Deferring Financial Pain

Audacious before the Great War. © IWM Q 75212.

In the Navy Estimates presented to the House of Commons in March 1910 five armoured vessels were announced for the coming financial year which began on 1 April and ended on 31 March 1911. Four of these armoured vessels would form the Royal Navy’s King George V class of battleship. One of these, eventually named Audacious, was laid down at Cammell, Laird & Co.’s yard at Birkenhead on 23 March 1911, a week before the next Admiralty financial year began. The reason for laying a ship down so late in the financial year was clear: as Reginald McKenna put it in presenting the 1909 estimates, ‘An obvious effect of this system is to postpone for some two years a large part of the financial burdens of the programme to which the ships belong.’ I decided to look at how this worked, using the Dockyard Expense Accounts:

Financial Year Sum
1910-1911 £48,157
1911-1912 £624,756
1912-1913 £771,566
1913-1914 £340,590
Total £1,785,069

The ship was completed on 15 October, 1913. Incidental expenses over the course of her construction amounted to £31,746, and along with the total of £1,785,069 were considered her first cost of £1,816,315. Material connected to her armament accounted for £436,911, or 24% of the cost.

It is not known where on earth R. A. Burt got his total of £1,918,813, quoted by Wikipedia, from.

H.M.S. Inflexible

H.M.S. Inflexible.

Whilst scouring my research material for data on sail drill competition in the Mediterranean (which I eventually found, thankfully) I came across the following description of the interior of the battleship Inflexible in a volume supposedly written by the royal princes Albert Victor and George (later King George V). It is dated 30 May 1882, and therefore pre-dates Inflexible’s participation in the bombardment of Alexandria less than two months later. The Captain Fisher referred to is, of course, ‘Jacky’ Fisher, later Lord Fisher. Fisher was allegedly criticised for the emphasis on preparation for battle illustrated here, and encouraged to excel in the fleet sail drill. As the photo of Inflexible makes clear, she was a ship torn between the past and future: a turret ship with rigged for sail. The following short account may prove of interest.

At 10 A.M. some of the Bacchante’s officers went at Captain Fisher’s invitation to see the Inflexible. He himself kindly explained everything. In the fore cabin we saw the large diagrams of the ship, and how each half of the ship is ‘double against the other,’ and how each fitting besides is in duplicate.

There are 6,000 tallies in the ship and everything is labelled: everything below is coloured red or green, for the port or starboard side, so that a man can never lose his way amid all the intricacies of the internal fittings, and can tell at once if he is going forward or aft. The  compartments, too, are all numbered, and not marked with letters of the alphabet, so that you can tell at once how far distant you are from either end of the ship. Her stability is far better than that of the Duilio or Dandolo, or any of the similar French ships. Then we went round the ship; the electric light reflected below has the same effect as sunlight coming in through large ports in a ship’s side: we went into the turret and saw the guns raised, run out and in, and loaded by hydraulic gear. Captain Fisher explained how it was almost impossible for any accident to occur in any way whatever, on account of the system of double checks, so that it would almost require a regular plot to put all wrong.