HC Deb 31 May 1860 vol 158 cc1812-4

in calling attention to the condition of the Generals and Commanding Officers of the Ordnance Corps, said, that it would be in the recollection of the House that in April, 1858, an Address was voted to Her Majesty praying that the entrance in the Ordnance Corps should be by competition, according to the principle adopted in 1855. He believed the object of the House in agreeing to that Address was, that the best men the country could supply should come forward and compete for these appointments; and he believed that was also the intention of Her Majesty when she signed the Warrant. But unfortunately for the young men who had successfully competed, they found that it led to nothing. The Ordnance officers complained that they did not obtain those commands to which they considered themselves entitled. There were some ill-natured people who said it was because the officers of the Ordnance corps consisted wholly of younger sons and other nobodies, of whom nobody cared what became of them. But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon, when he was at the War Office, said the real cause was the old age to which the officers of those corps attained before they became General officers. He would not go into the question how that was to be remedied now; but he thought it right to call the attention of the House to the way in which that difficulty was overcome when it was encountered among the officers of the Line. He found that when the War Office could not find a General officer in the Line of sufficient active habits to undertake a command it was their practice to take a colonel, and give him local rank as brigadier general for the purpose. He found in the Army List of last month acting in this way Colonel Cuningham, Colonel John Lawrenson, Trollope, and several others whom he might name. The officers of the Ordnance corps, therefore, were apt to think that the ill-natured people were right after all, and I that it was owing to their want of interest that they did not obtain those commands to which they were entitled. See how differently matters were managed in the Ordnance from the Line. For instance, he might refer to Aldershot, which he believed was instituted for the instruction of officers as well as of men; yet there he found an Artillery force of 2,190 men, with 1,200 horses and 60 guns — an Artillery force sufficient for an army of 30,000 men— under the command of a colonel of Artillery who was not even a brigadier. In the Southeastern district a colonel commanded 2,300 men; in the South Western a colonel commanded 3,000 men; in the Western a colonel commanded 1,500 men; and in Ireland a colonel commanded 2,500 men. Now, he appealed to any one whether the rank of brigadier ought not to be given with such commands as these. The matter was last brought before the House by his gallant and lamented Friend the late Captain Leicester Vernon in 1856, and he was replied to by the noble Lord who was then, as now, at the head of the Government, who assured the gallant Officer that the question he had brought forward was one of great importance and that it should receive due attention at the hands of the Government. What attention the Government had given it he did not know; but the matter remained exactly as it was. Now, a command was to an officer of the army what a judgeship was to the Bar or a bishopric to the Church—a means of stimulating them to an active discharge of their duty; and if these inducements were not held out to the officers of the Ord- nance corps in common with others, they could not expect their duties should be done with the same spirit that it was al-always desirable Her Majesty's officers should show. He believed this was an entirely financial question; the difficulty lay in the small expense between the pay of a colonel and a brigadier; but that difference was really so small, while the encouragement it would afford to the Ordnance officers was so great, that if the right hon. Secretary could hold out any hope to the service that it would be conceded to them, it would be of the greatest public advantage.