HC Deb 03 March 1862 vol 165 cc916-25

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the want of system which prevails in relieving Her Majesty's Troops serving in India and in the Colonies. In the first place, he was anxious to remind the House that two years ago a Bill Was passed for amalgamating the Indian army with the Royal Army; and that on that occasion the House abolished the system of governing the Indian army that at that time prevailed. Whatever might have been the inherent defects of that system, the army of India had achieved great conquests and won great glory under its auspices on every field of battle, and had won for Her Majesty the most extensive and most magnificent empire on the face of the globe. The House took upon itself to abolish the system under which the army had accomplished those deeds, by introducing a Bill at the end of the Session, which passed through its various stages with a very small attendance of Members. The truth was, the House did not appreciate the importance of the subject, nor did it recognise an important feature of the Bill—namely, that it effected a great change in the nature of the service of the Royal Army. Previous to the Indian rebellion the Royal Army was only called on to furnish 20,000 men. After the passing of the Bill the Royal Army was called on to furnish 80,000 men. That was a great change in the nature of the service of the Royal Army. Practically it reduced the Royal Army to the condition of a colonial army. All that might be for the good of the army—he did not wish to enter into that question—but it should not have been carried into effect until the Government had been able to give full and ample ex- planation to the House of the nature of the system which for the future it was intended to adopt. No such explanation was given. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India (Sir Charles Wood) frankly confessed that the Government had not matured their plans. He stated that a Royal Commission was sitting to draw up a scheme for the amalgamation of the Royal Indian army; and it was under these peculiar circumstances that the House of Commons decided to place implicit confidence in the Government, and to leave the details of the measure in their hands. Under these circumstances, the Secretary of State for War could not be surprised that Members should now come forward and ask how that confidence had been justified—what was the result—what, in short, was the future of the scheme and plan which the Government with reference to the service in India had finally decided to adopt? Before he proceeded further, it might be well to remind the House of the evils complained of under the old system, and what were the reasons assigned by the Government for the introduction of the Bill. The evils complained of were these. It was said that the Indian army had been in a state of mutiny; that the European troops of the Indian army had been in a state of mutiny. It was asserted, on the authority of distinguished officers who had served long in India, and who had given their evidence before the Royal Commission, that the European troops of the Indian Government had for a series of years been in a chronic state of indiscipline. It had been stated by some, that such was the effect of the climate of India on the health of officers long subject to its influence, that it rendered them less capable of employing that vigour which was necessary for strict discipline and the good of the service; and I think it was stated that no regiment of Her Majesty could serve for a longer period than ten years in India, without being seriously deteriorated, for these causes. These were the evils complained of under the old system. And what was the remedy proposed by the Government? It was stated by the Government that thenceforth reliefs should take place more frequently, and that no regiment of Her Majesty's Army should be compelled to serve for longer than ten years, either in India or in the Colonies. In the course of the discussion which ensued, he ventured to observe that however desirable such an arrangement would be, it might possibly be found difficult to carry it into operation, for that the House of Commons, or even some Chancellor of the Exchequer, might object to vote the number of men that would be required for a standing army at home, in order to relieve so large a force as would be stationed in India every ten years; and that if those obstacles or difficulties should arise, the result would be, that Her Majesty's troops would be left for an indefinite period in India or in the Colonies, and that they would practically become local troops without any of the advantages of the local troops under the Indian Government, Now, what were the advantages enjoyed by the local troops under the Indian Government? Every officer who entered into that service knew beforehand what was the nature of the service; he knew beforehand what would be required of him; he knew that he would be required to serve for tea years in India; be knew that at the expiration of the ten years he would have two years' leave to return to Europe to renovate his health; that after the expiration of his leave he would be compelled to return to India for another ten years' service; that after that he would have again two years of leave, or if his health had suffered from the climate, he could then retire from the service with the full pay of his rank. These advantages served to mitigate the evils of long service in a tropical climate; but no such advantage was enjoyed by the troops in the service of Her Majesty. When one of Her Majesty's regiments went to India it was for an indefinite period—ten years, twenty years, thirty years. There were instances of Her Majesty's regiments being left in India for twenty-eight years. No officer, therefore, who went with his regiment to India could reasonably calculate that he would be able to return to his native country with his regiment; he must make up his mind to leave his regiment or to leave his bones in India. This was a species of cruelty that was practised by no other Government in the world. There were other Governments which had colonies in tropical climates, where they maintained large bodies of troops—for instance, the Governments of France, of Spain, of Holland—but in all cases the periods of service of the troops were always limited. It was in England alone that a contrary practice had prevailed. Did the Government assert that the practice was a good one? On the contrary, the Government denounced the practice—they said it led to relaxation of discipline in the army. Then why had the practice been retained? It was simply a question of economy. The Ministers of the Crown had always been afraid to come to Parliament and ask for the number of men that would be required to relieve the troops in India and the Colonies at a stated period. The Duke of Wellington never was able to effect that object, although very anxious to accomplish it. Now, this he (Mr. Baillie) believed to be the only reason. He believed the Government would be anxious to relieve the troops with regularity if they had the requisite number of men; but he doubted whether they had the number of men. In order that the House might understand the question, he would just state, in the first instance, what was the number of troops now required to be stationed in India and the Colonies; secondly, what would be the force required for a standing army at home in order to relieve those troops every ten years, allowing them on their return from foreign service five years at home; and after that he would state to the House what number of troops they now had in the country to perform that service. First, take the case of India. The Secretary of State had informed the House that the number of troops fixed for India was 73,000. He (Mr. Baillie) believed this to be the lowest amount of force with which we could ever govern India with security. He knew that a difference of opinion existed on this point; but his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) who held a contrary belief overlooked the fact, that although there appeared to be 73,000 on paper, practically there were not more than 50,000 fit for active service, as an average of one-third of the Europeans would always be in the hospital. Now, would any one say that 50,000 would be too high a number to be maintained for active service in India. We had only 50,000 men in India when the rebellion broke out, and did not every one admit that the rebellion broke out solely owing to the want of a sufficient number of European troops? It should always be borne in mind in considering this subject what an enormous extent of country we bad to govern, with upwards of 180,000,000 of people and 1,200 miles of frontier, inhabited by fierce, warlike, and hardy mountaineers, always anxious for war, and always making inroads upon us. He did not think that any one would say that 50,000 were too large a force under such circumstances. They must therefore maintain 70,000. Now, what was the force at the present time stationed in the Colonies? The House would be surprised to hear that the force stationed in the Colonies was, as well as he could calculate, upwards of 61,000. From that force, however, must be deducted the colonial troops that did not require relief, which he estimated at 8,000; leaving 53,000 men stationed in the Colonies who would require relief; and that added to 73,000 men in India would give an army of 126,000 men requiring relief. Now, what amount of force for a standing army at home would that necessitate in order to relieve the force every ten years, and allow the troops who returned from foreign service five years at home? The amount, as far as he could make it, would be not less than 112,000 men; and he would give the House the data upon which that calculation was made. In the first place, there was the relieving force, amounting to 63,000. To that should be added the Guards, 8,000; the depots, 16,000—a very small estimate; 10,000 always at sea, because, if they had to send to India every year 13,000 and bring home 13,000, there must be 13,000 for the wear and tear of the army and the men whose period of service had expired. Some persons had calculated that 15,000 men would be always at sea, but he had put it down at 10,000. There then remained a certain proportion of Artillery and Waggon Train to be maintained at home, with a certain number of men for contingencies, by which he meant a force to send out to any colony that might require it. The force necessary for these purposes he put at the very moderate number of 15,000; making a total of not less than 112,000 men if the system of relief was to be carried out. He then came to the third point. What was the force which they actually had at home at the present time? So far as he could estimate that force, not having official papers, it did not at the present time amount to 90,000 men. So that the number was less by upwards of 20,000 men than was absolutely required to relieve the men now serving abroad. He was aware that many Members of that House thought the Votes for the army of last year were too high, and no doubt many had the same opinion of the Estimates this year. It was even said that such was the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If that really were his opinion, he ought to state to the House the calculations upon which he arrived at that conclusion. He ought to state to the House what number of men should be stationed in India and what number in the Colonies, and the period of service, as the number of men required depended upon that. Of course, if the service was for twenty years, only half the number of men would be required for relief that would be required for ten years' service. The House should bear in mind that the military establishment of this country mainly depended on the policy that was adopted with reference to the Colonies. He knew there were many Gentlemen, both in that Mouse and out of it, who believed the colonial policy of this country to be erroneous, who believed the Colonies were a burden to us, and drained the resources of this country both as to men and money, and that we should have just as much trade and commerce with the Colonies if they were altogether free and independent of us. There were others who contended that our magnificent Colonies contributed to the greatness, power, and glory of England, and that they ought to be maintained at any cost and at any price. He would not offer any opinion on that subject at present, as he was not called upon to do so; but he would say, that if the Colonies ought to be maintained, the people of England must be prepared to maintain a force adequate for their defence. Hon. Gentlemen were in the habit of going back twenty years, and comparing the amount of the Estimates then with the amount at the present day. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) did so. Did he reflect on, or did he know of, the great extension of our Colonies during those twenty years, and, consequently, the much greater demand there was now for military support as compared with twenty years ago? He (Mr. Baillie) would give a few illustrations. He first took the Colony of New Zealand. Twenty years ago we had no Colony in New Zealand. We had now not only a magnificent Colony, but there was an army there of 6,000 men, who were engaged in active hostilities with the natives, and consuming a vast amount of military stores. Fur an army of 6,000 men in a Colony they must have 3,000 men at home for their relief, so that New Zealand cost us the maintenance of 9,000 men.

Take the case of the Cape of Good Hope. Twenty years ago we had not extended our frontier as we had recently done, and now we were in contact with fierce and warlike tribes of Kaffirs, who had engaged in war with us, and not without success; and in order to defend the frontier we were obliged to maintain in South Africa at the present time double the force of twenty years ago, and in addition a force at home competent to relieve it. The colony of [long Kong had a regiment, and so had Swan River and Victoria. Take the case of the military stations in the Mediterranean. Twenty years ago the Government felt so secure of peace that they did not think it necessary to keep up the fortresses in a common state of defence, and the garrisons were reduced so low that they did not amount to 3,000 men. He remembered a Governor of Malta stating that he had not got one ordinary gunner to every five guns. The fortresses, besides, were without military stores. The Government a few years ago very wisely thought it was necessary to place these fortresses in a state of defence, considering that the preponderating power of France and the increasing power of Spain left them no other alternative. For the garrison of Malta there were now 6,000 men, at Gibraltar 6,000, and added to that must he 3,000 for the relieving force at home, so that the Mediterranean fortresses required 9,000 men more than they did twenty years ago. Take the case of Canada, the best illustration of all, for it was the most magnificent of all our Colonies, rich, flourishing, and populous. It had an independent Government of its own, and a Parliament that legislated without reference to the interests of England, as was sufficiently illustrated by the tariff that was lately passed, and which he was assured upon the highest authority was very little, if at all, better than the celebrated Morrill tariff of the United States. Twelve months ago the Government did not think it necessary to defend Canada, and only one of Her Majesty's regiments was there, and a few artillerymen; and an order was sent out to the officer commanding the artillery at Quebec to knock off the trunnions of the guns and to sell the guns for old iron. The officer who received that order was in this country now, and he very wisely took upon himself not to obey the order, and the guns were there now. Such were the views of the Government twelve months ago. They now took a totally different view of the question, for with the entire approbation of the people of this country, they had sent 15,000 men to Canada. Nobody could suppose that force had gone to Canada for a temporary occasion; because it must be perfectly obvious, when we considered the hostile feelings of the people of the United States, when we considered the great anxiety they had always exhibited to annex Canada, and when we considered the great military force that would be at their disposal at the end of the civil war—it was obvious to every one that that force must be retained in Canada. Under these circumstances the Government might have been expected to come to the House and say that having been obliged to send 15,000 men to Canada, there must be an addition to the army of an equal number. That course they had not adopted; they had not increased the army; and the consequence would be that when the time came for relieving the troops, those troops which should go to relieve the army in India would have been sent to Canada. That was a question in which the officers of the army were deeply interested; every young officer who entered the army was entitled to know what was the nature of the service and what was required of him. He had a right to know whether he would be obliged to serve in India ten years or twenty years. And not only were the officers of the army entitled to the information, but the House of Commons were entitled to know what the intentions of the Government were, as the House of Commons, when the Amalgamation Bill passed, placed implicit confidence in the Government, and left all the details in their hands. These were the reasons which had induced him to bring this subject under the notice of the House, as it was a subject well worthy of their serious attention. He therefore trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India would be prepared to give the information required, which it was his duty, and, no doubt, his wish to do. He (Mr. Baillie) had no complaint to make with regard to the Estimates. His only fear was that they were too small, and would not enable the Government to do justice to the army.


begged to reply to the observations of the hon. Gentleman, and he trusted that the statement he had to make would prove satisfactory. It had been asked what change had been introduced in respect to the system of reliefs in consequence of the amalgamation of the forces in India, as the present mode of relieving the Queen's troops in India and elsewhere was stated to be unsatisfactory, imposing on them hardships. When the time arrived for considering the conversion of the European regiments in the Indian Establishment into regiments of the Line, it was necessary to consider what would be the demands on the regiments, in order to know the number of battalions that should be added to the army, and the question of reliefs was carefully gone into by the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Herbert, and himself; and they also consulted various military authorities on the subject. It was quite true that there had been instances, but not recently, of regiments serving abroad for periods nearly approaching to twenty years; but it had been the great object with the military authorities to bring the system of reliefs to ten years abroad and five years at home, being about equivalent to two-thirds of the army abroad and one-third at home. In this calculation the Guards and the Cavalry were excluded, and the question was really confined to infantry. When the question of the formation of regiments of the Line from the local troops in India was under discussion, the number was determined by the consideration to which he had adverted—namely, that such a number of battalions should be formed as would enable one-third always to be at home. According to this principle, there would be fifty-six battalions of infantry in India, thirty-eight abroad in the various colonial possessions, and forty-seven at home, making 141 battalions of infantry of the Line. It was true that latterly there had been an extraordinary demand for troops in various parts of the world. A much larger force had been sent to Canada, and a larger force was also employed in New Zealand, than usual; but when the demand for men beyond the ordinary number in various places should cease, then some of the regiments would return home, and would enable that arrangement, which was a desideratum both for officers and men, of ten years' service abroad and five years' service at home, to be carried out. It was the object of the Government to attain that most desirable state of things; and he believed that there never was a period when it was more neatly approached than at present, when the numbers of battalions at present in India was 56, abroad 45, and at home 40. Of course, circumstances might arise occasioning a temporary demand for additional regiments abroad; but, under ordinary circumstances, the arrangement he had mentioned would he the rule.