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It has been said that nations, like individuals, have their times for self-examination, when they pause, survey their positions, glance back upon the past, study the lessons of experience, and gird themselves up for the future.

The present year, memorable for the opening of an Exhibition devoted to a display of objects connected with the Naval Service, and signalised by the launch of two noble warships by Her Majesty on the same day, seems a fitting period when we may review the changes which half a century has produced in the fleets of the world, and strive to draw some lesson for future guidance.

In tracing the development of modern ships of war, and their equipment, it was natural to me to describe mainly what has been done in this country; but the progress abroad is also dealt with, as showing the great advance made by other nations. The principal operations in which squadrons and single ships have engaged during this period are briefly described, to demonstrate certain phases of naval warfare connected with modern armaments.

It was difficult to compress such a vast subject into a single volume of moderate dimensions, and I am conscious of many defects in the accomplishment of the task, for which indulgence is pleaded. No effort has been made to give minute technical details, but rather to place before the reader a general review of the whole subject.

I have received cordial assistance from many quarters. For the chapter on steam propulsion I am indebted to Mr R. C. Oldknow, late Fleet Engineer, Royal Navy, whose ability to deal with the subject will be fully recognised. In this portion Messrs Maudslay, Sons & Field afforded valuable information, with drawings of past and present marine engines.

To Lord Brassey my thanks are due for permitting me to reproduce some of the illustrations in Volume I. of his British Navy. Sir William Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. placed at my disposal several interesting pictures connected with the vessels and armament constructed at Elswick.

I desire also to thank the Proprietors of the Engineer for allowing me to utilise matter which has appeared in the pages of that journal.

Messrs Thornycroft, Yarrow, J. & G. Thomson, and Mr Mackrow of the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company, have most liberally aided my efforts.

Many of the illustrations are from photographs taken by Mr West of Southsea, whose skill in marine photography is well known.

In dealing with the navy prior to the general adoption of steam propulsion, I have received valuable assistance from distinguished officers who were serving at that period, and to whom my best thanks are now tendered.


23 Cranley Gardens, S.W.
October 1891.