The Organisation of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers Explained
The Organisation of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers Explained
3It has been thought desirable to publish the followingstatement, for the purpose of giving some explanationof the services, duties, privileges, and general organisationof the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers.
In inviting persons to enrol themselves in the corps,the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty desire toextend the volunteer movement, so successfully establishedas an auxiliary to the land forces, to the defenceof this country by sea. The proposal is novel and unprecedentedin its character. In any other countrythan our own, it would, in all probability, be visionary.In England, however, we possess a guarantee for thesuccess of such an undertaking, which cannot be foundelsewhere. A taste for maritime pursuits pervadesthis insular nation, and the hope may therefore be confidentlyentertained that the appeal, now made to the4patriotism of the nautical and aquatic sections of thecommunity, will not be urged in vain.
Eminent naval authorities have, for many yearspast, recommended the formation of a corps, for thepurposes of coast defence, composed of persons who,while not possessing the wider experience of the seaman,are accustomed to the management of boats, andin the constant habit of going afloat. The Act for theRoyal Navy Artillery Volunteers, passed in the lastsession at the instance of the Admiralty, and the regulationsrecently issued under that Act, afford the mostconvincing proof that, in the estimation of those whoare actually responsible for the efficiency of the navalservice, such a force is desirable. The concurrence ofthe naval members of the late administration in thevarious steps which have been taken, may likewise bequoted, in order to show that there is a general desire,among those to whom the welfare of the navy is anespecial object of solicitude, for the success of themovement, which it is the object of the present writerto explain.
It has been already stated that coast defence, andnot service at sea, constitutes the especial sphere proposedfor the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers. Theterm coast defence is perhaps, in a certain sense, a misnomer.The defence of the most important of ourcommercial harbours against an attack from the seacould not be effectually conducted by a force composedexclusively of men trained for the land service alone.The approach to all the great ports of the United5Kingdom from the sea involves the navigation of extensiveestuaries, where floating batteries, and armedrafts, and the use of torpedoes, are essential to a completedefence, and would in point of fact effectuallyprevent the nearer approach of a hostile fleet. In thelaying out of torpedoes on an extensive scale, a flotillaof boats would be required; and in furnishing crewsfor such boats, the well-trained oarsmen, who, it ishoped, will be found willing to enroll themselves inthe Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, would be enabledto render valuable service. In all probability, by theirco-operation in the hour of danger, they would releasean equal number of highly trained seamen, who wouldform the crews of sea-going cruisers. All our greatestports, London, Hull, Newcastle, Leith and Granton,ports for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Southampton,Belfast, Dublin, Cork, are situated at the head of anextensive estuary, or at some distance from the mouthof a navigable river. The mere enumeration of thesenames is sufficient to show how large a sphere theremight be, in the event of a threatened invasion, forthe employment, in the important and essential task ofharbour defence, of an auxiliary force composed, notof trained seamen, but of persons who may be describedgenerally as aquatics.
It is to be observed that a mere oarsman, althoughnot trained at the great guns, or in the use of rifle andcutlass, would be enabled to do good work in a servicein which the use of boats must be largely resorted to;and that, in order to take a number at a gun mounted6on a raft, such as the 'Nancy Dawson,' which the lateCaptain Cole improvised for our naval operations in theSea of Azof, or to serve in a gun's crew in a floatingbattery for harbour defence, neither sea legs nor seaexperience are indispensable qualifications. For suchduties those qualities are required which equally combineto make a good gunner and a good soldier,whether afloat or on shore—a fair share of physicalstrength and activity, intelligence, and, above all,courage and patriotism.
Designed, as the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteershave been, for the especial work of coast and harbourdefence, it is not necessary that the corps should bevery numerous. It certainly need not exceed thenumbers of our amateur yachtsmen and oarsmen, forwhom the opportunity, now offered, of taking theirshare in the national defence, is chiefly intended.Enough will have been done, if a brigade can beformed at each of the principal ports, of a strengthvarying from 200 to 600 men.
Having described the general scope of the duties,which would devolve on the Royal Naval ArtilleryVolunteers, in the event of their being called out foractual service, the nature of the training proposed forthe members of the force may be briefly explained.The first consideration must be to familiarise them, tosome extent, with the management of boats. This instructionmight occupy much time in a corps composedof men, who had never been in the habit of going onthe water; but, as the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteer7corps is to be recruited in a large proportion fromamong aquatics, many of their number may be expectedto possess this qualification without the necessityfor special instruction.
The next point to claim attention will be the exerciseat the great guns. Here I may venture to affirm, frompersonal experience, that the naval gun drills have been,in every detail, so carefully considered, the instructorsare so completely masters of the subject which theyhave to teach, and the mechanical appliances are sucheffectual substitutes for heavy manual labour, that afew days of constant attention will suffice to make avolunteer a useful man in a gun's crew. The class ofrecruits required for the Royal Navy Artillery Volunteerspossess advantages of intelligence and education,far beyond those which the practical seamen can enjoy;and we may anticipate, from the experience alreadyacquired, that they will form some of the smartestgun's crews in any branch of the naval service. Thereis neither insurmountable difficulty, nor unduly fatiguinglabour, in the drill at the great guns. The intricaciescould be mastered in a few days, if thevolunteers were kept continuously at drill, as theynecessarily would be, should they ever be called out foractual service.
The essential point in a volunteer corps is to securemen physically capable of doing their work, and whomay be confidently relied upon as ready to serve,whenever they may be called upon.
The small-arm exercises are still more easily8mastered. A rowing man will find himself able to usehis cutlass efficiently in a few hours; and, after acouple of days of continuous drill, he would be able togo through the manual and platoon exercises withsatisfactory smartness and precision.
Rowing and yachting gentlemen will perceive thatthey will have no difficulty in acquiring the knowledgeof their drills, which is required in order to make themefficient, in the winter months. They will not findthat their favourite amusements on the water, in thesummer months, are incompatible with service in theRoyal Naval Artillery Volunteers.
Every effort will be made to afford to those, whomay be willing to join the Royal Naval ArtilleryVolunteers, the necessary facilities for learning theirdrills. For the London brigade, the 'Rainbow,' a gunvessel well adapted for the purpose, is now being fittedout at Chatham. This vessel will be ready in twomonths from the date of this publication; and, whencompleted, will be moored in the Thames in a convenientposition, off Somerset House. Should such an arrangementbe found convenient for members of the Corinthianand other yacht clubs at Erith, it is possible that the'Rainbow' may be moved, from time to time, to mooringsnear the pier at Erith; and, should a desire tothat effect be expressed by the members of the rowingclubs higher up the Thames, an effort will be made tomove the vessel to moorings near the boat-houses ofany rowing clubs, which have their head-quarters belowKew Bridge.
9No positive promise, however, can be given that the'Rainbow' shall be moved. There are many points toconsider, such as draft of water, height and widthof arches, and obstruction of the navigation of theriver.
For those clubs which are established still higherup the river, where there is not sufficient water to floatthe 'Rainbow,' facilities for instruction may be providedby mounting a 64-pounder gun on a raft, whichcould be towed from place to place, and moored to thebank of the river adjacent to the boat-houses belongingto the clubs. An instructor would accompany theraft; and, during the winter months, arrangementsmight be made for giving to volunteers an opportunityof going through their small-arm drills in a drill-shed,or other convenient place, available for the purpose.Thus it may be found possible to extend the system ofinstruction, by effectual, yet inexpensive, means, far upthe Thames, and so to embrace towns such as Reading,Maidenhead, Henley, Windsor, and even the headquartersof rowing, the University of Oxford.
Inquiry having been made as to whether memberswill be expected to appear in uniform, whenever theyattend drill, it may not be superfluous to mention thatthe regulations are silent on this point. Members willonly be required to wear uniform on special occasions,of which due notice will be given.
Members of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteercorps may therefore rest assured that they will havethe opportunity of being thoroughly instructed in the10drills, in which it is considered desirable that they shouldbe proficient.
The drills will comprise those for great guns, rifle,pistol, and cutlass, as in the Royal Navy, and no deviationfrom these drills is to be permitted.
All drills will be carried out by the instructor,attached to the brigades, under the officer-instructor.The permanent staff of a brigade will consist of anofficer-instructor and one petty officer instructor foreach battery. The officer-instructor will be commissionedas a lieutenant in the Royal Naval ArtilleryVolunteers, and will be selected from officers of orretired from the Royal Navy, of and above the rank oflieutenant. He will keep the muster-rolls, and it willbe his duty to make himself acquainted with all themembers of his brigade, and their qualifications. Hewill superintend all drills and exercises, and is to havecomplete control over the petty officer instructors, andto be responsible to the Admiralty for their conductand efficiency.
On the important point of the number of attendancesat drill, the regulations require that everyvolunteer must attend at least two drills a month, untilhe has obtained the standard of an efficient. Anefficient must be able to perform in a satisfactorymanner the duties of any number except No. 1 atheavy gun exercise, or at revolving gun exercise, asapplicable to the 64-pounder guns mounted in gunboats;and he must be possessed of a good knowledgeof the manual, platoon, and cutlass exercises.
11It has already been explained that these qualificationsmay easily be acquired in a fortnight of continuousattendance at drill, by the application of a veryordinary amount of intelligence and attention. Theregulations expressly avoid the imposition of any compulsoryservice afloat in time of peace. Target practiceafloat is obviously essential to the efficiency of a navalgunner; and it is therefore desirable that everyvolunteer should have a fair number of opportunitiesof taking part in this useful exercise. In a longsummer's day, the members of the London Brigade mayembark in a gunboat at Erith or Gravesend, proceedto the Maplin Sands, off Shoeburyness—which is themost convenient place