Iron and wooden frigates.
A very interesting debate has taken place in the British
House of Commons on the comparative for men-of-war of wooden ships, iron plated and iron ships
The Admiralty had proposed, among the other designs of the current year, to build de n
five wooden ships, in order that these when built might be converted, by the application of metal plates, into iron-cased frigates.
, however, thought that while to convert existing ships was all very well, to build new ones for conversion was rather too strong a measure.
Farther information was demanded, and this was given in the form of a "statement" from the Controller of the Navy.
This officer, according to a report in the London Times
, does not absolutely admit the superiority of iron for ships of war, though he confesses that it has great advantages.
He allows that an iron ship
can be built of larger dimensions than a wooden ship without any loss of strength, and that besides being stronger the structure would undoubtedly be more durable.
Against these recommendations, however, he sets off several drawbacks.
are weak in the bottom, and their bottoms are sadly liable to foul.
Real good iron, again, is represented as hard to come by, and thin or defective plates can be easily pierced by shot, with terrible consequences to the ship's crew.
Lastly, even the durability of the iron vessel is quoted as a disadvantages for, as models are by no means settled, there is no good in building everlasting ships on what may prove mistaken patterns.
A great diversity of opinion was manifested in the House
upon the points set forth in the statement.
The case of the Alabama
and the Hatteras
was incidentally referred to, and it was said that the defeat of the latter had been attributed (a Yankee protest) to the foulness of her bottom.
The advocates of iron ships
contended that iron merchant vessels pursue their voyages over the world without any such disadvantage, whilst their opponents maintained that ships of war were more exposed to fouling from remaining long stationary in harbors.
Reference was made in the course of the debate to the untimely end of the Monitor
Lord Palmarston stated that out of twenty-one ships of war now building in England
, eleven are of iron entirely, though he regarded it as a well ascertained fast that in power of resistance a ship with iron plating and a thick wooden side behind the iron, is equal to any ship afloat.
finally decided in favor of the Admiralty
proposition, (viz: to build five wooden ships, to be iron-cased,) by the large majority of eighty-three.
The Government expressed a strong desire not to have its hands tied to any particular mode of ship-building, because new inventions are continually coming up, and as Lord Palmerston said, "the experience of every month may lead to a considerable modification of preconceived notions, and errors hastily committed cannot be hastily repaired."