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time for construction is reckoned only from the official date when the keel is laid down.' It is, of course, advantageous to carry out the preliminary work thoroughly, and to prepare many portions of the structure before a ship is laid down, in order that there may be uninterrupted progress in the work of erection when it has once been begun. The case of the Dreadnought is an extreme illustration of this general statement. Preliminary work for that vessel began early in the financial year 1905–6; the official date for ' laying down ' was deferred to the 2nd of October 1905, at which time great weights of the structure were ready for erection, and all the heavy steel castings had been made and delivered by contractors, and were ready to go in place. Machinery, armour and gun-mountings had also been in process of manufacture long before the keel was laid. Six months after the official date of laying down' the financial year ended ; and yet in that year no less a sum than 857,0001, had been expended, including about 90,0001. for dockyard labour, 475,0001. for materials and armour, 165,0001. for machinery, and 120,0001. for gun-mountings. This was a very exceptional case, of course, but the figures show how inaccurate may be the idea of progress obtained by taking official dates for laying down as guides for estimating real periods of construction.
In Lord Cawdor's memorandum of November 1905 it was ordered that two years should be the period of construction for future British battleships. The writer was of opinion (NINETEENTH CENTURY, 1906, p. 614) that this period would not suffice unless the time occupied in preliminary work was excluded. It is satisfactory to find that Mr. McKenna now adopts the writer's opinion, and says, “It is impossible to rely upon ships of the (Dreadnought) type being delivered in time (i.e. in two years from laying down) unless considerable notice is given to contractors who supply equipments of the ships, and unless orders are given for materials.' For smaller vessels less time is usually required.
The fact that the German fleet is being constructed under Parliamentary Acts, wbich determine the number of ships to be built and their dates of completion, carries with it certain advantages in the execution of the work. As the Admiralty authorities in Berlin have a complete knowledge of what has to be done during a term of years, as well as an acquaintance with the capabilities of various shipbuilding establishments for producing different classes of vessels, they can take a long look ahead' and make the most suitable arrangements. The magnitude of their task, in comparison with the number of establishments capable of building the heaviest ships, has led them already to place some orders with comparatively untried firms, quite inexperienced in the construction of large warships, and this fact is in itself a comment on the First Lord's remarks on the vast resources of Germany. Similarly, orders for armour, guns and
VOL. LXV--No. 386
gun-mountings can be given in good time so that they may be made and delivered, as far as possible, at dates which will facilitate the completion of ships. On the other hand, as has been explained, there have been many changes in the Navy Acts, accompanied by changes in designs of ships; and with novel types of ships and armaments progress is not so easy or rapid as it is with established types of ships and guns. It is reasonable to anticipate, therefore, that longer periods may be required for completion and trials of the vessels built since 1906 than in those built previously. None of the new German battleships, of course, have yet reached the final stage. Doubts exist here as to what is the actual heavy-gun armaments of the later ships. It has been confidently stated that they are to carry 12-inch guns instead of 11-inch, as in the first four battleships. This is a new calibre in the German Navy, and preliminary trials of guns and mountings will be necessary if this new gun has been introduced before manufacture can proceed on a large scale and with rapidity. No doubt all these difficulties and drawbacks will be overcome in due course, but only those who have been “through the mill’ know what they involve in time and trouble, and attention is directed to them because they have as a rule been entirely overlooked in recent discussions.
Finance lies at the root of all great naval programmes; yet, strange to say, in recent discussions of a possible acceleration of German shipbuilding hardly any attention has been given to the financial effects of such a change. Everyone familiar with the subject will know that in connexion with each Navy Act there has been prepared a comprehensive financial statement, giving details of the estimated expenditure for each year over which the programme is to extend, as well as the amounts to be provided either by ordinary revenue or by loan. These figures are available, and have great interest. Of course the changes made since 1900 have involved very large additions to the original estimates, and those of 1908 have been especially costly. Taking the three years 1909–11, the total anticipated naval expenditure stands at twenty, twenty-two, and twenty-two and a half millions sterling respectively; and that estimated for new construction and armaments averages twelve and onethird millions sterling per annum. In view of these figures and of the condition of Imperial finance, there would seem to be little probability of acceptance of increased outlay in these years for the purpose of accelerating the completion of a few ships. It may be added that during the three years named it is proposed to charge about eighteen and a half millions sterling of the total naval expenditure to loan. If space permitted much more might be said in regard to the financial side of the German naval programme. It may be stated briefly that for each ship annual instalments are voted during her construction, and the armaments of new ships are dealt with separately, which is not the case in our Navy Estimates. Take, for example, the Nassau,
the first German Dreadnought. Beginning in 1906 with an instalment for ship and machinery of 147,0001. (round figures), the successive instalments voted were 421,0001. in 1907, 284,0001. in 1908, and the balance (or final instalment) falls upon the coming year. The total estimated cost of this ship is, for ship and machinery, about 1,113,0001., and for armament 725,0001. ; grand total, 1,838,0001. As a matter of comparison, the following figures may be given for the cost of H.M.S. Bellerophon, laid down in December 1906, and completed in February 1909. Preparatory work had been carried far before the vessel was laid down, so that at the end of March 1907only four months after the nominal laying down—319,0001. had been spent on and for the ship and machinery ; 859,0001. was spent in the next year, and 472,0001. in the remaining ten months occupied in completing the vessel. The grand total of cost for ship and machinery (exclusive of armament) is 1,650,0001. No figures are given for the cost of armament except the price of the guns, which was 116,3001., and to this must be added the cost of ammunition, projectiles and reserves—a very considerable sum. It should be noted that the German system includes under the armament' section items which our estimates place under ‘ship and machinery.' Further, it is asserted that the cost of armour per ton for German warships is considerably less than that for British ships, so that any detailed or exact comparison cannot be made with the figures available. It ought not to be the case that Parliament should be left uninformed as to the total cost of British ships, including armaments, ammunition and reserves.
The Nassau and her sister ship the Westfalen belong to the 1906 programme, and it might have been expected therefore that they would have been completed early this year. Owing to various circumstances connected with their increased size and novel type, these vessels were not laid down until the sunımer of 1907, were launched in March and July 1908, and are not to be completed until October and November next. These facts are notable illustrations of the difficulties imposed upon German naval authorities by the enlargement of programme embodied in the Naval Acts for 1906 and 1908. It is possible that the antedating of orders for some of the later ships may have been due in part to this experience with the first vessels of the Dreadnought type. Great importance has been attached by some writers to the fact that the first and second instalments for the German ships of the 1908 programme have been much increased in comparison with those voted for the Nassau and her sister ship. The actual sums proposed for the later vessels are (for ship and machinery), first instalment, 269,0001. ; second, 525,0001. ; or an increase on the two instalments of about 226,0001. The policy of secrecy has been carried so far that the total cost of the later vessels has not been published, but it has been stated on good authority
to be about two millions sterling-inclusive of armaments—that is nearly 200,0001. more than the corresponding cost of the Nassau. If this be true, it follows that the larger instalments for the ships of 1908 do not necessarily mean accelerated progress, especially as under the German system instalments not spent in one year are available in the next, although it does not contemplate provision for advance payments caused by antedating orders for building ships. So far as financial provision goes, therefore, no evidence can be found of a quickened rate of shipbuilding; but for later ships—as preliminary difficulties have been surmounted and manufacturing resources enlarged—the conditions will be more favourable than were those for the Nassau.
Suggestions have been made that we should match programme with programme, or ‘lay down two keels to one' laid by Germany, or make a supreme effort and decide on the simultaneous construction of such an overwhelming force as would convince the German Government that it is hopeless to attempt a competition with Great Britain. All these proposals appear to miss the essential point that we already possess an overwhelming force, taking into account the two navies as they exist, while in Dreadnoughts alone we have maintained (as shown above) a considerable lead, shall continue to maintain it for three or four years if the new programme is carried out, and can maintain it without any special programme on lines similar to the German Acts. Those Acts closely resemble our Naval Defence Act of 1889, and as the writer was responsible not merely for the designs of the seventy ships then built, but for the preparation of the financial scheme and the supervision of the building of the ships, he can speak from thorough experience of the relative conditions of working under a special Act of Parliament or under a series of Annual Estimates. No one who has had such experience can doubt that for the Royal Navy the latter system is greatly to be preferred. Its adoption does not involve the absence of a programme drawn up for some years beyond that to which the estimates for each year correspond : such a programme ought to exist; it did exist and doubtless continues to exist in the Admiralty. But it is only published in sections, and as the programmes of other countries are varied the unpublished British provisional programme can be suitably adjusted. Elasticity of that nature is an essential condition in a shipbuilding programme, and the succession of German Acts since 1900 proves that this is true. They also demonstrate the unwisdom of adopting the heroic method proposed and laying down simultaneously a great number of ships in order to convince Germany that competition with us in naval power is hopeless. Germany would never be convinced in that fashion; its rulers are keen and determined : they have framed their scheme and will carry it through, making such modifications from time to time as experience may show to be desirable. Germany
is acknowledged to be strictly within her rights in creating a powerful navy. Great Britain is within her rights in maintaining naval supremacy. If it be accepted that any mutual agreement to limit armaments is impossible, in which there is included the condition that Germany shall restrict the scheme of warship-building embodied in her Navy Acts, that conclusion need not carry with it the necessity for a mad competition in naval expenditure for all time to come. The real fact' with which our Government has to deal-and it is by no means a 'new' one—is that Germany, for reasons of its own, has resolved to become-indeed has become—a great Naval Power. Accepting that fact, it is the duty of the British Government to take the action necessary in order that Great Britain shall always continue to be the greatest naval Power, capable of meeting any combination of navies which can be brought against her. Mr. Asquith has declared repeatedly that the Government fully recognises this duty and will fulfil it. The programme of shipbuilding for 1909-10 in the judgment of the Government is sufficient for that purpose ; but their acknowledged doubts as to the actual progress of German warship-building opened the door to a discussion that might have been avoided had a definite decision been made, on the basis of the best information available, and brought before the House of Commons as sufficient, in the judgment of the Admiralty and the Government, to secure our supremacy.
Whatever motive may
have led to the disclosure of doubts or ignorance respecting German progress and intentions, the result has been most unfortunate, and has produced a state of anxiety and suspicion of Germany in the public mind that now appears to have been to a large extent unfounded. It must be admitted that in these circumstances the action of the German Government has been friendly, and that it furnishes evidence of a desire to remove anxiety or suspicion as to their alleged acceleration of the execution of the programme of shipbuilding as a whole. The writer does not presume to say that the communiqué which has been published in the Cologne Gazette is sufficient in itself to give proper assurance that no serious acceleration of the programme has taken place or is contemplated. In his judgment, however, even allowing for all recent increase in the manufacturing resources of Germany and of Krupps in particular, there is no reason for supposing that any considerable acceleration would be attempted, nor has Germany any sufficient motive for facing immediately any further increase of naval expenditure, which under the Acts is already enormous during the next three years. The assumption that underlies the alleged acceleration is that Germany sees an opportunity of overtaking or surpassing Great Britain in the number of Dreadnoughts available for service at particular dates during the next three years, and that this superiority in Dreadnoughts alone would be fatal to our naval supremacy, because Dreadnoughts have rendered all earlier types obsolescent and of little