Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

system out of working, at the very time that the demands of the service for the supply of young officers would probably be much increased. We cannot see, however, that any other objections could be raised to the above plan; yet, since the one we have pointed out is perhaps serious enough to prevent such a scheme being adopted, we must turn to some other, less open to objection, if inferior in the result producible by it. We have seen that a College for the training of young naval officers was for more than a century in existence, and that the same principle has been revived in the Britannia, though under another form; the main cause of the several failures of the old Academy and College being, that it was only a partial system, the number of cadets trained there being limited; and there were, therefore, two distinct classes of officers in the service, those who had been educated, and those who had not. It is not likely that this error will be committed again; and the immediate re-establishment of a Royal Naval College for the training of cadets, on a scale and footing worthy of this great maritime nation, is on all sides, and among all classes of naval men, strongly urged. In the evidence taken before the Select Committee on Naval Promotion and Retirement during the last session of Parliament, very decided opinions in favour of this measure were exby the Duke of Somerset, and by each one of the distinguished officers who were examined upon this point. The Committee in their Report recommended the subject to the consideration of the Admiralty, it not being one which they were called upon to decide, though they intimate pretty clearly their opinion in favour of it. And indeed the Admiralty would seem to have made up their minds on the subject, for they have on several occasions announced that they contemplate establishing a College; and very probably, before these pages are published, they will have asked

*ol. xc wi. o

Parliament for a sum of money for that purpose. The first and one of the most important questions that arises with regard to the future Naval College is the situation of it—one most necessary condition being, that it should be near enough to a dockyard to admit of constant access. If there should be two establishments, as is recommended by some officers, then Portsmouth and Plymouth would naturally be the lo. ties that would suggest themselves to every one; but if there should be one only, there can be scarcely a question but that Portsmouth—our greatest naval port, with its central situation and its historical associations—should be the place where our future Nelsons should be trained, if a convenient site could be found. The Isle of Wight and the banks of Southampton Water have been suggested as eligible localities; and it was said that at one time the Admiralty were in treaty for a house in Stokes Bay, near Gosport, formerly belonging to Lord Ashburton, with a view to converting that into a Naval College. Each of these situations, however, is liable to objections. It would not be easy to find a suitable site in the Isle of Wight sufficiently near Portsmouth, and land there is exceedingly valuable. Southampton Water is also too far from the dockyard, and its muddy shores are not favourable for boating or bathing. The Stokes Bay situation is likewise objectionable: it is in too close a proximity to the town of Gosport, the grounds are on much too small a scale for such an establishment, and there is very little other land available. Moreover, Stokes Bay is an exposed lee-shore, and very ill adapted for boats, except in the finest summer weather. There is, however, a locality near Portsmouth, which is admirably suited to the purpose, and that is Hayling Island. Any quantity of land could there be obtained at a reasonable rate; it is thinly populated, being simply a congeries of farms, with one or two small hamlets, and a sea-bathing establishment which was started there as a speculation some years ago, but which does not seem by its appearance to have been a very profitable investment as yet. The place is exceedingly healthy; the air is pure, for the sea-breezes come in straight from the English Channel; and an unlimited extent of land and common is available for recreative purposes. The beach for miles presents the greatest attractions to the bather, and Langston harbour affords a perfect shelter from all winds, and is one of the finest places conceivable for boat-exercise. A bridge connects the island with the mainland, and a railway is in course of construction, which will join the south coast and direct Portsmouth lines at Havant, the first station out of Portsmouth, so that Hayling Island will be only two hours from London. A floating bridge would form an easy communication with Portsea Island at Fort Cumberland, where there is now a ferry, the distance from there to the dockyard being about three miles. A small steamer—which under any circumstances ought to form part of the establishment of a Naval College — would take the cadets round to the dockyard in half an hour; or, when preferred, the distance would be within a walk, and the railway would be available likewise. The situation would also have the advantage of being within the range of the forts which form the defences of Portsmouth ; but the principal advantage of this locality, which gives it a special merit, is, that from the peculiarity of the situation, the cadets could be easily kept clear of the dangers and temptations of a seaport town, while, at the same time, they have all the benefit of a close proximity to the dockyard. If this were to be selected as the site for the future College, it would be an excellent plan if an Act of Parliament were passed placing Hayling Island on a somewhat similar footing with regard to the Admiralty, as Oxford and Cambridge are with respect to the University authorities; so that the

possibility of any improper people being located in the neighbourhood of the College could be prevented. We might in this respect take example from the United States; for at their celebrated Military College at West Point on the Hudson river, the whole of the immediate vicinity of the establishment is under special jurisdiction; the hotels are on the temperance principle, and no improper characters are allowed in the place; so that all that legislation can do is done to guard the morals of the student. The age of entry into the College and the initiatory examination should be the same as at present on joining the Britannia, and as we have suggested for the sea-going training-ships. The period of training should also be three years, with the same privilege for those of marked proficiency to come forward for examination after two years, if not less than fifteen years of age. On passing out of the College, the cadets would, as in the former scheme, be immediately appointed to sea-going ships as midshipmen, in which rating they would serve three years before they would be eligible to pass for lieutenants. The course of instruction should be marked out with special reference to the requirements of the service, and should include mathematics, foreign, languages, history, navigation, physical geography, drawing, marine surveying, elementary astronomy, and steam, with gunnery and the small-arm exercises. But there is one point which must be carefully attended to in framing any scheme of instruction for naval cadets, and that is, that the first object to be attained is to make them sailors. Theoretical knowledge is excellent, and indispensable in order to make accomplished officers, but it can only be valuable—either to the service or to the individual—when, as a superstructure, it rests upon a foundation of sound practical seamanship. There will, of course, be vessels attached to the College for this purpose—every naval man advocating the establishment of a College does

so with this reservation—for without this it would be better even that the system should remain as at pre-ent. But if these training-vessels are merely to cruise about the Isle of Wight, like those in which the seend-class boys are exercised, the: will certainly not answer the purposes required. The trainingship should be a frigate—the old six-and-twenties, like the Eurydice, would do capitally—and the cadets should go each summer for a cruise of three or four months at least to the Mediterranean. They would by this arrangement derive a portion of the advantages, which we have shown would result from the training taking place wholly in sea-going ships. It would not be advisable to carry on the studies to a great extent during this summer cruise; but at the same time there are some subjects, such as navigation and marine surveying, which seem to suggest themselves as being studied with greater facility in the course of a sea voyage to different places. It would be better, according to this scheme, that the trainin-vessel should be a sailing-ship, as it would be more roomy, and steam could be studied better at the College, and on board the steamer attached to it. The number of cadets admitted into the service annually being about 170, it would of course be impossible to accommodate all that would be at the College—three times that number—on board one ship. It would be necessary, therefore, to have several vessels; and perhaps the most advisable plan would be to have one for the cadets of each year, and for each vessel to make two voyages, taking half the annual number each time, which would be as many as a small frigate could properly accommodate in addition to her crew. Since the education which a boy would receive under either of the above schemes would be a very valuable one for any situation in after-life as well as the naval service, it would of course be ex

pected that parents should pay a

fair sum for their sons during the period of training. The sum * quired during the latter years of

the existence of the old College was £100 per annnm for all but the sons of naval and military officers; but this would be too high an amount to fix for the future, for it must be remembered that in former days going through the College was optional, so that those who could not afford to pay so much for their sons—and the majority of the parents of naval officers could not—sent them straight to sea as volunteers. It has been said by some that the College ought to be made self-supporting, and no doubt it' would be quite practicable to devise a scheme whereby it would be so; but to make a fundamental principle of this would, we think, be a fatal mistake. To start upon this assumption would be to cripple the whole plan; for the result would probably be, either that the sum required to be paid by the parents would be too large, or that the establishment would be upon a scale unworthy of the country. The popularity of the naval service is such, that there would no doubt always be found plenty of candidates, were the expense of the education at the College as great even as at Eton or Harrow; but in this case those classes from whom some of our very best officers have been drawn would be entirely denied access to the Navy. It must not be forgotten that Nelson was the son of a country clergyman, and that many other officers of the highest distinction have been, and are, sons of naval and military men, whose means are seldom such as to permit them to pay a high sum for their children's education. That very numerous body from whose ranks the Navy is largely recruited— country gentlemen of small fortune who have places to keep up and many other calls upon their income —would also be unable to send their sons to sea, unless the expense of the College were moderate; while

[ocr errors]

the great body of the clergy would be #till less able to pay a high sum. The course which it would be most worthy for this country to adopt would be, to devise a comprehensive scheme for a Naval College fully equal to the wants of the service, and upon a liberal footing; to fix upon such an annual sum for each cadet as should place it within reach of all those who now send their sons to the Navy; and then, if it were found that this was insufficient to cover the expenses of the establishment, to charge the balance to the State. Supposing that the Naval College and trainingships were to cost the country even £100,000 a-year, that would be but a hundredth part of the ten millions which the Navy swallows up annually, and only one-third of the cost of a single iron-cased ship like the Minotaur. The regulations of the Britannia require the parents of each cadet to pay £40 for his maintenance during the year he is on , board, and this annual sum is necessary all the time the lad is a midshipman; so that for five or six years £40 a-year has to be paid, besides the cost of uniform, clothes, &c. But under the proposed system, the midshipman, on joining the Navy from the College, being a thoroughly-trained and competent officer, should at once receive an amount of pay sufficient to maintain him in respectability, without further assistance from his parents being necessary. There would, therefore, be only the three years in the College or training-ship during which the parents would be called upon to pay for their sons, and for this shorter period £60 or £70 a year would not be too high a rate to establish. But there should be a certain number of cadetships upon a reduced scale open to the sons of deserving naval and military officers of small means; and a few, sons of deceased officers, should be admitted annually free of all expense. The present system costs the country as follows, according to the Navy Estimates:—

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

which added to the former sum, makes £27,593 — an amount that would go a considerable way towards covering the expenses of the Col. lege. But the matter is one of such vital importance to the Navy that questions of economy ought not to be permitted to stand in the way of a thoroughly satisfactory scheme, upon whatever footing it may be based. It has been proposed that the Naval College should also be open to boys intended for the merchant service; and no doubt this would be highly beneficial to the latter if it could be carried out, and would tend to draw the two services closer together, which is much to be desired. But the College would be quite large enough without this addition to its numbers; and surely in this great maritime country our mercantile navy is able to support an educational establishment of its own. We question very much, also, whether the parents of boys intended for the merchant service would care to go to the expense of an education such as is required for the Navy.

Since, according to the proposed plan, there would be no naval eadets on board the ships of the fleet, and an officer would be only three years in the rating of midshipman, it follows that the number of junior officers would be much smaller than at present; and it may be asked, therefore, Who is to do the various duties that are now performed by the youngsters? We will try, then, to give a satisfactory answer to this question. In the first place, it is considered by many experienced officers that the number of warrant-officers might be greatly increased, with advantage to the service, and that the duties of mates of decks could be advantageously performed by them. . In the next place, every one who has been acquainted with the Navy for the last five-and-twenty years, must be aware that a great change has taken place in the habits and nature of the seamen. They are no longer that careless, childlike, thoughtless set they were, whom it was impossible to trust out of sight; and who never expected, or wished, to be so trusted. The majority of the ships' companies now—or soon will—consist of inen who have grown up from their boyhood in the service, who have been carefully trained and educated; , and the numerous measures which have been adopted of late years to improve the condition of the sailor— showing him that the country takes an interest in his welfare, and that he is looked upon as a valuable public servant—have not been without their fruits in a very marked and decided improvement in the enduct and disposition of the men. The consequence is, that officers in command find that they can now place their men in positions of trust and responsibility, which a few years back they would not have dreamt of; and the very fact of finding himself in such a position, and being confided in, develops, a man's good qualities, and raises his tone of mind to a much higher level. There can be no reason whatever why the petty officers in the Navy

should not be considered in the same light as the non-commissioned officers of the Army, with whom they rank, and who have come from the same class of society. These

men, in the Army, are frequently

sent in charge of detachments of soldiers, to reside miles away from any of their officers. The ordinary duties of boat-service, therefore, such as landing officers and answering signals, might be performed by the coxswains of the boats, as is done in the French navy; and it would only be requisite to send an officer upon special occasions, such as copying orders of importance, and going on board foreign men-of-war. No doubt, just at first, some inconvenience would be experienced by the change of system; but this necessarily attends any alteration of long-established custom whatever; and we confidently believe that in a very short time this arrangement would prove of great benefit to the service, in raising the position of the petty officers, and making it of greater value in the eyes of the seamen. And it must not be forgotten that there are great disadvantages in the present system of schoolboy officers, by which the discipline of the fleet suffers no slight injury, as we have before pointed out. Turn we now to another branch of our subject. Whether such a project as either of the above be adopted, or whether the Admiralty may decide only to carry out at the College a partial system, such as that now in practice in the Britannia, and keep up the plan of naval instructors to continue the education on board ship afterwards, it is certain that provision must be made, as at present, for a higher course of study, at an after period, for commissioned officers. As we have before stated, it is difficult to overestimate the benefit which has resulted to the naval service, from the studies pursued by officers of all ranks at the College in Portsmouth Dockyard, during their intervals on shore; although the benefit might

« AnteriorContinuar »