HC Deb 14 March 1887 vol 312 cc221-3

The effect of the mobilization scheme upon the Royal Engineers is very difficult to explain, especially as some of the questions which regulate it have not yet been decided. It may, however, be shortly stated that there is a large deficiency of Engineers for field, as well as for fortress purposes. In the former case we should require for two Army-Corps and their line of communication, an addition to our pontoon troops, our telegraph battalions, our field companies—in fact, to almost every branch of the corps.

The Estimates of 1887–8 make provision, for the first time, for such an increase of the Engineers as will meet the requirements of two Army-Corps, with the exception that in the case of the Second Pontoon troop the necessary cadre only has been provided.

The exact extent of the deficiency in respect of Fortress Engineers depends upon certain questions, of which I will here mention only the most important. In the defence of our home forts, the one essential condition is that there should be absolute unity of command, so that in the presence of danger there may be no risk of divided responsibility or of difference of opinion. In this view both the Admiralty and the War Office, I need scarcely say, heartily concur, and a Committee is now sitting to consider the best means of promoting this unity, without unduly interfering with the land defence on the one hand, or on the other with that portion of the sea defence which sailors are best qualified to conduct against a hostile fleet. Upon this point I have no doubt that a satisfactory solution will be arrived at, but until it is, there will remain the question as to which is the force to be charged with the supervision of our submarine mining defences, upon the solution of which depends the amount of increase that will become necessary in the Corps of Royal Engineers. It is not, therefore, possible at present to lay down the arrangements for this corps in the same detail that has been done with others.

While upon this point, I may mention that a great deal has recently been accomplished in submarine mining, especially at our military and mercantile ports, for which money has been taken in the Estimates of recent years. This Service is now being rapidly pushed forward, and forms one of the most important of our means of defence.

The ultimate result produced by the change of establishment now contemplated is shown in the following table:—

STATEMENT showing variation in numbers for 1887–8.
Officers. Warrant Officers. Sergeants. Drummers, &c. Rank and File. All Ranks. Horses and Mules.
Royal Artillery 37 84 8 876 1,005
Royal Engineers 2 1 33 6 305 357 82
Infantry Transport 240*
Colonial Corps (Local Artillery) 6 12 5 194 217
Commissariat & Transport Corps 51 17 140 208 68
Miscellaneous 12 6 18
Total Increases 45 1 192 36 1,521 1,795 390
Cavalry of the Line 7 1 13 1 22 50
Royal Horse Artillery 29 45 10 504 588 328
Royal Artillery 6
Infantry 137 206 11 3,350 3,704 2
Total Decreases 173 1 264 22 3,854 4,314 386
Net Increase 14 Decrease 2,519 Increase 4
Net Decrease 128 72 2,333
* Infantry transport.

Turning to the Auxiliary Forces, no change is proposed either in the Militia or in the Yeomanry.

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