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In returning the memorial with his observations for the information of Lord Panmure, Dr. Smith remarks ;
“The subject involved in the documents herewith returned, I felt was one of a comprehensive nature, and not to be treated hastily; I therefore resolved to consult the views of certain officers of the department whom I might see in the course of a few weeks, and obtain from them such information as they might be able to afford me."
We are not informed of the names or number of the counsellors whom chance thus threw in his way, and in the absence of such information must therefore treat the suggestions as those simply of the Director-General. We have condensed into the following abstract his recommendations on the subject of pay, and for the purpose of comparison have also stated the rates as at present authorized.
Dr. Smith strongly recommends the abolition of a most unjust riile at present in existence, by which an officer, when promoted, however long he may have been in the army, is compelled, under certain cir cumstances, to serve two years on a lower rate of pay than his length of service entitles him to; the practical effect being, that those who have been unlucky in their promotion are punished for this misfortune!
He also points out the injustice done to surgeons of regiments in deducting 8 d. per day for forage, while the lieutenant-colonel, major, and adjutant receive it without any charge. If all require horses for the discharge of their duties, it is unreasonable that one should be compelled to pay for what the others receive free.
Half-pay and Retired-pay. It is suggested with reference to all ranks, that
- When placed on half-pay, owing to reduction of establishment, or irom being incapacitated by reason of ill-health contracted in and occasioned by service, or when disabled by wounds, the officer should be granted three-fourths of the rate of pay he is receiving when he is placed on the retired list, or is reduced.”
The present and proposed rates are shown in the following scale :
It is likewise proposed that medical officers of all ranks should have a right to retire after twenty years' full-pay service, instead of twentyfive years, as at present, but that when they do so, they should receive only five-tenths—or if they have completed twenty-five years' service, seven-tenths of their pay, instead of three-fourths, as recommended when their retirement is caused by reduction of establishment or by impaired health. Dr. Smith is of opinion that but few will take advantage of the right of earlier retirement.
“By the time a man has served twenty years, his attachment to the army is generally strong, and he finds himself unsuited to embark in private practice, and consequently is inclined to cling to the life and kind of society to which he has been long accustomed, rather than encounter the ennui which is experi. enced by men without regular occupation.”
We doubt the accuracy of this conclusion, and cannot but think that a considerable number, and these the most intelligent and hardworking of the officers, will avail themselves of the opportunity to get out of a service with whose unsettled mode of life they have become pretty well sickened. The difference in the rate of retirement, how, ever, may probably influence the results as regards the twenty years' service.
Under the head of “General Observations,” Dr. Smith remarks:
“In addition to what I have stated in the preceding memoranda, I may farther observe that many medical officers consider that a certain number of individuals of each of the grades in the department should be permitted to retire on full pay under the same regulations as is observed in the case of military officers; and further, that a certain sum of money should be granted to be distributed as good service-money."
We regret that Dr. Smith should have felt himself justified in thus faintly recording what we believe to be a very strong and very general opinion of the medical officers. Colonel Boldero, in his examination of Lord Cardigan, already quoted, brought out the injustice of the case, that “every other branch of the service” has a full-pay retirement except the medical; nor is there any class by whom a reward of the description of “good service-money" can be deemed to be more fairly earned. Promotion, honours, rewards, and pensions are bestowed with
a liberal hand upon the military officers for gallant conduct in the field, or for bringing to a successful termination an expedition against an enemy, but the unflinching courage displayed by medical officers in their frequent encounters with pestilence, and their valuable and unceasing labours to maintain the soldier in a state of efficiency and consequent fitness for the fatigues of active service, are unheeded, unrewarded, and even unacknowledged. In the Continental armies this is not the case, and we trust that ere long the feeling in favour of the labours of our medical brethren in the army which was so strongly evinced by the English people, may be developed among the military authorities and those who have the power to reward courage and merit, even when shown in another-we may add a nobler--form than that of physical daring.
With a view to prevent the imputation of favouritism in the recommendation for such good service-pension, it would be advisable to adopt the practice followed in the case of military officers, to publish in the army estimates, or, if thought preferable, in the London Gazette,' the specific grounds on which the officer has been selected for this reward.
Relative Rank of Medical Officers. The only alteration proposed in this is, that assistant-surgeons, after ten years' service, should have the rank of captain; surgeons above fifteen years' service, that of major; staff-surgeons of the first class, above twenty years, that of lieutenantcolonel; and deputy inspectors-general, above twenty-five years, that of colonel; but in all these cases as junior of the respective grades. But there is a matter connected with the rank of inedical officers which has given rise to a great deal of annoyance and unpleasant feeling in the department. It has been stated to be given to them merely for the purpose of defining their position in the choice of quarters and in sharing prize-money; but when they are ordered to sit as members of boards or courts of inquiry, their rank is over-ruled, and they are called upon to sign last and to give their vote first, whatever their rank may be, as if they were junior to all the other members. Dr. Smith recommends
“That they should be detailed in orders, sit, and sign proceedings in the order of precedence attaching to their relative rank and seniority, and on no occasion should a medical officer be required to sit on any board or court under the presidency of a military officer of inferior relative rank. * * * If medical officers are regarded eligible to sit on boards, courts of inquiry, or courts-martial, they should have the consideration which they expect their relative rank should ensure them.”
The present practice cannot but have the effect of depreciating the status of medical officers, and lowering them in the eyes of the soldiers; it is an abuse similar to that by which the naval assistant-surgeons were so long kept out of the wardroom, and like it, will, we trust, be got rid of, either by relieving medical officers from all such duties, or by allowing their rank to be what it professes.
A most erroneous notion seemed to exist in the minds of some of the Committee on the subject of the rank of medical officers; that they were desirous of obtaining military rank because it would confer on them military command. Thus Sir H. Davie asked Lord Cardigan, “With regard to the military position of the medical officers, would you recommend their having any military command at any time?" And again, “Would you allow him to command a parade, if he happened to have the senior choice of quarters ?" (in other words, to be senior officer.) Now, we venture to affirm that such a notion as that suggested by Sir H. Davie never entered the minds of the medical officers. Their complaint is, that they are called upon to perform military duties, and are denied while doing so the advantage of military rank; and they ask either to be entirely relieved from such duties, or if required by the military authorities to perform thern, that they should take their position, and enjoy all the advantages and privileges attached to the corresponding rank, but without the power of military command. We believe there are no officers in the service more alive to the necessity of military subordination, or who will more fully concur in the opinion expressed by Lord Cardigan in reply to the following question by Colonel Kingscote:
“Q. 3987. Your lordship thinks that the commanding officer of the regiment should have supreme military control over every person in, or attached to, the regiment ?-A. If he has not, I consider that it is impossible to carry on the command of the regiment.”
Honorary Distinctions and Rewards.-The non-participation by the medical officers in the distribution of honours for service in the field has long been a source of just complaint in the department. It is only within a few years that they were declared eligible to receive the military decoration of the Bath, and it has been conferred on them with a very sparing hand, compared with their more fortunate brother officers. Nor has this been compensated for by the grant of the civil Order of the Bath, which for many of their services would be an appropriate reward, and though not conferred, has been often merited. It is to be hoped that in this respect a more liberal feeling may be hereafter shown by the authorities. A suggestion is thrown out that a limited number of the most meritorious officers of the department might be appointed honorary physicians and surgeons to her Majesty La reward analogous to that conferred on the military officers who are made aides-de-camp to the Queen. A step of honorary rank on retirement from the service is also pointed out as a suitable and inexpensive reward to medical officers, which might be of use to them should they afterwards desire private practice.
But Dr. Smith is of opinion that the Director-General should have it in his power to reward special and meritorious services. He suggests that . “When a medical officer is specially recommended by the senior military and medical officers under whom he is serving, on account of his having rendered highly valuable and important services, either in the field or during the prevalence of an epidemic, or on an occasion when more than ordinary exertions were required, and were made in an unmistakeable manner, such recommendation should entitle him to reckon one year's service towards promotion and increase of pay, and the same for every subsequent recommendation. To warrant these advantages being conceded, the recommendation should be in most decided terms, and should contain a clause to the effect that it is offered with a view to secure to the officer recoinmended the reward which they know is conferred under certain circumstances."
This proposition appears reasonable, but some guarantee, such as the publication of the recommendations, with a full detail of the grounds on which they are made, in the Gazette' or in General Orders, would be necessary to prevent abuse. Loud complaints reached this country, of injustice and partiality in the distribution of honours among the medical officers in the Crimea; and these were in some instances so general as to remove any suspicion that they were the mere effusions of disappointed men. To make rewards beneficial to the department, it is essential that they should be fairly won, and impartially distributed. The relative rank of the regimental surgeons unfortunately rendered them ineligible for the Order of the Bath; and although it was upon them that the hard work of the disastrous winter of 1854-5 chiefly fell, they had the mortification of seeing the honours conferred exclusively upon the staff, who had been comparatively exempt from the privations and hardships which they endured.
By the regulations of the service, the funeral honours paid to the medical staff are limited by no tiring taking place over their graves. Dr. Smith says,
“This treatment has always been regarded by staff medical officers as an act of injustice; and not a few of them, when dying, from a dislike to have it supposed by soldiers that they were inferior to other officers, have requested to be buried privately. I think there are fair grounds for discontent in this respect, and I feel it my duty to recommend that every medical officer should be buried with the military honours that attach to his relative rank.”
The sooner any invidious distinctions of this kind are abolished the better will it be for the army. They engender feelings which may naturally be expected to lessen the zeal and efficiency of a most useful branch of the service.
Leave of Absence. One of the grievances most felt by the medical officers, and acknowledged by all the witnesses examined on the subject, is the difficulty, almost amounting to an impossibility, of obtaining leave of absence. When an officer is sent home by the recommendation of a medical board, the period is stated in their proceedings which will probably be necessary for his recovery, and he is usually granted leave for that time; but in the case of a medical officer the leave is cancelled immediately on his arrival in England, and unless he is able to join at the end of two months, he is in most cases placed on half-pay. The result of this is, that officers are frequently sent to Fort Pitt when they ought not to be doing duty, and the service consequently suffers. When a medical officer at home applies for leave of absence “he is compelled to arrange with some qualified civil practitioner to discharge his duties, and thus in many instances incurs considerable expense.” Dr. Smith recommends that
“Each medical officer should be granted yearly six weeks' leave of absence, provided the circumstances of the service should admit; and regimental medical officers should not be required to pay a substitute to discharge their duties during the period.”