Friday, June 18, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Were there milbloggers, gadflies, and other agitators before their time? You bet there were.

Before “CDR Salamander” emerged from the head of Neptune, there were many examples that nudged “me” in to being. They are sprinkled throughout our history, some like Sims are well known – others have faded a bit in to the mists of time.

Today I want to bring someone out in to the light that is worth remembering. He saw well in to the future what realistic technological capabilities were emerging  that would more effectively and efficiently deliver what makes or breaks war at sea; delivering ordnance to target.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a great naval officer, Admiral Sir Percy Moreton Scott, Royal Navy, 1st Baronet, KCB, KCVO.

To honor him I want to pull a few quotes from his 1919 book, Fifty Years in the Royal Navy. You can get a hard copy at the previous link, or via, a free PDF is available.

Heck, I'll embed it below too.

Remember, this is right after World War One ended.

As I could not convince the Admiralty that the sub marine was anything more than a toy, I considered it my duty to communicate with the Press. On the 15th December, 1913, I wrote a letter but withheld it on representations by a member of Parliament that the Little Navyites, then very powerful in the country, might use it as a weapon to cut down the Navy Estimates, and that I should better serve the country by waiting until the estimates were passed, and Mr. Winston Churchill had got the money. He could then, if he agreed with me, easily strike off some battleships from the building programme, and spend the money voted for their construction on submarines, aircraft, and anti-submarine measures.

Their Lordships were so annoyed with me for venturing to put their heads straight as regards submarines that at the end of the year they took away the pay that I had been receiving for helping them with director firing. Their letter was remarkable for the statement that the installation was practically completed in several ships and that the manufacture of the gear was in a very advanced stage. As a matter of fact, it was only completed in two ships and was not even designed for the various classes of ships in which it was to be installed. In this letter, dated the 30th December, 1913, the Admiralty bade me farewell, expressing " their high appreciation " of my services in connection with “ this sighting gear ” and referring to its marked success."


In due course the Navy Estimates for 1914-1915 were published, and as the substance of them revealed that the Admiralty had realised neither the menace that submarines were to this island country not the necessity of providing measures against them, I sent a letter to the Times on the 4th June, 1914, the gist of which was as follows : 

“ That as we had sufficient battleships, but not sufficient submarines and aircraft, we should stop building battleships and spend the money voted for their construction on the submarines and the aircraft that we urgently needed.

“ That submarines and aircraft had entirely revolutionised naval warfare.

“ That if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in great danger ; that even in harbour they would not be immune from attack unless the harbour was quite a safe one.

“ That probably if we went to war, we should at once lock our battleships up in a safe harbour, and that the enemy would do the same. “ That all naval strategy was upset, as no fleet could hide from the eye of the aeroplane.

“ That submarines could deliver a deadly attack in broad daylight.

“ That battleships could not bombard an enemy if his ports were adequately protected by submarines.

" That the enemy's submarines would come to our coasts and destroy everything they could see."

What is the future Navy to be ? Some officers say that the battleship is more alive than ever; others declare that the battleship is dead. I regarded the surface battleship as dead before the War, and I think her more dead now, if that is possible.

The battleship of today costs roughly £ 8,000,000; she carries about 1000 shells containing about 100,000 lbs. of high explosives ; her effective range is, say, 15 miles, she is vulnerable to aircraft with bombs and aerial torpedoes, and to submarines, the latter possibly carrying a 15-in. or 18-in. gun; and the ordinary automobile torpedo is still in process of development, and may, in the future, carry a ton of high explosives, which would probably sink any battleship.

For £8,000,000 we could build many aeroplane-carrying ships, equipped with aeroplanes carrying over 100, 000 lbs. of high explosives. If these aeroplanes carried fuel sufficient for five hours, their range would be about 150 miles out and 150 miles home.

In the battleship we put all our eggs into one basket.

In peace-time the aeroplane - carrying ships could be used as passenger ships, and the aeroplanes for carrying passengers instead of bombs.

As to relative cost of upkeep, the single battleship would require in peacetime about:

- 40 officers ... £8,000 

- 800 men ... £60,000

- Provisions and stores ... £30,000

- Coal ...  £10,000

- (total) ... £108,000

Say £120,000 a year. 

The aeroplane-carrying ships and the aeroplanes would cost nothing ; they would be earning money. The officers and men to form the crews of the ships would belong to the Merchant Navy. Aeroplane pilots will be as numerous as taxi drivers and get about the same pay. The battleship waddles along at twenty miles an hour, and cannot waddle very far, and in comparison with an aeroplane has a very low rate of speed.

The object in war is to introduce high explosive materials into your enemy's ships or country ; transmitting this high explosive by guns is expensive as the container of the high explosive has to be very strong, and consequently very heavy, to withstand the shock of discharge.

It takes a battleship weighing 30,000 tons to carry 100, 000 lbs. of this explosive. Ten aeroplanes weighing about three tons each would carry the same amount, so the relative weights of the carriers is as 30 tons to 30,000 tons.

When the battleship nears the end of her coal or am munition, she must waddle home at about the same speed as a South Eastern Railway train ( I am told that this is the slowest line on earth ), and it takes her several hours to fill up even if she uses oil fuel. The aeroplane does not waddle home, but comes back at 100 miles an hour, and it takes three minutes to fill her up with fuel and am munition. 

The future is with the aeroplane, which is going to develop rapidly in the next few years. Probably we shall also have submersible battleships of 10,000 tons. What chance will the surface battleship, presenting a huge target, have against such a vessel?

Be a gadfly. Take the slings and arrows. You serve your navy and your nation, not a bunch of imperfect people conflicted by personal ambition and the bias of the now. 

Always demand that those in charge of your navy are doing all they can and investing their money wisely so when your nation orders your Sailors in to harm's way, they have better and more capable tools to do their job than your nation’s opponents.

Admiral Scott, fullbore.

As a final note ... I'll just leave this here for the Front Porch;

Financial independence allowed Scott to indulge his intellectual arrogance and judgemental nature, which, when combined with his flair for self-publicity, formed the basis of his fractious relationship with Navy authorities. 

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