v 6.30.00
28 Jan 2022
updated 28 Jan 2022


House of Commons Debate [Monday] 21 June 1880,
As reported by Hansard vol 253 cc 429-432 429

[Please note that, in the interests of clarity, I have paragraphed the questions asked, and the reply given; the original paragraph symbols § are therefore omitted, though the 'waypoint' links 429 - 432 are retained]


asked the Secretary of State for War,

Whether his attention has been called to the statement that, at a meeting at Hull on Wednesday evening last, at which about 800 officers and men of the Fourth East York Artillery Volunteers were present, it was resolved, with a single dissentient, to withdraw from the Corps, and the brigade orders are accordingly rescinded;

whether it is a fact that Lord Londesborough, Honorary Colonel of the Fourth East York Artillery and of the Hull Battalion of Rifle Volunteers, has resigned his Commissions;

whether he is aware that, charges having been made against Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Humphrey, of the Fourth East York Artillery Volunteers, by certain of his officers, an official court of inquiry was held, which fully acquitted Lieutenant Colonel Humphrey, and recommended that Lieutenant Colonel Saner, and three Captains who had made or supported the charges, should be required to resign their Commissions;

whether he is aware that those officers were called upon to resign, and that the three Captains promptly obeyed; but that Lieutenant Colonel Saner was permitted 430 by the late Secretary of State for War to retain his Commission for several months, when he retired, with permission to retain his rank and to wear the uniform of the Corps, although the consent of his commanding officer was not asked or obtained, as prescribed by the Volunteer Regulations;

whether he is aware that, notwithstanding that Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Humphrey was fully and honourably acquitted from the charges above referred to, and that no complaint or charges has since been preferred against him, he was ordered by the late Secretary of State for War to resign his Commission; whether he is aware that, the reason given by the 800 members of the Fourth East York Artillery Volunteers, and by the Honourable Colonel Lord Londesborough, in retiring from the service, is their dissatisfaction at the course pursued by his predecessor at the War Office, and their sympathy with Lieutenant Colonel Humphrey under the circumstances above stated; and, whether he is prepared to state the steps, if any, he proposes to take in consequence of the practical disbandonment of the brigade?


asked the Secretary of State for War, If he can inform the House why the Honourable Colonel Lord Londesborough, the Lieutenant Colonel Commandant, nearly, if not all, the officers and about 800 men of the Fourth East York Artillery Volunteers have resigned, and thus virtually disbanded the corps?


asked the Secretary of State for War, in anticipation of a Notice he had given, If his attention has been called to the recent Military strike of Officers and Men of the Fourth East York Artillery Volunteers; whether any inquiry will be held into the circumstances of such a demonstration; and, whether, by the actions thus taken by its members, the corps has ceased to exist; and, if so, how will the proceedings affect those Officers and Men who were no parties to the strike?


Sir, with the leave of the House, I will answer at once the Questions of the hon. Members for Hull (Mr. Norwood and Mr. C. Wilson), and also that of the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan), of which he has given Notice for to-morrow.

It is difficult for me to state fully in the compass of an answer to a Question the 431 exact nature of proceedings and decisions at the War Office, which, except those of the last few days, occurred before I became Secretary of State; but the main facts of the case are these.

For some time past there have been great dissensions in the 4th East York Artillery Volunteers, which culminated in 1878 in a decision of my right hon. Predecessor, on a dispute between Colonel Humphrey and his adjutant, that the latter should be called upon to resign, and the former informed that the Secretary of State regretted that he could not consider it for the interest of the corps that he should be permitted to retain the command.

On an appeal, my Predecessor decided in June, 1878, that Colonel Humphrey's resignation need not be enforced if a qualified adjutant were willing to accept that position under him; but that, if any further adverse report was received, his removal would be carried out.

In May, 1879, a Court of Inquiry was assembled, on charges brought by Lieutenant Colonel Saner and three other officers against Colonel Humphrey. The Court reported that the charges were either unsupported or frivolous.

On this, my Predecessor decided that Lieutenant Colonel Saner and the three officers should resign, and that Colonel Humphrey should be informed that it was desirable that he should withdraw from the command agreeably with the intention which he (Colonel Humphrey) had already expressed.

Against this decision Colonel Saner appealed in September, 1879, and my Predecessor appears to have given long and serious attention to the question, and in January last decided that Colonel Saner's resignation might be held over till the 20th of March, in order that he might retain his rank, and that Colonel Humphrey must resign on the 31st of March. This decision my Predecessor expressly decided was irreversible.

Colonel Humphrey, however, was allowed, by a decision arrived at before I took Office, to remain in command until the end of July; and, on an appeal to me some weeks ago, it was decided that the order for Colonel Humphrey's resignation could not be reversed.

On Wednesday last it appears that a meeting of the corps was held in plain clothes, at which Colonel Humphrey notified his resignation, as well as that of Lord Londesborough, the Honorary Colonel 432 of that corps and of the Hull Rifle Battalion, upon which the majority of the officers and nearly all the men withdrew from the corps.

On the report of these proceedings reaching General Willis, who commands the Northern District, he instructed Colonel Collington, the District Inspector of Artillery Auxiliary Forces, to proceed to Hull and ascertain such facts as he could without delay. Colonel Collington examined the adjutant and three other officers, and I have to-day seen General Willis, who brought up Colonel Collington's Report.

After perusing it, the Commander-in-Chief decided, with my approval, to send down at once General Elkington, the Deputy Adjutant General for Auxiliary Forces at the War Office, to assist General Willis in instituting a full inquiry on the spot into the proceedings of the 16th instant; and, meanwhile, the resignations of the 12 officers, their proceedings being primâ facie insubordinate, have been refused and returned to them.

On receiving General Willis and General Elkington's Report, it will be submitted to Her Majesty with the recommendations of the Commander-in-Chief.