HL Deb 24 March 1871 vol 205 cc565-8

, in asking the Under Secretary for War the Question of which he had given Notice, Whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce an improvement in the Arms supplied to Volunteer Artillery, and, if so, when; and to call attention to the Arms now used by the Volunteer Artillery, said, he would not occupy much of their Lordships' time by going into any arguments which would doubtless be raised when the whole question of the Reserve Forces came before Parliament; but he was most anxious to ascertain from Her Majesty's Government how much longer the Artillery Volunteers were to be provided with antiquated and, when compared with modern improvements, almost useless weapons. As their Lordships were well aware the Rifle Volunteers had had as good an arm given to them as the country could produce; while, on the other hand, many of the Artillery Volunteers had now for 11 years been obliged to content themselves with the old muzzle-loading carbines and smooth-bore 32-pounder. He held in his hand a circular which had been sent to many commanding officers in the North of England, himself included, by one of our most efficient Volunteer Artillery officers, and he would, with their Lordships' permission, read one paragraph of it, as showing the feelings of many Northern Volunteers—feelings which, he felt sure, were shared by many others in many counties— The united object of the Volunteers should now be to obtain—not from Her Majesty's Government, but from Parliament—a straightforward answer to this straightforward question—'Is the Volunteer force to be maintained in a state of efficiency or is it not?' Either let Parliament impose discipline, provide equipment, defray expenses, and reduce the nnmerical strength, if necessary, or let existing corps be disbanded at the earliest possible date. Temporizing measures would do more harm than good, because they would lull the public into an idea of false security, and cause improvements of vital importance to be deferred to a period commonly termed too late.


asked whether his noble Friend had any objection to mention the name of the officer from whose circular he had quoted?


said, it proceeded from Colonel Allhusen, of the 1st Newcastle-upon-Tyne Volunteer Artillery. Colonel Allhusen said— The question at issue is not one of politics, but of national common sense. It is essential we should all pull together so as to raise the Volunteer force from its present ridiculous position. Look at your men, after 11 years' outlay and trouble, armed with muzzle-loading carbines, and old smooth-bore 32-pounders. Many of us are quite tired of playing the fool and being compelled to pay for being laughed at by military men and civilians. One thing or the other; let us be prepared fairly to meet all comers, or strike us out of the defensive muster-roll.


regretted that this matter had not been brought forward in the form simply of a Question. What he would desire to ask was whether it was the intention of the Government to arm the Volunteer Artillery with such weapons as would qualify them to perform their duties efficiently? An impression prevailed, some years ago, that the Volunteers generally were not fitted to serve with field Artillery. But the opinion having been taken, first of Sir George C. Lewis, then of Earl de Grey, and finally of Lord Palmerston himself, it was determined that a fair and reasonable proportion of light field Artillery should be conceded to the Volunteer forces. It was now rumoured that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw these guns, although, according to his experience, they were much better suited to the height and physique of Volunteers than the heavy guns to which the Royal Artillery were trained.


said, that when his noble Friend opposite came down to distribute the prizes to the National Artillery Association, he encouraged the Volunteers by the announcement that, as soon as arrangements could be made, they would be armed with guns of precision. He therefore wished to take this opportunity of inquiring whether it was proposed to give rifled guns to the Artillery Volunteers; and, if so, of what description? In this country it would be almost impossible even to hope for a force of Regular Artillery proportionate to our wants; it therefore became necessary to look to the Reserve Artillery, to the Militia, and to the Volunteer Artillery to supplement the deficiency. He had been informed that it was intended to arm the fortifications with the discarded breech-loading Armstrongs; if that were so, he wished to know whether there were a sufficient number available for the different batteries of Volunteers and Militia along the sea-coast? It was of the utmost importance that those two branches of our Volunteer forces should be encouraged by giving them arms of precision, instead of the smooth-bore muzzle-loaders of days gone by, in the practice of which the men took no interest. As to a supply of breech-loading carbines, he, for one, was disposed to look upon the time spent in practising with them rather in the light of time lost; and to believe that the true weapons for Artillery Volunteers to work with was the big gun itself. He was compelled to differ from the noble Earl who had last spoken on the subject of Volunteer Field Artillery, for he believed that it entailed great expenditure both on officers and men in the line of horses, &c. At the same time, he was not by any means an advocate for putting down any Volunteer field batteries which might actually exist.


said, it was proposed that the Volunteer Artillery should be armed with the 40-pounder breech-loading Armstrong gun, and the delay which had occurred had arisen in consequence of some proposed alterations in the organization of the force. It was proposed that in future the Volunteer Artillery should be placed under the command of officers of the Royal Artillery in the different districts; and by this means it, as well as the Militia Artillery, would be brought into closer connection with the Regular service. As to the armament of the Volunteer Artillery with breech-loading carbines, since a Question on this subject had been asked by his noble Friend near him (Lord Truro), he had ascertained, as the result of further inquiry, that it would be possible to issue them before the date he (Lord Northbrook) then mentioned. He was rather surprised at the strong expressions used by Colonel Allhusen in the circular quoted by the noble Earl, for the corps which that officer commanded had been supplied with 40-pounder Armstrongs, and large guns and not carbines must be admitted to be the proper arm of Artillery; so far, therefore, from having been neglected, Colonel Allhusen's corps had been treated with particular favour. As soon as the arrangements had been completed, guns of a similar kind would be apportioned to the various districts—the numbers being determined by the requirements of each district. He agreed entirely with what had fallen from the noble Viscount (Viscount Hardinge) with respect to Volunteer Field Artillery.


said, that what was really required was that there should be in the hands of the Volunteers a sufficient supply of rifled guns. He hoped there would soon be a sufficient number of large and powerful guns on all our coasts to afford our Volunteers opportunities of practising with those arms.

In answer to the Earl of MALMESBURY,


stated that the Militia Artillery had been by no means overlooked in the arrangements which had been made. The same attention would be paid to the Militia Artillery as to the Volunteer Artillery. Indeed, the former would even have to deal with larger guns, because they would, in time of war, be placed in garrisons where guns of great calibre were used.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock