Notes on Army Pay 1802 to 1914
Notes on the History of Army Pay
By LIEUT.-COL. E. E. E . TODD, O.B.E., R.A.P.C.
The pay of the British armies that broke the power of Napoleon has been described in previous notes. It may have been noticed that the range of pay of the non-commissioned ranks was very small - thus the Regular Infantry private got 1/- a day, the corporal 1/2¼d, the sergeant 1/6¾, and the sergeant-major 2/0¾. Wellington considered the n.c.o. underpaid; he relied on him to control the conduct of the troops as a whole; in the Guards he was accustomed to seeing the n.c.o. do any of the duties of the infantry subaltern, and he wished to extend this practice; and in 1812 he specifically raised the question of higher pay for the n.c.o. All he succeeded in gaining, however, was that one sergeant in every troop of cavalry should have higher pay as troop sergeant-major; and one sergeant in every company of infantry should have higher pay and be distinguished by having the regimental colours embroidered below the chevron. Thus arose the colour-sergeant.
It was stated that the worst paid officers during the Peninsula War were the Engineers. It took six months' pay and allowances to provide themselves with horse and mule; they had no mess, and could not afford a servant; and they were forced to pay for their food the extortionate prices then ruling in Portugal. They lived in a manner much inferior to that of any other branch of the Army, by dressing ill, riding horses incapable of doing their duty with alacrity, and consequently leading to an appearance of lack of zeal, and notwithstanding all this extreme economy, being almost universally in debt.
In a previous note, I mentioned that Army as distinct from Regimental chaplains were appointed in 1796, and placed under a Chaplain-General (whose pay was £1 a day). The regimental chaplains were given the option of retiring on 4/- a day, and this all of them did, with the exception of two in the Life Guards. The regimental chaplains had not been accustomed to serve in person, but, having bought their commissions from the Colonels, they contrived to be represented on service by low-paid deputies. It is significant of the financial system of the time that the Colonels had to be handsomely compensated for the loss of purchase money on the appointment. of the new Army chaplains. These were given to understand that they must do duty in person. In 1806 the estimates provided for a Chaplain's Department consisting of 130 officiating chaplains, 136 retired chaplains, 12 garrison chaplains, and 29 chaplains abroad of whom 11 were Brigade chaplains. The ordinary pay of a chaplain was fixed at £115 a year; but in the following year Brigade chaplains abroad were granted Major’s pay at £292 a year. But the services were apparently very unattractive; and in 1811 Wellington complained that there was only one chaplain serving abroad: all the others had gone home on leave. The period of personal service was 10 years, which Wellington wanted to be reduced to 6 years. He also advocated a larger retiring allowance.
In my Notes I have tried to emphasise the attention to detail, particularly in reference to pay, of our greatest Commanders - Cromwell, Marlborough, Wellington- but there was always a military object. The troops demanded religious observances; in the absence of chaplains of the Church of England, the ranks themselves provided their own preachers, and Wellington expressed himself as not confident of the disciplinary effect of men from the ranks exhorting 0fficers in their moral, as distinct from their military, duties.
Although he had failed to get higher pay for non-commissioned officers, Wellington took other steps to improve the discipline of the army in the Peninsula, and in 1813 organised the Corps of Military Police, consisting in that year of 11 officers, 48 n.c.o.'s and 132 men. All ranks got additional pay, from 6d. extra in the case of a private to an Adjutant-General's pay in the case of the Major-Commandant.
The medical staff was governed by a Board made up of the Physician-General, the Surgeon-General and the Inspector of Infirmaries, each at £2 a day, with the right in addition to take private practice. The Apothecary-General got 10/- a day, with the time-honoured monopoly of supplying medicines and surgical instruments. The Board ran the Base hospitals-in fact every medical service outside the regiments-and seems to have been exceedingly inefficient, incurring the wrath of the C.-in-C. at the Horseguards. The staff numbered about 300, with a consolidated pay of £150 to £950 a year; but outside the jurisdiction of the Board there were still the regimental doctors, wearing the uniform of their regiments, supplying their own medicines and dressings, and subject to the Colonel's orders. They seem to have been as efficient as the staff of the Medical Board was the reverse.
In the twelve years prior to Waterloo, chief interest centres, so far as the financial side is concerned, in the manifold and intricate experiments adopted one after another to maintain the strength of the Regular Army in the field. It would take too long to disentangle the maze of fines, the prices of substitutes. the cost of exemption, the rates of bounty and the application of the ballot, by frequent variation of which a successful solution was gradually evolved by the painful and costly process of trial and error. Direct recruiting for the Regular Army was handicapped by the competition of other Forces – the Regular Militia, the Yeomanry and Volunteers, the Local Militia. Supplementary Militia, the Levy en Masse, the Army of Reserve, and the Permanent Additional Force. One or other of these Forces was brought into being, or was alternately boomed or discouraged, at different times; and it must have been difficult for the ordinary man to know for what Force he was liable, and at what point his liability ceased. The following examples are given to illustrate the various devices to which resort was had in one or other Force throughout the period.
The bounty to a Regular recruit was at first £7 12s. 6d., then rose to ten guineas, thirteen guineas and at last nineteen guineas, after which, owing to the adoption of wiser methods, it fell back to 16, 10 and finally 8 guineas. It might have seemed obvious that any man who was willing to join up as a substitute for someone else who had been drawn in the ballot, and could thereby earn £20 or £30, was unlikely to enlist for a bounty of 10 guineas, consequently the bounty had to keep pace more or less with the market price of a substitute, moreover, the larger the country and the price of a substitute, the more did desertions and false re-enlistments increase.
When the Army of Reserves was raised, out of 41,000 men obtained more than 4,000 deserted within a year. Other devices had to be tried. Thus recruits were given the option of choosing their own Regiments, from which they were not to be drafted without their own consent. Recourse was again had to "raising men for rank" but the evils of the system had previously ben learnt, and the C.-in-C. would allow one step only in rank for bringing in recruits. Again, two officers were given a contract to raise 5,000 men, but only 200 were delivered, and on inquiry later by the House of Commons. it was found that the two officers had lost £1,700 in bribes to one Mary Ann Clarke, the mistress of the Duke of York. In 1806 the Minister for War and the Colonies gave it as his opinion in Parliament that sufficient recruits for service abroad could be raised only by voluntary enlistment, and that to get sufficient volunteers, the service must be made an attractive profession. Pay was not increased, but service in the Colonies was to count more
(e.g., two years as three),short periods of service were introduced with an increase of pay after each period, and pensions were raised (half pay at the end of the second period and nearly full pay at the end of the third).
Then the privileges of the Volunteers (who escaped the ballot) were reduced; and finally, in 1809, the 1
st Battalions were recruited by voluntary enlistment for world service; the 2nd Battalions by ballot for service at home; the Local Militia was raised by ballot; the number of volunteers restricted and encouragement given to transfer from the 2ndBattalions to the 1st., and from the Local Militia and Volunteers to the 2nd Battalions.
To fill up the ranks of the various Forces, each parish or county was given a quota of men to be raised in default of whom heavy and increasing fines were levied. Starting at £10 annually for every man deficient, the fine became £10 quarterly, and was made cumulative. Later, an Act which was known as the" Twenty Pound Act" gave a bounty of a guinea to the parish officer for every man enlisted, and mulcted the parish of £20 for every man deficient. The parishes saw no means of raising their quotas, and regarded the Act as one simply to raise money. The fines in theory went to the general recruiting expenses of the Government; but they could not be collected so that in 1806 no less than £1800000 was remitted. This fact, however, did not prevent the raising of the fine to £30 in Ireland for every man deficient within 6 months; and to no less than £60 in England after three months.
The ballot was the common means of raising men for the Militia and other supplementary Forces. The ballotted man, or "lotman," could serve himself, or buy exemption, or find a substitute. For personal service certain privileges were given, such as service for 5 years, whereas a substitute man and Volunteers had to serve for the duration of the war, or in some cases six months after, At first exemption for five years could be purchased for £10. This was raised to £15, then to £20 for one year's exemption, Finally it stood at from £10 to £30 according to the means of the purchaser. Exemption fines went to the parishes or counties to enable them to provide substitutes; but the price of substitutes went much beyond the price of exemption. At first the parishes were empowered to levy a rate to purchase substitutes at not more than £6 each; but by 1803 a substitute could get £20 to £30 and when the provision of a substitute was allowed to give permanent exemption, the price rose first to £40 then to £60. The evils of the system were however gradually realised, and in 1809 no substitutes were allowed in the Local Militia.
The system of exemptions and substitutes gave rise to a new profession. There were plenty of enterprising people who made a living out of the production of substitutes. They were called "crimps", and as their object was to seize or decoy men to be sailors or soldiers, or otherwise to get them at the least cost, the type of recruit joining as a substitute was naturally the lowest possible. Again there were insurance societies which, for payment of an annual premium, provided insurance, against personal service and bought exemption or provided a substitute for the insured man if and when he was balloted. The worse the quality of the substitute and the higher the price paid for him, the more desertions and fraudulent re-enlistments increased. In order to induce men to transfer from the Militia ,or other Force to the Regulars for service abroad, extra bounties were frequently paid, sometimes by the Regular Officers themselves. "Treating" was a very common aid to recruiting; and to secure drafts for his regiment a certain Lt. George Napier used to challenge militiamen to jumping matches, the losing militiaman to transfer to his Regiment.
As stated in a previous Note, the Yeomanry and Volunteers were practically private and privileged clubs. For long during this period they were given exemption from the ballot; and various scales of allowances were brought out for them- the" June Allowances," then the" August Allowances" and so on. The result was that the Volunteers were very popular; and whenever the Government produced some new scheme of raising troops, there was a rush to join the Volunteers, so much so that on several occasions the Government was swamped by the numbers, the rush to join was discouraged, no words were too bad for the War Office, and the Volunteers were re-transferred to the Home Office, under whose care they had originally been, Exemption from the ballot was gradually limited; and equally gradually they were brought under military discipline, Fines for absence, for example, were at first recoverable only under the civil law; men who had no money were not in fear of a fine; and in any case the civil process of distress is somewhat cumbersome for a military machine, Volunteers under the June Allowances were not subject to fines, but those under the August Allowances were; and as both in time got together in the same Company, the resultant confusion may be easily realised, Volunteers of the maritime counties were offered daily pay for permanent service in "shifts" often to fourteen days at a time, provided they agreed to subject themselves to military law, and later this was amended to the inland counties, Again, so many drills had to be done to secure exemption from the ballot.
But, in spite of these and many other attempts to make use of the Volunteers their inefficiency was realised by 1807; the formation of new Volunteer Regiments was forbidden, inefficient regiments were disbanded, and their numbers and privileges cut down. Not only had they interfered with recruiting for the Regulars and Militia, but the provision of a staff for their ,training was barely possible; and it is amusing to note that at all exercises the parish constable was at one time enjoined to be present, to arrest men guilty of misconduct and hale them before the local magistrate. This not only appears amusing to-day; but the parish constable on duty was the butt of the regiment at the time.
In, the foregoing notes, I may have given the impression that during the Napoleonic Years, there was little patriotic enthusiasm in the country. Nothing on the contrary could be further from the fact. But, though all men were prepared to defend themselves against invasion, service abroad was not popular, and a standing Army was traditionally disliked. My general impression is that, while the tyranny of a Napoleon was a thing not to be tolerated by any Englishman, yet an honest Englishman still looked on the redcoat as a bit of a blackguard (and often he was not far wrong) and he considered he could organise his own defence rather than be organised by an abstract thing called a War Office, The frequent rushes to join the Volunteers were due to this and not to any lack of the sense of patriotism; but it was a national characteristic that Ministers could not ignore, with the result that it took many years before a rational system of increasing and maintain the Forces abroad could be arrived at. The crisis in the end produced a great War Minister in Lord Castlereagh, but the great Minister was forthcoming only when the nation had been educated by the pressure of danger.
The Minister for War and the Colonies was then, as now, a politician. The actual administration of the Army was done from the Horseguards, by the Commander-in-Chief and his staff. The War Office was divided into two main branches - "Accounts" and "General Business". Of these the Accounts Branch was by far the more important; but in time, in proportion as duties were taken over from the Horseguards by the General Business Branch the relative importance of the Accounts Branch decreased. We have already seen that, with the institution of regimental paymasters in 1797 (that is, of regimental officers whose duties were confined to financial matters) the Secretary at War had taken over most of the accounting work of the Colonel's Agent. In turn, the regimental paymasters proved to be rather inefficient amateurs and more and more of their duties were taken over by the War Office staff, which grew apace, In 1807 there were more than 1,600, regimental accounts still open, those most in arrear dating back 24 years; and it was stated that certain accounts when received at the War Office, revealed upwards of 200 errors, But I am inclined to think that the Accounts Branch had too much and the Army too little, to say at the House of Commons Committee of inquiry.
The Accounts Branch came under the direct control of the Treasury, and was independent of the Horseguards; and apart from Treasury control, the Secretary at War had a private fund called the "Fee Fund," formed out of the amalgamated fees which I have described in previous Notes (for example, the Auditors' fees for passing each Company account) . Out of this Fee Fund, the Secretary at War distributed rewards as he thought fit. The working hours of the War Office clerk were, for example, five daily; but any clerk could take work home, and for this he received additional pay out of the Fee Fund. The civil servant did not then receive an inclusive salary for all time worked; and his meagre wage was often supplemented from curious sources. Thus, one War Office official had the monopoly of supplying coal to the garrison at Gibraltar; another had the right of printing the Army List (said to have brought in £250 a year) ; and the fees of the Chief Messenger for the delivery of messages are stated to have been worth £500 a year, while two assistant Messengers made £200 a year each in fees in addition to their nominal salary of £50.
It is of particular interest at the present time to note that towards the end of the long-drawn-out Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the pound sterling went off the gold standard and could be sold abroad only at a discount. It is of further interest to note the vital effect on the Peninsular campaign of the difficulties in supplying specie and (especially to the Treasury Chest Officer of to-day) the means adopted for raising funds locally in Spain and Portugal. The main source of silver specie had for long been the Spanish colonies of South America; but since these had revolted from Spain, and England was now Spain's ally, it was difficult for the Treasury to deal with Spain's rebels, and the traffic in bullion was largely in the hands of private interests. It is of still more interest to note that Wellington who was fully cognisant of the situation, had many an acute argument with Ministers at home over the supply of ready cash, and that one of the three great Commanders in English history (Cromwell, Marlborough, Wellington) was forced, during one of our momentous campaigns, to get down personally to details of payment on the spot to Spanish muleteers. These muleteers provided the bulk of the Army transport; without payment there was little or no transport; without transport the Army could not move.
The normal method of raising coin in Portugal was to purchase it locally against the issue of British Treasury Bill. But even if the English exchange had been at par, there was not sufficient specie available; and when consignments arrived on the market, the Treasury was unwilling to sell bills at a discount. During Sir John Moore's campaign the exchange was 17 per cent against England; and in 1808 the Commissaries could obtain only £4,800 at 5s.2d. for the silver dollar (normally worth about 4s.). The pay of the troops was in arrear and large bills for transport and supplies were outstanding. Reinforcements which had arrived off Corunna could not be landed, because the Commander was fearful of landing them without payment of their arrears, and without current coin he could not pay them. He borrowed £ 25,000 in dollars from the Government of Galicia, and later raised a further sum from the Ambassador at Madrid, to whom there had been consigned three million dollars for the purpose of strengthening the Spanish Government.
At this time the duty of raising funds for Army requirements rested upon the Commissariat, or Transport and Supply Department, which from its origin had been controlled by the Treasury. Contracts for food and transport were at first made direct by the Treasury but after 1797 were divided among a multitude of authorities at home and abroad, until in 1808 the whole of them were vested in the Commissary-General. The Commissariat officers drew pay in part from the Treasury, in part from the War Office, holding a commission from the latter and a "constitution" from the former. The Commissary-General drew £4 a day from the Treasury, and from the War Office £3 a day plus a Major-General's field allowance. Thus on one side the Commissary-General represented the Treasury and controlled the Treasury's officials abroad; while on the other he acted in close cooperation with the Commander-in-Chief, and through him Wellington was able to bring his personal authority to bear on what became a more and more urgent problem, i.e. , the supply of specie.
During the expedition to the Scheldt under the Earl of Chatham, the Treasury insisted on the sale of bills at par, and at the same time; on payment for local supplies at the old prices, without allowing for depreciation in the exchange. The Commissary-General urged that such allowance must be made, only to bring upon himself a severe rebuke from the Treasury. In any case, bills could be floated only on the markets of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or Hamburg , and communication with all three was closed. Castlereagh wrote to Chatham: " When I inform you that we do not possess the power of sending a single foreign coin from hence, and that in the last extremity , rather than disband the army, British guineas must be sent, you will not be surprised at receiving peremptory orders to enforce the system agreed on before you left London. I need not suggest what would be the impression if guineas were going out to pay our army abroad. Besides, it could not be done without an Order in Council, and other proceedings which might embarrass. Chatham, however, strongly supported his Commissary-General. Either allowance must be made for discount, he wrote, or guineas must be sent to him. The inconveniences of the latter course would be nothing to those which would attach to the dishonour of the British name. The opinion of the King's Advocate was taken, and was given against Chatham; and, beyond obtaining a small remittance in dollars, Chatham failed. The Scheldt expedition was only one of the many futile dispersions of the British forces which marked the strategy of the Government until a decisive theatre of war was found in the Peninsular, so that the matter counted for little; but the Treasury won the round .
The supply of coin was of far greater importance in the Peninsular. In the middle of 1809 Wellington wrote: "I cannot get supplies , or boats or carts to move supplies from Lisbon without money." Here was a pretty pass for a Commander matched against Napoleon's most famous Marshals. The French system was to live on the country, to pay for nothing, and to do without convoys. The British system was to pay for everything, and to support their troops from base to front with convoys of supplies. Wellington obtained a loan from Oporto to enable him to move. Again, he got £100,000 from Cadiz with great difficulty. Huskisson at the Treasury wrote to Wellington: " How can you expect us to buy specie here with the exchange thirty per cent against us, and guineas selling at 24s.? " Wellington replied that specie was always obtainable in Lisbon in the open market after the arrival of the English packet a clear proof to him that the Treasury were unwilling to pay the market price for specie either at home or by the issue of bills at a discount abroad. In other words, the campaign had to be hindered or stopped because the Treasury would not face facts. In 1811 banknotes began to be refused in England itself at their face value, and payments were demanded either in gold or in paper money valued according to the price of gold. In August Wellington wrote that he had never been in such want of money. Corn from the United States had to be paid for in specie at Lisbon. The pay of the Spanish muleteers was six months in arrear. The attempt to get the Spanish merchants to accept Bank of England notes at their face value failed.
Early in 1812 the muleteers had in general not been paid for twelve months, the pay of the troops was three months in arrear, and the allowances of the officers six months. There were large outstanding bills for meat and other supplies. "I cannot reflect without shuddering," wrote Wellington, "upon the consequences which may result from our wanting money in the interior of Spain". He was aware that dollars were being hoarded in Spain and Portugal and at Gibraltar, but his Commissaries were out bidden by the Treasury itself . Thus Wellington had been authorised to buy two million dollars at Gibraltar at 5s. 8d. per dollar, but a Treasury official got them at 6s. 2d. The British Consul at Cadiz knew that the greater part of the specie landed there from South America got into the hands of the private bullion dealers. It began to be realised that English agents in various parts of Europe were competing one against another; and, in the House of Lords, Lord Wellesley stated that the Government could have bought abundance of dollars in South America if they paid the market price there, instead of letting the silver reach Spain and become a speculative counter. It also began to be said that private bullion dealers should be used to buy specie in place of the Bank of England.
The expedition to Moscow in 1812 sent the price of silver soaring. The British silver coinage was now worth much more than its nominal value, and Speculators bought it up for export to Russia. Treasury agents were instructed not to outbid the Bank of England, and in consequence all available specie was bought for Russia by private interests. Finally the gold reserve of the Bank, other than guineas, came to an end; and it was illegal to export guineas. Nevertheless, the Treasury sent £400,000 in guineas to Wellington, under an Act empowering the Privy Council to demand gold for the payment of British troops. The Governing Body of the Bank protested by formal resolution against this procedure, but the resolution was kept secret at the time. Relief finally came from an unexpected source (as it has done also in the recent (Ed: 1932) monetary crisis). The high price of gold drew out the hoards of India, and large quantities of Indian pagodas (the Indian gold coin of the time, so called because it had a pagoda stamped on it) were re-coined by the Mint into guineas, and in only two months no less than £500,000 was shipped to Lisbon.
Local purchases in Spain and Portugal were made by subordinate commissaries and were paid for in the first instance by bills on the Commissary-General. They were called Commissariat Bills. Taking advantage of the financial difficulties, speculators began to buy these bills at a discount. Commissariat Bills were met by the Commissary-General by the issue of Treasury Bills; but in view of the speculation, Wellington forbade this and a howl went up from the speculators at Lisbon and their correspondents in London. Wellington was forced to withdraw his prohibition, but he was not beaten yet and ordered that no purchased Commissariat Bills should be discharged by Treasury Bill unless the holder thereof deposited a quantity of specie equal to the Commissariat Bills in return for a second Treasury Bill. This move was brilliantly successful, and brought in monthly nearly a million dollars. Also larger quantity of corn than were required for the Army were bought with Treasury Bills, and the surplus sold to the Portuguese Government for cash. The Board of Trade condemned the latter scheme, and the Treasury condemned the former whereupon Wellington expressed his opinion openly that the private financial interests had captured the Government. At last, in 1814 , the Treasury gave Rothschild a secret commission to purchase specie on its behalf, and the difficulties over ready cash seemed from that time to have been lost to sight. It seems incredible to-day that Wellington himself should have been compelled to take a personal hand in these transactions but as we saw with Marlborough, the pay of the troops was a matter of supreme interest to the Commander-in-Chief in the field. "Our own troops will always fight," wrote" Wellington, "but the influence of regular pay is seriously felt on their conduct, their health, and their efficiency".
In the period between Waterloo and the Crimean War, there are, it would appear, but small events to chronicle. Overwhelming victory left the nation undisturbed to grapple with the problems of pensions and the reduction of the national expenditure. On the other hand, the disasters and disgraces of the Crimean War, followed by the spectacular triumphs of Prussia over first Austria and then France, roused the country to the pitch of excitement and realisation of danger that put the whole system of Army Administration into a boiling cauldron, out of which emerged substantially the British Army as it was in I9I4. Yet after the Crimea there were few campaigns; whereas after Waterloo the soldier was kept busy enough with three campaigns in India, two in Burma, two in South Africa, and one in Ceylon, on the West Coast, in Afghanistan, in China, and in New Zealand., while troops at home were frequently called out in aid of the civil power. During this busy period, nevertheless, the Army remained substantially as it had been; and the army of the Crimea was in essentials that of Waterloo.
Yet things did happen, small at the time, which left their mark on the future. Prior to 1816, the soldier had two meals a day only, and as one was at 7.30 a.m., and the other at 12 .30 p.m., and then nothing till next morning, the number of "aching voids" must have been very large, had it not been for the excessive drinking, which together with complete lack of exercise and amusements and interests such as reading, occasioned a system of discipline which today would be regarded as one of incredibly savage ferocity. In 1816 it occurred to someone that regularly-provided suppers, and the provision of coffee instead of spirits, might be a good idea; but it was not till 1840 that the third meal was made compulsory by General Order. The cost was throughout stopped from the men's pay; but the historical significance of the thing was that the men were permitted to choose their own tradesmen and to elect one of themselves as caterer. Hence the Sergeant's Mess.
Now the Infantry Private's pay was still 1/- a day, apart from 1d. beer money, from this was deducted the actual cost of the ration up to 6d. (the ration was fixed in 1813 at 1lb. of bread and 12 oz. of(meat). But as the actual cost was always in excess of 6d, the deduction remained stable at 6d. A further 3½d. was deducted to cover a miscellany of items - washing, barrack damages, and the renewal of jacket, cap, shirts, brushes, soap, sponge, haversack, razor and mittens. The balance of 2½d. was paid daily. There was not much left here for suppers and coffee or tobacco or spirits. Yet in 1834 William Cobbett actually advocated the reduction of the soldier's pay from which fate he was saved by the Poor Law Commission reporting that the soldier was worse paid than any other class, and comparing his standard of comfort unfavourably with that of both paupers and convicts.
The daily balance of 2½d. was forthcoming if the soldier were lucky, and not in debt to the Captain or to someone else, as he often was. I imagine disputes as to the state of a soldier's account must have arisen ever since the soldier had an account to dispute; but it is a sign of the growing attention to the soldier's point ofview gradual at first after Waterloo, but gaining momentum - that on 29th November 1829 the soldier's Pay Book was instituted to show his service age, state of,accounts, etc. A printed specimen page was incorporated in the book, on which the name "Thomas Atkins" was given to the fictitious soldier. It was originally not the soldier but the Pay Book that became known as Tommy Atkins.
Another sign of the trend of opinion about the soldier arose in the 'thirties when the Commission on Military Punishments suggested that crime in the army might be decreased by improving the soldier’s position, or in other words that in lieu of fining and otherwise punishing him for bad conduct, something extra might be given him for good conduct. Accordingly the system of increase of pay for long service only was washed out; and every man with seven year' service including two complete years clear of crime was given an extra 1d. a day an 1 a badge, a further penny and badge after 14 and 21 years, with a corresponding increase to his pension. Hence the good conduct badge and good conduct pay. It is amusing to note the meanness which made the soldier pay 3/- for his badge.
If a few more dates may be forgiven, they will illustrate the growth of new ideas as to the soldier. In 1827 it was proudly announced in the House of Commons that thanks mainly to Wellington, every man in barracks had his own iron bedstead to himself. Previously they had slept in wooden beds by fours, Two years later men were given a free discharge after 15years and after sixteen years a free discharge with a bonus of six months' pay, and so on upwards.
Previously the price of discharge had been £20 irrespective of length of service but was now graduated from £5 upwards. In 1841 regimental savings banks were instituted, and libraries provided at the public expense. About the same time £3,500 was voted annually to provide schoolmistresses for the soldiers' children. In 1854 the Colonels of regiments were compensated for the loss of profits on the clothing of their men, and the stoppages from soldiers' pay on this account ceased. The Colonels still were left to supply the clothing, but in the following year a Clothing Department was set up to supply all clothing by contract.
The new ideas manifested themselves also in the matter of pensions. After Waterloo, the number of pensioners was 31,000. Eleven years later it was 82,000 and in 1828 85,000 or only ten thousand less than the effective Army. Twenty thousand of them had entered the pension list at the age of 31, and after only ten years' service; and for every one of them who had done 21 years' service three had been pensioned for disability. No wonder that Parliament confronted with the problem of reducing a war-swollen national expenditure at a time of unexampled industrial depression (the depression after the Napoleonic Wars lasted a quarter of a century) was hostile to the Non-effective Vote and tried various schemes for its reduction. If the position of the deserving soldier is to be secure, the pension system must be based on equitable principles and on well-judged methods of recruiting and terms of service. It was necessary to lay down that no man should receive a pension in excess of his full pay; that no pension should be paid for disability unless contracted owing to service; and that permanent pensions should be awarded only in case of permanent disability. Temporary pensions were thus instituted by a Warrant of 1829, by which also the ordinary pension was fixed at 1/ - a day after 21 years' service with an additional 1d . for every year over 21. It is notable that this was given as a right, not as a privilege.
One of the schemes for the reduction of the Non-effective List concerned settlement in Canada. It was a dismal failure, and is now notable only for a principle which the Secretary of State pronounced as a consequence. Owing to excessive desertion of troops in Canada, it was decided to grant land to old soldiers to settle there and their pension was not to be paid until they had cleared the land ready for cultivation.
The economists of the House of Commons suggested the commutation of any pension thus relieving the Non-effective Vote, plus a grant of land in Canada. Commutation was offered at less than five years' purchase, and in spite of such miserly terms, large numbers took it on, many of whom were over 50 years old, and one poor old man over eighty. In most cases the commutation money was spent before the pensioners embarked, and forfeited passages were estimated to have gained £1,500 for the ship-owners. Out of 3,000 about 1,000 reached their land, of whom not 500 were there fifteen years afterwards. Commutation was abolished two years later; and the Secretary for War enunciated the principle that "The War Office ought to be the guardian and protector of the rights of old soldiers, instead of making, as on this occasion, cheap bargains at their expense".
I turn now to the position of the officer, during this "interregnum" between Waterloo and the Crimea. During the great war the cost of living had risen enormously, and the salaries of the civilian staff had been increased; but those of Army officers, especially of the higher ranks, had remained much the same as for the previous hundred years. Even so late as 1849 it was stated that the pay of a Lieutenant-Colonel was £365 a year. The cost of his commission was £4,540
, the interest on which at 5 per cent was £227; income tax was £11, and regimental expenses £20; leaving his net pay at £107. On the like basis, the net pay of an Ensign of Infantry worked out at £73; yet the youngster (or "Johnny Newcomer" as he was called) spent £8o on his outfit. Fox-Maule in the House of Commons said that British military officers were the hardest worked and the worst paid of public servants. Promotion, as always after a great war, was in stagnation so that officers on the half pay list were given the right to sell their commissions under certain conditions, whereby 370 officers were cleared out of the way and the public made a large saving on the non-effective list. The Prince Regent learned that numerous officers had no, or little, resources beyond their pay. They had to drink water at mess. "It was painful," he said, "to see them pass the bottle." He therefore made them an allowance to enable them to drink at least two or three glasses. This became known first as the "Regency allowance" and later as the "Queen's allowance"; and the Queen's Regulations of 1881ordered it to be applied to "reducing the cost of the ordinary mess wines consumed at dinner, for the comfort and accommodation exclusively of the officers, and more particularly of the junior officers, who attend it." This allowance (subsequently termed "mess allowance") went on until 1919, when it was abolished, except in certain special cases, by the Army Order (No. 324 of 1919) granting increased votes of pay to officers.
As late as 1858 a subaltern's expenses were reckoned at £157 a year and his net pay at £95. But the lot of General Officers, i.e. . above the rank of Lieut.-Colonel, was if anything worse. After Waterloo, apart from the Vote for Guards and Garrisons (that is, fortresses, whether intact or obsolete) , all other army expenses were still voted as the pay of Regiments. A General, therefore, got no pay except that belonging to his regimental rank. He did not do regimental duty (though there is one instance of a Major-General going on guard). Now and then he might get the Governorship of a Fortress or a Colony, or a special command for which a special Vote was passed. But that in peace time was infrequent; so a Warrant was issued to give a special rate of pay to General Officers - a full General £693 a year; a Lieut.-General £593, and a Major-General £456. This was called "Unattached Pay", with the underlying assumption, that an Officer must have some connection with a Regiment, whether attached or unattached, for in those days there was but little, if any, idea of an Army as an entity as distinct from a collection of regiments. In 1818 there were no less than 320 Generals on unattached pay - which was more than the House of Commons could stomach, and the establishment was cut down to 120, the others continuing to draw half-pay as regimental majors or captains. At this time, the emoluments of a regimental Colonel, including his profits on clothing, were estimated to be £1,000 a year; so it was not encouraging to aspire to the rank of General Officer. In 1834 sinecures, such as the Governorships of obsolete fortresses, valued at £30,000 a year, were cut down to £18,000, and the sinecures being abolished, this sum was made over to pensions for Generals deemed worthy of it.
The Guards had always been privileged. Yet a surprising thing is that the net pay of a Guards' Officer, after deducting interest on commissions and necessary expenses, was reckoned to be less than that of an officer of Infantry of the Line. In 1851the net pay of a Lieut.Colonel of the Guards was given as £38 a year ; that of a Lieut.Colonel of the Line as £83; an Ensign of the Guards as £40
, and an Ensign of the Line as £73. In addition, the Guards had to find their own quarters; and as they had to be in attendance at St . James' Palace, they had their own Mess there. Originally the Guards had the right, in lieu of other allowances given to the Line, of hiring out their men to work for civilians. The profits were called "Outlyers"' Money" and were appropriated to the upkeep of the Mess. In 1793 the right so to hire out men was cancelled, and the Commons voted £8,000 in lieu. In 1816 this was reduced to £6,000, although it was pointed out that if the Guards got the same allowances as Officers of the Line, the extra cost would be £12,000. In 1834 the allowance was cut to £4,000; the Guards' Mess at St. James' Palace was a continuous object of attack by politicians who had forgotten the origin of the allowance, with the result that it was gradually cut down, until in the latest revise of the Allowance Regulations it is no more than £1,100.
Shortly after 1800, and for the rest of the century, the Militia was allowed pretty well to go by the board. Meetings were convened annually in October to hold the ballot; but nobody attended but the clerks in England and the schoolmasters who acted as clerks in Scotland, so the meetings were adjourned, to the joy of the clerk who got a fee for each meeting. The balloted men were often detained for weeks at a time, and it seems that "backsheesh" was required to let them get back to their work. Or substitutes were hired at, say two guineas, when the official price paid was £5, and the difference was pocketed by the clerks. The substitutes were of course bad hats, men who enlisted here, there and everywhere, in and out of the Regular Army and the Militia. On the authority of a Royal Commission, there was actually one eminent soldier who had received 47 bounties for 47 enlistments.
After Waterloo there was no training of the Militia except in 1821 and 1825; and in 1831 they were called out to keep order. The ballot was suspended by yearly Acts of Parliament, and in 1835 the ballot was finally done away with. On the permanent staff there were 460 adjutants, paymasters and surgeons, and nearly 5,000 N.C.Os. and drummers. A Select Committee proposed to cut the latter nearly in half and make the adjutants do the work of paymasters; but Wellington put his foot down, because there was no other Reserve in existence. In 1835 however the reduction took place; and not till seventeen years later did any revival take place, when voluntary enlistment was resorted to in the attempt to raise a home defence force of 80,000 men. To prevent men enlisting in different places in different regiments over and over again, only men of fixed homes and known occupations were to be enlisted. The pay of the Permanent Staff was raised and trained Sergeants were attached for instruction in musketry. But in 1858, after the War scare was over, more than a fifth of the men deserted.
How to form a Reserve was an acute question from at least 1825 to the 'seventies. Throughout, a Reserve which should be in readiness to fill vacancies in the Army abroad, was muddled up with an Auxiliary Force for home defence. It seems obvious that the same body of troops could not fulfil both functions at one and the same time; and it was not till the 'seventies that Cardwell laid down the clear distinction and solved the problem by the double specific of short service and the two-linked battalion system. Before 1825 a regiment consisted of eight Companies, of which one skeleton Company was left at home during war, to recruit men and furnish reliefs. In that year, Palmerston raised the number of Companies to ten, to be treated as one battalion at home, but during war, six were to go abroad as a service battalion, and four to remain at home as a Depot. Thus Cardwell's reform was nearly anticipated. Each Regiment was given a single Recruiting Officer, so that there were only 100 in place of 900. Twenty years later the terms of service were altered with the idea of building up a Reserve. Though service had been unlimited in theory, it was found that the great majority of soldiers took their discharge after 15 years, one fourth of them every year buying their discharge, one fourth retiring on pension, and one half deserting or otherwise getting away. It was sensibly decided to face these facts; and the period of service in the infantry was limited to 10 years and in the cavalry to 12, after which, with the C.O's approval, the soldier could re-enlist for a further 11 or 12 respectively. This was the beginning of short service. The attempt was made to tack on to this a scheme by which men who retired after, the first period should, if they enrolled for 22 years, and do 12 days training annual1y, get a deferred pension of 6d. a day; but the scheme was squashed when a member of the House said that "You might just as well tell a man that having taken the best ten years' service out of him, and enrolled him for 22 years more, you would engage in the end to pay his funeral expenses."
During the war in the Crimea the old difficulty of keeping the First Line filled up recurred; and some of the old bad methods were resurrected. Foreign legions were raised of Germans, Swiss and Italians. A recruiting depot was opened at Turin; another at Niagara enlisted a number of Americans and twenty thousand Turks were taken into pay. Even in 1858 the practice of giving rank for raising men was reverted to - a Lieut.-Colonelcy for raising 1000men and an Ensigncy for 100. The period of service was then reduced to ten years for all, with the option to re-engage within six months to complete 21. In 1860 it was found that out of 7,000 men who had completed their first term, more than half re-engaged at once and 650 more within six months. The six months was increased to twelve and a bounty of £1 added; but the mistake was made of offering the old soldier only the pay of a recruit.
Looking back after the event, it is astonishing how long it took to work out, by laborious and costly trial and effort, systems that now appear to be of extreme simplicity. In 1867 a Royal Commission on Recruiting made many recommendations, some of which were adopted. Thus enlistment was to be for general service and not for special Regiments. The rate of pay was increased by 2d. a day (in lieu of the recommendation to issue a supply of necessaries free and to increase the meat ration). Re-engagement was to give an extra 1d. a day, but the first period of service was lengthened from 10 to 12 years. The Commission considered the enlistment of men for 12 years, of which part would be with the Colours and part with the Reserve, but rejected it on the grounds that soldiers would not easily find employment after, say, seven years with the Colours, and, thereafter, would not readily be found if called up . It .was left for Cardwell to adopt this in 1870, whereby the question of a Reserve was solved.
Before however I come to the formation of the "New Army" there remain a few matters of interest which were typical of the "Old Army". The Quartermaster, for example, was, like the Agent and the Chaplain, the personal employee of the Colonel, buying regimental requirements wholesale and selling them retail, and thereby making income enough for himself to enable him to carry on as an Officer. In the 'sixties this trade was finally abolished, and the Quartermaster was given an allowance of £30 a year and his Mess bil1s were paid by the public. The Chaplains were paid according to their denomination - 10/ - a day for C. of E., 7/6 for a Presbyterian, 5/- for an R.C., and, so far as I know, none other recognised. These distinctions came to an end in 1859. Then again, Prize Money, now associated with the Navy, was then also a source of profit to the Army on active service. The soldier fought abroad, not only because he was under discipline, or for the honour of his regiment, or for his own safety, or even for his shilling a day, but also to some extent, for the profits of war. In the six months' campaign in China, for example, after the French had rifled the Summer Palace at Peking, British officers followed suit and retrieved what was left; but the C. in C. ordered all British loot to be handed over to the Prize-Agents by whom everything was sold by auction, with the result that (the C. in C. and his two divisional Commanders foregoing their share), all ranks participated, from the Private with his £4, upwards.
Two curious things happened about the 'fifties. When Queen Victoria by Act of Parliament became Sovereign of India, no provision was made for the status of the British troops who had served under the East India Company. It was assumed that automatically they would become troops of the Crown. But the troops had other views; and though the matter was pressed to the point of mutiny, it was in the result conceded and the military representatives in the House of Commons were the first to demand that the term of service was a matter of personal contract between the soldier and the Company or Crown with whom he had contracted . Consequently, all men were allowed to take their discharge, or, if they entered the Queen's service, they counted two years extra towards pension. There is usually a financial expedient out of most difficulties. Likewise in the Crimean War a well-intentioned politician insisted on sending out some 2,000 navvies who, to his thinking, would do all the trench digging which the British soldier traditionally abhors, and who would always be in advance of the first line, to prepare the way for the massed ranks. They were accordingly given a very high rate of pay. In the result, totally ignorant as they :were of military discipline, they proved insubordinate, they spent their high pay on excessive drinking, and in short they were a thorn in the flesh of the C. In C. As a result of which the soldier was given 6d. a day extra - whence Field Allowance.
I have already said that after the Crimean War, seconded by the smashing victories of Prussia over Austria and France, British Army administration was put into a boiling cauldron. That this is not an exaggerated use of words, is, I think, proved by the fact that, in the twelve years or thereabouts after the war, no less than 89 inquiries were held, Royal Commissions, House of Commons Committees, War Office Committees, and Committees of Officers, to consider the administration of the Army. I can here give only a bald outline of the changes that took place, nor is Army administration the subject of these notes; but, as I have found frequently before, you cannot follow the history of pay without grasping the Army system as a whole. Before the Crimean War, there was a Minister for War and the Colonies, each with his own Secretariat; the Home Office administered the Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteers; the C. in-C. At the Horseguards ruled over the Cavalry and Infantry ; the Master-General of the Ordnance (wiith a seat in Parliament) over the Engineers, Artillery, and the provision of prearms and greatcoats; the Treasury ruled over the Commissariat, i.e., supply including treasure, and transport; the Secretary at War was responsible for all military expenditure; the Board of General Officers inspected the clothing of the troops; the Colonels provided the clothing; while there were other functionaries, the Paymaster-General, the Comptroller of Army Accounts, the Audit Office, the Governors of Chelsea Hospital, and the Army Medical Department (still distinct from the regimental surgeons), who were almost independent functionaries. As early as 1833 a Commission had advocated the consolidation of some of these. A second Commission in 1837 did the same; but all that was did was to abolish «Army Extraordinaries", which were large sums left to the discretion of the Army without being voted in detail by Parliament. Wellington gave his opinion against the findings of both Commissions; and indeed it was difficult to amalgamate the Engineers and Artillery, in which clothing was done by a Board and promotion was by selection, with the Cavalry and Infantry, in which clothing was done by the Colonels and promotion went by purchase.
The authorities might argue on the principles of administration; but events forestalled them. The disasters of the Crimean War roused public opinion to fever heat, set the Cabinet in a flurry, and forced the organisation of an Army which was no longer a congeries of more or less privately owned regiments, but a centrally-controlled united Force. A Treasury Minute was enough to transfer the Commissariat to the War Office. The militia was transferred to the War Office. The Secretary at War, who had been responsible for the finance of the army, was merged in the Secretary of State for War. The sufferings of the army in the Crimea were largely put down to the lack of transport and forage - both then under the Treasury. Wherefore the Commissariat, transport, stores, barracks and hospitals, with the supply of Treasure included, were all put under a single Controller. The Controller had his own Pay Department, distinct from the regimental Paymasters. But the "Control System," as it was called, failed; the very name was unfortunate; every junior rank thought he was in control of the entire Army; all were at loggerheads, up to the Controller and C. in C. themselves. So the Commissariat and Transport were formed into a separate Corps, known from 1880 as the Commissariat and Transport Staff, and this in 1888 was reformed on a purely military basis as the Army Service Corps. This left the Controller's Pay Department rather in the air, ready to be joined up with the Regimental Paymasters.
Meanwhile the Ordnance Office, carrying with it the Artillery and Engineers had been put under the authority of the C. in C. at the Horseguards. The fusion of all these departments led for many years to little but chaos, until, in 1871 the staff of the Horse Guards was removed to Pall Mall to serve under the same roof as the Secretary of State, and a memorable Commission laid down principles by which military efficiency might be combined in practice with economy and the professors of both should work in harmony.
This Commission reported that the old tradition had been to distrust, watch, and stop expenditure proposed by the military staffs. There were two semi-independent powers, one seeking to spend, the other to prevent expenditure. The whole military administration had been organised on the basis of a want of trust, which had led to double staffs attacking the same problems from two antagonistic points of view. Two principles were therefore laid down:-
(1) the Secretary of State should be responsible both for military efficiency and for economy, and everyone else was to be subordinate and responsible to him. Financial considerations should be taken into account from the very inception of military policy; and to help the Secretary of State along this line, as he was helped along the military line by the heads of the Army, he was given a Financial Secretary, who, in order to safeguard his independence, was to be a Member of Parliament. This Officer took over the accounting and audit branches and was given powers of concurrent financial review as well as of initiative.
(2) Confidence should be placed in, and responsibility fixed upon, the heads of subordinate departments, with whom the Estimates of expenditure must originate, but originate with the concurrent advice of the Financial Secretary's staff.
We have now very nearly reached the point at which the Pay Staff of the short-lived Control Department could be united with the Paymasters of the Regiments to form the Army Pay Department under the Financial Secretary. But one last great dragon lies in my path - the rise and abolition of the Purchase System of Commissions and Promotion. Now the ultimate reason of the abolition of Purchase is contained in two phrases, one, well-known, spoken by a French General about the Charge of the Light Brigade :- "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre"; and the other, less known, spoken by a British Minister:- "We cannot afford to have many repetitions of the Balaclava charge". Both of which may be boiled down into saying that modern armies were becoming a matter of technical efficiency and not alone of magnificent gallantry. The spectacular defeats of Austria and France at the hands of Prussia underlined the moral that had been more dimly seen in the Crimea.
The sale of Commissions goes back to the earliest records. I have told in previous Notes how Companies were raised by contract; how Command was given for raising so many recruits; and how regiments were regarded as almost the personal property of their Colonels. Now it is not to be supposed that the Officer who had spent time and money in raising a Company, could appoint other Officers free of charge to the subordinate posts. The total cost must naturally be shared by all, in proportion to the rank held; and when an Officer, who had himself incurred expense, retired or exchanged , he would naturally demand to be recouped by his successor. Moreover, the value of Commissions was constantly increasing, so that the sale of a commission on retirement provided the retired pay of the Officers. Probably the most important reason for the long-continuance of a system, which in theory as well as practice became more and more disliked, was that thereby the Non-Effective Vote was kept at a minimum.
The first official recognition of the system was in the reign of Charles Il, when 1/- in the £ on both the sale and the purchase price was levied for the benefit of Chelsea Hospital. William III prohibited the practice; but it was permitted again in 1701 on the ground of the provision it made for retirement. In 1711 no Commission was to be sold except by specific Royal permission; and George I, who was against it, laid down a tariff of maximum prices in addition to requiring the Royal sanction, and claimed absolute control of the sale money, for payment of debts and so forth. At the same time there was to some extent a prejudice against Officers who had obtained their commissions otherwise than by purchase. Thus in 1761 an Officer was retired for ill-health whose pension was ordered to be 10/- a day, to be made up from the pay of non-purchase Officers, of whom the youngest ensign had to contribute 3/8 a day, "the same being the whole of his pay".
In 1766 a new tariff was laid down by a Board of General Officers, to be applied "whenever Your Majesty shall in your good pleasure permit such commissions to be sold". The tariff varied from £6,700 in the case of a Lieut.-Colonel of Footguards to £400 for an Ensign in the Marching Regiments of Foot. It was ordained that Officers should sell what they had bought and no more, but this was ignored; otherwise the system must have come to an end automatically. By 1821, however, a still higher tariff was laid down, the maximum now becoming £9,000. Yet actual prices were always in excess of regulation prices, and in 1856 a representative of Cox and Co., stated in evidence to a Royal Commission that whereas the regulation price for a Lieut.-Colone1cy was £6,175, the usual price was £14,000; and he had known £16,000 paid, and once £18,000. So much had the value of commissions gone up that in 1856 it was estimated that Officers on full pay had paid £4,742,280 for their commissions, whereas they were entitled to -receive on sale, £7,126,030.
All sorts of impediments were put in the way of selling commissions, even while the system itself grew in extent. A commission could be sold only when the holder was alive otherwise a "death vacancy" occurred, when the next senior stepped into the higher rank without payment. When an extra Company was formed, the Senior Subaltern stepped into command without payment. Ranks above that of Lieut.-Colonel were not saleable; wherefore a Lieut.-Colonel who had the chance of promotion to Major-General sold his commission to an officer on the half-pay 'list, thereby going himself on the half-pay list until he was promoted. Purchase was forbidden in the regiments transferred from the East India Company; and cadets at Sandhurst on passing had their commissions without purchase-indeed by 1862 Sandhurst was open only to cadets whose commissions were not to be purchased. The only arguments in favour of the system were that (1) an Officer could not be compulsorily transferred to the half-pay list without pecuniary loss to the officer; (2) the system facilitated retirement and therefore accelerated promotion, and gave security against favouritism in promotion. But against this, was the fact that only the next senior who could afford to purchase must necessarily succeed to the Command, irrespective of merit. And that would not do, with the example of Prussia before Parliament. The Royal Commission stated that, if purchase were abolished, we should have to introduce the "French system" of promotion by merit and of compulsory retirement.
General Officers who had active service experience were not slow to condemn the Purchase System. A early as 1794, Major General Craig, who was A.G. with the expedition to the Low Countries, wrote home that "There is not a young man in the Army that cares one farthing whether his C.O., his Brigadier, or the C-in-C himself approves his conduct or not. His promotion depends, not on their smiles or frowns, his friends can give him thousand pounds with which he goes to the auction room in Charles St., and in a fortnight he becomes a Captain. Out of 15 regiments of Cavalry and 26 of Infantry which we have here, 21 are literally commanded by boys or idiots. As to moving, God forbid we should attempt it within three miles of all enemy. As to plundering it is beyond anything that I believe ever disgraced an army, and yet I think we do all we can to prevent it, that is with the little assistance which the ignorant boys and idiots above alluded to can give us". Major-General Craig may have been somewhat prejudiced by the ill fate of the Low Countries expedition; but in 1846 we find Lord Grey, an ex-Secretary at War, stating of the promotion of Officers that it "depends exclusively upon seniority or upon interest, and their having money to purchase their successive steps. There is not even a pretence of making it depend upon their showing themselves to be fit for it. Can we be surprised that the regimental officers of our army should as a body be so inferior to those of the Artillery and Engineers and of the Navy?" (The Purchase system did not apply to the Artillery and Engineers who came under the Board of Ordnance or to the Navy). Finally, the Royal Commission of 1856 reported that "An Officer who performs his routine duties and who keeps a sum of money available to purchase his promotion may look forward with confidence to the attainment of high military rank while the subaltern who has not the means to buy advancement may serve during all the best years of his life in distant stations and in deadly climates, yet he must be prepared to see his juniors pass over him".
The Purchase System had indeed led to some curious anomalies. In the 41st Foot, one of the Lieutenants was senior to every Officer above him, including the Lieut. Colonel. In a regiment serving in the Crimea there was a Captain with 47 years' service who had been at Waterloo, at which time not one of his brother officers had been born. In 1846 there were two Captains, father and son, in the same regiment, the father with 40 years' service. A majority became vacant; and the father allowed the son to purchase it over his head. Two years later the regiment went on active service, when the son was killed and the father then got the Majority without purchase.
The Army Regulation Bill of 1871, by which the Purchase System was abolished met with the most strenuous opposition in both Houses of Parliament. A "dilatory" motion in the House of Lords was tantamount to the rejection of the Bill; whereupon Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet bethought themselves that what a Royal Warrant had originally authorised, a new Royal Warrant might equally well disallow. Purchase was illegal except when the Crown permitted it under a fixed schedule of prices; if the schedule were cancelled and the permission of the Crown revoked, the practice would remain, as it for long had been, illegal. This was done. The outcry against the Government was greater than ever; but the Lords recognised that they were out-manoeuvred and passed the Bill, subject to a Vote of Censure.
The loudest objections to the abolition of Purchase came from the Officers themselves; and it is difficult to understand why this should have been the case, unless it was that, as the price of Commissions seemed to be advancing, the abolition of Purchase would deprive them of the chances of appreciation. Under the Act, the State became the universal purchaser of all Commissions as and when they came into the market. No Officer was to be placed in a worse position than he would have been in, had the system continued. Moreover, as Mr. Gladstone pointed out, the Officers were relieved of the deadweight of £8,000,000, the interest of which was worth to them £320,000 a year. The actual cost to the public worked out at about £7,000,000. It is stated that the public was for the Bill; but they were puzzled as to the almost virulent opposition of the Officers. In a year or two all complaint had died down; and twenty-one years later, when "The Times" published a review of the matter by Sir James O'Dowd, then the sole survivor of the Army Purchase Commission, the editorial comment was that it was very difficult to realise the strength of the passions aroused by the removal of one of the most astounding anomalies ever produced by our peculiar habits and institutions. The immediate perdition of the Army was painted in those days with a vividness of colour and a force of imagination that went far to perturb the judgment even of ordinarily cool observers. All of which meant that translating the magniloquent language of "The Times," the peppery old Colonels of tradition were vociferating that "The Army would go to the dogs".
The sequel to the abolition of Purchase was to lay down new rules for promotion. If you could not buy your next step, how were you to get it - by seniority, or by selection, or what? The answer of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet was "Seniority tempered by selection" - a compromise on which to this day nobody has been able to improve, if indeed it - can be improved upon. In regard to the ranks also Mr. Gladstone's Government took an immense step forward. The bounty on enlistment was abolished, .thereby doing away with the chief inducement to bad characters to enlist and with the trouble of fraudulent re-enlistment. Men of bad character were to be discharged from the service, and thereafter the service became increasingly in the public opinion a reputable one in which to serve. Good Conduct pay was speeded up; but the greatest step was taken in regard to rations. I have said in a previous note that from the soldier's pay of 1/ - a day there was in the first place deducted the actual cost of the ration up to 6d. The cost was always more than 6d., so that 6d had become in practice a fixed sum. In 1854 this was reduced to 4½d, although the actual cost was then 7d. In 1867 2d a day was added to the pay; but it was left to Mr Cardwell in 1873 to give to the soldier free of charges the 1/ - a day which he was supposed to have enjoyed for nearly two centuries. In other words, the ration was issued free of charge.
In the meantime, in the early 'sixties, a new phenomenon appeared, tiny and isolated at first, but, as it turned out, of enormous portent. The regimental canteens under the Board of Ordnance had been hired out to contractors at a rental amounting to something over £50,000 a year. Many evils had been associated with these canteens, the chief of which was probably the supply.to soldiers of cheap raw spirit. To this much indiscipline and crime in the army was due. In the middle of the century, when steps were being taken to improve the soldier's lot, the canteens were improved; but the evils cropped up again here and there. Then at Gibraltar a Captain Jackson set up an Army Institute for the Garrison - a private club with 2,500 members, which turned out a huge success. In 1862 a similar Institute was set up at Portsmouth, aided by a small subscription from the Government. In other stations the canteens, instead of being hired out to a contractor, were put under the management of a Committee of Officers. These Regimental Institutes supplied better goods to the men, and any profits were used for their benefit. The soldier might be saved 1d. a day a sum small enough, it would seem; but it must be remembered that the "free" balance of the Private's pay, after paying for rations and stoppages, was only 2½d; and 1d. saved was 40%. In 1864 it was laid down that a Committee of three Officers must be appointed in each Regiment to run the Canteen, and the system became permanent.
The next step was the formation of a co-operative Society to supply the Canteens. This was done in 1894 by three Officers, one of the Grenadier Guards, one of the 17th Lancers and one of the Army Medical Corps, who raised between them £400, issued shares of which nobody was to hold more than £200, and so founded the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society. Interest on the shares was limited to 5 %, and any balance remaining was paid over as discount to the canteens. Early in the War in 1914, the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society and a firm of contractors were taken into consultation by the War Office, with the result that the Expeditionary Force Canteen (EFC) came into being; and I need not trace here the transitions from the E.F.C. to the Navy and Army Canteen Board (N.A.C.B), and from that to the N.A.A.F.I. My reason for introducing the subject here lies in the increase in the purchasing value of the soldier's pay which resulted from the institution of Canteens as regimental and co-operative affairs.
In a previous Note I said that in the 'seventies the way was becoming clear for the amalgamation of the Pay Staff of the Control Department with the Regimental Paymasters. The Control Department was a short-lived failure, owing to the friction it generated between the Department and the executive Officers of the Army. All ranks of the Department came to regard themselves, or came to be regarded by the executive branches as regarding themselves, as in Control of the Army; in other words, they were, or were looked on, as “Jacks in Office”. On the break-down of the Control System, the Army Pay Department was formed. The subsequent history of the R.A.P.C. was briefly outlined in the first number of this Journal, and there is no reason to repeat it, while any more detailed account would require the discussion of events which are even now so recent
(ed: 1932) as to be in some ways still controversial. But it is interesting to note that the words of the Royal Warrant in 1878 by which the A.P.D. was established, "To receive, disburse and account for, under the direction of the administrative Officers of the Control Department in each Command, money receivable and payable on account of Army Services," are very nearly those used in the first paragraph of the present Financial Instruction; while the wider functions added later, and now embodied in the second paragraph, by which the Command Paymaster is "Advisor to the Officer i/c Administration in regard to the financial aspect of all questions of pay and allowances and to cash and cost accounting services", is directly traceable to the principle laid down for the first time by the Commission of 1871, that the old system based on distrust and check must cease, and that financial considerations must be taken into account from the inception, and throughout the whole administration , of military policy , thus harmonizing economy with efficiency.
Pay services History Index