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THE DEFENCE REPORT., Issue 10470, 13 November 1897, Supplement
THE DEFENCE REPORT.
CRITICISED BY LTEUTENANT-COM-MANDING ALLEN. THE VOLUNTEER FORCE DISCOURAGED. [From Our Parliamentary Reporter ] WELLINGTON, November 13. As Mr J. Allen is one of the few members of the House who have practical experience of volunteer matters, and is so entitled to expresß opinions worthy of careful consideration upon the recent report and recommendations of tbe Commandant of the Forces on the defenoes of the colony, I- yesterday sought an interview on the subject with the member for Bruce, who, as is generally k lown, occupies the rank of Lieutenantcommanding the Dunedin Naval Artillery. Mr Allen said that he regarded the recommendations of the commandment as good in thi3 respeo: that they provided for a better commissariat and better medical appliances, neither of which had hitherto been existent. So far as he could, judge, the report was an encouraging one to the Permanent Artillery, but not very encouraging to tho volunteers. It seemed to him all going in the direction of encouraging the permanent force at the expense of the volunteers. Taking the Naval Artillery, for instance, they were put in an entirely subordinate position to that which they had held for years' past. They were now, in case of contingency, supposed to be an effective force, and to work with the Permanent Artillery. What Colonel Ponton proposed was to man the whole of the batteries with the permanent men, which would mean a large increase of cxpenfe to the colony. He appeared to consider the services of the Naval Artillery of very little value, and had put them in a subordinate position. Colonel Penton intended to reorganise the mounted corps, but would, he (Mr Allen) thought, get into d.fficulties with the three cavalry corps which it was proposed to make into mounted infantry. It was not for him to express an opinion upon the policy of this change. Some authorities would say it was necessary to have some cavalry. If the cavalry corps were disbanded, as propo:ed, their services would be lost, and they were the best force in the colony. They were armed as cavalry and trained as such, and if the commandant insisted upon their being changed into mounted infintry they would have to disband, and he knew that they would not re-enlist. Colonel Penton's proposed increase of the strength of the Permanent Artillery of course meant an increase in expense to the colony; and it wasgoingintofurtherheavyexpensetoimport officers and instructors from England, and to send Home our own cadets to be trained. They had had some experience of imported instructors, some of whom had proved exc3llent officers. They had had an experience with a recently imported instructor in the South that had been rather curious. There was a reference in the commandant's report to a Sergeant-major Burbury, who had just arrived, from England. He had come as instructor to the Permanent Force and the volunteers of the South Island. This instructor was recently sent down to Dunedin to instruct the field artillery there in camp. When asked to give instruction in field . artillery work, however, he preferred not to do so. He was not a field artillery instructor, ha said. Well, if the commandant was going to import men for particular duties, and then found that they were not suited to those duties, it would be putting the country to a cost that there was no necessiry for. He (Mr Allen) did not think it necessary to import many garrison artillery instructors, as there were plenty ones here now. As to im-" porting officers from England, he thought an English training necessary, but would like to see colonial officers appointed if suitable. The commandant's proposals as to cadets he considered good. The proposed importation of four field batteries to replace the obselete ones now here was satisfactory, arid also tbe suggestion as to the method of reorganising the forces of the colony, which seemed very much on the lines recommended by Colonel Fox—that was in the formation of battalions and centres. He entirely agreed with the recommendation for more afternoon drills, .and thought the only way to encourage these was by pecuniary consideration. Regarding rifle practice, there was great difficulty in getting places or ranges in the centres where companies could get field praotice in shooting. They could not get enough men down together. The ammunition for field work had been sujp'ied, but owing to there being no suitable place it oould not be used. This was a great pity, and he thought the Government ought to make better provision for ranges. There was no mention of the matter in tho report. It had apparently been overlooked. Taken altogothor.ho did not think that Colonel Penton's report was going to encourage the volunteers. Ab he had eaid, it seemed to him to be sotting up the Permanent Artillery instead of the volunteer force. Possibly it was because Colonel Ponton had seen so little of the volunteers that he had not been able to form any plans to encourage them. * The Opposition lender's Views. The Hon. Captain Rußsell, speaking in the House of Representatives, claimed that the defence report of Colonel Pole Penton fully bears out his oft-expressed opinion -. that, although spending £BO,OOO per annum on defences, the colony is getting practically no defence at all; that the force is under officered ; that it is ill disciplined ; that the ammunition is imperfect; and that the money is being squandered. Of course, the oommander of the forces' had not put the position in exactly such plain words, but that was what he said in calm, official language. The sooner it was decided to have either a properly officered force or no force at all the better for the colony. Captain Russell further urged that the Premier ought not to have used language condemnatory of the late commander of the forces (Colonel Fox) for recommending the adoption of the Martini-Henry rifles for use by tho volunteers of the colony unless he was prepared to give his authority for the statement that that weapon was obsolete and useless. The recommendation in favor of the Martini-Henry was, Captain Russell contended, a proper one, for the Lee-Metford arm was not generally used in England or India, because it was too delicate a weapon to put into the hands of men who were not fully disciplined.
THE DEFENCE REPORT., Issue 10470, 13 November 1897, Supplement
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