HL Deb 08 May 1900 vol 82 cc1001-4

My Lords, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he will take into consideration the desire which exists in Buckinghamshire that a regiment in Her Majesty s Army should again be permitted to bear the name of that historic county, a privilege which was taken away when the territorial system became the law of the land. I beg to tender my best thanks to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War for his courtesy in permitting this question to be again raised. The request that a regiment should again be permitted to bear the name of Bucking hamshire originated with the county council, and it ran like wildfire over the county, the magistrates, the members for the county, and the public bodies being all in favour of it. Although Lord Rothschild (the Lord Lieutenant) is not in his place to-day, he thoroughly backs up the movement and was anxious to head a deputation to the Secretary of State on the subject. Before the territorial system came into operation there were two county regiments—the 14th Regiment of Foot and the 85th Regiment, both of whom I had distinguished themselves on active service—but when that system became the law of the land they were incorporated into the Oxford shire Regiment. The old Bucks Militia served in the Peninsular War, and has sent 123 men and three officers to the 1st Oxford, now serving in South Africa. Every man who has gone out from the county of Bucks is a marksman. I think what Lord Beacons-field used to call the historic county of Buckinghamshire has done all it can in this direction, and if the noble Marquess will do us the great compliment of allowing a regiment to be called after the county it will give satisfaction throughout Buckinghamshire. High Wycombe, a town of strategic importance, could be made a garrison, and we would ourselves build barracks there on the Rowton House principle and lease them to the Government. I sincerely hope the noble Marquess will favourably consider this request.


Before my noble friend answers the question put to him by the noble Earl, may I be allowed to say a word on behalf of another county which has also been deprived of its county regiment? I refer to Nottinghamshire, to which county the old 45th Regiment used to belong. The Militia regiment of the county is at present at the front, and the Yeomanry who have gone out from Nottinghamshire have been under fire and have acquitted themselves well. With regard to the county itself, I may say that it has a population of 500,000, and is by no means an unimportant county. All we ask is that the 45th Regiment shall be given back to us. The county constitutes a large recruiting ground, and I think it would be better if the money which has been voted for building additional barracks was spent where the largest number of recruits would be obtained. So much interest has been taken in the matter that, although we did not receive a very favourable answer when a deputation went to the War Office, I sincerely hope the noble Marquess will say nothing against granting a regiment to Nottinghamshire as well as to Buckinghamshire.


I am sure the noble Earl opposite does not exaggerate the desire which is felt in the | county with which he is connected for a i revival of the titular connection between that county and the territorial regiment. My attention has been called to the matter by the noble Earl and also by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, Lord Rothschild, who informs me that amongst the magistrates, and generally amongst the residents in the county, there is a widespread desire that the name of the county should again appear in the Army List in connection with the regiment. The territorial connection has not entirely disappeared, because, as the noble Lord knows, the 4th battalion of the regiment—the Militia battalion—is still called the Royal Bucks Militia. I know that the noble Earl is anxious for some thing more than that, and that he wishes for a Line regiment bearing the Buckinghamshire title. I am afraid that I can hold out to the noble Earl no hope that a new regimental district will be formed in the county of Buckinghamshire with the object of creating a Buckinghamshire Line regiment. To begin with, I feel almost sure that the recruiting capability of the county would not enable it to carry a regiment by itself. But, besides that, as I think I have said in this House before, we desire that the new Line regiments which are being added to the Army should be created as third and fourth battalions of existing double battalion regiments. There are strong reasons, with which I need not now trouble the House, in favour of the four- battalion organisation, and for that reason we have already allocated the ten new Line battalions to existing districts. I share the regret which the noble Earl has expressed that the Buckinghamshire title has disappeared from the Army List in connection with the territorial regiment. It is quite true, as he has told the House, that at the time the territorial system was introduced there were no fewer than three Line battalions called after the county. At that time there was a general linking of battalions, and in the shuffling of the cards the three Buckinghamshire battalions disappeared in a rather unaccountable fashion. I find that one Buckinghamshire battalion was linked to a Shropshire battalion and became the Shropshire Regiment, while the two other Buckinghamshire battalions became transmuted by some extraordinary process into the West Yorks. We quite recognise that the aspiration of the noble Earl is a natural and laudable one, and we are prepared to concede that, in some of those cases where the county title has dropped out, a case might be made for restoring it. I would briefly tell the noble Earl under what kind of conditions I can conceive; such a restoration might take place. I would say that where two counties have a common interest in a regiment, and it is named after one of those counties only, we would be prepared to consider the propriety of reviving the double name if a sufficiently strong case were made out by the county whose name had been dropped out in favour of the change; and I will indicate in half a dozen words what I mean by a strong case. I think that the advocates of the restoration of the double title ought to be able to show us that both counties bear a fair share in producing the recruits necessary to keep up the territorial regiment. I think they ought also to be able to show that the local feeling in favour of the restoration of the double title is a strong and genuine one, and when I say that I mean the local feeling in the two counties concerned and in the territorial regiment itself. I should be inclined to say that a sufficient case might not be made out if a strong feeling in favour of the change manifested by one of the counties concerned was to some extent neutralised by an equally strong objection to the change by the other county. Each case, however, will have to be considered on its merits, and if the noble Earl and those connected with him produce a sufficiently strong case I can promise it my most favourable consideration.


Half a loaf is better than no bread, and I thank the noble Marquess for his assurance.