HC Deb 09 March 1876 vol 227 cc1767-71

, in calling attention to the pay and allowances of Adjutants of Militia, said, he was sure that when the Warrant regulating the pay of those officers was issued the Secretary for War had every intention of dealing fairly with all the Adjutants of Militia; but he thought the right hon. gentleman was not aware how it would act as to some of them. The effect of the Warrant generally was this: It increased the pay of Infantry Militia Adjutants from 10s. to 11s. 7d. per day, or £28 a-year, and of Adjutants of Artillery from 10s. to 11s., which would be an increase of £18 a-year; but every officer receiving half-pay would be excluded from the allowances which were paid to Militia Adjutants as Paymasters and Quartermasters. So that, under the new Regulations these officers would receive considerably less than they did before; and, as he was sure the Secretary of State for War could not desire this, he hoped that some alteration would be made in that respect.


also expressed a hope that the condition of the officers would receive the attention of the Secretary for War.


said, since some of these gallant Gentlemen had accepted their position of Adjutant, the Secretary for War had thought fit, no doubt acting on advice, to issue a new Warrant with regard to the pay. What was the effect of the Warrant? Why, an able and deserving officer was liable to lose from £30 to £40 a-year. This the officers could not afford, and it was of the highest importance to the efficiency of the Militia that the grievance should be removed.


considered the defence of our coast a most important question. On our South Coast we had Plymouth, Portland, Portsmouth, and Dover, not only almost impregnable fortresses, but also vast entrenched camps, capable of holding so large a force that no enemy dared have them in his rear; but on the East and Northeast Coast there were no similar defences. In the beginning of this century towers copied from that at Martello, in South Italy, were erected on the South-east Coast. It was true the poet had sung— Britannia needs no bulwarks, No towers along the steep; Her march is o'er the mountain wares, Her home is on the deep; but his practical mind would be the first to perceive how necessary for security would be fortifications near the coast. In these days we had moveable fortresses, and it seemed to him (Sir William Fraser) most desirable that troops to the number of 30,000 men should be practised in embarking and disembarking; besides the regimental embarkation which was constantly going on.


believed the Militia to be one of the chief defences of the country, and thought the subject which had been brought before the House deserving of its most serious consideration, and that the grievances under which the Adjutants were labouring ought to be attended to. He complained that the duties of Paymaster and Quartermaster were thrown upon the Adjutants, and strongly recommended that they should be allowed horses, the use of which was one of the necessities of their position.


having congratulated the noble Lord behind him on the able and temperate manner in which he had laid the grievances of which the Adjutants complained before the House, explained that the state of things which his right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department found prevailing when he came into office was so anomalous that he decided to anticipate the operation of the depot system, and to place all the Adjutants of Militia on the same footing as those of the Line. A great many complaints were, concurrently with that decision, made by the old Adjutants of Militia that they had new duties to perform. They were anxious to retire; but the allowance was so small, that it offered no inducement to them to retire. The Secretary of State took up the question, and having regard to the fact that a great number of officers were on compulsory half-pay, who were anxious to return to the Service—who were costing a great deal of money without doing anything for it, he proposed an arrangement by which an exceptional rate of retiring allowance should be given to the Militia Adjutants who chose to retire, filling up their places by officers who were on half-pay. But it was clearly stated, and so understood, that that was an exceptional and not the normal rate of allowance. Those officers who did not retire remained with their eyes open, knowing that they would be liable to the duties performed by other officers at the depôt. Then, as to the complaint that the allowances of the officers had been cut down, he need only point to the fact that their total emoluments formerly were £308 10s. 9d. per year, whereas now they amounted to £329. One item of allowance—namely, £3 for recruiting—had certainly been cut down; but if the officer had to go considerable distances the £3 would not be gained. They were now placed on the Line footing, and received the actual expenses out of pocket. With respect to another matter which had been referred to, he might say that steps would be taken not to put the new scale into operation until the day the Circular was received. He had to inform his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bedfordshire (Sir Richard Gilpin), that the system of appointing the officers referred to supernumerary Majors of their regiments had been attended with great benefit to the public service, the old Adjutants remaining and being of special service to the young officers. With regard to the drawback of pay, it was true that in the older Militia Acts there was a reservation in favour of half-pay; it was made under totally different circumstances from those which now existed. It had been said that a difficulty was experienced in certain cases in finding officers willing to come forward for a limited time. All he could say was, that so far from there being any want of officers, there had been, with only two exceptions, not only a sufficient, but a very large number of officers from the active battalions willing to serve with the Militia. Complaint had been made that Paymasters' and Quartermasters' duty had been thrown upon the officers, and it was true that such was the case during the intermediate arrangements consequent upon the formation of the brigade depôts. He hoped that in a short time that would cease to be so; but if it did not, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War would make some allowance for what was certainly a very arduous duty. With regard to the suggestion that the troops should be practised in embarkation and disembarkation, he could state that the present practice was fully equivalent to that of the troops of any foreign country. It should be remembered that from the nature of things the Army of this country had a greater opportunity of learning how to shift for itself under various circumstances of embarking and disembarking than any other Army had. As to directing such practice to take place on particular points of the coast, he must speak with great reserve; because, whatever might be the advantages of internal manœuvres, great discretion should be used in laying down the points of the coast which were considered most applicable to such operations.


said, that without blaming the Secretary of State, inasmuch as he had simply carried out the policy his predecessor had inaugurated, he could not help thinking that faith had been broken with those old Adjutants who had entered the Militia on the understanding that they were appointed permanently, and who had, in consequence, given up their chance of promotion in the Regular service, and served Her Majesty thoroughly well in the Militia. The War Office had called upon them to do a large amount of additional duty, and to place themselves at the beck and call of several masters, and if they did not like to do so they were to receive a pension far below that which they were before receiving. This was rather hard upon officers who had done good service, both in the Regular Army and the Militia.


said, he hoped he had made it clear that there had been many applications for retirement from these officers.