HL Deb 20 April 1915 vol 18 cc811-3

LORD LATYMER had on the Paper a Notice to move for a Return of the number and rank of—

  1. (1) Naval officers attached to the Land Expeditionary Force.
  2. (2) Efficient officers of the Royal Marines at present unemployed.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the two parts of the Motion standing in my name are very closely connected, as any one who knows the history of the Royal Marines will be aware; but as I have reason for thinking that my Motion in its present double form is not likely to be accepted by the Government, I wish to withdraw the first part relating to naval officers attached to the Land Expeditionary Force and merely to ask for a Return of the number and rank of efficient officers of the Royal Marines at present unemployed. Hints are constantly being thrown out that in these difficult times any questions relating to military or naval affairs, and I suppose to Royal Marine affairs, are out of place. I cannot, however, agree with that doctrine in the present instance. I am not asking for the names of Marine officers who are unemployed, but merely for their number and rank. Not only is it in my opinion harmless, but I am bound to say I think it is decidedly to the public benefit, that this question should be answered; and I cannot see that I am in any way embarrassing the Admiralty in asking for information which it cannot possibly take five minutes to find out..

It is common knowledge to us all that at the present time as many efficient officers are required as can possibly be obtained. Therefore it does seem on the face of it an extraordinary thing that a body of highly trained and physically fit men who are available to serve their country and who are of high rank in their own particular line of service should be apparently left without any work to do at all, unless it be an inferior place in a wireless telegraph station or recruiting office, or some inferior post of that kind. As far as my information goes—and it is fairly authentic—there are about thirty of these men who, as I am told, are "efficient." That, I suppose, means that they have gone through all the necessary military training and experience and are also physically able to perform service if they were required.

In one respect it does not signify very much whether this Motion is received or not, because if the Government will not give any information on the subject one must draw one's own conclusion. It is impossible to imagine that these men are kept in the background because of any inefficiency on their part. Therefore there must be other reasons for the Admiralty not recommending them for military service. I will not venture to enter into what those reasons may be, but I am quite sure they will be present to the minds of all noble Lords who are conversant with the history of the Marines and the relation between the Admiralty and the Marines for the last hundred years. To put this Motion is really for the public benefit. I say so because officers are most certainly required at the present time. Why should the public have been put to the expense of having these men highly trained for many years past if at the end of all that expense they are to be left on the shelf with nothing to do? I acknowledge at once that if my Motion as amended is accepted the next step will be to ask why these officers have been left in this position of idleness. On the other hand, if the Admiralty do not wish to give any answer to this question noble Lords will no doubt take for granted that they do not wish to give the reasons. I beg to move.

Moved, That there be laid before the House a Return of the number and rank of efficient officers of the Royal Marines at present unemployed.—(Lord Latymer.)


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for not pressing for the information which he desired to obtain under heading No. (1) of the Motion which stands on the Paper, but I am sorry that I cannot meet him even on the question of the Return which he asks for under the heading of "Efficient officers of the Royal Marines at present unemployed." The noble Lord has expressed the opinion that it would be for the public benefit that this information should be given, but I am bound to tell him and the House that in the opinion of the Admiralty such details cannot be given at the present time with any public advantage. As the Motion stands on the Paper, I do not know exactly how it could be given effect to. For I do not know precisely what "efficient" means. But even if I could agree with the noble Lord that "efficient" means properly trained men and men who are physically fit, even if we could agree on some definition still I fear the Return could not be granted. The noble Lord has spoken of the history of the Royal Marines during the last hundred years. So far as this is an old complaint, I think it can well stand over until after the war. So far, however, as the complaint which the noble Lord makes refers specially to this war, to give the numbers as lie now asks us to do without the names would, I think, be of no use; and to give the names for public use and in a form which would possibly lead to public discussion of a most undesirable kind would be very unwise. This much and this mach only I can say to the noble Lord. If he has any cases of individual hardship which he thinks require reconsideration, I promise on behalf of my right lion friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that they shall be inquired into. Otherwise I must beg of him to leave this matter at ally rate until the war is over, for during the war the Admiralty cannot see its way to grant this Return.


My Lords, I have no knowledge of the facts of this ease, but what I understand the noble Lord alleges is that there are efficient officers of the Royal Marines who are at the present moment unemployed. By "efficient" he means officers who are physically efficient, because if they were not otherwise efficient they would not still be in the Royal Marines. He may be completely in error. There may be no such officers. But if there are it seems to me a most astonishing fact, when we remember that in the Army not only is every officer who in a similar sense may be called efficient employed, but every officer is utilised who has retired within the last twenty years and has had the patriotism to come forward. Moreover, in important commands— those of battalions and brigades—officers are employed who have never been in the Army itself and who can only be described as zealous amateurs. Therefore I throw out as a suggestion that if there are Marine officers who are at present unemployed or not doing service in positions corresponding to their rank, the Admiralty might apply to the War Office and the War Office might be very glad to employ them.


I intended to include in the term "efficient" not only those Marine officers at present actively connected with the Royal Marines but also those who are on the Reserve or retired.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.