HC Deb 16 November 1911 vol 31 cc525-6

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the system of education for officers inaugurated in 1902 is satisfactory in every particular; whether he is aware that the Admiralty memorandum of 1902 stated that, officers having attained the rank of sub-lieutenant, specialisation should begin and should be definite and final, that the committee appointed to consider the subject under Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas in 1905 stated that there would be no need for a final division into three branches, that specialisation for a period only was necessary; whether the entry of Marine officers from outside on the same principle as before the Admiralty memorandum of 1902 has now been determined upon, and, if so, whether he will state how many Marine officers have joined under the old system and how many under the new; whether upwards of 1,500 cadets and midshipmen have already entered under the now system, of whom each, according to his merits, will have an opportunity of becoming an Admiral of the Fleet or filling the office of First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, and if he will state to the House whether the Admiralty have abolished specialisation, or whether they have not abolished it, and so make the question clear to those hundreds of families who give their sons to the service of the country?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative so far as the main lines of the scheme are concerned, but experience has shown that some modification in details is required. The answer to the second part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the third part, the direct entry of Marine officers has been determined upon as supplementary to the system of common entry, but the scheme of training, after entry will be more comprehensive than formerly and will include instruction in naval as well as in military subjects. No Marine officers have at present joined under either the old or the new scheme. The answer to the fourth part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the last part, the policy of the Admiralty has been fully explained in Circular Letter No. 25, of the 14th August last, which states precisely the conditions under which officers will be allowed to specialise. Engineer officers in future will belong to the military branch, and officers who specialise in engineering may or may not remain specialists within that branch throughout their career. As a general rule, officers who join the Royal Marines will remain attached to the corps throughout their whole career.