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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

On Raiding Cruisers and Australasian Defences

On Raiding Cruisers and Australasian Defences.

Regarding possible or projected raids on British merchant shipping, on Colonial ports, Captain S. Eardley-Wilmot, R.N., writes as follows in [unclear: Le] Brassey's Naval Annual, for 1893:—

"We come next to the feasibility of raids by one or two cruisers that might evade our fleets. Attacks on our commerce by individual cruisers of great speed and coal endurance are contemplated in case of war with this country by nations which would otherwise have little scope for maritime operations. The production of vessels with a speed of twenty knots, and able to traverse thousands of miles without replenishing their coal supply, has put within their reach possibilities that a for years ago existed only in the imagination. Such a vessel may be a bona fide was cruiser or an armed merchant steamer,—auxiliary cruisers with a sea speed [unclear: of] knots, and a large bunker capacity. Evading our own cruisers she could effect considerable damage before being brought to bay. The antidote is not to be found in harbour defence ironclads or gunboats. Cruisers of high speed and moderate gun power must be employed against an enemy of this description.

"Taking a survey of British interests in all parts of the world it is at [unclear: co] apparent that the welfare of our Colonies depends very largely upon preserving intact the goods they are receiving and sending across the sea by well known routes"

In describing the defences of King George's Sound, Sydney and Port Darwis a is stated by Captain Wilmot, that Sydney holds "a commanding position between Melbourne and Brisbane. With the coal supply of Newcastle in immediate proximity it should be the Portsmouth of the Pacific. A single battery with medium [unclear: si] guns at Inner South Head or Bradley Point, would keep out any hostile vessel" Writing of Melbourne and other Colonial ports, he says:—

"Melbourne is well guarded by extensive batteries on each side of the entrance to Port Phillip. Local defences have in fact been overdone here and absorbed money which might have been more usefully employed. A tingle battery on Point Loss dale and Point Nepean would keep off any hostile vessel. As for landing, unless the enemy brings a fleet of transports and a force of 50,000 men, the idea may be dismissed.

"Adelaide is a locality which, except at an enormous expense can only be effectively covered by guns afloat. A small ironclad could guard the approach up Gulf St Vincent.

"Tasmania.—The general defence of Tasmania will devolve upon the naval forces guarding the approaches to Melbourne and Sydney. A single battery at Hobart will relieve the town from anxiety, if a friendly cruiser is not in sight. Launceston is too difficult of access to fear an attack.

"New Zealand.—Owing to its isolated position New Zealand must rely mainly on naval defence. An adequate force of cruisers would necessarily be detailed to protect commerce approaching and leaving its shores. Light defences would deny the principal towns to any raider that had slipped past our vessels. The approach to Auckland is not easy to the stranger, but it is only necessary to place a few guns page 25 in a commanding position within the harbour, to counteract any such design. Wellington can be as effectually guarded. There is no special object in excluding a hostile cruiser from Port Nicholson. All that is necessary is to prevent him taking up such a position as to cover the town with his guns without fear of a reply. One fort at the point at the Eastern end of Lambton harbour will remove this risk. The same principle may be applied elsewhere."

On the same subject the Hon Mr Brassey writes:—"The ports of Cape Colony of India, of Australia and of New Zealand, possess an element of safety from attack in their distance from Europe. It is clear that no power could withdraw a fleet of ironclads for operations in distant seas without abandoning to us the absolute command of European waters, and without setting free a proportionate number of British battle ships. Attacks on commerce by one or two cruisers, keeping generally out of sight of the coasts are the most probable form which the operations of an enemy would take on the coasts of India, Australia, or South Africa. Occasional raids on territory might be made with the object of obtaining supplies, but it may be safely asserted that few captains of cruisers would waste ammunition on bombardment with the chance of falling in with an enemy's cruiser before they could return to their base to obtain a fresh supply."