May not the apparent deficiencies of the defense have been due to the fact that soldiers instead of sailors are given the control of the harbor and coast defense? Is this right? Ought they not to be organized on a naval basis? This is no new suggestion, but its importance needs emphasis.
These operations, however, convinced at least one deeply interested spectator, Lord Brassey, to the extent of calling attention "to the urgent necessity for the construction of a class of torpedo vessels capable of keeping the sea in company with an armored fleet."
There is no one in Great Britain who takes a greater interest in the progress of the British Navy than Lord Brassey, and we take pleasure in quoting from his letter of August 23 last to the Times, in which he expressed the following opinion: "The torpedo boats ordered last year from Messrs. Thornycroft and Yarrow are excellent in their class. But their dimensions are not sufficient for sea-going vessels. We must accept a tonnage of not less than 300 tons in order to secure thorough seaworthiness and sufficient coal endurance.
"A beginning has been made in the construction of vessels of the type required. To multiply them with no stinting hand is the paramount question of the day in the department of construction. The boats attached to the Channel fleet at Milford Haven will be most valuable for harbor defense, and for that purpose they are greatly needed. Torpedo boat catchers are not less essential to the efficiency of a fleet. The gunboats attached to the Channel fleet were built for service in the rivers of China. They should be reserved for the work for which they were designed.
"We require for the fleet more fast gunboats of the Curlew and Landrail type. I trust that the next estimates for the Navy will contain an ample provision for building gun vessels of high speed."
As torpedoes must be carried, the next point to which we would call the attention of our readers is the very rapid progress that has been made in the boats designed to carry automatic torpedoes.
A very few years ago the names of Thornycroft and Yarrow were almost alone as builders of a special type of vessel to carry them. To-day, in addition, we have Schichau, White, Herreshoff, Creusot, Thomson, and others, forming a competitive body of high speed torpedo-boat builders who are daily making new and rapid development - almost too rapid, in fact, for the military student to follow.
As new types are designed, additional speed gained, or increased seaworthiness attained, public descriptions quickly follow, and we have ourselves recorded the various advances made so fully that it will be unnecessary to enter into details here.
As late as October, 1885, an able writer said: "The two most celebrated builders of torpedo boats in the world are Thornycroft and Yarrow, in England. Each is capable of producing a first class torpedo boat, from 100 ft. to 130 ft. long, and with 10 ft. to 14 ft. beam, that will steam at the rate of from 18 knots to 22 knots per hour for 370 knots, or at the rate of 10 knots per hour for 3000 miles. A second class torpedo boat is from 40 ft. to 60 ft. long, and with 6 ft. or 8 ft. beam.
The use of these boats is gradually being abandoned in Europe except for use from sea-going ships; but in Europe the harbors are very small, and it has been found that practically every torpedo boat for coast defense must be able to go to sea. The tendency is, therefore, to confinement to the first class boats."
In a paper on "Naval Torpedo Warfare," prepared in January, 1886, for a special committee of the American Senate, by Lieutenant Jaques of the American Navy, we find the following reference to the progress in torpedo boat construction: "The development in torpedo boats has been phenomenal, the last year alone showing an advance from a length of 120 ft. and a speed of 19 knots, which were considered remarkable qualities in a first class boat, to a length of 140 ft. and a speed of 23 knots loaded (carrying 15 tons), and 25 knots light, together with the introduction of novel features of importance.
"Although Messrs. Yarrow and Thornycroft have brought the second class boats to a very high standard in Europe, I believe they will soon be abandoned there even for sea-going ships (very few are now laid down), and that the great development will be in overcoming the disadvantages of delicacy and weakness by increasing their size, giving them greater maneuvering power and safety by the introduction of two engines and twin screws, and steel plate and coal protection against rapid firing ammunition. Yarrow and Co. have already laid down some boats of this character that give promise of developing a speed of from 23 to 25 knots."
In the Russian boat recently built at Glasgow, progress in this direction is also seen in the 148 ft. length, 17 ft. beam, the maneuvering powers and safety element of the twin screws. But while the boat is fitted for the 19 ft. torpedo, a weapon of increased range and heavier explosive charge, it suffers from the impossibility of broadside fire and the disadvantages that Gallwey has named: "The great length of this torpedo, however, makes it a very unhandy weapon for a boat, besides which its extra weight limits the number which can be carried."
While perhaps Messrs. Thomson have been the first to show the performance of a twin screw torpedo boat in England, the one completed in June last by Yarrow for the Japanese government recalls the intelligence that Japan has exercised in the selection of types.
Commencing as far back as nine years ago, the Japanese were probably the first to introduce sea-going boats, and they have been the first power to initiate the armor type, one of which was shipped last summer to be put together in Japan. As before stated, it was built by Messrs. Yarrow and Co., was 166 ft. long, 19 ft. beam, with twin screws, 1 in. steel armor, double engines, with bow and broadside torpedo guns, the latter so arranged as to greatly increase their efficiency.
While the advances are not restricted to the English builders, a glance at the points to which Thornycroft and Yarrow have brought their improvements up to the present time will indicate that their achievements are not only equal to but greater than those of any other builders.
The former has boats under construction 148 ft. long, 15 ft. beam, to make 420 revolutions with 130 lb. of steam, the guaranteed speed being 23 knots on a continuous run of two hours' duration, with a load of 15 tons. They will have triple-expansion or compound direct-acting surface-condensing engines and twin screws, Thornycroft's patent tubular boilers, double rudders, electric search lights, three masts and sails.
While the armaments of the various boats differ, Thornycroft is prepared to fit the launching tubes with either air or powder impulse, to mount the tubes forward or on deck, and also the fittings for machine and rapid firing guns.
Yarrow and Co. have contracted for boats varying in length from 117 ft. to 166 ft., with fittings and armament as may be required. They have obtained excellent results in their last English boat of the Admiralty type. They are, in fact, prepared to guarantee a speed of 23 knots in a length of 125 ft. and 25 knots in a length of 140 ft., carrying in both causes a mean load corresponding to fuel and armament of 10 tons.
And so the progress goes on, but it will not stop here; it has already incited a marked development in ship construction, and the endeavors to withstand torpedo attack have improved the defense against gun fire also.
In quoting a German opinion on the development of the Russian torpedo fleet, Charmes refers to the type which will, no doubt, be most successful upon the sea, namely, the torpedo cruisers, and it is to this type, more than for any other, that we may expect torpedo boats to be adapted. Already, writers have dropped the phrase "torpedo boats" for "torpedo vessels." - Engineering.