HC Deb 07 March 1895 vol 31 cc546-9
MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)

I beg to ask the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, whether the Admiralty have refused to allow Captain Lord Charles Beresford to count as service time 315 days during which he was borne on the books of the flagship at Alexandria for service on Lord Wolseley's Staff in the Nile Expedition, or in command of the Naval Brigade; whether any, and if so how many, Naval Officers junior to Lord Charles Beresford have been allowed to count this as sea time; whether there art any precedents for allowing Lord Charles Beresford to count this time; and, will the effect of refusing Lord Charles Beresford leave to count this time possibly be to compel him to leave the Service without having attained flag rank?

SIR J. E. GORST (Cambridge University)

I beg to ask the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, whether it is true the 315 days during which Lord Charles Beresford was in command of a Naval force in the Soudan Expedition are not counted by the Admiralty as active service; whether, if the same period had been spent in command of a harbour ship, it would have been counted as active service; and, whether the Admiralty will establish a precedent whereby war service of an important and distinguished character, when performed by a Naval Officer, may be reckoned as active service in Her Majesty's Navy?


I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, if he will explain why Captain Lord Charles Beresford, R.N., has, contrary to the usual practice in such cases, neither been appointed Aide-de-Camp to the Queen nor given a good service pension, and also that, while his junior officers have been allowed to count as service time the time they spent in the Nile Campaign undertaken for the rescue of General Gordon, he has been refused permission so to count the time he spent in that campaign; whether the Admiralty have consulted and received any advice from Naval or Military Officers of superior rank, and especially from Lord Wolseley, with regard to this matter; and, whether he can inform the House what reasons, if any, exist for thus passing over and refusing time to Lord Charles Beresford?


The usual practice has not been departed from in regard to Lord Charles Beresford's claims to the two appointments referred to in the question of the hon. Member for Lynn. With regard to the appointment of Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, the First Lord asks me to say-that he must decline to give reasons for his submitting or not submitting names of Officers for a personal appointment by Her Majesty. It would be manifestly prejudicial to the interests of the service for an officer to assume that he has a right to receive such an appointment. The Good Service Pension to Captains on the Active List, has in practice, been awarded by seniority to Officers (not being Aides-de-Camp) who have had a certain number of years' service. It is thus not given to distinguished, as distinct from long service. Of the five Captains, junior to Lord Charles Beresford, who have received the Good Service Pension, the Officer with the least service has four-and-a-half more years' service, and the one with the longest service has ten more years' service than Lord Charles. Lord Charles would undoubtedly have received the Good Service Pension, had he served for the usual qualifying time. In regard to whether the Admiralty have refused to allow Lord Charles Beresford to count as service the 315 days when he was on Lord Wolseley's staff, I have to say that the Board of Admiralty of the late Government decided that Lord Charles' service in Egypt, viz.: 53 days in command of the Naval Brigade, and 262 days on the staff, should count as sea-service, but not as service in command of a ship of war at sea. Sea-service allowed by the Regulation reckons for all purposes, but in the case of Captains it must be combined with certain service in command of a ship of war at sea in order to count for promotion. It is an essential rule, and one to which the Admiralty attach great importance for the efficiency of the service—that a Captain should serve the first three years of his qualifying sea-service in command of a ship of war at sea. Service during this period in command of a harbour ship would not count for this purpose. The only Officer serving in Egypt, of the same rank but junior to Lord Charles Beresford, and to whom these regulations apply, viz.: Captain Boardman, was refused by the Board of Admiralty of the late Government, to count this service as that in a ship of war at sea. Lord Charles Beresford will be able to qualify for flag rank by serving in his present appointment until the 11th March, 1896. It is not, however, possible to say the exact time when Lord Charles will attain flag rank, as it depends upon seniority and certain contingencies which cannot be foreseen; but it will probably not be for a considerable time after having completed his qualifying service. The present Board decided, and so informed Lord Charles Beresford, that if for any unavoidable cause beyond his own control he is rendered unable to complete the qualifying service, the Admiralty will reconsider his case, so that the services of this gallant officer should not be lost to the Navy and the State. The Board of Admiralty see no reason to consult Naval and Military officers on matters relating to the administration of Her Majesty's Navy, for which they are responsible. They are not prepared to alter the existing Regulations. This refusal to allow Lord Charles Beresford to count this time in Egypt as in command of a ship of war at sea affects neither his seniority, his pay, or his retirement. It simply means that the Admiralty expect Lord Charles to continue serving until he has completed the minimum service required by the Regulations to qualify for the high position of British Admiral, a minimum which few officers are content not to greatly exceed.


May I be allowed to say that I put my question on the paper neither at Lord Charles Beresford's request nor in his interest; but it is my intention on the Naval Estimates to call attention to the Regulations?


May I say that I have received no communication from Lord Charles Beresford? I put the question down entirely in consequence of what I saw in the public Press.