HC Deb 02 May 1862 vol 166 cc1183-6

stated, that on the 7th of April he moved for a return of the services of the late barrack-master at Sheffield, and the retiring allowance granted to him. He held the paper in his hand, which showed the great injustice with which this distinguished and meritorious class of officers were treated. Here was an officer, after thirty-eight years of military and civil service, granted only the paltry pittance of 3s. 11¼d. a day, with a legal power vested in the Treasury to have given him double that amount. In the Superannuation Act of 1859 there were two clauses regulating retiring allowances (the 2nd and 4th). The first of these related to those who entered the public service between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five, the boy-class, he might call them, in which no discretionary power to deviate from the standard was given to the Treasury; but the second, the 4th clause, did, in cases where persons entered at a more advanced age, and required professional knowledge to enable them efficiently to discharge their duties. His complaint was that the Treasury had, contrary to the spirit and letter of the law, decided the amount of the barrack-masters' retiring allowances under the 2nd clause, which was not applicable to them, and refused them the benefit of the 4th clause, which, as they were admissible up to the age of forty-five, and required seven years' military service, was the one under which their claims should legitimately be considered. Solicitors, foreign interpreters, and other non-combatants are included under this class. When the Superannuation Act was before the House, he (Colonel French) proposed to include in the 4th clause the barrack-masters by name, but was assured that it was not necessary—as a matter of course they would come under it; but after the passing of the Act he was informed that some official difficulty had arisen, which rendered it doubtful how they were to be dealt with. He called at the Treasury to inquire about it, and was told that the barrack-masters were military officers, and was referred to the Secretary at War. On going to the War Office he was there told that they were civilians, and referred back to the Treasury. After some delay as to what branch of the public service they belonged, the question was taken into the joint consideration of War Office and Treasury; but their joint labour was not more satisfactory than their separate, and the matter remained undecided. Under these circumstances, he (Colonel French) put a question to the then Secretary at War, the late Lord Herbert, as to whether these officers were military or civil. Lord Herbert's reply was, that as civilians were eligible, they could not be considered military. This was a great mistake, as civilians were not eligible, the first article in his own warrant being that all barrack-masters must have seven years' military service." This rule was of long standing, from the time the Duke of Wellington was Master General of the Ordnance, as the Duke declared his opinion that the duties of the officer could not efficiently be discharged by civilians, and since that time no civilian had been appointed. The eighty-one barrack-masters were all military men, and difficult would it be to find a more distinguised body of men than they were. Many of them had been in every action in the Peninsula and at Waterloo; several of them had commanded regiments, some of them brigades, and two of them, Colonel Browne and Colonel Evelegh, divisions. Colonel Browne commanded the 4th division at Badajoz, and Colonel Evelegh a division in India. Their breasts were covered with medals and clasps. They were men the nation should delight to honour. How were they treated by the Executive? Not with honour, nor even with justice. Their legitimate duties, which were both onerous and responsible, were daily added to without any additional remuneration. They were compelled to act as solicitors, engineers, rent collectors, and house valuators; in some cases they had steam-engines to manage, In short, they were given duties to perform which it was absurd to suppose they were capable of undertaking. Their military rank was denied to them; they were offered relative rank, which they very properly declined to accept. They were no longer to be saluted by the soldiers. They were to appear at inspections in a kind of livery The general officers, many of whom had served under them in the Peninsular war, with the feelings of soldiers and gentlemen, allowed them to appear in plain clothes, so this degradation was partially avoided. In Hart's Army List, page 441, the service of the late barrack-master at Sheffield, were stated. Captain Minchin served in the 51st Regiment, under Sir John Moore, in the campaign and battle of Corunna. He was with Lord Chatham in the Walcheren expedition and siege of Flushing. He was at the battles of Fuentes d'Onor, the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, the sieges of St Christoval, the second siege of Badajoz, the battles of Val Moresco and Salamanca, the capture of Madrid and the Retiro, the siege of Burgos, the actions of Monasterio and Quintana Pulla, the battles of Vittoria and the Pyrenees, the siege of St. Sebastian, the battle of Lesaca, where he was severely wounded, and he was at the occupation of Bordeaux. He also served in the campaign of 1815, including the battle of Waterloo, the capture of Cambray, and the occupation of Paris. He has the war medal and four clasps. For all these services, and nineteen years' civil service, her Majesty's Government have awarded him a retiring pension of three and eleven pence farthing a day ! Let not the House imagine that he (Colonel French) had selected Captain Minchin's case as that of the greatest service amongst the barrack masters. Colonel Smith had the war medal and ten clasps; Captain Kirkham, the war medal with eight clasps; Captain Drummond, the same; Major M'Queen, the war medal with nine clasps; Captains White, Gossall, Hughes, with all those who had lost limbs in the service, had the same decorations and maintained the same high positions. He regretted that, owing to the forms of the House, his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War could not say anything on this subject that evening; but he trusted, as his attention was now called to the subject, he would not deal in a niggardly spirit, nor in an unjust manner; nor would the nation desire he should do so with a body of distinguished officers who had served them so well, so long, and so faithfully, and those who now were discharging the duties of barrack-masters in the United Kingdom.


said, barrack-masters must complete ten years of service before they were entitled to any pension. His hon. and gallant Friend, however, was mistaken in supposing that the Treasury could measure out the retiring pensions of barrack-masters with reference to their military services. The War Office, no doubt, had laid it down that no person should he appointed to the office of barrack-master who had not served in the army for a certain period, but that regulation was for the benefit of the army rather than of the public service. It was for the benefit of the army that officers should have a monopoly of offices of this nature. It was important that the Treasury in awarding these pensions should adhere strictly to the spirit of the Superannuation Act. In all cases coming under the 4th section of that Act the Government looked to the nature of the office to be filled rather than to the particular services which the officer filling it for the time being had performed.