HL Deb 13 July 1888 vol 328 cc1226-31

said, he rose to call attention to the contingent and clothing allowance to regiments of Yeomanry Cavalry; and to ask a Question. As their Lordships wore aware, the amount of allowance was £2 a-head, and it had to meet the whole requirements, not only of uniform, but also of saddlery, office expenses, and all the other claims that were made on a Yeomanry regiment. It was proposed to discontinue that allowance in the case of all Yeomen who were absent from the week's permanent duty, either owing to illness or with the leave of the commanding officer. Now, it must be clear that whether a Yeoman was at the drill or not the commanding officer would have spent the money on his uniform and saddlery so that he might appear efficient if he should be able to attend, and it was not too much to ask that in such a case the contingent allowance should be given. Did the War Office Authorities suppose that as the training only lasted 10 days, there might not be casual illness in which a man could not attend, or circumstances in which he might be compelled to ask leave of absence? In the Regular Army, when a private was ill, he had never heard that anything was deducted; and, unless he was misinformed, he believed that if a Volunteer was unable to attend his inspection, and was absent with leave, even then his allowance was continued. The Question he had to ask was whether commanding officers should not be able to give leave of absence from training, for sufficient cause, without being called upon to suffer by the allowance for the men being disallowed? There were great demands made upon the Yeomanry, and they had been fairly and well met. The Yeomanry consisted of 10,000 men ready to take the field with their horses at a moment's notice, and was it wise that so much discouragement should be thrown upon their officers? If it were the case that the War Office were determined to do away with the Yeomanry, it would be much fairer that they should say so frankly at once instead of going on year after year trying by false economies to make the Yeomanry inefficient, and then turning round and complaining of their inefficiency.


said, he thought the noble and gallant Viscount had not put the case at all too strongly. At the present moment the contingent allowance of £2 a man did not meet all the expenses of a Yeomanry regiment. The contingent allowance was really not more than sufficient to provide for accoutrements and clothing, and then there were extras which had to come from the common fund. As things were it was a matter of the greatest difficulty to maintain the Yeomanry regiments, and if the contingent allowance was to be struck off in the case of men absent through sickness, or by leave, the loss to the contingent fund would be such that eventually every regiment would have to be given up. He hoped that the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for War (Lord Harris) would be able to give a satisfactory answer.


said, that, as one who had for a long time been a Yeomanry Colonel, he could bear testimony to the great difficulty that existed in keeping a Yeomanry regiment together. Of late years the body of men who chiefly constituted that force had suffered from the depression of the times; but, nevertheless, there had been an increase alike in numbers and efficiency, and it seemed rather hard that the present moment should be selected in order to make a change in the payment of the contingent fund. He thought it was hard that where leave of absence was given on account of sickness or unforeseen circumstances a colonel should be deprived of the £2. He agreed that the grant was quite indequate for keeping up a Yeomanry regiment as it ought to be, considering the expenses of band, stores, &c. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would reconsider this question; he was certain that Yeomanry Colonels did not wish to get more than they honestly earned; but unless some arrangement were made regiments would decrease, not only in numbers, but in their efficiency.


said, he was afraid that his answer would hardly satisfy his noble Friend; but he wished to bear testimony, both from practical and from official experience, to the exceedingly valuable nature of this force. He hoped that their Lordships would allow him to detain them for a little upon the general subject of the Yeomanry, for another reason than the question of the noble Viscount. He was glad that the subject of the Yeomanry had been raised by the noble Viscount, because he thought it was time that some answer was made to the sneering attacks made at various times and in various places against the Yeomanry by men who probably had never given a day's voluntary service to the country. A Report had been presented by the Estimates Committee of the House of Commons to both Houses of Parliament, dealing with the question of the Yeomanry, and in that Report it was said that the internal expenses of a Yeomanry corps had largely increased of late years, and that Colonel Eyre had stated to the Committee of the previous Session that formerly the corps had managed on their pay, but it was not managed in the same way now. Colonel Eyre was a distinguished Regular and Volunteer officer, but he had not served in the Yeomanry since 1864, and in his opinion Colonel Eyre was not exactly the best officer to be adduced as a witness of what the Yeomanry was at the present time. He must confess he thought that that Report was apt to convey to those who did not read the evidence some misconception of what Colonel Eyre had really said, which was that he remembered many years ago being in a Yeomanry regiment, and that that corps nearly lived on its pay. This was merely a reference to Colonel Eyre's own corps, and not to the whole force. The year 1864 was six years before Lord Cardwell had placed upon the Yeomanry additional requirements in order that they might earn the contingent and pay. Before 1870 no preliminary drill was required, while after that year nine additional drills were required. He thought, therefore, that it was only right that he should call attention to what was likely to raise some misconception in the minds of those who only glanced at the Report of the Estimates Committee, and did not read the evidence. Since Colonel Eyre had been in the Yeomanry Service, additional demands had been made by the country upon the force; and if any additional internal expenses had arisen since that time, those expenses had been laid on the corps by the demands of the country, and not by any extravagance on the part of the officers or men. In addition to these extra drills, musketry training was now more carefully attended to, besides signalling, ambulance, and other voluntary drills. The inspecting officer bore testimony to the anxiety of the men to render themselves efficient in many directions; and he could himself bear witness to the anxiety shown in all directions really to earn that which the country gave them. He would like also to show their Lordships that the Yeomanry was not an expensive Cavalry force. He would compare a typical efficient Volunteer with a typical efficient Yeoman. With the capitation grant, allowance for great coat, and expenses of travelling to the range, a Volunteer received about £2. A Yeomanry corps received £2 for each efficient trooper, and out of that the expense of saddlery had to come. For an efficient Volunteer out for six days there was an allowance of 12s., which was expended on rations and what he might require. An efficient Yeoman out for 10 days received 7s. a day for the last eight days and 3s. 6d. for the other two, making a total of 63s. That at first sight seemed to show that the Yeoman was better off than the Volunteer; but it must be remembered that he had to keep his horse during those 10 days. Again, Yeomanry were almost compelled to go into training in a town. It was dangerous to picket the horses out unless the weather was of the best. He knew of two cases last year where it had been done without any bad effect; but their Lordships would remember how hot the weather had been last year; he would be sorry to see horses picketed out in such weather as they had had during the last fortnight; and he thought that the claims on the country for loss of horses would be exceedingly heavy. The expenses of a Yeoman for forage and stabling during the 10 days could not be less than 35s., and that left only 28s. for rations and lodging, which, he thought, could not be considered a very extravagant sum, taking into consideration the risk of injury to the horse. As a matter of fact, it was absolutely impossible, except in the most favourable circumstances, for a man to cover his expenses by the pay he received. He was glad, therefore, to have this opportunity of showing that the Yeomanry were not an expensive force. He did not think, from the result of his own experience, that Volunteer Cavalry could be kept up in this country unless they were paid for the keep of the horses; and he did not think, therefore, that Volunteer Cavalry could exist beside the Yeomanry. With regard to the Question of the noble Viscount, there had been no change with regard to the Regulations this year, or if there had been a change it was one in favour of the Yeomanry. The Regulation before this year had been that the contingent allowance of £2 per man would be issued for each non-commissioned officer and private attending preliminary drill and permanent training; therefore, there was really no hardship in the fact that where a man was not shown to be efficient the financial authorities had declined to allow the grant. The change made this year was that a man had to be either at the preliminary drill or the permanent training, and that was obviously a change to the advantage of the Yeomanry. To that Regulation he thought the Government would have to adhere, for this reason—that unless a man was present on one of these two occasions the Government had no security at all that the man was efficient. What the Government would be willing to do was to make as large a concession as they could in the way of allowing a man to add on his attendance at preliminary drill to that at the permanent training, if he was unable to attend during the whole time. He was afraid, however, that they must insist on the man being in some way shown to be efficient, and that therefore it was im- possible for the Government to give way in the direction in which the noble Viscount asked them to do so.