HL Deb 20 March 1860 vol 157 cc927-30

said, it was reported on good authority that the Government intended to issue an order for disembodying the Militia Artillery. The Lords-Lieutenant of counties were naturally anxious on this subject, as they had done their utmost to bring the Artillery into a state of efficiency; now they were told it was to be disembodied. He wished to know if there was any foundation for the rumour?


replied, that the statement referred to by his noble Friend was not in any degree correct, in the sense in which he made it. No regiment of Militia Artillery had been disembodied up to this time; but following up the general plan of the Government, orders had been issued that certain regiments of Militia should be disembodied, and among them were the Edinburgh, Forfar, Water-ford, and another, which were Artillery corps; that was the whole number of Militia Artillery regiments which it was now proposed to disembody. The Government had increased the force of the Royal Artillery by adding a new brigade of 1,000 men to the Garrison Artillery, and 300 men to the Coast Artillery; in short, there was a total increase of 1,330 men, whilst the decrease, by disembodiment, was 1,509. Consequently the House would see that there was no such intention on the part of the Government as that which his noble Friend seemed to imagine. Of course when the Artillery returned from India there would be a further disembodiment of the Militia.


said, he had seen in that day's newspapers that the intention on the part of the Government to increase the Royal Artillery had been abandoned. Some additional brigades which it had been proposed in the first instance to raise were not, it seemed, now to be raised. He earnestly entreated Her Majesty's Government to consider well the state of things which now existed. The state of things which existed when Parliament met had induced the Government to propose very large military and naval Estimates. The state of things now was much more serious than it was then; and whatever reasons then existed for placing the country in a state of thorough defence existed to a much greater extent now; and certainly it was not at this time, with so many threatening appearances, that we had a right to expect that the Government would make any new reductions in the armed force of the country.


said, he could assure his noble Friend that the report he had heard had no foundation whatever. Since he had entered the Hoose—within the last two minutes—the origin of the report had been explained to him; and he was now able fully to understand what had been stated by his noble Friend. No alteration whatever had taken place; no reduction had been made with a view to make the forces square with the Estimates. But undoubtedly a further disembodiment of the Militia would be somewhat hastened by the arrival of the Artillery from India.


was aware that four regiments of Militia Artillery were to be disbanded; but he did not understand whether the whole force was to be disembodied in the next year. He warned the noble Earl that, in the arrangements which the Government had it in contemplation to make, they ought not to place any dependence on the services of the Volunteer force. Thoroughly as he appreciated the spirit and patriotism which animated the members of that force, he did not believe they could ever compare in efficiency with the Militia. In the first place, it had been found along the coast line that great reluctance existed on the part of Volunteers to become connected with Artillery regiments. It seemed to be thought that there was greater interest and more amusement in becoming riflemen than in being artillerists; though this feeling would cure itself in course of time, for nothing could be more tiresome than the long intervals which men had to wait for their torn of shooting at rifle practice; and if the volunteers had to go any distance from home that service would become much less eligible than the Militia. Even if the; Government could be certain of establishing Volunteer corps of Artillery they would never be as useful as Militia regiments of the same kind, which in many places that he could mention had now arrived at great perfection.


expressed a hope that whatever force of Artillery the Government might decide to keep permanently embodied would consist entirely of Royal Artillery. The more he heard on the subject the more he felt satisfied that a great mistake was made in embodying the Militia at all, as by that means it was deprived of its local character, and so far its popularity was injured. Persons who had business of their own to attend to could not afford the time requisite for acting as officers, and the same observation applied to the men. When regiments of Artillery Militia were only called out for a limited time in each year for the purposes of drill a number of artizans earning high wages were very glad to belong to them; but the moment a corps was permanently embodied, men of that description were driven out of it, and the service became a directly competing one with the Royal Artillery. Only those entered who looked forward to a permanent military career, and in the Militia they had all the annoyances without the advantages of continual service. The cost to the country was the same in each case, and the force at command was by no means equally disposable. With regard to Volunteer Artillery Corps, he differed in opinion from his noble Friend. At the mouth of the Tyne a corps had been formed which was taking great pains with its drill, and it was the opinion of officers of the Royal Artillery that, regard being had to the period which had elapsed since, its formation, the progress which it had made was highly creditable. He believed that other corps were likewise springing up at different points along the coast.


explained that what he had meant to say was that in the course of next year the Act under which the Militia were now embodied would expire; and as the Government were of opinion that the Militia should not be detained in embodiment in time of peace, they would not ask Parliament to renew the Act unless an emergency arose calling for such a step to be taken. He could assure the noble Earl that although his experience did not enable him to form an estimate of the value of the Volunteer Artillery, which must now be some 10,000 or 12,000 strong, the Government never looked upon them at all as a substitute for the regular army. They were to supplement the regular army, not to supersede it.