HL Deb 19 August 1895 vol 36 cc245-7

Seeing my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War in his place, I take the opportunity of asking him whether it is true, as reported, that Field Marshal Lord Wolseley has been, appointed to the office of General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, and, if so, upon what conditions?


The noble Lord will recollect that, just before the late Government left office, my predecessor, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, made a statement in another place to the effect that, on October 1, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge would relinquish the post which he has filled for so long with so much distinction and with such devotion to the interests of the Army. The then Secretary of State took the opportunity of explaining to the public certain changes which it was proposed to introduce concurrently with the relinquishment of office by His Royal Highness. My Lords, those changes were of a very important and far-reaching character. They affect fundamentally the position of the Commander-in-Chief, and of the higher members of the Headquarter Staff; and I think your Lordships will scarcely be surprised that we should have desired to have ample time in which to consider those proposals before adopting them as our own or submitting alternative proposals. Those proposals are still under our consideration, and I am not able this evening to tell the noble Lord opposite precisely to what extent we intend to follow the lines laid down by my predecessor. But I am able to make two announcements which may, perhaps, be of interest. One of them is that His Royal Highness will relinquish the chief command of the Army, not on the 1st of October, as was originally proposed, but on the 1st of November. This later date will, we understand, be more convenient to His Royal Highness, inasmuch as it will enable him to undertake certain inspections which he has usually made during the autumn, season of the year. The other announcement answers the noble Lord's question. When His Royal Highness relinquishes the chief command of the Army he will be followed by Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley. All that I need add is that it has been clearly explained to Lord Wolseley that the conditions under which he will hold his appointment are still under consideration, and that Her Majesty's Government reserve to themselves an absolutely free hand in deciding what changes may be necessary in those conditions in the interests of the Army and of the public.


Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, from a communication I have received from him, will, I know, be exceedingly glad to hear that the post of Commander-in-Chief, though under some different name apparently, is still to be retained, because that is in accordance with a memorandum of his to the Commission presided over by the Duke of Devonshire. It must not be supposed, however, because the post of Commander-in-Chief is to be retained, that Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, who is, of course necessarily in ignorance, as we all are, of the exact conditions attached to the office—it must not be supposed that he in all respects agrees with the Report of the Hartington Commission, and, of course, he will hold himself quite at liberty, when he is able to return to his Parliamentary duties, to make any criticisms in regard to the reorganisation of the War Office that he may think desirable.