HC Deb 14 March 1879 vol 244 cc934-63

assured the House that he rose with great diffidence for the second time at so early a period of the Session to call attention to matters connected with military administration. His diffidence would have been even greater were it not for the success which had resulted from his former Motion, and if his previous experience had not convinced him that the kind treatment which he then received at the hands of the House would be extended to any Member who did not speak too frequently, who understood his subject, and was known to be thoroughly in earnest. While most emphatically disclaiming the desire only to benefit those corps referred to by the terms of his Motion, in one of which he had passed many years of his life, he wished still less to draw any invidious distinction between the various branches of the Army. In mentioning that he had never in his life been within the walls of the Royal Academy at Woolwich; that for three generations no near relation of his had served in the Ordnance corps, although many had with the Guards, Cavalry and Infantry; and that he (Colonel Arbuthnot) had served in a Cavalry regiment, he only desired to show that in dealing with a subject relating to the Ordnance and Scientific branches of the Service, he was likely to be as disinterested as any Member of the House. He wished the House to believe that he approached the question altogether in the public interest and upon national grounds, and to understand that he blamed no Department, either Parliamentary or Executive, for a state of things attributable, in his opinion, entirely to natural causes, which had grown up by the force of circumstances, and for which no one was responsible. At the same time, he desired to say that if he did not succeed in making out a very strong or even unanswerable case, the failure would be his own, and not due to any insufficiency of argument at his disposal. With the permission of the House, he thought it well to read the terms of the Motion which he had the honour to submit to its consideration—namely— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be pleased to order the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into and to report whether any and what alterations of the Military system now in force are desirable, as regards the pay, promotion, employment, and conditions of service and retirement of the officers of the Ordnance corps. It would be recollected that until the Crimean War, and up to the year 1854, the organization of the Army differed totally from that of the present time. The Ordnance corps were then entirely apart from the rest of the Army, and formed something between a mechanical and semi-official Department. They were specially represented in Parliament, and were not under the Commander-in-Chief, but had a Master General and a Clerk to the Board, who was a Member of the Government. That last Clerk of the Ordnance was Colonel Boldero, who, though he commenced life as an Engineer, was, during his career, transferred to the Line, a fact that, in itself, was sufficient to show that the line of demarcation between the Scientific corps and the other branches of the Army was more strongly defined now that the whole of the Army was under the control of the Horse Guards, than at the period to which he referred. At that time the Ordnance corps enjoyed great advantages, financial and otherwise, both in England and the Colonies, which, however, were so numerous, intricate, and uninteresting, that he would not dwell upon them, but refer any hon. Members who desired further information upon that subject to the history of the Royal Artillery by Major Duncan. Many of those advantages disappeared with the abolition of the Board of Ordnance, although he was of opinion that a contrary impression existed, and that the country had never realized the change which had taken place. It might be supposed that when the Board of Ordnance was suppressed, and after the Scientific corps came under the Horse Guards, they would share all the advantages and disadvantages alike, common to the other branches of the Service. The case, however, was unavoidably otherwise, and he did not complain of that for one moment. The fact was, that long after the abolition of the Board they still retained special advantages, sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages under which they laboured, and which, at all events, offered sufficient inducements for parents and guardians to send young men into the corps. But in 1871, it would be remembered that an entire change took place. The Army Purchase system was abolished, and the whole Army was placed prospectively on the same footing as regarded entrance and subsequent commissions. That being the case, he contended that the same advantages and disadvantages should apply to all branches of the Service alike, and that was also the opinion of the Royal Commission that sat to inquire into the matter of promotion and retirement, the Report of which stated, at page 78, that— There is no difficulty in saying that the different arms of the Service should be treated with impartiality, and that no boon or benefit should be accorded to the officers of one which, under similar circumstances, is withheld from the other, and that each arm or branch of the Service should, as far as practicable, have an equal share of the honours, distinctions, emoluments and other advantages is also a proposition not likely to be denied. The special advantages and disadvantages he had referred to as existing before the abolition of Purchase in the other arms were as follows:—In the first place, the officers of Ordnance did not pay for their first or subsequent commissions; and though their promotion came tardily, they got their steps without paying for them, and, consequently, received bonâ fide pay, instead of indifferent interest for their money. Then there was the rank of full colonel, which carried with it high pay, and was a thing looked forward to by the officers of those corps; but that rank had been abolished by the recommendation of the Royal Commission. He might remark, with regard to the construction of the Commission, that although it included an officer of the Indian Artillery, the interests of the English Army were not represented by any officer who was serving in England or the Colonies; and he added, upon good authority, that the Commissioners, when at the last moment they went into the question of the effects of their recommendations upon the non-purchase corps, did so in a most perfunctory manner, and without foreseeing what those effects would be. Another advantage enjoyed by those corps, about which he would afterwards have something more to say, was that they possessed a better retiring system. He was simply arguing this question with reference to the effect of the new Regulations upon the supply of candidates for the Ordnance corps, because he felt that one result only could ensue—namely, that when the new Rules in operation were understood, the corps would lose caste, and find themselves without a suitable supply of officers to command them—to guard against which in the future was his object in trespassing upon the time and attention of the House. He now came to the disadvantages under which the Corps laboured, and he ventured to say that these had been very much increased by the recent legislation for the abolition of Purchase, and by the action taken to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Promotion and Retirement. In the first place, the entrance examination was severer, and, therefore, the education was more costly. He did not say for one moment that more money was not spent upon the education of some Infantry officers than was spent on that of any officer who joined the Ordnance corps; but he still maintained that to obtain a commission in that Service it was necessary to spend more money, because a far higher standard of education had to be attained. The entrance examination was severer, and the course of instruction longer. He admitted that a little benefit was conferred by the reduction in the age of entrance at Woolwich; but, taking the average age of cadets, it would be seen that the Woolwich cadet obtained his commission at a later age than others, had spent more money in consequence upon his education, and was more heavily handicapped at the starting on the race. Passing on to the question of pay, he believed he should be able to show the House that in every rank except below that of captain the Engineers and Artillery received less pay and emolument than the Infantry of the Line. The only financial recommendation of the Commission was one that acted entirely to the disadvantage of those corps, and was to the effect that a saving in the effective pay of the Army should be made by the abolition of the rank of full colonel, which saving mulcted the Royal Artillery in the sum of £52,000, and the Royal Engineers in the sum of about £30,000, annually. By existing Regulations, lieutenant colonels of Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers were especially at a disadvantage. Only about two out of five drew command pay; while adjutants, though captains, only drew 1s. 8d.; while an Infantry adjutant, who was a subaltern, drew 2s. 6d. or 3s. He now came to the question of promotion. It was, of course, known that the Ordnance corps used to obtain their promotion free of expense, though it came tardily; but the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the matter drew up statistics showing that if the Army had been left as Viscount Cardwell left it, without any scheme for promotion or retirement, the Ordnance corps would have been in advance of the rest of the Army as regards rapidity. Although the actuarial statements drawn up and published might be of authority or otherwise—for he did not place much reliance in such statements unless based upon very large figures—still they went to show that under the scheme recommended by the Commissioners, officers in the Ordnance corps would be from four to six years later in gaining each successive step on the ladder of promotion. He had now to ask the attention of the House to the most serious of all the causes which were at work to deter young men from joining the Ordnance corps, and that was the practical exclusion of the officers from the Staff. He found that with the exception of the two General Staff officers at Woolwich—Colonel Brackenbury at Cyprus, whose appointment he understood was about to cease, and who probably owed his selection to the personal influence of Sir Garnet Wolseley, and one other about to proceed to Natal as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General—there were no officers of Ordnance employed upon the General Staff. If any doubt existed as to the non-employment of those officers, who numbered about one-third of the whole body of officers in the Army, he would like to refer to a case within his own recollection of an Engineer officer who for some time temporarily discharged the duties of a high Staff appointment at an important military station. The post became vacant, and application was made for him to be confirmed in it; but the answer received was—"Ordnance officers are not eligible for appointment to these positions." That answer simply conceded the whole point which he (Colonel Arbuthnot) wished to bring before the House, He admitted that there were occasional cases of men employed in departments where special qualifications were required—such as the Intelligence and Education Departments—but they did not come into the category of the 60 officers employed on the General Staff. Why were the officers of the Ordnance corps excluded from Staff appointments in England and the Colonies? In his opinion, they were all more or less qualified for the Staff by their knowledge of topography, surveying, and military drawing. Field Artillery officers were pre-eminently fitted for Staff employments and commands, because from the nature of their regimental duties at field days and manœuvres, they had better opportunity of studying the movement and the handling of troops. On these occasions the artilleryman got a general view of what was going on; while the Cavalry soldier was either employed on reconnaisance duty, or, if with his regiment, was hidden away behind a hill till required to move, when he was enveloped in a cloud of dust; and the Infantry officer was devoting his time and attention to seeing that when he gave the order "fours right," the men did not form "fours left." If one wanted to get an account of what had happened on a field day, it was much more likely to be obtained from a sub-lieutenant of Artillery than from even a commanding officer of any other Arm. The officers of the Ordnance corps had been invariably excluded from occupying any of the three highest positions to which the officers of other corps could attain, and were, besides, shut out from the positions of heads of the Departments of Clothing, Recruiting, Intelligence, and Education. Out of the officers commanding at the 30 district divisions and brigades in England and the Colonies, only one was an officer of a scientific corps. With regard to the appointment at Woolwich, he saw that the post was to be filled by a distinguished Crimean officer, which was to be regretted; because that standing appointment of an Artillery officer to Woolwich was one of the means by which the line of demarcation between the Ordnance corps and the rest of the Army had been maintained. He would like to see a Cavalry officer sent to command the Woolwich district, and an Artillery General commanding some of the great defensive districts. He believed that it was an object of the greatest importance to break through that line of demarcation, and that he should eventually succeed in his endeavours to do so. It was quite true that Ordnance officers had been appointed to commands at Gibraltar and Bermuda; but he wished to remind the House that in those places the command of the troops was quite subordinate to the position of Civil Governor, and were not purely War Office appointments. Again, it might be asked—"How can you complain, when General Roberts and General Biddulph both hold commands in India?" To which he replied—"If it is just and expedient to employ the officers of Ordnance corps when they get to India, how will it be otherwise than unjust and impolitic to say they shall have no commands in England and the Colonies?" If there happened to be no officers of Artillery or Engineers fitted for any particular vacancy, of course he did not complain that no one was appointed. He did not say those officers must be employed simply on the grounds of numerical proportion; but simply asked why was England to be the only country in the world not to employ on the Staff and in commands its most highly educated officers? Referring again to the Afghan War, he might contrast the selection of generals with that in the Zulu War. In the former, the Ordnance corps had a fair share, while, in the latter, out of five generals now on the way to the scene of operations, not one belonged to those corps. It would be an easy thing to mention scores of officers in foreign Armies who had been employed in independent commands, and whose names were emblazoned on the pages of history. To begin with the French Army, there was the First Napoleon, Marmont, Foy, Drouot, Pichegru, L'Espinasse, and Bosquet; while the Italians had their Delia Marmora, and the Russians General Todleben and Prince Gortschakoff. All these distinguished men were Artillery or Engineer officers. Again, we had only to look to our own Indian Army for the names of Pollock, Whish, Archdale, Wilson, and Napier of Magdala—names of which England was not ashamed. He had moved in December last for a Return of the General Officers of the Ordnance Corps holding independent commands; but although he should have thought it might have been made out in five minutes, that Return had not yet been presented. It had apparently baffled the ingenuity and the research of the War Office clerks, and no wonder, for he believed no such record existed; at any rate, he had never heard of it. Sir Robert Jardine had commanded at Gibraltar, and Sir Fenwick Williams in Canada, and he had heard it stated that Sir John Burgoyne would have commanded in the Crimea had he not been an Engineer officer; but he foresaw an objection that might be advanced, by those who were anxious to do so, to the effect that he was, by making those remarks, criticizing the conduct and the patronage of the illustrious Duke at the head of the Army. He need hardly assure hon. Members that such was not his intention; although he was bound to say that if it appeared to him at any time that the Head of any Department, however high their position might be, and however exalted the rank of the individual was, sacrificing the public interest by errors of judgment, he would not for one moment hesitate to discharge his duty by pointing them out to the House. At that moment, however, his object was a very different one, for he wished not to criticize, but to strengthen the hands of the illustrious Duke, who was Colonel of the two corps in question, who it was impossible could be influenced by any silly prejudices, and whose aim, as everyone knew, was to maintain the Army in the highest state of efficiency. But it was difficult for the illustrious Duke to take upon himself the responsibility of making the great changes indicated, and upsetting a system which he had found in force, and which during a great part of his tenure of Office had been defensible, unless his hands were strengthened by the Report of a Royal Commission. As he was entering the House that evening, an hon. Member had said that he was about to ask the House of Commons to govern the Army; but nothing could be more absurd than that statement; for the matter was not one of discipline, but of organization, and it, therefore, was a most important question for the decision of the House of Commons. He would pass on to another subject, which he did not wish to represent as a grievance in any way. It was a fact that a man could much more easily get into the Staff College from the Line than from the Artillery or Engineers, which alone was an inducement for him to join other corps in preference to the Ordnance. There were some persons who thought that as there was a competitive examination to be passed, selection should be made from those who gained the highest number of marks. If that were the rule, the officers of Artillery and Engineers would monopolize all the appointments. This, however, was a secondary matter. For himself, he readily acknowledged the necessity of limiting the number from each arm of the Service. He only inquired why, if it was thought necessary to limit the number of Artillery and Engineer officers, the Cavalry and Infantry; whose duties were perfectly distinct, should be lumped together? Then, again, it was a perfect waste of money to educate Artillery and Engineer officers at the Staff College, with the view to their filling appointments which were never given to them. It was true that they held regimental Staff appointments, but for these no Staff education was necessary. Ordnance officers laboured under the further disadvantage of being the only ones who could not escape compulsory retirement, and for this reason—because officers of other corps about to come under compulsory retirement could be saved from it and promoted to other corps; while the Engineer or Artillery officer could not, inasmuch as there was no other corps open to him. The circumstances to which he had referred led him to be- lieve that as they had been created by the recommendations of various Royal Commissions, nothing short of a Royal Commission could effectively consider and modify them. Another point was the effect which the recommendation of the Royal Commission to abolish the rank of regimental full colonel had upon the scientific branches of the Army. He had heard, on the highest authority, that it would be the ruin of the Engineers; and he believed it would have the same effect upon the Artillery, by leading to the wholesale retirement of a large number of their most valuable officers. After a certain date—the 1st of October, 1882—no officer would be allowed to continue as lieutenant colonel longer than five years, but would then have the option of being placed upon half-pay, or of receiving a larger sum on retiring from the Service altogether. At the same date the rank of full colonel would also cease to exist, although there would be over 30 lieutenant colonels of Engineers and 50 of Artillery still eligible for promotion as full colonels, and who would have to be disposed of either by their being bought out or promoted before the other officers could hope for any employment. Those officers who had served their five years and been shelved would have to decide between receiving half-pay for an indefinite number of years and the higher terms offered to them on final retirement, and being usually poor men would be compelled to choose the latter, and the State would be very unfortunate in losing from that cause alone the services of so many valuable officers. It appeared to him that the only argument which could be advanced against the throwing open of appointments upon the Staff to the Ordnance officers was that they had already special appointments open to them. But he would ask the House, was it likely that such men, unless having a certain bent of mind, would prefer such an appointment as that of master saddler to the position of a Staff officer? He was of opinion that the line of demarcation between the scientific and other parts of the Army should be broken down, and the appointments in question thrown open to all. He could see no reason whatever why this should not be effected. The loss to the country of the abilities of scientific officers was no less than a national mis- fortune. Take the case of Sir William Palliser, Sir Henry Gordon, or Colonel Colley, whose services could have been invaluable to the State in certain Departments had they not been ineligible, because they were not Artillery officers. Again, it might be said that the supply of Ordnance officers was still equal to the demand; but with that argument he begged to join issue, and would only state that whereas, before the abolition of Purchase, the numbers of those who qualified in the preliminary examination and those who obtained appointments were in the proportion of four and a-half to one, they now stood in the proportion of three to two. The number of those who qualified had fallen off, and it was simply a waste of time to examine men who had not sufficient education to justify the authorities in continuing their examination after the first two days. He asked, was it or was it not desirable to attract the cream of the Army to the Ordnance corps? And had he not shown that those corps laboured under disadvantages which, as time went on, would increase rather than diminish? Was it likely that they could hold their own under the new Regulations; and would it not be a national misfortune if they were to sink into disrepute? There could be but one answer, and that was, that it would be a most unfortunate thing for the efficiency of the British Army and for the English nation at large. Again, he asked, was it not wise to anticipate those possible events with a view to their prevention? As inquiries of that kind were not matters of a day, he trusted the excuse would not be used that it was premature to deal with the subject at that time. How could the subject be investigated better than by a Royal Commission? He had shown that the matters to be inquired into were the results of the recommendation of two previous Royal Commissions; and he contended there were, at least, half-a-dozen points within the four corners of his Motion, the investigation of which was quite as important as anything that had justified the appointment of Royal Commissions in former times. He knew that the strongest feeling existed against sending young men to Woolwich. In a letter which he had received from a General Officer, the writer said that anyone who sent his son to Woolwich must be a lunatic or ignorant of the facts. Leaving the question of lunacy to be settled among the two distinguished Generals, he would read another letter which he had received from another General Officer who took exception to the above-mentioned expression, in which the writer, while foreseeing and admitting every word that he (Colonel Arbuthnot) had either uttered or written as to the disadvantages under which this corps laboured, said— The fact is that there are attractions in the Artillery Service that in some measure tend to counterbalance the ill-usage to which we are subjected, and these are—The pleasant life, the friendly brotherhood of the officers commencing at the Academy and continuing throughout; the interesting duties, the moderate scale of expense, and generally the high tone of the regiment. These considerations are sufficiently weighty to induce Artillery officers to send their sons to compete in spite of all the drawbacks. But all these were advantages which an Infantry officer might claim for himself, just as much as an Engineer or Artilleryman; and were they sufficient to compensate for what was really the case now—the absence of a career? He wished to impress strongly upon the House what it was that the Artillery or Engineer officer had to look forward to. It was this—Those who were lieutenant-colonels, and had been lieutenant-colonels for many years, could only look forward to being lieutenant-colonels still, and a large proportion of them would be shelved without so much as their drawing command pay. They attained that position at an early age, and would have to go on half-pay or on permanent retirement, unless the whole system was changed. Eventually they might become major-generals, and get £450 a-year; but they would not be employed. He did not know what would happen when the full colonels were abolished; but there were very few appointments which, even in the remote future, could be occupied by Artillery or Engineer officers. All the brigade depôts were open to officers of the Line; but there were very few military appointments open to Ordnance officers. He admitted that all his arguments did not apply equally to the two corps—some of them were more applicable to the Artillery than to the Engineers. These were all reasons why a Royal Commission should be appointed. It was impossible even for the able Secretary of State for War they now had —it was quite ridiculous to suppose that either his right hon. and gallant Friend, or the Executive Commanding Officer of the Army could possibly settle all these questions. They required an enormous amount of grappling with; and it would be childish to say, in answer to his appeal—"The matter is being considered now; it is occupying our time and attention, and you are only anticipating what we may very likely do." He therefore urged his right hon. and gallant Friend not to shrink from dealing with the question. He granted that it was a very large and momentous question. His right hon. and gallant Friend might take another line of argument. He did not know that his right hon. and gallant Friend would do so; but he might say that the question was too new—that this was the first time it had been brought before the House; or that the Parliament was too old—nearly in its last Session. He hoped his right hon. and gallant Friend would not rely upon that as an objection. He believed that the abolition of Purchase was carried out the first time it was brought before the House—or, at any rate, in its first Session. At any rate, he could assure the House of one thing—that if the matter was not well enough known now, it would soon be well enough known. The Press had already taken the matter up, and it would, he had very little doubt, be taken up in "another place;" and what was more, and what he was infinitely more concerned in, was that both the military and the civil public—those who understood the matter now, and those who would understand it eventually—would be on his side. This was why he said he had no doubt whatever that the matter would be eventually understood, and that the demand now made would be eventually conceded. He thought, therefore, that it would be very wise indeed for his right hon. and gallant Friend to take the initiative, and for the Government to deal with it by appointing a Royal Commission. He did not for a moment mean to say that his right hon. and gallant Friend was primarily responsible for the present state of things; but the responsibility—and a very great responsibility it was—had been thrown upon the shoulders of his right hon. and gallant Friend in consequence of his acceptance of the Office which he now held. It would be far better, he thought, that at this particular time his right hon. and gallant Friend should grant the inquiry, and declare at once that the Government would appoint a Royal Commission. He apologized to the House for having occupied so much of their time. He had, however, tried to be as short as he could, and he thanked them very much for the patience and attention with which they had listened to him. He would now leave the matter in the hands of the House and of his right hon. and gallant Friend, with the fullest faith in the truth, vitality, and ultimate success of the arguments he had used, and in the impartiality of the House of Commons, hoping confidently that it would be satisfactorily dealt with. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be pleased to order the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into and to report whether any and what alterations of the Military system now in force are desirable, as regards the pay, promotion, employment, and conditions of service and retirement of the officers of the Ordnance Corps,"—(Colonel Arbuthnot,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I think it would be for the convenience of the House that I should rise as early as possible to reply to my hon. and gallant Friend, and state what is the present position of affairs, and what is the view I take in regard to the question which my hon. and gallant Friend has so ably brought forward. I do not think that any apology was necessary on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend to the House for having introduced the subject; but the importance of the subject, and the temperate manner in which my hon. and gallant Friend has brought it forward, entirely justify the appeal which he has made, and I trust that what I shall have to say will prove to him that if it is my duty to resist the Motion in the form in which he has made it, it is not from any feeling inimicable to his objector from any feel- ing of indifference to the subjects which he has thought it necessary to bring before the House. Now, it seemed to me that although my hon. and gallant Friend touched upon many grievances and many cases of hardship—and there are many points in which, perhaps, the working of the Royal Warrant, as far as the Royal Artillery are concerned, is not wholly satisfactory—at the same time, he very briefly touched upon that which, in my opinion, is the pith and root of the whole of this question, and that is, how far the position of the officers of the Scientific and Non-purchase Corps has been affected—not actually, but relatively—by the better terms now given in the other branches of Her Majesty's Service. The main point, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, is this—Undoubtedly, it is desirable to attract what he calls the cream of the Service to the two branches of the Ordnance corps, commonly called the Scientific branches of the Service. That I answer without hesitation. He points out that they are under certain disadvantages, and he asks that these disadvantages should not be allowed to increase, adding reasons why the Ordnance corps cannot possibly hold their own under such circumstances. I am free to admit that not only now, but for some time past, even when I filled the position which my hon. and gallant Friend near me (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) now occupies—that of Financial Secretary—I could not avoid seeing that the time would come, sooner or later, when the position of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers must claim the attention of the Executive Government. From the moment when the abolition of Purchase took place, and particularly after the Royal Warrant in reference to promotion and retirement was passed, there could be no question that the subject must arise in some form or other; and probably, in the opinion of many who were best acquainted with the subject, the day would be almost immediate. But I confess that even those who took most interest in the subject could hardly have been prepared to see an effect produced in so short a space of time, or to find the Warrant, drafted, as I hope it was, entirely in the interests of the various branches of the Service, should turn out to have somewhat the opposite effect to that for which it was designed. I confess that I have not been able to examine into this matter as fully as I myself desired; but as far as my recollection goes, in the original form of the Warrant, as recommended by the Royal Commission, I do not think that compulsory retirement, at all events, in the lower grades, was recommended to the extent to which it has been carried out in the Royal Warrant. That is, as far as my recollection goes; but I am free to admit that opinions about it were divided. There were many eminent authorities taken into consultation, who were connected with, and deeply interested in, the welfare of the two Scientific corps, who thought it would be better to apply the system of compulsory retirement in much the same manner as in the other branches of the Service. However, when they came to apply those rules to the Scientific branch of the Service, a question arose which, although it was, to a certain extent, latent as regarded the Infantry and the Cavalry arms of the Service, has become one of very great prominence in regard to the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. It is a difficulty which will land you on one or other of the horns of a dilemma. My hon. and gallant Friend did not suggest or indicate a remedy—and it is mainly that where you want, on the one hand, to insure such a flow of promotion in the lower ranks as to enable officers to succeed to posts of importance at a comparatively early age of life, or while they retain all their business activity about them, you are, on the other hand, dealing with a class of officers whose value in many cases in the Service increases with every day of their service, and whom you cannot but regret to see forced, or even induced, to leave the Service. That is a difficulty which must beset you on the one hand or the other; and it is only by balancing the evils that the matter can be tested. Although I fully sympathize with my hon. and gallant Friend in the regret he has expressed at so many officers of great value to the Service being obliged, or feeling themselves obliged, to leave the Service, still I do not see, on the other hand, how that can be entirely avoided, unless you were to put up a flow of promotion, such as that which attracted so much attention in the Ordnance corps some years ago. Now, I confess that I followed with a great deal of interest what my hon. and gallant Friend said with regard to the line of demarcation between the Ordnance services and those of the rest of the Army; and I am bound to say that he appeared to me to take a view much more reasonable than that which has been urged upon me in other quarters, in so far that he is quite willing that the line of separation between the Ordnance and the other Services should be broken down on both sides. Hitherto it has rather been from custom than upon any known rule that one Service has been excluded from the other. My hon. and gallant Friend, on the other hand, would be glad to see appointments of a quasi-civil nature, although they might touch upon professional matters, opened up to the rest of the Army. I think there would be in that case some risk, if I may say so, of interfering with that feeling of comradeship which I am happy to think has always existed in the Royal Artillery, and which, indeed, has been much exemplified in this House. I refer to that feeling which knits the Royal Artillery together as one man. It is upon that feeling that pressure, no doubt, has been put, not only that appointments should be opened out to the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers—appointments which are now only open to the other branches of the Service—butthat they should, on the other hand, retain all the quasi-Staff appointments more particularly associated with them at the present time. I was glad, therefore, to recognize, on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend, a disposition to say that if the line of separation is to be made loss distinct, he is prepared to waive as much on the one side as the other. In using that argument he certainly does much to advance the position he takes up. So far as I am myself concerned, during the time I have held the Office I have now the honour to hold—and I speak with all due reserve on these points, because, as the House is aware, the small number of commands and the large number of officers who are eligible for them renders selection for command a matter of difficulty—so far as I am personally concerned, I have no reason to believe that the Artillery or Engineer officers are excluded, by the mere fact of their being such, from appointments which are open to other officers of the Army. I have never gone into the point of the numerical proportion; and I am not at all sure—although I dare say my hon. and gallant Friend has verified the statement he has made—I am not at all sure that, as far as the doctrine of numerical proportion goes, it would not tell against rather than for him. There is one point in regard to what has been stated by my hon. and gallant Friend upon which I wish to be allowed to speak with some reservation, because in referring to it I am dealing with it as an abstract case. It has been said, and cited as an illustration, that Lieutenant Chard, of the Royal Engineers, could not be promoted under the Warrant; whereas Lieutenant Bromhead, who was associated with him in the memorable defence of Rorke's Drift, could be.


I did not say under the terms of the Warrant, but under the existing state of things.


That is an impression I wish to correct. So far as I am informed—and I have taken steps to verify the accuracy of my own belief—there will be the means of promotion. I do not mean in reference to particular officers concerned; but taking this instance as an abstract case, it is perfectly possible for an officer of the Artillery or Engineers to be promoted to half-pay under the Royal Warrant as it now stands, on condition, however, that he is brought back to full pay within the year. No doubt, as my hon. and gallant Friend has stated, that involves a curious way of dealing with the question. But the more we are dealing with officers as a homogeneous body, the more we find ourselves in a difficulty in satisfactorily disposing of the question. In the other branches of the Service, officers obtaining extended promotion are allowed to join other regiments; but that, of course, cannot be the case in a body constituted like the Royal Engineers or the Royal Artillery. My hon. and gallant Friend has touched upon a point which I am free to admit is one that has always caused me some concern; and although I could not but agree, on the whole, with the premisses under which the Royal Warrant was framed, I cannot but regret that in some respects it appears to press extremely hard upon the lieutenant colonels. Lieutenant colonels, who held that rank prior to October, 1877, of course have their rights saved to them, and are not in any way interfered with by the Royal Warrant. Therefore, it is inevitable that those immediately below these officers should be placed between the pressure of promotion, on the one hand, while, by a well intended saving of the rights of officers, they are kept down on the other hand. I am free to admit that this is a substantial grievance, and a case of considerable hardship; and, speaking personally, I should be glad to see my way to redress it. I have no wish to take up too much of the time of the House. My only wish was to explain, as early as possible, how the matter at present stands. I have said that for some time past I have been of opinion that this question would come forward; but I did not expect to see it come forward as soon as it has done. I may say that even some months ago I placed myself in communication with the Inspector General of Fortifications, and with some other officers connected with the administration of the Royal Engineers, feeling that in that branch, at that moment, there was, undoubtedly, some pressure; and that the future of some of the officers who are now excluded from other appointments was not that which existed when the officers of the young Artillery regiments entered the Service. From the Engineers, all conversant with the subject know, it was no very remote step to the Royal Artillery; and I cannot say that I ever felt in my own time excluded from entering the Royal Artillery. But I think it is of extreme importance that we should ascertain accurately what it is that we propose to ourselves to do. I am bound to remind the House that the effect of a new Warrant is extremely difficult to forecast. And in many cases, when you thought you were giving that which was a concession to the wants of a particular branch of the Service, you found, on reference afterwards to other matters, that were not before you at the time, that the change has had an opposite effect to that which you expected, and has told against the interests of those whose interests at the moment you thought you were protecting. Take, for instance, the Warrant which followed the inquiry conducted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) in reference to retirement. The immediate effect of the change made in conse- quence of that inquiry, I am imformed, so far from expediting the retirement of officers, was to make it more difficult than ever to attain a higher position. That is only one out of many other instances; and I therefore repeat that it is our duty to see clearly before us to what point our inquiries should be conducted, and to endeavour to make the ground clear for the investigation of a Royal Commission. What I should have desired, if time permitted, was to have investigated the whole of the subject, and cleared up every point, and then to have an inquiry; but whether by a Royal Commission or by a Departmental Committee I am not at present prepared to say. It has been my wish to have these grievances ventilated, and get some of these points cleared up. I have thought that by taking evidence, and procuring information from officers, I might have formulated a Report and brought these grievances into some tangible shape; and after that had been done, it would then be for the Executive to take such action as they thought fit to recommend to the House. I still think that that course of proceeding might be taken with advantage. But with all deference to my hon. and gallant Friend, who has made so good a case this evening, I think that to appoint a Royal Commission which could not, from its very terms of reference, deal with other matters relating to the Service, would be disadvantageous rather than an advantage at the present time. It must be borne in mind that all these matters, large and serious as they are to one branch of the Service, are matters which have to be weighed in reference to other branches of the Service, and we must in our own minds pay a due regard to the proportion of the different branches, and take care that while we are doing justice to one branch of the Service we are not, at the same time, falling into the error of doing injustice to other branches. For that reason, it would be necessary to limit and to indicate very clearly the points to which any Royal Commission or Committee should direct their attention; and after that were done, when the ground had been so far cleared to enable the inquiry to be undertaken, it would be found, probably, that no time had been lost. In all probability a Committee or Royal Commission, with such indications before them, would be able to conduct their work within a less period of time than would be consumed if they were to start, in the first instance, without such a preliminary inquiry. I am sorry that circumstances connected with the Army Business before the House—the Army Estimates—have so far interfered with my intentions, and placed me more backward than I hoped would have been the case when Parliament assembled. From the reasons which I have now given, I would ask my hon. and gallant Friend to understand why it is that I find myself compelled to oppose his Motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I hope I have said enough to show the House, and those who are interested in the matter, that I am fully aware of the gravity of the subject. I do not yield to my hon. and gallant Friend myself, or to any of the officers of the Ordnance corps—whether Royal Engineers or Royal Artillery—in his opinion that we should get, as my hon. and gallant Friend expresses it, the cream of the Army into the Scientific branches; and I hope, with this assurance, that my hon. and gallant Friend will understand why I am obliged to feel it my duty to oppose, this evening, the appointment of a Royal Commission.


said, he took an interest in the matter now before the House, in consequence of having served on the Committee which inquired into the question of promotion and retirement in the two Scientific corps some 12 years ago. Up to the abolition of Purchase these two corps had attracted, in point of intellectual power, the cream of the young men who entered the Army. He agreed with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in holding it to be the most desirable that this state of things should continue; but, under present circumstances, they might be certain it would not. The competition for entrance into these two corps was falling off. It was natural that young men with a taste for scientific pursuits should wish to enter them, but it was against their interest to do so. There was no advantage in joining them, and the difficulty of entrance was much greater. Again, in the Scientific corps the pay was rather less than in the Line, and promotion was certainly slower. Then came the question of the fair distribution of com- mands between the different portions of the Service, and the evidence given before the Committee of 1867 showed that the Scientific corps never had anything like their proper share of the superior commands—a circumstance that might be accounted for by their virtual separation from the rest of the Army. The Secretary of State for War had, however, admitted the existence of a difficulty, and was aware of the causes that were likely to diminish the supply of efficient officers. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman had been unable to consent to the appointment of a Royal Commission, but had proposed to collect evidence, and, after classifying and arranging it, to refer the whole question to a Committee. In his opinion, a Royal Commission, with sufficient scope and a good personnel, would be practically well fitted to deal with the subject, involving, as it did, the relations of the two Scientific corps with the whole Army and the principle on which those corps should be manned; but no small improvements in matters of detail would meet the exigencies of the case. He did not know whether his hon. and gallant Friend intended to press his Motion to a Division; but this he knew, that sooner or later the whole question at issue must be fully considered by Parliament.


said, that the recommendations of the Committee of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) would have necessitated considerable expenditure, without which there could be no proper flow of promotion; but they had never been carried out. Soon after that Committee had reported, a Government with economical views came into Office, and the Chairman of the Committee had to admit that he saw no way of giving effect to their proposals. At the present time, perhaps, some different course would have to be adopted, as the circumstances had changed; and he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), and with his hon. and gallant Friend who had brought forward the Motion, that some authoritative inquiry was wanted. He thought his hon. and gallant Friend had gained a considerable step in advance for the object he had in view by eliciting the assurance which had been given by the Secretary of State for War. He would advise his hon. and gallant Friend to await the further steps which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would no doubt take in this matter.


said, he placed entire confidence in the promises which had been made by the Secretary of State for War to inquire into the unwise exclusion of the officers of the Artillery and Engineers from those employments on the Staff of the Army, to which they had a fair right, and would therefore suggest the desirability of not pressing the Amendment for the Royal Commission to a Division. He contended for the expediency of not bolstering up any particular rank or branch of the Service, but of selecting from all the officers of the Army those who were best qualified to fill particular appointments. Now, there was no justification for the present exclusion. Purchase had been abolished, so that the old officers, in regard to promotion, pay, and Staff appointments, ought to be on an equality. He desired that the Artillery and Engineers should be placed on the same footing, in all respects, with Infantry and Cavalry officers. He was perfectly certain that no hesitation need be felt in doing that. Their training and military knowledge fully fitted them for Staff duties. The Secretary of State for War, who was now the responsible Officer for the whole Army, had given promises which would be performed; but how they were to be carried out remained to him a mystery, so long as the Army was at present managed. He (General Sir George Balfour) strongly recommended the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite not to go to a Division. The difficulties of the Secretary of State for War in undoing the old prejudices against, and exclusions of, Artillery officers were so great that much tact was needed to effect reform. If, however, he did go to a Division, he would be defeated, because the Secretary of State for War could bring to his support an overwhelming number of Members, and he (General Sir George Balfour) did not wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman's good cause to be injured by being defeated. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had done good work that night, and had made such an impression on the Secretary of State for War that it could not fail to be effective in removing the disabilities of a very large section of officers of the Army.


said, he hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would not think it necessary to divide the House. He thought the Secretary of State for War had gone a great way with his hon. and gallant Friend. He was glad to find there would be no difficulty in promoting Lieutenant Chard. When he considered the wonderful conduct of that young officer, he wanted to know why he should not be promoted in his own corps? There were certainly no less than 38 officers at this moment before him; but he hardly thought that any one of them would hesitate to approve the promotion over him of one who had conferred such lustre, not only upon his own corps, but upon the whole Army and the whole nation. If there was no precedent for such a promotion as he (Colonel North) suggested, he hoped a precedent would be made in the case of Lieutenant Chard. A more soldierly despatch than that of Lieutenant Chard was never penned. What made Napoleon the Great the idol of his Army? It was this—he took advantage of such occasions as the one to which he (Colonel North) was referring, and promoted a man who had distinguished himself, no matter what rank he held.


said, that brute force now counted for less, and mind and intelligence for more, than formerly, and, therefore, they should not impose undue limits by confining to a limited sphere the Scientific corps. The hon. and gallant Member who brought forward this Motion advocated a Royal Commission, and the Secretary of State for War opposed it, and he (Colonel Beaumont) was inclined to agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He rather questioned, per se, whether a Royal Commission would be the best way of dealing with the subject; but unless something were done, he should, for one, not let the matter rest.


said, there were two points to which he wished briefly to call the attention of the House. He saw no reason whatever why Artillery officers should not be appointed to brigade depôts as well as Cavalry officers; and he considered it very unjust that they should be excluded from the Horse Guards Staff. He would be very glad, in the interests of the Army, to see Artillery officers on the Horse Guards Staff, because, independently of the change which they would effect, it would give an im- pulse to education throughout the Army. The public were well aware that none of the great reforms effected in the Army, such as the abolition of Purchase and the five years' rule, had ever originated with the Horse Guards.


said, that while he thought his hon. and gallant Friend had made out his case, he joined issue with him on the terms of the Resolution. He spoke of this grievance as the effect of the abolition of Purchase, but this was not so. The abolition of Purchase had conferred a great indirect benefit on the Ordnance corps, inasmuch as it had removed the principal ground for their exclusion from a full share in the emoluments and distinctions of the Army. There could be no doubt that in the past officers of the Artillery and Engineers had been shut out from many good positions in the Service for which, in point of education and skill, they were well fitted, the ground for such exclusion being not only that their own branches of the Service had many good things to bestow, but chiefly that they did not pay for their commissions, as was the case with the Cavalry and Infantry. The grievance now complained of was to an extent created by the Royal Warrant of 1877, and the fault of that Warrant lay mainly in the fact that the Royal Commission on whose recommendations it was founded were instructed not to inquire into the question of the organization of the Army, and, therefore, had to devise means of procuring a proper flow of promotion under the existing organization. They were thus driven to the adoption of compulsory retirement. The provisions in the Warrant relating to the compulsory retirement of officers in the lower ranks affected the officers of the Ordnance corps even more harshly than the rest of the Army; because, being able to calculate with almost mathematical accuracy the period at which their promotion would come, they knew also when they would be compulsorily retired, and could not, therefore, be expected to take the same interest in their duties while they remained in the Service that would otherwise be the case. In the Infantry and Cavalry branches, where promotion was in some regiments rapid and in others slow, there was an element of uncertainty which tended to mitigate this effect. The principal grievance, however, of which the officers in the two branches of the Service under discussion complained, and justly, was their practical exclusion from the Staff appointments. This exclusion was mainly traceable to the fact that the idea was not yet exploded that the Ordnance corps had some peculiar privileges of their own, and it was to be hoped that at no distant date the officers would be admitted to a fair share—and this was all they asked—of the higher appointments on the Staff of the Army. It had been said that the present system had an injurious effect upon the number and quality of the cadets entered at Woolwich. Feeling considerable interest in this branch of the subject, he had consulted the Governor of the Royal Academy at Woolwich, who said he had no complaint to make either of the quality or the number of the cadets applying for admission—that, in fact, they were of just as good a class as they had ever been. He found that, notwithstanding the high mathematical and scientific qualifications which were required, there were, in the case of Woolwich, four times as many candidates as there were openings, and in the case of Sandhurst, six times as many; so that the difference was not so great as might have been expected. While, in the main, he agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend who had introduced the Motion, he could not see how a Royal Commission could remedy the grievance of which he had complained. They had before them the Report of a Royal Commission which fully bore out the view he had urged upon the House; and he would suggest to his hon. and gallant Friend—more especially the main grievance—that of exclusion from the general Staff of the Army—was a matter of administration in which the responsibility rested with the Executive Government—to accept the assurances which the Secretary of State for War had given to the House.


concurred in the observations of his hon. Friend who had just sat down. His hon. and gallant Friend who had brought forward the subject had enlisted the sympathies of the House, and had received, he hoped, substantial and fairly satisfactory assurances from his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War. They had, therefore, reasons to hope that the two Scientific corps referred, to, and of which they were all so proud, would not, so to say, be loft out in the cold as regarded the higher appointments in the Army for the future; and he trusted, therefore, that his hon. and gallant Friend's Motion would not be pressed to a Division.


observed, that there was not an Army in Europe in respect of which so unjust and impolitic a provision existed as that which had been brought under the notice of the House, or one which bore so heavily on a most meritorious class of officers—a class which devoted their lives to the study of their Profession. He was glad to hear the assurance given by his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War that the grievance under which they laboured would receive due consideration.


said, that hitherto the debate had been carried on either by military men or by ex-officials connected with military administration. He rose, as one belonging to neither of those classes, but as one of the general public, who, both in that House and in the country, were determined that, as far as they could exercise the power, long-delayed justice should be done to those Scientific Services which were the pride and the glory of the Empire. Whilst all, of course, recognized the courage and the heroism of other branches of our Military Services, there might, perhaps, upon the Continent be questions raised as regarded their comparative efficiency; but he believed he was accurate in stating that in no military society in Europe would it be denied that the British Artillery stood without a rival; and yet this regiment, and its sister corps, the Engineers, remained, and would remain for many a long year, in the cold shade, if the British public did not speak out upon the question, and terminate once and for all an unworthy favouritism. He was surprised with some allusions which had been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) to the circumstance of a Cavalryman, Guardsman, or a Linesman having purchased his commission, where the Artillery officer had not done so. Why, surely the hon. Gentleman had forgotten the expenses that had been incurred in giving the young man, prior to his becoming a cadet, an expensive scientific preliminary training, and to the time which he had to spend afterwards at Woolwich before the could obtain his commission. Why, anyone of the smallest possible knowledge of the subject must know that the sum of £450 or £800, formerly paid for a commission, was but trifling when compared with the sum necessarily expended prior to entering the Artillery or Engineers. He would urge the hon. and gallant Member who had brought the subject forward not to be content with evasive promises from the Treasury Bench, but to press his Motion to a Division. It was well known that the Horse Guards endeavoured to rule the Secretary of State for War, and even the House of Commons, on military matters, and at one time the present Commander-in-Chief acted as if his authority was superior to the House of Commons; but 15 years ago the House had settled that question. The present Secretary of State could scarcely hope, however well-intentioned, to cope with, what he had heard termed, the Horse Guards Ring in this matter. At the Horse Guards the Scientific corps had never been in good odour, and would obtain but scant justice if that House did not, as behoved it, take the affair into its own hands. He had ventured to speak in this fashion, because it was more than human nature to expect that military men could speak out on a professional subject with the freedom of a layman. And he well recollected that some 15 years ago, when he used to bring forward military grievances in that House, he often had the advantage of suggestions from military men, who selected him, for the very reason of his being a layman, to be the exponent of their opinions. It was evident that the two front Benches perfectly understood each other, and had agreed to "square" the matter; but he was there to tell them that the injustice done to the Artillery was not such as to be smoothed over by soft words. Behind officials, past and present, there stood the great British public, who, when they understood the matter, would assuredly insist that Artillery officers should have justice.


maintained that the late Returns showed that they were now maintaining a lower class of candidates, intellectually considered, for the Artillery than they formerly secured If they left the position of the Artillery officer as it was at present, he might not fall off in physical qualities or in social status; but there would probably be a declension in his attainments in book learning—a matter of great importance in connection both with the Artillery and the Engineers. He did not contend that a picked Artillery officer should have better book knowledge than a picked officer of the Line; but with the average Line officer and the average Artillery officer the case was very different. It was impossible for them to keep up the book learning in the Artillery unless they paid for it. The House would act very unwisely if it did not encourage high mental qualifications for those branches of the Service. It was the opinion of all the great military writers, from Jomini downwards, that the first quality for the Artillery was science. Formerly, our Artillery officers were accustomed to have continuous service, while the Infantry and Cavalry were put upon half-Day. But the advantage of continuous service had been taken away from the Artillery by the retirement Warrant of the year before last, which he had opposed at the time, because he foresaw the evil effect it would have upon the whole Army, and especially upon the Artillery and the Engineers.


observed, that while the Secretary of State for War had promised, as far as he could, to remedy the present state of things, he had said that, as to commands, he did not quite see his way how exactly to proportion them. The military authorities were responsible for those whom they placed in the different commands, and they selected for them the best men they could. But that was not the real point from which the Artillery suffered. The number of General Officers of Artillery was limited in unfair proportion to the remainder of the Service; and the more distinguished an Artillery officer was as a young man, the higher he rose as a young man, and the more his name was known, the sooner that officer was shelved. If he became distinguished—say, like Lieutenant Chard—he received his captaincy and a brevet majority perhaps; but when he became colonel, and got to the top of the tree of full colonels, he had to wait long years before he was promoted to the rank of major-general. He concurred with all that had been said as to the uselessness of referring a question like this to a Royal Commission, and would illustrate the point by referring to the unsatisfactory results of the labours of the Royal Commissions appointed to examine into the complaints of officers of the Indian Service. The appointment of a Royal Commission was, in fact, a very easy way of shelving the question. Therefore, he trusted the hon. and gallant Member for Hereford (Colonel Arbuthnot), accepting what had been stated to-night by the Secretary of State for War, would refrain from pressing his Motion to a Division.


said, he knew he had no right to reply; but, with the indulgence of the House, he might, perhaps, be allowed to say that he should be anxious to withdraw the Motion if any of the assurances, which he was told had been given by the Government, had reached him. He did think it was a remarkable thing that only one Member of the Treasury Bench had risen to take part in the debate. He was afraid, under all the circumstances, that he must put the House to the trouble of dividing.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 69: Majority 1.—(Div. List, No. 44.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to be pleased to order the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into and to report whether any and what alterations of the Military system now in force are desirable, as regards the pay, promotion, employment, and conditions of service and retirement of the officers of the Ordnance Corps.