HC Deb 18 June 1858 vol 151 cc11-4

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for War if it was his intention to recommend the disembodiment of any additional regiments of Militia, and if he will inform the House on what principle the sixteen regiments lately disembodied were selected. He should not have been induced to make the inquiry had the Secretary for War given a decided answer to the question put a short time ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier.) That hon. and gallant Gentleman had asked whether it was intended to replace the regiments sent to India by embodying an equal number of militia regiments. No decided answer was given; and he was rather surprised that his hon. and gallant Friend had not followed up his question. However, he wished now to follow it up with reference to his own regiment, the Roscommon Militia, which, he believed, had not been fairly treated. Every officer and man of that regiment had volunteered to serve in India or China, and when he wrote to communicate that offer to the War Office the only answer he received was in the cold official style, informing him that the offer had been sent to the Horse Guards. A short time afterwards he heard from the Horse Guards that he ought to have made the offer to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He wrote accordingly to the Lord Lieutenant, and received a reply thanking the regiment for the offer, and that was all he had heard of the matter. The regiment was then at Roscommon; shortly afterwards it was sent to Aldershot, and after remaining there a short time it was ordered to Portsmouth where its efficiency had elicited the praise of Lord William Paulett. While there, orders were issued for the regiment to hold itself in readiness to proceed to Ireland, as it had been included in the sixteen regiments selected for disembodiment. The reason given was that it had not furnished its quota of recruits to the regular army; but that was simply because no opportunity had up to that time been afforded to it for volunteering. When an opportunity was at length afforded them they availed themselves of it, and 136 men were accepted. He imputed no blame to the right lion, and gallant Officer opposite, but he complained of the system. If he had had only one authority to deal with he could have satisfied it of the justice of his claim, but the system under which persons were bandied about from one authority to another was calculated to excite the greatest dissatisfaction. He could not but express his fears that if the militia regiments were dealt with in this manner, considerable difficulty would be experienced in inducing the men to come forward upon future oc- casions, besides occasioning a vast amount of dissatisfaction amongst the officers.


said, that the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend were somewhat different from the notice he had put upon the paper, which was merely an inquiry as to whether the Government intended to disembody any more regiments of militia. His hon. and gallant Friend also referred to a question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) the other evening, as to whether it was the intention of the Government to embody any more regiments. He would advert to both these questions. In the first place, it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government either to embody or to disembody more militia regiments at present. The only reason why he did not answer the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark at the time was, that his question was based upon a misunderstanding of what was contemplated for India. There was no additional force of 10,000 men going out to India, and therefore there was no necessity for embodying ten more militia regiments to replace them. The drafts that were about to be sent out were the usual monthly drafts, which were larger than usual this month, because the drafts for last month were delayed till now, that the recruits might not arrive in India in the middle of the hot season. As to the principle on which the sixteen militia regiments were disembodied, he had often explained it to the House. He could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that this was no case of divided responsibility between the Horse Guards and the War Office. It was perfectly and completely within his power as Secretary for War to have selected the regiments for disembodiment in the most arbitrary manner, but instead of that he had laid down the principle that those regiments which had given a certain number of recruits to the line by a fixed date, and still remained efficient, were first to be retained; afterwards, those that had given the number nearest approaching to that standard and still remained efficient. He, therefore, sent to the Horse Guards for a return of the recruits received from the different militia regiments up to the day agreed upon, and all the responsibility that rested upon the Horse Guards in relation to the matter was for the accuracy of this return. He would be the last to deny the great services of the Roscommon or any other militia regiment, but he had rigidly adhered to his rule, and he must add that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would refer to the return he had alluded to, he would find that the Roscommon had given the smallest number of recruits to the line of all the militia regiments.