HC Deb 11 June 1861 vol 163 cc938-44

said, that he rose to move the Resolution of which he had a notice on the paper to address Her Majesty to take into consideration the present position of officers promoted to the rank of colonel for distinguished service in the field in 1855 and 1856; but as Her Majesty's Government had agreed to the address, and intended to appoint an official Committee, it was only necessary for him to show that he had brought forward a case deserving the attention of the House. He did not give notice to move for a Commission, because there had been two Royal Commissions in 1854 and 1858, and he thought the subject was so well understood that no further inquiry by those means was necessary. The officers whose claims he advocated were the most distinguished of their rank during the Crimean war. They obtained that rank in 1855 and 1856. On the 28th of November, 1854, a new system was introduced, by which it was settled that no officer should rise to the rank of colonel except by serving three years in command of a regiment. While the system was being carried out in the following two or three years, these officers were promoted to the rank of colonel for distinguished service in the Crimea, and they fell into their places according to the dates at which they were promoted. But the effect of the rule of November, 1854, was that it applied to a great mass of distinguished lieutenant colonels who obtained their rank previously. It was at the time considered unjust, and during the next three years it became so intolerable that several Motions having been made in the House on the subject, Her Majesty's Government appointed a Royal Commission for the purpose of investigating the case of those officers and other matters. The Commissioners acknowledged the injustice done to the superseded lieutenant colonels, and advised that they should be replaced in their former rotation in the list. The injury done to the distinguished service officers was by the mode in which the superseded lieutenant colonels were reinstated. They were reinstated by antedating their commissions before November, 1854. There was no necessity for antedating them. It might have been done in another form, but it was done, and Lord Herbert informed him that during the consideration of the Report of the Commissioners of 1858 the claims of the distinguished service officers, who were a small body compared to the whole mass of officers, were overlooked. Having thus stated the means by which these distinguished service officers had been made to forfeit the position which they had enjoyed at the time they were promoted for those services, it would be sufficient to show to what extent they had been injured. They were affected in two ways—first, in the position which they held with regard to the chance of rising to the rank of general; and second in the position which they held with regard to the seniority and priority for command. The first case he would notice was that of Sir Thomas Troubridge, who was one of the aides-de-camp when Her Majesty distributed the first medals granted for the Crimean war. That gallant officer lost eighty-five steps—that was to say, he was eighty-five steps further removed from promotion to the rank of general. He would name three or four officers who obtained rank for their services in the Crimea, and had been serving in India, and who had since lost their position:—Colonel Percy Herbert, Colonel Edwards, the Earl of Longford, Lieutenant David Wood, and Lieutenant George Barker. At the close, of the Indian mutiny, after serving in two wars, they found themselves not one whit better off than if there had been no war at all. Colonel Lake, who assisted Sir Fenwick Williams in the defence of Ears, was promoted in September, 1856, and he had lost fifty-six steps in proximity to the position of general. With regard to the second division of the inquiry, as to command, Colonels Gordon and Chapman had lost nine steps in their own service, and 104 steps in the collective service. If an army were in the field the Commander-in-Chief had detached commands to give, on which officers would serve; and, therefore, for such commands Colonels Gordon and Chapman found themselves 104 further off than they would have been had they remained in their former position. That was entirely separate from the principle of selection, because if the senior officer was killed and the second in command was at the top of the list he would naturally succeed to the command. He did not wish to criticise the conduct of any of the officials concerned. It was well known that the Government had simply carried out the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners of 1858, and Lord Herbert said the case of these distinguished service officers was overlooked. If they were reinstated in their former position, the natural result would be to alter the position of other officers, and some who had gone above would have again to come below them. He regretted it, but their case would also come before the Committee which the Secretary of State intended to form, and their interests would receive fair consideration. He would not detain the House further; but, with the conviction that the case would receive that attention which Her Majesty's Government had promised to give it, he would move,—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the present position of the Officers promoted to the rank of Colonel for distinguished service in the field during the War in the East in 1855 and 1856, who, when the List of Colonels was revised in 1858, were unfortunately overlooked in the recommendations of the Royal Commission of that year, by which their prospects in the Service have been seriously injured.


said, the hon. and gallant General was quite correct in stating that the Government had assented to the Address which he had moved, and that it was the intention of the noble Lord at the head of the War Department, in conjunction with His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, to appoint a Committee to consider the position of those officers who were promoted to the rank of colonel for distinguished services in the field during the Crimean war. Under these circumstances it would be obviously inexpedient to discuss the question at that moment, or enter into any detail as to the circumstances which had placed them in their existing position. The hon. and gallant Member had also stated quite correctly that the present position of those officers depended upon the Reports of two Royal Commissions, and that no blame could be laid on the administration of the army in the matter. He was sure that no one would be more willing than His Royal Highness to recognize the merits of the officers in question; and it would be observed that seven or eight of them were either now employed or had been very recently employed in the Horse Guards. He trusted that, although the question had, through ante dated and post-dated commissions, been encumbered by technical difficulties of too complicated a character to be readily explained, some mode might be found of meeting the case.


said, he could not but complain of the unfortunate position in which military men were placed by the vacillation of the War Office. An ex post facto order had deprived Indian officers, except under certain conditions, of the brevet rank of colonel to which they were entitled by a former arrangement. A Royal Commission had recommended that these officers should be replaced in the position from which they had unjustly been removed; but, owing to the irregular promotions of the War Office, the matter could not be set right except by doing injustice either to one set of officers or to another. Again it had been the rule that an officer should be entitled to half-pay after twenty-one years' service, but a recent order had fixed the necessary period of service at twenty-five years. The consequence was that many officers who had retired as entitled to half-pay were liable to be called upon to serve the additional period. In conclusion, he wished to ask the hon. Under Secretary when the account of the Reserve Fund which had been promised would be submitted to the House?


(Coventry) said, he was glad that his hon. Friend had acceded to the Motion, though he had never seen on the part of the noble Lord at the head of the War Office, or on the part of the Commander-in-Chief, any disposition to act otherwise than with the greatest liberality and fairness in the matter of promotion to all branches of the service. The Commission of 1854 recommended that no officer should be promoted to the rank of colonel until after he had seen three years of effective service; that recommendation was adopted by the military authorities. In carrying it into effect certain officers complained that they had been omitted, having a right to be included in the list of promotions, and in consequence of that complaint a second Commission was appointed in 1858. That Commission reported that these officers had reason to complain, and that justice ought to be done them by placing them in the position they would have been in if they had not been so unjustly treated. The position of the officers the hon. and gallant General had brought before the House was this:—They were promoted between the promotion of the lieutenant colonels originally promoted, and those whose complaints were referred to the Commission. Then the question arose whether the promotion of the latter officers was rather a matter of favour than a matter of right and justice, and in either case there was a difficulty. These alterations could not be made without causing some complaint, and he thought it right that when a complaint arose it should be dealt with in the way proposed by his hon. Friend. While he was speaking on the subject he would mention a case of another kind, which he thought ought to be brought before the House. Nearly thirty years ago a Committee of that House, on which the noble Member for the City (Lord John Russell), the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), and Sir Robert Peel sat, recommended that no staff appointments should be held by any officer for more than five years. About twenty-five years after the Committee made that recommendation it was adopted by his noble Friend at the head of the War Office, but Sir Edward Lugard had been taken from the category of officers on the staff and placed as permanent Under Secretary in the War Office. There could not be a better officer selected than Sir Edward Lugard, but he had the greatest objection to that appointment, because it was a deviation from the rule.


said, he could not but express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have brought forward such a complaint. He must have forgotten that Sir E. Lugard was taken from half-pay and not from the staff. If it was a regulation that a staff officer should only only serve five years, why, he asked, was that regulation to be confined to the army and navy officers, why should it not be applied to civilians? The name of Sir B. Lugard must be known to every one from his gallant services; he was chief of the staff during the whole of the war under Lord Gough; he went out as chief of the staff to the Persian war; and greatly distinguished himself in the Indian mutiny; and if that did not entitle an officer to all the rewards which could be bestowed upon him he did not know what would.


said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellis) had introduced a question quite foreign to the Motion before the House, namely, whether a rule that officers who had staff appointments should only hold them for five years had been violated, and he took occasion to illustrate it by referring to the appointment of a permanent secretary in the war department. He thought that was a very inconvenient mode of discussing the matter, and if the right hon. Gentleman wished to call the appointment in question, he should submit a separate Motion, or take some other opportunity of doing so. He (Sir George Lewis) would, therefore, only enter his protest against its being supposed that the Government acquiesced in the doctrine that the right hon. Gentleman laid down. He could not admit that the office of permanent secretary could be considered as an army staff appointment, or that there might not be good reasons why a General officer should be appointed to that office, and should hold it upon a tenure different from that of an ordinary staff appointment; nor must it be understood that the Government at all concurred in the views of his right hon. Friend.


expressed a hope that not only the case of the officers complaining, but that of others who had been aggrieved in the same manner, would be brought before the notice of the Committee; and that, above all things, it would be fairly constituted, so as to enable it to lay down some general sound principle.


said, he would thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for sub- mitting the matter to the House, for it was a question of justice to the whole of the ordnance corps. He knew two officers of that corps, who having, contrary to the rules of the service, obtained the command of brigades in India, and received the Knight Commandership of the Bath for their conduct in that capacity, had been superseded by officers promoted under the warrant of 1858. Motion agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the present position of the Officers promoted to the rank of Colonel, for distinguished service in the field during the War in the East in 1855 and 1856, who, when the List of Colonels was revised in 1858, were unfortunately overlooked in the recommendations of the Royal Commission of that year, by which their prospects in the Service have been seriously injured.