HL Deb 08 December 1908 vol 198 cc211-4

My Lords, I rise to ask the Undersecretary of State for War whether it is the intention of the War Office to exclude service in the Territorial Force from qualifying officers for pension who have retired from the Royal Artillery, and are attached to batteries of the Territorial Force, who would be able to qualify either by service in the Special Reserve or in the Irish Horse. I hope I may be allowed to say a few words in explanation of the difficulty which has arisen, and which is capable of very easy solution. I am sure I shall carry your Lordships with me when I say that it is of the utmost importance that the new batteries of the Territorial Force should have the advantage of being commanded by officers who have already served in the Royal Artillery. The County Association, of which I am chairman, was called upon to raise a Horse Artillery battery. Ours is an agricultural county, but we met with very great success mainly through the kindness of the Secretary of State for War, who, at my request, supplied us with two guns, which are stationed at Reading and Windsor. These have brought in a great number of recruits; and we have also boon fortunate in securing the services of Captain Mayall, who has served in Field and Horse Artillery, and who, with great readiness, left the Lancashire Militia to come to us a short time ago. We have since found, to our great distress, that this officer will forfeit his pension, as he is now serving in the Territorial Force. The most extraordinary part of the anomaly is that he would have been able to retain his pension if he had gone into the Yeomanry. I ask any noble Lord who is acquainted with military affairs whether there is any comparison between the importance and usefulness of an officer commanding a battery in the Territorial Army, and that of a mere subaltern in the Yeomanry. I can only conclude that the regulations with regard to the Territorial Force are not yet perfected. Article 510, under which these pensions are granted, runs— A captain or lieutenant, of not less than eight years service, may be permitted to retire from our Regular Forces on being appointed to a commission in the Militia or Imperial Yeomanry. While serving in the Militia or Imperial Yeomanry under such commission, he shall, for a period not exceeding ten years, receive temporary retired pay at the rate of £100 a year, in lieu of all retired pay or gratuity under this our warrant. That is the pension which this officer will forfeit. It is essential that at the birth of the Territorial Force everything possible should be done to promote its efficiency, and it would be a great blow to us if Captain Mayall had to resign because service in the Territorial Force was excluded from qualifying for this pension.


My Lords, Article 510 of the Pay Warrant to which my noble friend has referred is, I regret to say, still in an unamended state. The position is this. Officers who had served for eight years in the Regular Army were previously permitted to join the Militia or the Yeomanry in order to serve for pension—that is to say, that for a period not exceeding ten years they drew £100 for every year that they attended camp with the unit which they had joined. Those officers could only be considered as belonging to the reserve of officers. They had passed through the Regular Army, and, under normal conditions, would go into the reserve of officers. That is the view we take. We now say that those men ought to become Special Reserve officers, and the Pay Warrant, when it is amended, will make it possible for them to go either into the Special Reserve or into the Irish Horse, which is part of the Special Reserve. We do not propose to alter what was the condition previously. Before the Territorial Army came into existence these officers were not allowed to join the Volunteers for the purpose of serving for a pension, and we do not propose, at present, at any rate, to extend the privilege to the Territorial Army. We consider that, until our new scheme of providing officers for the Special Reserve is giving us a sufficient number of officers, the place of the men referred to is the Special Reserve, where at present their services would be of the greatest use. The delay with regard to making this announcement has made itself felt in the case which my noble friend quoted. The officer to whom he referred gave up his commission in the Regular Army and joined the Militia on the understanding that he would be permitted to draw his pension, and it was because he left the Regulars on those terms that his was made a special case and he was permitted to remain and draw his £100 a year. We do throw one or two appointments in the Territorial Army open to officers under this head, and a certain number of staff appointments in the Territorial Army can be included in this category—namely, if an officer becomes a brigade major of Infantry or Yeomanry or staff captain of divisional Artillery; but for the command of a battery it is not at the present time open. We ourselves do not think it will be proved that it is not possible to find perfectly capable civilian officers as battery commanders, and it is our hope that such will be forthcoming.


I assume then that until the Special Reserve is filled up the Territorial Force will have no assistance whatever from officers experienced in the Regular Artillery?


The position in regard to this class of officer is that if he leaves after fifteen years service he is entitled to a pension. If he leaves after between eight and ten years he is not entitled to a pension, but if he joins either the Special Reserve or the Irish Horse he is entitled to serve for ten years and draw £100 a year for every year he goes into camp. That class of officers, however, has been small, and we would get few if this opportunity was given them.


My Lords, I happened to be at the War Office when this arrangement was made, and the object was to strengthen the ranks of the Militia. A great many of these officers left the service in order to take these Militia appointments, and with a view of getting the £100 a year. We are all fully aware that what does really need stiffening in the Territorial Force is the Artillery. It is of enormous advantage to secure in the Artillery batteries, the Horse Artillery especially, of the Territorial Force commanding officers who have been in the Royal Artillery. I think it would be almost impossible for an officer who had not served in the Regular Artillery to command a battery of Horse Artillery with credit, or to make his battery efficient. I therefore hope that some means may be found of meeting the point raised, so that we shall not lose the advantage of having capable Artillery officers in the Territorial Force.