HC Deb 20 May 1875 vol 224 cc711-7

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

£685,300, Militia Pay.


called attention Co the position of non-commissioned officers of the Militia Staff. It was true that they came in on the understanding that after 20 years' service they should receive a retiring pension of 5d. a-day. He thought that, under the altered circumstances of the times, they laboured under a grievance which ought to be remedied at once, and he would propose that after 10 years' service these sergeants should retire with a pension of 5d. a-day in addition to their former pension; after 15 years, with 8d.; and of 20 years, with 1s. He thought the colonels appointed for the last two years to the brigade depôts had something very much like sinecures, and he should like to see some of that money expended in training colleges for sons of non-commissioned officers. It had been stated that the best recruits came from the Militia; but some Militia officers did not encourage recruiting, and he would suggest that such officers should retire, and be replaced by those who would encourage recruiting. As regarded the stagnation of promotion, he knew as a fact that considerable discontent existed in the Marines at the way in which the officers were treated. He believed that if Captains in the Army were allowed to retire with brevet rank, and allowed to wear their uniforms, they would be glad to do so, and thus the chances of promotion would be increased. He recommended that officers joining the Militia from the Regular service should be allowed to reckon their Army service for honorary rank in the same way that Militia officers counted their embodied service.


said, he wished to refer to a statement made by the Secretary for War when introducing the Army Estimates, that Militia officers were becoming much better instructed and had obtained a considerable number of certificates for military proficiency. He found on reference to the Army List of the present month that in the seven regiments of the Lancashire Militia, with 158 officers, only 24 had received any public certificate of proficiency, and 24 had served in the Army. In the five regiments of Middlesex Militia, out of 114 officers, only 33 had received certificates, and 21 had served in the Army. Of the whole of these 272 officers only 102 had received certificates, leaving 170 in 12 regiments who had received no certificates of proficiency. In some regiments no certificate had been received at all. Now, in the Volunteer regiment commanded by his noble Friend (Lord Elcho)—the London Scottish—every officer had obtained a certificate of efficiency except two sub-lieutenants; and in the regiment commanded by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Bulwer)—the Inns of Court—there was only one officer who had not received a certificate; and in the regiment which he himself commanded—the London Rifle Brigade—every officer but one had received a certificate. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would take such steps as were necessary to secure a better attendance of officers at the schools, and enforcing the attainment of certificates before they obtained a higher grade. The next point to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee was the number of the Militia. He found that out of an establishment of 123,668 only 84,316 trained or were present at inspection, 10,069 having been absent without leave, and 2,642 with leave. In 1873, however, out of a smaller establishment of 120,546 we had 87,315 trained, and with those absent, with or without leave, we were only 17,194 short of our establishment against 25,143 in 1874. An increase of deficiency of trained men below the establishment of 8,000 in a single year seemed to him to call for some explanation. But the point to which he wished to draw the Secretary for War's attention was the desirability of filling up the Militia to their full quota, and, if possible, with men who had completed their first term of service in the Army. Such trained soldiers of the age of 24 would leaven the young soldiers in the ranks of the Militia, would form the most effective reserve, and would have the additional advantages both of a yearly training and being found when they were required for active service in the field. The right hon. Gentleman told them that a place would shortly have to be found for every man in the Reserve, and he sincerely trusted that might he done through the ranks of the Militia. Another point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House was the entire exclusion of the Militia, and, indeed, of all the Auxiliary Forces, from the best part of the Autumn Manœuvres this year. He saw yesterday in The Times the details of 20,000 troops who were to be engaged in these manœuvres in the neighbourhood of Aldershot during the month of July; but among them was not to be found a single Militia or Volunteer battalion. Now, having twice commanded battalions of the Auxiliary Forces at the Autumn Manœuvres, he ventured to say that there was nothing which so much roused the men to show to their best, whether in camp, on the march, or in the field. The Militia especially might complain that the arrangements of the right hon. Gentleman were so made as entirely to exclude them from their accustomed manœuvres. The last point he wished to advert to was the position of the new brigade depôt adjutants. They were to be appointed for five years from a regiment of the Line; but if there were two battalions of Militia at the same brigade depôt, a temporary adjutant must be appointed if they were out for training together. Would the commanding officers be as well off with one adjutant, who was really the Brigadier's adjutant, as they were with the former adjutants of their own battalions; and would the captain from the Line be equally active in looking for recruits, and in training the staff-sergeants of regiments, to whom, after all, he was only temporarily attached? They had also seen an extract from a Warrant, issued on the 29th of March, by which in certain cases the adjutant retiring under the new scheme might be promoted and appointed the major in the same regiment over the heads of all the captains, who, under his retirement, had held higher rank than himself. He trusted, in fairness to the captains, that such promotions would be very exceptional.


, in reply to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Hayter), said, that upon no occasion had any officer in his regiment of Militia been examined by the Board of Officers and had not passed. With regard to the Warrant which had been recently issued in reference to the adjutants of Militia, he thought it unwise, because it was offering a bribe to them to retire from the service in the prime of life, when they were perfectly able to continue their services. It should be remembered that an adjutant of Militia was one of the most important officers in the regiment, and that so long as he could serve and was thoroughly efficient he ought to be allowed to continue to do his work. He was afraid his right hon. Friend had been hampered by adopting the plan of his Predecessor, and he would not improve that system by engrafting upon it what he now proposed to do. His system would be found to be costly, and he feared it would be unwise.


urged upon the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the importance of encouraging men to pass from the Army into the Reserve. He advocated the improvement of the Militia Reserve; suggested that the period of training should be extended from 28 to 42 days, and that the sum paid should be increased from £1 to £1 10s. A large class of men in this country would willingly go into the Militia, as the service extended over a short period of the year and was entirely local, and if proper means were taken a large number of these men would go into the Line.


pointed out that the number of men absent from the annual Militia trainings in different parts of the country varied considerably, and suggested that this showed the existence of defects in the mode of recruiting, which called for the attention of the Secretary of State for War. He also objected to officers of Militia being put in as lieutenants of the Line, on the ground that the sub-lieutenant who might eventually go over his head had to serve under him sometimes for a period of a year and a-half. That state of things could not be for the benefit of the Militia or the discipline of the Army.


said, that a scheme had been drawn up for meeting the grievances of adjutants, under which those who were unwilling to accept the new terms of service had the alternative of retiring on a special allowance. The calculated cost of the scheme was £18,000 a-year, but by bringing in half-pay officers to fill the vacancies, created in the Line regiments, no less than £14,000 was made available for meeting that expenditure. As to the proficiency of officers, a subject he had not expected to be introduced, he would only remark that it was not fair to infer from the fact of an officer not having his certificate that he was not sufficiently acquainted with his duties. To compel officers to attend the schools at which these certificates were given might be driving the willing horse at too great a speed; and if it did not appear that the service suffered, it was better to leave the matter for private arrangement between the officers and their commanders. It must be remembered that all examinations for promotion were now far more strict than they used to be. It was intended, as far as possible, to absorb the old quarter-masters of Militia who were reported to be competent, appointing them as quartermasters of brigade depôts. With regard to the appointment of adjutants as majors, that was a matter which must be left to the discretion of commanding officers with the approval of the Secretary of State and the military authorities. With respect to absentees from Militia regiments, they were more numerous than was desirable in large towns, because there the recruits were often engaged in the autumn and winter, and it was practically impossible to be certain that they would not change their residence.


drew attention to the fact of the great number of absentees that there were from the Militia. The last Return for 1874 laid this year before the House showed no less than 1,000 officers were reported as being absent from training, or rather absent on the day of inspection. Considering that there were only 3,486 Volunteer officers in the Force, exclusive of the permanent Staff, it must be allowed that this was an excessive number to be absentees. No doubt there were 565 of them wanting to complete, the remaining number, 413, being absent with and without leave. Out of the permanent staff of non-commissioned officers, of 4,806 sergeants and drummers there were 285 absent with leave, without leave, and wanting to complete. Again out of 7,600 sergeants and corporals appointed from the Volunteers, no fewer than 1,563 were absent on the day of inspection; and out of an establishment of 123,668 privates, only 84,316 were present on the day of inspection, making a difference of 39,352 privates, or as nearly as possible one-third of the Force. The vast extent of absentees amongst officers, non-commissioned officers, and drummers was a matter which he thought deserved the attention of the Government. This state of the Militia was one that had existed during the whole period of nearly 20 years, for which Returns had been laid before the House of Commons. Year by year these Returns showed nearly one-third of the whole Force absent on the day of inspection, not of privates alone but of all Volunteers, including officers: no doubt the permanent staff of non-commissioned officers and drummers was far more complete, but there ought not to be a man of the permanent Staff absent, seeing that they were on pay all the year. The great defect in these Returns was the absence of information as to the ranks of officers present and absent. The Return only showed officers, without dividing them into their several grades. There were also discrepancies between the numbers in the annual training Return, and the numbers entered in the Army Estimates; the grades also showed considerable differences, as also the number of privates. There was an important point connected with the Militia, and that was its military instruction. It was most essential to extend this training. He understood that many Militiamen in London and the large towns could without inconvenience attend drill in the course of the winter months; and individual training of this kind would be likely to have a most important effect. More frequent inspection to separate portions of the Militia, particularly of the Volunteer Reserve for the Army would also be of great advantage. He hoped that in the Army Estimates information would be inserted in future showing what was the establishment by ranks of the Militia regiments; the number of regiments and companies.


said, that since 1871 an officer promoted from the rank of a subaltern to the command of a company had to undergo a very strict examination, and no subaltern could remain in a regiment unless he passed an examination of efficiency by the end of his second training, so that it was quite a mistake to suppose that only those Militia officers were efficient who had P.S. after their name in the Army List. With regard to the training at Aldershot, it was, while it lasted, very severe, and not suitable for Militia who could be much better trained in their county towns. This was now being carried out to a great extent, and would, he had no doubt, bear fruit in a large increase in recruiting for the Militia. The condition of the Militia was now very much improved. Their uniforms some time ago were disgraceful—the colours of their coats being various, from the dirtiest of brickdust to the brightest of scarlets. All that, however, was now changed, and the Militia were smartly and well clad, and they were no longer laughed at. Of his own regiment—the 2nd Royal Surrey—he was proud to speak in the highest terms.


said, he had a few days ago been present at an inspection of the Militia Reserve, and he was highly pleased with their discipline and excellent state of training.

Vote agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow;

Committee to sit again To-morrow.