Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  11 (1885–86), 333–56.

The British Navy

Sir Edward Reed



Relevant illustrations:

eng. [20]


Military Technology, Steamships, National Efficiency, Periodicals

Institutions mentioned:

hms Warrior

Publications cited:

Brassey 1882–83

    Claims that in an age of 'iron and steel' the 'naval possibilities of Great Britain [are] practically illimitable', largely because Britain, which in the past was incessantly 'exhausting its home supplies of oak', is 'first and greatest in the production of iron and steel' (333). Observes that it is 'agreeable, in these columns of Harper, which circulates so widely on both sides of the Atlantic' to acknowledge the 'indebtedness of Great Britain and of Europe to the United States for some invaluable lessons in naval construction [...] which were derived from the heroic efforts of their great civil war' (333–34). In particular, 'Ericsson's wonderful little fighting ship', the iron-clad uss Monitor, 'stimulate[d]' even the most 'dull and conservative naval architect [...] into unwonted activity' (334). The 'Monitor influence', however, has been felt more strongly in the navies of Continental Europe than that of Britain, where 'English ideas of sea service' have necessitated a 'largely altered form' and 'many modifications and additions' (335–36). Complains that since the 'iron Dreadnought' was 'designed fifteen or sixteen years ago', the new 'iron-clad ship[s]' built for the British navy have become progressively smaller and have been stripped of their protective armour for reasons of 'injudicious economy and erroneous design' (338). The eventual outcome of this short-sighted policy can only be 'defeat following defeat and catastrophe catastrophe [...] and something worse even than national humility' (350). Notes how 'that able, energetic, and lamented officer the late Captain Cowper Coles, R.N. [...] was lost at sea by the capsizing of his own ship', and comments that 'had he been placed, as the writer [i.e. Reed] advised, in charge of the revolving turrets of the navy, leaving ship-designing to those who understood it, he might have been alive to this day' (344). Also criticises the technical understanding of Thomas Brassey, the Secretary to the Admiralty, and suggests that the 'pages of so responsible a magazine as Harper's New be made available for giving to the British Admiralty a piece of information of which only they can be possibly ignorant' (348).

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