HC Deb 06 March 1866 vol 181 cc1628-30

Resolutions [March 5] reported.


said, that an hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir Charles Russell) in some observations he had made on the previous evening upon musketry instruction, had evidently not been accurately reported. His hon. and gallant Friend, he thought, had done great service in bringing the subject of musketry instruction before the notice of the House; and were it not that he (Lord Elcho) was a Volunteer, and military men might say that he was taking up a subject with which he had no concern, his own experience at Hythe would have induced him to call attention to the matter. Any person acquainted with the musketry instruction practised at Hythe, and given to our Volunteers, must feel that it was somewhat hard upon those who had to go through that course. He was told that it not only caused dislike, but that it affected the recruiting of the line. A Volunteer at Hythe was kept at practice there a fortnight; an officer used to go for twelve weeks; but he believed that that term was somewhat reduced. [Sir CHARLES RUSSELL: To ten weeks.] For all practical purposes of making a man a good shot fourteen days at Hythe was all that was necessary. An intelligent sergeant sent to Hythe to become a musketry instructor could be taught in less than ten weeks—he had no doubt that fourteen days, or even less, would make such a man competent to give the practical instructions the men required. He was not at all saying that the Hythe School of Musketry should not be retained, but that some modification of the present system of instruction was necessary. Modifications were necessary with respect to firing at distances. It was now laid down that the firing at 300 yards should be performed standing; beyond 300 yards, kneeling; the exception being in favour of old officers and the cavalry. The former, from stiffness of the joints might not be able to kneel, and there was a good reason why the position of kneeling would be inconvenient to the cavalry. But the point to which he rose to refer more particularly was that his hon. and gallant Friend had been reported to have said on the authority of a young officer of the 95th that the rifle drill was complete nonsense, and that there was not a practical officer in the army who would not agree in that assertion. Now, he was quite certain that his hon. and gallant Friend had not said that, or could have wished the Committee to believe that there was not a practical officer in the army who would not adopt the sentiment. There was another point to which he should have wished to call the attention of his noble Friend the Secretary at War if he had been present, and that was the inconvenience to which the Volunteers were subjected by having to shoot at two descriptions of targets. In class firing they used the regulation target. Now, in the opinion of all Volunteers the form of target used was not the one best calculated to elicit skill in the use of the weapon. In prize firing they used quite another kind of target. The Secretary at War would confer a great boon on the Volunteers if he would institute one uniform target for class and prize firing.


I am obliged to my noble Friend for calling attention to a slight inaccuracy in The Times newspaper report of the few observations I addressed to the Committee on musketry practice, and which did not occur in any other newspaper. I called the attention of the Secretary of State for War to a paragraph in the Army and Navy Gazette, which stated that a case of a young officer of the 95th had been brought before a medical commissioner, as he was labouring under intermittent mania, which first exhibited itself by his saying that the rifle drill was all d—d nonsense; and I said that, although officers of the army would not go any such length as that, they would decidedly sympathize with the man if he were placed in a lunatic asylum for having said so. Those were my words, and I am anxious that the impression should not be conveyed to the House, or to the gallant officers who conduct the schools of musketry at Hythe and Fleetwood, that I wished to express on my own behalf, or that of the army, that rifle practice is itself nonsense.

Resolutions agreed to.