Order in Council of 25 June, 1851

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The Order in Council of 25 June, 1851, was a key piece of legislation affecting the retirement of officers of the Royal Navy.

Order in Council

WHEREAS we have taken into our consideration the evils and inconveniences which have resulted to Your Majesty’s naval service from the I present state of the Navy List, which has swelled far beyond the numbers required during a time of peace, and being desirous of effecting certain changes which we consider will not only prove of general ultimate advantage to Your Majesty's naval service, but will also tend to the reduction of the present charge for half-pay, we most humbly submit to Your Majesty whether Your Majesty will not be graciously pleased to direct that the suggestions and alterations as hereinafter recited be carried into effect.

1st. As relates to Flag Officers.—We would humbly submit that the number of flag officers be in future reduced to 99, exclusive of admirals of the fleet; of these, 21 to be admirals, 27 to be vice admirals, and 51 rear admirals; and we would suggest that the reduction be effected as follows; viz.:

1. By removing to a reserve half-pay list those officers now on the Active List who have not served at sea for their flag under the Order in Council of 30 June 1827; these officers to receive, as at present, the half-pay of rear admirals, but to be allowed the same advantage of rising in rank as if they had remained on the Active List.

2. By awarding 10 retired service pensions of 150l. each to such flag officers as are either above 70 years of age, or are physically incapable of further active service; such officers to be placed on the Reserved List, and the vacancies occasioned by death to be filled up from the Active List. We would further humbly submit that these pensions should not be held in addition to the good-service pension.

But, in humbly submitting this latter proposition to Your Majesty, it is necessary that we should take into consideration the possibility of an instance or instances occurring in which there may be no candidate on the Active List for the said pension of 150l. a year, and we would therefore humbly submit to Your Majesty, that in the event of such a case or cases occurring, it would be expedient that no promotion should take place from the captains to the Flag List, but that the vacancy or vacancies on the Pension List should be kept open till filled up by candidates from the Active Flag List.

2d. As relates to Captains.—That the number of captains on the Active List be reduced to a number not permanently exceeding 350, and that the reduction be effected as follows:—

1. As vacancies occur on the Active List of flag officers, by promoting the captain first in seniority who has served for his flag; reserving, however, Your Majesty's undoubted right of selection. But we would submit that those officers who rise to their flags, who may not have so served, be placed on a Reserved Half-pay List, rising in rank, as at present, but with the half-pay only of rear-admirals.

2. By maintaining the retirement of 1846 at the number of 200, to be effected by permitting officers who are above 55 years of age, and who have been in the Captain's List for 10 years, to be eligible for retirement. We would further submit that this retirement be so kept up to the number of 200 till the list of captains be reduced to 350; the retired list to be then diminished by retiring one only in two vacancies, until this number be reduced to 100.

3. By observing the rule of promotion as it is now in force, of promoting one officer in three vacancies (except in special and individual cases), until the number shall have been reduced to 350.

But while we are fully convinced of the evils which attend the system of promoting by brevet, and would recommend its being abandoned in future, we are, nevertheless, desirous of meeting the claims of old officers who have served long and well, and who seek their promotion rather as a reward for past services than in the expectation of further employment; to meet therefore these claims equitably, and at the same time not to fill the Active List with officers who cannot long continue fit for service, we would humbly submit the expediency of promoting, by selection, 50 commanders to the rank of captains, such officers to be placed on the reserved Half-pay List; of these 50, we would suggest that 20 be selected in the present year, and 10 in each succeeding year, until the number reaches 50, when the vacancies only should be filled up.

3d. As relates to Commanders.—That the number of commanders on the Active List be reduced to a number not permanently exceeding 450, and that, the reduction be thus effected:—

1. By selecting 50 commanders to be captains, as already recommended.

2. By increasing to 100 the list of commanders promoted to the rank of retired captain under Your Majesty’s Order in Council of the 10th of August 1840, and keeping open such retirement until the number of commanders in the Active List is reduced to 450.

3. By removing to a reserved half-pay list all commanders who ave not served afloat, or in the packet or the revenue service, within 20 years, or who may be physically incapable of service, and by continuing from time to time to remove such officers from the Active List to the Reserved Half-pay List; we would, however, suggest that such officer as may be thus placed on reserved half-pay should be allowed to retain all the advantages which they now enjoy of rising in pay, or rank, or of receiving the Greenwich outpension.

4. While we would humbly suggest that the system of promoting by brevet should be abandoned, we would submit, nevertheless, that 50 lieutenants be promoted by selection to the rank of commander, to be placed on the Reserved Half-pay List, in the same manner as we have specified in the case of the commanders whom we have recommended should be promoted to the rank of captain.

5. By adhering to the present rule of promoting one officer in three vacancies (except in special and individual cases) until the number on the Active List be reduced to 450.

4th. As relates to Lieutenants.—We would humbly submit that the number of lieutenants on the Active List of the Navy be reduced to a number not permanently exceeding 1,200, viz:—

1. By promoting 50 lieutenants by selection, as already specified.

2. By placing on the Reserved Half-pay List all lieutenants who have not served afloat, or in the packet or revenue service, within 20 years, all such as are physically unable to serve; and by removing from time to time such officers from the Active to the Reserved Half-pay List, reserving to them, however, as in the case of commanders, all the advantages they now enjoy of rising in pay or rank, or of receiving the Greenwich out-pension.

3. By keeping up the rule of promoting one officer in three vacancies (except in special and individual cases) until the number of lieutenants on the Active List shall be reduced to 1,200.

4. By relinquishing the system of promoting mates to be lieutenants by brevet.

And whereas, by these measures a Reserved List of half-pay officers will be created; and whereas Your Majesty may be pleased, in case of war or emergency, by your Order in Council, to call such officers on the Reserved List into active service, we humbly submit to Your Majesty that such officers as Your Majesty may so employ shall, for the time being, be in all respects entitled to the pay and emoluments of their respective ranks on the Active List.

In conclusion, we beg leave humbly to represent to Your Majesty that Parliament has voted the sum of money which we consider will be requisite to defray the temporary additional expenses of this propose plan of naval retirement.

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