HC Deb 11 March 1897 vol 47 cc485-6

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that James Thomas Nolan enlisted in the Connaught Regiment at Galway in October, 1896, being then but 17 years old; that, although his father enclosed a certificate to the Commanding Officer, demanding his discharge on the ground that he was under age, the Officer refused to discharge him without a payment of £10; and, was this charge in accordance with the Regulations; and, if not, will a refund be made to the boy's father?


This recruit gave his age on enlistment as 19 years; and he had the full physical characteristics of that age. The General Officer Commanding—with whom the decision rested—therefore held him to serve; but he claimed his discharge under Section 81 of the Army Act, which involved the payment of what is known as smart money. The charge was strictly in accordance with the Regulations.


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War if he can state the number of applications which are made annually by, or on behalf of, young soldiers to be relieved of their engagements to serve on the ground that they had enlisted below the age of 18 years, proof being produced that the statement in this respect was correct; and whether the Secretary of State for War would be prepared, in order to put an end to the enlistment of boys under 18, which now prevails to so great an extent, to require all recruiting officers in future to obtain certificates of birth of those applying to them to enlist?


402 applications by or on behalf of young soldiers to be released from their engagements were received in 1896; being 105 less than the number received in 1895. The question of requiring recruits to produce certificates of birth has frequently been considered, but the adoption of such a course has been found impracticable. The inspecting medical officers are required to assure themselves that recruits possess the physical qualities of the age they give. This as a rule is a sufficient safeguard; when subsequent questions arise, the birth certificate if obtainable, is called for.