HC Deb 01 June 1860 vol 158 cc1911-6

said, he wished to call the attention of the Secretary for War to the manner in which recruiting sergeants pursued their avocations. It was said that the British Army was an army of volunteers, but it was the common practice of the persons who were employed as recruiting sergeants to entrap young boys under age and unfit for the service, and under the influence of liquors induce them to enlist. He was acquainted with a case in which one of those persons, who were perpetually wandering about the streets of the Metropolis for the purpose of snapping up volunteers for the army, drugged a youth under sixteen years of age, and induced him to give a false name to the authorities before whom he went to have his enlistment properly attested. The youth was dismissed by the examining surgeon as unfit for the army Within a few days after, he believed, the same person induced the poor child to submit himself at another depôt for examination, and, he believed, the same surgeon who, six or seven days previously, rejected him as unfit, certified that he was fit for service in the army. He wished to know whether this system of entrapping and drugging youths had the sanction of the Horse Guards and was pursued by all recruiting officers, and whether the army was composed of persons who had been caught by these underhand means. "Would the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that children who wandered from their parents should not be entrapped into the army by persons who had the sanction of Her Majesty's principal Officers of State?


said, he had to state, in answer to the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Willoughby), that not only had he no objection to lay an Estimate of the expenses of the War with China on the table, but it would be his duty to do so. It would be necessary to bring forward such an Estimate, as it would be obviously impossible to meet the expenses of the war in which we were unfortunately involved with China without a Parliamentary Vote.

With regard to the question of the hon. and gallant Officer (Major Knox), the facts of the case were these:—Formerly the command of the Brigade of Guards was taken in turns by the field officers in waiting—namely, by the Lieutenant-Colonels of each of the three regiments. That course, no doubt, produced bad results. There was a constant change of hands, and along with it often a change of system. It was represented by Sir Colin Campbell (now Lord Clyde), when Inspector of Infantry, that the officer in command had so little acquaintance with the interior economy of the Guards, that, though he could inspect them on parade, he was not acquainted with their interior financial arrangements, which, as was well known, differed in many respects from other regiments. Therefore, an officer was appointed to command permanently the Brigade, which the House knew was much larger than Brigades usually were commanded by Brigadiers in England. He believed that was the state of the case.


said, he rose to explain that the right hon. Gentleman was not quite accurate in his statement. Lord Panmure when at the War Office divided the whole army into brigades, the Guards being constituted a brigade under the command of a brigadier. Sir Frederick Love, who was now the Inspector of Infantry, was the inspector of the troops over the whole country, and he had nothing to do with the internal economy of the regiments.


said, he apprehended that the duty of the Inspector General of Infantry was to inspect every portion of the infantry of the British army. [Colonel KNOX intimated that he never inspected the Guards] No, but he could; and, in the same way the Inspector of Cavalry had been sent to inspect the Guards. The opinion of Lord Clyde was that, from the peculiar organization of the Guards, there ought to be a Guards' officer to inspect them, and that arrangement was made. What might be done in future he was not prepared to say. It was a subject that must come under the consideration of the military authorities.

The gallant Officer behind him (Colonel Sykes) complained that last night the Report made by the three civilian officers on the Colonial Military Expenditure had been received by the Government in a very unfriendly spirit. The hon. and gallant Member was not present in the House when he alluded to the subject, and was quite mistaken in supposing that he had mentioned the Report in an unfriendly spirit. He had the highest opinion of the talent of Mr. Godley, who had, he thought, contributed a very valuable paper to the public documents. It had been alleged against the Report of the Committee that it laid down a theoretical principle without any exceptions, but he was not at all certain that this was a departure from the duty of such a Committee, since it was for the Government to consider bow far they should apply those principles, and what exceptions should be taken. It was, as he had said, a valuable paper, but there was also much that was valuable in the exceptions taken to that Report by Mr. Elliot, but he should be the last man to undervalue the labours of Mr. Godley. He would not again enter into the case of the officers who retired on half-pay under the general order of 1826. He held the opinion he expressed the previous night, that there were two parties to be considered in the matter. They must look at the terms of the engagement, and he could not read them as the hon. and gallant Gentleman did. If he so read them, he would not hesitate for a moment to acknowledge the bargain, however improvident it might have been. He could not understand that an officer going on half-pay should have, not only all the advantages of full pay, but also advantages which he would not have it he had remained on full pay.

With regard to the last question put by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Sheridan), it was one of very great difficulty. There was no doubt that, although the days of Sergeant Kite were gone by, yet that in many eases young men, in thoughtless and heedless moments, when they were overcome by liquor, entered into engagements which they afterwards repented of. The same thing happened among all classes; but people did not instantly break their bargains. The apprentice, for example, might dislike his trade, and change his mind. Youth was fickle. It resolved hastily, and repented at leisure. Still, they forced the apprentice to abide by the articles of his apprenticeship, and in the same way they forced the soldier, when he had entered, to abide by the terms of his attestation. Whenever a clear case was made out that fraud had been practised he thought it his duty to bring the matter before the Commander-in-Chief. There was a certain sum, the payment of which released a soldier from his engagement, if his regiment was not much below its number. But if, on the other hand, the regiment was much below its complement, and was about to go upon foreign service, then every man was necessarily held to his bargain, for the good of the service and the good of the State. But if there were frauds—and he durst say that on the part of recruiting officers frauds were occasionally committed—there were also frauds on the other side. The best course to be taken in every case where a young man had enlisted with a declaration that he was of a greater ago than was really the fact was to prosecute the party for that false declaration. The man who told a lie, too, in the first instance might tell it in the second. In one or two cases certificates of birth had been produced before the Adjutant-general, and had been followed by the release of the soldier, when it afterwards turned out that the certificate of birth belonged to a different person. It was extremely difficult to ascertain the identity of a person from a piece of parchment brought from a distant part of the country. It was the duty of the military authorities to release men when it could be proved they had been enlisted under false pretences; but, on the other hand, persons who had made false declarations ought to be punished. At the same time when a man merely changed his mind there was no sufficient reason why he should not be held to his bargain, if the exigencies of the service required it.


said, that the young man to whom he referred was both under age and under size. He should take an early opportunity of bringing the case under the notice of the House.


said, that the principal ground which the hon. Member for Dudley had for complaint was that a person had been enlisted under the proper age. The hon. Gentleman could not be aware of the difficulty of ascertaining the ago of recruits. A rule existed that no youth's service should begin to count until he arrived at the age of eighteen. But this regulation was insufficient to check the practice of false declarations of age. The recruiting sergeant had no means of knowing a youth's age, and if a young man appeared to be eighteen, but was only seventeen, how could the sergeant know that he was under age?


said, that no man was attested until twenty-hours after he was enlisted, and he went for that purpose publicly before a magistrate. He would venture to speak from his own experience, and he believed that such cases as had been described could not occur. He did not believe a magistrate in the country could be found who would attest a person under the circumstances which had been detailed.


said, he was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to give an estimate of the China war. He confessed, however, he did not know on what elements the right hon. Gentleman could frame that estimate. He might give an estimate for the armaments, the cost of transports, and the ammunition; but how he could give an estimate of the cost of the war he could not understand. He hoped he would give a large lump sum and a wide margin. The right hon. Gentleman said that the former system of the field officer in waiting being in command of the brigade had been followed by bad results. He would rather say that the present system had given better results. No troops were in a state of better discipline or bad rendered more gallant services than the Guards. He thought the Guards were the finest troops in the world. He would admit, however, that the frequent change of commanding officers did sometimes give unfortunate results. With regard to the complaint made by the hon. Member (Mr. H. B. Sheridan), being an old officer, and having had some thousands of recruits brought under his notice, he did not remember a single instance of a man complaining of having been entrapped into the service. Nor did he think that the practice of drugging was ever had recourse to.


observed that a recruit could within twenty-four hours after his enlistment, if he desired, obtain his release on the payment of a small fine, called the "smart money," and not exceeding £1. It was utterly erroneous to suppose that men were enlisted in a drunken or unconscious state.


said, he did not think that a case had been made out for the continuance of an Inspector General of the brigade of Guards. The office had only been created about four years, and it was understood at the time that it was created for a certain officer. Those Guards ought to be the most disciplined troops in the world. [Colonel LINDSAY: So they are.] So they ought to be. But there was no reason why they should not be inspected by the same officer as the regiments of the Line. To show how the Guards were favoured above the Line, he would mention that out of the officers who entered the army from the 1st of January, 1841, to 1st of January, 1849, seven battalions of Foot Guards created 43 Lieutenant-colonels, while 164 battalions of the Line created only 28 Lieutenant-Colonels.

Motion agreed to.