§ MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for India if he is in a position to state the number of Native troops in the service of the Government of India who, on the 1st of last January, were armed with the Martini-Henry rifle, and the number who were armed with the Snider rifle; (2) if any other rifle requiring a different description or gauge of ammunition was then used in that service; (3) whether it would be possible, in order to minimise the chance of difficulties arising in times of emergency, that in any future change of rifle in the Indian Army the change be made division by division throughout the length and breadth of India; (4) if it would be possible to issue instructions that on any relief of Her Majesty's Indian regiments being sent to a division armed with a new rifle, that that relief be armed with the new rifle ere its departure from its old quarters; and (5) if there are any general instructions fixing the minimum number of rounds of ammunition British or Native troops in India should have with them, or accompanying them, on the line of march, on their going on active service or proceeding on a mission on which hostilities may be reasonably anticipated?
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
In reply to the first paragraph of the hon. Member's question, I have to say that the Secretary of State has not the exact figures; but, roughly speaking, rather more than one-half of the Native troops have Martini-Henry rifles, and the rest Sniders. The answer to the second 144 paragraph of the question is in the negative. There is no other rifle except these two in use among Native troops. In answer to the third and fourth paragraphs of the question, I have to say that the plan suggested in the question would not, in the opinion of the Secretary of State's advisers, produce the result desired, as troops could not be restricted to service in that division only to which they were allotted. The reply to the last paragraph of the question is that there are general instructions dealing with all the points mentioned except the last, namely, when troops proceed on a mission on which hostilities may be reasonably anticipated. In that case the number of rounds would depend on the particular circumstances of the case.
§ MR. WEBSTER
In reference to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman as to paragraph 2 of the question, may I ask if in Poonah the 3rd Bombay Cavalry are armed with the Snider, while other regiments in Poonah are armed with the Martini-Henry carbine? Is it also the fact that the Bombay 8th Light Infantry are armed with the Snider, while the 26th Bombay Artillery are armed with the Martini-Henry? Is it not the fact that there are four different kinds of ammunition in use, and four different weapons; and does not the same thing constantly occur in reference to the troops serving in India?
§ *SIR J. GORST
The House will see that what the hon. Gentleman asks is, whether there are not two kinds of carbines as well as two kinds of rifles on the Snider and Martini-Henry principle. I believe that is so, but I am not sufficiently acquainted with military matters to say whether the ammunition can be assimilated in every case.
§ MR. WEBSTER
Is not the right hon. Gentleman of opinion that it would be better to assimilate all the arms in use in India, so that they should be capable of using the same ammunition?
§ *SIR J. GORST
As I have said, I am not a military man, and I cannot say whether the carbines of the Cavalry can be assimilated to the rifles of the Infantry.