HC Deb 02 March 1882 vol 266 cc1939-40

asked the Secretary of State for "War, Whether his attention has been called to the Report in the "Newcastle Journal," of a speech by Lieut.-Col. Palmer, M.P. to the 1st Newcastle and Durham Volunteer Engineers, at the annual presentation of prizes, on the 7th of last December, in which he said— That he could not allow that corps to remain under the stigma which the report of General Cameron had cast upon it, the dishonour which the report had cast upon the officers; and he thought that his hearers would agree with him that it required of him that he should speak out. He would acquit General Cameron of blame in connexion with the report—the General was personally unacquainted with all the circumstances; but this he did say, as between one gentleman and another, that he did not accord to him the courtesy he accorded to other commanding officers throughout the northern districts, as he never asked him for explanation such as he had asked for from other commanding officers. The want of courtesy he could not understand, unless it was actuated by the man at the foundation of this envy, hatred, and jealousy—he would not say jealousy but spleen of the corps; and that was Col. Gilhespie, the Deputy-Adjutant-General. They would know what Col. Gilhespie's conduct had been that day, and he had no doubt it was actuated by revengeful feeling that had occurred at York. This was the only corps deprecated that day. It was a breach of military privilege on the part of Col. Gilhespie, for which he shall answer; and, if this Report is substantially accurate, what action has been taken with regard to this language on the part of a commanding officer in presence of the men under his command?


Sir, the noble Lord asks me whether I have read a newspaper report of some expressions used at a Volunteer prize meeting three months ago by an hon. Member of this House, who is the colonel of the Volunteer corps in question, and he inquires what notice has been taken of his language. The noble Lord must allow me to express my regret that he did not, as is customary with the great majority of those who ask Questions on military subjects—and, I am able to say, as is invariably the case when those Questions relate to discipline—either send me a written Notice of his Question or speak to me about it. Had he done so, I should have shown him what had occurred, and I think he would not have asked a Question which cannot but wound a Member of this House distinguished for his great liberality to the Volunteer Force and devotion to its interests, and which relates to a closed matter. However, the noble Lord has thought fit to put the Question, and I can only answer it by saying that the attention of the Commander-in-Chief was directed to a newspaper report of what Colonel Palmer was supposed to have said in December last, and that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was called upon for an explanation; that, after some correspondence, he wrote a letter of explanation and regret, which was accepted by His Royal Highness, and that this was notified to all concerned. If the noble Lord had spoken to me I could have shown him that this also has been publicly stated in the Press.