HC Deb 23 February 1885 vol 294 cc1033-5

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether there is any truth in the following paragraph, in The Daily News of 20th February:— Our Windsor Correspondent writes that the wives of the gallant soldiers who are about to defend the honour of the Country in the Soudan have been ordered to quit the Windsor barracks by this morning. The women and children who have no friends with whom they can seek shelter scarcely know where to find a home, although the Commandant of the Battalion has, it is said, done his best to assist them; and, whether he intends to take any steps to mitigate the hardships which this order must have occasioned, or is it intended to leave the care of these poor women and children merely to private charity? The hon. Member added that he was sure, from the notice that had been taken of the matter by Her Majesty's Government, the answer of the noble Marquess would be satisfactory. He should also like to direct attention to the case of Wellington Barracks, in connection with which there were certain rumours in circulation.


said, he should like to ask who were the authorities directly responsible for the expulsion of the women and children of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards from Victoria Barracks, Windsor, immediately on the departure of the battalion for Egypt? Was it necessary, in the interests of the Public Service, that those women should be thus treated; and what notice had been given to them of the intention of the authorities?


It was indispensable that the families of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards should vacate the married soldiers' quarters at Windsor to the extent required by the families of the incoming battalion. Authority was given as soon as it was asked for these women to occupy any vacant quarters at Windsor and in London; and, so far as is at present known, only four are not provided for. I have heard since that there are only three. The Regulations provide special issues from Government for wives separated, with their families, from their husbands under such circumstances; and provision is also made for the compulsory allotment to them of a portion of the soldiers' pay. The total sum they receive from these sources amounts to 1s. a-day for the wife of each private, and 3d. a-day for each child. In the case of sergeants' families the allowance is larger. These allowances were fixed in 1881 after very full consideration; and having regard to the fact that in the great majority of cases these persons are able to earn something towards their own living, I am not prepared to say at present that they are inadequate. The arrangements for the accommodation of these women and children are made by, and on the responsibility of, the General Officer commanding the district subject to the Regulations. I have no information on the subject of the wives of soldiers who have left Wellington Barracks.


By the courtesy of the House, I may be allowed to make a statement on this subject, which is causing very much interest throughout the Army and the country. I hold in my hand a communication from the Secretary of the Egyptian War Fund, which was started during the last Egyptian War, in the year 1882, and which is still open to assist soldiers in cases of like emergency. He informs me that this afternoon it has been arranged that whatever the Government may do, or not do, for those unfortunate families, the Egyptian War Fund propose to provide £1 for the soldiers' wives at Windsor or elsewhere.


said, that the officers at Windsor said that every woman and child was provided for, and had a home to go to. In the cases of the three mentioned, temporary lodgings were found until other arrangements could be made. An arrangement had been made by the non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the 3rd Grenadier Guards under which a considerable portion of their pay would be devoted to the maintenance of their wives and families.


asked whether these women and children were sent to their homes at the expense of the Government?


believed they were in cases where they desired it.