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601
COAST DEFENCE

point of view of the attack. Sites on the sky-line, and marked contrasts of colour or shape, should be avoided. In some cases extensive planting, amounting to landscape gardening, is justified. This is most easily arranged in the tropics, where plant growth is rapid. In all cases the guns and their mountings should be coloured to blend with the background and thus avoid hard lines and shadows.

Any change of principle such as that of 1885 involves improvements both in guns and their adjuncts. Of these latter the most important was the position-finder designed by Colonel Watkin. This instrument in its simplest form, when the observer is following a ship through the telescope of the instrument, draws on a chart the track of the ship, so that the exact bearing and distance of the latter can be ascertained at any time and communicated to the guns by electrical and other dials, &c. The position-finder may be some distance from the guns it serves, and connected with them by electric cable. The guns can then be placed well under cover and in many cases out of sight of the target, giving a measure of protection which cannot be obtained with any system of direct laying over sights. This instrument has been applied on a high site to control guns placed low, or where guns are so placed as to be liable to obscuration by fog or mist the position-finder can be placed below the fog-line. In either case direct laying is provided for as an alternative. In some defences batteries equipped with old pattern 9-in. muzzle-loading guns, mounted as howitzers for long-range firing, have been placed in folds in the ground so as to be quite invisible from the sea and therefore invulnerable. Such batteries are fought entirely by the position-finder.

The next adjunct to coast defences is the submarine mine. In Great Britain the first submarine mining company dates from 1873, and from that date mining defences were gradually installed both at home and abroad; but the modern system of mining, which for twenty years was maintained at British ports, really started into full life under the impetus of Sir A. Clarke, about the same year (1885) in which we have dated the commencement of the modern coast defence system.

With the increased speed of warships, a method of attack on fortifications was evolved by running past the main defences and either taking them in reverse, or disregarding them and attacking the dockyard or other objective at short range. This was made more possible at most defended ports by the pushing forward of the defences which has been already alluded to, and it is especially dangerous where dockyards or towns are situated some way up a river or estuary, so that once the defences are passed there is a large stretch of water (e.g. the Thames, the Solent, and Cork harbour) in which the enemy can manoeuvre. In such cases there are two possible forms of defence, first by arranging for gun-fire behind the main gun position, usually called the defence of inner waters, and secondly by placing in the entrance and under the fire of the main gun defence some form of obstruction to detain ships under fire. This obstruction can be passive (booms, chains, rows of piles or sunken ships) or active (mines or torpedoes). Passive obstructions are only effective against comparatively small craft, and at important ports mines are the only efficient obstruction which can be used against large vessels.

After some years of experiment, English engineers adopted two main classes of mines, called “observation” and “contact” mines (see Submarine Mines). Both were fired by electricity, which was applied only at the moment a hostile ship was within the dangerous zone of a mine. In the observation mines the moment of applying the electric current was ascertained by a position-finder, which, tracing a ship’s course on a chart, made an electrical connexion at the moment the ship was over a mine. These mines were placed so as to be well below the bottom of any ships afloat and were used in channels which it was desired to leave open for the entrance of friendly vessels. Contact mines, which are moored a few feet below the surface of the water, are fired after certain electrical connexions have been made in a firing room on shore by the ship itself striking against the mine. These are used in waters which it is intended to deny to friend and foe. Except in narrow waters where the whole width of the channel was required for friendly traffic, contact mines were generally used to limit the width of the channel to the minimum consistent with the amount of friendly traffic which would use the port in war. It will be readily understood that by bending this channel and disclosing its exact position only to special pilots, a very complete measure of security against surprise would be obtained. In English ports the practical importance of allowing free ingress for friendly traffic overruled all other considerations, and the friendly channels were always straight and coincided with some part of the usual fairway channel. They were also carefully marked by lightships and buoys.

A variation of the submarine mine is the Brennan torpedo, purchased by the British government about 1890. This differs from the torpedo used on board ship, mainly by the fact that the engine-power which drives it is on shore and connected with the torpedo by two strong wires. These wires are wound out of the torpedo by the engine, and by varying the strain on the two wires very accurate control of the steering can be obtained. This torpedo shares with the submarine mine the disadvantages that it must wait for the enemy to venture within its range, and with all other forms of defence (except contact mines), that it is made useless by fog or rain. As compared with a mine it has the advantage of being unaffected by tide or depth, and of forming no obstruction to traffic, except when actually in action. It was installed at the principal ports only.

The system of defence hitherto described is thus a main gun defence of 9.2-in. and 6-in. guns pushed well forward, assisted by position-finders, mine-fields and torpedo stations, and with some gun defence of inner waters. Subject to improvements in patterns of guns and mountings—of which the most important has been the substitution of barbette mounting and shield for the recoil mounting described above—this system held the field up to 1905, when, partly as a result of the experience of the Russo-Japanese War, and partly owing to the alteration of the naval balance of power due to the destruction of the Russian fleet, both the scale and system of defence were very considerably modified.

We can now consider another branch of defence, which was evolved pari passu with the automobile torpedo, and was therefore almost non-existent in 1885. In this year the boats specially built for carrying torpedoes were little more than launches, but in the next five years was developed the type of first-class torpedo boat. This, while seaworthy, was limited as to its radius of action by the small amount of coal it would carry. But with a possibly hostile coast only a few hours’ steam away, and with foreign harbours thronged with torpedo craft, it became necessary for the British government especially to consider this form of attack and its antidote. It was obvious that in daytime and in clear weather such an attack would have little chance of success, also that in no circumstances would torpedo boats be able to damage fixed defences. Their best chance was attack by night, and the only form of attack was that referred to above as “running past,” that is, an attempt to evade the defences and to attack ships or docks inside. The light draught of torpedo boats and their comparative invisibility favoured this form of attack.

To meet it the first requirement was some form of illumination of the defended channel. Experiments in the attack and defence of defended harbours took place at Gosport in 1879 and 1880, at Milford Haven in 1885, at Berehaven (by the royal navy) in 1886, at Langston Harbour in 1887, and a series at the Needles entrance of the Isle of Wight up to 1892. During the course of these experiments various methods of illumination were tried, but by far the best was found to be the light from an electric arc-lamp of high power projected by powerful reflectors. At first these were used as concentrated beams forming a pencil of light with an angular opening of about 2° to 3°. Such a beam directed at an incoming ship gives effective illumination up to a mile or more from the source of light, but has the disadvantage that it must be moved so as to follow the ship’s movements.