HC Deb 26 July 1854 vol 135 cc784-6

said, he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, what regulations had been made for the payment of the wages due to the representatives of the officers and seamen of Her Majesty's ships Erebus and Terror? He understood that, although the engagement with respect to double pay had been adhered to, the representatives of the officers who had been promoted to higher ranks, after the ships left England, were only to receive the pay of the ranks which they respectively held at the time of their going out. He thought that the wages of those officers should be those of the ranks to which they had been raised, and he could not avoid expressing an opinion that there had been something like sharp practice in reference to the time to which the wages were to be paid—the 31st of March.


said, he was quite sure that the House and the country would be most anxious that the case of the representatives of the officers and seamen who had been lost in the Erebus and Terror should be dealt with with every consideration for their just claims; and he had been somewhat grieved to hear the hon. and gallant Officer say that he thought there had been some sharp practice. [Sir G. PECHELL: I said with reference to the 31st of March.] Well, with reference to the 31st of March. What were the facts of the case? The officers and crews of the Erebus and Terror were last heard of in July, 1845; and for nine years from that time double pay bad been allowed to their representatives—that was to say, from July, 1845, to March, 1854, those representatives had been entitled, upon producing, on the part of commissioned officers, letters of probate or of administration, to double pay up to that time, subject only, in their case, to the single condition that they should give a bond of indemnity to the public. This bond had been drawn by Mr. Justice Crowder when the Admiralty had the advantage of his assistance as their law officer, and which was intended to indemnify the public in case those officers should appear; for, however distant the time might be, in case they should ever return, the money, of course, would be due to them. The representatives of the petty officers and seamen had also received double pay up to the same time, but without being put to the expense of probate, and without entering into a bond. The number of commissioned officers in the two ships was twenty- four, and of the other classes 102; and of these, nineteen representatives of commissioned officers, and eighty-three representatives of petty officers and seamen, had already received the full amount which was due to those whom they represented. A question had been raised respecting the effects of such of the officers as had been promoted during the period of their absence, and whether the pay of their higher rank might be claimed by the representatives. They were few in number, and their case was strictly regulated by the 9th article, chap. 10, of the Queen's Regulations, which stated that,— If an officer should be promoted by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty while serving, but not appointed to a ship in commission, he should from the date of his promotion be allowed the half-pay of the higher rank whenever it exceeded the full pay of the lower rank. The payments had been calculated in conformity with that article, and he thought they had been properly so calculated, especially when it was considered that they were dealing, not with the officers themselves who had been promoted, and who had rendered the service for which that promotion had been given; and if they should happily ever return, it might be open to consideration whether in their favour the strict rule should not be relaxed; but in the meantime, and as between the public and their representatives, the Admiralty had not hesitated to apply the rule as they found it.


said, he thought his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir G. Pechell) could not do better than leave the matter in the hands of the Admiralty; but he trusted that the right hon. Baronet would reconsider the claims of the representatives of that class of the officers to which he had last referred, for he could not believe that the regulation he had read could have been intended to apply to the case of ships locked up in the ice, as these had been, so as to render it impossible for the officers promoted to come home and claim the benefit of their promotion.


said, it was his conviction that the right hon. Baronet would not stint the representatives of these gallant officers and seamen of their fair remuneration, and that they might rely on the indulgent consideration of the House of Commons for any appeal that might be made on behalf of persons who had been exposed to such great sacrifices.