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The Panmure Papers, Vol II

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Chapter XXI

September 1856

As in the previous month, reductions in the Army and the disposal of Foreign Legions continue to be the chief subjects of discussion.

Writing with respect to Army Organisation and Staff Appointments (September 8th), the Queen lays down the principle that ‘the House of Commons ought to keep free discretion to reduce or increase the forces in men, but the “cadre,” without which an increase of men at the time of war, or apprehension of the same, cannot produce an efficient army for the field, ought to be permanently maintained.’ It is in this, Her Majesty adds, that we as a nation have formerly so much failed. She also urges the retention of seven as against six troops to each regiment of cavalry, and, failing this, the maintenance at least of the officers of the seventh troop. This scheme is, however, found to be impracticable — Lord Panmure stating, in reply to the letter of the 8th September, that the reasons for deviating from Lord Hardinge’s proposals as to the Peace Establishment may be summed up in the one word ‘economy.’

As to the settlement of the Foreign Legions, Lord Clarendon, who was in attendance at Balmoral at the time (September 12th), discusses the details of the scheme for settling the German Legion at the Cape, and suggests the creation of a reserve class of officers for the same.

Recommendations for the V.C., Supernumerary Lieutenants, Substantive Rank, and the Lieutenant-Governorship of Chelsea Hospital are the remaining subjects treated of.

On September 24th, the illness of the late Commander-in-Chief ended fatally.

In Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice’s Life of Granville George Leveson Gower, Second Earl Granville, it is stated, vol. i. p. 219, that ‘Panmure had killed Lord Hardinge.’ This statement, which is conversational, and of course avowedly hyperbolical, is not merely disproved, but deprived of all foundation by the letters of Lord and Lady Hardinge, which are given as an appendix to the correspondence of this month.


BALMORAL, September 1, 1856.

As to Belgian subjects who have served in the Foreign Legion.

The enclosed from Howard de Walden 1 indicates that the best course for Belgian subjects who have served in the Legion will be to slip home quietly, and not to raise any question about their having been denationalised; it might be tried by one or two of them, in order to see whether any documents are required by the authorities upon their entering Belgium.


September 6, 1856.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and has the honour to transmit for Your Majesty’s information copies of the various papers connected with the mission of Major Grant to the Cape. 2

The result of this mission is very satisfactory, and Lord Panmure has appointed a Committee, in which War Department, Colonial Office, and the German Legion are represented, with the addition of Major Grant, in order to draw up the conditions which are to be offered to the officers and men of the B.G. Legion.

Disbandment of Swiss and Italian Legions.

The Swiss Legion are disappearing by degrees and returning to their own country, and Lord Panmure hopes to be able soon to report to Your Majesty the disbandment of the Italians. These men have conducted themselves very well at Portsmouth, and proved that General Breton’s alarm was unfounded.

Lord Panmure has seen Sir William Codrington on various subjects, more especially as regards the Victoria Cross, and he has addressed an official communication to H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge, calling for an early return from the different Generals of Division of the names of those officers and men who may be deemed worthy of the decoration.

Lord Panmure has authorised the Commander-in-Chief to select certain officers to attend the Reviews on the Continent, and has no doubt that H.R.H. will submit their names to Your Majesty.


BALMORAL, September 8, 1856.

Peace Establishment.

The Queen has not yet answered Lord Panmure’s letter enclosing his more detailed statement of the proposed Peace Establishment, although she told him when she saw him on her journey that she had received the same. This paper, although going into full detail with regard to the Scheme, does not more than the former state the reasons which induced the Government to deviate from Lord Hardinge’s well-argued proposals.

The main points of difference are two. As the 1st, the reduction of the Battalions of Infantry from 1200 to 1000 men, is based on financial grounds, and by no means infringes on the new organisation, the Queen feels bound to sanction it. The 2nd, being the reduction of the Cavalry from 8 to 6 Troops, the Queen regrets extremely, but feels also that economy and the fear of the House of Commons may plead in its favour; whether it would not be possible to keep the officers of at least as seven Troops, she would wish the Government to consider.

The ‘cadre’ of an army.

With respect to the organisation, the Queen hopes that Lord Panmure will not hesitate to carry it out to its full extent, particularly with reference to the Staff Appointments, upon which it entirely depends. The House of Commons ought to keep free discretion to reduce or increase the forces in men, but the ‘cadre,’ without which an increase in men at the time of war or apprehension of the same cannot produce an efficient army for the field, ought to be permanently maintained, and it is in this that we have formerly so much failed.

Men can be made good soldiers if placed into well-organised cadres, but the organisation cannot be given in a hurry, and the result must be lamentable where those who ought to teach and direct the new men and young officers, suddenly added, have themselves everything to learn. As this country will always keep a much smaller Army than its position in the world demands, its efficiency and honour in time of need can only be saved by keeping the organisation in Regimental Orders and staff organisation complete in time of peace.

Should not now, — when it is agreed that 3000 men and 1000 horses are to constitute the force of the Land Transport and Medical Staff Corps, — their organisation be made over to the Military Authorities, and previously to the reductions of officers in the Line, as both might usefully be worked together?


ST. LEONARDS, September 8, 1856.

I am glad that you see your way to a settlement of the arrangements about the German and Italian Legions.   .  .  . 

A scheme for bridging the Channel.

I send you a scheme for a bridge across the Channel between England and France. I have written to the Lieutenant to say that his scheme seems to me liable to many and serious objections of various kinds. A good idea, truly, for a Lieutenant on half-pay, which I suppose him to be, to launch a plan which is to cost forty millions sterling. The proverb says you should make a bridge for a retreating enemy, but I never yet heard of making one for an invading enemy. To be sure a good battery at one end would sweep pretty clean the contents of the bridge for some distance, but there would be no impossibility in making an iron shield thick enough to stop any shot, and to be pushed on by a steam engine behind it, under cover of which a column might pass through the tunnel without damage, unless the tunnel itself was broken down.   .  .  . 


BALMORAL, September 9, 1856.

As to getting quit of our ‘legionary plagues.’

Many thanks for your letter, which affords the most satisfactory prospect we have yet had of getting finally quit of our Legionary plagues. It may be rather expensive, but I don’t think the money will be ill laid out, 1st, by avoiding the bother we should have in Parliament if the foreigners were retained here too long, and 2nd, by sustaining our name and fame in Europe, which our press and our patriots have worked so hard to destroy. They have made Europe believe that we have neither Army or Navy, and if they could now show that we have cheated the men whom we decoyed into our service, it would be a coup de grâce to us.

Your letters gave great satisfaction here, for there was a good deal of uneasiness in high quarters about the arrival of the Italians, and the Germans becoming unpopular by remaining here too long. I think that the Argentine Confederation is the place to look to for the Italians. They would meet there with what is congenial to their tastes, — fine climate, cheap provisions, abundance of land, and an unsettled Government, and we should have the advantage of an unpassable ocean between them and England.   .  .  . 


September 9, 1856.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty and has the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Majesty’s letter on the subject of the Peace Establishment of the Army.

The reasons which induced Your Majesty’s advisers to deviate from Lord Hardinge’s proposals as to the strength of the various arms of the Service during peace may be summed up in one word — Economy.

Economical considerations in relation to proposed Peace Establishment of the Army.

In arriving at the proposal submitted by Lord Panmure to Your Majesty, it was the object of Your Majesty’s Government to maintain the Army in times of peace in perfect efficiency, observing at the same time the strictest economy consistent with such efficiency.

Actuated by a desire to submit no Military Establishments to Parliament which they cannot maintain, and considering that 1000 rank and file organised in 12 Companies would form an efficient force of Infantry for the service of Your Majesty and the Country, the Cabinet did not consider it necessary to adopt Lord Hardinge’s suggestion of giving 1200 Rank and File to each Regiment, and Lord Panmure learns with satisfaction Your Majesty’s concurrence and sanction of the arrangement.

In regard to the Cavalry, Lord Hardinge’s organisation has been materially departed from on the grounds of finance and an impression, which the Cabinet feels to be well founded, that this is the arm of the Service which will be subjected to the strictest scrutiny of Parliament.

The Infantry is regarded as the working portion of Your Majesty’s Army, while the Cavalry are looked upon as comparative idlers. It is true that they are as absolutely necessary to Military organisation as Infantry, but it is difficult to instil this knowledge into the minds of the men in the House of Commons who look to ‘Service rendered for money voted.’ Lord Panmure partakes of Your Majesty’s feelings of regret at not being able on the part of his Colleagues to submit a larger scheme for the organisation of the Cavalry.

Peace Establishment of the Army; of officers of the Line.

Your Majesty desires that the Government will consider the possibility of maintaining the officers of a 7th troop, and Lord Panmure will lay before Lord Palmerston Your Majesty’s views. But he considers it right to point out to Your Majesty that, even with 6 troops per regiment, the proportion of officers to men is only 1 to 16, while in the Infantry it is 1 to 27, and in the Artillery 1 to 26 men.

The Staff.

In carrying out the organisation of the Army, Lord Panmure will pay due regard to Your Majesty’s views as to the staff, so that the numbers and rank of the officers shall be sufficient. Here again, however, he feels it to be his duty to state to Your Majesty that no branch of the Service is more severely and critically scanned by Parliament than the Staff. The additions to this branch of the Service will be considered under the new arrangements, and some test of capacity must be applied to all Staff-Officers, and a system adopted whereby they will, after a fair period of service, give place to others, so that a general knowledge of their profession and a general participation in its advantages may pervade the whole Army.

The Land Transport Corps and Medical Staff Corps will be entirely under the Military authorities.


The reduction of the officers of the Line will take place from the 1st of October. Lord Panmure calculates, as nearly as he can, that there will be about 150 Ensigns liable to reduction, all of whom will have to be brought back. If sent away from their regiments, they would be put to unavoidable expense in rejoining, they would be burdens on, and in many instances, nuisances in their families, and would rejoin Your Majesty’s service deteriorated in many ways. The expense of keeping them supernumerary in their respective regiments, until absorbed, will be small, and if Your Majesty approves of such an arrangement, Lord Panmure will apply for the necessary sanction for the expenditure to the Treasury.

Lord Panmure begs to apologise to Your Majesty for so long a letter.


BALMORAL, September 11, 1856.

Transfer of German Legion to the Cape.

The Queen returns to Lord Panmure the papers on the arrangements made for the transfer of the German Legion to the Cape, 3 which she has read with the greatest interest and pleasure. Sir George Grey 4 is a most able public servant, and Major Grant seems to have clone his business remarkably well. This will be a very difficult and delicate matter well settled, in a manner useful to the Colony and Country, financially not improvident, fair and advantageous to the Germans, and honourable to us in the eyes of the Continent, to which we cannot attach too much importance. The great point to attend to will now be speed, and great care that the men should not only thoroughly understand the proposal, but also have entire confidence in its being fully carried out. For this purpose, as well as for that of command, during the first year, over an entirely strange force in our settlements, where their services may be required this very winter, the Queen thinks it absolutely necessary that their commanding officers, and particularly General Stutterheim, in whom they have entire confidence, should accompany them, at least for a time.


BALMORAL, September 12, 1856.

Army Staff.

The Queen has received Lord Panmure’s letter of the 9th. She quite feels the difficulty of the House of Commons with regard to the Staff of the Army, but thinks on the whole the different Governments more to blame than the House of Commons, for not explaining to them from conviction the necessity of these appointments. As long as it is a mere arbitrary matter to employ more or fewer of them, the House is quite right to ask for the fewest, but when a system can be shown which ought not to be broken into without destruction to the efficiency of the Army, it will pause before it interferes with it.

The Queen quite approves of the judicious proposal about the Ensigns. 5 She understands from Lord Panmure that the Organisation of the Land Transport and Hospital Corps is now to be transferred to the Horse Guards, and trusts that he will give directions to the Duke of Cambridge to proceed with it immediately, so that a scheme may be soon laid before the Queen.


BALMORAL, September 12, 1856.

As to sending Germans to the Cape.

I think that all your arrangements for the foreigners are promising, and although they will be costly, yet it is of great importance to get these people soon and well off our hands.

I have been reading with the Prince the report of Major Grant and the Memorandum of Sir G. Grey, etc., which are excellent, but it strikes us that one officer to 100 men is a small proportion; it would be enough for Colonists, but, as we mean to rely for a considerable time upon these Germans for the defence of the Colony against the Caffres along an extended frontier, surely it would be well to send out at first a larger number of officers, — the expense would not be materially increased, but the efficiency of the corps during the 3 or 4 first years might entirely depend upon it. The Prince also suggested that no provision seems to be made for Casualties in the class of officers, and one must expect them to begin immediately. Pray think of this, and let me have some answer for H.R.H. It would be a thousand pities to starve this admirable scheme upon a point which may be vital.

As to a ‘Reserve Class’ of Officers for the Cape.

It appears also that the Colony will not be indisposed to receive a Reserve Class of Officers, i.e., those not sent out by the Government in charge or command of the men, — and to give them land or employment, — if this is the case, I apprehend you would have no difficulty in complying with the suggestion by selecting officers really fit for duty, and who would not disappoint the Cape people. Such officers might perhaps supply vacancies in the Corps, but if you do not send out such officers how will you make good the casualties?

Shall you keep a list of officers discharged, and take their addresses in Germany, in order that you may call upon them when wanted? That would be better than a bare discharge, as it would give them hope, and I fear that the officers discharged will have but a sorry prospect before them, and they will be scattered about the towns of Germany, ill looked upon by their countrymen, and their distress will be attributed (most unjustly) to having been in the Queen’s service.


September 13, 1856.

Maintenance of Officers of a seventh troop in reduced cavalry regiments.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and has the honour to acknowledge Your Majesty’s note of yesterday’s date. Lord Panmure has communicated to Lord Palmerston Your Majesty’s suggestion as to the maintenance of the officers of a 7th Troop in each regiment of Cavalry. With every disposition to adopt Your Majesty’s views, the correctness of which they do not for a moment question, Lord Palmerston and Lord Panmure are of opinion that the maintenance of three supernumerary officers in each Cavalry regiment would make the proportion of men to officers so small as to be difficult of maintenance in Parliament.

Lord Panmure has pointed this out to H.R.H. The Duke of Cambridge, who, with regret it must be admitted, appears to be reconciled to the Establishment recommended to Your Majesty. Under these circumstances Lord Panmure craves Your Majesty’s sanction to this portion of the Peace Establishment, which is the only one in suspense.

Lord Panmure has had a long interview with the Duke of Cambridge this morning, and has informed H.R.H. that he will proceed to submit to Your Majesty the establishment of ‘The Military Train,’ and likewise that of the Medical Staff Corps.

Lord Panmure having placed matters in train regarding the disposal of the Foreign Legions, intends to return to Scotland to-morrow evening, and by the time Your Majesty receives this letter he will be at Invermark.


BALMORAL, September 18, 1856.

Reduction of Cavalry.

The Queen has to acknowledge the two letters which Lord Panmure wrote to her before leaving London, the one on the proposed Peace Establishment, the other on the case of General Cannon. 6

As to the first, the Queen now gives her sanction to the proposal about the Cavalry, to reduce it to six troops.

She does not quite make out whether the organisation of the Army Train has been confided to the General Commanding-in-Chief?

General Cannon’s case is most unpleasant, and the Duke of Newcastle’s memorandum certainly very precise, and not to be set aside; as the 4th paragraph, however, distinctly states: ‘such honorary rank to confer no privileges attaching to the British Army,’ the Queen feels perfectly justified in not allowing General Cannon to assume either the title or uniform of a British Lieutenant-General.


September 25, 1856.

Death of Lord Hardinge.

I have this moment received the account of the death of poor Lord Hardinge, which has shocked me extremely, and for which I was in no respect prepared, as I had heard that he was wonderfully improved in health. York writes me from London that he has just heard the account by telegraph, and that it was very sudden. I have written a line to the Queen, who will I fear be badly shocked when she hears of it. He was a very worthy good man, and I believe him to have been a wise, conscientious public servant.   .  .  .  I do not suppose that militarily this sad event will have any further consequences than the disposal of a Regiment. I also see by the paper that Sir Colin Halkett 7 is dead. I will write to you fully upon this subject in a day or two, as it involves some serious considerations and may lead to several Military changes, which must however be fairly and duly considered before any action is taken upon them.

German and Italian Legions.

Your letter of the 20th has reached me. I am glad you approve of my having softened down our little friend, the Baron Stutterheim, who I hope will now soon be off with all his followers, for we are very anxious to get rid of them and to see them well cleared out of Colchester, which we want entirely as a station, now that the winter is rapidly approaching, so pray lose no time about it, as also about the removal of the Italians, who are all in this part of the world doing nothing, and who would be better on the high seas to their places of future location. We will devise something about Cannon’s nomination in the Gazette, but it is no easy matter to dispose of this case satisfactorily.   .  .  . 



July 17, 1856.

When I received your note of the 13th, I was unable from indisposition to answer the kind sentiments you expressed towards me, and I begged Yorke to tell you I would delay doing so until I should be stronger. I have since read your speech in the House of Lords, in which you take an opportunity of expressing in the most gracious terms the good understanding which always subsisted between us, and your sense of my co-operation with you in times of great difficulty.

I can only respond most cordially to the sentiments of friendship you have thus publicly and privately expressed towards me. And it is only just that I should say that, at a time when the lines of demarcation between the offices of Secretary of State for War and Commander-in-Chief were not very accurately defined, you were always ready to place the most liberal construction on the duties of the Commander-in-Chief, in accordance with your opinions so clearly stated in your reply to Lord Derby early in the present session.

I have great satisfaction in the belief that, if your views then so ably expressed be adhered to by future Governments, the great constitutional principle which I know you have at heart, that the Queen should retain the command of the Army, will be maintained.

The broad outline of the relative duties of the Secretary for War and the Commander-in-Chief have been well marked out. There remain perhaps some minor points which will require more precise definition, among which may be the arrangements regarding Military Works which are the result of the incorporation of the great Ordnance Department partly with the War Department and partly with the Horse Guards. I am satisfied, however, that there will be no real difficulty, from the cordiality with which you will be able to work with my successor, and that the result of the new arrangements will, if carried out with the prudence with which they have been concerted at a moment of great pressure and public excitement instigated by the Press, redound to the stability of the just power of the Crown in Executive affairs.

I am very much better during the last 24 hours, and I beg to assure you that, if my restoration to health should be permitted, I shall be anxious at all times to render you every assistance of which you may think me capable, and which may tend to our common object, that of rendering the command of the Army as efficient as possible within the boundaries of Royal authority which you have so safely traced.


BELSHANGER, October 4, 1856.

Most gratefully, most sincerely would I acknowledge the consolation that in the midst of my affliction I have derived from the warm-hearted and friendly tribute you have paid to the public services and virtues of him over whose career, so long and unflinchingly devoted to the service of his country, the grave has now closed.

The expression of such sentiments from one with whom the latter part of his public life was so closely connected, and to whom such constant opportunities of forming a just estimate of his character were afforded, is for me and his family so much the more precious that I know how cordial was the understanding maintained between you, through times of great difficulty, and how high a value in his lifetime he attached to your friendship and good opinion. In the visitation, therefore, of this dreadful blow, the anguish of my own sorrow is soothed by the assurance that his untiring exertions in the administration of Military affairs, have been fully appreciated by one who laboured in common with himself for the public good, and that the loss I deplore as irreparable meets with the sympathy of all who mourn in him a private friend or a public servant.

I can only add my fervent prayer that your own health may not suffer from your arduous public duties, and that I shall ever entertain a grateful remembrance of the kind letter you have written.

Footnotes to Chapter 21

  1. Lord Howard de Walden, British Minister in Belgium.
  2. In connection with the settlement of the German Legion.
  3. Where they formed excellent settlers; they also rendered material assistance to Great Britain in the Indian Mutiny and Kaffir and Zulu Wars.
  4. Governor of the Cape.
  5. See Lord Panmure’s letter of September 9th.
  6. With whom the Duke of Newcastle had entered into an agreement on a question of military rank, which Newcastle’s successor found difficult to fulfil.
  7. General Sir Colin Halkett, G.C.B., Governor of Chelsea Hospital, had commanded a Brigade of the German Legion in the Peninsular War, and had served at Waterloo.
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