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The Panmure Papers, Vol II


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Chapter XXIII

November 1856

THE principal subjects dealt with in the correspondence for November are the reconstitution of the Cabinet Committee on military matters, especially defences; the Militia, the German Legion, and the Order of the Bath.

In announcing the reconstitution of the Committee, Panmure states that endeavours are to be made to repair, ‘without public scandal,’ the serious evil of the ‘general absence of all plans for the different works at home and abroad’ (November 4th); to which the Queen replies by laying down the principle that ‘there should exist a well-considered general scheme for each plan, supported by a detailed argument; this, when approved by the Government, should be sanctioned and signed by the Sovereign, and not deviated from except upon re-submission and full explanation of the causes which render such deviation necessary.’

In the same letter (November 7th), Her Majesty criticises the departmental returns in respect to barracks and fortifications, drawing from her correspondent the admission that ‘the more the old system in regard to our defences both at home and abroad is probed, the more difficult becomes the task of remedying past neglect, and adapting to works long in progress the very proper rule set forth.’

In commenting on the inadequacy of the Militia (November 25th), the Prince Consort states his belief that it will never be kept efficient unless it be made a little more military, and placed under permanent military inspection and supervision.

The trouble caused by the German Legion was not yet at an end, but by November 10th Panmure is able to report the embarkation of a thousand of its members, who are speedily to be followed by others. A liberal treatment of the officers is again urged by Lord Palmerston.


LORD PANMURE TO THE QUEEN

November 4, 1856.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty and has the honour to acquaint Your Majesty that the photographs taken by Corporal Mack of the Royal Engineers, while in attendance upon Lord Granville, 1 are now waiting Your Majesty’s pleasure, and Lord Panmure will despatch Corporal Mack to attend Your Majesty as soon as he learns the time which may be most convenient to Your Majesty. The photographs are intended as additions to Your Majesty’s collection.

Lord Panmure has the honour to forward a state of the British German Legion, and to inform Your Majesty that two ships will be ready to embark these troops on Thursday, and the remainder in the course of a few days.

Lord Panmure regrets that the favourable terms offered to the Germans have not induced more of them to go out to the Cape, but he fears that underhand means have been used to stem the tide of emigration in that direction, and that the men have been misled by designing people. In fact, various addresses have reached Lord Panmure’s hands, and on one of them he desired a legal opinion to be taken whether he cannot proceed against its author.

Lord Panmure transmits to Your Majesty the Quarterly Returns, which are later than he could wish.

Cabinet Committee upon Military defences about to be reconstituted.

The Committee of Cabinet upon Military matters, and more especially on defences, will be reconstituted next week, 2 as will also a Committee upon Coast defences.

The question of the general absence of all plans for the different works at home and abroad will occupy the early attention of the Committee of Cabinet, and means still further be adopted to repair this serious evil without public scandal.

Since writing the above Lord Panmure finds that he cannot do more than furnish a memorandum of the state of the German Legion, as the officer in charge is gone. The state shall be sent to-morrow. No time shall be lost in expediting the despatch of the ships with the military colonials, and Lord Panmure thinks that before the close of the year all our foreign auxiliaries will have been honourably disposed of.


THE QUEEN TO LORD PANMURE

WINDSOR CASTLE, November 7, 1856.

The Queen has received Lord Panmure’s two boxes of the 4th.

She is glad to hear that the Military and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet are to be reassembled. The absence of all plans for our Defences is a great evil and hardly creditable. There should exist a well considered general scheme for each plan, supported by a detailed argument; this, when approved by the Government, should be sanctioned and signed by the Sovereign, and not deviated from except upon resubmission and full explanation of the causes which render such deviation necessary; no special work should be undertaken which does not realise part of this general scheme. The Queen trusts that Lord Panmure will succeed in effecting this.

It is very much to be regretted that so few of the soldiers of the German Legion should have accepted the liberal terms of the Government. Those should, however, be made to sail soon.

Criticisms on departmental returns, etc.

The returns of the different departments for the last quarter show a lamentable deficiency in small arms — 52,322 for the whole of the United Kingdom is a sadly small reserve to have in store; we should never be short of 500,000.

The Queen was struck also with the little work done at Enfield. It appears that, during the whole quarter, this new and extensive establishment has completed only three muskets.

With regard to some of the Barracks, the tenders have not even yet been accepted, although the year is nearly drawing to a close. The Queen hopes soon to receive the returns for the Fortification Department, which are fully two months in arrear.

The photographs from Moscow will interest the Queen very much. She will be ready to receive them any day about two o’clock, if Lord Panmure will despatch the Corporal who made them with them.

Distribution of honours.

With respect to the lists for the Bath, the Queen is somewhat startled by the large number. Before sanctioning it, she thinks it right to ask for an explanation of the services of the officers, and the reasons for which they are selected for the honour. She returns the list for that purpose to Lord Panmure, who will perhaps cause the statement to be attached to each name. This of course does not apply to the Foreigners. Amongst the Sardinians, however, the Queen observes the absence of the names of the Military Commissioners attached first to Lord Raglan and afterwards to General Simpson.   .  .  . 


PRINCE ALBERT TO LORD PANMURE

November 10, 1856.

Restoration of the Tower.

I have received your letter respecting the Tower. The Queen had ordered last year exactly what you intend to do with regard to the Fortifications, viz. — that Mr. Salvin be directed to prepare a general plan for the future restoration of the Tower of London; this is not yet completed, but the rooms you wish to appropriate as an Armoury certainly belong to those to be first taken in hand. Mr. Salvin tells me that your object may, with great advantage, be united with the Queen’s intentions, and it will now only remain for you to put somebody from your department into communication with him, to consult how this may be best carried out.   .  .  . 


LORD PANMURE TO THE QUEEN

November 10, 1856.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and has the honour to acknowledge Your Majesty’s letter of yesterday.

In obedience to Your Majesty’s commands, Lord Panmure forwards a statement of the grounds on which His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief recommends each of the officers in the lists for honours at Your Majesty’s hands.

Embarkation of 1000 of British German Legion.

Lord Panmure has the satisfaction to acquaint Your Majesty that 1000 of the British German Legion embarked yesterday afternoon, in good order, on board the Culloden and Sultana transports, which went out immediately to Spithead. About 800 men will be disposed of to Germany and Nova Scotia during the week, and in a few days the remaining settlers will sail.

The report of progress on the home fortifications will be forwarded to Your Majesty immediately. The more the old system in regard to our defences both at home and abroad is probed, the more difficult becomes the task of remedying past neglect, and adapting to works long in progress the very proper rule set forth by Your Majesty. Lord Panmure will make every effort to get things in this respect into the proper channel.

With regard to any new works, they shall be started upon the right system.


LORD PANMURE TO THE QUEEN

November 11, 1856.

As to eligibility of Sardinian Military Commissioners for Companionship of the Bath.

Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and has the honour to acquaint Your Majesty that he finds that the names of Count Litta and Count Revel, Commissioners to the Head-quarters of the British Army, were in the list of Sardinian officers transmitted from Lord Clarendon for the companionship of the Bath. The rank of these officers was only that of Captain in the Sardinian service, and, as no officer of that rank in Your Majesty’s service is permitted to receive the Bath, except under some most extraordinary circumstances, Lord Panmure felt that, if he recommended to Your Majesty to confer on these Foreign officers an honour well earned by many Captains in Your Majesty’s Army, but withheld on account of their rank, a grievance would be established which could scarcely be defended.

These are the grounds on which neither Count Litta’s nor Count Revel’s names appear in the list submitted by Lord Panmure to Your Majesty.


PRINCE ALBERT TO LORD PANMURE

November 25, 1856.

I return you my best thanks for the papers which you have sent me the day before yesterday.

I hope you will urge the Admiralty to furnish their part of the answers to the questions.

The Militia gives us a very small available force for the expenditure and trouble it costs. 50,000 men out of 120,000 which the law provides for is a very poor proportion, and I am glad that you mean to appeal to the counties by a circular.

My belief is that it will never be kept efficient unless it be made a little more military, and placed under permanent military inspection and supervision. It has been allowed too much to rest on the voluntary principle, which it is impossible to rely upon. Taking out of the force of your grand total 60,000 men for Ireland would leave but 91,000 men of all arms for the defence of Great Britain, which, scattered as it must be, would hardly be capable of resisting an invading force of 50,000 men, picked troops! This will become very clear to you when you begin to consider the plan of defence. You will remember that in the Crimea also, when gross numbers were counted, there appeared to be sufficient force to undertake almost anything, but when a specific plan was to be executed, both Armies, French and English, never had the men required for it.

Your store of powder seems admirable. That of muskets is still low, but better than the quarterly return showed.

The Queen still claims the quarterly return of the Fortification Department, which is sadly in arrear.

I had some conversation with Colonel Owen the other day, whose opinion on the reorganisation of the Engineers’ Department and the Fortifications appeared to me extremely sound. I suppose you have that whole question under your consideration. It is a most important one.


LORD PALMERSTON TO LORD PANMURE

PY., November 30, 1856.

Miss Nightingale and Netley Hospital.

I hope your gout is better. Miss Nightingale has, I understand, been in communication with you about the proposed arrangements of the Hospital on the Southampton River; if her suggestions are good, it will be worth while to alter our intended arrangement of the building rather than have an imperfect Hospital. 3 Nothing-was said to me at Windsor yesterday about Army matters.


Footnotes to Chapter 23


  1. As representative of Great Britain at the Coronation of the Czar.
  2. An anticipation of Mr Balfour’s scheme.
  3. Miss Nightingale’s view was in favour of the ‘Block System’ in hospital building. This was not adopted at Netley.
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