HL Deb 28 June 1881 vol 262 cc1464-70

in rising, pursuant to Notice, to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether the proposed change of the title and facings of the 3rd Regiment of Infantry (Buffs) has been approved by Her most Gracious Majesty; and whether that approval is signified under Her Majesty's sign-manual: also, whether any reason other than that it was recommended by the (so-called)"territorial Committee," has been assigned for this alteration of title and the abolition of time-honoured and distinctive facings borne by a distinguished regiment and their ancestors during a period of over two hundred years? said, that he rose to address the House upon a Question of Privilege. There was no class of persons in the Kingdom who valued them and their titles more than did the officers and men of Her Majesty's Army. Those privileges had necessarily, by the recent amalgamation and the introduction of new general measures for the Army, been, in some degree, trenched upon. But he thought there were occasions when needless changes had been made. In advocating the cause which had been placed in his hands on very short notice, he trusted that he should not unduly trespass on their Lordships' patience. When the Army was first constituted in the reign of Queen Elizabeth—for our Army could hardly before that time be called a standing Army—the patriotic spirit which prevailed amongst the men induced the adoption of certain titles and colours for their clothing. The facings of the regiments were derived from the liveries or colours of those raising them. The sober colour ashen or buff, no doubt, was derived from the buff jerkins then worn by sober citizens. The facings and reverses of the uniform often represented the original colours when red was adopted. But a most absurd reason had been given by the Secretary of State for War, or those who advised him, that buff became white; if so, buff should not be allowed if it was a valid objection. But, if so, why were no less than six battalions by the new regulation to receive buff? But buff was, to say the least, as easily kept bright as white or the washy blues and greens of various regiments of their original colours. But the Secretary of State for War might have some knowledge from the past of the varied shades that the funnels of Her Majesty's ships bore, each shade the special vanity of a commander. The right hon. Gentleman had not much experience of the Army, but might have seen Gendarmerie abroad with bright primrose belts and the uniforms of foreign troops. Each regiment took pardonable pride in such trifles, and in their various badges transmitted from generation to generation. He hardly could expect the buff facing would be disallowed by a Member of a Party who for so long hung out the buff and blue as their insignia, and that in a London regiment, where their colours had been as many years hung out. Had the noble Lords opposite done that, it might have surprised us less. No one who had not served could know the advantage old corps derived from such petty insignia, and the proper pride taken in them. Soldiers tried to be smart, and did not like being ticketed as convicts, or as bullocks were marked when taken to market. He should be told, perhaps, the officers and men had no feeling on this subject. That, he fearlessly asserted from his knowledge, and he was ready to afford the evidence if required, was not the case. A very strong and sad feeling existed throughout the old officers, and throughout those at present serving, on the matter. What would have been easier than to consult them? The same clanship did not exist—the pride of tartans, as in Scotch regiments. The Buffs of all the Army, save, perhaps, the Blues, clung most to their colour. The Buffs were 300 years old, and were continued from Morgan's Regiment, by Special Warrant from among the citizens and 'prentice lads of the City of London. The 7th Fusiliers were raised 100 years later by James II., not from among the citizens, but to keep them in subjection by that unconstitutional Monarch. It was true that where territorial and not municipal titles were in favour 100 years ago, the appellation of East Kent was given to the 3rd Buffs; but, at the same time, the 7th were designated East Derbyshire. If any regiment had a claim to a name it was the Buffs. Their very flag was proof of this. Was Mr. Childers prepared to do away with this, or to deny their claim? Was it not their privilege alone of all regiments of the Line to march through the City, drums beating and colours flying? Why was this? And why, without one jot or tittle of reason, were the 7th Fusiliers, who did not seek for it, given the title? In asking the Question on the Paper, he ventured further to ask whether this change met with the approval of Her Majesty; whether the change with others had been signed, as invariably used to be the case, as could be shown on all such occasions in past years, by the Sovereign, whose name in Royal Warrants had been more than once strained, more than the quality of mercy? Civilians in that House might, perhaps, not fully appreciate the altered feelings of a regiment which a change in their facings might cause. He could not comprehend what object would be gained in taking away the buff facings of this regiment. It was a remarkable fact that while the buff facings of this regiment were taken away, they were retained in the case of eight other Infantry and two Cavalry regiments. He appealed forcibly to Her Majesty's Government, he appealed to their Lordships, not to suffer such needless changes to take place, which, although trifles in themselves, created a painful feeling, without the least just cause or reason, to a gallant body of men under a Liberal Government. He was aware of the hard task entailed upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War by his Predecessor. He gave him every credit for the manner in which he had got over great difficulties; he appealed to him not to allow this blot to remain. The Buffs had far more claim to the title of City of London Regiment than any other corps. Their facings were of more ancient date than almost any other corps; they had just right to expect that their claim to both title and their facings should be duly considered. Her Majesty had expressed her desire that all justice should be done, and that all ancient privileges should be respected as far as could be. In the name of that justice, he asked their Lordships to uphold such privileges so long as they were permitted to retain their own titles and armorial bearings. He asked for no new privilege; he asked for nothing that would be a departure from the new system; he asked them to do that which would not enrich others, but which would leave the Buffs poor indeed—rob them of their old name. He appealed to Her Majesty's Government not to deprive an old corps of their title and adornment in favour of a new creation, and he appealed for justice to their Lordships' House.


said, he would not follow the noble and gallant Lord into this somewhat long argument; but he assured him that the title of Buffs, which was so highly prized with a feeling worthy of the high reputation of the regiment, would still be maintained in the new organization, and that its title would be "The Buffs—East Kent Regiment." That was the name which the regiment had borne for the last 100 years, and under which they had achieved great success and victories in many parts of the world. Therefore, that part of the noble and gallant Lord's speech which related to the title of the regiment came to nothing at all.


asked whether the regiment was to retain its facings?


said, that, with regard to the facings of the regiment, it was, no doubt, the intention of the War Office that they should be changed from buff to white. If the noble and gallant Lord would study the Report of the Committee, presided over with great ability by the Adjutant General of the Forces, he would learn the whole of the reasons given by that Committee for the proposed change in the facings. In consequence of the new Organization of the Army, it had become necessary, in many cases, to alter the facings of regiments, and the opportunity was then taken of simplifying the facings of the regiments generally, and of giving to those that were not Royal Regiments, which retained their old facings, in the case of English regiments white, of Scotch yellow, and of Irish green facings. The proposed change would conduce to greater uniformity, and would consequently be attended by a considerable saving of labour and expense in the clothing of the Army. The greatest pains had been taken in carry- ing those alterations into effect to do as little violence as possible to any associations attaching to regiments; yet it was necessary in some cases, as he had explained, to alter the facings, and among them this change from buff to white had been made. There were some regiments which had suffered even more violent changes in their facings than this particular regiment had done. He felt sure, however, that this change would in no way effect the esprit de corps of the different regiments.


said, he did not think the answer of the noble Earl altogether satisfactory. He had stated before that the principal motive for the alteration adopted was economy, and if that was so, it would be interesting to learn what amount of saving was effected in the Army by the alteration in the facings under the new system. He thought it was most unfortunate that, by the arrangements which were now to be carried out, the only regiment which was known to all military men by the colour of its facings should have been one of the regiments selected for the alteration of the facings. It should be remembered the facings of a regiment were mixed up with the great actions they had performed, and were really part of their distinctions. The regiment in question was now to be known as the "Buff Regiment" instead of by its old name of "The Buffs." He could only express his regret that it had been found necessary to make these alterations.


said, that when a general alteration in the organization of the Army was made, it was found that a great many changes were necessary. He was not going to discuss the question that night, because there appeared to be so much feeling upon it that he thought it better to put it all on one side. He agreed, however, that it was right that a fixed principle should be adopted, and that one colour should be adopted for English, one for Scotch, and one for Irish regiments, with one exception—namely, the Royal Regiments, which were to be dark blue. He thought that was a proper distinction to be made in the case of Royal Regiments, and they did not make it in any others; as a fact it would not make much difference. There was no wish to put one regiment before another, and cer- tainly no wish to make changes distasteful to the regiments themselves; but when such changes were necessary they must make some difference, and the explanation was that they desired to organize the Army on one fixed principle. No doubt there was much to be said against any change in this particular case; but if they were to yield to the feelings of this regiment, they would have found it difficult to resist other demands of a similar character. He did not, however, think that the alterations in the facings had been made with the view of saving expense. He should be sorry, at the same time, to do anything to offend the esprit de corps for which the various regiments were distinguished.

After a few words from Lord STRATH-NAIRN,


said, that he had heard with satisfaction that the regiment in question was to retain the name of "Buffs;" but he wanted to know whether, under the new system, they would, when on parade, still be allowed to call themselves "The Buffs," and not be obliged to use their county designation?


said, he thought the whole scheme must have emanated from Bedlam. The territorial arrangement of regiments was entirely out of harmony with the circumstances of the military system of this country. The recruiting for the Army was not territorial; large districts supply no recruits at all. The scheme required to be very nicely adjusted to work at all, and was liable to be deranged by a sudden demand for extra forces for any emergency.


expressed a hope that the Government would even yet reconsider their decision.


urged the importance of the Militia regiments retaining their distinctive facings and colours.


said, that the Militia regiments would come under the general rule. In reply to the question of the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Chelmsford), he might say that there was no intention to alter the title of the regiment, which would remain as before—The Buffs, East Kent Regiment.


said, the reply of the noble Earl did not answer his question, which was as to the title which the regiment was to be allowed to use when on parade.


said, that was a purely military question which he could not answer.


said, the last reply of the noble Earl showed the danger of intrusting the management of the Army to civilians. This miserable disorganization scheme had caused great dissatisfaction—with very few exceptions—in every rank of the Army. He believed it was only adopted for the gratification of a very few persons. He strongly objected to the Edinburgh regiments being sent to the City of York.


wished to ask whether he was or was not in error in supposing that the noble Duke was a Member of the Committee appointed in 1876 which recommended the adoption of the system of territorial regiments?


said he was a Member of the Committee, and found himself obliged, as many other persons had before and since, to acquiesce in many things of which he did not approve. One soon found out whether he was in a minority, and whether there was any use of fighting against the others. From what he had seen since, his opinion was that the territorial system might be a very fine one in theory, but would be an ultimate failure in practice.