at the very rudiments of learning, and in many cases to sit down to decimal fractions, the elements of algebra, and the first book of Euclid. That this is not only not an overdrawn picture, but a case of constant occurrence, every naval man will readily allow. To their credit be it said, a large number of officers, dissatisfied with their very limited knowledge, applied themselves with diligence in their intervals of employment to this—in many instances distasteful—task; and numerous are the names famous in the service by scientific attainments, whose information was only acquired by indomitable resolution and unremitting perseverance at a comparatively late period of their lives. Fully sensible of the deficiencies of the midshipman's education, though taking no steps to improve it, the Admiralty did certainly offer some slight encouragement to these officers, as will be seen hereafter. Those officers who had joined the service through the College were of course not to such an extent deficient in educational acquirements; but as they went to sea at the age of fifteen at latest, their proficiency at an after period depended to a great extent upon how they kept up the knowledge they had gained while at the College. Still, if any proof were required of the valuable results to be derived from a course of training, such as that in practice at the Naval College, it may be found in the fact, that many of our most distinguished officers passed through that establishment at the outset of their career. This most unsatisfactory state of matters continued until 1857, when —acting upon the report of a com
* We are now speaking of previously to 1857.
mittee appointed in the previous year—the Admiralty adopted the plan of a training-ship for naval cadets, through which all those joining the service for the future were to pass. The age of entry into the training-ship was to be from thirteen to fifteen, and a candidate was required to pass an examination in the following subjects: Latin or French, geography, Scripture his-. tory; arithmetic, including proportion and fractions; algebra as far as fractions, and Euclid as far as the thirty-second proposition of the first book. Candidates over fourteen years of age were also required to have a knowledge of the use of the globes, with definitions, algebra to simple equations, the whole of the first book of Euclid, and the elements of plane trigonometry. Six months was the minimum and twelve months the maximum time allowed in the training-ship, according to age, those joining under fourteen being allowed the whole year's instruction. At the termination of the regulated period, the cadet had to undergo a second examination, including all the subjects of the previous one, except Latin; and in addition to these, involution and evolution, simple equations, the elements of geometry, and of plane and spherical trigonometry, the simple rules of navigation, the use of nautical instruments, French, and a slight knowledge of surveying and constructing charts. If the cadet passed this examination satisfactorily, he was forthwith appointed to a sea-going ship, and at the expiration of fifteen months' service he was eligible for the rating of midshipman upon passing a further examination. If he failed in the examination on leaving the trainingship, he was to be rejected from the service entirely. The plan of instruction in the training-ship likewise comprised an elaborate course of seamanship, as follows:– “First Instruction.—A general knowledge of the different parts of the hull of
a ship. and how they are connected; the names of the masts, yards, and sails, and how lower masts and yards are built; to make all the bends and hitches, and to know the purposes for which they are used; to know all the signal flags and Pendants, and to paint them in a book. “Second Instruction.—Boat exercise, rowing, and sailing; to be able to pull an oar, to steer, and to understand the principles of managing a boat under different eircumstances; to know the partieular use of each signal flag and pendant, and be able readily to lookout a signal in the signal-books; to be able to heave the log, and to calculate the length of the line for each knot. * Third Instruction.—Knotting and splicing; cutting out, fitting, placing, and setting up rigging; questions in the standing rigging; names and use of all the blocks in a ship. * Forth Instruction.—General prineiples of stowing holds and provisions; position and arrangement of all the stores; the general internal arrangement of a man-of-war; general princi. ples of berthing, messing, watching, and stationing men; general duties of officers and petty officers with regard to the different parts of the ship. . “Fifth Instruction.—Methods of setting reefing, furling, shifting, and taking in sails, and making them up; shifting a oil and a topgallant-yard, and a topgallant-mast; principles of securing the yards for hoisting in boats; to learn how all the ropes are led, and their use. “Sixth Instruction—Knowledge of the eompass, hand and deep-sea leads, use of the helm, and the general princi. ples of manoeuvring a ship; to know the names of the different parts of an anchor, and the gear used for stowing anchors; to understand the use of chain and hemp cables; the method of letting go and weighing an anchor, and passing messenger, nippers, and stoppers, and bending and bitting a cable, and the use of compressors; method of mooring and unmooring, keeping a ship clear of her *nehor, also the method of clearing hawse; the effect of wind on the sails in turning the ship; the direction of pres. sure on the masts; the effect of altering the trim of the ship on the helm, and how she is balanced by the sails.”
When it is considered that, in addition to all this, the cadets were likewise to learn drawing, and to attend lectures upon steam,
chemistry, astronomy, mechanics, and hydrostatics—not to mention the athletic exercises of the cutlassdrill, swimming, and gymnastics– and that the time allowed for the raw schoolboy to get through this programme was from six to twelve months; it may well be imagined what a process of “cram” it must have been, even to gain a superficial knowledge of such a variety of subjects, all previously unknown, and many perhaps even unheard of, by him; and how extremely improbable it was that learning thus preternaturally acquired could be afterwards retained. In fact, the Admiralty had overshot the mark, and had gone to the opposite extreme. In their laudable anxiety to steer the educational bark clear of the rocky Scylla of neglect, they had wellnigh swamped it in the Charybdis of excess. Not that, the course of instruction was ill-calculated to the wants of the Navy—far from it; a better-digested scheme, one more suitable, could not have been planned; but the time allowed to get through it was far too limited. Two years at the very least should have been passed in the training-ship, and even this would not have been sufficient to gain a satisfactory knowledge of all the subjects embraced in the above scheme of instruction. This is strikingly evidenced by an a tecdote related in a very interesting pamphlet, written by Captain Harris, R.N., late in command of the Britannia, from which we have obtained the above sketch of the past history of naval education. Captain Harris relates that he “was much struck with a remark made by an Austrian professor, who had been sent by his Government to visit and report upon the system of training British cadets. After carefully investigating every part of the establishment, he asked, “How many years were allowed for this course of study?' And the same question was asked by an intelligent Swedish captain, who had been at the head of their Naval College.", At the same time that the above
system was instituted, the final examination of a midshipman for the rank of lieutenant was extended so as to be in accordance with the new course of instruction. The Illustrious, an old two-decker, was the first training-ship established; but she was soon found to be too small for the purpose, and the Britannia was fitted to take her place.
In 1860 and 1861 the system was modified to that now in force. The age of entry into the Britannia is now from twelve to fourteen; the examination on entry is the same as that above mentioned for boys under fourteen years of age, except that any foreign living language may be substituted for Latin or French, the Euclid is reduced to the definitions only of the first book, and no algebra is required. The course of instruction is now uniform —twelve months; general quarterly examinations are held, and those cadets who do not exhibit satisfactory progress, or whose bad conduct shows them to be unsuited to the service, are reported to the Admiralty with a view to being dismissed. At the completion of the year's instruction, the cadet undergoes an examination, as before, on leaving the training-ship. The full number of marks obtainable at this examination is 3000; and if he gains 2100, he gets a first-class certificate, which entitles him at once to the rating of midshipman, and gives him a year's sea-time. 1500 numbers give a second-class certificate, with six months' sea-time: in this case the cadet must serve six months as such before he can be rated midshipman, for which he must pass a further examination. A third-class certificate requires 1200 numbers: this gives no sea-time, and the cadet must serve twelve months before he is eligible to pass his examination for a midshipmans rating. If he obtains less than 1200 marks, he is discharged as unqualified for the service. Prizes and distinctive badges are also awarded for good conduct and proficiency in studies.
The arrangements of the Britannia were excellent as far as they went. There was abundant work to be done, and there was not much fear that the boys would fall into mischief through lack of employment, at all events. But the period of training was still far too short, and the principle upon which the system was based is an erroneous one, as we will endeavour to show presently. Moreover, the situation of the Britannia was open to grave objections, moored as she was in Portsmouth harbour, within a stone's throw of the dangers and temptations of a seaport garrison-town. Every precaution was taken by the gallant officer in command to keep the lads clear of the snares which surrounded them, and he was zealously seconded by the staff of officers and instructors under his orders: in fact, it may without fear of contradiction be said, that in no public school in the country are the boys more carefully looked after than on board the Britannia. But it was felt, nevertheless, that Portsmouth harbour was not a desirable situation (morally speaking) for a ship full of young lads; and the Admiralty, taking advantage of some cases of fever which had occurred, and which had caused a good deal of unfounded alarm in the mind of the public, sent the Britannia to Portland Roads as her future station, and since then she has been again moved to Dartmouth. And although the close vicinity of a first-class dockyard is a thing very desirable, for the purpose of practical instruction in many subjects which cannot be so well studied elsewhere, yet we think, under the circumstances, the removal of the Britannia from Portsmouth Harbour was a very judicious and proper measure. e have seen that in 1837 the Royal Naval College was closed as such for the education of volunteers —as naval cadets were then called. It was reopened two years afterwards upon a totally different footing, and for a different purpose; but previously to this another institution had been established, which has proved of inestimable benefit to the Navy, and has fully borne out the wise provision of its originators. It was determined in 1832 to provide for a want which had been very much felt throughout the service during the great war—viz., a uniform and comprehensive system of gunnery. For this purpose the Excellent, was commissioned by Captain (afterwards Sir Thomas) Hastings, as a training-ship for officers and seamen in a regular course of gunnery instruction. The peculiar conformation of Portsmouth harbour rendered it a most advantageous situation for the gunnery-ship ; and, moored head and stern in a creek st the north end of the dockyard, completely out of the way of the traffic in the harbour, with a practice-range of three miles dry at low water, the Excellent has for thirty-two years admirably fulfilled her destined purposes; and, under the command of Sir Thomas Hastings, and his able successors, has trained annually a large body of officers and men, who are, when properly qualified, sent into the different ships of the fleet to instruct the ships' companies in the various drills, and so disseminate one general system. Among the many defects which the want of proper organisation has created in our naval service, it is a great satisfaction to be able to turn to an establishment which is deserving only of
so. When the Excellent was instituted, it was determined to instruct the officers in the theory as well as the practice of gunnery. The utter want of mathematical knowledge by all save the few who had been collegians, made it necessary to include a course of mathematics in the scheme of instruction; and as nearly every subject bearing upon the science of gunmery was likewise included, the “long course,” as it was called, which an officer had to go through,
went far to make up for the neglect of his earlier education. Too much praise cannot be awarded to Sir Thomas Hastings and those who framed the course of instruction on board the Excellent. They felt the reproach upon their profession arising from the want of a proper educational system, and the serious inconveniences resulting therefrom ; and if they could not reform the system at the root, where it was most required, they could now do somewhat to indemnify the service, and to make amends for the deficiencies of the Admiralty. The stimulus thus administered was not without its result in another manner. In 1839 the College was reopened for the purpose of affording instruction to commissioned officers in scientific subjects; and as this establishment has been carried on to the present day upon the same footing, it requires specia consideration. The building is the same as that before used for the volunteers, the cabins formerly occupied by them being now allotted to the officers studying. The establishment was placed under the general superintendence of the captain of the Excellent, but the immediate charge of the studies was assigned to a Professor. To this important office the Rev. Thomas Main was appointed, a gentleman not only himself highly distinguished for his mathematical attainments — having been senior wrangler of his year—but who belonged to a very talented family, his brother, the Rev. Robert Main, for many years first assistant at Greenwich Observatory, being now Radcliffe Observer at Oxford. To assist the Professor were Mr. Jeans, mathematical master, who had long been associated with the College in its former existence as assistant to Dr. Inman, and who is well known as the author of a series of excellent works on navigation and nautical astronomy; and Mr. Brown, chief engineer, who was appointed as instructor in steam-machinery, and has for many years most admir