HL Deb 25 June 1861 vol 163 cc1547-51

, in moving for a copy of the Regulations under which Masters or Mates of Merchant Vessels may be enrolled as Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve, said he would take occasion to remove a false impression which he was afraid had been created by a former discussion. A reserved list of officers of some kind was absolutely necessary in case of war. A navy list which might be suitable for a condition of peace would not be suitable for a condition of war. We had now of lieutenants on the active list, according to the published list of April 1861, the number of 855, but the whole number of lieutenants unemployed was 150, and of these 150 only 25 would be available for active service. There were many lieutenants on the active list who still in point of age might be capable of service, but it would be most inconvenient to employ them as lieutenants, because of the position in which their seniority would place them, in consequence of the length of time since they had been on the active list. There were only 25 unemployed lieutenants available for active service. But how was this deficiency to be remedied? On a former occasion it was said promote more mates. The number of mates in April last was 86. The mates never remained beyond a year in that rank, whenever their captains reported they were fit for promotion, it might be said enter more cadets and you will get more officers. That was a very proper mode of proceeding, and for the last three or four years, instead of about 100, as had been the case before, about 200 a year had been entered. It should be remembered that the entry of too great a number in one year was very unfavourable to future promotion in the navy. It might give the Admiralty a certain amount of patronage and popularity, but it would be bad for the service, and bad for the officers themselves. By bringing a number of young men into the navy of the same year's standing their chances of promotion would be diminished; it would produce a large list of officers without employment during time of peace, and who, by being unemployed, would necessarily become inefficient. It created at the same time a very serious charge upon the finances of the country. We had now been at peace, as far as the navy was concerned, for a great many years, and he would state to their Lordships the present condition of the Navy List. Of Admirals we had now on the active and retired list 309, whereas, in 1816, at the conclusion of the war, we had only 235. The list had, therefore, gone on extending and the pressure of the deadweight on the taxpayers of the country had been greatly increased. The number of Admirals in actual employ was about 20. In the same way, the total number of Captains on the active and retired list was 774; so that there was an immense amount of money paid in proportion to the services rendered by the captains. The charge for the retired officers was becoming very serious. The payment on account of the reserve and retired list of Admirals, Captains, Commanders, and Lieutenants, omitting pensions, Marines, surgeons, and paymasters—amounted to £346,000 a year. During the last ten years this deadweight had largely increased. In 1851 the charge was only £205,000 a year, including the Marines; now, it was £442,000, also including the Marines; and this result was owing not to any considerable war, but to the necessity of bringing up active young men as officers, and of, therefore, placing others on the retired list. Their Lordships would, therefore, see that if the navy was to be placed on such a footing as would make it adequate for a war, their Lordships must consider how they could best obtain the requisite supply of officers without at the same time entailing any great deadweight upon the country. It was said, "If you cannot promote naval cadets, at least promote masters." In the first place however, masters ranked as lieutenants, and, therefore, no advantage would be derived to them from this measure. More- over, in the event of war, there was not a sufficient number of masters, and that being so, it would be most unwise to make the masters lieutenants. No other plan, therefore, seemed available except that of bringing in officers from the merchant service. These officers now underwent as strict an examination as the officers of the navy, and were fully competent to perform the duties expected from them. Two objections had been started to the proposal. First it was said that these officers would not enter the service; and then, that by inviting them to come, he was interfering with the course of promotion in the navy. Now he wished to say by these regulations he did not in any way interfere with naval promotions; and in the next place he believed that these officers would not only not object, but would be quite willing to serve under captains in the navy. He proposed that after serving for a time they should be eligible for honorary rank in the Reserve, which would run parallel to rank in the navy, but would not interfere with the Navy List. If these officers distinguished themselves by special service in time of war, they might be introduced into the navy on equal terms with those on which they were serving. That, however, would necessarily apply only to a limited number because he apprehended that, their pay being higher in the merchant service, few would be willing to leave the employment absolutely for service in the Royal Navy. At the same time he believed that they would willingly give their services in time of war. As to the masters of the navy, their position had been much improved by recent Orders in Council. Their pay had been increased, their rank and position in the service much improved, and the Admiralty were, therefore, now in a fair way of obtaining more of this useful class of officers. That being so, it would be undesirable to interfere further with their position, except in respect of their appointment as masters-attendant in the dockyards, in which case it would be fair to them to increase their pay. As their Lordships knew, the number of lieutenants was limited by Order in Council to the number of 1,200, and it was considered desirable to increase them gradually to 1,000, but not to any larger number, because otherwise they hampered each other, stopped promotion, and became disheartened, or if promoted to be captains or commanders, it was at a time of life when they were unfitted for service. The men whose services he desired to obtain were otherwise well qualified to fill these situations, and if they would devote themselves to gunnery and. drill they would be of great use in the service. By employing them, too, he hoped to add to the popularity of the navy, for they would bring in with them men who had served under them in the large steamers and ships which they commanded. In every way the navy would gain by employing them; and when the war was over the great majority would retire with honorary rank, and would be quite willing to resume their old calling. This, generally, was the scheme which he proposed. He had framed Regulations for the purposes which he should now lay upon the Table, only premising that in preparing them he had been greatly assisted by two officers of the Admiralty whose loss the department had now to deplore before the document was completed, and if any errors had crept into the Regulations their Lordships must attribute them to him, and not to the other members of the Board. A further stage of the Bill in reference to this subject would, he hoped, be taken a week hence, and meanwhile it would be open to their Lordships to consider the Regulations which the Bill enabled the Admiralty to frame.

Moved, That there be laid before this House, Copy of the Regulations under which. Masters or Mates of Merchant Vessels may be enrolled as officers of the Royal Naval Reserve.


said, the noble Duke's statement showed that previous Boards of Admiralty had allowed the number of junior officers to fall far too low. He was informed that a great deficiency existed with regard to these officers in the larger ships, and that the want of discipline on board some of those ships, about which much had lately been said, had arisen in a great degree from the absence of a sufficient number of these junior officers to mix with the men and check anything that was going wrong.


asked if the officers about to be introduced into the service would be promoted beyond the rank of lieutenant? The list of officers above that rank was already overflowing. If the new officers were promoted beyond the lieutenant's rank, in case of a future war would they be called on to serve in the higher grade?


said, in cases of distinguished service the new officers would be promoted by the Admiralty in the Reserve to a higher rank than lieutenant. In case of retirement they would take the higher honorary rank; but they would not be required to serve in it. If wounded in the service they would be entitled to the same compensation as officers of the navy.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.