HC Deb 26 March 1906 vol 154 cc853-4

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War a question of which I have given him private notice—whether a young officer of the Scots Guards now stationed at Aldershot has been set upon by his brother officers, who tore off his clothes, smeared him with motor oil, and covered his hair with jam; whether the young man is now suffering from a nervous breakdown brought on by this brutal conduct, to which he was subjected because he could not afford to live in the expensive style usual in the regiment; whether the warning of Lord Roberts with reference to military ragging is still in force; whether the officer commanding the regiment has been called upon for an explanation; whether an inquiry will be held; whether it will be open to the public; and whether, having regard to the importance of the case and the fact that the Judge Advocate-General is no longer a political officer responsible to the House for the conduct and management of courts-martial, the advice and assistance of the Law Officers would be obtained.


What has happened is under judicial investigation, and, therefore, I cannot assume that the facts are as the hon. Gentleman has stated; but I will tell him how matters stand. The occurrences in question, whatever they were, took place on the 15th inst., late at night. The first I heard of it was on March 19th. I at once directed a preliminary inquiry, which has taken place. I have the Report, and that Report is under consideration; and I propose to direct that a full Court of inquiry should be held and a most searching investigation made. Four officers who are under suspicion of being implicated in what took place are under arrest. All other officers belonging to the regiment have been directed to curtail their leave and return at once. As to the procedure, that must be matter for consideration, but I propose to provide for all parties having opportunity for being fully heard when the matter is investigated. I do not think it will be necessary to bring in the Law Officers of the Crown, because we have the machinery for full inquiry under the Army Discipline Act.


May we understand that this full inquiry, which, I understand, will be private, will not preclude proceedings being taken afterwards, should they be considered necessary, by court-martial?


As to the proceedings, I can only tell the hon. Member that it will be a searching inquiry conducted according to judicial form, and I will take care that everybody concerned shall have the opportunity of being heard and of putting his case.