§ On the Motion for going into Committee of Supply,
CAPTAIN LEICESTER VERNON
said, he would beg to move as an Amendment, the Resolution of which he had given notice, having reference to the advantage it would be to the service to employ general officers from the scientific corps on the staff of the army. The House would probably remember that there had been a sort of promise that this should be done, but although we had been engaged for sixteen months in actual war, not one of those officers had ever been so employed, and the anticipations of the officers of the Artillery and Engineers to be employed on the staff had not yet been realised. To give an illustration of the manner in which the existing system was carried on, he would refer to a recent instance. When General Simpson was removed from Portsmouth, and went out to take a staff appointment in the Crimea, the command devolved upon a Major-general of Engineers: now, who so proper to command a fortress as a General of Engineers? but the appointment was not permanent, for the command was given to a general officer of the line, who was junior to the general officer of Engineers. That officer was then removed to Aldershot, the command at which camp would have been properly given to an officer of the scientific corps, because that camp was intended to be a school of instruction for the army. But this general officer of Engineers had no military duty to perform at the camp, and his scientific duty consisted in running up wooden sheds, making drains, and levelling and gravelling parades. He would now give an instance of an officer of the scientific corps on foreign service, and he would take the case of Sir John Burgoyne, who was second in command in the Crimea, and senior officer next to Lord Raglan, so that the command would have devolved upon him if anything had happened to Lord Raglan. Now that was not what the Horse Guards wished; but they could not have had a better man than Sir John Burgoyne 1688 to command at the siege of Sebastopol. Sir John Burgoyne was, however, removed. Lord Raglan died, and the command devolved upon General Simpson. If Sir John Burgoyne had succeeded to the command of the English army he would no doubt have demanded the right of attacking the Malakoff with a division of the English as well as the French army. It was admitted that he had pointed out the Malakoff as the weak point in the defence, and his attack on the Redan would have been a false attack. His words were, "When once the Malakoff is taken, the rest of the Russian defences will fall like a pack of cards," as they did. In the French service it was very different, for there the officers of the scientific corps, when they attained the rank of General, were placed in command equally with their comrades in the general service. Vauban, the defender of Lisle, who took part in fifty-five sieges, and 144 actions, was an officer of Engineers, and so also was Pichegru, the conqueror of Holland. Every one knew that the Emperor Napoleon I. was an officer of artillery, and that his fortunes were promoted by the perfect use which he made of that important and powerful arm. Marmont, Due de Raguse, was an officer of artillery, who originally served in the line, but who went into the artillery because the line did not afford sufficient scope for his abilities. Count D'Erlon, who commanded a division at Waterloo, was an officer of artillery; and, to come down to later times, Lamoriciere and Cavignac were considered of such remarkable eminence that the whole French army regretted that in consequence of their political opinions they could not be employed in the late war. They were considered far superior to Pélissier, Canrobert and St. Arnaud—who was superior to the other two—and they were officers of engineers. Bedaud was an officer of Artillery, and Marshal Vaillant, the Minister of War, was an officer of Engineers. In our own East India Company, they gave officers of Engineers commands, and if the advice of Sturt, a lieutenant of Engineers, had been listened to by Elphinstone, Cabul would not have fallen. The credit of the British arms after the disasters at Cabul had to be restored by another campaign, and that campaign was brought to a most triumphant issue by Sir George Pollock, who was an officer of Artillery. At the commencement of the Kafir war, a subaltern of Engineers—Tylden, who was afterwards 1689 killed at Sebastopol—being at the frontier with about six Sappers and Miners, it was expected he and his party would be cut off; but he assembled around him a force of 2,000 boers, and, by gallantry and scientific knowledge, did the State eminent service. When the Government wanted to raise a Turkish Contingent, they selected Major General Chesney, an officer of Artillery; and when they sent a Commissioner to Omar Pasha, they selected Simmonds, an officer of Engineers. And when they wished to defend Kars, did they not take General Williams, an officer of Artillery, whose right hand was Teesdale, also an officer of Artillery, and whose left hand, if he might be permitted to use the expression, was Lake, an officer of Engineers? He had now shown that, in the French army, officers belonging to the French scientific corps were placed not only in the command of divisions and brigades, but likewise of armies, and had therefore an opportunity of arriving at great distinction. As long as we remembered Sebastopol, so long must we remember the names of Dupuis, Dacres, and Williams, all generals of Artillery; and the names of Chapman and Gordon, colonels of Engineers, who commanded the right and left attacks on Sebastopol—men who would shortly be general officers; but if we persisted in our habit of not employing scientific officers—and unless the House of Commons made itself heard—the military talent of such men would he lost to the country for ever. He therefore asked the House to affirm his Resolution as a matter of justice to the officers of the scientific corps of the British army.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is the opinion of this House that it will be to the advantage of the Service to employ General Officers from the Scientific Corps on the Staff of the Army," instead thereof.
§ MR. FREDERICK PEEL
said, he entirely agreed in the principle of the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Gentleman; and he believed it would be an advantage to the Government to be able to employ generals of the scientific corps to command mixed bodies of troops; but the question, whether the Government should employ a particular officer in any particular command, such as Portsmouth or Aldershot, was a matter which ought always to be left to their discretion. By the warrant of 1854 power was given to employ not 1690 merely generals but colonels in commands; and he saw no reason why colonels who were officers in the scientific corps should not be selected for those commands, and if they gave satisfaction being confirmed in them. Colonel Chapman and Colonel Gordon, of whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman had spoken as commanding the right and left attacks at Sebastopol, who had attained brevet lieutenant colonelcies while on that service, when they had attained the rank of colonel would be perfectly eligible for the staff and the commands of districts. So also would be any colonel who while holding a command had given satisfaction to his superior officer. He could see no objection to the spirit of the Resolution, but he saw no advantage in its being adopted by the House; because he considered that the Government ought to be left free to decide when it was necessary to avail themselves of the advantage of drawing commanding officers from the scientific corps. It would be very inconvenient to adopt a Resolution which would imply that the Government should always employ officers of the scientific corps, either in a given ratio to their own corps, or in a given ratio to the whole army. There were reasons, of which, of course, the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham was aware, why, hitherto, general officers of the scientific corps were not selected for commands so frequently in proportion as officers of the line. Those general officers were usually advanced in years, because the Artillery and Engineers being seniority corps, had not the advantage of purchase to ensure the promotion of younger men, and, besides, their promotion to the rank of general was not made according to their standing in the army, but according to their regimental rank. For the future, however, the only question would be what promotions were best for the service of the country, and if any general of Artillery or Engineers should be selected to command a body of mixed troops, there could be no objection, and no jealousy felt as to what arm of the service he belonged. There had been hitherto a jealousy on that point, for it was only natural that the Horse Guards should not be anxious to employ officers who were under the command of the Master General of the Ordnance, and over whom they had comparatively no control; but now that these corps were transferred to the Horse Guards, there would be no interest felt there for employing one set of officers rather than another; and the Government 1691 would be able to select the best instruments for the command of troops wherever they could find them, without regard to what arm of the service they belonged.
MAJOR STUART KNOX
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that officers who had reached the rank of colonel, and were afterwards appointed to the command of brigades or divisions, would be continued in the commands if they gave satisfaction. It would seem, then, that the colonels who had commanded brigades, and, in one instance, a division, in the Crimea, had not given satisfaction, for they were to return to their respective regiments and were not to be made major generals.
§ Question, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put and agreed to.