HC Deb 19 February 1864 vol 173 cc818-23

said, he rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, On what principle Lieutenant General Gough, C.B., has been appointed to the 2nd Dragoons? In the first place, he wished to disclaim all intention of saying anything that might be hurtful to the feelings of an old and distinguished officer; it was because he was influenced by the feelings of an old soldier that he brought this question forward. He fully admitted that General Gough deserved all the rewards his country could bestow upon him except the one reward of an appointment to a cavalry regiment. He had always thought that the rule was that no officer was entitled as a General Officer to receive the appointment to a cavalry regiment who had not served as a lieutenant-colonel of dragoons. That was the belief of the service—that was the rule observed by the Duke of Wellington, and with some modification it was observed by Lord Hardinge. Only on one or two occasions had that rule been departed from, and he thought that these were appointments which cavalry officers were fairly and honourably entitled to claim. He should probably be told that Lieutenant General Gough had served for many years in a cavalry regiment. But the fact was that he never served at all with a cavalry regiment, for although he was in the 3rd Light Dragoons he had not done one day's duty with that distinguished regiment. In 1820 Lieutenant General Gough entered the service. He was in the 22nd and 23rd Foot, or on half-pay till 1837, in which year he was appointed to an extra troop in the 3rd Light Dragoons, when that regiment was proceeding to India. In this regiment he remained from 1837 to 1853, during which time, however, though his services were most distinguished, he did no regimental duty, being placed upon the staff, and other officers in the regiment, who got no reward whatever, had to perform his duty. It might be true that at the battle of Moodkee and Ferozeshah, General Gough commanded a cavalry brigade, but they were Native cavalry. He would leave it to the House to judge whether an officer who had never commanded a squadron of dragoons was as qualified to command as an officer who had been trained in that branch of the service. He next came to the time when he found the gallant General at home on half-pay, and when he found him in command of the Belfast district; in Dublin he had command of the infantry brigade, General Parlby commanding the cavalry brigade. The last-named fact showed that the authorities regarded General Gough not as a cavalry but as an infantry officer. He quite admitted that an officer who had performed distinguished service should be well rewarded by his country; but he also went a step further and said, that he should be rewarded in that particular branch of the service with which he had been connected; and without underrating the merits of General Gough he could not help saying that he thought that old cavalry officers had some little reason for complaint at that appointment. Looking at the list of General officers in that branch of the service, and having regard to the number of vacancies that had occurred within a specified period, if promotions were to take place at the same rate the junior officer would have to wait fifty years before he obtained a regiment, and therefore he regarded such appointments as this with apprehension. He hoped he had not said anything which reflected on the character of General Gough. All that he wished to convey was that he thought it was not for the interest of the service that a highly-approved rule should be set aside, and that those who had served in cavalry regiments should be deprived of their rewards. He had given notice to move an Address for papers, but if the noble Marquess was unwilling to give them he should not press the Motion.


said, he thought that discussions upon military appointments in that House were very much to be deprecated. He did not wish to limit in any way the authority of this House over expenditure, but the appointments and discipline of the army ought to be left in the hands of those whom from time to time Her Majesty and the country honoured with their confidence. It was impossible that any Commander-in-Chief could give general satisfaction; but there was in this country a public opinion which no man, however high his station, could outrage, and as a general rule, army patronage was bestowed with tolerable fairness and discretion. There had recently been a melancholy instance of the imprudence of interfering in a matter which had been already settled by competent authority, and this constant interference with military appointments struck a heavy blow at the root of discipline, and tended to deprive the authorities of the confidence of their subordinates.


said, he thought that Lieutenant General Gough could not object to have his services and claims laid on the table, because those services were almost a history in themselves of the successful campaigns of this country during the last forty-two years. When the hon. and gallant Officer opposite brought this case forward, why did he not take pains to explain that Lieutenant General Gough had served his country for forty-two years, of which period forty years had been passed in active service abroad? [Colonel BARTTELOT: I said he had entered the service in 1820."] He said the hon. and gallant Officer had given the particulars afforded by the common Army List, but he might have informed the House that Lieutenant General Gough had been in four distinct campaigns, was thanked seventeen times in general orders for his gallant conduct in the field, while no man had been more mangled and more pitifully wounded in the service of his country. At the battles of Moodkee and Ferozeshah, in both which engagements he was badly wounded, he commanded a cavalry brigade. As to the objection that Lieutenant General Gough was not a cavalry officer, he did not understand it. It seemed to him that he was bonâ fidea cavalry officer. He had exchanged from the 23rd Fusileers into the 3rd Light Dragoons, paying the difference between cavalry and infantry; and after sixteen years' service with that regiment, chiefly on the staff in India, he was put on half-pay, without receiving the difference, when that regiment returned from India and was reduced. Infantry Generals six and seven years junior to him in the service had received infantry regiments; and, after waiting for five or six years, during which so many were put over his head, General Gough had recently been appointed to the Greys. He thought the Horse Guards had not only shown great discretion, but also a proper appreciation of distinguished and lengthened service in the field, by conferring this appointment on that gallant officer. It was an appointment that did honour to the Horse Guards and to General Gough.


concurred with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson), that the House ought to discourage discussion on such subjects as this. He was sure that the eminent person who presided over the Horse Guards, fairly considered the claims of gallant officers who were eligible for rewards by reason of their distinguished services. That General Gough was not exclusively a cavalry officer could not be for one moment contested; but it was equally true that he had performed some of his most distinguished services in the field while commanding as a cavalry officer. It was certain, too, that General Gough had lost in a pecuniary point of view by not getting himself put over an infantry regiment years ago; and it would be unreasonable to object to his getting the Greys when he had waited so long for an appointment to which his services justly entitled him.


said, he did not intend to enter on this occasion into the question, whether it was expedient or inexpedient that the House of Commons should take into its cognizance matters of this nature relative to the discipline of the army. There was no doubt, that on subsequent occasions during the Session, that question would be more prominently brought forward and discussed in a case which had given rise to great public interest within the last twelve months. But he must say, as the representative of the War Department and of the Commander-in-Chief in that House, that if he could have selected any case which, he should have wished to see brought forward there, it was the case which the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Barttelot) had brought forward that evening. After the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne), it was not necessary for him to trouble the House with the dry details with which he was prepared in reference to the services of Lieutenant General Gough. Those services had been, in the main, correctly stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Barttelot); but he had made an omission, which had subsequently been cleared up by the hon. Member for Liskeard. He had omitted to tell the House that when General Gough exchanged from the infantry to the cavalry he paid the difference in the price of the commissions, and that when he was reduced to half-pay he did not receive that difference back again. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had told the House that there was a rule to the effect, that none but field officers of cavalry should receive such an appointment as had been conferred upon General Gough. He could only say that after careful inquiry he had not been able to find that any such rule had ever been known or recognized either at the War Office or the Horse Guards; and he thought it would be absurd that such a rule should exist. The simple understanding was that a bonâ fidecavalry officer should be selected from a cavalry regiment, and a bonâ fideinfantry officer for an infantry regiment. The only point in the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman which had not been replied to was that General Gough had commanded a brigade of infantry in Ireland. The fact was that a change of system was determined on while General Gough was in Ireland. The system of Generals of districts was done away with, and instead of it the system of Generals of divisions was substituted. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief would not have appointed General Gough to the command of an infantry brigade if he had not been the General of a district; but, having no other command at his disposal, he gave him the command of an infantry brigade in consequence of having found him in the command of a district. He was glad the hon. and gallant Member had disclaimed any intention of decrying the services of General Gough; or of alleging that the reward which that gallant officer received had not been properly earned; but he must say that the notice on the paper might easily have induced any one to sup- pose that he intended to submit to the House the inexpediency of rewarding General Gough at all. After the statements which had been made to the House, he did not think it necessary for him to justify the appointment to a cavalry regiment of a distinguished General who had always been considered more of a cavalry than an infantry officer. He thought it would be extremely hard if any objection was made to the appointment, inasmuch as General Gough had been passed over again and again when the commands of infantry regiments were being conferred, because it was considered by the Horse Guards that he was a cavalry officer, and that the command of an infantry regiment was not the reward to give him.


said, that in the regiment in which he had served — the Blues — two infantry officers, Lord Hill and Lord Gough, had been appointed to the colonelcy.