HL Deb 28 October 1919 vol 37 cc52-8

LORD LATYMER rose to move to resolve—

That it is advisable that the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines have a seat on the Board of Admiralty.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in addressing your Lordships I cannot but advert for one moment to the great loss which the House has sustained by the death of Lord Beresford. I do this because I know that he would have sympathised very largely with at all events a great deal of what I am going to say. He was always very sympathetic towards the Royal Marines, and we had many conversations on the subject. I do not propose to keep your Lordships very long, because a just cause needs no elaboration, and I think you will see that the claim which I now make is a perfectly just one.

May I, in the first place, say something about the services which the Royal Marines have rendered during the war? They have served in every field where military operasions have taken place; and by way of example of what they have done, I may be allowed to refer perhaps to the prominent part which the Royal Marine battalion of the Naval Division played in breaking the Hindenburg Line at Queant. I believe this is very generally known, but I think they have received very little recognition of their achievement. Throughout the war the Royal Marines have formed part of the Naval Division or Brigade, and the consequence has been that their services have been obscured because they have scarcely ever been specifically mentioned. I may, perhaps, be allowed to give your Lordships an example of what I have just said. The proposed monument to the soldiers and sailors who took part in that wonderful attack on Zeebrugge is going to be called, I believe, a Naval Monument. I think it is known to all your Lordships that the Royal Marines took a very great part in that operation, and it seems to me very unfair that their name should be entirely left out.

I have with me a very long list of the operations in which the Royal Marines have taken part during the war, and I need scarcely say to your Lordships that whenever they have taken part in operations they have always done their duty, to say the very least. I cannot, of course, read to your Lordships' House this long list, but it is a very extraordinary list, showing the part that the Marines took in helping us to gain the victory. But what reward did they get for the great part they took in this war? I have another curious list here, and I think, considering that at the close of the war they were an immensely larger body of men than they were previously—they amounted to 1,286 officers and 55,431 other ranks—the awards that were made to them were certainly not adequate to what they had done or to their numbers. There is something very curious that I have to mention to your Lordships with regard to this. It is that the honours awarded to the Royal Marines during the war by the English Government were—to officers, 173; to other ranks, 4; whereas the awards of our Allies to the Royal Marines were—to officers, 86; other ranks, 709. That looks as if our Allies were more aware of the services of our Royal Marines than we were ourselves.

I hasten to show why it is that I have brought forward this matter—one that needs settlement—and to furnish justification for my proposal that there should be a representative of the Royal Marines on the Board of Admiralty. The questions that are still open and need settlement are especially three. First as to officers, there should be only one scale of pay for all— the rates laid down for officers under Article 1912. That seems to be a mere act of necessary justice. Then with regard to warrant officers, the status of Royal Marine warrant officers, Class 1, should be raised to that of Naval warrant officers, with similar pay, pensions, and privileges. Then as to non-commissioned officers and men, they should receive the additional 2d. per day re-engaged pay after twelve years, similar to the seamen. I merely mention those few things, which are looked upon as extremely important by the Royal Marines, but there are many others besides.

When I read to your Lordships a letter that the late Lord Beresford wrote to me on August 8 this year you will see that he knew perfectly well that the Royal Marines had grievances which ought to be righted. He wrote—

"DEAR LATYMER,—I have been in communication with the authorities of the Royal Marines. It is quite true that retired officers who were unable to serve during the war do not receive any benefit from either the increased rate of pay or retired pay. This was the result of Cabinet determination. Both the 'Jerram' and the 'Halsey' Committees recommended that the increase of pension should apply to all, but the Cabinet would not hear of it. A really far more; serious case is that of the pensions paid to officers' widows. They were utterly inadequate before the war, and are now of practically little use. The question is still under consideration by the Cabinet. A little later, when I get well, I must take it up.

"Yours very sincerely,


I hope that I have said enough to show that I have good cause for bringing this Motion forward.

What is the position of the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines? I believe that he has no direct communication with the Board of Admiralty. I am informed that he has no right to communicate direct with the First Lord of the Admiralty, but has to approach the Board through indirect channels, and very often has to do it through a secretary or some person of that kind who is his inferior in rank. Surely that is not a right position for the head of a great body of men to be in. Surely there should be some means of direct communication with the Board of Admiralty. It seems to me that the surest and the best way to obtain that direct communication would be that the Adjutant-General should have a right to attend the Board himself. I confess that every one to whom I have spoken about the matter cannot conceive why that should not be done. The Marines are borne on the Admiralty Vote. Therefore the Admiralty has the right to dictate to the Marines in a great many things, and it would be only right and just that their representative, the Adjutant-General, should be put on the Board himself, so that he might be able to represent these grievances, and many others that I have not mentioned, direct.

Some of the things that I have indicated to your Lordships have been going on for months and months, and nothing has been done. Meanwhile the Adjutant-General can only occassionally and indirectly complain to the Board. I hope that your Lordships will look upon this matter as one of justice that ought to be done to a splendid body of men who have performed their duty entirely throughout the war, and who really are in a kind of subordinate position unlike any other body of His Majesty's Forces. I beg to move.

Moved, That it is advisable that the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines have a seat on the Board of Admiralty.—(Lord Latymer.)


My Lords, I should like, in the first place, to associate myself with the tribute which the noble Lord at the beginning of his speech paid to the late Lord Beresford. This is not an occasion on which to speak of the personal friendship which many of your Lordships enjoyed with Lord Beresford, nor of his services to the Navy. But as this is the first occasion of a discussion of naval matters since Lord Beresford's death, I think it is fitting to remember the part which he played in naval debates in this House. The noble and gallant Lord was always a very outspoken critic of the Department which I represent, but he was always a fair and courteous critic, and a most warm friend of all sections of the Naval Service. And we shall, as the noble Lord said, miss him very much in our debates in the future.

I do not think that your Lordships will accept the Motion which has been placed upon the Paper without very much more consideration. It is a Motion which seeks to change the internal administration of a Government Department, and, with all respect to the noble Lord, I do not think that any argument whatever has been brought forward to justify such a change. We all know the interest which the noble Lord takes in the Royal Marines, and the great sympathy he has for them. That sympathy has been expressed on many occasions in this House; and I think on other occasions, as on this, the sympathy of the noble Lord with that very gallant Service has led him to suppose that their services are not appreciated in the Admiralty and that justice is not done to them. That is by no means the case. The Royal Marines are a most splendid Service, with a magnificent record and the finest possible traditions, and we are fully aware at the Admiralty of what we owe to them. If the noble Lord thinks that we have at any time failed to appreciate their services I hope he will disabuse his mind altogether of that idea. Certainly nothing that I could say in the House this afternoon could add one iota to the respect and gratitude which we all feel to the Royal Marines.

The Motion of the noble Lord is based upon a complete misconception of the duties of the Board of Admiralty. The Board of Admiralty does not consist of representatives of different parts of the Service. The Board is composed of a body of administrators to whom particular duties are allocated from time to time by the First Lord, and who, in the carrying out of those duties, are charged with the supervision and administration of particular departments of business. It would really be as reasonable to suggest that the General commanding the Royal Engineers or the Royal Artillery should have a seat upon the Army Council.

The noble Lord, again, is under a complete misapprehension when he states that the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines has no direct access to the Board. The member of the Board to whom the duties of administering the personnel of the Navy are assigned is the Second Sea Lord, and the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines has at all times direct access to the Second Sea Lord; it is, in fact, part of the duties of the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines to bring before the notice of the Second Sea Lord, who in that matter is the Board, all questions concerning the Service of which he is the head in the administration. If, therefore, the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines were to be added to the Board as a general administrator, I submit that he would not in any way strengthen the general composition of the Board, and he would have nothing to add upon general matters of naval administration. If he is to be put on the Board as representative of the Royal Marines with the sole object of bringing their interests before the Board, that would be altogether inconsistent with the policy of the administration of the Service, and to that extent would be mischievous. Since the Adjutant-General of the Royal Marines does have at all times direct access to the Board, and as that is the way in which the interests of the special branch of the Service should be represented, the Board of Admiralty not being a body of representatives but a body of general administrators, it would be quite inconsistent with a right policy of government to carry out what the noble Lord suggests. I very much hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not accept the Resolution.


Does the noble Lord wish his Resolution to be put?


I thank the noble Earl for his kind answer, and I ask leave to withdraw the Resolution.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at five minutes past five o'clock.