[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
Sir, — It is not without hope of some good result that I venture to call your attention to this subject, for I and such as I, know well how truly The Times is “the soldier's friend.”
I would ask you to consider whether promotion — the one thing that we all desire — is fairly distributed, according to our respective shares of work, danger, exposure, and suffering, between us, the majority, the regimental officers, and the others, the minority, the few officers who are on the staff.
Who are the officers last promoted? Those who have had the honour of attending upon our general officers, the relatives of protegés who have served them as aides, or in any similar capacity. All such officers are sure of rapid promotion for distinguished service. They live in comparative ease and comfort, have less work, less exposure.
The regimental officer, on the contrary, has very great misery and hardship to struggle against, — his 12, or 24, or 36 hours of standing in the mud, enduring wind and rain and cold. He sees his men struck down around him by cholera or shot, or finds them dead at their posts, killed by the weather, for he is ever among them or leading them on.
But he has no friends, and knows that he has not much chance. He sees the aide-de-camp, who is a junior officer in the same regiment, in the Gazette, promoted “for distinguished service;” while he, who was in the van of the fight, and shot down there, finds that his chance of future advancement is virtually put back by the promotion before him of his junior.
It may be said that an officer on the staff has no opportunity of distinguishing himself with his regiment, and must not be deprived of his fair share of promotion. True; but, in the name of common sense and of common justice, do not give the Staff all the loaves and fishes; do not assume that if these officers fought with us they would, as a matter of course, distinguish themselves above us, and merit promotion above us. They would find it no such easy matter.
This monopoly of promotion is a most depressing and distasteful thing to us, who are the great majority of the officers of the army. It does, indeed, justify the historian's remark, that we “fight under the child shade of aristocracy.”
We would not care if these staff officers were all really our superiors in education, in scientific acquirements, in courage, endurance, — anything. If they were a distinct corps, particularly educated, particularly fitted for their work, we should not be jealous of their promotion in their own corps — even were they all promoted on every occasion.
But it requires no particular attainments or excellence to constitute an aide-de-camp; less than mediocrity is enough. The youngest man will do. He will have good extra pay, a comparatively easy life, and is booked for promotion. Rather hard lines for us!
IF you, Sir, were to say in a few of your own words what I have weakly expressed, we should be ever indebted to you.
A REGIMENTAL CAPTAIN.
Crimea, Jan. 4.