NAVAL DISCIPLINE IN 1906

 

A big read but only if you read the fascinating NAVAL DISCIPLINE ACT of the time which I have added half way down the page!

 

HMS GANGES HAS ALWAYS HAD A RING OF STORIES SURROUNDING  IT WHICH EMANATE FROM
MYTH, MAINLY, AND THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH TALES OF HORROR, OF CRUEL
PUNISHMENTS AND DEPRIVATIONS. MIXED IN WITH THESE STORIES ARE FABLES
OF SUPER HUMAN BEINGS PERFORMING ACTS, WHICH TRANSCEND ALL
COMPARABLE ACTS, BELIEVED BY THE GULLIBLE WITHOUT QUESTION.
CURRENTLY, 'BANDED AROUND THE BAZAAR' [THE GANGES ASSOCIATION FORUM],
IS AN ARTICLE SUGGESTING THAT SOME OF THE BOYS PERFORMED CIRCUS
TRICKS ON THE ACTUAL BUTTON AND THAT A PHYSICAL TRAINING INSTRUCTOR [PTI]
WAS KNOWN TO HAVE FALLEN OFF THE TOP, CRASHING THROUGH THE
POST OFFICE ROOF JUST BEFORE HE RETURNED TO
 THE GYMNASIUM TO CARRYING OUT HIS TRAINING DUTIES.

FOR MYSELF, I AM EITHER AMBIVALENT, INDIFFERENT OR AN
ABSOLUTE DOUBTER [KIND OF MIXED UP ONE MIGHT SAY]
AND THINK OF GANGES RATHER LIKE
 A WW2 JEW MIGHT THINK
ABOUT A CONCENTRATION CAMP.  I AM NOT SUGGESTING A COMPARISON,
MERELY POINTING OUT THAT BOTH THE JEW AND I HAVE A 'NUMBER'
AND THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT I DO NOT HAVE MINE TATTOOED
ON MY ARM.  HOWEVER, LIKE THE JEW, IT WAS PROFOUNDLY,
AND FOR ALL MY REMAINING YEARS AFTER THE EXPERIENCE, "SCRATCHED" ON MY HEART,
AND MY SOUL, AND IT IS NEVER FAR AWAY FROM MY THINKING.

THIS IS DESPITE THAT I LEFT GANGES FIFTY FOUR YEARS AGO, SERVED FOR THIRTY YEARS IN THE NAVY, HAD A SUCCESSFUL TWENTY TWO YEAR CAREER AS A LONDON BUSINESSMAN WITH MY OWN LIMITED COMPANY, AND HAVE BEEN FULLY RETIRED FOUR YEARS.  THAT IS THE MEASURE OF THE GANGES EXPERIENCE !

I am not necessarily proud of being a Ganges boy whereas I am proud of being a submariner and thereafter, post submarine time, proud of my time in general service: I am just grateful that like the Jew in my analogy, I survived to tell the tale.

Ganges afloat or ashore, could be a cruel place, and I start my story with this story, dating from the time when Ganges was afloat, in this case in Falmouth Cornwall.

A question was raised in the Houses of Parliament by an MP Called Finigan on the 8th August 1879.

NAVY—TRAINING SHIPS—CASE OF MICHAEL REARDON.—QUESTIONS.

Mr James Finigan

Commons — August 8, 1879

........and why he jumped overboard from Her Majesty's ship 'Ganges,' and was drowned. Reardon was a fine young fellow, over 5ft. 6in. in height. At the time of his committing the rash act he was under arrest for desertion.

The story [from the House] continues..........

NAVY—TRAINING SHIPS—CASE OF MICHAEL REARDON.—QUESTIONS.

HC Deb 08 August 1879

MR. FINIGAN

Asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, whether he has seen a statement in the "Daily Chronicle" of the 7th inst. to the following effect:— Early yesterday morning an Irish lad, named Michael Reardon, jumped overboard from Her Majesty's ship 'Ganges,' and was drowned. Reardon was a fine young fellow, over 5ft. 6in. in height. At the time of his committing the rash act he was under arrest for desertion, he having ran away on Sunday, and been captured on Tuesday, and taken back to the 'Ganges.' It is stated that, having previously deserted, he feared he would be punished by flogging, and expressed to a companion his determination to drown himself rather than submit to the degradation; and, whether he will consider the propriety of limiting the punishment of flogging in the Navy to the same class of offences to which it has been recently limited in the Army?

MR. BLAKE

Asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, if it is true that an Irish boy named Michael Reardon a few days ago, deserted from a training ship at Falmouth; that he was captured, brought back to the ship, and placed under arrest, but managed to elude the sentry yesterday morning, and, leaping overboard, drowned himself; if it be true that he said a day or two ago to a shipmate that, rather than suffer the punishment of flogging, he would drown himself, and has now done so; if he can state the number of desertions from training ships during the last three years, and also the number of boys who have been flogged during the same period with the birch, cane, or otherwise; and, if it be true that the boys are tied up while undergoing such punishment?

MR. W. H. SMITH

I only received information of the circumstances to which the Question of the hon. Gentlemen refer by the Notices they placed on the Paper. I have no information whatever on, the subject, and therefore am not in a position to answer the Question of either hon. Gentleman.

MR. BLAKE

Asked if the right hon. Gentleman would state the number of desertions from training ships during the last three years, and the number of boys who had been flogged during the same period?

MR. W. H. SMITH

I should be extremely glad to give the information to the hon. Member; but it is only about two hours ago since I saw the Notice, and I am sorry to say I cannot give him any information on the subject at present.

However, the last speaker above, the founder of the high street store W H SMITH and the caricature as the Ruler of the Queens Naveee in Gilbert and Sullivans HMS Pinafore, went away and got the information and on the 11th of August returned to the House to impart it.  Reardon's body was never found [no death certificate was ever issued in the next few years] and it was known that he was a strong swimmer. He jumped ship [into the sea] at approximately 0345 on the morning he was to be birched as a second offence to running away and was never seen again.  The officers of the Ganges and those in authority ashore firmly believed that he had safely made the shore after a short swim and from there he had made his escape inland to freedom. See this file Death of Boy Reardon HMS Ganges

Two points here:

1.   I note on the HMS Ganges Association website - History - Falmouth [Mylor] period - Boys deaths, that there is an obvious disappointment at not being able to resolve the deaths of boys in the ship. In the UK, before the date of 1874, death certificates and the due processes of death were not required by law and by and large, doctors [or quacks] differed in their handling of the deceased. Moreover, it very much depended upon where one died as to the doctors "bedside manner" and whether one would receive a dignified burial or not.  In 1874, a law was passed demanding a death certificate for all deceased [including suicides] which had to be signed by a qualified medical doctor or a pathologist in the case of post mortems. However, like all laws, the new requirements took time to be understood, and country doctors practising on their own took longer than did city doctors to adhere. It is also a fact that death, as in life too, was a social affair, and those who died in poverty, in the work-house, and yes, even humble naval boys in training ships, were not despatched with 'a red carpet rolled out'. Many of these boys were orphans so who would really care ? The combination of low-class status of the Ganges boys and the relatively poor quality of the country doctor led to some boys being properly documented and others not. I would go further and say that boys with parents or loving guardians were properly documented.  Of those boys names listed in the Ganges website story, William SPOONER, dying in 1871 [well before the watershed] has a death certificate {5c.119 Falmouth}, but William TERRY and Thomas LOBB [respectively, 1870 and 1891] do not have certificates. Before I leave this paragraph, I was quite surprised to see 'naval people ? ' state that the Napoleonic Wars dated from 1803-1815. Surely, all good navy men know that the very first sea battle of those wars was the Glorious First of June which is still celebrated to this very day.  That took place in 1794, eleven years before Trafalgar and Nelsons death. On a lesser point, there is a typo when the date of arrival in Devonport should be 1865 and not as printed 1885.

 

2..    By showing you this, it is not my intention to draw any parallels with what happened in the last quarter of the 19th century and [in my case] the early 1950's the middle of the 20th century, when of course Dickensian punishment had long been banished.  However, the following paper, also from the House of Commons, marks a clear divide in the humility of punishment, if that in itself is not a paradox ? When necessary, I have underlined the parts I want as a direct comparison in the administration of physical punishment then and in the 40's through to the 70's. Particularly, I want you to know or recall if you yourself remember, the almost dignified mannerisms which boys of our time were given cuts, harsh though the experience must have been and far from dignified to them personally. You will note on this page, that all boys witnessed the punishment whereas it was conducted in private in my time. That it was on the bare buttocks and not on clothed buttocks. That the number of strokes was routinely far in excess of what was administered in our day, but, that the doctor was in attendance to oversee the general medical condition of the boy, unlike in our time, staying with his 'charge' until he more or less recuperated.

HANSARD

 21 February 1906

MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)

Said that when the House adjourned the previous night, he was giving an instance of the ferocity of the penal code in our services less than a century ago, in the case of a court-martial held on one Private John Cann, of the 95th Regiment (Rifle Brigade), at Paris, during its occupation by the victorious Allied Armies after the Waterloo campaign. The charge was framed — Of highly mutinous conduct, in drawing his rifle and threatening to shoot anyone who should attempt to take him into custody. And the opinion and sentence was that, the charge being proved, the court doth sentence the prisoner to receive a punishment of 1,000 lashes—which sentence His Grace the Commander-in-Chief has been graciously pleased to approve and confirm. In these days we stood aghast at such a sentence, still more so when we heard that the victim was to receive 500 lashes, and then be taken down more dead than alive; to be cured in hospital, and then brought out to receive the remainder of the 500 lashes ! By successive stops and stages this ferocity had been mitigated, until flogging had practically ceased altogether in the Army, save only in military prisons, from which also he hoped to see it removed by this Parliament, and from the Navy, except to the extent to which his hon. friend had called attention. Now it was to be noted that every one of these steps had been vehemently opposed by the authorities as likely to be fatal to discipline, and ruinous to the service, and yet in every case they had proved to be fully justified and beneficial. One argument he would meet in advance. If they abolished the flogging of boys in the Navy they would be making one law for the poor and another for the rich—not in the sense in which it was usually quoted—but to the advantage of the poor. Eton and Harrow boys were flogged without being any the worse, and no one complained. He was not prepared to defend flogging in any shape, and if the two systems were alike or even comparable perhaps this Amendment might not have been moved. But whoever heard of an Eton or Harrow boy having to be watched by a doctor for hours after punishment for fear of bodily or mental consequences; or was it credible that the 2 punishment of a comrade which was such as to induce his friend to attack the inflicter of it, regardless of consequences to  himself, could have been anything short of maddening to the spectator? In his opinion, that boy was morally more deserving of honour and decoration than of twenty-four strokes and three months' imprisonment. He was made of the stuff from which heroic deeds spring, and might have done honour to his country in peace or war; whereas he would now probably leave the service at the earliest possible moment, bearing in his heart feelings of burning wrong and resentment. This was a new House, a new feeling pervaded it, and they confidently looked for a sympathetic answer from the Secretary to the Admiralty, which would justify his hon. friend in asking the House for leave to withdraw his Amendment, in which he should heartily concur.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that, whereas the punishment of flogging has been abolished, with the happiest results, for upwards of a quarter of a century in Your Majesty's Army, men in Your Majesty's Navy are liable, under the provisions of the Naval Discipline Act, to floggings of twenty-five strokes of a cat-o'-nine-tails, which is a necessary equipment of every one of Your Majesty's ships, while boys and youths in Your Majesty's Navy, under eighteen years of age, are, by Your Majesty's Naval Regulations, for trivial offences, triable, not merely by courts-martial, but summarily liable to floggings "over the bare breech" of twenty-four lashes with birches 9 oz. in weight and steeped in brine, and to twelve strokes of a cane, such birchings and canings, which must be inflicted by the ship's police, in accordance with the Naval Regulations, "in the presence of all the boys" on board ship, being of frequent occurrence; and we further humbly represent that the retention of the system of flogging in Your Majesty's Navy is neither essential to the preservation of discipline, nor consonant with public opinion, and that the abolition by legislation of flogging in the Navy is urgently needed.'"—(Mr. Swift MacNeill.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. EDMUND ROBERTSON,) Dundee

Deprecated bringing this matter forward as an Amendment to the Address, digesting that a better opportunity of discussing it would have offered on the Navy Estimates. He would now, however, make the statement he had intended to make then, and he hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn after the hon. Member for Donegal had heard the sympathetic reply which he was in a position to make on behalf of the Admiralty. The question was, as a matter of fact, dealt with by the. Admiralty on January 30th last, a date implying an intelligent anticipation of events, in a circular addressed to the officers commanding squadrons, stations, and fleets. The circular, which was headed "Summary Punishments—Birching and Caning," ran as follows— My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, having had under their consideration the regulations governing the summary punishment of boys in the Royal Navy, have decided that the award of Punishment No. 20 Birching, as prescribed in Article 759 of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions (Article 789 in the revised edition) shall be suspended, both for Boys and Youths under training, and for those serving afloat until further orders. At the expiration of twelve months a confidential report is to be forwarded by you as to the disciplinary effect of this order on the station under your command. My Lords further direct that punishment No. 21 Caning shall be inflicted only under the actual order of the captain of the ship, and that the regulations respecting the delegation of punishments to the executive officer shall be regarded as modified in this respect. The above decisions of Their Lordships are to be communicated by you confidentially to the commanding officers of His Majesty's ships and establishments under your command. He hoped that his hon. friends would find his answer a sufficient justification for the withdrawal of the Amendment.

MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

Said he desired to express his thankfulness for the announcement they had just heard from the Secretary to the Admiralty. The constituency he represented would read it with great satisfaction, because there had, during the election been great dissatisfaction expressed; on this question, and he was sure that all would be delighted at the prospect of the discontinuance of these practices.

CAPTAIN HERVEY (Bury St. Edmunds)

Who claimed indulgence as a new Member, remarked that he had some right to speak on this subject as he was the only naval officer on the Active List who had been returned to the present Parliament. This was entirely a naval question. Since he became a naval cadet in 1877, he had had personal knowledge of only two cases of birching in the Navy. The first was so long ago that he had forgotten the circumstances attending it, and the second one was the case of a boy  who was birched for gross immorality. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment had mentioned the cat. He knew that there was a cat on board every ship, but that cat was there simply for a pattern of what a cat should be. It was there, not for use at all in time of peace, but as a pattern in case of a direct mutiny in time of war. It was kept solely for such contingencies, which they hoped might never occur. He had heard with great pain the manner in which the mover of the Amendment stated the birch was applied. The hon. Member had represented it to be a most awful instrument of torture, whereas the naval birch was lighter and shorter than the birch used ashore. It was only applied in very gross cases, and in his experience, extending from 1877, had known it to be used on only two occasions. Only that day he was talking the matter over with a naval officer of two years' longer standing than himself and he said he had never seen a birching. The naval birch never had been pickled in-brine. He was informed that morning, however, by a gentleman who had been himself treated with a birch pickled in brine that he suffered no ill effects; in fact it did him a great deal of good. He had seen his birch-rod picked from the hedge and watched the process of its manufacture up to the time when it was applied to his back. That gentleman now occupied a good position. The House of Commons could well leave this question of birching to the naval authorities, and not act in a grandmotherly way towards men who had spent their lives in the profession—the noblest in the world—by telling them whether they should cane a little boy or not. This was not, as the Member for Donegal alleged, a question of rich versus poor. Cadets in the Britannia were caned just the same as the boys in a training ship. [Cries of "Shame."] No, it was not a shame. It was a good thing for them. He could bring cases into the House, if hon. Members cared to see them, where he knew the boys actually benefited.

MR. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)

Did you ever get any yourself?

CAPTAIN HERVEY

Was not sure that he did not. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why he became a captain in  the Navy at an earlier age than almost any one else; and perhaps that was also a reason why he was elected Member for Bury St. Edmunds. The hon. and gallant Gentleman proceeded to protest against the tone in which Mr. MacNeill spoke of officers who had been obliged to order this punishment in the Navy. These officers had been held up to the House as blood-thirsty ruffians who had stood by watching punishment which no humane, decent person would ever allow to be inflicted. It was not right that it should go forth to the world that our naval officers went back to pro-historic days when torture was rife. There was no torture in the matter at all. Naval officers did not mind pain and punishment as a deterrent, but they did not desire punishment to be made a form of terror. He was exceedingly sorry to hear that the hon. Member for South Donegal sent down to Suffolk a number of cartoons representing floggings of boys so as to keep out of that House a gentleman who was doing his best to obtain the answer just made by the present Secretary to the Admiralty. Just before the election a report was circulated to the effect that a boy had been flogged to death on the training ship stationed off Shotley, whereas the fact was that boy died of consumption and had had no punishment of any kind registered against him. The House should have an apology from the hon. Member for circulating such reports. Naval matters in his opinion should not be made Party matters. He apologised for intervening in the debate, but hoped the words of one who had seen what went on in the Navy would be of some use.

MR. LEA (S. Pancras, E.)

Also asked for a patient hearing as he was a new Member of the House. The hon. Member for South Donegal, had, he said, done good service in exposing this blot on the Admiralty rules and regulations, which allowed caning and birching. He was, he believed, the only Member of this House who had served five years as a soldier in the ranks, and he doubted if there was any Member who knew what it was to be in the stokehold or lower deck of a man of war. It was all very well for the hon. Member who had just spoken, to take his views from the wardroom or the officers' mess. He himself had many and varied opportunities of ascertaining them, while he was in the service, and since, and  he would assert that a British officer, either in the Army or the Navy, knew absolutely nothing of the atmosphere of the barrack room or lower deck.

 

Here I split the story of officer versus man to tell you that the [Captain] HERVEY family, a family of some naval renown, owned ICKWORTH HOUSE near Bury St Edmunds before it was taken over by the National Trust and that my dear wife is a National Trust Room Steward at the House today. The family are not best known for their morals or their propriety and are hardly a model to follow ! Despite anecdotal references to him being "a good MP", the 19th century Hervey's were all 'tarred with the same brush' and as a naval officer, a ratings welfare would be absolutely no concern of his.  Indeed, the rating had five continuous and on-going enemies to fight literally and metaphorically. These were the enemies of the State; the sea; service conditions per se; officers [wardroom] and the ships corporals, the forerunners of the Regulating Branch.  Of these latter two types of enemies, I am not sure which would have been most despised by the lower deck.

Therefore he hoped that hon. Members on both sides of the House would accept with a certain amount of discount the opinions expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds. Whatever the views of civilians might be with regard to the late Mr. Parnell, there was only one opinion of that great man in the barrack room. His mind wont back to the year 1887, when he joined a famous regiment at Shorncliffe as a private soldier, and he had not been in the barrack room long before he learnt—as every recruit learned—of the flogging, which went on in the old days, and of the debt of gratitude every British soldier owed to the once leader of a great historic Party for wiping out that hideous stain upon our Army. If hon. Members doubted that, let them go out into the street and ask the first old soldier they met—the first old commissionaire—if his memory carried him back to the day when the triangle was erected in the barrack square. The sight once seen could never be forgotten, and the old soldier would be able to describe some of the horrors which took place in those days. Yet the same sort of thing was still going on, not in the barrack square, it was true, but on the quarter-deck of His Majesty's ships. He approached this question in no Party spirit whatever, but he took absolute exception to the argument of the hon. Member who had just sat down when he declined to believe that this was a question of class. He was prepared to corroborate what the hon. Member for South Donegal had said. As regarded the naval and land forces, there were only two classes, the working class from which the rank and file were drawn, and the upper class from which the officers were drawn. It ought not to be forgotten that those men and boys in the Navy were voiceless upon this question, for they were not allowed to make their grievances public. It was useless to say that if they had any cause for complaint they could go to their orderly room, because that was a farce. If hon. Members had any doubt as to whether flogging ought to be abolished he would suggest an easy solution. Let hon. Members and the officials of the Admiralty the next time they had a case of flogging, save it up at Chatham, Devonport, or Portsmouth, and let all those who had any doubt go down and witness it. That would soon convert them. On what ground was the retention of flogging and birching defended? It was said that it was necessary to maintain discipline. That he did not believe, because it was urged in the old days when the late Mr. Parnell did his best to get it abolished in the Army. He had yet to learn that discipline in the Army was in a worse state than it was twenty-five or thirty years ago. There were men in the Navy who absolutely abhorred this kind of thing, and even Captain Marryat wrote in favour of its abolition almost 100 years ago. What were the crimes for which flogging was considered necessary? If they were so serious as to deserve flogging, then those men who had committed them once and undergone a fitting punishment were no longer worthy to wear His Majesty's uniform either as boys or men, and they should be treated as criminals and turned out of the service to which they were no longer worthy to belong. Soldiers and sailors realised that there was a certain amount of dignity attached to the uniform they wore, and they hated flogging for they did not like a sword of Damocles always hanging over their heads. It was a great mistake to suppose that the men in the Navy had not a lively sense of what was going on, and in their hearts they thanked the hon. Member for South Donegal for the great trouble he had taken in the matter. They had heard a lot about cruelties on the Rand, but he had yet to learn that they could treat their own flesh and blood in this way with impunity, because these men sprang from the working classes in towns and villages. Times had changed, and men had changed with them. A great majority had been sent here to support their honoured Prime Minister in the hope that social grievances were to be redressed, and great reforms to be carried through, and tie ventured to suggest that one of the happiest preludes to those reforms would be the abolition of a form of punishment which was a disgrace to our ideas of humanity.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

There is an old proverb which says that it is unnecessary to push an open door, yet it is in some such process  that I think we are now engaged. I do not regret that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has paid no attention to that proverb, because the result is that he has, at any rate, made a very interesting speech. At the same time, I would point out that his speech is directed to a state of things which is rather of the past. Taking the particular state of things with which we are now dealing, it certainly is different from that with which we dealt at the time when flogging in the Army was abolished; and I would desire that in the present state of things we should endeavour to avoid all exaggeration, especially that kind of exaggeration which must give great pain to a noble profession. I think great credit is due to the hon. Member for South Donegal for raising this question, and I sympathise with him in so doing. Although the hon. Gentleman began by saying that this was in no sense apolitical question, I am afraid he has not always treated it as though it were non-political. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has been, as enthusiasts are apt to be, a little too much inclined to take for gospel all the stories of grievance which come to anyone who undertakes to deal with a matter of this kind. I am sure we are all agreed that the officers of the British Navy, speaking of them as a class, would naturally and rightly resent the imputation of cruelty or of the infliction of pain for the sake of inflicting pain. I think we shall all be inclined to agree with the statement that the infliction of this punishment has been comparatively rare. But, having said that, I congratulate the Secretary to the Admiralty upon the decision which has been arrived at. I understand from what has fallen from my hon. and gallant friend that Mr. Pretyman, the late Secretary to the Admiralty, was engaged in bringing the matter before his naval colleagues when the change of Government took place, and the result accordingly would have been the same. I think the House might accept the decision in the form in which it has been presented. The practice of birching has been suspended for twelve months, and I hope and believe it will never be re-established. At the time when Mr. Parnell raised this question on the Army Discipline Act, I was one of the very few Members who heartily supported him. For, in the first instance, many persons who sympathised with Mr. Parnell's action in the matter were deterred from I supporting him owing to his policy of obstruction. In regard to flogging I have personally always taken the strongest possible line. It is a punishment which I hate and detest in all its forms and upon almost every conceivable occasion. The only exception I would make is in the case of certain offences against women and children. Then I am ready that the offenders should be flogged as brutes. I hate the flogging of boys at public schools; and although I have had boys of my own at public schools, I always took care that in no conceivable circumstances should they be subjected to this humiliation, and I venture to say that they have not proved in after-life any the worse on that account.? In the case where flogging is applied as a punishment in connection with the Service, or in similar ways, I am perfectly ready to admit that the great majority of people who are entrusted with this power do not abuse it; but there always will be men who do abuse it, and it is to prevent the abuse which is possible that we must direct our legislation. I had a great deal to do with this question when I was Secretary of State for the Colonies. Let the House know that wherever we have to deal with coloured populations the punishment of flogging is in existence. I was not able to prevent it; but I did take steps, as is well known, to limit and reduce it, and to prevent its extension. I found confirmation of my prejudice against this method of punishment in the facts which I obtained. I required Returns to be made which had never been made before as to the amount and state of flogging in the Colonies, and I found that in the same colony two magistrates acting almost side by side would make a totally different Return. One magistrate would administer a large district without ever applying this punishment, while in the next district another magistrate would consider it a common necessity. That points to the difficulty that you cannot depend on your instruments. Another difficulty is the extreme inequality of the punishment, the nature of which depends on the way in which it is executed. Executed by a particular officer it may, owing to his strength or his character, become much more severe than it would be if a more humane or weaker person were entrusted with it. Again, one man would order the maximum of lashes, while another would think that justice was satisfied by a very much smaller number. I apologise to the House for what is perhaps too personal. I thoroughly sympathise at all events with the object of the hon. Member for South Donegal, and wish to say how glad I am to find that the Admiralty, without any fear of injuring discipline in the Navy under their charge, are able to consent to this experimental suspension, being absolutely convinced, as I am, that once suspended it will not be re-imposed.

MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)

Asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the new order would have the effect of putting down public flogging. He gathered that under the old rule a boy was not only caned, when subjected to punishment, but that the other boys were compelled to witness the punishment.

MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON

Said there was nothing in the circular dealing with that matter. He suggested that the hon. Member should give notice of a Question on the subject.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Said he would suggest to the hon. Member for South Donegal that he should withdraw the Amendment. He had not got all that he asked for, but he had made a step in the direction of the complete abolition of flogging. He expressed gratification that the part which Mr. Parnell played in the abolition of flogging in the Army was still gratefully remembered by British soldiers. He remembered how when his hon. friend first raised the question he was almost howled down. There would always be on the part of the Irish Party a desire to support the cause of common humanity in any part of the world. He felt that they had a very proud record in this House in that respect. His hon. friend who initiated this most interesting debate pointed out that they were supported by Mr. Wilberforce when an Irishman first introduced the proposal for the abolition of slavery. The legislation for the protection of animals from cruelty was proposed by an Irishman, and the measure dealing with that matter was known as Martin's Act. It was an Irishman who abolished the flogging of  soldiers, and it was now an Irishman who had abolished the flogging of sailors. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who opposed the Amendment spoke about the honour of the British Navy, and they listened to him with a certain amount of sympathy. But the same kind of language, almost the same words, were heard twenty-six years ago when it was proposed to abolish flogging in the Army. It was said that it was impossible to attribute these cruelties to British officers, but the fact remained that the system was bad. There was no getting over the fact that where they had a cruel and bad system human nature was so weak that men would be brutalised by the system. He thought that the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham would sink deep into the mind of the House, for he had pointed out by a peculiarly strong illustration the evils of the system. The right hon. Gentleman had made inquiry into the working of the system in the Colonies, and found that in the case of magistrates working side by side, one man could preserve order without the punishment of flogging while the other sometimes imposed it. The House was now practically unanimous on this question, and he congratulated his hon. friend the Member for South Donegal on the change which had been brought about on this subject.

THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stilling Burghs

I wish to take the opportunity of associating myself with what has been said, as to what we owe to my hon. friend the Member for South Donegal. I well remember the opposition which my hon friend encountered when he first brought this matter forward, and also the courage and pertinacity he showed in insisting upon his views being fully expressed, a pertinacity and courage which have ended in his success to-day. I think, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that we have all been pushing an open door, because the statement made by my hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty shows that among the Board of Admiralty itself, as well as among the present political members of that Board, the case has been fully recognised that the discipline of the Navy ought to be maintainable, and could be maintained, without  resort to these degrading practices, which are really a relic of older and worse days. I think we cannot select one to whom praise is more distinctly due than the hon. Member for South Donegal.

MR. SWIFT MACNEILL

Expressed his grateful acknowledgments to the Prime Minister and to the House, and asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Because of this legislation, the navy were brought into line with the army, namely, that sailors were no longer harshly treated.  RNTE Shotley opened its doors exercising a strict regime, but with much moderated corporal punishments.  With one or two exceptions only, and most of those are shown here on my website, boys who erred were punished accordingly but no more so than were erring children outside the Service, and other, more suitable punishments were awarded for lesser crimes.

The cruelties of the Dickensian Age had at last been abolished ! OR WAS IT ?

Look you here at this

HC Deb 18 March 1913 vol 50 cc841-2
. Sir WILLIAM BYLES

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state what was the approximate number of canings inflicted on boys in the Royal Navy in the years 1910 and 1911, respectively, as compared with the 1,500 stated by him to have been the approximate number in 1909; and whether the new regulation, limiting the award of this punishment to offences of a grave character, will apply also to the naval training establishments at Shotley and elsewhere?

Mr.  Winston CHURCHILL

I am informed that the total number of canings awarded to boys of the Royal Navy in the years 1910 and 1911 is not available, and that to obtain even approximate figures would involve the examination of over 2,000 quarterly punishment returns that are rendered from the fleet. With regard to the last part of the question, the regulation limiting the award of caning to certain serious offences, are applicable to all ships and naval establishments.

Sir W. BYLES

Seeing that the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman was able to obtain the approximate number, is not the House of Commons entitled to know the extent of these punishments in the Royal Navy?

Take care and Yours aye.