HC Deb 02 August 1887 vol 318 cc924-6
MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether, in view of the appointment of Prince Louis of Battenberg to the command of the Dreadnought, he will state the date when Prince Louis became a British subject; how long he has served in the Navy; and, what are his experiences and qualifications for the post; and, whether a German has over before been placed in command of a British man-of-war, over the heads of British officers equally qualified?

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

also asked, Whether it is true that Prince Louis of Battenherg has been appointed to the command of H.M.S. Dreadnought; and, what special qualifications have entitled a foreigner to be promoted over the heads of some 30 British officers?


I thought I stated with sufficient clearness yesterday that both the statements contained in the hon. Member's Question, and in that placed on the Paper by another hon. Member (Mr. Conybeare), to the effect that Prince Louis of Battenberg had been appointed to the command of the Dreadnought, or had been promoted over the heads of British officers, were untrue. But the hon. Gentleman has put down a fresh Question, in which he makes aspersions on the capacity of a very promising young officer. [Cries of "No, no!'" and "How?"] I will explain. If the hon. Member had, before he put down the Question, ascertained what was the rank of the officer, and what were the functions attached to the rank, he would have saved both the House and me a long explanation of a very simple matter. Prince Louis of Battenberg is not a captain, but holds the rank of a commander in Her Majesty's Navy. Every ship of a certain size and certain complement has a senior executive officer under the captain—a commander, not n lieutenant. A vacancy has recently occurred in the post of commander on board the ship Dreadnought, It has always been the practice to give the captain of any ship a voice in the selection of his senior executive officer, because upon the capacity of that officer largely depends the discipline and efficiency of his ship. Captain Stephenson, who commands the Dreadnought, applied for Prince Louis of Battenberg to fill the appointment. I may add that another officer who is about to command a large iron-clad in the Mediterranean has made a similar application. Prince Louis entered the Navy in 1868, served at sea as a cadet to midshipman till 1873, when he passed a good examination for lieutenant. All his other examinations have been satisfactory, and he has been well spoken of by every officer under whom he has served. So far from the appointment in question either promoting Prince Louis of Battenberg over the heads of his seniors, or in any way giving him an undue preference, I may say that, at the present moment, there are actually 22 commanders junior to him who hold appointments almost similar to that which has been given to him.


I beg to ask, whether Prince Louis was not appointed simply because he was backed up by the influence of Captain Stephenson, and not because he was better qualified than many British officers? I want to ask, also, whether, when an appointment of this kind is to be made, it is the general practice to give the preference to a foreigner?


To whom?


To a foreigner—to a German.


Certainly not. All officers, after they have become naturalized as British subjects, are treated alike; and the principle on which all these appointments are made is the selection of the most capable officers for the purpose.


In consequence of the answer of the noble Lord, I beg to give Notice that, on the Navy Estimates. I will draw attention to the practice of the Conservative Government in giving preference in appointments in the Public Service to Germans over Englishmen.


asked, whether the noble Lord would state the date on which Prince Louis of Battenberg became a British subject?


He became a British subject whoa he entered Her Majesty's Service.