mike snook wrote:Frogsmile,
You make mention of an interesting figure...the 'regimental agent', who as I understand it acted on behalf of the Colonel of the Regiment (which did not necessarily mean that they were always in the same place - even the same continent). Abolition of purchase was of course part of a continuum of modernization. I have had it in mind for some time to look into regimental agents, but am deterred by the potential dryness of the subject and the apparent absence of an easy accessible and authoritative reference, when there are so many other more interesting and exciting subjects to devote time to. My impression is that this was a role that declined in importance/influence over the course of the 19th Century. At the same time the size and role of the civil service was expanding, while the deeds and doings of the Army were ever more 'in the public eye'. In other words Army administration became more and more formalized and open to scrutiny as the century wore on. I agree that it is likely that the system was more open to abuse earlier in the century, in Georgian England, than in the period, say 1840-70, immediately preceding abolition. Here I think there is a connection with the ease or otherwise with which officers transferred between regiments. Earlier in Victoria's reign (and certainly in the Georgian period before it), officers hopped about between regiments, if not quite at whim, then certainly much more frequently than was later the case. The ability to hop about would tend to favour the wealthy, as the internal regimental checks and balances I have described would be negated. Wellington for example briefly held a vacancy in the 41st Welsh (possibly captain or major - it doesn't really matter), though he never actually served with it. But hopping became decidedly less common later - I have yet to put my finger on the reason for this - but I wonder whether this was something to do with the declining role and influence of regimental agents - who as civilians administering military business transactions would doubtless, as a breed, have had an eye on the main chance (and the clandestine brown envelope)? I don't know though. Mental research note to self.
Yes, I think that you have hit upon a very worthy point and it makes complete sense that the opportunities for corruption lessened as the Victorian era went on, not least, I think, because our free press even then leapt upon every juicy story of systemic abuse amongst the nation's institutions.
I had not fully appreciated the extent of the exchanging between regiments until I subscribed to a periodical magazine - Military Illustrated - back in the 90s, which contained biographies of various officers, and this phenomenon was emphasised further when I purchased the book by Chichester and Burgess-Short: Histories and Badges of the British Army, a tome I had long coveted and where I first read of '2nd Lieutenant Colonels.' Against each officers biography is a list of all the regiments with which they served. Many had been in several, although it was unclear if they actually joined each and every unit, or whether it was just a paper exercise. If not they would have had a very onerous tailor's bill, that's for sure, especially as quite a number exchanged between guards and line, or line and highlanders.
As regards the regimental agents, one book that I purchased recently lists them for the Napoleonic wars and, as it contains lots of other useful information in easily accessible form, I do recommend that you obtain a copy of - "The British Army Against Napoleon" by Bob Burnham, Ron McGuigan, Foreword by Rory Muir: http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Brit ... ack/p/2567 You might be able to obtain a second hand copy from Abe books. I found its information on personnel matters and finance as it affected commissioned officers (i.e. what we would know as AG/MS) particularly fascinating.