HC Deb 05 March 1903 vol 118 cc1552-4
MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT (Cheshire, Macclesfield)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War what person or persons made any complaint or communication to the Commander-in-Chief, previous to the 14th December, 1902, with reference to any irregularities in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards; on what date or dates were such complaints or communications made, what was their nature or purport, and were any of them made in writing; did the Commander-in-Chief communicate to Lieutenant-Colonel Kinloch at any time, and, if so, when, the fact that he had received such complaints or communications, and the nature or purport of them, and whether or not they affected or reflected upon the Character or military reputation of Lieutenant-Colonel Kinloch in his command of the battalion. I beg further to ask on what date was Lieutenant-Colonel Kinloch first informed of the decision of the Commander-in-Chief to remove him from his command; when and where was this decision promulgated; did Lieutenant-Colonel Kinloch request from the Commander-in-Chief the favour of being permitted to put forward a statement in his defence; and, if so, on what date was that request made; what reply, if any, was made to that request: and on what date, if at all, did the Commander-in-Chief grant the requested favour.


Lord Belhaven, the father of one subaltern in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, and Lord de Saumarez, the relative of another subaltern, called on the Commander-in-Chief on 12th December, 1902, and made a verbal complaint that young officers in the battalion had been tried by so-called subalterns' courts-martial, not only for offences against regimental etiquette, but for military offences, and if found guilty had been punished by caning, and that their ill-treatment had been so serious that it called for interference by the authorities. Lord Roberts in reply said he would take the matter up officially, and on the following day, 13th December, he sent for the General Officer Commanding the Home District, and ordered him to investigate the circumstances fully. The Commander-in-Chief did not communicate with Colonel Kinloch, because by practice he does not communicate directly with officers commanding units. The General Officer Commanding the Home District at once assembled a regimental inquiry which sat for two days, and reported to the Adjutant-General on 15th December, forwarding the evidence token. The character of Colonel Kinloch was not in question, but he was the first witness called at the inquiry and his responsibility, like that of all other officers called, was to be brought out by the investigation. The decision of the Commander-in-Chief was communicated to the General Officer Commanding the Home District on December 27th, 1902, and was promulgated at Aldershot, where the 1st Battalion was quartered, on January 3rd, and in London on January 15th. Colonel Kinloch, in a letter dated 29th December, asked to see the evidence taken and washed to make a statement. He was informed on January 3rd that he was at liberty to see the evidence, and that the decision arrived at in his case was formed on his own statement and on the results of the exercise of his command—Colonel Kinloch having urged that his personal honour was affected by certain expressions in the Adjutant-General's letter of 27th December, the Commander-in-Chief gave him an interview on 12th January, at which he accepted Colonel Kinloch's statement that he was unaware of the punishments inflicted by the so-called subalterns' courts-martial and the treatment of these young officers. I may add that Colonel Kinloch is an officer who, apart from recent occurrences, had served with credit at home and distinction on active service, but the Commander-in-Chief holds that the state of Colonel Kinloch's battalion and the facts disclosed by the own evidence showed defects in the administration of his command which made it impossible to retain him. He was consequently placed on half-pay. Another Guards officer of distinction has been placed in command of the battalion, and the House may rest assured that the irregularities brought to light will be absolutely checked in this or in any other regiment.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the letter of the 27th December, to which he refers, states that Colonel Kinloch was aware of the practices which wore complained of, and gave that as a reason for his removal?


No, Sir. The statement in the letter was to the effect that he was aware, or that it was assumed he was aware, of the existence of these courts-martial, but it was not stated that he was aware of the system of punishment that was adopted.


Will the hon. Gentleman say what was the condition of Colonel Kinloch's battalion when taken over by Colonel Lloyd?


Order, order! That does not arise out of the Question.