Making a Naval Officer
SIR HERBERT RICHMOND is an original thinker and independent thought is certainly needed for tackling the two questions : What is the proper function of a naval officer ? and How can he be best fitted for his work ? Sir Herbert has himself been Director of Naval Training and he is a man of wide reading. We should have expected a particularly good essay from him on training, and here we get it. He has a Socratic way of bringing first. principles to a series of dialec- tical tests and by elimination making some quite simple answer emerge. As he treated the huge superfluity of size in capital ships, so in this essay does he treat the superfluities of instruction for the young naval officer at sea.
The point is, in brief, that a good naval offien must be an educated man in the widest sense, and that it is all wrong for him to specialize at too early an age and all wrong for him to be kept poring-over books in his first years at sea. A ship is not an academy ; if-a young man is kept "at school" there, he has really been sent to an inefficient school ; and mean- while he is losing the lessons of practical seamanship and technique which, if only he were allowed to spend his whole time at them, would teach him things that he could never forget. The 1902 system of naval training was never properly tested because the young officers had not reached responsible posts when the War began. But enough has been seen of it to show that a thorough revision is necessary. It looked so convincing on paper to say that a modern ship was a box of machinery and that therefore the modern executive officer must be in large part a mechanic ! Executive and engineer- ing officers were to be interchangeable. The officers who chose the engineering branch and believed that their prospects and prestige were to be both advanced make a wry face today when they look bark. In practice detailed mechanical knowledge has proved to be unnecessary for the deck oflicer and that fact has upset the proposed balance. After all, Don John or Barbarossa did not become a great leader because he could pull well on an oar.
Admiral Richmond works out a mean between the extremes of making a naval officer too much of a specialist and too little of a specialist. He would like to keep boys intended for the Navy longer at an ordinary school, and he derides the belief that if a boy is not caught young his romantic attraction to the sea will weaken. If that belief were well founded there could not be a characteristic English sea-sense. Admiral Richmond would not let a boy join the naval college till between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, and he would definitely encourage variety of type. At the college three months would be spent in learning navigation and pilotage ; then there would be a two months' cruise in a sloop as deck hand ; then the boy would spend three months-more at the college learning gunnery. A second cruise as petty officer would follow. Back to the college again for three months of torpedo work, and then to sea for a third cruise as an officer. All this, with three months'. leave, would occupy a year and a half. " Schooling " would then be at an end. The boy would go to sea as a midshipman for a minimum period of two years but would not be " under instruction." The naval instructor—who was condemned only to reappear—would exist no longer. The young officer would proceed from midshipman to lieutenant—the sub-lieutenancy would be cut out—only when he was recommended in a captain's certificate. To a captain's recommendation Admiral Richmond attaches great importance. As lieutenant the officer would pass another minimum period of two years, and finally he would spend a whole year ashore going through a war course. That would complete the training of the general service officer, but specialist officers would add a shortened course to the war course.
This essay deserves serious consideration. It takes a wide view of training and sees it as a whole.