HC Deb 27 April 1871 vol 205 cc1830-4

rose to call attention to the case of J. Powles Cheyne, a retired Commander in Her Majesty's Navy—a case, in his opinion, of considerable hardship, and one which he had undertaken to bring before the House on its own merits. He (Sir John Hay) had the honour of submitting the case to the House last Session—[See 3 Hansard, cxcix. 1248]—but owing, as he was afraid, to his imperfect advocacy, he was unable to induce the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) to do that justice in the matter to which he thought that Commander Cheyne was justly entitled. That distinguished officer had since petitioned the House to take his case into consideration. In that Petition he stated that he entered the Royal Navy in 1844, and had accompanied three expeditions to the Arctic Seas; his services on each of those occasions being fully recognized by Sir James Ross, Captain Austin, and Sir Edward Belcher. He was afterwards appointed to the Simoom, a vessel employed in the time of the Mutiny in carrying troops to India. Whilst serving in this ship off the Cape of Good Hope, he saved a man from drowning, but had his own skull fractured in the effort. The accident, however, did not impair his reason, but prevented him from serving in hot climates. On his return home, he applied for his promotion to the Duke of Somerset, one of the fairest and best First Lords who had ever served at the Admiralty, who thought it better to provide for him in another way. There existed at that time at the Naval Hospitals, appointments filled by naval lieutenants, whose duty it was to superintend the wards, assist the medical officers, and see that discipline was maintained. The result of his application was, that the noble Duke appointed him lieutenant of the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, as he believed for life, or at any rate so long as he could discharge the duties. The advantages of his appointment were that his half-pay of £150 was increased by £200, with a house partially furnished, and certain other emoluments worth about £80 a-year; making an income of £430 a-year—as he thought for life. The appointment, moreover, was given as a reward for meritorious services. In 1869, however, he was dismissed by the then First Lord of the Admiralty, in consequence of the reductions made in that Department, and so lost not only his salary, but also being obliged to spend £60 for the removal of his furniture. He had since applied in vain for compensation; but his salary was to be continued until he should be 55 years of age. Upon the retirement scheme, he retired upon the new retired pay of his rank according to length of service, and the additional rank of Commander was also granted. About a month or so afterwards the Admiralty informed the Commander "that they were in communication with the Treasury as to how his position would be affected by the new retired scheme." After a considerable correspondence, Commander Cheyne was unable from the 1st April, 1870, to draw a single penny of his retired pay. He then enclosed Her Majesty's Order in Council to the Queen, humbly imploring that Her Majesty might graciously cause her Order in Council to be carried into effect. This step at length obtained an order from the Admiralty that he was to receive his retired pay of £275 per annum; but the same letter informed him that his pension was to be reduced from £200 to £80 2s. 6d. per annum, the deduction exactly counterbalancing the increase of the retirement, leaving him in receipt of £355 2s. 6d. per annum until he was 55 years of age, after which time his pension was to be withdrawn, leaving him with only £275 per annum. Commander Cheyne was subsequently reduced to narrow circumstances. He applied to the Duke of Somerset for his Grace's intervention. The noble Duke replied by expressing his regret at the view taken by the Board of Admiralty—that when he appointed him to the Hospital he did not foresee the abolition of the office—but that not being then in office he could not interfere in the matter. He (Sir John Hay) thought that, considering the many hardships this gallant officer had endured in the public service, the risks he had run, and the misfortunes which had befallen him, the House would be prepared to take his case into consideration, and afford him such redress as his grievance merited. It was true he got the rank of Commander; but that would not help him to educate or maintain his children, while it should not be forgotten that he had been reduced from a position in which he had been supporting himself in comfort and respectability to one of comparative poverty and distress. He hoped, therefore, the case of Commander Cheyne would be considered favourably by the Admiralty, and that they would deem it right to give him some equivalent for the salary of which he had been deprived.


said, he hoped he should be able to satisfy the House that the gallant officer in question had been treated with liberality, instead of his case being one of hardship. He had no wish to dispute the statement of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) who had just spoken, with respect to the services of Commander Cheyne, who had, he believed, done good service to his country, but who, unfortunately, had lost his health in 1863, so that it was impossible he could be promoted to active service. The Duke of Somerset eventually gave him an appointment in the Naval Hospital at Plymouth, and according to his hon. and gallant Friend he was given to understand that the appointment was for life. That, however, was not the case, and Commander Cheyne was only entitled to hold that appointment until he was 55 years of age, when, according to the rules of the service, he would have to retire. On the abolition of the appointment in 1868, his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) was most anxious to do what was right by the gallant gentleman, and intended to procure him an appointment in the Coastguard; but, pending that, he was given an allowance of £200 a-year, so as to bring up the allowances and half-pay to the salary which he received when at Plymouth Hospital, and he was to receive this till retirement. Of course when he retired on half-pay under the retirement scheme, the question arose whether he should receive the allowance of £200 a-year, and it was considered that he was not entitled to the whole of it; but only to the difference between his half-pay at the time and the amount of the allowance which he got under the old system. The allowance was accordingly reduced to £80 2s. 6d.; but the two payments made to him amounted together to the sum which he previously received. When in the Hospital, Commander Cheyne got a salary of £200 a-year, his half-pay being £127, while there was £50 the value of a house, making a total of £377 a-year. That amount he was to receive until the age of 55, when he was to be retired with half-pay amounting to £182 a-year. Now, at the present moment Commander Cheyne was in receipt of £275 retired pay, besides compensation amounting to £80 a-year, making together £355; while at the age of 55 he would have a pension of £275 a-year, instead of £182. Now, considering that he had no duties whatever to perform, and that he received almost identically the same amount as when he held the appointment at Plymouth Hospital, he was sure the House would be of opinion that he had been treated with that liberality which hon. Members no doubt desired to see extended to every officer in the service. There were, he might add, three or four other cases of precisely the same kind, in which no complaint whatever had been made, Commander Cheyne being, as far as he knew, the only one who had said he had a grievance.


said, that where officers were engaged in arduous duties, they had a right to look for some consideration at the hands of the Government. If they were dealt with on the strictest principles of what they were entitled to receive, the country was likely to fall into the danger of meeting with that service only which they were obliged to give, and not with that cheerful fulfilment of duty which it had been the pride of the Navy to render. It appeared that Commander Cheyne had met with a serious accident which damaged his prospects materially and permanently injured his health, this accident had occurred while Commander Cheyne was in the service, and, as he was informed, while saving the life of one of the men of the fleet. If over there was a case in which the Admiralty would have been justified in applying their rules with leniency, it would be in a case of this kind. Commander Cheyne was appointed by a former First Lord to a place which was then understood to be permanent, though he was not inclined to dispute that it was subject to further revision by the Board of Admiralty. He understood that the appointment was one to be held during good behaviour, and that it was also one of those often given to officers who had deserved well of their country, the duties of which they were able to perform, though they might not be equal to the active service of the fleet. He would not go over all the facts; but would merely say that the fact of the summary supersession of Commander Cheyne was to that officer a grievous and unjust injury, and it further proved that a case of considerable hardship had been brought to the notice of the House by his hon. and gallant Friend, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman opposite would give it a favourable consideration.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.