The British Navy
Its Duties and its Strength.
Printed at the Star and Graphic Office Auckland, R.Z. Short land and Fort Streets.1896
The Navy League
The Auckland Branch of the Navy League was inaugurated on the evening of Friday, 21st February, 1896, by a Lecture in the Hall of the Young Men's Christian Association, at Auckland, by Mr. W. J. Napier, Barrister, of Auckland, on "The British Navy : Its Duties and its Strength."
There was an overflowing audience of ladies and gentlemen. The platform was occupied by members of the Executive Committee of the League, including the Mayor of Auckland (J, J. Holland, Esq.), Judge Von Sturmer, J. Savage, Esq., G. S. Budge, Esq., Thos, Henderson, Esq., J. M. Brigham, Esq. The President of the Branch, Malcolm Niccol, Esq. (Chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board and Mayor of Devonport), occupied the Chair.
A musical programme of a patriotic and national character was given at intervals during the lecture, and limelight views of naval incidents were also exhibited. A number of interesting relics of the Napoleonic wars were exhibited by Mr. Edwin Harrow, of Takapuna.
The audience was most enthusiastic throughout the whole of the proceedings.
The British Navy.
Its Duties and Its Strength?.
Mr. Napier, who on rising was received with applause, said:—
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,—The inauguration in this city of a branch of the Navy League of Great Britain should be regarded as an event of the highest importance to the Colony.
This League may now be said practically to have limits co-terminous with those of the Empire, its branches being found in almost every country where the Union Jack waves as an emblem of sovereignty. The League is thus practically a confederation of British subjects for an Imperial purpose, and may be the humble beginning of greater schemes or systems of Imperial Federation, which will gradually be evolved by the necessities of the Empire and of the people who submit to its rule.
As one of the objects of the League is "To spread information showing the vital importance to the British Empire of the Naval Supremacy upon which depend its trade empire and national existence," it is fitting that the first public meeting of our Branch should be devoted to a consideration of facts which will tend to bring vividly to our minds the meaning and significance of the phrase "the British Navy," the great functions it exercises and the duties it performs in peace, and what it should be prepared for and be in a position to accomplish in time of war. We shall then be capable of estimating the unwisdom, if not the almost criminal folly, of those whose parsimony would, while nominally preserving an equality with certain foreign powers, reduce our navy to a condition not of predominance on the seas, but of impotence.
It might be asked by censorious critics in Great Britain why colonists should concern themselves so greatly about the British Navy, which is (excepting a small contribution for the expenses of the ships of the local station by Australasia) exclusively maintained by the taxpayers of the United page 4 Kingdom, and the adage of "fools rushing in where [unclear: angry] fear to tread," might be cynically quoted for our [unclear: benefit] Little Englanders at Home; but apart from the fact that every true colonist takes a warm interest in the concerns of [unclear: ti] Empire for sentimental reasons, and perhaps also from [unclear: motir] of self-interest, there is the force of verity in the words Froude, that "If the British Empire is still to have a [unclear: prolong] career before it, the men who make empires are the men [unclear: w] can hold them together." To hold the Empire together the future, whatever the political system may be which performs the functions of Government over it as a [unclear: who] there will be required a navy which in numbers, equipment and fighting force should be stronger than any probable combination which might be brought against us. There is, know, felt by many, and justly so, a proud reliance [unclear: on] skill and bravery of British officers and seamen, and it is [unclear: oft] airily said that a British sailor is worth three foreigners. [unclear: The] sentiment may gratify our national vanity, and may and [unclear: dc] contain a proportion of truth, but under the conditions modern naval warfare, whatever might have been [unclear: permissi] in past times, we cannot place so large a value on [unclear: me] personal valour, though that element will always count. [unclear: In] this connection I might perhaps not inappropriately [unclear: quote] incident from history, connected with the British Navy in[unclear: t] days of its infancy, and illustrating in a remarkable [unclear: man] the coolness, intrepidity, and dauntless courage of English naval commanders. This incident is one of those episodes the national life which shine like beacon lights adown [unclear: t] centuries, and which inspire succeeding generations of English men to emulate the glorious deeds of heroes now no [unclear: mo]. It is further calculated at this present day, when [unclear: was] alarms are in our daily atmosphere, to impart to us a confident that in the day of peril our navy will acquit itself in a [unclear: man] befitting its traditions. In Sir Edward Creasy's "Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World," there is narrated the [unclear: incid] to which I allude.
"On the afternoon of the nineteenth July, 1588, a group English Captains was collected at the Bowling Green [unclear: on] Hoe at Plymouth, whose equals have never before or [unclear: si] been brought together. There was Sir Francis Drake, [unclear: the] first English circumnavigator of the globe, the terror of [unclear: ev] Spanish coast in the Old World and the New; there [unclear: was] John Hawkins, the rough veteran of many a daring voyage the African and American seas, and of many a [unclear: despe] battle; there was Sir Martin Frobisher, one of the [unclear: earli] explorers of the Arctic seas in search of that North [unclear: west] Passage which is still the darling object of England's [unclear: bold] mariners; there was the High Admiral of England, [unclear: li] Howard of Effingham, who kept the ships afloat at his [unclear: or] cost, in defiance of his Sovereign's orders to dismantle [unclear: the] page 5 and there, too, was Sir Walter Raleigh, of immortal memory. In the harbour lay the English fleet, with which they had just returned from a cruise to Corunna in search of information respecting the movements of the Spanish Armada, A match at bowls was being played, in which Drake and other high officers of the fleet were engaged, when a small armed vessel was seen running before the wind in to Plymouth Harbour, with all sails set. Her commander landed in haste, and eagerly sought the place where the English Lord Admiral and his Captains were standing. The stranger told the English officers that he had that morning seen the Spanish Armada off the Cornish coast. At this exciting information the Captains began to hurry down to the water, and there was a shouting for the ships' boats; but Drake cooly checked his comrades, and insisted that the match should be played out. He said that there was plenty of time both to win the game of bowls and beat the Spaniards also." (Cheers.)
The calm consciousness of Drake as to the preparedness of his tiny fleet, and his confidence as to the result of its impending encounter with a foe boastfully christened "The Invincible Armada," should preserve us from the timidity and faintheartedness of the croaker and the pessimist, and though we intend to work according to our powers and influence, however limited, to increase the efficiency and strength of the Navy, yet we ought not to doubt that the spirit exhibited by Drake animates to-day the breasts of a legion of England's naval officers afloat and ashore, and would probably if the occasion arose achieve as glorious feats as those which have shed a lustre around the names of the Elizabethan heroes. (Applause.)
In order to rightly estimate the capacity of a machine we must first know the nature and the amount of the work it is expected and destined to perform, and likewise, in order to correctly judge as to the adequacy or inadequacy of the Imperial Navy, it is essential that we should consider what are its duties in time of peace and war respectively. I propose, therefore, to consider first what is to-day the special work of the British Navy, and thereafter to examine its fitness and capacity to perform that work. The British Empire is a sea-divided congeries of states—an Empire, as it has been beautifully said. "whose morning drum-beat, following the sun, and keeping company with the hours, encircles the globe with an unbroken chain of martial airs." The seat of Imperial power, the centre of Imperial administration being on an island, the first prime necessity of the Empire is ships. Commerce has built up the Empire, by commerce it lives and thrives, and for commerce a mercantile marine is indispensable. As Seely says in his "Expansion of England": "That ancient preconception which leads us always to think of ourselves as belonging to a single island should be rooted out of our minds." page 6 Commerce, then, being the life-blood of the Empire, it is essential for the protection of our commerce that the sea roads should be safe for the great argosies of trade. To afford this protection is the first duty of the navy. It must police the seas. The magnitude of this task can be discerned by a cursory glance at the extent of the Empire and its volume of trade at the present time. The area of the British Empire is 11,334,701 square miles, while the area of the United Kingdom alone is only 120,979 square miles. Thus, over 11,000,000 square miles of territory belonging to the Empire is over-sea. The vessels sailing under the British flag engaged in [unclear: commerce] number 36,078, of 13,192,566 tons, and with crews numbering 241,000 men. The tonnage of all the merchant ships of the other countries of the world is only 11,005,279 tons. The population of the Empire is 380,938,000, while the populatioin of the United Kingdom itself is only 38,104,000. Thus over 342,000,000 British subjects are beyond the seas. The Empire imports every year goods of the value of £640,000,000, and exports goods of the value of £471,000,000. The annua revenue of the Empire is £190,000,000.
One striking fact of the manufacturing enterprise of Great Britain will, perhaps, impress us with a sense of the rapidity of the expansion of British trade in the present century. A hundred years ago the value of the cotton and piece goods produced in the United Kingdom every year was, £22,000,000 now it is, £170,000,000.
In order to feed the population of the Mother Country, she requires, in addition to the productions of her own soil, to import every year from abroad 178,000,000 cwts. of cereals and flour, 244,000.000 lbs. of tea, 55,000,000 cwts. of dead [unclear: meal] and other foods, 500,000 live sheep, 475,000 live cattle, and 12,000,000 eggs, and equally stupendous quantities of goods to clothe her people and for other necessities are required. [unclear: Of] her food supply 25,000,000 cwts. of wheat and 16,000,000 cwts. of flour are sent to her from the United States, and 7,000,000 cwts. of wheat from Canada and Australasia. These few figures will, I think, enable us to grasp some idea of what the Imperial commerce is, and the paramount importance [unclear: of] safeguarding it by an adequate navy. No wonder that the Press of England is urging the Government to make greater and greater exertions to secure that the navy shall be supreme. The Times of November 15th last said : "The provision to be made in the Navy Estimates for the defensive requirements of the Empire is a question that transcends and governs [unclear: all] others. It is the root of our foreign policy. It is the only secure basis of domestic tranquility and security. . . . Supported by a navy adequate to the defensive requirements of the British Empire, the foreign policy of this country must always make for peace, and need never despair of maintaining it. Without such support the position of a British minister in page 7 the face of world-wide antagonisms, and of rival ambitions ever growing more restless and aggressive, must be of all public positions on earth the most intolerable to a patriotic statesman." (Applause.)
Now, the Navy will in time of war have four important duties to perform. First, to protect the gigantic commerce I have just described; second, to blockade the hostile squadrons in their own ports; third, to place a reserve squadron near England; and fourth, to protect our coaling stations.
I now proceed to describe as succinctly as I can the constitution and strength of the Navy from the latest official sources, and to consider whether or not it is sufficiently strong and sufficiently prepared to undertake the above mentioned principal and other ancillary duties which would be cast upon it in the event of England being involved in hostilities.
The Navy is a permanent establishment governed by statutes. Its administration is vested in a Commission by the Act 2 William and Mary c. 2. This Commission is the Board of Admiralty. This Board consists of the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is always a member of the Cabinet, and five other Commissioners. The duties of the several members of the Board are divided. The First Lord has the direction of all naval business, appointments, promotions, and kindred matters, and advises the Cabinet upon questions of maritime defence, naval policy, organisation, and other matters. The Second Lord is responsible for the manning of the fleet, and other things relating to the personnel. The Third Lord deals with material, dock-yards, and building. The Junior Lord deals with victualling, coaling, pay, and like matters. The Civil Lord is responsible for the Works Department.
The number of ships at present at the disposal of the Admiralty is as follows :—Battle ships (all classes), 44; port defence vessels, 17; first-class cruisers, 41; all other cruisers, 251; torpedo craft, 136; total number of ships of all classes and types, 489. The number of vessels on the various stations actually in commission, however, is much smaller, totalling only 160 of all types. They are at present distributed as follows:—Mediterranean, 31; Channel, 19; North America and East Indies, 12; South-east Coast of America, 4; Pacific, 7; Africa, 18; India, 9; China, 26; Australasia, 12; training squadron, 4; particular service, II; surveying, 7; total, 160.
The total number of officers, seamen, boys, coastguard, and Royal marines provided for by last year's estimates is 83,400, an increase of 6,700 on the year 1894. In addition to this number there is the Pensioners' Reserve, in which all men whose age does not exceed 55 years are liable to be called out. This reserve at present numbers 28,674, which, added to the above total of 83,400, gives a grand total of available page 8 men and boys of 112,074. The composition of the force is follows:—
|Petty Officers and Seamen||48,035|
|Chief Officers of Stations||232|
|Petty Officers and Seamen||3,879|
|Staff Sergeants and Sergeants||955|
|Buglers and Musicians||602|
|Rank and Kile||13,422|
The total cost for the past year of this large [unclear: force] £17,366,100, an increase of £3,126,000 over the expenditure of 1894. This increase is due principally to extra ship [unclear: bui] ing and armaments. The increase in the expenditure [unclear: does] however, imply that the nation has been [unclear: strengthening] forces by what, £3,000,000 represents, as for several [unclear: years] to 1894 the estimates had been decreasing, so that the [unclear: increase] last year only made up for leeway. This sum [unclear: of] £17,000,000 was expended under the following heads [unclear: (I] round numbers) :—Wages, £3,900,000; victualling and clothing £1,400,000; medical, £144,000; law, £10.ooo; education £79,000; scientific, £61,000; Royal Navy Reserve, £205,00 shipbuilding and repairs, £7,000,000: naval [unclear: armamen] £1,380,000; works and buildings, £650,000 : office expense £231,000; miscellaneous, £173,000; half and retired [unclear: pay] £757,000; pensions, £1,303,000; additional force for [unclear: At] tralasia, £60,000.
It is gratifying to notice that since 1890 the [unclear: number] officers and men has been increased by 14,600.
With regard to building operations, to which more [unclear: an] more attention is now being directed, thanks in no [unclear: sligi] measure to the exertions of the Navy League and its [unclear: repn] sentatives and spokesmen in Parliament and the Press, [unclear: o] of the sum of £12,850,000 authorised to be spent in [unclear: ship] building by the Naval Defence Acts, 1889-93, there has been spent £12,220,000, leaving only £630,000 still [unclear: unexpendture] page 9 During the past seven years an annual charge for contract expenditure on the naval defence ships has been made on the consolidated revenue. This charge terminates on March 31st next, when fresh provision will have to be made. In addition to the sum spent for building which I have just mentioned, there has been expended during the past year for building ships not covered by the Naval Defence Act a sum of £4,669.000. The building programme for the past financial year was to commence 7 battle ships, 6 cruisers of the second class, and 2 sloops. Considerable progress has been made with all these. The new battle ships have been christened "The Prince George," "Caesar," "Victorious," "Illustrious," "Hannibal," "Mars," and "Jupiter." The cruisers are to have a speed under forced draught of 19.5 knots an hour. Two first-class cruisers have been completed during the year, "The Terrible" and "The Powerful," which will have a continuous sea speed of 20 knots an hour, and a forced draught speed of 24 knots an hour. In addition to these, 42 new torpedo boat destroyers have been completed, which will travel from 26 to 29 knots an hour. A special training ship, "The Northampton," has recently been commissioned to visit the various ports of the United Kingdom and recruit lads of higher age than those who enter through the ordinary training establishments, and this plan has been found to work most successfully in increasing the number of lads in training for future seamen. The number of boys entered last year for the fleet was 3,700. In order to increase the number of well-qualified seamen, it is proposed to draft for the future 800 sailors annually from the mercantile marine into the fleet. Since the 1st of January last a new regulation has come into force, which will still further add to the effective strength in men. This regulation requires men to serve twelve years from the time of obtaining the rate of ordinary seamen before being entitled to their discharge, instead of ten years as hitherto. The effect of this will be to give a large increase in the number of available prime seamen.
Such, then, is a summarized account of the Navy's strength to-day. Having now ascertained the important and onerous duties which devolve upon the Navy, and seen its present strength, let us consider whether it can be prudently regarded as sufficiently strong to perform its great work, to police the world's seas, convoy our ocean commerce, and protect and render invulnerable the heart and extremities of the umpire. We cannot disguise from ourselves the fact that at present England stands in the world absolutely without allies. Her interests being so world-wide, touch and come into contact, and frequently into conflict with, those of nearly every other power. Hence she is regarded with jealousy and distrust. Her wealth and powers of expansion excite the envy and cupidity of other nations.page 10
The uprise in a hundred years of such an Empire as the world has never before seen has changed the thoughts diplomats, fashioned new theories, and shaped new dreams of national greatness. With regard to this new born Empire, of which every subject of the Queen is so proud, it has fallen [unclear: to] the lot of this our generation largely to decide whether it [unclear: is] exist to the remotest posterity, or to pass away early [unclear: and] remembered in history as the ephemeral phenomenon [unclear: of] feverish age. The Times newspaper recently said : "The next century will probably determine the fate of the Empire, and [unclear: than] fate will largely depend on the sagacity, forethought, and resolve which the statesmen and people of this country bring during the next few years to the consideration of the things which belong to their peace. If we are resolved now and hereafter to [unclear: secure] and maintain, at all hazards, the command of the sea, the Empire is as safe from disruption and overthrow as human forethought can make it. If we falter in that resolve, if [unclear: we] shrink from the burdens it imposes and the sacrifices it may entail, the British Empire will inevitably fall to pieces."
Now, all thinking men admit that it is not sufficient [unclear: for] England to possess a navy capable of crushing the navy of any other single power. These are pre-eminently the [unclear: days] alliances and big confederations. It is imperative that we [unclear: should] regard the possibility of two or more foreign powers [unclear: forming] offensive alliance against Great Britain. Such being the [unclear: case] the solution of the question lies in a nutshell. Our [unclear: navy] should be not only as strong, but stronger, than any two navies of the world in battle ships, and should largely [unclear: out] on number in first-class and second-class cruisers any [unclear: possible] combination which might be formed against us. (Cheers.)
As I have indicated before, naval warfare in the future will be largely a question of arithmetic. Heroism and skill [unclear: and] great factors, and will continue to be so, but they will [unclear: have] minimum of potency against walls of iron and 100 ton [unclear: gun]. Now, the total number of men and boys, including reserve available is, as I have stated, 112,000. But in the last great naval war England maintained a naval force of 145,000 [unclear: ma] and this, too, when the population of the United Kingdom [unclear: an] Colonies was not half what it is at present, and when what might call the commercial duties of the fleet were insignificant compared to what those duties are now. And at this hour the French Naval Force provided for by the French estimated before the Chamber of Deputies is 157,000 men, most of whom are presumably available.
|Country.||Battle Ships (all classes).||Port Defence Vessels.||First Class Cruisers.||All Other Cruisers.||Torpedo Craft.||Totals.|
It will be seen from these figures that France and Russia combined have 51 bat tie-ships, against England's 44; but they have only 31 first-class cruisers, against England's 41. In the inferior classes of cruisers they again have a superiority in numbers to England, possessing combined 245, against England's 251; and they have also a superiority in torpedo craft, having 305, against England's 136, It is true that some of England's battle-ships out-class those of France and Russia, but it is not a comforting thought that we have 7 fewer fighting ships of the first rank than what a Franco-Russian coalition could put forward on an outbreak of war. Moreover, it has been calculated that in order to commission all our available ships for war, at least 40,000 additional seamen would be required, and a reserve would necessarily have to be formed, which competent authorities state should not be less than 20,000; so that 60,000 more seamen are really required to place our present navy on a war footing. In order to supply these there would be available the pensioners, coastguards, marines, and Royal Naval Reserve, from which a muster could be made of 50,000, leaving a deficiency to be provided of ro.ooo men. According to Lord Charles Beresford, a naval officer of high distinction, it is necessary for England's safety that the British fleet should be one-third stronger than the combined fleets of France and Russia. For this purpose a sum of £18,070,000 must be spent over and above the present estimates voted by Parliament, Lord George Hamilton, speaking in the House of Commons, said :—"I think I am correct in saying that our establishment should be on such a scale that it should be at least equal to the naval strength of any two other countries. For the purpose of meeting unexpected blows we should have a considerable margin of reserve."
The present Governor of Victoria, Lord Brassey, has stated: "Our standard of strength in battle-ships should be twice that of France." Sir Charles Dilke, than whom no man has given greater attention to Imperial questions, recently uttered these words: "What we have to do is to make our page 12 navy so strong that we shall be able to keep the seas [unclear: open] against any probable enemy. . . . The whole war may be settled in a few months, and victory will probably be on the side of the Power that is prepared to strike the hardest [unclear: blow] within the first few hours after the outbreak of hostilities."
Admiral Sir John Hay says : We ought to have for every possible ship that any possible enemy can have, another [unclear: ship] or another two ships to take possession of that ship and [unclear: be] responsible for her." Admiral Colomb adjures us in [unclear: emphati] language : "Keep the command of the sea as you [unclear: value] national life. With it you can do everything. Without [unclear: it] you will be speedily blotted out of the list of nations."
This concurrence of authoritative testimony as to [unclear: ot] unpreparedness to meet hostile combinations should [unclear: impress] us deeply. The imagination palls before the vision of what would happen to this Empire in the event of a decisive reverse at sea. If the English fleet was crippled in a great navy battle, it is not alone the geographical changes which [unclear: would] ensue that we should have to deplore, but the vast population of the Empire would be face to face with starvation. [unclear: Our] trade and commerce would be annihilated, our industries [unclear: would] perish, and suffering and famine would stalk through the land.
Just listen for a moment to what two French naval officer recently wrote in a work called an "Essai de Strategic. They say: "There are no laws of war but those of the strongest: generosity is only cowardice, feebleness, or folly. They add that France will (I) Raid the Bristol Channel, the Channel, and the Thames with fast cruisers; (2) destroy English shipping in the Mediterranean; (3) plunder, [unclear: bur] and sink English shipping on the distant seas; (4) [unclear: bombas] at night defenceless towns, such as Brighton or [unclear: Hastings] and kill or maim hundreds of helpless women, [unclear: children], invalids. Another French writer, in a brochure called [unclear: "Ph] d'Angleterre," describes the defeat of England by France, [unclear: and] gives the terms of our disgrace:—(I) Every English [unclear: warship] afloat or on the stocks to be surrendered to France; (2) [unclear: and] more than fifty warships to be maintained by us in the future (3) our army not to exceed 50,000 men; (4) an [unclear: indemnity] 560,000,000 to be paid to France; (5) Dover to be [unclear: surrender] to France in perpetuity; (6) the Channel Islands, [unclear: Gibral] Malta, Cyprus, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, the [unclear: Cape] Mauritius, the Seychelles, Amirantes and Chagos, [unclear: Ada] Perim, Socotra, Ceylon, Hong Kong, New Guinea, New Zealand, Tasmania, Fiji, Vancouver, British Guiana, the British West Indies, Quebec, and Newfoundland, to be [unclear: ced] to France; (7) Egypt to be evacuated; (8) the [unclear: Egypti] antiquities and Elgin marbles in the British Museum [unclear: to] given up to France. (Great laughter and ironical cheers.)
Much as we may regret the fact, the above [unclear: quotations] not the idle vapourings of venomous featherheads in [unclear: Paris] page 13 but the ideas they represent are held by large numbers of Frenchmen to whom England is "Perfidious Albion." Whatever diplomacy may do to soften French animosity, and it has within the past few weeks even done much, it is evident that until the day when England, France, and Russia shall see their way to join hands in an alliance to secure their common interests and the world's peace, the people of the British Empire should strain every nerve and endure any sacrifices in order to place the Navy in a position of unquestioned supremacy over the combined French and Russian fleets. (Loud applause.)
According to competent authorities, we should possess 200 effective cruisers, capable of steaming 16 knots, in order to protect our commerce and patrol the Channel. But at present we have barely half that number. Our ironclad battle-ship force also is seriously inadequate, as we have only 47, whereas we should possess 60. The armament of many of our ships is very defective according to modern requirements. Out of the total number of English ironclads of all types, no less than 46 have no large quick-firing guns. Seven of our best battleships are without them, while the French and Russians are placing them on board all their serviceable ships. Again, on board 33 of our ironclads the heavy guns are muzzle-loaders, quite out of date, "clumsy to handle, awkward to load, slow in their fire, feeble in their power." Every single French and Russian ship is armed with breech-loaders. As to the machinery of the fleet, an eminent authority recently said "the greater number of our ships have worn-out boilers and antiquated engines." Not to weary you with excessive detail but too calculated to dispirit us, it is safe to affirm that no one who has the welfare of the nation at heart can regard the present condition of the Navy as satisfactory. The Naval authorities, like all functionaries and governing bodies, are apt to become easy-going and lethargic if not occasionally galvanised into increased activity by the healthy breezes of public opinion.
As to the personnel of the Navy, its physique, discipline, and spirit, I believe there is nothing further to be desired. The men of to-day are fully equal to their predecessors. (Hear, hear.) In the beginning of this lecture I related an incident which happened three centuries ago to show what spirit and cool bravery the founders of our Navy possessed. Let me now at the close of my remarks, in order to prove that the same spirit and indomitable pluck are alive to-day in the breasts of our naval officers, tell you of an incident which happened, I might say, but yesterday and almost at our own doors. I allude to the escape of the "Calliope" from the hurricane at Samoa in 1889. (Applause.) I will tell it you in the exquisite English of one whom I had the good fortune and happiness to rank among my personal friends, but who has been lately page 14 snatched away from the world in the spring-time of life and the heyday of his fame. I allude to the gifted writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. In his work "A Footnote to History," Stevenson, after describing the storm with graphic [unclear: fore] and inimitable picturesqueness, refers to the escape of the "Calliope" in the following words:—
"Between the 'Vandalia' and the reef it was destruction. The one possibility of escape was to go out. If the engine should stand, it they should have power to drive the ship against wind and sea, if she should answer the helm, if the wheel, rudder and gear should hold out, and if they were favoured with a clear blink of weather in which to see and avoid the outer reef—there and there only were safety. Upon this catalogue of 'ifs' Kane staked his all. He signalled the engineer for every pound of steam—and at that moment much of the machinery was already red-hot. The ship want sheered well to starboard of the 'Vandalia,' the last remaining cable slipped. For a time—and there was no onlooker so cold-blooded as to offer a guess at its duration—the 'Calliope lay stationary, then gradually drew ahead. The highest speed claimed for her that day is of one sea mile an hour, but according to Admiral Kimberly the 'Calliope' in this first stage of her escape must have taken more than two hours [unclear: I] cover less than four cables. As she thus crept seaward, should buried bow and stern alternately under the billows. In the fairway of the entrance the American flagship 'Trenton' still held on. Her rudder was broken, her wheel carried away within she was flooded with water from the peccant [unclear: haws] pipes; she had just made the signal 'fires extinguished,' and lay helpless, awaiting the inevitable end. Between this melancholy hulk and the external reef Kane must find a path Steering within fifty yards of the reef (for which she was actually headed), and her foreyard passing on the other hand over the 'Trenton's ' quarter as she rolled, the 'Calliope sheered between the rival dangers, came to the wind triumphantly, and was once more pointed for the sea and safety. No often in naval history was there a moment of more sickening peril, and it was dignified by one of those incidents that reconcile the chronicler with his otherwise abhorrent task. From the doomed flagship the Americans hailed the success of the English with a cheer. It was led by the old Admiral in person, rang out over the storm with holiday vigour, and was answered by the Calliopes with an emotion easily conceived. This ship of their kinsfolk was almost the last external object seen from the ' Calliope' for hours; immediately after the mists closed about her till the morrow. She was safe at [unclear: so] again una de multis." (Great applause.)
"The Fleet of England is her All-in-All;
Her Fleet is in your hands,
And in her Fleet her Fate."
Mr. Napier resumed his seat amidst loud and prolonged applause.
His Worship the Mayor of Auckland (J. J. Holland, Esq.) moved : "That a hearty vote of thanks be accorded to Mr. Napier for his very able and instructive lecture."
This was seconded by Judge Von Sturmer, and on being put to the meeting was carried unanimously amidst cheers.
A vote of thanks to the Chairman and the musicians having been passed, the vast audience rose to its feet and sang the National Anthem. This closed the proceedings.page break
Auckland: H. Brett, General Printer, Shortland and Fort Street.