HL Deb 18 August 1871 vol 208 cc1841-3

, in moving an Address for— Copy of Report of the inspection of the Greenwich Division of the First Class Army Reserve on the 15th of August 1871, asked the Under Secretary for War, whether his attention had been called to a paragraph that had appeared in a widely-circulated journal (The Standard), which journal passed some severe strictures a day or two ago in relation to the inspection of a battalion of the Army Reserve in Hyde Park. That inspection was carried out under the superintendence of Colonel Wright, an officer whose experience and sense of discipline rendered him a very competent judge of the efficiency of a regiment. The complaint made contained strictures of a serious and a severe character. First, fault was found with the uniform of the battalion, and the lack of physique in the men; and it was said that during the 35 minutes several of the men fell out whilst doing their drill; that there was talking in the ranks; that the men looked down upon the ground; and, in short, that the regiment was in about as unsatisfactory condition as any regiment could appear upon parade. The Colonel was reported to have said that it was a lamentable exhibition, or something of that sort. Now, no one would complain of reasonable criticism; but anything like undue disparagement would be highly detrimental, especially at the present time, when great efforts were being made to form an effective Reserve. He therefore asked the noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) whether his attention had been called to the paragraph, and whether he had taken means to ascertain whether the statements were accurate, or whether they were unworthy of credit? There was a second Question arising from a letter addressed to the editor of The Daily Telegraph. It stated there that in the artillery competition between the Regulars and the Volunteers at Shoeburyness, there were serious grounds of complaint, and attributed the unsatisfactory shooting of the Volunteers to the inferior powder supplied to them. He himself went down to Shoeburyness last week, and saw some comparatively unsuccessful shooting by the Volunteers, which was unaccountable to the Volunteers, and also to the Regular officers—that which was highly successful last year was this year a complete failure. He wished to throw out a hint, whether it would not be possible to organize a Volunteer Transport Corps which would be able to meet all emergencies such as would be likely to arise upon such occasions as the manœuvres near Chobham. He thought that they might organize a corps of this kind by giving commissions in it to farmers. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Address.


said, that he was much obliged to his noble Friend for calling attention to the inspection of the Greenwich battalion of the first-class Army Reserve the other day. The account referred to appeared in The Standard, and was in many respects inaccurate. The principal things complained of were that the men were not steady in the ranks—that some fell out, and some talked in the ranks. Colonel Wright had sent in his report to the Secretary of State, and in it he stated that the men were steady in the ranks, that there was no falling out, though it was excessively hot, nor was there any talking in the ranks. As it would, no doubt, be satisfactory to their Lordships to have the whole information as to the inspection of the battalion, if his noble Friend moved for it he should be happy to lay the report of Colonel Wright upon the Table of the House; because, as his noble Friend had said, nothing could be more prejudicial to the public interests than incorrect and unfair reports in reference to a force that was just beginning to be organized, and from which the country might expect to derive substantial advantage. As to the gunpowder supplied at Shoeburyness the other day, he had endeavoured to ascertain the exact facts. The powder used was L.G. powder, which was not so good as R.L.G., but it was formerly used equally with R.L.G. in artillery practice. Its use was, however, abandoned for some time in consequence of a report that turned out on further investigation to be incorrect, that its explosive quality was dangerous to the guns. When it was found that the L.G. powder was perfectly safe to be employed—and, indeed, that it was as safe if not more so than the R.L.G. powder—its use was resumed, and instructions were given that it should be employed for practice at Shoeburyness, with all guns, except heavy guns over 7 inches. It was to be used whether the guns were fired by Volunteers or Regulars. He had not yet received the report of the Commandant of the School of Gunnery relative to the last meeting at Shoeburyness, and he was therefore unable to say whether any complaint had been made by any officer of Volunteers as to the powder used; but no such complaint from any officer had come to his knowledge. As to the effect of shooting with this powder, he was informed by an officer at Shoeburyness, that L.G. powder had been fired for 380 rounds from a 40-pounder breech-loading Armstrong gun—a very accurate-shooting gun—and that no complaint had been made with respect to the powder. He should, therefore, not think that there was any material difference in shooting in consequence of L.G. being used instead of R.L.G. powder. The suggestion as to a Volunteer Transport Corps would be considered; but it would be difficult to make country gentlemen and farmers available as officers of such a corps for any practical purpose.

Motion agreed to.

Address for— Copy of Report of the inspection of the Greenwich Division of the First Class Army Reserve on the 15th of August 1871.