Admiral Sir Percy Scott

[Admiral Sir Percy Scott]

Contributed by Captain Vernon Howland, RCN (ret'd).

Percy Scott has been sometimes called, in the Royal Navy, "the father of modern gunnery". In April 1904 he was appointed Captain of HMS Excellent, the Gunnery School at Whale Island, Portmouth. He devised a device to teach faster loading (the loading tray), more accurate sighting (the "dotter" and the deflection teacher) and was chiefly responsible for a marked improvement in the gunnery of the fleet. In 1912 he introduced director firing from a centralized position in the ship. He was a controversial man, not loved by all, but strongly supported by Admiral "Jackie" Fisher who was First Sea Lord 1904-1910.

While Captain of HMS Terrible, then enroute to the China Station, he was diverted to Durban to lend assistance to the army in the Boer War. He designed makeshift gun carriages for some of the ship's guns so they could be employed ashore. These comprised 1 6" on wheels, 8 4.7" on wheels, 5 4.7" on platforms, 1 4.7" and 2 searchlights on railway flatcars, 26 12 pounders on field mountings. All the former were manned by men from his ship. Some of these guns have been credited with the relief of Ladysmith.

Due to the proximity of Boer forces to Durban in the autumn of 1899 martial law was proclaimed and Scott was appointed military commandant, a position he enjoyed until March 1900. On 27 March 1900 Terrible sailed for China.

Scott was also instrumental in developoing other equipment for the fleet such as the masthead flashing lamp (and possibly the masthead semaphore) and the shutter "for the emission of signs" to put on the searchlights so they could be used to send morse code.

His most notorious clash with authority occurred in 1907 when he was RA1CS in Good Hope. The Channel Fleet was at Portland and Lord Charles Beresford was the C-in-C. He made a signal that the annual gunnery exercises were suspended to that they could all "paint ship" for a visit by the German Emperor. Scott asked if one of his cruisers, Roxburgh could complete her firings. This was not approved so Scott signalled to Roxburgh "Since paintwork seems to be more in demand than gunnery you had better come in and make yourself pretty". This was read by the Fleet Flagship and a most unholy row ensued in which the C-in-C asked the Admiralty to order Scott to strike his flag. This of course was not approved as Fisher was First Sea Lord.

The following verse, author unknown, was well-known when Captain Howland was serving in the Royal Canadian Navy.

A Terrible Creed

I belive in Percy Scott, Captain ubiquitous, Lord of Humility, Maker of gun-carriages,
And of all things advertised and not advertised
And in the Terrible's, the heroes unlimited, the breakers of records,
And in one Dotter, invention of one Captain, the only begotten son of modesty, by whom most things are puffed;
Who, for the navy and our salvation, came down from Whale Island and was self-incarnated reformer of evils,
And was made Captain, and was persecuted under the Admiralty.
Captain of the Scylla, Captain of the Terrible, Percy Scott of Percy Scott, born not made, being one with himself and forever with the Daily Mail.
Saviour of Ladysmith, he suffered at Durban and was insufficiently rewarded.
And the next time he arose in China to slay Boxers according to the papers;
And in the fourth year he returned to Portsmouth,
And he ascended unto Balmoral and sitteth on the right hand of the King;
And he shall be heard of again, with glory belated, to teach self-sepreciation to a nation whose adulation shall have no end.
And I believe in the Deflection-Teacher, the Lord and Giver of Points, who proceedeth from the Scylla and the Terrible, who with the Terrible's together is feted and glorified, who spake by the newpapers;
And I belive in one Loading-Tray, the key for Selection;
I confess to one Flashing-Lamp, electro-mechanical, light of lights, very flash of very flash;
I acknowledge one shutter form the emission of signs,
And I look for the Paying-off of the Terrible and the distribution of more honours to come.

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Last Updated: 10 February, 1999.