§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. CARDWELL
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he had been prevented by the lateness of the hour when he introduced the Bill from making at that stage any statement either of the circumstances which led to the introduction of the measure or 1325 with regard to its provisions. He therefore considered it right he should do so now. Some such statement was, in his opinion, necessary; and, among other reasons, for this one—as was stated the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli)—there existed in the minds of many persons some disappointment and perplexity in regard to the subject with which the Bill was intended to deal. He hoped that what he should have to say would remove both. He believed it was very well known to the House that in Prussia it had long been the custom, as soon as the harvest was over, to put the different arms of the service through a series of manœuvres in order to their improvement in the higher branches of military art. The men were assembled under different officers, the Commander-in-Chief regulating the whole plan of operations and acting as umpire. Her Majesty's Government believed the practice in question to be most advantageous, and desired to introduce it into the British Army. It might be asked why the idea had never been acted upon before, and he supposed the answer would be that his predecessors in Office felt that in this country there were difficulties to be overcome which did not exist in Continental countries. Her Majesty's Government had now come to the conclusion that the difficulties ought no longer to be regarded as insurmountable. The difficulty arose mainly from the fact that while in Prussia, speaking generally, the military spirit was in the ascendency, in this country, on the other hand, the civil spirit was in the ascendant; and he, for one, should be very sorry to propose to reverse the existing order of things. The question to be solved was whether they could, consistently with British habits and institutions, reconcile the two principles to which he had referred. The Prussians on the occasion of their annual manœuvres occupied a country which was as though it was in a state of war. They were billeted in the villages or bivouacked in the open; they carried no tents, blankets, or other impediments; they had no ambulance or provision columns, and for whatever carts or other vehicles were required for transport they made requisitions on the people of the districts through which they passed. That was to say, in Prussia they had a right to traverse any person's 1326 grounds, to billet in any person's house, and use every person's means of transport for military purposes. They had not that power in this country; if they wanted to go over even unenclosed lands they must ask the sanction of Parliament in the manner he was then proposing. In this country an exactly opposite state of things obtained in time of peace, in other respects of scarcely less importance. Tents, food, fuel, water, and everything that was required for the accommodation of their soldiers must be taken to the troops, and what transport was wanted in the neighbourhood could only be obtained by hire and payment. If, unfortunately, they should be in a state of war, they would act as if in a foreign country, and requisition what they required; hence, if in this country this had been a difficult question it was not because they could not do under similar circumstances what the Prussians could, but because English habits and institutions created difficulties to be overcome which did not exist in Prussia. Having stated the object of the Bill, which he hoped would meet the approval of the House, it would be necessary for him, in order to make the whole proceeding clear, to give a brief narrative of what had actually taken place. Early in February last His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, knowing the intentions of the Government, sent to him a statement from General Sir Hope Grant, the general commanding at Aldershot, to the effect that he proposed during the approaching summer to march a force of from 15,000 to 20,000 Regular troops from Aldershot to the New Forest. This proposal was considered at a War Office meeting, and he would explain what the phrase "War Office meeting" meant. He did so the more because there was a Motion on the Paper touching the responsibility of gentlemen serving in the War Department. Now there ought to be no doubt about the responsibility of the War Department. The War Department was not like the Board of Admiralty, for the reason that there was no Board, but simply an Office presided over by a Secretary of State, who was alone responsible to Parliament for the conduct of his Department. In the last Session of Parliament an Act was passed providing that there should be two additional officers attached to the War Department, and Orders in Council were issued 1327 immediately after the passing of that Act, defining exactly the responsibility attaching to the Commander-in-Chief, to the Surveyor General of Ordnance, and to the Financial Secretary, the whole of them being subject to the ultimate responsibility of the Secretary of State; and he (Mr. Cardwell), occupying that position, was perfectly prepared to answer for anything that was either wrongly done or left undone in the Department. The House would, however, agree with him that there ought to be consultations between a civilian at the head of a military department and the professional men who carry on its executive branches before technical questions were decided by the responsible head of the Department. Accordingly, they were in the habit of holding meetings at which the Secretary of State for War was assisted by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, the Surveyor General, the Financial Secretary, the Parliamentary Under Secretary, and the Adjutant General in the consideration of questions of importance, and the Permanent Under Secretary also assisted at the discussion, and kept the record of it. Well, what he had called a "War Office meeting" was held on the 11th of March, and there was a discussion, in the course of which he opposed the proposal to confine the movements to Regular troops as being likely to defeat a great part of the object of the Government in determining upon holding a camp of manœuvres. The following was the Minute made by the Permanent Under Secretary:—It was decided to form a camp of 30,000 men, composed of Regular Troops, Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers. The time to be 'for sixteen days from about the 26th of August.' The place to be 'the neighbourhood of Aldershot, looking towards Portsmouth—i.e., some locality convenient for Aldershot being utilized as the base of operations. Sir Frederick Chapman' (the Quartermaster General) 'to go down with General Haines' (the head of the Corps of Engineers) 'next week to look over the country and inquire about the land, &c., and then report.' Committee appointed to consider matters of detail.He would ask particular attention to this Minute of the War Office, merely because it would be perceived that after all the inquiries they had made, and the doubts which at various times they had had as to what the precise place of operations should be, Her Majesty's Government by the Bill proposed to carry 1328 out that Minute in its integrity. On the 15th of March Sir Hope Grant withdrew his recommendation with regard to the New Forest on the ground, among others, of the excessive heat and the quantity of flies that abound there during the summer months. But whatever else was intended, it certainly was not intended to postpone the movements until the arrival of the equinoctial gales. About that date the War Department were also informed by Sir Hope Grant that—Colonel Loyd Lindsay has informed him 'that a large area of country in Berkshire, to the westward of Reading and in the direction of Salisbury Plain, some sixteen miles long by five or six wide, is in every way adapted for encamping and manœuvring on a large scale, and that the country gentlemen generally as well as the farmers are very anxious that the troops should assemble and exercise in this locality when the crops are off the ground.'Upon this the Quartermaster General and the head of the Corps of Engineers were sent to examine the country in question, and communicate with Sir Hope Grant on the subject. It was intended, if the first suggestion had been adopted, to make an attack upon the garrison at Portsmouth, and to bring the garrison out as to meet an advancing Army; but this scheme was, to his regret, abandoned, because of difficulties connected with the water supply. On the 17th of April Sir Hope Grant reported that the farmers of Berkshire were very much pleased at the prospect of the manœuvres taking place on their lands, and that they would require no compensation if the manœuvres were held after the harvest had been gathered in. On the 30th of May, however, it was reported that the farmers would require a distinct promise from the War Office that they should be repaid for any damage done by the troops—a perfectly reasonable request, as it seemed to him. Upon this Sir Hope Grant proposed that the troops should be put in motion from Aldershot as soon as it was ascertained that the harvest had been cleared off the ground. On the 10th of June they had another meeting at the War Office, for the purpose of fixing the time of holding the camp. It was reported to the Department that last year in the part of Berkshire proposed to be used for the purposes of the camp the harvest was over on the 26th of August, and in 1869 on the 24th of the same month; and it 1329 was determined to extend the time a little so as to meet the convenience of the Reserve forces. Circulars were accordingly issued to the Yeomanry and Volunteers, informing them that probably the 9th of September would be the day fixed; but the War Office determined to defer fixing the exact day until they had received further Reports from Sir Hope Grant. These Reports were accordingly received on the 4th of July, and on the 8th they met to consider them. He should have to refer to them, and there would be no objection to produce them. He considered that with regard to the three routes from Aldershot to Lockinge the Reports were favourable; but with regard to the encampment at Lockinge he did not think it was, on the whole, practicable. But he did not then determine upon the site and plans. He desired before doing so to have further information as to the fitness of the country for the purpose. Sir Hope Grant had recommended the encampment of 30,000 men at Lockinge and Wantage; but he (Mr. Cardwell) was sorry to say he could not give his assent to this. They had heard a great deal about the Berkshire Downs; but he was informed as follows with regard to them. The Reports speak of fine open downs, and it was naturally supposed that they were uncultivated. The fact, however, is that, with the exception of a small strip along the Ridge Way, about 600 acres at East Ilsley, and a few patches here and there, there is no uncultivated land, the Berkshire "downs" consisting of a large extent of country perfectly devoid of fences, but closely cultivated, the crops consisting of corn, peas, beans, turnips, &c. Lockinge was not, as described in the Medical Report, a suitable place for the encampment of a large body of men. The following was a fair summary of the Report:—The position chosen is partly arable and partly grass, and in nearly every instance good natural drainage. Surface soil chalk, covered with a thin layer of clay; chalk marl below chalk, and underneath that again upper green sand. Shallow and deep wells, varying from 10 to 50 feet.The village of East Hendred, which would form one extreme of the camp, was described as—Move or less infested with typhoid fever; its wells and other sources of water are probably likewise affected with the fever poison,1330 and for these reasons it was, therefore, discarded.Wantage," he was informed in the Medical Report, "lies low, and has suffered from smallpox; water supply tolerably pure, with a considerable quantity of lime, removable by boiling. In some places it is polluted by drainage, the water in the canal being very impure.Thus far he had summarized the Report; but the following passage was so important he would read it to the House in extenso:—On the whole, I think it admirably suited for an encampment; but I think, on sanitary grounds, it would be injudicious to mass the whole force of 30,000 men here, as I believe is proposed. I do not think the ground extensive enough in a sanitary point for this number of men, and the amount of the water supply would be severely tested. Again, from the peculiar course of the stream I think the massing of the men undesirable, as the slightest fouling above would cause inconvenience to the troops below.[Colonel C. H. LINDSAY asked who had made the Report.] He believed it was Dr. Madden, who was sent from Aldershot by Sir Hope Grant. He (Mr. Cardwell) did not throw blame on anyone; but he was endeavouring to explain in a narrative the circumstances that led to the decision. On the 8th of July it was decided again to send the Quartermaster General and the head of the Engineer Corps to make a more complete examination of the country, and see what was the then state of affairs. They returned on the 24th of July, but not like Joshua and Caleb, full of expectation of a land of promise. They reported as follows:—We find this country open and suitable for the purpose. It is, however, principally arable land, covered at present with grain and root crops, over which it is out of the question to think of moving troops until the former crops are housed. From information we obtained on the spot there appears every probability of the harvest being unusually late, in which case more difficulties are likely to present themselves in occupying this ground than were anticipated when the project of moving troops into Berkshire on or about the 9th of September was first under consideration. We would here observe that, should the autumn be wet, the encampment of troops on these lands would be objectionable, and likely to be inconvenient to the necessary traffic. On the other hand, should the weather be dry, no objections or inconveniences are to be expected from camping on these grounds.He gathered from the letter which the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had written to The Times that the period at which it would be advisable to have the encampment would be fixed by the expectation 1331 that the harvest would be finished some time from the 10th to the 20th of September—that is to say, that the manœuvres could not be appointed to commence until after the 20th; but a Report of the Commissary since sent down into the country in order to ascertain the possibility of procuring transport informed him that the harvest would be very late this year, and would certainly not be concluded before the 20th or 25th of September, and in his Report, dated 6th August, this gentleman, Captain Milne, himself a native of Berkshire, says—On the 4th instant I had an interview with Colonel Blandy, chief constable of the county, who confirms what I have already stated as regards the feelings of the farmers, and concurs in the Report I have already made as to the lateness of the harvest—namely, that even with favourable weather harvest operations will not be general for a week or ten days, and certainly not concluded before the 20th or 25th proximo.He believed he had done with the narrative portion of his statement; but it was necessary to comment upon some particulars. On the 4th of July it was absolutely necessary for the War Office to come to a decision. Nobody, he thought, would venture to assert that this large quantity of men could be encamped in the cultivated country till the harvest had been removed. The harvest, according to the most favourable vaticinations, would last until the 10th or 20th of September. It would therefore be impossible to fix an earlier date than the 20th for going upon those lands. He did not hesitate to say, for his own part, that nothing would have induced him to sanction the encampment of 10,000 or 15,000 men on low lands in a clay country at the time of year beginning on the 20th of September, the very wettest part, he believed, of the whole year in that part of the country. The War Office accordingly decided to revert to the unenclosed country, which he had shown to have been originally in contemplation. They had already called out the Militia, and given notice to the Yeomanry and Volunteers, with a view of beginning operations on the 9th of September; and he was not prepared to disappoint the auxiliary forces of their share in the proposed manœuvres, nor was he prepared to expose them to the inconveniences which a change of date would have occasioned. Further, he thought it would 1332 have been in the highest degree culpable to fix the period of short days and long nights, and probable bad weather, for the first introduction into this country of this system of military manœuvres. What the War Office wanted was to give instruction to the Regular forces—to combine them with the Auxiliary forces—and to do so in a manner which would conduce to the success of the whole operations. To have chosen the period of the short days and long nights would have diminished very much the prospect of successful instruction, while he need not say it would not have been favourable to the chance of maintaining discipline in so large a body of men, considering that these various forces were to be assembled for the first time. There was also another consideration which hon. Gentlemen opposite were, in many instances, even better qualified to judge of than he was. In that part of the country he understood that whenever there was a late harvest, farmers were desirous of getting upon their lands immediately the harvest was gathered in, with a view of making preparations for the next season. The consequence was that the military operations would interfere with this natural desire on the part of the farmers, while upon their part they were not willing to let their horses for hire. All these reasons were sufficient, he thought, to induce the Government to give up the enclosed for the unenclosed lands. Having so decided, let him put the House in possession of what it was actually proposed to do. The same force was to be assembled which was originally contemplated. He had a Return before him from the Adjutant General, in which the numbers that were to come were set down at 33,552 rank and file. They would perform manœuvres which he understood from the Adjutant General would be quite as beneficial to the Regular forces as any manœuvres that could have been practised if the other site had been selected; and which, in the opinion of those who were responsible for the Auxiliary forces, would be as useful to them as any manœuvres that could have been performed upon the other site. The area to be used for the contemplated operations was larger than under the original scheme. [Mr. BOUVERIE: What is the proposed area?] He was not prepared to state the exact 1333 extent; but the area was set forth in the schedules to the Bill of which he was about to move the second reading. The distance from the base of operations would be less. If the Lockinge plan had been adopted the distance from Aldershot would have been 40 miles; whereas, acording to the present design, no part of the area would be further than 12 miles. The Control department, however, would be as severely tested as it would have been elsewhere. On the part of some persons there was a disposition to suppose that the whole object of these manœuvres was to test the Control department. He begged to say, however, that while both he and his right hon. Friend at the head of the Control department were very desirous that the department should be thoroughly tested, and that it should be proved whether it could discharge its duties satisfactorily, it was not less important that every branch of the service should be equally tested. The object of embarking in these manœuvres was not merely to make a fine show and a good appearance, but the object of the Government was, while taking such measures as should ensure success, to discover also what the weak points in our defences were, so that these might be remedied in another year. He had already stated that the Berkshire district was never finally adopted by the Government; but he was bound to admit that at one period he himself had acted as if it had been adopted. With regard to compulsory powers over lands, he had communicated exclusively with the Members for Berkshire, and not with the Members for Hampshire and Surrey, being, before the Report of the 24th of July, under the impression that the Lockinge plan would be the plan acted upon. Therefore, to that extent he was perfectly ready to plead guilty. The department had not finally adopted the plan, but he had acted as if they had adopted it; that he freely acknowledged. But on the 29th of July the Government were obliged to decide. Up to that time they had expended nothing, and had kept the settlement of the matter entirely in their own hands; but it was then only six weeks from the time appointed, and it was absolutely necessary to take measures. Even if with the fine weather now existing the harvest were gathered in early enough, 1334 which it undoubtedly would not be, to enable the troops to go to Lockinge, he should still feel that he was bound in July to decide according to the circumstances of that time, and not of the circumstances of any subsequent period. His duty was to consider what would tend most to the success of the operations, and what would do the least amount of injury to cultivated lands, and give the least opening for large and indefinite claims for compensation. For if he had acted upon any other grounds, he might have laid the foundation for its being urged another year—"We will have no more of these operations on account of the want of success attending them," or "on account of the injury which they did to cultivated lands, and the enormous claims which were made for compensation in consequence." It had been said repeatedly that the War Office could not move 30,000 men a distance of 30 miles. There never was a greater mistake in the world. If the War Office could do what the Prussians could do in taking up the local transport there would not be the least difficulty in moving troops over any specified part of the country. If the War Office could act as they would do in case of war there would not be the slightest difficulty about it. But here they were obliged to depend upon hiring; and under the circumstances of this year the farmers were not disposed to lend their horses. But hon. Gentlemen might say—"Why have you not horses of your own? Why is not the Control department in a position to undertake this work for itself?" They heard a great deal in that House occasionally about extravagance; but he held that if there was anything more extravagant than another it would be to maintain such an enormous number of transport horses in time of peace. Nothing could be imagined which would derogate more from the efficiency of an Army than allowing the money voted by Parliament to be diverted into such a wrong channel. What was wanted was the nucleus of a Transport force which on going into the country that was to be the theatre of war should avail itself of the local transport of that country and convert it to the purposes of our Army, and he fully believed that in the Control department we possessed such a nucleus. There were many who seemed to have no other object than to run down the 1335 Control department. He had no particular or personal reason to be the advocate or defender of the department. The department was not any creation of his own; it was brought into existence by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) in consequence of the recommendations of Lord Strathnairn's Committee. He thought it had been a wise step to create that department, and he did not shrink from any responsibility fairly attaching to him for having given it the most cordial support in his power; but he had never assumed with regard to it the credit belonging to his predecessors in office. It was now said that the department had broken down. To that assertion, as far as his lights and knowledge extended, he was bound to give an emphatic denial. On the contrary, the department had been tried and had succeeded in the face of great difficulties upon the Red River Expedition. His right hon. and gallant Friend the Surveyor General, to whom belonged the principal credit of the organization of the department, would be able to defend it far better than he was able to do. But this he would undertake to say—that if the Control department could, by hiring, have obtained command, at a moderate cost, of the same means of transport as the Prussians could obtain without hiring, the department would successfully have carried out all that was essential. But when, without the possibility of hiring, the Control department was expected to provide all necessary facilities, it must be borne in mind that the operations would have borne no resemblance at all to those of actual warfare; that they would have proved enormously expensive; and that they would meanwhile have been of little real value for the instruction of our troops. He would now proceed to describe the Bill to the second reading of which the House was asked to give its sanction. It was a Bill to enable the Government to enter on inclosed land and to encamp on uninclosed land. Over inclosed lands the Bill took very small powers; but it must be obvious that in passing from one great open district to another it might be necessary to cross some inclosed lands; and if the right to pass over these did not exist, the whole of the military operations might be impeded. The Government, therefore, proposed to create a 1336 Commission, consisting of the Lords Lieutenant and Representatives in Parliament of the districts affected by these military operations, with power to add to their number, and with the sanction of the Commission it would be competent for the troops to pass over those special portions of enclosed lands lying between the unenclosed tracts. The 3rd section of the Bill, however, restrained the Commission or the troops from entering upon, or interfering with, any dwelling-house, farmyard, pleasure garden, orchard, nursery-ground, and certain other places specified in that section. By the 6th section a Court was constituted to give rapid arbitration where demands were made; and under the Bill also there were police arrangements for preventing strangers from entering upon grounds in an unauthorized manner and occasioning damage. These were the main portions of the Bill, and having stated them, he should at once resume his seat, if it were not for the Notice which had been placed upon the Paper by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson). That Amendment stated that the House had heard with regret that the autumnal manœuvres in Berkshire had been abandoned. He (Mr. Cardwell) had shown that the plan for the manœuvres in Berkshire had never been finally adopted at all, though it had no doubt been supposed that it would be. The Bill before the House, moreover, extended to parts of Berkshire, Hants, and Surrey, so that it was not literally true to say that all the autumnal movements in Berkshire had been abandoned. The Resolution of the hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to assert that from the Correspondence laid upon the Table, it appeared that aState of things exists in the War Office highly detrimental to the efficiency of the service from the difficulty of fixing responsibility on any one individual in the event of any breakdown in our military system.He had already answered that by stating that the responsibility for any breakdown rested upon the Secretary of State for War, and that he did not seek in the smallest degree to relieve himself from his proper share of any responsibility. If a Vote of Censure were to be brought forward upon this subject it must be directed against the Secretary of State; there could be no mistake 1337 about that, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman need not therefore have the smallest difficulty in fixing the responsibility upon the proper person. Last year an Order in Council was laid upon the Table, in pursuance of the requirements of the statute, defining the duties of the several authorities at the War Office, and any person objecting to the manner in which these functions were divided ought rather to have urged his objections at that period than to have brought them forward now in the shape of a Vote of Censure. He took upon himself the full responsibility of the decision which had been arrived at, believing it to be for the good of the public service. If he had decided otherwise, and adhered to the Lockinge plan, probably some critic would have been as ready as the hon. and gallant Member now to come forward with a hostile Motion. Such a Motion he should have found it far more difficult to meet. He certainly should not wish that anybody who might be disposed to move a Vote of Censure should have it in his power to say—"In the face of the Medical Report, and of the advice of military men as to other lands, you persisted in encamping your men upon a clay soil at the time of the equinox, and by doing so you incurred enormous expense and a liability to compensation the extent of which it is impossible to foresee." He believed this Bill would enable the authorities to carry into effect one of the greatest military improvements ever adopted in this country—namely, the imitation of the great Prussian autumnal manœuvres with a force of 30,000 men, in a portion of the country and at a time affording a reasonable hope that the movements would be attended with success. If such were the results it would doubtless lead to a desire to renew the operations in future years, and thus to keep up a practice which more almost than anything else would tend to promote the real efficiency of the Army of this country. On these grounds he respectfully recommended the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,—"That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Cardwell.)
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he thought it a somewhat novel practice that an elaborate answer should be given by antici- 1338 pation to a Motion which had still to be brought before the House; but he sincerely hoped that the House at last had got to the bottom of the knowledge of the Secretary of State for War on the causes of the failure of the Berkshire manœuvres. The right hon. Gentleman had dwelt on a variety of subjects, among others the different positions which the Prussian and the British Armies occupied in respect of these autumn manœuvres. But the difference between the positions of the two Armies in this respect was well known before these autumnal manœuvres were undertaken, and it was quite clear that considerations of that kind had no influence in putting a stop to these manœuvres in Berkshire. A great many reasons had been given for the failure since the first Question was answered which he himself addressed to the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of August. Even the reasons just advanced, however, were not altogether satisfactory, especially as the documents from which the right hon. Gentleman had freely quoted were not before the House. He must remind the right hon. Gentleman of the cause which he originally assigned—the lateness of the harvest; no other reason was then advanced, and even after the able speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay), the same answer continued to be given. The responsibility for this statement was thrown almost entirely upon the Report of the Quartermaster General. In the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself—He submitted with great deference that the Government were bound to take the opinion of the Quartermaster General upon a subject of this kind.But the Quartermaster General never gave any opinion of that kind; in fact, his references to the harvest were very slight indeed, though his observations on the probable lateness of the harvest, and on the effects of the wet weather upon the clayey soil, were greatly magnified and their importance exaggerated in the Minute made upon them by the Surveyor General of Ordnance. That probable late harvest was at once transformed into an unprecedentedly late harvest by the Surveyor General, who then refers to the fact that in some places the corn was quite green. Anybody, however, who read that Minute attentively 1339 could see at a glance where the shoe pinched, and that the real cause of the breakdown was the want of transport. It was originally proposed to concentrate the whole force at Aldershot, and to send out columns of such strength as the transport available would allow; but on the 28th of July the Quartermaster, assuming that the operations would be held in Berkshire, drew up another scheme in order to reduce by one-third the amount of transports that would be required. That scheme was laid before a War Office meeting, but was not considered satisfactory, and the Quartermaster then drew up another scheme reducing the transports to one-third of his original proposal. Whether it was the inability to provide the transport or the unwillingness to find the money to pay for it, it was clear that the failure of the Berkshire campaign was owing to the want of transport. The military manœuvres had been made entirely subordinate to the present capabilities of transport of the Control department, instead of the resources at the command of the Control department being raised to the necessities of the occasion—raised to the necessities of the military situation. A worse state of things could not exist. Universal regret had been expressed by all classes, and by persons of all shades of political opinion, at the abandonment of these long-talked of manœuvres. Virtually they were abandoned, a march or two out of Aldershot over well-known ground being a very different thing from that which was to have taken place. The public knew the great advantage that the Prussian Army had derived from the carrying out of such measures, and saw that there was a great increase in our Army Estimates. After that enormous sum had been expended in trying to improve the state of our Army, and the expectations raised in the minds of the public, he thought that every one would agree with him in thinking that the first part of his Motion was not uncalled for. It was absurd to suppose—even if the harvest could not be got in before the 9th of September—that the English Army would be afraid to go under canvas at the end of September, and as to the wet weather, he need only remind the House that in the Red River Expedition, which occupied between 90 and 100 days, there was for 45 days a continuous downpour of rain, 1340 and during that time there was not a single sick man in the expeditionary force. With respect to the question of responsibility, which was much more important, he appealed to the common sense of the merest civilian whether, when an officer had been selected to command troops in such manœuvres, he ought not to be left to make himself acquainted with the country and to carry out his instructions. If that plan were adopted any defect could be at once discovered, and it would be known who was responsible. In the Report of the Committee which had inquired into the conduct of business in the War Department, Lord Northbrook stated that there was too great a tendency both in the Horse Guards and the War Office to centralization, in matters of detail, and pointed out the necessity for each person having a sharply-defined sphere of action. Had there been carried out what he now suggested the War Office would still have retained their constitutional check over the military authorities. The Secretary for War would have been supremely responsible in his office; but he would have had simple arrangements and he would have shown a reasonable confidence in the men who had to carry out the operations that were proposed. Instead of that the Quartermaster General reported to Sir Edward Lugard, the Permanent Under Secretary of the War Office, who was appointed to superintend the general conduct of business there. Had it ever occurred to any hon. Member to consider the position in which this state of things had placed Sir Hope Grant, who was to command these manœuvres?
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he assumed that Sir Hope Grant would have commanded, from the reference which was made to him in the Quartermaster's Report.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that Sir Hope Grant was referred to as being the Lieutenant General in command of the forces at Aldershot, and in that capacity he reported to the Secretary of State; but if the hon. and gallant Member wished for further information, he could tell him that the proposal was for Sir Hope Grant to command a Division; but the whole of the manœuvres were to 1341 be under the command of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he did not regard it as important who was to command; but he contended that the Quartermaster ought to have reported to the General to whom the command was intrusted, and not to an official at the War Office who had no defined position. Upon that Report the Surveyor General of Ordnance wrote a Minute in which he dealt with military matters that were not within his department. This raised the important question whether the Surveyor General ought to have a seat in this House, since the fact of his having a seat appeared to give him so great an influence at the War Office that his opinion was taken without reference to the military authorities. Reverting to the question of responsibility, he defied any hon. Member to lay his finger on any person who was responsible for the failure of these autumn manœuvres, or would have been responsible for the breakdown of these manœuvres, if the original plan had been persevered with, and anything had gone wrong after they had commenced. The Secretary for War had made use of the fiction that he and he alone was responsible; but that only showed that the House ought carefully to see that all questions were so dealt with as to make subordinates responsible for anything that went wrong. It was a fiction to say that the Secretary for War was responsible, for any exposure of the shortcomings of a department affected its head, and the decision was held to involve the fate of the Ministry, so that party warfare was entered into, and such a matter could not be dealt with in the proper way, the Secretary of State being the only person whom there was not the means of punishing. He needed no excuse for bringing the matter before the House at the present time; but if he did need one he had it in the words of the First Minister of the Crown, who recently said it was only by crucial cases that valuable information could be obtained respecting the working of the system, or that errors in the future could be prevented. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
COLONEL LOYD LINDSAY
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that when it was announced by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for 1342 War that the plans for the autumn manœuvres in Berkshire, which had been under consideration during four months, were to be abandoned for the reasons which were given—namely, the lateness of the harvest and the difficulty of obtaining local transport—he ventured to move the adjournment of the House, and to state that in his opinion the reasons assigned were inadequate, and that the real cause was the insufficiency or inefficiency of the Control, and that this inefficiency disclosed a state of affairs most alarming for the very existence of our Army. He did not retreat at all from that statement. The common sense of the country, as shown by letters and articles in the Press, had entirely extinguished the reasons assigned by the Government as childish. It was never understood that the troops were to be encamped on arable land, but on grass; and if anything more was wanted it would be found in the statement which he now made to the House—namely, that the War Office had taken no steps to inquire from the proprietors or farmers as to the state of the harvest in Berkshire, or as to the willingness of the farmers to lend transport to the troops—an inquiry they would certainly have adopted had they been candidly anxious to acquire a knowledge of the truth. Had these reasons been valid, which he denied, a delay of a week would have set them right; but other reasons were given, as unsound as the first. They were, the uncertainty of the weather at the end of September, and the difficulty of postponing the calling out of the Militia. With respect to the Militia, most of the men were those who would be engaged in harvest work, and the delay would have been a positive advantage to them. He felt bound to do the Inspector of Reserve Forces the justice to say—though he had not the information from him, and had not even spoken to him on the subject, he had it on the best authority—that he was perfectly ready to postpone the calling out of the Militia until after that period if desired to do so. As regarded the uncertainty of the weather, why it was always uncertain in this country, and therefore the excuses about the equinoctial gales appeared futile. The right hon. Gentleman now brought forward other and new reasons, such as typhus fever at Hendred, and the lowness of 1343 Wantage. Now, Wantage was just 200 feet above London, and a most healthy town. It had never been in contemplation to encamp 30,000 men in the neighbourhood of Wantage and Lockinge, for every day's march was laid out from the time the men were to begin to leave Aldershot. But he wished to consider the alternative plan of operations to that which was proposed in Berkshire. The alternative plan was a camp of instruction on the heath land of Chobham and Woolmer, being distant just 12 miles from Aldershot. Now, they all knew that the heath land was very limited in extent. It was very well suited to field days and operations which might be described under the head of tactics. Every mile of it was familiar to officers and men, and he had no doubt that every one, save the junior ensigns, could predict the precise movement which would take place. It was said by the War Office—none but a civilian would have ventured to say so—that these operations on the heath land at Aldershot would be precisely similar to those contemplated in Berkshire.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, it was not asserted that the manœuvres would be exactly the same. He had absolute authority for stating that they would be as useful to the troops as those which were intended for Berkshire would have been.
COLONEL LOYD LINDSAY
said, anybody who knew the difference between tactics and strategy would not venture upon that assertion. That which would be done at Aldershot and Chobham would be a costly and expensive field day, where manœuvres would be carried out which might be described under the name of tactics, which were operations where the opposing parties were within sight of one another, or, at all events, where they knew the precise position and situation of each other—very useful instruction, no doubt, but differing from the operations which were contemplated in Berkshire, and which were to have been of another and higher character, and might more properly be described under the head of strategy, or feeling for the enemy. In this latter case the capacity of all persons and branches of the service would have been tried and tested—the generals, for instance, carefully feeling their way through an unknown country, and taking all the necessary precautions, the infantry officers com- 1344 manding regiments, or detachments on outpost duty, making proper disposition for the safety of the Army whose front they were covering—reporting the same in writing to their chiefs—the enterprising cavalry officer making a reconnaisance of 20 or 25 miles to ascertain the actual force and position of the enemy. Again, the various branches of the military administration, the Transport Service, the Commissariat, and the Store department, would be severely tested and tried at 40 miles from their base of operations. It was impossible to test their capabilities at a distance of only 12 miles, because if anything went wrong it was easy enough for an orderly to gallop back to have it all set right. Now, if the War Office had elected to have this first year's operations on the heath land near Aldershot, no one would have said a word; but the ground for complaint lay in this fact—that they undertook to do a great deal more, and having made it thoroughly known that the Berkshire campaign was to come off, they suddenly, after four months' preparation, collapsed, and gave the most ridiculous reasons for the breakdown. It was not too much to say that the Government had offended the country and humiliated the Army by this display of weakness and incapacity; they had brought upon the Army and the country a sense of humiliation, which would not be forgotten or forgiven; and this failure came at a time when the Government, in the most self-confident manner, had undertaken to pull to pieces and re-construct the whole of our Army system. To say the least, it was far from reassuring to the public generally, who began to suspect that in Army affairs Her Majesty's Government did not display absolute wisdom. During the last two years the Control had been established, and brought into what was called working order, but there was a grave suspicion that the Control was inefficient and insufficient. The operations of the autumn were looked forward to as an occasion when these suspicions might be dispelled, for it was thought if the Control could transport 30,000 men and feed them at a distance of 40 miles it was pretty good evidence that the system was not unsound. But the fact was that the Control had, during the last three months, been laughing at the very idea 1345 of being put to this test, and its officers had said that the Minister of War was under a feeble delusion when he supposed that this 40 mile march could ever take place; and, finally, that which the subordinates had said out-of-doors had been repeated by their Chief in his Minute before the House. The Controller General said the plans for the proposed operations had been submitted to him for his consideration, and that under the circumstances, having considered them, he recommended that the extended operations should not be undertaken—in short, he advised that his own Department should not be put to so severe a trial as moving 30,000 men 40 miles from home. Now, he wanted to point out to the House what it was that the Control was asked to do in the way of transport, and to inquire whether it was so very tremendous in its difficulty. According to General Ellice's plan the force was to be separated into two armies, equally divided. The southern Army, coming from Aldershot, was to meet the northern Army, which was to be brought up by train. The bulk of the northern Army had, therefore, its transport conveyed by canal and by railway, by both which lines there was great facility of communication to Aldershot. Transport, therefore, was only required for 20,000 men. Now, estimating 8 tons as the usual allowance of baggage to a regiment, and counting 48 regiments as making up the 20,000 men, it came to something under 400 tons weight of baggage to be removed—not a very enormous amount either. During the late French and German War the society with which he (Colonel Lindsay) was connected moved through districts disturbed and broken by war no less than 900 tons of goods. The 400 tons of regimental baggage would have to be moved day by day, and estimating a waggon and three horses for every ton and a-half of baggage, it came to 300 waggons. Now, paying handsomely for a waggon and three horses at £1 per day, it amounted to the sum of £300 per day, or £4,200 for 14 days. Was it, therefore, wise to collapse for that sum? Was it wise to become ridiculous before Europe for twice that sum? Would it not have been worth while, considering how liberal the farmers had been to Government, to have been liberal to them, and paid them even more handsomely than he had 1346 stated? But were the farmers ever even asked whether they would lend their horses and waggons? From inquiries he had made amongst the landowners and farmers of 36 parishes in Berkshire, it would seem that no official questions had been asked them as to whether their crops would be off the land, or whether they could provide horses and waggons in sufficient number for the transport of stores at the time mentioned. The farmers throughout the district were ready to give all the assistance they could, and he believed they would not ask for more compensation than as business men they would be entitled to. It was said that the manœuvres at Aldershot, Chobham, and Woolmer, would be as useful because they would be as extended, and at the same time much nearer for transport; but before accepting this, let the House examine General Ellice's plan of campaign, which he was bound to say was an admirable one. It commenced at Hazeley Heath, south of the Kennet, and terminated at Drayton, two miles from the Thames, a distance of 35 miles, every bit of which the soldiers had obtained leave and liberty to move over. The Duke of Cambridge had said in "another place"—In truth the officers of the British Army are exposed to enormous difficulties. We have never been allowed to collect large bodies of troops together, as is constantly done upon the Continent; and though theory may be very well in its way, it is valueless unless combined with opportunities for practice. It is much more difficult in this country to carry out combined movements of troops, such as take place upon the Continent, than your Lordships generally may imagine."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 761.]Now here was the opportunity. The Berkshire farmers had placed it in the hands of the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman had deliberately thrown it away. He (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) supposed the Government would not repeat the assertion that the movements on the heath land would be as extended as those proposed by General Ellice. Where would they find heath land in Hampshire 35 miles long? Before concluding, he wished to say a few words about the Control, which, in his opinion, was in a most unsound and unworkable state. The Control gathered under its government the most incongruous elements and the most widely-separated duties. The Ordnance Store departments, the Commissariat, which included 1347 the Transport; the Purveyor, or Medical Commissariat; and the Barrack department—all these departments were administered by Control officers; and the House would hardly believe it possible, but such was the case, that officers who had been all their lives accustomed to commissariat or transport duties were called upon to take charge of and issue ordnance stores of the most technical and complicated character. Officers who knew all about beef and pork were called upon to exercise the control duties over shot, shell, powder, fuses, and all the things belonging to the complicated condition of our Artillery forces. The result was the usual word of command of these gentlemen to their subordinates was, "Take action," which meant, "You do the work and I'll sign my name." This state of things might work tolerably well when they had good non-commissioned officers; but what would happen in the time of war, or what would happen in Berkshire, 40 miles from Aldershot? There was but one opinion with regard to the Control, and that was, that it could not continue as now constituted. It was reported that one of the most trusted officers in the Control had stated that the personnel of the establishment was too small, and must be increased 50 per cent; but before this was done a thorough inquiry should be made, especially as regarded striking off from the establishment all that which related to the Ordnance Store branch, which belonged much more properly to the artillery. Another great improvement, in his opinion, would arise from attaching to regiments a certain amount of transport service, which would render regiments practically independent of the Control, and enable them to move their regimental baggage without constantly sending requisitions for the smallest article of transport. Some of the regimental officers might be instructed in the business of the transport service, which would add to their general efficiency and usefulness as officers. The waggons and horses need not always be moved at each change of quarters, but might be handed over from one regiment to another on such occasions. The fault of the Control was that it was assuming to itself too many incongruous duties, and was grasping at the exercise of power which it was unable to wield. Without having any wish to carp, or to make any political capital 1348 out of this lamentable breakdown of the War Office, he yet thought it his duty to point out to the House that the state of affairs disclosed was most alarming for the safety of our Army, and most discreditable to a practical nation, who were paying £16,000,000 a-year for an Army which was so ill-governed by civilians at the War Office taking upon themselves executive functions, as not to be able to do the commonest duty when called upon.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House has heard with regret that the autumnal manœuvres in Berkshire have been abandoned, and, in the opinion of this House, it appears from the Correspondence laid upon the Table on that subject, and on the manœuvres to be undertaken elsewhere to which this Bill relates, that a state of things exists in the War Office highly detrimental to the efficiency of the Service from the difficulty of fixing responsibility on any one individual in the event of any break down in our Military system,"—(Colonel Anson,)
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Dungannon (Colonel Stuart Knox), whom he was sorry not to see in his place that night, had on two occasions applied two different designations to him. On the first occasion—during the altercations, for he really could not call them the debates, on the Army Bill — the hon. and gallant Member did him the honour to describe him as the destroying angel. He told him he had destroyed their connection with the Ionian Islands, that he had destroyed the public reputation of a Governor of Jamaica, and that he was then engaged in destroying the British Army. On another occasion the hon. and gallant Gentleman described him as the "accused party." Well, there was a great tumble down from being a destroying angel to becoming an "accused party;" but it appeared to him from what he had heard that evening, that the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who had spoken that night considered that at the present moment he was a combination of both those characters. It was very clear that an impression had existed in the public mind and in the Press, as well as among hon. Members of that House, that there was some mystery, some secret, about the Berkshire manœuvres, which the War Office preferred to conceal — that there had been some arrière pensée. He trusted, however, that the statement made by 1349 his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that night had gone far to dissipate that impression. All he (Sir Henry Storks) could say was, in all sincerity and truth, that the only reason these manœuvres were not to be carried out in the manner originally proposed was that which had been assigned from the first—namely, that the harvest would not be gathered in in time. This must be a sufficient reason to any reasonable person. He was sure that there was no member of the military profession, and, he should think, very few Members of that House, who would not say that it would be a very inconvenient, not to say dangerous thing, in a country where the crops were on the ground, to carry on military operations with a force that was not highly disciplined. It must be remembered that the force in question would not be all Regulars, many would be Volunteers, Militia, and Yeomanry. And not only would the movements be hampered by the corn on the ground, but the bill for compensation would be a very heavy one if the manœuvres were carried out as originally contemplated. He wished, however, to point out that practically the same manœuvres would be carried out in the neighbourhood of Aldershot as were contemplated in Berkshire. 30,000 men could be assembled there in different bodies to be manœuvred against each other, and a certain portion of the 16 days would be devoted to the instruction practised in the Prussian Army. Outpost duty, camp duty, and other things essential to military life would be practically learnt; and, in short, he had no reason to suppose that there would be any difference whatever, either in the character or the extent of the manœuvres. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had referred to his (Sir Henry Storks) Memorandum on the proposals of the Quartermaster General and the Inspector General of Fortifications; but the Secretary of State for War had clearly explained the circumstances under which that Memorandum had been written. The hon. and gallant Member had supported the view taken by "One Who Knows the War Office," in a letter to The Times, that the whole responsibility and control should be directly under the officer who is to command the forces; but that was precisely what had been done in this case. The Duke of Cam- 1350 bridge was to be the Commander-in-Chief, and the subject was considered at a War Office Council, composed of the Secretary for War, the Commander-in-Chief, the Under Secretary for War, the Permanent Under Secretary, the Adjutant General, the Surveyor General of Ordnance, and the Financial Secretary. The Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Edward Lugard, acted as Secretary, and the officers who made the Reports in question naturally addressed them to the Secretary from whom they received their instructions. The Memorandum he had made on the Reports he was prepared to stand by, and the suggestion that the manœuvres might be postponed had been disposed of by the Secretary of State for War. Upon this point, however, he might add that it would have been very inconvenient for the Yeomanry to assemble later. Another thing to be considered was the long nights. They all knew that in camping out long nights were an element of danger, and what would be the effect upon young troops, most of whom had never been in camp before. As it was not desired to test the constitutions of our forces, much less to disgust young soldiers with camp life, but simply to instruct, the season was an important element in the matter. Some noble critics in "another place" had ridiculed his allusion to the equinoctial gales, and it had been said that it might have been comprehensible if the troops had been going to sea. He did not know whether those who thought his reference absurd had ever passed a night under canvas in a ploughed field, with a strong gale on, and the rain pouring down; but he ventured to say that if they had they would never wish to pass another. What if the time of meeting had been postponed, and bad weather had set in, followed by sickness in the camp, and perhaps by the enemy which has already knocked once at our doors, the cholera; what would everybody have said? Would there have been any end to the Questions on the Notice Paper of this House in reference to that subject, and should we not have been told on all sides that the arrangements of the camp at Berkshire showed nothing but the utmost imbecility and helplessness on the part of the authorities? Well, he thought he was quite right in alluding to these circumstances and to the possibility of bad weather. The hon. and 1351 gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had stated that no inquiries had been made in the county respecting transport, but he held in his hand a Report made by a very experienced officer who was commissioned to make inquiries on this point, and who wrote—I hasten to tell you that, from all I can learn, we may expect very little transport assistance. The farmers say that, even with the most favourable weather, the harvest will not be over till the 25th September, so that no horses can be spared till then, and there is a great objection to hiring horses for military purposes out of their own county.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, he did not know whether he might not be able to afford his hon. and gallant Friend the information.
COLONEL LOYD LINDSAY
said, he knew that no inquiries had been made among the farmers on the committee of the 36 parishes.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, the gentleman who made that report was a Berkshire man and a Transport officer. There was no difficulty in supplying the troops. One of the great difficulties was in conveying the baggage, the impedimenta, so to speak, of English troops. There was no analogy between the circumstances of a time of peace and those of a time of war. What would be difficult now would be done with facility during war. For instance, if he wanted fuel in time of war he would simply cut down the trees and burn them, but that could not be done now; he was obliged to carry every pound of fuel for 30,000 men. The fuel required for 10,000 men for four days amounted to 60 tons. Again, as to forage. If he could forage he should go down to the pleasant meadows of Berkshire in time of war and help himself, and not be at the expense of carrying hay. Then as to meat, he should now be obliged to take dead beasts, because an Act of Parliament would prevent him from marching living cattle along with him as might otherwise be done. He merely mentioned these things to illustrate the different arrangements necessary in time of peace and in time of war. If they intended to carry out the Prussian system as it was carried out in Prussia, the first thing to do was to Prussianize the 1352 country and also to Prussianize our Army. For the autumn manœuvres in Prussia no tents of any kind were taken; the officers were allowed 60 lb weight of baggage, but the men only took their knapsacks; there were no field hospital arrangements; each man was limited to about five rounds of ammunition per diem; while fuel, forage, and otter articles were obtained by contract or by requisition. That he gathered from a Memorandum of the Prussian military attaché in this country. Here, on the other hand, they had to carry tents, camp equipage, ammunition, water, fuel, food, forage, horse rugs, cooking utensils, entrenching tools, and many other things. It had been said that the Control system had collapsed. He contended that it had not collapsed, but had given satisfaction everywhere when it had been tried. [A laugh.] The hon. Gentleman might laugh, but he should be happy to test the matter by the opinion of general officers. It was very easy to criticise and very agreeable to criticise in a hostile spirit; but would hon. Gentlemen allow him respectfully to ask them to say honestly whether they had had sufficient experience as to the supply of an Army? Had they ever looked closely into the Control system? had they ever read "the regulations?" ["Yes!"] The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) might have read them; but he should think the general run of Members of that House, and particularly of those who criticised so much, had not done so. Under any system they would find people more or less intelligent, and people who often made small mistakes; but they were not to condemn a system on that account. He asked hon. Gentlemen to be good enough to name the failures of the Control system. It had given every satisfaction in Ireland. During the last two years Ireland had been in a very anxious state; they had Fenian disturbances there some 18 months ago; troops in flying columns were sent in every direction, quarters were taken up, supplies sent; and he had every reason to believe that the general officers commanding the Army had not experienced a single lapse or want on the part of the Control department. The Red River Expedition was said indeed to be a very small affair; but it was attended with great difficulties, which were overcome with great 1353 patience and resource; and he believed the Control officers did their duty on that occasion. Last year the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) wrote several letters to the newspapers, which were afterwards printed in a book. One of his chapters was devoted to the Control system, and he pointed out how it had broken down. Now, he thought that was rather ungracious. [Lord ELCHO said, he had pointed out its wrong principle.] Well, last year a letter was sent from the Council of the National Rifle Association conveying to the Secretary of State for War their thanks for the kind assistance given them by him on the occasion of the late Wimbledon meeting, as well as on other occasions, and that letter wound up by stating that "nothing could be more satisfactory than the manner in which the arrangements made by the Control department were carried out." This year also another letter was received from the same Association requesting the Secretary of State to accept their thanks, and to allow them to record, through the War Office, their sense of the assistance afforded them by the various branches of the War Department, and especially by the Control department, whose representative at Wimbledon was indefatigable in his exertions to carry out the wishes of the Council, and contributed to secure the success of the meeting. At Wimbledon, then, at any rate, the Control department had done its duty. But there was no doubt the Control department was unpopular; and one cause, and perhaps the primary cause of its unpopularity, was its name. He was sorry for it; but there was nothing from which Englishmen shrunk so much as from "control." The very name of it stank in the nostrils of the true Briton, just as many a law-abiding man hated a policeman. He therefore thought the name "Control" was unfortunate. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) would recollect the early struggles and difficulties they had in connection with those matters. At first the civil element took alarm, and declared that there was to be no adequate check, no adequate constitutional control over the Army. At length that difficulty was got over. But in a short time the military element in turn took alarm, fearing that there would be every attempt on the part of 1354 civilians to get the control and command of the Army, and of everything belonging to it. That notion, however, had been to a considerable extent dispelled. The real reason why the Control department was so unpopular and was not liked was because too many interests were touched; and probably its control over expenditure, and its desire to see that the sums voted by Parliament were properly applied, had a good deal to do with its unpopularity. They had been accused of centralization; but if there was one thing that the Secretary of State desired to do it was really to decentralize. He (Sir Henry Storks) maintained that for supply services the general officer should have to do with a direct agent, who should be held directly responsible, and that the responsibility should not be filtered through the military staff officers. The officers of the Control department felt much aggrieved that it should be said the department had collapsed, that they had not done their duty, and that they should, in fact, be held up to the public as men not up to their work. All he could state was that he had received the most valuable assistance from them. Their duties were very serious and important, and he had met from those officers nothing but goodwill, zeal, and intelligence. He did not say the system was perfect; nothing human was so; nor that it had not defects which should be remedied. But it was too bad to condemn the department without trial and without a hearing. On a former night the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) expressed his regret that the direction and control of the Army were placed in civil hands, and warned his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) lest he should become the scapegoat of others, lest he should find our Army as the Emperor of the French found his; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to speak of his right hon. Friend as receiving from those about him false statements, and then communicating them to that House. The hon. and gallant Member had almost repeated the same remarks that evening. Now, he begged to tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he and his Colleagues associated with him in the administration of the Army repelled those observations in the strongest terms which he was permitted to use by the Rules of that House. He 1355 denied those assertions on the part of his Colleagues and himself. They had given the Secretary of State honest information and advice according to the best of their ability; and in their respective situations and stations they held themselves responsible for that information and advice.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, a general feeling existed that not only was the Army inefficient in numbers but inefficient in discipline for the requirements of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had availed himself of the public feeling to introduce a Bill for the re-organization of the Army. The public had looked on with interest and astonishment, but did not feel that confidence in the measure which the right hon. Gentleman felt in himself. Early in the Session the right hon. Gentle man began to think of an extraordinary revolution and reform in the Army, by amalgamating and bringing together in one body 30,000 men of all arms. On the 10th of March he decided upon forming a camp of 30,000 men of the Regulars and the Reserve, and the idea was that the camp should be in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth. Officers were sent down to make a survey of the locality, and then it was discovered that there was no supply of water, but that there were plenty of New Forest flies. It was then determined that the meeting should take place in Berkshire, but it was suddenly discovered that the harvest would be exceptionally late—that the time of assembling the troops must be delayed, and that rain and the equinoctial gales might be expected. He had listened with pain and surprise to the long and elaborate and vain excuses made at the commencement of that evening by the Secretary of State, and he thought it would have been much better to acknowledge the utter breakdown of all the different departments of which the Secretary of State for War was the responsible head. What had occurred in this case tended to humiliate this country in the eyes of foreign nations. He submitted that the Government had no right thus to imperil the honour of the country, or to make the deficiencies of our military organization so manifest to the world. He considered that the greatest blame attached to the right hon. Gentleman for devising a plan unless he could be certain of carrying it out. It was his duty to have guarded against 1356 the possibility of failure, for what the country wanted was to see by experience that it had an Army which was adequate and efficient for the services which might at any moment be required from it. The right hon. Gentleman was now going to take the troops some 12 miles from Aldershot, but the proposed manœuvres could not be regarded as any satisfactory test of our military system. The country did not ask the right hon. Gentleman for this assemblage of troops. It was his own idea. After voting the largest peace Estimates ever submitted to the House, hon. Members would have to go before their constituents and tell them that, notwithstanding all their protracted discussions upon Army re-organization, and the enormous demands upon the tax-payers, the scheme had failed, and the want of water and the prospect of the equinoctial gales had prevented the movement of 30,000 men 30 miles. In the year 1826 Mr. Canning brought down a Message from the King requesting that an Army of 5,000 men should be sent to Spain; that was on the 12th December. The House voted the necessary supplies; the men were sent from Deptford on the 15th, and the first detachment was landed in the Tagus on Christmas Day. That Army was accompanied by artillery and everything that was necessary to render it efficient. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether they could now send 5,000 men to the Tagus in this way?
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he was of opinion that the statements of the Secretary of State for War and of the Controller General would be considered satisfactory by the country. For himself, he did not very much lament the fact that the Berkshire campaign had been allowed to drop, because he believed that, even if it had been carried out successfully, it would not have done much to train our forces. The manœuvres would no doubt have been interesting; but his conviction was that the only way to render the Army efficient was to divide the country into military districts, to have in each district a division of the Army with all the appliances necessary for war, and to make the general officer commanding in the district responsible for the completeness and efficiency of the force. If ever an invasion in this country were attempted it would not be by one Power, but by a combination of naval and military Powers, and at- 1357 tacks would be made simultaneously upon several parts of our coast. We ought, therefore, to be prepared in every part of the country. He believed that what was now proposed would be about as useful as the intended operations in Berkshire for making the Army efficient. No doubt it would cost something to keep up the different corps d'armée which he had recommended, but that expense would be a cheap insurance of the inestimable property that might be captured or destroyed by an invading force in this country.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, as late Chairman of the National Rifle Association, he was anxious to make a few remarks as to the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General that the War Office had received letters of thanks from the Association for the assistance the Control department had rendered at the two last Wimbledon meetings. The Surveyor General had quoted those letters as if they established the great efficiency of the Control department; but similar letters of thanks had been addressed by the Secretary of the Association to the Admiralty, to the Home Office, and to the police, and it only showed how short of arguments the Surveyor General must be when he brought forward such matter as this. It was really childish to quote such letters as evidence of what the Control department could do. All that the Control department had done had been to lend 2,000 Volunteers a sufficient quantity of tents and of camp equipage; they did not feed, or light, or warm the troops. Further than this these stores, if he (Lord Elcho) were not greatly misinformed, instead of being conveyed to the camp by the 800 horses appertaining to the Army Service Corps, had been brought there, under a contract, by Messrs. Pickford and Co., who had been paid out of the funds of the Association. The Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Anson) resolved itself into two parts, the first being that which related to the Berkshire manœuvres, and the second that which referred to the Control department. He (Lord Elcho) could fully appreciate the spirit in which the Secretary of State for War contrived these manœuvres. Although the system of forming camps of instruction in time of peace had been adopted in Austria and Prussia 42 years ago, it was only in 1358 the present year that our Government had entertained the idea for the first time. He must confess that he was glad to some extent that the proposal to establish the camp in Berkshire had fallen through, because he thought that failure might be more useful than success. It was better that we should have a Battle of Dorking in time of peace rather than in time of war. The main point to be ascertained was the cause of the failure, and to apply the knowledge that might be acquired in investigating the subject in such a way as to prevent the recurrence of such breakdowns in our Army system. Our French neighbours were in the habit of distinguishing between "la vérité vraie" and "la vérité officielle," and he could not help pointing to the difficulty that had been encountered in endeavouring to get at "la vérité vraie et absolue" with reference to the reasons that had prevented the Berkshire camp from being formed. In the first place, the House had been informed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that it had never been decided to form the camp at all; then the Surveyor General had stated that the intention to hold it had been abandoned on account of the difficulty in obtaining sufficient local transport; then the Under Secretary for War (Lord Northbrook), in "another place," had explained that the camp could not be held in consequence of the lateness of the harvest, and on account of the length of time that it would be necessary to keep the Militia out; and, finally, they were told by the Secretary of State for War that the camp could not be held because of the equinoctial gales. As to the lateness of the harvest, having arrived that morning from Berkshire, he (Lord Elcho) could state that that county was covered in all directions with golden corn in perfect condition for reaping—he had brought some ears so ripe that the grain would not remain in them—and the only green crops were root crops, which were likely to continue green long after the autumn campaign. With the hot weather we now had it was probable that the crops would be off the ground at a very early period. As regarded local transport, his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had said that there would be no difficulty in getting waggons for £1 a day, and a Mr. Wrag, of 279, Whitechapel Road, 1359 had offered to lend 50 horses for 20 days for £314, or about 6s. 6d. a-day.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, that he had sent three times to Mr. Wrag on the subject, but had received no response from him.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that Colonel Shakespeare of the Volunteer Artillery had obtained horses from Mr. Wrag for the purpose of horsing his artillery at a very moderate price. With regard to keeping the Militia out longer than was at first contemplated, that would be of great benefit to that force. As regarded the time of year, if the Regulars and the Volunteers were not fit to go under canvas for a few days after the 20th of September, the sooner they gave up the military business the better. What had been said as to the equinoctial gales had been received, if not with laughter, still with a smile, and a shrug of the shoulders. Why, even if everything had gone on smoothly, and the camp had been held at the time originally fixed upon by the Government, he had reason to suppose the Regulars would not have reached the camping ground until the 15th of September, and they would therefore have been compelled, by the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, to undergo the rigours of the equinoctial gales. The Secretary of State had, however, suffered "la vérité vraie" to break out in his recent speech, and the real reason why the camp had not been formed was the cost that would have had to be incurred in hiring means of transport. Messrs. Pickford had asked £90,000 for furnishing the necessary transport, and that demand had frightened the Control department, who thereupon had said that the affair must not take place. It was a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of beating about the bush and laying the blame of the breakdown upon the equinoctial gales, the Militia, and the lateness of the season, had not boldly said that the Control department had not sufficient acquaintance with the farmers to avail themselves of the local means of transport, and that he did not like to ask Parliament for the large sum that would be necessary in order to carry out the proposal. It must be remembered that the Control department would have had to supply only half to the Berkshire Camp that it would have to supply in the case of actual war- 1360 fare, when it would have to undertake the transport of munitions of war as well as food, fuel, forage, &c. But could not the transport be considerably reduced? He maintained that an injustice had been done to the British Army in the comparison of the amount of baggage of the English and Prussian Armies; because the quantity carried in the English Army was not the fault of the soldiers and officers but of the Commander, who had power to regulate the matter. Officers who were willing to "rough it" in the Highlands or in South Africa, would willingly submit to a curtailment of their luxuries for a time if they were told that it was necessary that they should submit to the inconvenience. Again, why had the soldiers had waterproof sheets given them when they might easily procure straw? This was like keeping our soldiers in cotton. The subject of the abandonment of the Berkshire campaign had been animadverted upon by the Liberal Press, and nothing could be stronger to show how deep were the feelings of depair inspired by the conduct of the Government in military affairs than the language of one of the special organs of the Government in the Liberal Press. The Daily News said that the abandonment of the plan was a measure calculated to do a great deal of harm, and to render Army Reform almost nugatory—and that it was a great mistake. He could only hope that those feelings would be dispelled by the explanations of to-night, although the only satisfactory explanation was that of expense, and if it had been given earlier much trouble would have been saved. The most important part of this question was the constitution of the Control department. Admitting for the sake of argument that that department had not failed on this occasion, and that it never had; that it had succeeded in Ireland and at Wimbledon, and had done well whatever it had been called upon to do; he still contended, as he did in the letters that had been quoted, not that it had failed—for he had never said or implied that—but that its constitution was faulty, and that when it was tested it must fail, possibly in time of peace, certainly in time of war. The Secretary of State for War had said the Control department was no child of his, but was the offspring of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), and 1361 that it was established to carry into effect the recommendations of Lord Strathnairn's Committee. But he (Lord Elcho) disputed that. The department as it existed was not what was recommended by Lord Strathnairn's Committee; when the Secretary of State came into office he put it upon a different footing. Only the other night a noble Earl (the Earl of Longford), who was formerly Under Secretary of State for War, said he did not now recognize Control as it existed in his time, and as it was intended to be. Regarding the latter part of the Resolution before the House as the more important, he (Lord Elcho) thought it better to discuss the question of the constitution of the department on the Resolution than to do so in Supply. As he stated in his letters, Lord Strathnairn's Committee recommended the separation of supply from transport, and that there should be a responsible officer at the head of each department. But the Surveyor General was responsible for both down to the minutest details; and if one man in a century had knowledge, energy, and strength to perform the duties of the office in time of peace, he would infallibly break down in time of war, when it was "too late" to avoid disaster.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, the two departments were divided, and there was a head to each responsible to him, although he answered for both departments in the House.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, nevertheless, it was not intended that there should be such an office as that held by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; the principle of concentration was carried further in that office than it was in any Army in the world, and, as he showed last year, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Hardinge had said such a system must infallibly break down. It was avowedly founded on the French system of intendance; but in that there was separation of transport from supply, of forage, fuel, and the like from munitions of war, of the Artillery and of the Engineers; and although it was so far less likely than ours to break down, yet it failed equally in the short but victorious campaign of 1859, and in the more disastrous campaign of last year. One of the most practical authorities in this country, Sir William Power, who was at the head of the Transport and Commissariat under 1362 both systems, in his evidence before the Abyssinian Committee said that our centralization put more upon one department than it was compelled to perform, that he could not conceive it working in time of peace, and that it must break down in war, which was a bad time for revision. The view was corroborated in a letter of Mr. Fonblanque, late Deputy Controller, published in The Daily Telegraph. With reference to stores, it was pointed out, in a pamphlet written by Sir Edward Sullivan, that, under the system of Control, financing had been pursued in preparing the Estimates, that they were reduced to improve the balance-sheets, and that, when a stress came, they were raised to higher amounts than had been reached before. The Government would have done well if, when they found their own officers doubted the efficiency of the French system, they had simply copied the Prussian system, which, at all events, had succeeded where the French system had failed. He wished to say a word with reference to the position of the Surveyor General in the War Office hierarchy. An Order in Council had been published clearly defining his duties, and it showed that he was responsible for the purveying and carrying of all stores; and it certainly would not be inferred from the Order in Council, as now appeared from his Minute, that he would be called upon to give an opinion with reference to military manœuvres, which would have been supposed to be wholly beyond his province. It was clearly laid down by Orders in Council that the Commander-in-Chief should be responsible for discipline, military education, the training and enlisting of men, and strategic information, and that the Surveyor General should be responsible for the providing of all manner of stores, for issuing them, and for exercising a control over expenditure. It was his duty and also that of the Financial Secretary to render such other advice and assistance as might be required by the Secretary of State for War. He (Lord Elcho) hoped the Secretary for War would not think that any hon. Members on that side of the House were actuated by a petty feeling of rejoicing at the failure of the War Department in regard to these manœuvres, though he (Lord Elcho) was at a loss to understand how they could expect to succeed in this 1363 branch of Army organization after they had failed in every other. This Berkshire failure, after so much pomp and parade and big talk, had tended to humiliate the War Department in the public estimation; but it would not be wholly without profit if it induced hon. Members to regard questions of this sort from a national and not a party point of view.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, after the astute manner in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has referred to the fact of the Control system having been originated by me, I am sure the House will feel that I have a fair right to offer some few observations on the subject. In doing so I cannot refrain from alluding to the great disappointment occasioned by the abandonment of these intended Berkshire manœuvres; and here I must tender my sincere condolence to my right hon. Friend and his associates at the War Office upon the recent change of weather; because I think the main reason they alleged for the abandonment of the manœuvres in Berkshire was the unpleasant wet weather and the probable lateness of the harvest, and I now hear of nothing from that county but remarks on the heat of the weather and the rapid progress of harvest. If my right hon. Friend were to transport himself to Berkshire, in order to obtain evidence on that point, he would doubtless find, as my noble Friend (Lord Elcho) remarked, "the Berkshire corn fields ripe with the glow of harvest." Whatever reasons may be assigned for not carrying out the manœuvres, it is clear that the lateness of harvest cannot now be pleaded as one of them. In the course of the present Session we have had a great deal of criticism and attack upon the military policy of the Government; but amidst all that attack and all that criticism, there has been one point of constant praise and approbation, and that is the intention announced at the beginning of the Session by my right hon. Friend, to carry out these Berkshire manœuvres. Why has that not been done? As I have already shown, it is quite evident that the late harvest cannot be assigned as the reason. What, then, can be the reason? Am I at all guilty of unfairness when I say my belief is that the real reason is a financial one? I believe the real truth to be that the Govern- 1364 ment, finding that these manœuvres would entail mere expense than they had supposed, determined to abridge the whole arrangement, and so my right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) tells us this evening that the carrying out of these manœuvres in Berkshire was never finally decided upon. But did not my right hon. Friend, by intimation to the Berkshire Members, or some other course, lead the county, as well as this House and the country at large, to believe that those manœuvres were to be carried into effect? [Mr. CARDWELL: I said it was my own impression.] It was certainly believed throughout the country that the manœuvres were to take place; and now it is made known that they will not be carried out, what is the result? Sudden collapse and disappointment, without sufficient explanation. Do let us have the truth in this matter. Is it a question of money or not? From the very day the lateness of the harvest was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the sun has continued to shine. Therefore that reason disappears; and I venture to assert that before the 9th of September there will be no corn on the ground in the county of Berkshire to prevent the complete execution of the original design of the right hon. Gentleman. Well, Sir, unless he can give us some better reason than any we have heard from him yet, I cannot refrain from appealing to the right hon. Gentleman and asking whether it is even now too late to have these manœuvres in Berkshire. The reason I would strongly urge that question upon the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman is that the Control system has been subjected to so much criticism during the present discussion. The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct when he says that I instituted the Control system at the time I had the honour of holding the office which he now so ably fills. I instituted that system because, judging by the best information within my reach, I believed it was one which would contribute to the efficiency of the Army, and also tend to diminish expenditure. Those were the two main grounds on which the Control system was adopted. We are now told that the system has broken down. It has been severely attacked by my noble Friend who has just addressed the House. For my part I do not presume to say whether it 1365 has broken down or not; I only state the reasons and motives which led me to establish it. Any Minister who ventures to make so important a change of course incurs considerable risk and responsibility, for a new plan may become a failure, and all he can do is to do his best, judging by the circumstances under which he acts. At the time I established the Control system I had good reason to believe that it would considerably conduce to the efficiency of the Army. If it has not done so, I would be the first man to say—"Give it up." The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire thinks that whenever it is tried it must fail. I doubt that; but if it is a defective system, I have no desire to say that it should be continued. Therefore, my first wish is that the system should be fairly tried and tested; and I believe it would have that fair trial if these Berkshire manœuvres were carried out, as we should then be able to judge whether in a march of 40 miles by 30,000 men the Control system would be efficient. The new plan of manœuvres near Aldershot will not furnish a satisfactory test of the system. My right hon. Friend stated that it would be extravagant to keep up in time of peace a large number of horses equal to our requirements in time of war. That is an opinion from which I believe no one would dissent; and in regard to these manœuvres, as we must depend upon local assistance wherever the Army is encamped, there is no reason to doubt that such assistance may be obtained in the county of Berkshire at the present moment. Looking to the interests of the Army, I think it is a great misfortune that there should be such differences of opinion as have been expressed to-night on the subject of the Control system, and while admitting that it is far from popular with the officers of the Army, I do feel anxious that, at all events, its worth should have a thorough trial.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) could not with justice be blamed for having been unable a week before to foresee that the weather would change on the 31st of July, and not carry out its threat of proving one of the wettest summers on record. And, accordingly, he (Mr. W. Fowler) was not prepared to join in a Vote of Want of Confidence. 1366 At the same time, he thought it one of the most extraordinary features in their political system that men were selected and placed at the heads of great professions like the Army and Navy for which they had received no previous training whatever. What would be said, for instance, if the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) were made Lord Chancellor? It would be said that it was a preposterous appointment, and the hon. Gentleman himself would probably be the first to admit his ignorance of law. But the heads of the Army and Navy — professions in the present day quite as difficult and complicated as the legal profession—were selected upon principles diametrically opposite. Because a right hon. Gentleman had made an excellent administrator at the Poor Law Board he was removed and placed at the head of the Admiralty. No wonder that blunders and waste of money occurred under such a system. No man would be taken from the Army or Navy and put at the head of a great mercantile business, yet a man was taken from mercantile life and put at the head of the Army or Navy. He could only suppose that this course of action was supported for party reasons by both sides of the House. But they would never get rid of all their sources of trouble until this practical absurdity was banished from their political system.
§ COLONEL C. H. LINDSAY
said, he did not think Her Majesty's Government need be in any way surprised at the revival of this subject, and he felt sure that the House must, on reflection, fully comprehend that, although it might seem a question of little or no importance at the first blush—and that after the discussion which his hon. and gallant Relative (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had ventured to raise a few evenings ago, in reference to the policy of the Government, upon the Berkshire encampment — it must look upon the effect of that policy with a considerable amount of disapproval. The question which the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had raised, had been already, and more than once, discussed in "another place," and with some degree of warmth; and if one might judge from the sentiments that were expressed on those occasions, the position in which the British Army had been placed was 1367 serious and humiliating. It appeared to him that the remarks which were made by the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire were an unanswerable exposé of the inability of the Government to deal with the Army of England in such a manner as the guardians of its honour and prestige were bound to observe as responsible Ministers of the Crown. And he thought it was a very poor earnest for the future when they reflected that upon the very first opportunity they had had of, as it were, taking stock of their Army, and endeavouring to test the result of that re-construction and reform of which they had heard so much for the last two or three years, the machine was unable to work at the moment when it was required; that the steam could not be got up, and that, therefore, the power of progression was now at a standstill, owing to the reactionary drag-chain of departmental confusion; and when they considered the cause of this paralysis, it was almost ludicrous to find what it was, or what it seemed to be. But it was, nevertheless, a fact, and it came to this—that the supplies and requirements for 30,000 men on the line of march, and in manœuvre from Aldershot to Wantage, could not be transported or guaranteed by the Control department of the Army. Now, the abandonment of the intended operations on the downs of Berkshire, and the change of tactics, might seem to be insignificant, and paltry reasons for so much apparent alarm and discontent; and it might seem to those who did not understand these matters to be unnecessary and ungracious. But this apparently trifling change of plan was by no means a small matter; it was, in reality, calculated to tarnish the future character of their Army, and prejudice it in the opinion of the world; and it was for that reason, as well as for other reasons, that they considered it their duty to question the policy of the Government in reference to their Army administration. No doubt a simple change of plan and position from the border of one county to the border of a neighbouring county might appear to non-military Members, and the unreflecting public, as reasonable and of no moment, should the will and pleasure of the authorities so decide. Such an arrangement might be no more thought of than the change of route on the line 1368 of march from one point to another—an incident which must happen, and had constantly happened, on active service—and fully understood and approved. But when the Army had been made the great political idol and question of the day, and had in its proposed reform attracted the attention of the whole country for so many months; when such exertions had been made by the Government with a view to its entire reform and re-organization, for the purpose of putting it into thorough repair, and raising it, as it was asserted, to the highest standard of efficiency; when it had been repeatedly declared by the Government, in both Houses of Parliament, to be more efficient and ready for any emergency than it ever was before—a declaration which they were bound to respect, but by no means to credit, until they knew more than they did—when they were assured that all its departmental arrangements were in complete order and so elastic as to be easily and readily expanded; and when the country had been educated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, into a conviction that all was serene, all was reality, and that everything that had been done was very good, and ready to be blended into one harmonious whole—they had a right to comment upon, and inquire into, so sudden and mysterious an abandonment of an experiment which had never been tried, and which, independent of the valuable instruction which it would impart to officers and men, was mainly intended to test the condition of their military machinery when put into motion for practical purposes. Now, it must be borne in mind that there had been no sudden emergency to strain their capabilities, by calling upon them at a moment's notice. It must be borne in mind that they were living in piping times of peace and plenty, in a country rich and rare in every requirement for the wants of 20 armies of 30,000 men; that four or five months had elapsed since the operations on the downs of Berkshire were contemplated, and to all intents and purposes decided upon and planned; that the actual scene for carrying on these operations had been fixed, as far as the Secretary of State for War was concerned; that the farmers of no less than 36 parishes in the district had—not as the right hon. Gentleman had said—been 1369 "anxious" for the troops to come over their lands; but had, from feelings of patriotism, come forward with the intention of co-operating and assisting in every possible manner, and engaged to provide local transport as far as they could—and when he said he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that local transport could by no means meet the requirements of such a force as 30,000 men, it would, of course, supply a portion; but the Control would have to look elsewhere for transport; that these farmers had formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of giving effect, by their resolutions, to their wishes and intentions—a committee which, in the first instance, had the respect, and received that acknowledgment from the War Office to which so important a body of men were entitled — he said, when all these facts were borne in mind to, without the slightest communication with that committee of farmers, suddenly abandon an experiment which would have fully tested the working machinery of the Army Control, and to adopt a position of a totally different and inadequate character, was not only uncourteous towards the Berkshire farmers, but evincing a sign of departmental weakness. He thought it right to mention that he had been in personal communication with the farmers in question, having attended the adjourned and last meeting at Wantage last week; and he would, with the permission of the House, read a few lines of the Chairman's speech on that occasion, which was to the following effect, and, indeed, in the following words. He said—That those present would remember what took place at the former meeting. In the meantime it appeared that a discussion had been raised in both Houses of Parliament, and, by that morning's papers, in the House of Lords, Lord Overstone had addressed the House on the subject. The statement which his Lordship made with respect to the harvest was quite true, and it was also true that Lord Overstone had asked him whether he had received any communication either from the War Office or the Horse Guards, and he had been taken quite by surprise. In the House of Commons Colonel Loyd Lindsay said, 'Immediately that I heard this, I asked the farmers, and other persons in Berkshire, whether any communication had been received by them from the Secretary of State for War, asking them whether the harvest was in such a state as to prevent the movement of troops.' Not a single syllable had they heard.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was out of Order to read from the newspapers what had taken place in a former debate.
§ COLONEL C. H. LINDSAY
said, he would not read any more; but the feeling that was expressed by the Chairman, and agreed to by the Committee, was that of disappointment, and, at the same time, annoyance, that they had not, under the circumstances, been treated with proper courtesy. Now, he had it from the best authority—namely, the Chairman of the Farmers' Committee, that they had never retracted from their intentions, expressed by resolution some four months ago, that they would co-operate in every possible way, and provide transport, and that they were prepared to do so when the troops came, notwithstanding the threatened lateness of the harvest; and also that the Reports which had been laid on the Table and circulated, upon which the abandonment of the operations in Berkshire were based, were not framed upon any communication or information received from him or his committee. He (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) considered, therefore, that the abandonment of the Berkshire encampment involved considerations of a grave character, because it disclosed nothing more nor less than a breakdown of the mainspring of an Army—the collapse of the Control. Now, what did that seem to mean to the public and to the world? It had given an unmistakable impression that after the millions that were to be spent on the Army this year, they could not move 30,000 men three days' march straight on end from head-quarters. Now, the House of Commons and the British public might not altogether understand what this mysterious institution the Control department meant. It was the life and soul of an Army, because without its immediate application it could not exist—that was, it could not be put in motion without the risk of physical disaster. The Control department, upon its existing system, had a wide signification, for it was the centre, as it were, of a vast expanse. It was the point d'appui, from which and to which the arteries—if he might so call them—of its life and reality ebbed and flowed, and gave food and vitality to the power of accomplishing great results. It was the responsible agent of a vast estate of the realm, possessed by the nation for the protection of its honour. It was responsible for the food of an Army—for its medical requirements, for its immediate and rapid supply of reserve 1371 ammunition, for its camp equipage—and, in short, for everything that was essential to the complete efficiency of an Army in motion and in the field before an enemy, and in an enemy's country; and if it failed in meeting those paramount demands upon it, it would render the finest and bravest Army in the world nothing more nor less than a useless excrescence. He did not say that the right hon. and gallant General the Surveyor General of Ordnance was not fully prepared, as far as he was concerned, to meet his responsibilities and wishes: he did not say that his machinery was not in perfect order and ready for immediate expansion; but, for some unexplained reason or other, he could not—or, at least, he did not—put it in motion when an opportunity was given to him to test the quality of the great work over which he presided. It mattered not whether the causes of the collapse were the lateness of the harvest, the inability to procure local transport, the equinoctial gales in case of a postponement, or the refusal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money. There was the actual fact—or, at all events, the impression was abroad—that the Control department had broken down in the face of the test that was about to be applied to it. As to the causes alluded to, no one for a moment had given the slightest credit to them, with the exception of the expense—so that the real causes were reduced to a narrow compass, which must either be the incompetency of the Control, or the refusal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find any more money for transport beyond the £15,000,000 or £16,000,000 which he had engaged to hand over for the expenses of the Army for this year. As for the incompetency of the Control department, he thought it would be unjust to prejudge what had not been tried: one might just as well condemn one of the Whitworth big guns at Shoeburyness before it had been tried, and had the chance of bursting. He was inclined, therefore, to throw the blame of the collapse upon the want of money to pay for the necessary transport; and, if that were so, he thought it was a shame, considering the enormous Estimates for the Army this year. It was a shame that £200,000 could not be taken from the £15,000,000 alluded to, for the purpose of testing the power of the Control system. He thought the 1372 Surveyor General was a very ill-used man not to be allowed to put his machinery into motion, when he had declared himself to be ready for any emergency. He thought that he and the Secretary of State who sat along side of him might have arranged matters between them so as to have enabled the Surveyor General to have tested his department. He thought he was placed in a very unenviable position, for his department was decidedly condemned without being tried. He (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) did not join in such a feeling, nor did he consider it right until he had further information, which, however, could only be given by practical proof. As for the Correspondence which had been laid on the Table, and which from its very dates—namely, the 24th and 26th of July, was written after no less than five months' deliberation, it revealed a foregone conclusion on the part of the Government. It exposed no technical difficulties with which an efficient Control could not cope with ease. He should like to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say on the subject. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State, in "another place," distinctly told Lord Melville that the hire of transport would be too expensive. Then the Correspondence of the Quartermaster General and Inspector of Fortifications made a remark that suggested a foregone conclusion. He would read the passage to which he referred. It was in the second letter in continuation of the first Report, dated 26th July. It said—In accordance with the opinion expressed at the meeting which took place in the War Office on the 24th instant, we have the honour to inform you that we have inspected the country in the vicinity of Aldershot, and are of opinion that should it be considered desirable (owing to the lateness of the harvest and the want of transport) to forego the proposed march into Berkshire, &c., &c.Now, what did that infer? Why, that before either of those two Reports were written the Government had decided that there was no transport to be got at their own price, and they would not give more—notwithstanding the £15,000,000 which were to be spent upon the Army. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not to blame: he had a good case. He would naturally say that he had provided for the Army to that amount, and if the 1373 Secretary of State could not lay aside £200,000, or whatever might be required, he was not going to ask for more. He (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) must beg to correct the remarks which the Secretary of State made in reference to the downs of Berkshire, when he said that there were scarcely any continuous ranges of downs; that there was little or no open country—in short, that there were but few downs left in Berkshire. He (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) was able, on the best authority, to refute that statement, and in doing so he had nothing to do but to quote the concluding paragraph of a long and interesting letter which appeared in The Times of that day from Mr. Albert Williams, the Chairman of the Berkshire Farmers' Committee, in which he described the country round and in the neighbourhood of Lockinge and Wantage thus. He says—Going still west from Cwichelmslawe you look down upon Lockinge and Wantage, and there also before you, right and left of the Ridgeway, lie the Letcombe Downs, the Woolley Downs, the Lambourne Downs, and the downs at Ashdown Park, the Rockley Downs, the Russley Downs, and the downs at White Horse Hill. This glorious sight a thousand years ago the scene of half a-hundred real battles, on the site of which the Army is not to manœuvre.Of course, those downs were occasionally interfered with by the plough; they were, nevertheless, connected throughout the whole centre by the renowned Ridgeway, the oldest known road in England, hundreds of feet above the level of the sea, wide, ample, and interminable—in short, one could go on downs for 30 miles without being off turf. He thought he had conclusively corrected the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the downs of Berkshire. He thought the only cause for congratulation that Parliament was still sitting late and dragging as it was, was that it afforded an opportunity of expressing a decided opinion upon our military policy, in order that the Recess might not labour under the sting of humiliation, unplucked, unchallenged, and unexposed.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he considered the abandonment of the manœuvres to be no cause for regret, but the error committed by the Government was in ever having contemplated them. He was confident that if they had taken place the cost would have turned out to be something terrific; besides that in 1374 time of peace no military manœuvres in an agricultural country could represent the actual exigencies of war. In time of peace everything had to be paid for, and permission must be asked before this or that ground was occupied; but in actual hostilities the armies went wherever they were ordered, took whatever they wanted, and paid for it at a reasonable rate, and not on the unreasonable demands of farmers. His experience was that in the presence of a military force engaged in sham manœuvres farmers were entirely without conscience. He had acquired some knowledge in connection with Volunteer sham fights, and he remembered a case in which a farmer, whose property had been slightly injured, made a claim nearly equal to the whole value of the crop. In another instance, when it had been proposed that 20,000 Volunteers should encamp at about the same period of the year as the Berkshire manœuvres were fixed for, the scheme had to be absolutely abandoned, because it was discovered that the farmers were allowing their crops to remain on the ground a fortnight after they were ripe in order that they might claim damages. No doubt the farmers of Berkshire had an equally keen eye to their own interest. It was noticeable that the crops had been singularly backward until the abandonment of the manœuvres was announced, and then they began to ripen with remarkable rapidity. Judging by the vehemence of the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) he could not help thinking that his friends the Berkshire farmers were very much disappointed that they were unable to make a pull at the national purse; perhaps they would have been able to pay their rent out of it. He had no doubt if the review had gone on that the sums which would have been claimed for broken-down fences and other kinds of damage would have been so enormous that the country was well out of the matter.
said, he hoped the Secretary of State for War would take the advice of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), and that the manœuvres would still take place as originally settled; and his hope was almost raised into the belief that Berkshire was included in the Bill; for if the manœuvres 1375 were to be merely from Aldershot to Chobham, and from Chobham to Aldershot, such a Bill would have been quite unnecessary. That puerile plan would be something like the marching of Major Sturgeon in the Mayor of Garratt—the marching and countermarching from Acton to Ealing. The right hon. and gallant Member at the head of the Control department (Sir Henry Storks) had asked if any hon. Member had read the Regulations. He (Mr. Neville-Grenville) would ask if the right hon. and gallant Member had been over that part of Berkshire where the supposed fights were to have taken place? There was such an enormous extent of down that it would have been very difficult for a commanding officer to encamp on ploughed ground or to damage the crops if they had been allowed to remain on the ground. He trusted that during the autumn the necessary arrangements would be made for carrying out the review in Berkshire, instead of marching the troops from Aldershot to Chobham and from Chobham to Aldershot.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he could see no ground for a Motion of censure on the Government, which rested solely on the alteration of the scene of the manœuvres from one county to another. The real cause of dislike to it was that private interests and expected advantages had been interfered with. The arguments of the hon. and gallant Mover of the Amendment (Colonel Anson), and of the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay), if carried to their logical conclusion, would cause the constituencies to rise in arms. Their arguments implied that we ought to have an Army in England always prepared to take the field. Now that could not be the case, unless they were prepared with a permanent mode of transport for stores, provisions, and baggage. The cost of such a scheme would never be borne by the country in a time of peace. That it was unnecessary was shown by the case of their Indian Army. There was no country where troops were more liable to be suddenly called upon to take the field than in India; but except on frontier stations, and two or three field forces, there was not any permanent transport kept up, and most of the regiments in marching from place to place in the annual reliefs were dependent on the supply of carts by the farmers of the 1376 district through which it was necessary to pass. The common sense of this country would never sanction a permanent charge upon this country for the possible movement of troops. Now with respect to the charges which had been made against the Board of Control, not a single proof had been given that it had broken down. Let any hon. Member point out where, when, and how it had broken down. The fact was that it had not broken down. It had got a bad name, because certain private interests had been affected by the concentration of offices in one Department, instead of allowing departments, as formerly, to jostle each other. The country owed a debt of gratitude to the Control department. In 1866–7 and in 1867–8 the Estimate for that department was £7,880,000, and the expenditure £7,577,499. In the years 1868–9 and 1869–70 the Estimate was £7,406,079, and the expenditure was reduced to £6,627,157, showing a saving in the Estimate for the two latter years of more than £400,000. The Control department, therefore, ought to be popular with tax-payers. With respect to carriage, there was no proof that it could not produce a sufficiency. If the department could provide for moving 30,000 troops 12 miles, the same preparation would be sufficient to remove them 30 miles.
§ MAJOR ARBUTHNOT
said, he thought the ridiculous position occupied by the Government in consequence of the abandonment of the Berkshire plan might be very well set aside for the consideration of the more important lesson to be drawn from the failure of the administrative department, which he trusted would be long remembered. He was prepared to accept the reason which had been put forward by the Government for abandoning that plan—namely, the lateness of the harvest; but he did not consider it a valid or sufficient reason, and he believed that nine-tenths of the public would regard it as a transparent official subterfuge. It was considered that the cause was the state of the transport branch. The want of elasticity which was the characteristic feature of their Artillery was displayed in their system of transport. In the days when the Government professed to be economical, they cut everything down to such a starvation limit that the service was not only 1377 unequal to the emergencies of the moment, but to any possible contingencies that might occur. The Secretary of State for War had stated that all they required was a nucleus, which could be expanded, and that such a nucleus exists. This he denied. True, a nucleus existed which could be added to, but which had no inherent qualities which enabled it to be expanded. Its capabilities seemed to be exhausted when it had supplied the wants of some 20,000 men. Of what use would their 450,000 fighting men, of which they had heard so much from the Treasury bench, be if they could not provide transport for one-fifteenth of them without extraordinary efforts. He did not attach all the blame of this failure to the Government, for it was the natural result of a false system which had long prevailed. When any improvement was suggested, it was asked how much it would cost, and then perhaps one-fourth of the sum was given, and this turned out to be merely money thrown away. The difficulty of fixing responsibility was another grave point. Was it not absurd that the head of a Department should be an Under Secretary of State and a member of the Governing Body, to whom he was supposed to be responsible? Then, again, the most antagonistic duties were performed by the Department over which the Surveyor General presided, of any knowledge of which he was quite ignorant, having had no professional training. And so it was throughout the ranks of the Department; the most that could be expected of Controllers being a knowledge of one out of the three important class of functions devolving on them.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he desired to correct the erroneous impression that the Bill confined the manœuvres to the land lying between Aldershot and Chobham. The Government plan had really never been detailed to the House; but, so far as he could gather, if the Government were so minded they could under this Bill have manœuvres extending over 30 miles of country on either side of Aldershot; and this would be no unworthy ground for the purpose. The Government had already asked for £16,000,000 for the military service of the year, and he was sure that the country would be surprised and disappointed to hear that, notwithstanding such a 1378 Vote, the contemplated autumnal movements could not be carried out.
§ MR. EASTWICK
said, in reference to some observations made by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) upon the farmers of Berkshire, he wished to remark that whether or not it arose from their sunnier skies and warmer blood, the farmers of Berkshire were not so cannie and close-fisted as those of whom the hon. Member appeared to have had experience, and he desired to repel any imputation upon their patriotism and loyalty. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) was wrong in supposing that so much money had been saved in two years by the Control department, for the truth was that they had during this time been living on the stores that had already been collected. He (Mr. Eastwick) appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War not to give up the intention, which he admitted he once had, of forming the Berkshire camp—he could hardly retreat with honour from his position. No doubt there might be difficulties; but the very object of holding such a camp was to enable them to find out and overcome those difficulties. And besides, some of the supposed difficulties were purely imaginary ones. The harvest would be off the ground by the 15th of September, and the manœuvres would be finished by the 1st of October, and as to the equinoctial gales and the wet ground, he was really ashamed to hear such things mentioned. After all, in comparison with expeditions abroad, the camp in Berkshire would be merely a suburban picnic. The Secretary of State for War, with generous candour, had chosen to take upon himself the whole responsibility for the failure of the scheme. He thought, however, that it would be better if the right hon. Gentleman were to nominate a general officer to take charge of the expedition, and were then to wash his hands of all responsibility in the matter. He should leave it to the general to carry out the arrangements, and then most of the difficulties would disappear like the morning mist.
said, that their position was really this, that they were asked to sign a blank cheque to enable the Secretary for War to carry out certain manœuvres, all knowledge of the figures which were to be inserted into it being 1379 withheld until next Session. He, for one, should not refuse to sign that cheque; but he thought the details of the Bill most faulty. He would ask the House before passing this Bill to consider Clause 5. The Bill was to compensate the farmers for damage done to their land, and this damage was to be assessed by a Committee consisting of general officers in command, the three Lords Lieutenant, and 10 Members of Parliament. The majority of the Commission was also to determine what lands troops might be marched over. What general officer would undertake the command of the force if all his movements were to be subject to the approval of such a Committee? He (Colonel Jervis) regretted to hear that the Commander-in-Chief was to take the command, because if he commanded who would undertake the task of criticising him? It was for the Commander-in-Chief to remain quietly by, watching the movements that were taking place, rather than originating them, and when those movements were over to decide whether they had been properly carried out or not. In the meantime, the general officer in command should be intrusted with the entire direction of the whole proceedings, entirely independent of restriction or interference from either military or civil authorities, he being, however, responsible for the proper performance of his duties to the Commander-in-Chief and to the Secretary of State for War. Until that principle was laid down and acted upon they would never have the stuff they wanted for the command of the Army. They had now been discussing for the last six hours everything but the question—that of turning out an Army of 30,000 men in England. This camp was not to be formed in some desert place like Siberia, but in a civilized country, covered with magnificent roads and railways by which all necessary articles could be conveyed with ease and expedition, and of which in time of invasion their Army would make use. But what the House had been discussing was the supply of a certain number of horses and rotten carts. Were there no railways in Berkshire? He had no hesitation in saying that there would not have been the slightest difficulty in providing for the troops sufficient forage, fuel, meat, bread, potatoes, and, in fact, all that was required for the occasion. It was idle to 1380 say that cattle could not be moved about the country. They were moved about the country from the different markets of the country, and they were now being sent from Harwich to Berkshire. It was not expected that the Controller General would have had himself to supply cattle for the camp; but he would have found no difficulty in obtaining a sufficient supply of meat through the dealers in the neighbourhood, and the same with regard to fuel and other things. A Volunteer Corps had been formed, called the Engineer Volunteer Corps, consisting of nothing but colonels, and composed of all the managers and engineers of all railway companies, whose principal duty was to get the platelayers together for assisting in throwing up the neceessary earthworks, but had they been called on to render their services on this occasion? It was absurd to say that horses for transport service could not be had in Berkshire at 7s. per day. And with regard to Messrs. Pickford, it was well known they had asked the large sum of £90,000, or £2 per horse per day, in order to get rid of the Government offer, the acceptance of which would have deranged all their ordinary business. The Army Service Corps had entirely broken down; but rather than that the Berkshire camp should fail, he should like to see every horse belonging to the Artillery not taking part in the manœuvres pressed into the service of that corps for the time being. In fact, he would have done anything rather than have broken down on the great trial. It would be to the discredit of the country if the plan originally determined on were now abandoned.
§ MR. CARDWELL
, in reply, said, he would not take up more than a few moments of the time of the House. He would first reply to the hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater Booth). He (Mr. Cardwell) had stated, in the commencement of that evening, which was the first time he had had an opportunity of making a statement on this subject, that if the War Office had been able to obtain a sufficient amount of local transport at the ordinary moderate rate of charge, the Control department would have been ready to have discharged its duty, but instead of that they were informed that this year it could not be had at any price.
You could have had it under the 7th clause of the Mutiny Act.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Then they were to have put the Mutiny Act in operation, and have taken the farmers' horses by force or by requisition in the middle of the corn harvest!
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he thought that would not be at all satisfactory to the farmers. He commended this suggestion made by a soldier to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), who objected to civilians at the head of the War Department. He himself did not think that it was much to the comfort of a civilian to be at the head of the War Department; but the civilian who was in that position must resemble a soldier at least in one respect—namely, in being perfectly ready to fight. He only wished that his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, and those who wished to know why a civilian was put at the head of the War Department, would read the evidence of Sir James Graham's Committee. How would any hon. Member opposite, or any other hon. Gentleman, like to see the day when a military man at the head of the War Department would order the horses of farmers to be impressed under the Mutiny Act for services such as the War Office wanted them for, and that in the middle of a late harvest. He had been charged with inferring that their soldiers were sugar soldiers, and were not fit to go into the wet. That he indignantly denied. He had no doubt that when called into active service, they would cheerfully respond to the call of duty, and that they would not hesitate, whether they were called upon to encounter the rains of Africa or the snows of Sebastopol; but was that a reason why, when they were about to have a camp of instruction for the Regulars and the auxiliaries, they should choose a period of the year for it when the smallest amount of instruction would be gained at the greatest amount of inconvenience. He had also been charged with want of courtesy to the farmers of Berkshire respecting the autumnal manœuvres. He thought it belonged to the War Office to determine on behalf of the country what should be the operations of the Army; but he communi- 1382 cated with the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) the knowledge he possessed respecting the proposed manœuvres. There was some misunderstanding, however, and mistake, he supposed, and the alleged want of courtesy had arisen out of it. He hoped the farmers of Berkshire would accept the explanation he had already given. On the subject of stores the remark had been made that evening that they were living on their "fat"—that was to say, living on that which had been heaped up in former years. With regard to such a statement, all he could say was, that he hoped hon. Gentlemen would dismiss it from their minds, as it was not in any way correct. One of the first things he did on acceding to his present office was to enjoin his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Henry Storks) on no account to save the stores Estimate by the consumption of any stores in stock in order to present an apparent saving, because it would only cause increased expenditure in future years. To the statements of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) respecting the Control department, he was not going to give a detailed answer. The French intendance was no doubt unsatisfactory in principle, because it was independent of the general officer who commanded the Army. He thought it was the first principle of a good Control that it should be subject to, and under the supervision of, the general officer. In our Army that was the case, and in most instances they had followed the suggestion of the late Duke of Wellington. He was safe in saying that the late Duke of Wellington's principle was that the Commissariat should have all those things under their charge which related to the immediate supply of the Army; but that the Ordnance should have under its charge all those things that were required to be kept in store. That was exactly the principle of the Control department at that moment. It had been said that the distinguished officer in whom the two departments were centred ought not to appear in the House; and yet almost in the same breath it was said there ought not to be a civilian at the head of the War Department, but that a military man should come into that House to represent it.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, that as a satisfactory discussion had taken place, he would beg to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow, at Two of the clock.