HC Deb 18 May 1915 vol 71 cc2117-9

asked the Under-Secretary for War whether he is aware that Special and General Reserve second lieutenants, who were either attached to regiments before mobilisation or who joined at the outbreak of war and who have been many months at the front, are being habitually superseded for promotion by the cadets from Sandhurst, gazetted to commissions subsequent to theirs and far younger in age, and who, owing to their youth and lack of war experience, are less competent to take command of troops; if he is also aware that non-promotion to temporary rank is causing a sense of injustice in the minds of the Reserve officers; whether he will state the reason why this system is being enforced; and if he will reconsider it with a view to securing the best interests of the Service now and in the future?


Promotion in the Special and General Reserve are not on an identical basis. Officers of the former are promoted as vacancies arise in their Special Reserve battalion: those in the General Reserve are promoted to vacancies as they arise in the Regular unit with which they are serving. It is not possible to ensure that promotion on two different rosters is absolutely identical. Officers from Sandhurst have passed more difficult examinations and gone through a training different from that of the Special Reserve officer. It is hoped that most ground for complaint will be removed by the steps being taken to give effect to the recent decisions in reference to temporary rank.


Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that a few months' training on the part of a cadet at Sandhurst is equal to four or five months' service at the front in the trenches? That is the point. The men who have learned by experience in the trenches are superseded by these mere boys, who have merely gone through a course at Sandhurst. To point that out was the object of my question.


I appreciate the object of the Noble Lord in asking the question, and I would affirm that the examination which has been passed by these cadets is quite an important element in the training of the young officers.


Is it not the case that a large proportion of those who are now entering Sandhurst do not pass any examination at all, but are selected for approval; that after three or four months' work at Sandhurst the cadet is given a commission, and that some of them have been selected at the age of seventeen?


Of course, their curriculum is very much shortened. I am quite aware of that.


Is it not a fact that there is no examination?


May I ask, in view of the consideration that in many cases there are serious hardships to individuals, and also in view of the effect on regiments, would the commanding officers be called upon to report, and would the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that that report would have the same con- sideration and be given the same weight as the views of gentlemen who are seated in Whitehall?


I think that the course suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend is rather doubtful. In view of the very large responsibility of the commanding officer it is doubtful whether it would be desirable to take up his time with such reports as are suggested. I will consider the suggestion, but it seems a rather doubtful one.

Colonel WHITE

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that commanding officers do not like to put these young officers, who are not fit to lead men, over a number of men, especially where men's lives are involved, and would he not think that it is desirable, apart from any other question, to have the best officers rather than these young officers?


Of course, it is obviously not only desirable but imperative that the best officers should be selected. My whole point is that this method of education at Sandhurst is very likely as good as the other.

Colonel WHITE

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some officers have already been promoted lieutenants who only went to Sandhurst since the beginning of the War, and have not even yet left the country?