16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 19

The incident at Portsmouth reported in Monday's papers furnishes a

significant and disagreeable commentary on Sir John Fisher's optimistic speech at the Guildhall last Saturday. It appears that, in consonance with instructions from the Admiralty, and by way of preparing to do honour to the Kaiser, an order was given to all the ships in the Channel Fleet to " be out of routine "—i.e., to suspend drill, &c.—and paint ships after the manoeuvres. On November 4th Rear-Admiral Sir Percy Scott, commanding the First Cruiser Squadron, which at present forms part of the Channel Fleet, made the following signal to the Captain of the Roxburgh,' then outside the breakwater carrying out gunnery practice :—" Paint-work appears to be more in demand than gunnery, so you had better come in in time to look pretty by the 8th inst." Lord Charles Beresfe:.d arrived at Portland a few days later, and on the Friday issued a general signal to the whole Channel Fleet, in which he described Rear-Admiral Sir Percy Scott's signal as " contemptuous in tone and insubordinate in character," and ordered it to be expunged from the signal logs of the Good Hope' (Sir Percy Scott's flagship) and the Roxburgh.' As Sir Percy Scott is stated to have demanded an inquiry into the 'Circumstances in which his signal was issued, we may content ourselves by observing that as that signal was an open one and read by the fleet, it was impossible for Lord Charles Beresford to convey to the fleet his reprobation of his subordinate's conduct otherwise than by the means adopted. In view of these facts, can we wonder that at the discussion of naval affairs at the dinner of the London Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday evening a letter was read from Admiral Sir Frederick Richards, Senior Lord of the Admiralty from 1893-1899, and practically the doyen of the Service, in which he advocated inquiry into the state of the Navy. This view was supported by Admiral Sir Vesey Hamilton, Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, and others.