HL Deb 20 July 1874 vol 221 cc285-90

rose (1.) to call attention to the Returns relating to the Militia, dated respectively 15th May, 1874, and 15th June, 1874; and to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, whether the inducements to re-enrol now offered to militiamen are loss than those offered prior to December, 1873; and, if so, to what extent; (2.) also whether it was in contemplation to increase such inducements; and also to call attention to the constitution of the permanent staffs of militia regiments, both as regards numbers and mode of appointment, and to the amount of pensions granted for long service in the same. It appeared from an analysis of these Returns that there had been a falling off in the enrolment of recruits in two months of the present year—namely, February and March, as compared with the enrolments in February and March of the preceding two years; and a still more remarkable falling off in the re-enrolment of men after their first term of service had expired. He was anxious to hear from the noble Earl the Under Secretary for War some explanation as to what he sujaposed to be the cause of the remarkable falling off in the re-enrolment of men. Men who re-enrolled showed a preference to remaining in the Militia to joining the regular Army; and it was of great importance that inducements should be held out to them to re-enrol. It appeared, also, that the desertions had been very large. In 1873, 25,000 recruits were enlisted, and, according to the Returns, the desertions amounted to 10,000. He trusted Her Majesty's Government would devise some plan to prevent such a loss of men, and also to induce the men whose service had expired to re-enrol. The truth was that these men constituted the strength of the Militia force. There had also been a very great number of men absent from training in 1873. The establishment was about 126,000, and the number of men enrolled on 1st May 1873 was 111,256, but there were only 92,089 men present at the trainings. As to the Permanent Staff of Militia regiments, he might observe that under the old system the Staff of Militia regiments was so kept up that they were really ready for service at any time; and there was an advantage in this, because however quickly they might be able to manufacture ordinary militiamen, yet it was by no means an easy matter quickly to manufacture good non-commissioned officers. He thought that great mischief was likely to arise from decreasing the Permanent Staff of Militia regiments—especially in reducing such appointments as those of the orderly-room clerk and the paymaster sergeant; because it was really impossible to work a regiment properly without the and of such persons. Another circumstance was, that it had been found of great practical advantage to allow Volunteer sergeants to join the Permanent Staff of Militia regiments, one advantage being that they were the best recruiters that could be got. He hoped that some means would be found for allowing a certain number of these men, if properly qualified, still to join the Staff. Another ground of complaint was, the miserable amount of pension which was given to the members of the Permanent Staff at the end of a long and loyal service. When they left the service, they were usually unfit for and unable to obtain any permanent employ, and their families had no prospect of relief but the poor-house. The maximum pension was 5d. a day after a service of 20 years, the amount, he believed, not having been altered since 1796; and this small amount of pension tended, in his opinion, seriously to deteriorate the efficiency of the Staff. He should like to hear some explanation of the cause of so many men being absent without leave from their regiments as the Returns showed.


said, that as to the great number of men in the Militia who had leave of absence a year or two ago it arose from the fact that several regiments were ordered out, and they were only allowed to take with them a certain number of the men. The noble Earl had given a perfectly accurate statement with regard to the inducements to recruit and re-enrol. The inducements to recruit had not been very much diminished. The pay was about the same as before; but the in- ducements to re-enrol had been most seriously diminished, and in consequence the re-enrolment had not gone on so "well this year as could have been desired. The whole matter would be thoroughly considered whenever the training was over and the Reports had been sent in With regard to the second Question—the constitution of the Permanent Staff of Militia regiments—he was afraid the only answer he could give would be an unsatisfactory one. The reduction of the Permanent Staff was a consequence of the scheme of the late Government to bring the Militia and Line together, and perhaps it was rather unfortunate for the present Government that their predecessors had not remained a little longer in office until their scheme had been thoroughly developed. However, the present Government had done the best it could for it The intention of the Circular referred to was to diminish the expense of keeping up the Staff all the year, and to give during the training time only the number of sergeants that were wanted. With regard to the taking away of paymaster-sergeants, if it was found to work badly the matter would have to be re-considered; but all those things were parts of a system which was now on trial.


contended that the Militia would work satisfactorily if it were left alone. Every regiment should be complete in itself—that was most essential—and it was also essential that before any alterations were made the Militia officers should be consulted. The Militia should be a substantive service, should have its own officers, and its own system of drill. If that were attended to they would obtain from the Militia all they could desire. They were endeavouring to bring about a system of lending from the Militia to the Line and then drafting the men back again. That system would break down. If Militia officers were consulted they would not have that check on recruiting which had occurred, nor in the re-enrolments. He had 21 years' experience in a Militia regiment, and he had not found any material alteration in the number of recruits. In his regiment they were drawn from agricultural districts and from the coast villages, where the population had not increased during the past two decennial periods. If the inducements which were formerly held out were continued they would have plenty of recruits, as there were always lads coming on who could not obtain any settled agricultural occupation.


said, his noble Friend (the Earl of Limerick) had gone so fully into all the details, that little was left for him to say; but he might venture to add his opinion that it was an utter mistake to confound the Militia and the Regular Army. It was all very well in theory to talk of welding the two forces together; but the organization of the Militia was entirely different from that of the Regular Army. Their combination was only good in theory. He had had many years experience as a Militia officer, and he certainly considered the present organization of the Militia was not a satisfactory one. The clothing supplied to the men was deplorably bad. A paymaster-sergeant must be a good accountant, and should be thoroughly honest and steady, as he was the right hand of the adjutant. With regard to re-enrolment, he had himself this very year asked men whether they would enrol, and they had replied that they would not, as they would obtain no advantage by doing so.


agreed with his noble Friend behind him (Lord Waveney) that the Militia ought to be a substantive force, and at the same time one on which the country could in perfect safety rely as a reserve of the Regular Army. He thought this was likely to be brought about by the system of localization which had been adopted by the late Government, and under which it was hoped to draw a sufficient number of recruits from the districts in which the regiments were localized. It had been urged that in all matters of this kind the opinions of the highest military authorities should be taken. As far as the late Government was concerned, this was precisely the course which was followed, and he thought the result, as far as it could be ascertained at present, was satisfactory. The noble Earl (the Earl of Limerick) who brought the subject under the notice of the House had quoted the figures on the question with perfect accuracy; but he omitted to state that the number of Militiamen on the roll at the date of his Return was the largest on record, and that the number of men "required to complete" bore an inverse ratio to the number of men on the roll; while the number of men actually present at the training was also larger than had been known before. His figures, therefore, did not support the conclusion at which he had arrived, that there were exceptional difficulties in finding men. There were 92,000 men actually present at the training, a number greater than had ever been known before. Further, nobody could deny that the schools which had been recently opened for the instruction of officers had been well attended, and that the Militia regiments were now officered by gentlemen who felt confidence in themselves, and inspired a similar feeling in their men, as had been shown by the conduct of the rank and file on every occasion during the past few years, when they had had the opportunity of exhibiting themselves at the military manœuvres. It was true that deficiencies still existed; but remedies might be possible for these, and if the remedies were found and applied, no one would regard the fact with more interest and pleasure than himself. The Return referred to by the noble Earl undoubtedly showed that the number of re-enrolments had diminished; but the reason of this was probably to be found rather in the state of the labour market than in any of the other reasons which had been put forth by the critics of the course pursued by the late Government. If the present system did not work well in respect of re-emoluments, the present Secretary for War could re-consider the question, and adopt new arrangements. It was true, as the noble Duke had remarked, that the clothing supplied to the Militia regiments had been deplorably bad. Well, the late Government felt that it was so, and they applied a remedy. They consulted Militia officers, and appointed a Committee to consider the subject. The Committee recommended certain changes—they were carried out, and he understood that the men were now satisfied. No doubt there was some truth in others of the criticisms which had been passed; but these were matters of detail, in regard to some of which improvement had already been effected, and for all of which remedies were possible. He was glad to see that the number of non-commissioned officers in the Militia had been increased. For that change, the Secretary for War and the noble Earl opposite (the Under Secretary) were entitled to credit, as also for the resolution to which they had come as to non-re-appointments to the Permanent Staff. The alterations made by the late Government ought to be sufficiently tried before further alterations were made; but at all events, whether by the changes introduced by the late Government, or by further changes, if necessary, to be made by their successors, he hoped to see the Militia kept in such a state of efficiency as to be a sheet anchor of the State in the event of their services being required.

After a few remarks from Lord WAVENEY and the Duke of BUCCLEEUCH, the subject dropped.