HL Deb 13 August 1860 vol 160 cc1160-9

said, that in moving for Correspondence, commencing November, 1859, between captains on the reserved list and the Board of Admiralty, he should trouble their Lordships with a few observations on a subject affecting the officers in Her Majesty's Navy to whom it referred—the captains on the reserved list. Those officers, it appeared to him, had been treated with a considerable degree of hardship, if not with something very near akin to bad faith. The case was a very short one, and rested on one or two orders that had emanated from the Admiralty. Previous to the year 1851 the promotions of officers in Her Majesty's Navy were conducted in this way:—Eirst, there was promotion from the various lists by selection, and afterwards there was what was called brevet promotion. The latter generally took place when there was some national event of importance, such as the birth of a Prince. That course was found to be inconvenient, as burdening the active list too much, and making the flow of promotion difficult, if not impossible. In the year 1851 the reserved list was created. The officers put on that list were not to be called upon to serve the Crown except in cases of emergency^; they were to advance one step in rank, and to receive the half-pay of the rank to which they were promoted. Previous to 1851, when an officer was put on the retired list with a captain's commission, there was a distinct bargain made with him that he was to remain on the superior list on which he was placed—that he was never to be moved from it, but should continue to receive the lowest rate of half-pay—10s. 6d. a day. However, by an Order in Council of the 25th June, 1851, it was directed that captains promoted to the rank of admiral and placed on the reserved list should receive the half-pay of rear-admiral, but be allowed the same advantages in respect of rising as if they remained on the active list. In the case of commanders put on the reserved list as captains, there was no stipulation that any were to remain at the lowest rate of half-pay, and therefore they considered that they had a right to advance on the list and receive the increased half-pay given to those nearer the top. There were three classes of those officers; the first 70 captains on the list were entitled to 14s. 6d. a day; the next 100 to 12s. 6d.; and all below that to 10s. 6d. The great grievance of this last class of officers was that they were kept at 10s. 6d. By the change that they made in 1855 they only received an additional Gd. per day, because had they continued on the commanders' list they would have got 10s., and they now only received 10s. 6d., although they were placed on this list for meritorious service. Their Lordships were aware that a new scheme for retirement had been propounded. Those officers hoped they would be allowed to participate in the benefits of that scheme, according to which they would be allowed to retire from the active list at the age of 60 with an allowance of 18s. a day. It appeared that those officers who had allowed themselves so long ago as 1851 to be placed on the reserved list were now treated as if the were only commanders. The absurdity of this interpretation of the Order in Council was made sufficiently manifest by the fact that some were placed on the reserved list for not having served and others because they had served. A good deal of correspondence had passed between these officers and the Admiralty, by which Department all recognition of their claims had been refused. He would now leave the case in their Lordships' hands. In pleading the cause of these meritorious officers he was only advocating the claims of justice; and he trusted that some expression of opinion might emanate from their Lordships would induce the Admiralty not to persevere with a measure calculated to disgust the service. The pecuniary amount involved in this question was a mere bagatelle. These officers had been cajoled into allowing themselves to be put on this reserved list, and many of them would now be glad to get back to their former position. Indeed, several of them had-applied to be reinstated as commanders. He hoped that the noble Duke, who would be the last person to wish to do an injustice, would not finally dispose of the claims of these officers in a hurry. If there had hitherto been any misunderstanding in this matter, let there be none in future, and if hereafter an officer went upon the reserved list, with a knowledge that he would only receive 10s. 6d. a day, ho would have no right to complain. The noble Earl concluded by moving— That there be laid before the House Correspondence, since November, 1850, between Cap- tains on Reserve List and the Board of Admiralty.


said, he had been requested to assist his noble and gallant Friend in bringing the case of these officers before their Lordships, and he did not undertake the task until he had heard some of their personal statements, and had satisfied himself, on careful examination, of the justice of their claims. He was convinced that every one of their Lordships had an earnest desire that justice should be done to a deserving class of officers. He had no intention to cast any reflection upon the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty, who, he was sure, had been uniformly actuated by an anxious wish to perform his duty with perfect fairness towards all branches of the service. He believed either that this case had never been properly brought before the noble Duke, or that his view of it was erroneous. The question depended upon certain regulations of the Admiralty, which were passed for the purpose of carrying out an Order in Council of the 25th of June, 1851, on the subject of promotion and retirement in the navy. Prior to that time, apart from promotion for distinguished services, there was a system of brevet promotion, which took place on occasions of public rejoicing, or periodically at intervals of four or five years. Under the head of "captains," there appeared the following regulation, which was intended to carry out the Order in Council to which he had referred:— While my Lords have to recommend the abandonment of the system of brevet promotion in future, they are, nevertheless, desirous of meeting the claims of old officers who have served long and well, and who seek their promotions rather as a reward for past services than in expectation of further employment. To meet those claims equitably, and, at the same time, not to fill the active list with officers who cannot long continue fit for service, their Lordships will promote by selection fifty commanders to the rank of captains. By an Order in Council of January, 1856, this number of fifty was increased to one hundred. These officers believed that under this regulation they would be entitled to all the advantages which officers upon the active list enjoyed, with the exception of having a right to active employment. The right, however, was reserved in the Order in Council to employ these retired captains on the reserved list. They considered that they would be entitled to the gradual advance in pay and rank, and all the advantages of the out-pension of Greenwich Hospital, and other privileges which that class enjoyed. The officers who were advanced to this rank, of course they became entitled immediately to the lowest scale of captain's half-pay, amounting to 10s. 6d. a day. The Admiralty, however, construed this regulation at the present moment, though not from the first, as en titling these officers merely to the 10s. 6d. a day for their lives, without any advance in rank or in pay, and without any of those concomitant advantages to which he had referred. There were parts of this Order in Council referring to other classes of promoted officers to which he requested particular attention. The next class, numbering 100, were under the head of commanders, to be promoted to the rank of retired captains, and these were persons who agreed to take that rank on the un derstanding that they were not to advance in rank or pay, but to retire from the ser vice on the increased rank given to them. The third class, under the head of com manders, were to be placed on reserved half-pay—namely, all commanders who had not served afloat or in the packet ser vice within twenty years, or who were physically incapable of service. Now, they were not here dealing with officers selected in consequence of meritorious ser vice, but with, those who had not served for twenty years, or who were physically incapable of service. And what were the advantages they had? They were to be allowed to retain all the advantages they now enjoyed, of rising in pay and rank, and receiving the Greenwich out-pensions. Here, then, was the anomalous inconsistency of the construction put by the Board 'of Admiralty at present on this Order in Council with respect to the retired list of captains. They were to be advanced as a reward for meritorious services; the others because they had not served for twenty years afloat, or were physically incapable of service. They deprived those who were selected for promotion, as a reward of merit, of any advance in rank and pay, and all corresponding advantages of the out-pension of Greenwich Hospital, and gave all those advantages to the other class, not as the reward of merit, but merely as the consequence of physical in capacity to serve. The half-pay of commanders was 8s. Gel. a day; but the first 150, whether on the reserved or active list, had 10s. a day; so that these meritorious officers, had they continued commanders, would have risen to 10s. a day; nay, to be captains with increased pay, and to rear-admirals ultimately with 18s. a day. The reward for the service of these meritorious officers, therefore, was only 6d. a day for their lives without any advance. He asked whether it was possible to put fairly and justly such a construction on this Order in Council as the Admiralty of late years, and only of late years, had put upon it? Bat it appeared to him that by some regulations they had lately issued the Admiralty had almost given sentence against themselves. The Navy List was published by authority, and it was rather remarkable that from the time this Order in Council of 1851 was passed down to 1856 there was no class of half-pay for the reserve captains. At that time the Admiralty entertained the notion that they were entitled to all the advantages they now demanded, and three of them were actually given the outpension for Greenwich Hospital. In the year 1859 Captain Gordon, who was at the head of this reserved list, and who became entitled, as being within the first 170 on the list of captains, to the advanced pay of 12s. 6d. a day, applied for it to the Admiralty, and was told there was some recent regulation, or some opinion was entertained, under which he was not entitled to it, but that he must continue at 10s. 6d. a day for his life. Since 1856 there had been a class of reserved captains upon the half-pay list at 10s. 6d. a day, placed below the retired captains at 10s. 6d. a day; so that, in point of fact, these reserved captains, advanced for merit and long service, were placed by the Admiralty precisely in the situation of the retired captains on 10s. 6d. a day, which they had agreed to accept and retire from the service. It was important to observed the distinction that was made in the Commissions of reserve captains and captains on the retired list. The former were actually appointed to a ship With the addition of "for rank only;" and the latter were appointed not to a ship, but "to the rank of retired captain" only. He held that the case of these officers on the reserve list was almost irresistible, and it was quite impossible fairly and justly to put the construction upon this regulation for which of late years the Admiralty had contended. During the present year regulations had been published in the Gazette, according to which the retired pay of commanders who had been advanced to the list of captains, and who had served more than twenty years at sea, was to be 6s. 6d. a day; and to this there was a note—"Commanders who have been promoted to the reserved list of captains, under the Orders in Council of the 25th of Juno, 1851, and the 20th of January, 1856, will he entitled to increase of pay on the above scale, according to their length of service." If the Admiralty was right in treating these officers as they had done since 1856, as retired captains, only entitled to 10s. 6£ per day, on what principle did they now say that they were and should be entitled to an increase of pay according to length of service? Was this intended as a boon, or only as the tardy acknowledgment of a right, and if it was a boon, why was it so grudgingly given? According to the true construction of the regulations, these officers were entitled to advance from rank to rank, and from pay to pay, until they arrived at the rank of Hear Admiral, when, not having served for their flag, they would be put upon the reserved list of Admirals, and would he entitled to 18s. per day, to advance from rank to rank, and to receive the pay of their rank if they were called into active service. Was this retirement to be compulsory or voluntary? If it was proposed to give these officers the choice of retirement, let them at least have the benefit of the highest scale, to which they were entitled; while if the retirement was compulsory it was one an addition to the injustice which had already been practised, because they were in fact to be replaced in the class of commanders, for the purpose of compelling them to retire upon the terms applicable to that class, and to that class alone. He had pleaded earnestly and anxiously for these officers, because he believed that their case was a good one. There was 100 of them, and the difference between 16s. 6d. and 18s. a day would only amount to twenty-six guineas a year for each of them. Ho hoped that so paltry a saving as that would not be allowed to stand in the way of the recognition of the just claims of a most deserving and meritorious class of officers.


said, he must claim the indulgence of their Lordships, because he came down to the House, knowing indeed that a question was to be put to him respecting the reserved list of captains, but not at all aware that the question was to be argued with all the legal ability with which the noble and learned Lord had just discussed it. There was, it was said, nothing so terrible on board ship as "a sea lawyer." His noble and learned Friend had assumed that position, because he had argued this matter with all his legal ability and with all his attachment to his former profession—the navy. He could assure their Lordships that he was anxious in this, as in all other eases, to treat the navy with perfect good faith. It was not correct that what the noble and learned Lord complained of had been done by the present Board of Admiralty; he had done no more than follow in the course he found already laid down, and if ho had followed any other line of conduct he should have been acting contrary to the decisions of previous Boards of Admiralty, and must have obtained a new Order in Council. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shrewsbury) had imputed to the Board of Admiralty that they had treated these officers with had faith, and had construed the Order in Council as it had never before been construed. Neither of those imputations was well founded. Under the Order in Council of the 25th of June, 1851, which was passed when Sir Francis Baring was First Lord of the Admiralty, commanders on the reserved list were to be made captains. The object was to reduce the number of commanders on the active list, and that was to be attained first by placing on the redundant half-pay list commanders who had not served for twenty years, and allowing them to rise in rank and in pay; and, secondly, by selecting other officers for immediate increase of rank and pay, to whom, while giving that immediate increase, the plan offered no prospective advancement. The wording of the Order in Council did not point to any increase of rank; and it had been declared by Sir Francis Baring that it was not the intention of the Board of Admiralty of that day to grant to captains on the reserved list the advantages which they now sought for. In April, 1856, a commander applied to the Admiralty to know whether, if he consented to be placed on the reserved list, his half-pay would increase in the same ratio as officers on the active list—whether, in fact, if he went on the reserved list he should go on rising? The Admiralty in their reply distinctly stated that officers promoted to the reserved list were not entitled to any increase of half-pay. in November last a letter repeating the same inquiry was addressed to the Board, the only difference being that it proceeded from officers who had consented to be placed on the reserved list, while in the other case the officer prudently wrote before accepting the offer, and finding that his half-pay was not to increase refused to allow his name to be transferred. The Admiralty in their reply stated that Removal to the reserve list carries with it increase in rank as well as increase in pay. The officers on the reserve list cannot, therefore, he placed in the same position as those on the active list. It was obvious that the moment the same advantages were given to the reserved as to the active list, officers might as well be kept on the active list for all practical purposes; the object of all schemes of retirement being by immediate payment of an increased sum, to attain eventual economy. But as it might fairly be considered that the word "reserved" did not carry with it the same meaning as "retired," he had been willing to give to officers on the reserved list the advantage of any distinguished services which they might have had the opportunity of performing: to extend this boon, however, to the length of placing them in every respect on a footing with those on the active list would be positive injustice to the latter, over whom they had already obtained promotion and increase of pay. He contended that there had been no breach of faith on the part of the present Board of Admiralty with the excellent and meritorious officers whose requests they would gladly have complied with had it been possible justly to do so; but they had strictly followed the precedents established by former Boards. He would offer no objection to the Motion, on condition that it was made to include correspondence previous to 1859, so that their Lordships might have the whole case before them.


thought the noble Duke, if he had any professional feeling or knowledge of the matter would have dealt differently with it; but as it was he was compelled to treat it in accordance with the information of the Admiralty Office, instead of being guided by his own high sense of justice and independence of character. He did not think that the noble Duke had the slightest intention of doing an injustice; but, the fact was, that a class of officers who were placed on the reserved list by brevet promotion; (and their names written in italics, to show that they were placed there for rank and pay alone;) but were not eligible to be employed in the command of ships. When the Admiralty brought in that most unjust act of forcing a reserved list on the navy, they said that the abolition of the system of promotion by brevet, and the substitution of that described in the Order in Council, was intended as a reward for the past services of meritorious officers, and was to be equitably carried out. He was sorry to say that the conduct of all Boards of Admiralty in reference to these reserved lists had been nothing but a system of shuffling; and this arose probably from their having to deal with officers who were weak in Parliamentary power, and who had against them the desire which naturally existed in the House of Commons to save money. This accounted for the way in which the Admiralty dealt with officers whenever they thought that they could get a few shillings out of their pockets. Their Lordships could but little understand the feelings of officers, who, having entered the service with high hopes, were suddenly stopped in their career, and compelled to leave the service; but this was the condition of many officers. There was an order of the Admiralty, which went to this extent, that these officers should never be employed. He knew one particular officer on the reserved list who during the war with Russia was anxious to serve; and Sir Charles Napier having been told that, as he had a great and important duty to perform, he might choose his own officers, chose this particular officer for his captain. The Admiralty, however, refused to make the appointment; the only reason being that this officer was on the reserved list. Such a course of proceeding was not in accordance with the spirit of the Order in Council. He thought the conduct of the Admiralty amounted to an act of bad faith and treachery towards officers who had been compelled to go on to the reserved list. He did not think that any system of retirement could be conducted justly, except on these two grounds—that there should be a retirement for officers, who from age and infirmity were unable to perform their duties—and this should be a compulsory retirement; and a voluntary retirement (within certain limits) for officers who wished to do so. Every other system of retirement must be founded upon injustice. Take the case of the compulsory retirement of captains at the head of the list, because they had not served for six years. Why, the officers could not get employment, because the country had none for them; and for this they were visited with punishment. Suppose those at the head of the profession wished to promote an officer, they could refuse to employ the officer who stood before him, and thus force those officers to the retired list. Another point he would suggest was, that it might be advisable for Parliament to advance a sum of money for the purchase of a certain number of commissions from officers annually who wished to retire, and who would prefer having money, instead of taking half-pay. He was sure that many officers would consider this arrangement a great boon, and that the country also would benefit by it.


in reply, said he only wished to get at the whole truth, and therefore he would assent to the Amendment suggested by the noble Duke.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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