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Cardwell Reforms
Dawn


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 610
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
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What effect or influence did the Cardwell reforms have on the army in the field during the Anglo-Zulu War? The initial reforms came into effect in 1870 and in 1871 the purchase of officersí commissions was abolished. What did this mean for officers in the field at the time? I would imagine some would have noses out of joint after purchasing commissions and now have those commissions deemed worthless. Would it be true to say that some of the more senior officers in the field at that time would have purchased their commissions before the reforms came into play while the younger ones eg. Melvill and Coghill would have attained theirs through merit? Iím not making comment here on whether an officer who bought a commission was either better or worse than one who gained their rank through merit, Iím just conscious of the fact that the AZW was probably the first major action the British army was involved in since the reforms came into effect (In fact the reforms werenít complete until 1881) and therefore a test of the reforms in a conflict situation.
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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Dawn,
I believe one of the effects was to force long-serving enlisted men and NCOs into the reserve (or possibly to re-enlist in a different unit and start over) and thus create opportunities for competent new recruits to gain faster promotion, especially if they were literate - Colour Sergeant Bourne being one example.
Rob
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Dawn

It's commonplace but unsound to closely couple Cardwell with Childers. They are distinct episodes. The first post-Cardwell War was, therefore, not the AZW, but the Second Asante War of 1873-4. In fact abolition of purchase was accompanied by a generous compensation scheme, which cost the taxpayer between 5 and 6 million pounds.That was a lot of money in the 1870s. Formerly the value of a an officer's commission had served as his pension pot - so one of the consequences of abolition was the necessity to introduce a pukka pension scheme subsequently. It is easy to imagine that the purchase system was responsible for all sorts of injustices, especially if one likes one's history and one's politics to coincide, as so many people do these days, but in fact there were effective checks and balances and, as long as one was not absolutely impoverished, it would be rare to languish, while others repeatedly passed by. If an officers died in service, his vacancy went as of right to the most senior officer in the next rank down. If it was sold it had to be offered, in the first instance, to the most senior officer in the next rank down; only if he didn't have the money would it be offered to the next most senior and so on down the scale. You couldn't just walk in through the front door of the mess and buy a lieutenant colonelcy as people seem to imagine. A far more serious impediment to military efficiency than purchase, in my view, was the notion of promotion by strict seniority in non-regimental (i.e. non-purchase) grades (which is to say full colonel and upwards). This was to continue for many years to come. I daresay people will have noticed how many of our young Victorian heroes end up as major generals or higher - that's because there's nothing to stop them. As long as you were fit to serve, you would click through the senior ranks, as one of the next higher vacancies worked its way, by means of deaths and retirements, inexorably into one's lap. You did not have to be a competent colonel to become a major general, you just had to stay alive long enough.

The RE and RA did not practice purchase. In practice there was lots more mobility in the infantry and cavalry, than in the gunners and engineers, so that subalterns in those latter arms were much more venerable in age than in the former. This was not helpful as it often meant that RE and RA senior officers were somewhat gouty round the edges. The RE had great difficulty in fielding fighting-fit colonels in the Crimea, where, as you will be well aware, it was a little too chilly at times for senior citizens to be living in tents.

A vast subject in the detail....but there's a quick entre for starters.

Regards

Mike
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Dawn


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 610
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
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Thanks, Mike for correcting me on the Cardwell/Childers reforms. I wasn't aware that it came with a weighty compensation scheme which must have eased the pain a little for senior officers. So did the officers currently in service receive the compensation straight away as the abolition came into effect or did they receive it when they retired from the forces (seeing as it formed a sort of pension plan)? I would imagine at that stage, some would have taken the money and run, leaving the field wide open for new...um...blood?

Dawn
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Cardwell Reforms
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