4 NOVEMBER 1905, Page 12


Sin,—There have recently been some references in your columns to speed in fighting-ships and to the value of superiority in that quality for tactical purposes. The question is important, not only to naval officers, but also to taxpayers, because it is closely connected with expenditure of money. In order that it may be understood some defini- tions are necessary. The speed meant is what is called "designed" speed, or that which is provided for in the design according to which a ship is to be built. It is not absolute, or dissociated from the ship's other qualities; but is speed gained at the expense of some other element of fighting efficiency. These words are italicised because on them the whole question hinges. The subject just now is being much discussed in France and in the United States. In any design, if it is proposed to increase the speed, the increase can be obtained only by sacrificing something else; for example, part of the gun-power, protection, coal endurance, &c. It is plain that the speed in a particular design may be increased so much that most of the gun-power, protection, or ,coal endurance will disappear ; . on the other hand, the other elements of fighting efficiency may be developed so much that most of the speed will ,disappear. There is, in practice, a speed beyond which no one—in a particular design—pro- poses to go; and an alternative speed below which it is not considered desirable to fall. The difference between these constitutes the question at issue, and is much leis than is generally supposed. In France it is put at three knots at the outside. In this country it would seem to be about two and a half knots. In Japan—and this is worth notice—it is proposed that new battleships of 20,000 tons should have a designed speed of twenty knots, or only one and a half knots more than that of the 15,200-ton Mikasa ' which carried Togo's flag throughout the late war. The question, there- fore, may be thus stated. Will the moderate increase of speed above indicated make up for a diminution in the other elements of fighting efficiency P-1 am, Sir, &c., R. N.