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Imperial Yeomanry And Volunteers—Temporary Army Rank—Relattye Rank With Militia Officers

Volume 79: debated on Monday 19 February 1900

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My Lords, I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that granting tem- porary rank in the Army to officers of the Imperial Yeomanry and Imperial Volunteers has superseded all Militia officers of equal rank; and what steps will lie taken to remedy this injustice. I am sure I shall l>e anticipating what the noble Marquess will say when I state that the question of relative rank amongst the Auxiliary forces as compared with the Army is one of extreme difficulty. All officers in the Regular Army are senior to officers in the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers of the same rank. Officers of Militia are senior, in the same way, to officers in the Yeomanry and Volunteers, and officers in the Yeomanry are senior to Volunteer officers of the same rank. This new force which has lately been raised, the Imperial Yeomanry, has been officered partly from the Reserve of Officers who-have served in the Army, partly from Militia officers, partly from Yeomanry officers, and, in some instances, by gentlemen who apparently have never before held Her Majesty's commission. The effect of granting them temporary rank in the Army makes them senior to the Militia officers of the same rank, These Militia officers have been embodied some months, and many of them are doing duty in South Africa. As regards officers of low rank the effect will be slight. Those whom it will affect most seriously are the commanding officers of Militia battalions in South Africa. We will take the case of a Militia commanding officer stationed somewhere on the line of communication. At the same place there may be quartered, also for the protection of the line of communication, a battalion of Yeomanry. Any attack from the Boors driven off with success naturally brings kudos to the officer in command, but in that case the unhappy Militia officer, who has, perhaps, done 25 years service, will be junior to the officer commanding the battalion of Imperial Yeomanry, who has probably never served before. I beg to ask the question of which I have given notice.

My Lords, I think it is likely that there will be some supersession of the kind to which the noble Lord has called attention. The facts are as he stated them. The Imperial Yeomanry have been enlisted as part of the Regular Army. It was necessary to do so, because if they had remained under the Yeomanry Act we should have had no power over them outside the limits of the United Kingdom. For that reason the men were enlisted in the Regular Army, and temporary commissions in the Regular Army were given to the officers. I see the difficulty the noble Lord suggests, but I do not exactly see how we are to get over it. It is quite clear that the inconvenience, if there is any, is a temporary one, because the Imperial Yeomanry is a special force which has been raised for the operations now in progress, and I cannot help thinking that the case he has imagined of a colonel of a Militia battalion being superseded by a colonel of a battalion, I think he said, of the Imperial Yeomanry, is not very likely to occur. The intention is to employ the Imperial Yeomanry in companies as mounted infantry, and I cannot help thinking that if by some chance a senior officer of mounted infantry and a senior officer of Militia found themselves, together it would probably be for a few hours, or days at the most, and the practical inconvenience will not be great.

Can the noble Marquess say that the whole question of relative rank, which is a very important one, will be inquired into?

I should be glad to refer the question to persons better informed in regard to military seniority than I am.