HC Deb 09 March 1855 vol 137 cc351-2

said, he wished to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government upon a subject to which he had the other evening directed the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The right hon. Baronet had stated upon that occasion that offers had been made to the Government for the formation of volunteer rifle corps, but that those offers had been refused. He (Mr. Williams) was anxious to know what were the grounds of that refusal. He could himself see no objection to the formation of those corps, and he believed that, in case of invasion, they would be found extremely useful.


said, that the country had great reason to complain of the delay evinced by the Government in adopting fresh improvements. The fact was, however, that it was part of the "system." We were overwhelmed with Boards, when if the matter rested with one man it would be immediately arranged. The Government had for once broken through the "system" at Woolwich, and had placed a man there of great ability and aptitude, who had already saved the country at least 16,000l. or 20,000l. If a matter of this sort rested with Captain Boxer, he believed that it would be settled in a very short time.


said, that in reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth he had to state that when he was at the Home Office he received from different parts of the country a great many offers to form these corps. He had to consider, first, whether there would not be a certain amount of expense attending their formation, and in the next place whether any possible utility was to be expected from them. There was no doubt that a certain amount of expense would attend their formation; and it appeared to him that they could be of no earthly use. The offers were chiefly from inland places. We were under no fear of an invasion, and if we were he did not think that volunteer corps of this kind would be of any practical service whatever. They would be composed of tradesmen and persons in business, persons occupied in the en- gagements of civil life, who could not absent themselves from their residences without interfering with the industrial and commercial arrangements of the country, and who by their habits and constitution were not at all fitted to encounter the exposure and the difficulties of a campaign to which they would be exposed if they were ordered to march to the coast. If they had to bivouac out, and to expose themselves as troops on service must do, it was evident that in the course of a week the greater part of them would be in the hospital instead of in the field. If we anticipated an attack upon our coast, there might be use for these corps in our seaport towns; but as that was not the case it did not appear to him that it would be of any use to accept the offers of these most zealous individuals, to the public spirit which actuated whom he must, in declining their offers, do justice.


said, that in reverting to the case of breech-loading guns, all the specimens he had seen had one great drawback, namely, an escape of gas from the breech. At the time he was connected with the Committee on Small Arms, no weapon had been invented which overcame this difficulty. He should like to see this gun of Mr. Sharpe's fired not 500, but 2,000 times, in order to see if by that time the double action was not so shaken as to admit an escape of gas.


said that in July or August, Sharpe's carbine arrived in this country, and was submitted to the Select Committee at Woolwich. That Committee made a very favourable report of it, as also of two or three other descriptions of breech-loading guns. All the guns referred to had been sent to Hythe for trial, and those trials had, he believed, now been completed, and in a very short time the best description would have been selected.