HL Deb 20 July 1896 vol 43 cc113-7

said that, in rising to ask the Question of which he had given notice, he hoped he might be permitted to think that the War Office had the welfare of the Yeomanry at heart. Certainly, during the last few years, the Yeomanry had made enormous improvements, and during no time more than the last eight years, since which time they had been taking their proper place among the reserve forces of the country, and were now on a mobilisation scheme. It would be impossible for this country to have a cheaper reserve force than the Yeomanry, because, for a Vote he thought, of under some £80,000 they got 10,000 men, with their uniform, arms, accoutrements, and horses, ready to turn out in defence of the country at a moment's notice. He would like to remind their Lordships that the long-service medal was issued to all Volunteers who had served for twenty years, and he ventured to think that the claims of the Yeomanry to a long-service medal were equally strong. Certainly the Yeomanry themselves felt they spent more money for the defence of the country than did the Volunteers. It might be said that during the time of their permanent training the Yeomanry received pay and the Volunteers did not, but he would remind their Lordships that during the time the Volunteers went out into camp, their commanding officer received a sum of money from the authorities which practically paid for their board, and, as they had their tents also, it might be said that during the whole of their training it cost the Volunteers nothing. In the case of the Yeomanry, they had to find not only lodgings for themselves, but also stabling and keep for their horses during the whole week of their training. The Yeomanry, too, in perfecting themselves in musketry training, which was so much desired, and which commanding officers were all anxious to facilitate, had long distances to go at their own expense. It was quite true that a few years ago 3s. 6d. was granted for one day for every private who got a third class in musketry, but everything else he had to pay, and the shooting was entirely at the officers' expense. He should like to know what reasonable objection could be urged against the scheme? He hardly liked to think that, in a small question like this, they would be met as they very often were by the authorities of the Treasury. It would cost very little, and he did not think the question of expense could really be raised as an objection. He was told that another objection was that, if they gave the medal to the Yeomanry, it could not be refused to the Militia. He had no objection, if the Government liked to give it to the Militia as well, but he would remind their Lordships that the Yeomanry were really of a different class to the men found in the Militia. The Yeomanry spent their own money during their training, and he did not think they could say the Militia often did that. During the whole of the year, too, the Yeoman had a horse at the service of the Government whenever he was called upon to serve the country; whereas, in the case of the Militia, even the man's boots were taken into store during the time he was not up for training: so that, in the matter of rapid mobilisation, the Yeomanry were far superior to the Militia. He did not wish, in anything he said, to disparage the zeal and efficiency of the other branches of the reserve forces. He only used this as an argument to prove that the Yeomanry were as equally entitled to the long-service medal as the Volunteers and the Militia. He would like to say that the grant of a decoration would be taken as a great compliment by those of the Yeomanry who had served so long and spent so much money. Their Lordships might be quite sure that no one would stay for 20 years who was not a keen soldier, and who was not interested in the force to which he be longed. About a year and a-half ago, in the time of the predecessor of the noble Marquess, a circular was sent to the commanding officers asking them if they thought their men would like this long-service medal. There was not sufficient time then for all the commanding officers to find out what was the feeling of the force, but he had now had letters or verbal messages from every one of the 38 commanding officers, to say that there was a great desire amongst the Yeomanry to have the decoration, and that they were confident that it would be really a great service and benefit to the force at large. He therefore bogged to ask the Secretary of State for War if Her Majesty's Government would take into consideration the strong claims of the Yeomanry Cavalry to a special long-service decoration and medal?


The suggestion which my noble Friend has made is one which has on several occasions been before the War Office, and it has certainly been considered in a spirit not unfriendly to the force of which my noble Friend is so conspicuous a member. But I am sorry to say that the conclusion has always been one adverse to the proposal which he has laid before the House. My noble Friend and the House, are no doubt aware that at present this long-service decoration is given only to the Volunteers. The Regular Army does not receive it, the Militia does not receive it, and the Yeomanry does not receive it, and I have no doubt the line that has hitherto been drawn has been drawn where you have a division between the forces which receive pay and those which do not. I have conferred with my military advisers upon this point, and they are unanimously of opinion that it would not be a wise thing to extend this decoration, which is specially a Volunteer decoration, to any of the other parts of the Army. And amongst other reasons which are given is the reason that in the case of the Yeomanry it is by no means clear that it is desirable to encourage a Yeoman to prolong his service for so long a time as the 20 years which would entitle him to the decoration. I can assure my noble Friend that I can concur with all that was said by him with regard to the credit due to the Yeomanry for the pains which that force has taken to render itself efficient during the last few years, and it is with great regret that I intimate to him a decision which I am afraid is not that which he desires.


, as on old Yeomanry Officer, desired to say that he entirely concurred in the remarks of the noble Viscount opposite, and at the same time to express his regret that the reply of the noble Marquess had not been more satisfactory. The noble Marquess based his objection to the granting of this decoration somewhat on the ground that it was not desirable perhaps that service in the Yeomanry should be too extended. With that remark he entirely agreed. He thought it was a great mistake to have too many old soldiers in a Yeomanry regiment. But there were classes of men in every Yeomanry regiment who were of great use not only in managing the affairs of the troops, but also in getting recruits. These were the quarter-masters and the sergeant-majors, and these were, he believed, the men who chiefly desired to have this decoration. He candidly admitted that a few years ago he was not so favourable to this decoration being extended to the Yeomanry service, but within the last two years his opinion had been entirely altered in consequence of these classes of men considering themselves that a kind of slur had been passed upon them when they saw their colleagues in the Volunteer force, perhaps in the same town, with the decoration that they were not permitted to wear themselves. He thought that even if it were necessary to extend the decoration to the Militia there would not be very great difficulty in doing so, for he did not imagine that many Militia Officers or men were in a position to obtain the Order, which he understood was only obtainable after 20 years' service. He would, however, ask the noble Lord to reconsider his decision, for he could assure him that the matter very much affected the Yeomanry service, which had for a long time been doing its best to maintain a condition of high efficiency, as proved by the reports of the inspecting officers.