HC Deb 27 March 1896 vol 39 cc282-307

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £2,133,000, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge for the supply and repair of warlike and other stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897.


complained of the inconvenience to which Members had been exposed by reason of the fact that, contrary to the established practice, no information appeared in the Parliamentary Papers circulated that morning as to the Votes that were to be taken, and consequently Members had come down without the slightest preparation.


stated that last night the Votes which it was proposed to take were handed in at the Clerks table, but unfortunately they did not appear on the blue paper but only on the white paper. He greatly regretted if any hon. Member was put to inconvenience, and if there was any Vote which the right hon. Gentleman regarded as contentious he would at once have it postponed.


said, it was not so much a question of whether a Vote was contentious or not, as that there might be some diligent Members who had accumulated a number of valuable criticisms and notes, and that other Members might not have thought it necessary to make any like provision.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid), as a question of order, asked whether it was competent for the Government to proceed with Votes notice of which appeared only upon the white paper and not upon the blue? He rather thought that the point had already been decided that it was not competent to proceed with Votes under such circumstances.


said that, if the hon. Member had called his attention specially to the particular decision he would have been prepared for it. But the decision, he believed, only amounted to this, that Estimates could not be taken unless effective Supply was put down, Now, effective Supply was put down in the present instance.


desired to raise the point whether cordite powder was the best smokeless powder in existence? Now, the British Government cordite consisted of 58 per cent. of nitro-glycerine, 37 per cent. tri-nitro cellulose, and 5 per cent. of vaseline. This compound was not a chemical one; the ingredients were only held, together by being mechanically mixed. Cellulose was, so to speak, a form of sponge, and interstices filled with nitroglycerine. A certain degree of pressure would always cause the vaseline and nitro-glycerine to exude. A powder containing so much nitro-glycerine was, he submitted, not a proper powder for the British Army. The German powder was nearly all guncotton; the Danish, the best of all, is the same; the French had no nitro-glycerine. The Russians objected to nitro-glycerine, and the Americans were trying to get along without it. Accidents had already happened in Italy owing to the large quantity of nitro-glycerine in their early experimental powders. The Financial Secretary to the War Office told him that the assimilation was perfect. He was not sure that that answer should not be modified. He maintained that if cordite was stored and then exposed to the air, a certain portion of nitro-glycerine would be evaporated. An experiment, it was reported, was tried by an English officer, who wiped with a handkerchief the interior of a largo cartridge-case that had been loaded for a long time and placed in a warm place, and he was able to detonate that handkerchief. Was this a non-fouling powder, and did it keep the rifle fairly clean? Was it easy of manufacture, or could it be manufactured only in one place? Of course, large sums had to be spent, and the Government dreaded a change; but he submitted that unless the Government were convinced that cordite holds its own at the present time, under the varied conditions of climate under which British troops used it, they should at once commence experiments with other smokeless powders with the view of having a reserve of some other powder besides cordite. They should not hesitate to sweep away the plant of manufacture of the old cordite powder, and get the best cordite they could. This powder could only be manufactured at Waltham Abbey and Messrs. Kynoch's at Arklow. Was the whole process of manufacture carried on at Messrs. Kynoch's, or only up to a certain point; and was the ammunition sent over in a certain state to Birmingham to be finished there? The present Government turned out the late Government on the question of the reserve of ammunition. It was conceded at that time that it was absolutely necessary there should be a large store and turn out of ammunition ready to hand. What would happen if an accident took place, as in days gone by, at Waltham Abbey? The factory there might be destroyed, and what were the authorities going to fall hack upon unless it was the Arklow factory? What protection was there for it,? It was so exposed that an enemy might destroy it, and leave the country without any reserve at all. They were told also that the private firms were going to contract for a large issue of cordite ammunition; but since that, statement was made they had heard very little of those contracts. He understood the Under Secretary or the Financial Secretary to say that they were greatly disappointed with the issue of cordite ammunition from private firms. He should like to know whether the Government saw any prospect of improvement in this direction? There was one large factory capable of turning out so many millions of cartridges; there might be an accident; and then the country was left to depend upon the exposed factory at, Arklow, which had to send its material to England for finishing and perfecting. Would the Government assure him that the cordite powder was not subject to climatic influences? If those cartridges were kept in heat did they lose their muzzle velocity and elevation? He had made some experiments in that direction, and he confessed that he had found a loss of elevation. Though he had not the means of testing the muzzle velocity, experts declared that there was less muzzle velocity. Another disadvantage was the great heat that was generated in the barrel. There was also the difficulty of cleaning. In old days cleaning was an easy affair by means of a piece of oiled and dry rag. In the manual containing instructions for the cleaning of the rifle, he found, first of all, that a special rifle oil was needed for cleaning the barrel after cordite powder. No oil other than that specified was to be used for this purpose. It was, however, awkward if a soldier's luggage was to be increased by carrying a special oil for the rifle. The instructions also said that in cleaning the arm must not in any case be wiped out with flannelette soaked in oil, but, that oiled flannelette should be used daily. A piece of gauze, four inches by two, was also to be used; then oiled flannelette was to be pulled through. Indeed, the instructions were of a most minute description, showing that the authorities themselves, with their anxiety to prove cordite to be the best powder in the world were afraid of the consequences of the rifle being cleaned with the only means which a soldier had at, hand, such as a sponge or a dry piece of rag. He understood that some time ago the Government were going to establish a cordite factory in India at Kirkee, and that machinery was actually purchased for use. What had become of the machinery? He presumed that it was paid for. Had it ever been used? If not, what, had become of it, and how much money had been lost over the transaction? Was it intended to continue the experiment of having a factory for cordite in India, or had the authorities abandoned the idea of making cordite powder there? There were a certain number of makers of other smokeless powders who complained that they had received no assistance from the Government on a subject upon which they thought that they were entitled to receive it. Personally, he had no share, connection, or interest in any of those makers of smokeless powders, but he thought that they had been rather curtly treated by the Government. The truth was that there was a mystery hanging over the whole of this cordite powder business, and the makers of smokeless powders believed that the Government would allow no other powder to be used or brought against cordite. The traders complained, therefore, that the Government were not encouraging the manufacture for which this country was celebrated some years ago—namely, the manufacture of ammunition. He had been told that a firm the other day lost a large contract for five or six million cartridges at £5 or £6 per thousand because their smokeless powder had not the Government stamp of approval. The loss was a distinct one to the trading industry in England. It was asked, therefore, that some reserve should be provided to fall back upon some other smokeless powder besides cordite. Why not provide three or four other kinds of powder as a reserve, or appoint a Commission to inquire into a smokeless powder which should fulfil certain conditions laid down by the authorities. If the powder came up to the standard, then it should be placed on the Government list for the information of foreign countries. The United States gave every facility to the makers of new smokeless powders or patentees, but the British Government continued to rely on cordite powder alone. He had been told that it was an extraordinary powder, but he could scarcely believe that at the present day cordite was to be the one smokeless powder of the world. It seemed to him that a nation like ours which might be called upon at a moment's notice to embark troops to various climates, should not be dependent on a powder which could only be manufactured in circumstances of great danger at one or two places, and which he very much doubted could be kept in circumstances of great heat or stored for an indefinite length of time. In conclusion, he asked what was the standard of pressure and velocity for use in the .303 rifle? Did cordite over 12 months old keep up to standard? He moved the reduction of the Vote by £100.

*COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

suggested that until those powders were absolutely considered to be reliable, steps should be taken so that the rifles could be re-sighted rapidly for black powder in case the other powders were not found to succeed in various circumstances. In this country there was a body of drilled men who had passed through the Reserves, the Militia, and Volunteers, but who were not enrolled. Some of those men would come out on emergency, and he urged that both rifles and equipment should be kept for them in store in the different districts. He agreed with the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) in saying that all Reserves should be armed and equipped with the best material. On the subject of shooting he suggested that, until sufficiently long ranges for the Lee-Metford rifle can be provided, our soldiers should be made to fire at shorter ranges with the Martini rifle. That would enable them to keep up their practice in firing.


said, that he had been asked whether the War Office considered that cordite was the best smokeless powder in existence. The answer was that cordite had been tried in competition with most, if not all, other known smokeless powders, and had been found to hold its own perfectly. With regard to the keeping properties of cordite and its behaviour under certain variations of climate, it had been ascertained that the powder, when subjected to a high temperature, changed its colour somewhat, but this change did not appear to indicate any alteration in its character. In the recently published report of the Ordnance Committee, they stated that cordite might be subjected for a considerable time to the dry heat of 130 degrees Fahrenheit without suffering any serious deterioration, and without becoming unduly brittle. In a previous report the Committee said:— So far as the experiments have gone cordite may be considered suitable for service purposes as an effective and trustworthy smokeless explosive for breechloading guns and small arms. Time alone can clearly test its quality in all climates, but under the tests to which it has been subjected it does not become unserviceable. With that opinion the Inspector General of Ordnance had expressed his full concurrence. The hon. and gallant Member asked whether the assimilation of nitroglycerine in the process of manufacturing cordite was perfect. In that process the assimilation was perfect, but it had been found that under a very low temperature some of the absorbed nitroglycerine was deposited. He was not aware, however, that the serviceable quality of the powder was in any way affected by that circumstance. Since the introduction of cordite the grooves of rifles had been widened to some extent, and it was found now that the uncleaned rifle shot quite as well as the clean one. The life of the rifle with the new grooves extended to 10,000 rounds at least. The new powder was not more difficult to manufacture than some of the old sorts. Cordite which would pass muster could be obtained, not only at the Ordnance factories, but from three other quarters which he could name if it were necessary to do so, and the House could rely upon a sufficient production from those sources in case of emergency.


asked whether his hon. Friend was now referring to the finished article or merely to the ingredients of cordite?


said, that there were three factories at least where the finished article of sufficiently good quality to pass muster could be turned out in a very short space of time. Unfortunately, it was a fact that one or two Companies on which reliance was placed for a supply of finished cartridges did disappoint the authorities, but one of these Companies had already surmounted the difficulties which had caused the delay, and another would surmount them very shortly. There was no occasion to take the gloomy view of our resources which appeared to be entertained by the hon. and gallant Member. It had been suggested that the War Office should adopt three or four kinds of smokeless powder and not rely upon one, but he was of opinion that it would be a very bad thing to multiply our explosives, for a system providing for the use of several powders would probably give rise to difficult complications.

*LIEUT.-GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

asked whether it was known to what degree of cold cordite could be subjected without becoming unserviceable?

MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)

wished to know whether they were to understand, not only that the rifle with the new grooves shot well when it had not been cleaned, but that it did not suffer any deterioration from the action of cordite, because, if that was to be understood, what need was there for the elaborate instructions as to cleaning laid down in the manual quoted by his hon. and gallant Friend?


explained that a rifle, if only fairly well attended to—he would not say an absolutely unclean rifle—would fire at least 10,000 rounds. A rifle firing cordite was less likely to suffer deterioration than a rifle firing gunpowder.


observed that his point was not as to the amount of cold the ammunition would stand, but whether it could be safely handled when frozen. He had been on active service with the thermometer considerably below zero, and, if it had properties like dynamite, it would be utterly I unsafe to use.


could not be quite certain offhand, but he understood the ammunition would stand a temperature of 40 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

*MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)

was understood to ask if it was not true that, though an improved rifle had been adopted the troops were still equipped with the Lee-Metford rifle, which was only capable of firing some 3,500 rounds with perfect precision?


could not say he thought the answer of the hon. Gentleman satisfactory, but as he did not see any means of obtaining a more satisfactory reply he would withdraw his Amendment.


asked whether the cordite manufactured at Arklow was up to the Government standard, or whether, as had been stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, it had to be sent to England to be finished.


believed the cordite was not at present manufactured completely at Arklow, but in a short time it would be. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Hanley, the life of the older rifles was not confined to anything like 3,500 rounds, but some of them went considerably beyond that.


inquired what progress had been made with the nitroglycerine factory at Waltham, and how far it was from completion. He also asked what was the process by which the nitro-glycerine there produced was blended with the other materials for making cordite.


could not say to what extent the new portion of the factory at Waltham Abbey was complete, but when it was the power to produce cordite would extend to 1,000 tons a year. The mixing would take place very much as hitherto, but the ingredients would be separated by a longer interval from one another.

*COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)

contended that the two limits of temperature, namely, between 34 and 130 degrees Fahr., mentioned as those at which cordite was safe did not extend far enough. He had been in places where the temperature had been 150 at 10 o'clock in the morning for several weeks together. Would cordite stand at that temperature as well as at the other low temperature spoken of by the hon. and gallant Member who had just spoken? He suggested that experiments should be adopted with a view to arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.


said, there was no doubt that the qualities of cordite had been more tested in hot than in cold climates. The reports only referred to tests of 130°. But, on the other hand, a temperature very considerably above 130° had been applied without any deleterious effects. They had had no opportunity themselves of testing cordite at a temperature below zero, but a certain amount of it was sent on the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition, and they had had an exceedingly interesting Report in reference to it, in which it was stated that the cordite had been exposed to the lowest possible temperature for many weeks together, and it had given most excellent results. ["Hear, hear!"]


desired to know if it was not the fact, so far as Arklow was concerned, that there had been no reason to complain of the work turned out? The works recently established in Arklow were a matter of very great importance to large numbers of people there. He would like to have an expression of opinion from the Financial Secretary as to whether there had been any serious ground of complaint, or whether it was not, on the contrary, the fact that the work done at Arklow had been quite satisfactory.


was able to give an answer which he hoped would satisfy the hon. Gentleman. At first, undoubtedly, there was a failure to produce cordite which satisfied the requirements of the Department; but recent deliveries had been much more satisfactory, and they hoped, in a short time, that the Arklow works would be able to supply all that they had undertaken to supply under the contract.

SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)

remarked that cordite was the subject of a prolonged scientific investigation before the House of Lords, in which the whole of the qualities of that compound had to be carefully studied, and one of the grounds on which it was stated that cordite was selected by the War Office was that it was capable of enduring both the cold of Canada and the greatest heat in India. If the hon. Gentleman would make inquiry of Sir Frederick Abel and Professor Dewar, he would be able to procure information which would satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, because that was one of the merits undoubtedly claimed for cordite, and which he believed was proved by the eminent scientists he had mentioned and not disputed. ['' Hear, hear!"]


inquired if anything had been done towards lightening the equipment of the soldier.

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke

said, he should be glad if the Under Secretary for War could state what progress was being made with the reconstruction of the guns, and how soon the batteries might expect their full equipment?

SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

asked what would become of the old rifles used by the Volunteers which were being replaced by the Lee-Metford rifles. He hoped they would not be sold for 2s. or 3s. and exported to foreign countries. An agreement with France, Germany, and other nations as to disused arms, would be an advantage to the civilisation of the world.

*MR. BRODRICK, replying to the different questions, said, experiments had been made in the use of aluminium articles of equipments. Some had recently been tried in Ashanti, but further trials would be necessary before any decision was come to, and the present price was unduly high. The hon. Member for Basingstoke asked questions about the artillery. By 30th April the War Office would have 30 guns of Royal Horse Artillery, and 180 guns of field artillery; by 1st June, in addition, 14 guns of horse artillery and 88 of field artillery. In reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield, the Martini-Henry rifles disused by the Volunteers would be reserved in store.


asked whether the Martini-Henry rifles were to be at once converted, so as to be available for a smaller cartridge, or whether they were to be stored, for conversion at a future time?


explained that, in accordance with a decision of the Army Board, the Volunteers would, at no distant date, be firmed with the magazine rifle. The converted rifles, which were excellent shooting rifles, would be held in store available for any emergency, but the conversion would not be further proceeded with until the arming of the Volunteers with the magazine rifle was completed with the least possible delay.


asked whether, as a broad principle to be generally applied, the War Office would sets, before any old arms were sold to the public, that they were broken up so as to render them useless?


Yes, Sir. It will be so.

MAJOR HENRY BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)

asked whether black powder was still in use, or whether all branches of the service to have the Lee-Metford ritle would have the use of cordite during the coming year.


That is so. All the black powder is exhausted.

Vote agreed to.

£1,007,700, Works, Buildings, and Repairs (Cost, including Staff for Engineer Service) —

DR. FARQUARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

asked when the St. George's Barracks would be removed to the Chelsea site. The trustees of the National Gallery complained of the proximity to the Gallery of a building which might contain inflammable material. He also referred to the squalid condition of the part of the barracks in which recruits were examined, and said nothing was more calculated to give young men enlisting a bad impression of their future life in the Army.


said that £2,000 was to be voted for a certain sewage farm and drainage works at Aldershot. His constituents complained that the sewage farm was near a hospital, and it was now proposed to turn it into a dairy farm.


said he wished to draw attention to a question which was intimately bound up with that of barracks for the soldier. In regard to it, he felt he must appeal to every hon. Member interested in the moral and social welfare of the soldier. He referred to the arrangement and structure of barrack-rooms in all the older barracks. In the newer barracks they had been changed, but he thought he might safely say that in the older barracks the arrangement of the barrack-room was the same as when the barracks were constructed in this country. There was nothing more repulsive and unhome-like than the average barrack-room of the British soldier, with their bare white-washed walls, deal forms and tables. He did not say that Continental nations had better barrack-rooms. In Berlin they did not compare favourably with ours. In Russia the barrack-rooms were better. It might be said that economy was the reason for these comfortless barrack-rooms, and that they were intended to harden the soldier for the hardships of war. But he was sorry to say such places had a serious effect on the moral and social welfare of the soldier. Instead of a man being fond of his barrack-room, and being accustomed to read there, he went elsewhere. If he went to the recreation-rooms, well and good; but he regretted to say that the recreation-rooms were not large enough in the older barracks for the soldiers, who, in these days of education, wanted to read there. He was afraid that many men were driven away from the barrack-room to the canteen and the public house. Then, in the community of fourteen or sixteen men occupying a barrack-room, the evil characters were often the strongest and brought the rest down to their level. The arrangement of the barrack-room was at the bottom of many difficult questions. Every man ought to have a cubicle to which he could retire and enjoy a measure of privacy. Home-like and comfortable barrack-rooms would have an elevating effect on the British Army.


said, he was glad to hear the hon. Member for Taunton say that the barrack-rooms of which he complained belonged mostly to the older barracks, which were gradually becoming antiquated. These older barracks were being reconstructed by means of the loan raised in 1888, the sole object of which was to improve the sanitary condition of the barracks and to enhance the social well-being of the soldier by giving him better rooms to live in. It was proposed to extend the loan, and in the present year a number of barracks were being taken in hand with the object of putting them in a proper condition. The Department thoroughly sympathised with the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend. There was no doubt that, unless you attended not only to the physical health of the soldier, but also to his material surroundings and made the accommodation for him to some extent attractive, you could not expect him to keep in his barracks nor divert him from demoralising attractions outside. With regard to the removal of the St. George's Barracks, building was in progress at Chelsea, but no item appeared on the Votes because the money was provided by the loan; and it was hoped to remove the troops without undue delay; but there could not be any further removal until the barracks were built. He was quite aware of the condition of St. George's Barracks; that had been recognised by the late Government as well as the present; and the Department thoroughly desired to provide better accommodation as quickly as possible. As to the apprehension that the sewage farm at Aldershot was to be turned into a dairy farm, the Department had no information which bore out that statement; but it was in communication with the local authority about the sewage farm, in which a change was desired. It was thought that the drainage of the town and of the camp ought to be worked together. There was a meeting at the War Office not long ago, attended by representatives of the local authority, and he believed they were within reasonable distance of agreement. As soon as the local authority could obtain the necessary land at a proper distance from the camp, he apprehended there would be no difficulty in carrying out arrangements that would be satisfactory to both parties. It was not intended to have camps near the sewage farm.


said, there was one matter with regard to which they ought to have some information before the Vote was passed, and that was the question of the loans which were to be proposed by the Government, one for defensive works abroad and at home, and the other for the continuance of the scheme of barrack building. It was evident that these two matters, although distinct from this Vote, was cognate to it, and it would be satisfactory if they could have information as to the particular purposes to be included in the loans.


said, he should be glad if it were in his power to give the information asked for, though he rather doubted whether the Chairman would regard it as in order to do so now. When the previous loans were proposed, the application of them was not allowed to be discussed under this Vote. He could not give any figures, but in principle the application of the loans would be simply a continuation of the existing services, namely, barrack building and the defence of ports. He believed the whole proposal would be submitted soon and that information would be found to be thoroughly satisfactory.

*MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)

said, he had again to call attention to the artillery practice on Dartmoor, which was carried on daily for several of the best months of the year and greatly interfered with the enjoyment of the moor. It was in the interests of farmers, residents and visitors it was desired there should be no firing on Saturday. The military authorities, in response to former representations, had appointed persons to view and to review; and the people now pressed that this sham reviewing might give place to real action. It was also requested that land might be given up by the War Office for the purpose of allotments for the residents in St. Budeaux and Eggbuckland. These villages were adjoining Plymouth and Devonport, and consequently the land had a high prospective building value, and landowners were unable to let the land for allotments at a price within the reach of the parishioner. But the Government, which was the largest owner in the districts, having at Eggbuckland 116 acres—nearly double that of anyone else—owned land under conditions which precluded it from having a prospective building value. For it was land adjoining forts, and consequently no building was allowed within the line of fire. It was land too which was in both cases peculiarly well suited for the purpose, being within easy access of the villages. Therefore, while he did not blame the landowners for not giving allotments, he did blame the War Office—which was the largest landowner in the district, and which ought to have some regard for the convenience of the people for not giving allotments. It might be said that if the War Office gave allotments they would have a difficulty in dealing with a large number of people; but the difficulty would be got over by allowing the people to take the land through the parish councils, as the parish councils were willing to do under any reasonable conditions the War Office might propose. The contention of the War Office that the people could get land for allotments elsewhere was disproved by the chairman of the Eggbuckland parish council, who had written to him:— At present we are in want of about seven or eight acres of land for allotments near the village. We have tried all the owners of land adjacent to the village, and it is absolutely impossible to get land from them. They have all refused, and unless we take compulsory powers, there seems no chance of obtaining land for the purpose. The War Office land would be very suitable, for it is near the village. The position of affairs in St. Budeaux was very much the same. There was the same difficulty there in obtaining land for allotments. He thought the War Office ought really to consider the requirements of these people. If they gave the land for allotments the artillery line of sight would not be interfered with, for the people would agree to put no sheds on it, and he pointed out that there were several banks of great height now on the land. He thought those requests most reasonable, and therefore he urged the Government to consider them favourably.


reminded his hon. Friend that in dealing with this question last year he had said that he was advised that there were serious objections to letting lands in the hands of the military authorities for allotment purposes. He could only give his right hon. Friend the same answer this year. When land was given for allotments by a public Department, it was extremely difficult ever to get it back again, and when his hon. Friend advanced the point that, it would be to the public advantage to let this land for allotments, he must not forget that whatever was to the advantage of the military authorities was to the public advantage. He had received a report on the subject from the present Adjutant-General at Devonport, who for military reasons was strongly opposed to letting the land for allotments.


Will my hon. Friend quote from the Report?


said, the Adjutant-General reported in addition to the military reasons, that there was plenty of other land in the parish available for allotments, which was more suitable for that purpose than the War Department land; but the promoters of this movement made no secret of the fact that they expected to get the land cheaper from the Government than from the landowners. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped his hon. Friend would regard his answer in regard to the allotments as final. Turning to the question of artillery practice on Saturday, he would again remind his hon. Friend that last year he informed him that the military authorities avoided as far as possible having artillery practice on Saturday, and when circumstances compelled them to take that course due notice of the fact was given to the inhabitants. Artillery batteries were brought up to Dartmoor for practice in rotation. One battery remained there for a certain time, when it was replaced by another battery, and it was only in the event of a battery being unable, owing to bad weather, to complete its practice within the period that the advantage of a fine Saturday was seized for the purpose. This did not often occur, but if it were not done occasionally, either the battery would have to go away with its practice incomplete, or the practice of succeeding batteries would be thrown out of gear.


thanked his hon. Friend for the full manner in which he had answered his questions. He should like to point out that Saturday was not always a fine day; and he therefore did not understand why, if the practice of the batteries was thrown out of gear by missing one day, the same thing did not happen when a Saturday was missed.


replied, that there was no practice ordinarily taken on Saturdays. It was only when one of the ordinary days was missed that practice was taken on a Saturday.


said, that the real difficulty of the War Office was that under the standing Regulations they were only able to keep their troops under canvas at Dartmoor for a certain period of the year, and must get all the firing done in that period. But there was no firing on many Saturdays, and he would prefer to have the early months left free altogether. As to the other question of the allotments, he was struck with astonishment by the letter of the Adjutant-General, and that astonishment was increased by the information he received from the locality. What did the Adjutant-General state? That the military authorities were being pressed for this land because people expected to get it cheaper than they could get land from the ordinary landowner. Exactly—that was the whole case. It was because this land had no prospective building value, being held on conditions which forbade building, that the people very naturally and rightly desired to rent it. He denied the statement of the Adjutant-General that there was plenty of land to be obtained at a fair price. He was assured, in letters from the Parish Councils of Eggbuckland and St. Budeaux that it was absolutely impossible to get land from private landowners by voluntary means, and he had already proved this to the House.

Vote agreed to.

£119,900, Establishments for Military Education—


asked what was the pay and what were the extra allowances of the Governor and Commandant of Sandhurst. Further, what were his duties? He was informed that this officer received distinguished visitors to the College, but that on other occasions he was absent, and that his work was done by the Assistant Commandant. The College was inordinately expensive. The cadets cost twice as much as the naval cadets. Their parents had to pay £150 for them, and after that make them an allowance and pay for their messing.


said, that the Governor had £1,500 a year and a house. He was a military officer of high rank, and in fixing his pay regard was had to what other officers of the same rank would receive. He had an extremely responsible position, and it would be most undesirable to place a man of secondary position in the office, considering that the cadets were at perhaps the most critical period of their lives. The charges at Sandhurst were high, but they were not excessive as compared with those of some of our public schools.


said, that he was informed that the Commandant was rarely present at the College, and that his duties were discharged by his second-in-command.


said, that the War Office had never heard that the Commandant did not attend to his duties. He would make further inquiries, since the question had been raised.


said, it was true that public attention had been directed to the great cost of the Sandhurst course. A competent Committee had looked into the question closely, and he understood that the recommendations of the Committee were such as would satisfy all complaint. As to the Governor, nothing could have a more beneficial effect on the cadets than having a man of the highest character over them, who would be a model of all those qualities which an officer of the Army ought to possess. He knew of his own knowledge that the present Commandant abundantly possessed the very qualities required for the responsible position which he held. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, that the Committee of 1877 on the employment of soldiers and sailors recommended that in competition for civil employment fair weight should be given to such branches of knowledge as soldiers and sailors might have acquired in service. This recommendation had never been carried out, and no standard had been fixed in the Civil Service examinations for military certificates gained in the Army schools. The Committee of 1894-5 recommended that a certain number of vacancies in the second division of the Civil Service should be reserved for competition among the holders of first-class Army school certificates. There were a great number of men of very good education in the Army —equal to some of the clerks in the second division of the Civil Service. Engineers, for example, could find many employments, but infantry men learnt nothing during their years of service which could be useful to them in getting employment in civil life afterwards. There were some 17,000 men who annually left the Army, and had nothing but their military training to be of service to them in after life. If they could go to a private, employer and say they could do anything in the shape of building or painting or other trades they would have some chance. In this connection a useful suggestion was made by the Committee which sat in the last few-years, namely, that encouragement should be given to the soldier to attend courses of instruction, including those in the national schools of technical instruction, apart from his military training, which he would find useful in after life.

Vote agreed to.

£51,400, Miscellaneous Effective Services—

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

referred to the item relating to the subscription to the association for the employment of discharged and reserve soldiers, and said that although successive Ministries and Secretaries of State had expressed their sympathy for the object, they never got any further, and so they always marched in a vicious circle and never made any progress at all. He listened attentively to the speech of the Under Secretary the other night on this subject, but did not derive much information from it. The Under Secretary simply told them that it was possible in future some solution would be found for the problem. That, in the words of Dr. McGregor, a former Member of the House, "was not good enough for him.'' The authorities of the War Office had no excuse for doing nothing, because they had the Reports and Recommendations of Parliamentary Committees on the subject. They had the Report of the hon. Member for Central Sheffield, which showed that out of 875 posts which soldiers were capable of filling in Government Departments only 270 were filled by them. He had himself been in communication with Lord Lansdowne with reference to the discharge of old soldiers from Sheerness in preference to civilians. This was an object-lesson which did not bear out the euphemistic phrase of the Under Secretary. The point of his complaint was that they could not get the War Office to pay attention to the matter. Unless the Government would make some provision for those old soldiers when they returned to civil life, in order to keep them from loafing about the streets, they would remain as sign-posts of warning to their brothers and friends not to take the Queen's shilling.


said, that personally he did not think that giving a State contribution to the Society which his hon. and gallant Friend named, was really the best way to meet the difficulty. A much better way would be to set a proper example, as had been urged upon them for so many years. He could not imagine anything more detrimental to the end in view than the spectacle of the streets crowded with old soldiers who could not get employment. The best way in which the War Office could encourage the National Society for the civil employment of reserve and discharged soldiers and sailors would be, in conjunction with the Postal authorities, to relieve, them of the task of finding employment for so many men.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

threw out the suggestion that the War Office might see their way to make a substantial contribution to the Society mentioned for, say, two or three years, and then it. would be seen whether the results were such as would justify a continuance of the contribution. But let the War Office and the House be under no mistake that the grievance was not a real one.


said, there was great difficulty in dealing with this question of the employment of Reservists and old soldiers upon this particular Vote, but he should be very sorry if the Committee had an impression from anything that had fallen from his hon. Friends that the War Office was in the least degree, indifferent to this important question. So far from that being the case, the Secretary of State had himself got the matter under his own personal cognizance and consideration, and, although he would not be in order in indicating in any way the course he was likely to follow, he did hope his hon. Friends would believe him when he said that the matter was being seriously and practically dealt with. In regard to the particular contribution in question, he would only remind the Committee that the effect of making an excessive grant to a private institution of this kind was absolutely to stop, as a rule, other sources of supply; and therefore it was that the contribution had been kept at its rather scanty proportions. If on further consideration or on new grounds shown it should be thought desirable to increase the contribution he was perfectly certain the Secretary of State would give the matter his favourable consideration. There was one other matter on which he hoped the Committee would allow him to say a word. This was in reference to "awards, etc." The War Office had thought it right to state to the Committee that the sum under this head included a further payment of £500 to Mr. Rees in respect of the experiments which he made in connection with lamps. He had already received a sum of £500, but he had made representations to the Department which convinced them that the cost to which he was put in connection with those experiments considerably exceeded that sum, and on the whole it was thought right, therefore, to make good to him what was in all probability the total amount which he expended, and to give him a further grant out of this Vote of £500.

Vote agreed to.

£1,357,800, Pensions, and other Non-Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, Men, and others—


said, he wished to say a word or two with regard to the men in the Chelsea Hospital. The expenditure on Chelsea Hospital amounted to £37,787. The number of men accommodated there was 547, but the total on the Vote amounted to 647, which showed there was a staff of 100. From the best information he could get, he gathered that the pensions which those men sacrificed when they went into the Hospital amounted to £14,000, and he understood that a great number of them were content to leave the Hospital if they could get an addition to their pension of one shilling a day. That would be another £12,000, or £26,000 altogether would maintain these men, except the very infirm and sick. There would thus be a saving of £11,000, and that was, he thought, a matter worthy of the attention of the Committee. He understood that the Committee which had inquired into the matter of whether out-patients should be granted were told that the men asked for 2s. 6d. a day if they left the Hospital, but he believed they were instigated to make that large demand chiefly by those who were concerned in the maintenance of the Hospital, and who were engaged in it in different small capacities. Those selected to appear before the Committee to represent the views of the inmates gave evidence in favour of stopping in the Hospital, but if an opportunity had been given to those men who wanted to leave, he thought it would have been shown that the number of those who wanted to leave would have been greater than those who wanted to stay. Of the inmates, 150 were married, and their wives had to live outside, but if a man, with this addition of one shilling, could live outside with his wife, it would be better for both of them. He thought the case of the married inmates ought to be considered, and if the offer to live outside with this addition of one shilling a day were made, he was satisfied a great number of the men would gladly avail themselves of it.


said, he desired to speak on behalf of the warrant officers of the Army—the choicest of a very valuable class of officers, men on whom the discipline of the Service mainly depended. When the senior non-commissioned officers were made warrant officers, it was intended that they should gain great advantage. The warrant provided that their remuneration and their medals and clasps, and their medal and gratuities for distinguished conduct and meritorious service, should be governed by the provisions contained in Articles 1,239 to 1,245 and 1,251 to 1,253. It could hardly be expected that the warrant officer was to be deprived of his medal for long service and good conduct by those regulations, and yet, while he was allowed to receive a medal for distinguished conduct or meritorious service, by these regulations he was not allowed to receive a modal for long service and good conduct. It would be said that a warrant officer got rank instead of this long-service medal, and that that was his reward. The fact was that if he got his warrant rank after 18 years' service he got a medal first and kept it, but if he got his rank short of 18 years he had to leave without a medal. He thought that regulation might be modified so that a warrant officer, the same as a non-commissioned officer, might receive his long service and good conduct medal on attaining 18 years' service.


asked whether there were any men who had served m the Crimea and Indian Mutiny still remaining who had not received a pension?


, in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich, said that he should be exceedingly loth to see the House of Commons adopt any Resolution to do away with Chelsea Hospital. The antiquity of its foundation was well known, and for over 200 years it had been an asylum wherein old and meritorious soldiers could pass their remaining days in comfort. The hon. Member had fallen into one or two mistakes with regard to his computations. He had also drawn a picture of the married men being separated from their wives, and passing the remainder of their days in the hospital when a pension might have been given to them so as to enable the men to live outside. But no soldier came into the hospital unless he found himself to be in need of care, attention and good food, and if he wished to leave he could do so. Neither was it the case that the staff was paid to look after 400 or 500 pensioners. The staff was engaged in the important duty of granting pensions to the Army; it kept the whole of the records, and performed a large amount of useful work which, if taken away from the staff would have to be undertaken by the War Office. The hon. and gallant Member (General Laurie) had correctly stated the circumstances with reference to the position of warrant officers, and he promised to bring that question under the notice of the Secretary for War and the military authorities. ["Hear, hear!"] As to Crimean and Indian Mutiny men, he said that the, present regulations had been drawn so that undoubtedly a considerable number of men who had served in the Crimea were necessarily excluded, but so far from it being the case that there were few of those old soldiers, be showed that at the last computation there were 16,000 of them still in existence. If they proceeded, however, to pension the whole number, it would entail a charge of something like a million. It should be remembered also that all those who were unpensioned might have got a pension if they had remained and served their full time. For that reason the War Office had gone as far as it could to induce the Treasury to meet the hardest cases, and those were now coming in at the rate of fifty to a hundred per month.


suggested that it would be politic to enlarge the operation of the system which applied to the Crimean and Indian Mutiny men. Some of those men had failed to obtain allowances from the War Office, and the fact that some of those men were to be seen walking about the streets with medals begging their bread, he believed acted as a deterrent to recruiting. The system of compassionate allowances was well enough as far it went, but he submitted that it did not. go far enough.


said, he should be only too glad to make any concession, but the difficulty was that these men were all men who might have continued their service for pensions but had not done so. The authorities had been most anxious to meet these hard cases, but to go beyond what had been done at present was more than they could properly ask the Treasury to undertake.


presumed that the large number of men quoted included every man that could be counted. But a great many of these men had given but a small degree of service which could be called Crimean or Mutiny service. Many of them had gone out to the Crimea or to India at the last moment, and had come back without seeing any service at all. He imagined that the reason why the compassionate allowances were established by his predecessor at the War Office, and a service of ten years made one of the conditions, was in order to be certain that the recipient had given some substantial service to the country. These men all deliberately renounced the opportunity of serving on for pension, and therefore they had really no legitimate claim on the Army Fund, but with the view of preventing the scandal of seeing men who had served substantially and well in the Crimea in distressed circumstances and hanging about the streets, compassionate allowances were made. The limits of that fund had been stretched as far as possible, and if they went any further he thought they might as well throw open the door and say that any long-service man in the Army should get a compassionate allowance.


appealed to the Committee to allow this Vote to be now taken, and invited it to then proceed with the Vote on Account.

Vote agreed to.

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