HC Deb 06 July 1899 vol 74 cc11-2

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a boy named John Herbert Cairns, on 16th May last, enlisted at Belfast as a private in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, and had then to join the depôt of the regiment in Bodmin, Cornwall; whether he is aware that Cairns was under eighteen years of age when he enlisted; will he explain why an application for his release or discharge, enclosing certificate of age, sent by his father to the Commanding Officer at Bodmin, was refused, whereas another older person, enlisted at the same time, was upon application released or discharged; and whether, under the peculiar circumstances of this case, the father's application will be reconsidered and granted.


When a soldier, as in the case of Cairns, makes a false statement of age on enlistment and is subsequently shown to be between seventeen and eighteen years of age, it rests with the General Officer commanding the district to decide whether he shall be discharged or held to serve. In this case the General, on the recommendation of the officer commanding Cairns' battalion, decided to hold the soldier to his engagement. The other instance referred to cannot be traced without more particulars.


Are the parents of young lads communicated with previous to their enlistment?


A boy under seventeen who is enlisted is discharged as a matter of course, but when the age is between seventeen and eighteen we leave the discretion in the hands of the General Officer commanding, because he is in a better position than we are to ascertain circumstances which might induce him to allow the lad to go back to his home.