HC Deb 26 March 1863 vol 169 cc1947-52

said, he rose to call attention to the case of a number of officers of the army whose claims had been reported upon favourably by a Committee of the War Office, and had also been admitted to be deserving of consideration by the authorities of that Department. He had mentioned the name of Colonel Dudley Carleton in his notice, but there were several other officers in a similar position. These officers were promoted to the rank of colonel for distinguished service in the field previous to the Warrant of October 6th, 1854, which was, no doubt, a salutary and necessary measure, but had occasioned much individual hardship. To such an amount of discontent did it give rise, that a Commission was appointed in 1858 to inquire into its operation. The principal recommendations of the Commission were embodied in the warrant of 1858, which remedied many of the grievances. A number of cases, including those of Colonel Dudley Carleton and some others, were, however, left undecided by the Commission, but were recommended to the favourable consideration of the War Office. There was some question whether these officers came within the scope of the memorandum which was published with the brevet of the 20th of June, 1854, and which declared that officers promoted under that brevet would receive their promotions subject to new regulations about to be promulgated by Royal warrant. The officers held that they were beyond the terms of that memorandum, as it applied simply to those officers who obtained promotion under the brevet and not to such as were subsequently promoted in, regimental succession. The Committee of general officers who inquired into the matter in 1861 took an opposite view. The officers in question, however, rested their claims on another ground, and that was the favourable recommendation of the Commission of 1858, which was endorsed by the Committee of 1861. The Secretary of State for War also agreed in that recommendation, for Major General Lugard, on behalf of the War Office, on the 8th of November last, urged the Horse Guards to give effect to that paragraph in the Report. The recommendation of the WarOffice would, it might be thought, carry with it a certainty of being attended to; but it was not acted upon, because the Commander-in-Chief stated in a communication dated the 7th of February, 1863, that having considered the question, he was of opinion that the objections to the proposal were so great that he did not feel justified in agreeing to it. His Royal Highness did not give any reason, and it was a rather curious circumstance that in the beginning he was of a directly contrary opinion. At present, then, the matter stood thus:—It had always been acknowledged that Colonel Carleton and the other officers were injuriously affected by the Warrant of 1854, and a Committee, which differed upon other officers, had reported unanimously in favour of theirs. The Secretary of State for War had intimated his acquiescence in that Report, and, in fact, the only objectors were the authorities at the Horse Guards, who seemed to think they had a controlling voice in all matters connected with military affairs. But what he could not understand was, as he had already stated, that the authorities at the Horse Guards were originally favourable to the claim of Colonel Carleton and the other officers, and that it was the Secretary for War who opposed their promotion. The parties had changed sides, and now the Horse Guards were the only objectors. That, he submitted, was rather hard upon the gallant officers. Colonel Carleton served during the whole of the Crimean war without receiving any promotion whatever. In his regiment no less than sixteen out of thirty officers were killed, and it was to that he owed his high regimental position. He had received a colonelcy, but a large num- ber of lieutenant colonels had stepped over has head in consequence of the Warrant of 1854, and he still felt himself under grievous disadvantages. It was on that account that he had wished his case to be brought under the notice of the House, and unless he received some satisfactory statement from the Secretary of State on that occasion, he should, in all probability, think it his duty to move for the appointment of a Select Committee after Easter.


said, the class of officers to whom the lion. Gentleman had called attention was limited, consisting only of three; and one of them had obtained his promotion, and was now full colonel. The only effect of the change sought by his hon. Friend was, that he could hold a different position among the class of full colonels. His place in the Army List would not be the same as at present. There were two classes of officers who were affected by the Warrant of 1854. There was one class known as the colonels of distinguished service, who were tolerably numerous, whose case was the subject of the correspondence recently laid upon the table, and upon which notice of Motion had been given by the gallant Gentleman opposite (General Lindsay). Now, the case of these distinguished service colonels stood upon wholly different grounds from that of the three officers whose case had been brought before them. That case related to promotion in the Guards. It would he impossible to deny that the Warrant of 1854 injuriously affected certain individual officers in the Guards. Their case, however, was considered by a Commission in 1858, the Members being the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Grey, Lord Panmure, Lord Rokeby, Mr. Sidney Herbert, Mr. Edward Ellice, Sir James Scarlett, Sir Fenwick Williams, Sir Frederic Smith, Sir Henry Storks, and General Eyre. A more competent Commission could not have been appointed, and, after careful inquiry, they did not recommend any alteration in the mode of promotion in the Guards introduced by the Warrant of 1854. The system had consequently been continued up to the present time. When such a rule had been acted upon and acquiesced in for a considerable number of years, even assuming it was not perfectly just in its operation, inflicting hardship on particular persons, it was extremely difficult for those intrusted with the administration of promotion by an ex post facto regulation to step in and alter it. The War Office, moved by the recommendation of the last Committee, brought the matter under the consideration of the Horse Guards; hut the Commander-in-Chief, who was the proper head of the discipline and promotion of the army, having made a careful inquiry, and having heard the statements of the various officers who would be injuriously affected if the proposed alteration took place, came to the conclusion, that whatever evil there might be in the present state of things, it was less than that which the suggested remedy would entail. Nothing could be more certain than that when such variations were made one set of complainants was substituted for another, and the only effect of granting the application of Colonel Carleton and his brother officers would be to raise up a more numerous class of petitioners. Under these circumstances, while admitting that the Warrant of 1854 injuriously affected certain officers, he was not prepared to say, looking at what had taken place, and considering the extent of time over which the rule had been acted upon, that the decision of the Commander-in-Chief was not strictly just.


said, he thought the case of these officers one of peculiar hardship. They were a body who were hit by the Warrant of 1854 more severely than any other class. It occurred in this way. That warrant was by a retrospective clause made applicable to the 20th of June, 1854. At that date these officers were senior captains at the head of their respective regiments, and in a fortnight or three weeks afterwards they were promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonels. If they had been majors, they would have had first to become lieutenant colonels before the warrant could affect them; but being the senior captains of their respective regiments they were affected at once; and no fewer than 200 lieutenant colonels had gone over their heads in the last nine or ten years. The question brought before the Commission which had been referred to was the general claim made by the senior officers of the Guards, on the part of the captains and lieutenant colonels, that they might not be so hardly dealt with as they had been by the Warrant of 1854. The Commissioners expressed the opinion that the case was one to be carefully watched by the Commander-in-Chief; and if the general claim was found to be such as had been represented to them by Lord Rokeby, it should be rectified with the consent of his Royal Highness and the Secretary for State by giving them special promotion. But the case of the particular class of officers now under discussion was not specially brought before the Commissioners. That special case was, that they had been promoted between the 20th of June and the 6th of October, 1854. Their claim could not perhaps be legally enforced as long as the warrant was held to have a retrospective operation; but if ever there was a case which should have been leniently and considerately dealt with, it was the present. The Secretary of State had himself thought so, and had pointed out to the Commander-in-Chief that all the lieutenant colonels of the line promoted between those two dates had already been removed, either by retirement or promotion, these few officers alone being now left. While the Commissioners of 1854 recommended that all lieutenant colonels of the line should be promoted on three years' effective service, they also recommended that the existing captains and lieutenant colonels of the Guards should be promoted on completing six years' service, or just double the period for the line. He thought that term of six years might fairly have been extended to the officers promoted between the 20th of June and the 6th of October 1854, without the least injustice to any other class of officers. Their case was one eminently deserving of generous treatment, and he trusted that before the hon. Gentleman opposite had an opportunity of bringing it forward again, it would receive favourable consideration at the hands of the Secretary of State.


said, it was impossible for any one to read the particulars without admitting that the case was one of as great hardship as could possibly be inflicted; and he really could not understand how it was that the Secretary of State for War could have altered his opinion in so short a time, because they had his letter in favour of the officers only four months ago. The Commissioners reported one way, and the Commander-in-Chief differed from them. An umpire was therefore wanted between them, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to be that umpire. They often heard of the privileges of the Guards being greater than those of the Line; but the papers relating to the case showed that the fact of Colonel Carleton belonging to the Guards had operated seriously to his prejudice. For an officer of distinguished service, who was looking forward to the higher rank of general, to have two hundred of his juniors placed over him was no light matter, and it would seem as if in this instance there was something more than met the eye. As one of the public, he thought injustice had been done to these three or four deserving officers, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would represent the circumstances again to the Horse Guards, so as to obviate the necessity for a special Committee of Inquiry.


said, he thought it very unwise to raise the questions about the privileges of the Guards. No doubt there were anomalies; but if officers in the Guards had other officers promoted over their heads, they should recollect that they had themselves enjoyed a great advantage over the Line.


said, he was sorry to differ from his hon. and gallant Friend, with whom he generally acted on military questions; but he did not think that the question had anything to do with the privileges of the Guards. He objected, as a general rule, to matters of discipline being brought under the consideration of the House. The case which had been submitted to the House was one of peculiar hardship, which might be easily rectified without injury to the service, or to the discipline of the army; and he thought that if the Commander-in-Chief were supported by the Secretary for War, and by the opinion of the House, justice would be done, and he trusted the matter would be taken into serious consideration.

Main Question put, and agreed to.