HC Deb 05 April 1872 vol 210 cc831-3

rose to ask the Secretary of State for War, If it is true that several regiments have received orders to send fifty volunteers to the Royal Artillery, and that no volunteer is to be under five feet seven inches in height, and not less than thirty-four inches round the chest? The late Franco-German War had proved that the most important branch of an Army was the Artillery, and no doubt the men to be procured to serve in that branch should be high-class men, but it was an unprecedented thing to select them from the Line regiments. Hitherto, volunteers from the regiments had been drafted into others; but there were no conditions as to the height, width, or girth of the men volunteering, the only condition being that they should be of good character. He had yesterday received a letter from a distinguished officer holding high rank in the Artillery, who said that the transfer of men from Line regiments to the Artillery was a false move, not for the benefit of nor agreeable to either service; that if the recruiting for the Artillery were properly conducted there would be no scarcity of men, as the inducements offered were quite sufficient without robbing the Line regiments of their best men; that the Artillery would rather recruit for themselves, and bring the men up in their own way to their own work; that going round the Line regiments touting for volunteers for another service at higher pay was a bad principle to adopt, unsettling the men, and leading to the disappointment of those who were chosen, when they found that their new work was harder than, and of a different character to, the work they had been previously used to; that the Artillery did not wish to create the ill-feeling that would be occasioned by robbing the Line regiments of their best men; and that though they wanted men, they had no doubt they could get plenty for themselves, if they were allowed to go about it in the right way. In point of fact, the system which now appeared to have been introduced was the very system which led to the ruin of the French Army. In France the best and smartest men of the Army were picked out for the crack corps, and the Guards; and the result was that the Line regiments dwindled away to nothing. He protested against a system which, if it were carried out, would cause universal disgust throughout the service. The Royal Marines had a separate recruiting system of their own, and he did not see why the Royal Artillery should not also have a separate recruiting system. It was most unfair when the officers of Line regiments had taken considerable trouble to make their men smart, that those men should be offered higher pay to go into another corps.


said, he hoped he should be able to comfort his hon. and gallant Friend by the explanation that the recruiting of the Royal Artillery to which he had referred, arose simply from the fact that the Line regiments were at the present time in excess of their complement, and it had, therefore, become necessary to reduce their number. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman was so anxious that the Royal Artillery should be able to recruit for itself, he would doubtless be gratified to learn that the new arrangement would provide for exactly what he seemed to desire. He trusted that no regimental jealousy would prevent the Government from carrying out their intentions. The real state of the case was, that looking at the establishment for the coming year, the Government found that the Infantry was above, while the Artillery was below, its estimate, the estimated number of the latter having been increased by 5,000 during the past year, the whole of which had not been supplied by recruiting; and therefore they determined, instead of altogether discontinuing recruiting for the Line, which would have had a deleterious effect upon that force, to invite volunteers from regiments which were above their estimated strength for the Artillery. The result had been that whereas the Artillery last year was 1,500 below its estimate, 887 of that number had been supplied by this means.

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