HC Deb 20 November 1917 vol 99 cc988-90
16. Major HUNT

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if, in view of Lieutenant-Colonel Monteagle Browne's good service during nearly the whole of the South African War and of his distinguished service during about 32 months at the front in France in this War, he can say why he was dismissed from His Majesty's service without being granted either an official inquiry or a court-martial, especially in view of the excellent reports on him by the generals under whom he served in France?


I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given on July 31st to my hon. Friend the Member for Limerick East, to which I have nothing to add.

Major HUNT

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reasons given to me at the War Office for turning this officer out of the Army were so hopelessly bad that I was compelled by the War Office to promise special secrecy for fear the public should find out the gross injustice that has been done to him?


Is there any Court of Appeal or of Inquiry to which officers such as the one referred to in the question, in the event of there being any question raised as to their efficiency, can submit their claim, or are there any means by which an officer, if found unsuitable for work in one direction, can be transferred to some other branch rather than that his services should be lost to the State at a time like the present?


I think my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. The War Office does not dismiss men from the Service. That can only be done by court-martial. Colonel Monteagle Browne was removed from the Service because he refused to obey an order directing him to send in his resignation.


Will the hon. Gentleman order an inquiry into this case?


There are two ways of getting rid of the services of an officer. One is on account of misconduct, which is purely a question of fact; and the other is on account of inefficiency, which is a matter of opinion. Colonel Mont-eagle Browne was asked to send in his resignation on account of reported inefficiency. Inefficiency is a matter of opinion. He was reported by his brigadier-general, then by the divisional-general, and right up to the Field-Marshall Commanding-in-Chief, and, as always in the Army, the War Office was perfectly satisfied that he was justly asked to send in his resignation.


Is it not a fact that this man has commanded three different battalions in one year and that he has been found to be a most efficient officer during the whole time of his service, that he got the Distinguished Service Order, and that nothing whatever has ever been alleged against him; and is not the least that can be done to have an inquiry into his conduct and alleged inefficiency?


There has been no Court of Inquiry allowed in the case of any officer who has been serving at the front. If he has been asked to send in his resignation on account of inefficiency, it would be quite hopeless, as the House will readily realise, to have such a Court of Inquiry. All inefficiency questions are matters of opinion, and it is quite clear that the brigadier-general, the divisional general, and the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, who are in direct contact with him in varying degrees, are the best judges of a man's efficiency.


Does my hon. Friend seriously ask this House to believe that in the Army efficiency or inefficiency is a matter of opinion?


Certainly, and it has always been regarded so in the Army.

Major HUNT

Is not Colonel Mont-eagle Browne's record, by the various officers in whose command he has served, one of the very best? In view of the very unsatisfactory answer of the hon. Gentleman, I beg to say that I shall raise this question on the Motion for the Adjournment to-night.