HC Deb 15 February 1898 vol 53 cc642-3

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether in the Monthly Rank and File Returns of the British Army, which he has stated his intention of laying before the House, and in which will be shown those men under 20 years of age, he will state by what methods the ages of the men are arrived at; whether he is aware that in a vastly preponderating number of cases the ages given are completely unreliable; and if he can inform the House whether the Government propose in any way to remedy the present system in which men enlist into and pass their whole service in the Army under entirely false assumptions?


The ages taken are those "affirmed" by the recruits as their ages to the best of their belief. The present form of attestation requires the medical officer to certify the probable age of the recruit; and any recruit who has not the physical characteristics of 18 years of age is rejected. As a considerable proportion of recruits claim to be, and are accepted as, over 19, they have no motive for over-stating their age. The proposals which I shall shortly submit to the House will be found to have an important bearing upon this question.