Admiral Sir Percy Scott
Sometimes called “The Father of modern gunnery” in the Royal Navy, Percy Scott came to public notice in 1900 when Captain of HMS Terrible. Diverted to Durban to assist the hard pressed army in the Boer war, he designed makeshift gun carriages to move some of the guns from his ship overland, and crewed by men from Terrible to raise the siege of Ladysmith.
Appointed Captain of HMS Excellent, the shore based gunnery school at Portsmouth, he devised a faster method of loading as well as improved sighting and the system of centralized gunnery control that soon became standard in warships of the world’s navies.
A man with little patience for red tape and the fripperies of naval etiquette loved by some of his seniors, he inevitably clashed with authority. In 1907 he excelled himself. His Commander in Chief, Lord Charles Beresford, ordered the Channel Fleet to break off the annual gunnery exercise to “paint ship” in preparation for a visit from the German Kaiser. Sir Percy asked if one of his cruisers, HMS Roxburgh could complete her shoot, and when this request was refused by Beresford he signalled, “Since paintwork is more in demand than gunnery, you had better come in and make yourself pretty”. The ensuing row made headlines and reached all the way to Parliament.
He retired in 1909 but was called back to re organize the London gun defences. He promptly advocated the aeroplane as the best means of defeating the Zeppelins. Despite Will Turner’s reservations, Percy Scott was an inspired choice for the job.