HC Deb 10 August 1857 vol 147 cc1292-5

Order for Committee (Supply) read.


said, he rose to put a question to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War upon a matter of great interest to many gallant officers, who had suffered much injustice by the operation of the Royal Warrant of the 6th of October, 1854. All officers who before the date of the warrant had obtained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel had done so upon the express understanding that their future promotion should be by seniority, and that no officer should be promoted over their heads, except under certain special circumstances. So far from that understanding being adhered to, the senior officer who was affected by the Royal Warrant had seen no less than fifty-four officers pass over his head, and those subsequently promoted had been in like manner superseded by numbers varying from sixty-four downwards. The House would find the whole case clearly and temperately stated in a pamphlet written by Colonel the Hon. J. Lindsay, late a Member of that House. His hon. and gallant Friend was prepared to bring forward the subject in the last Session of Parliament, but had been prevented by the sudden dissolution, and, having unfortunately failed to obtain his re-election, had requested him (General Peel) to bring the matter under the consideration of the House. He had such an opinion of the merits of the case, and such confidence in the sense of justice possessed by those who administered the affairs of the army, that he had great hopes of receiving a satisfactory answer. He would, therefore, conclude by asking the Under Secretary for War, If the attention of the Military Authorities has been directed to the case of certain Lieutenant Colonels of the Army who have been passed over and superseded under the provisions of a Royal Warrant of the 6th day of October, 1854, their commissions as Lieutenant Colonel being dated before that warrant was issued; and whether it is intended to restore these Officers to the relative position of which they have been deprived by its retrospective action?


said, that no doubt the warrant in its practical effect was very unfair towards the Lieutenant Colonels. It displaced many officers who had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel for distinguished services, and superseded them by officers who had not so distinguished themselves, but had merely served their regulation six years with their regiments, in the usual routine. They had heard a great deal lately about compensation to proctors and others, but this was not a case for compensation, but a question of right and justice, seeing that these gentlemen had been deprived of their position by a direct act of the Government, and by no fault of their own. Common justice required that in any Order of Council exceptions should be made in favour of those who attained their rank before it took effect. No fewer than from sixty to eighty officers, many of whom were promoted for distinguished services in the field, had been passed over in this way. He trusted that the Government would not only take this case into their favourable consideration, but also into their just consideration, for it was merely a question of justice, and not of favour.


said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary for War a question upon another subject, and which he could answer at the same time with that of the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon. It would be in the recollection of everybody that the hon. Baronet greatly won upon the House the other night by a statement he made as to the manner in which our soldiers were prepared when they got to India to meet the exigencies of the climate. Among other things he stated that our troops were provided with cotton covers for their helmets and foraging caps. Now, in that day's Times there was a distinct denial of that statement. They were told in The Times—and the information was printed in the largest type employed on that paper, in order, no doubt, to draw public attention to it—that the information given by the hon. Baronet was not correct, that no such cotton covers had been issued to our troops, and that they were going to India in heavy marching order. Now, he wished to know whether it was true that the men had not received, as the hon. Baronet had stated they had, coverings for their helmets and foraging caps; and, if not true, on whose authority the statement was made to the House. Of course, he could not for a moment suppose that the hon. Baronet made a statement which he did not believe, and he (Mr. Roebuck) put the question now in order that, if not correct, it should be brought home to the man who communicated it to the hon. Baronet.


said, he had to state, in reply to the gallant General the Member for Huntingdon, that the warrant to which he had referred had received and was now receiving the careful attention of his noble Friend at the head of the War Department, and His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief. They were fully aware that in practice that warrant had not answered the expectations formed of it. It would be recollected, however, that it was framed on the recommendation of at Royal Commission, which was appointed to consider the subject, and that any steps to be taken regarding it must be adopted with extreme care, especially as the matter involved calculations of the most minute and difficult character, in order that full justice might be done. He was unable to say what precise steps would be taken to remedy the evils complained of, but he could assure the hon. and gallant Officer that the attention of the military authorities was earnestly directed to the subject. In answer to the inquiry put by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield he had to state that he also had observed the paragraph to which the hon. and learned Gentleman alluded. He found on inquiry that the state of the case was this:—The troops sent out to China had received cap covers, or materials for making them. The cavalry, artillery, and engineers sent to India took with them cap and helmet covers made up; but the infantry now proceeding to India did not take with them cap covers. The material, however, would be provided for them in India, and he was informed there would be no difficulty in getting any amount of material in the shortest possible period. Orders had been sent out by overland that no time should be lost in preparing the cap covers, so that they might be ready for the troops when they arrived.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."