Punch, 51 (1866), 72.
The Fleet of the Future
Military Technology, Steamships, Government, Politics, Controversy, Industry, Commerce, Amateurism
An implicit criticism of some of the reasons for the delay in the appearance of Britain's 'Fleet of the Future'. It begins by anticipating that this goal may be reached when the 'great case of Coles v. Reed has been tried'. This is a reference to Cowper P Coles's conflict with Edward J Reed over the design of naval warships: Coles favours guns mounted on armoured 'cupolas', whereas Reed prefers guns situated behind a ship's armoured 'broadside'. Notes the conflict between those who want better armour plating and those who argue for improved guns, the battle between 'Wood and iron, armour and none', and the conflict between those who favour the Monitor [an American ironclad] design and the HMS Achilles [a British broadside ironclad] design. Proceeds to criticize the fact that this futuristic fleet is invisible and 'always about to be', but fails to appear despite the expenditure of 'millions', the meetings of 'Board after Board' of the Admiralty, and the apparently vain efforts of Clarence E Paget, Edward A St Maur (12th Duke of Somerset), James Stansfield, and Hugh C E Childers. Asks whether the fleet will appear when the 'Dockyard waste is at an end' or 'When we set ship-builders to building of ships', and thinks this will only happen when 'bungling' and 'ignorant' naval officers 'learn / A little about the vast concern'. Concludes by lamenting the fact that John Bull will have to sustain 'Routine' leading 'Common Sense / Through the quicksands of waste' and the 'slough of expense' and create a new 'Admiralty Augean' before the new fleet is seen.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005-07
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