HL Deb 27 April 1855 vol 137 cc1831-4

said, he had a question to put to his noble and gallant Friend the Commander in Chief relative to certain occurrences which were stated by the newspapers to have taken place in the army. Their Lordships no doubt remembered the case of Lieutenant Perry, and he was sure they would be sorry to find that the practices which were then so justly reprehended were still continued. There appeared in the London journals of Wednesday a statement, copied from the provincial papers, giving an account of what was alleged to have occurred in the barracks of Canterbury. He knew nothing whatever of this matter except from what he had read in the journals. There were two cases mentioned. One was between Ensigns Sanders and Neville, of the 30th Regiment, and Ensign Falk- ner, of the same regiment. In that case his noble and gallant Friend had given judgment, and therefore he would not detain the House by any remark upon it, except to say that he did not think that his noble and gallant Friend had erred on the side of severity. It was impossible to read the paper of instructions to officers on joining their regiments or depôts without being struck with the good sense and propriety which characterised them, and there could be no question that the discipline and conduct of the army would be well maintained if the young men and their commanding officers acted up to the instructions therein contained. He (the Earl of Shaftesbury) did not pretend to understand the discipline of the army, but he must say that the persons who appeared to him to be principally in fault in these cases were the commanding officers. He could not think that such a state of things as had been revealed in these instances could exist if the commanding officers did their duty as gentlemen and Christians, with these instructions for their guide. The other case, to which he now wished more particularly to refer, occurred at Canterbury. It appeared that Cornet Baumgarten entered his regiment, the Enniskillens, and was for a long time subjected to the most disgusting, insulting, and provoking tricks. He was in consequence betrayed into the great folly of sending a challenge to one of his tormentors. This step was of course contrary to the civil law of the land, and directly against the articles of war. It appeared that a sergeant of the regiment, who understood his duty both as a civilian and a soldier better than those in command, Sergeant Brodie, interfered to prevent this breach of the peace. And who did their Lordships think was the person who opposed him, and insisted on the duel going on? Their Lordships would scarcely believe that it was the adjutant of the regiment. He (the Earl of Shaftesbury) was stating the facts as represented by the sergeant. Well, he who, if he did his duty, should show a good example to the regiment, the superior officer, was the man who interfered to prevent the laudable attempt of the sergeant. He wished most sincerely that it was possible to make the sergeant and the adjutant change places; for the one had outstepped all bounds of reason and discipline, while the other had shown himself a good citizen and a good soldier. This adjutant who should have been the first to prevent a duel, actually ordered his men to knock down this sergeant with the butt-ends of their carbines. That was the statement in the papers. He wished to ask his noble and gallant Friend if he had instituted any inquiry into this transaction; and if so, whether he would make known to the public what his decision was? He had no doubt his noble and gallant Friend's decision would be in accordance with justice, with the requirements of the case, and with due regard to the discipline of the army.


said, he was not prepared to say that the noble Earl had not stated the case according to the facts. He was sorry to say that a system of practical jokes was carried to a great extent in the army, and had prevailed for a considerable time. He had taken strong measures to put it down. He had tried courts-martial, and he had admonished, and had cashiered; but these measures were not effectual. Without pledging himself to any course in the present case until he should have read the evidence, if he thought that admonitions were not sufficient, he would not hesitate to advise Her Majesty to adopt some speedier and more efficacious modes of dealing with these occurrences than at present existed.


thought that the public opinion on the subject of duelling was in the right direction; but there could be no doubt that the result at the same time had been to loosen those bonds which formerly subsisted between gentlemen. He expressed no opinion whatever on the subject of duelling, and he was quite ready to acquiesce in the feeling that prevailed; but it was clear that since the practice had been discontinued, there had not been that stringent determination on the part of the military authorities to suppress ungentlemanly conduct which there ought to have been. In the performance of his duty as the captain of one of Her Majesty's ships, he had never had the slightest difficulty whatever in putting down, by an immediate interference, the least attempt either at bullying or ungentlemanly conduct. He had heard stories with reference to the conduct of officers of regiments in London, and even of those regiments which were employed about the person of the sovereign, which had really astonished him. For his own part, if he were Commander in Chief, he would hold the colonel of every regiment immediately responsible, and he would deal with him, rather than with the criminal himself, in the most summary manner.


It is only right to remind the noble Earl that the colonel of the regiment now in question is in the Crimea.


Of course I meant to say the colonel or the officer in command.

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