HC Deb 16 March 1903 vol 119 cc871-2

Now, I want to speak about one very important branch of I he personnel of the Fleet—the Royal Marines. The Royal Marines is a corps with a very honourable, a very distinguished history, and I am happy to say its internal history is equal to its public record. But there is nothing which is not capable of being improved; and I am glad to say a step which has been taken in connection with the Royal Marines during the last year and a half has been productive of very satisfactory results. The corps of Royal Marines has risen to the strength of nearly 20,000 men. There is no body of infantry of equal numbers which can claim any superiority over the Royal Marines. Since October 1901, the Admiralty have sanctioned the adoption of an inquiry into the character of the recruits for the Royal Marines; and I am glad to be able to say that the anticipations—and they were sanguine and high anticipations—that had been formed of the effect of that step have been justified, and more than justified. For instance, we have reduced in the first six months the percentage of what I may call the criminal wastage, already small, in the Royal Marines, by no less than 50 per cent. I am glad also to be able to toll the House that this stringency in the selection of recruits has not been accompanied by any diminution in supply, but that, on the contrary, it has stimulated the recruiting, and that as a matter of fact the numbers borne are slightly in excess of the establishment. We have given to the Royal Marines, as we were bound to give, the increase of par which has been given to the Army; and that has been appreciated. It remains for us to consider, in the case of further payments that I understand will have to be made to the Royal Marines, and of which they have been apprised, whether that increase shall be given entirely in the form of pay, or whether it shall be given in the form, at all events partially, of those emoluments and ameliorations in the condition of a soldier which have gone far to make the Royal Marines what they are, and have made service in the corp. so much appreciated.

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