HC Deb 06 June 1873 vol 216 cc552-72

in rising to call attention to the inadequacy and inelasticity of the Cavalry Force in this country, and to the present system of purchasing horses; and to move— That in the opinion of this House, considering the smallness of the Force, it is expedient to at once take steps for providing a sufficient reserve of men and horses for the Cavalry, said, he wished to point out that the astounding successes of the Germans in the late war with France were proved to have been due more to the preparation and organization of the Prussian troops than to any difference in the fighting qualities of the two armies, and he would quote a passage from the review which appeared in The Times of the German official History of the War, to show that "all the wretched con- fusion" which existed in the case of the French— occurred …. because the War Office at Paris had kept the administration in its own hands, and had never understood the vastness of the task of mobilizing a great Army. Let no smile pass over the face of an Englishman when he reads Von Moltke's account. We, the practical people par excellence, are in no better case at this moment. We have the same evil system of centralization, the same blind confidence of what we could do on the spur of the moment; and the case of France would be ours, if we were suddenly to mobilize all our available troops to resist invasion. He did not, however, on the present occasion, intend to enter into the question of the general system of military administration, and would confine himself to that arm of the service to which his Notice particularly referred. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) had, in an attack made upon the Household Cavalry in the Session of 1871, made the astounding remark that cavalry, and especially heavy cavalry, had taken but little part in the last war. But that was far from being the fact, as he (Captain Talbot) was able to show in the debate. Cavalry, and especially heavy cavalry—for German cavalry was principally heavy—contributed as much as any arm in the service to the success of the German armies, and perhaps more than any arm to the rapidity of that success. That glorious day—the 17th of August, 1870—when at the battle of Rezonville the Prussian cavalry enabled one Corps d'Armée to hold its ground against, and prevent the retreat of the whole French Army, was a sufficient proof, even if it stood alone, that the days of cavalry charging cavalry and engaging infantry had not gone by. Colonel Bonie, of the 11th Dragoons (French), who wrote with great frankness and ability, said of this battle— As for bodies of cavalry meeting cavalry that happened repeatedly. The horses of our light cavalry were knocked to pieces against the solid and impassable line formed by German Dragoons. From which it appears that as the advantage is on the side of size and weight, one should never engage where there is too great a disparity. He (Captain Talbot) was supported by authorities in denying that the days of cavalry had gone by. On the contrary, their rôle in warfare had changed but not diminished. The duties of reconnaissances and of veiling the movements of an Army had taken a first place in importance; while with the increasing range of artillery and its greater mobility the necessity for cavalry, both in the attack and defence of that arm, was greater than ever. He could not accept the last war as a certain precedent as to what would happen in any future war, because in that instance one Army was fully prepared for war and the other was totally unprepared. In future wars, instead of a few horsemen taking possession of large towns and requisitioning whole provinces, they would see cavalry engagements great and small, and that cavalry which, by the perfection of its organization and the ampleness of its reserve was able to maintain itself in the field, would be able to give that assistance to the main body so essential to its ultimate success. What was the state of our own cavalry force at the present time? Was its number sufficient for the duties it had to perform? Was it fit to take the field, and could it maintain itself when it was there? He fully admitted that it was impossible in the present state of feeling in this country to keep up the cavalry at a war standard in a time of peace; and, indeed, it would be impossible to keep that force up to such a standard, without the expenditure of an enormous sum of money annually. But in time of peace preparation might be made for war, without undue expenditure, by reorganizing our cavalry system. Our cavalry force, as compared with that of other countries, was most inadequate. We could not attempt to compete with the numbers of foreign armies—indeed, the comparison was too appalling—but surely their units should be of something like equal strength—regiment for regiment, squadron for squadron. Thus, the cavalry regiments of North Germany during the last war consisted of five squadrons, numbering 690 riding and 115 draught horses, of which four squadrons took the field and one remained at home to train men and horses to fill the vacancies occasioned by the casualties of war. Our regiments consist of only four weak squadrons, all of which are supposed to take the field, no reserves being left at home, nor any provision being made for maintaining the force during war. The regiments averaged 320 horses, of which 10 per cent were four-year-olds. At the Manœuvres their regimental transport was found by most regiments, and their number still further reduced by furnishing orderlies, &c., for the cavalry Staff. The result of our present system was that each of our cavalry regiments which took part in the last Autumn Manœuvres did not exceed the strength of two squadrons of German cavalry, while towards the end they probably little exceeded one. It must be recollected that it was impossible to improvise cavalry. Colonel Bonie said— Before the war, much was written and said in France in favour of the cavalry being reduced, but better informed and more clear-sighted Prussia allowed us to theorize, and silently prepared her own cavalry, and increased its numbers and relative proportions to other arms. Again, he said— As soon as war had been formally declared against Prussia, the various cavalry regiments received the order to mobilise. Immediately the vices of our organization were brought to light, and, in spite of all efforts, our zeal failed to contend successfully against impossibilities. It is evident that during peace regiments cannot be kept up to a war footing; such a system would be ruinous. But since this is the case there is all the more reason that a system should be adopted which should enable the cavalry to receive, on the shortest notice, supplies of men and horses sufficient to carry the total to a war strength, otherwise the cavalry, which ought to precede the Army in order to obtain intelligence, will on the contrary be the last ready, and instead of being the vanguard will be the rearguard. At the commencement of this war we not only had no reserves of horses, but a portion of our effective strength was composed of four-year-old remounts. Thus it was that with the greatest difficulty we only succeeded in getting together four squadrons per regiment, of 102 horses each, which strength, the smallest with which one can take the field, was soon lessened by a few days of hard work.…. Thus, from the commencement of hostilities, the weakness of every part of our organization became only too apparent. Owing to our system of remounts, we were obliged, for want of reserves, to march with a strength that was barely sufficient for a peace establishment; and once on the road our squadrons of 80 horses remained at that strength without ever being completed up to their proper total. Therefore, we must reorganise and perfect this branch of our system. An improved system should supply an in exhaustable supply of remounts told off to regiments beforehand, and which should be numerous enough to fill up all vacancies. The same thing applies to the teaching of both man and horse. We had at the last Manœuvres a force of something like 30,000 men, of which 12 regiments were cavalry in brigade and one broken up—a very proper proportion; but that exhausted the whole force of cavalry in the United Kingdom, except one regiment in Manchester and one in Scotland. Was that an adequate reserve? The seven regiments in Ireland were not included, but could they reduce the garrison there? But where was the cavalry to come from for the rest of the infantry? The Secretary of State for War would not admit it was all he could produce; and indeed, while few infantry regiments took part in the Manœuvres of 1871 and those of 1872, the cavalry that was present in the former year were also at the latter. He ventured to assert that if the Manœuvres last year had been a campaign and a successful one, that we should not have had any cavalry for further operations. How could reconnaissances and other duties be well performed without abundance of strength to relieve men and horses? The Army was exposed to great disasters by neglecting the lessons they should have learnt, and the officers would be blamed for ignorance and incapacity in failing in the performance of duties beyond their powers to undertake. They had had little experience in cavalry warfare since arms of precision were introduced, and none since the great development of artillery and the introduction of breechloaders. The Crimea was no field for cavalry—a fact the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) might remember when he thought fit to taunt certain regiments with not being there—and, except at Balaclava, played a passive rather than an active part, and yet what was its state after ten months. Colonel Baker reminded them in his most valuable lecture at the United Service Institution, that the light brigade could only turn out one heterogeneous squadron made up from the different regiments. Where were the re-inforcements? Where the reserves? Very much where they should find them if they unhappily should go to war in the next few years. Now, it had been said by an eminent writer (Jomini) on military subjects, that an Army deficient in cavalry rarely obtained a great victory, and found its retreat uniformly difficult. That was as true as ever. And we must have more men, and we must have the means of laying hands upon a large number of horses. The cost of a cavalry soldier was little more than an infantry man. The latter could be produced in a few months, the former took at least two years. And yet while something was being done in providing a reserve of infantry, nothing had been done for a cavalry reserve. He (Captain Talbot) gave credit to the Secretary of State for what he had attempted in that direction—not that he was satisfied either with the mode or the amount—but in this country one must be contented with very small mercies; but it did seem anomalous that with the greater necessity nothing should be attempted for the cavalry. If trained men were necessary for trained or untrained horses, it was also imperative that we should be able to lay our hands at a moment's notice upon a sufficient number of horses—if partly trained so much the better. Some persons imagined that if we went to war the right hon. Gentleman could with the greatest ease buy horses in any quantity and put them into line; but anyone who knew anything about the subject knew that that was an absurd idea. It would be difficult to buy or to requisition—and at all events the machinery for doing one or the other should be framed now, instead of waiting until they were in want of them. Colonel Baker had made two suggestions, which he (Captain Talbot) thought were worthy of close examination. One suggestion was that all the horses of the country should be registered and divided into two classes—that one class should pay a higher duty, and the other should pay no duty at all, or a very small duty, on condition that if wanted in the event of war we should be able to have them. The other suggestion was that 1,000 additional horses should be purchased every year for the cavalry and artillery; that they should be trained for one year and then lent to farmers or yeomen, to be their property after five or six years, on the condition that they should be forthcoming when wanted for Autumn Manœuvres, or, in case of war, that they should give them back to the Government, in which case they would again become the property of the Government. That was a plausible suggestion, and one which might be at all events examined with advantage. Last year the cost of supplying transport for the Autumn Manœuvres was £42,000. They had consequently paid £42,000, and got nothing to show for it. That sum would be sufficient to purchase 1,000 horses, which would be available for the Autumn Manœuvres, the keep of which they would only have to pay for one year while being broken in. Under that system they would have in a few years a great number of horses available for Government purposes. He would now direct attention to the system of purchase. At present the colonel of the regiment bought his re-mounts. Some persons thought that that was not the proper way of buying horses, and that there should be a Commission to purchase all the horses for the Service. He did not agree in that opinion, and he thought it was a great advantage that the man whose anxiety it was to mount his regiment as well as possible should purchase the horses. It was also said that the colonels of regiments competed with each other, and thereby raised the price of horses; but it was impossible that the small purchases effected by the colonels could make any difference in the market. They had a Commission for buying horses in India, which came down to Bombay on the arrival of horses from Australia, and purchased them in large batches, taking the rough with the smooth, and there was not that careful selection or the pains taken as when a colonel knew that he was buying for his own regiment. The real fault of the system of buying horses in this country, however, was that they had a great deal too much to do with the dealers instead of the breeders, and it was not generally known what price the Government would give for their horses. The price ought to be known to the farmers, and they ought to be encouraged to bring their horses to the cavalry barracks and depots, and then they would come into the hands of the Government without having to pay the toll of the intermediate horse dealer. He believed if farmers knew they would obtain £42, or whatever the re-mount price might be, for every sound useful horse at four years old, it would be a great inducement for them to breed. He would recommend that a stallion should be kept with each regiment, and farmers invited to send mares, upon condition that the stock should be offered to Government under certain conditions at three or four years old. He (Captain Talbot) would lend or give shapely well-bred mares, after they had done a certain amount of work, to farmers upon conditions as to their stock. He was a great advocate for buying horses young. The best animals of the cavalry regiments were bought at three years; but they should not be put upon the strength of their regiment until they were five years old. A fifth squadron should be added to each regiment as a depôt and a training establishment, and all four-year-olds should be in that squadron. If three-year-olds were bought—which he believed to be the best and cheapest age to buy, for there was no competition then—they should be left at grass with the breeder or other farmer at a small expense, or be put in strawyards attached to barracks. He believed that the Government would soon have to pay a higher price for their horses. The French Government were paying from £48 to £72 for the heavy cavalry, and from £40 to £60 for their light cavalry horses, whereas our price for the corresponding class of animals was £50 and £42. Their heavy cavalry ought to be well mounted, and in order to effect that there could be no worse economy than that of paying little for horses for the Service. General Blumenthal, two years ago, said that he had never seen anything like the Household Cavalry; but it could not be kept in its present state if they were only to give the same price for horses that they gave 30 years ago. He wished to draw attention to the extravagant manner in which the additional transport for the last Autumn Manœuvres was provided. He believed that 2,000 horses were purchased at something like £40 to £42 each. He was not exactly certain upon the point, for the Army Estimates, in treating upon it, were very hazy. The course, however, pursued upon that occasion had not proved very advantageous. The right hon. Gentleman made a contract with a London dealer for the whole number, and the result was that he got a lot of old, infirm, worn out, useless and soft animals at a very extravagant price. The proof of that was that when they were sold a few weeks after, there had been a loss of some £20 a-piece upon those horses, which showed they must have been bought dearly or sold badly. He was told that a new contract had now been entered into for this year, and that foreign horses would be introduced in consequence. He very much regretted this result. These foreign horses were of an inferior class; they would be bred from, and there would then be a dete- rioration of the quality of horses in this country. It seemed to him that it would be better either to issue tenders for 100 or 200 horses in the different districts and in the large towns, to be delivered at each of their depôts, or to have imposed the duty of buying the horses upon the commanding officers of cavalry. He wished to say one word with reference to the breeding of horses, and he must say that he thought there was a great deal of nonsense talked in the name of political economy with reference to the subject. He did not pretend to any knowledge of political economy, but it did seem to be against the principles of common sense that where there was only a limited supply of an article no means should be taken to prevent the loss of the power of producing it, no efforts made to stimulate the supply, and no steps taken to regulate the causes that lead to the decrease of the supply. They were at present burning the candle at both ends. They were allowing their best brood mares to go out of the country, and they were importing animals of the most wretched and rubbishy description from the Continent. Another matter to which he wished to direct attention was the want of a cavalry Staff. In case of a war they would have to improvise a Staff. That was not a satisfactory state of affairs, and he believed that they could at a moderate expense maintain a Staff. It would have ample work in time of peace, and would be of the greatest service in promoting the efficiency of the force; and no other country with an Army was without it. In The Times last year there was an article, written with great ability, and in a spirit of fair criticism, on the subject of cavalry manœuvres and the duties of cavalry; but the fact was that this country did not possess a sufficient force of cavalry to perform the duties which would devolve upon them under the new system of tactics; and that was an answer to most of the criticisms. There never was greater occasion for cavalry than existed now. Man for man, the British cavalry, he believed, was superior to that of any other country; but individual excellence could not make up for what was chiefly wanting—numbers—and in failing to supply them we had not profited by the lesson which had been taught us two years ago. It would be well if the Government would make some inquiry on many points upon which information was necessary—for example, as to the number of the cavalry force required; what should be their strength during peace and in war; the means of increasing that strength; the formation of a reserve of men and trained horses; a system of registering horses; the proportion necessary for different branches of the cavalry force; and the cavalry equipment. The last point was one of great importance, for, though the system of tactics had changed so greatly, the equipment of our cavalry remained the same. Then there was the question of Government studs and Government farms. From observation in India he was not an advocate for Government studs, but that system was spoken of so highly in Germany and Austria that he should like to have further information on this point. The question of farms was quite distinct from that of studs. He hoped that the Government, on all the points he had mentioned, would make close inquiries by the aid not only of War Office officials, but of independent men. He had taken up this matter in no party spirit, and he would be glad to receive an assurance from the Government that they understood and appreciated its importance and difficulties. Their Army should be like a clock wound up, and only requiring the pendulum to be touched in order to set its vast and complicated machinery in motion. Instead of that, if an emergency arose, he feared they would have chaos, confusion, and trouble. He knew that the responsibility rested with the Government; but the responsibility of that House was only second to theirs. And what satisfaction would it be when great disasters occurred to be able to lay the blame on this or that Government? What satisfaction was it to the French nation? It was because he felt that he could not accept the responsibility of being silent—having an opportunity of speaking that few cavalry officers had—that he ventured to bring this Motion before the House, feebly and imperfectly he was well aware, but to the best of his ability, and with a sincere desire not to trespass unduly upon the time of the House. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, considering the smallness of the Force, it is expedient to at once take steps for providing a sufficient reserve of men and horses for the Cavalry,"—(Mr. Reginald Talbot,)

—instead thereof.


said, that while some of the remarks which had been addressed to the House would be of great use to the nation, he thought, generally speaking, it was a subject which could not be properly discussed there. He agreed that our present cavalry system was inelastic, and might be much improved; that it was a system which suited old times, but did not meet modern requirements; but at the same time, he thought that, as far as the horses were concerned, a large cavalry reserve in time of peace would be unnecessary. As to the purchase of horses, he also agreed that the present system was unsatisfactory. The great evil of the present system was that it tended to keep up the price of horses. To take a common case, four or five colonels attended a fair in Ireland in person, and although they did not bid against each other, the dealers knew what they were about, and took advantage of the competition to run the price up to the maximum allowed by the regulations. It appeared to him the simplest thing in the world to take the purchasing out of the hands of the colonels, and transfer it to one person who should buy for the whole cavalry service, as was done in the case of the artillery horses. Another evil of the present system was that light horses were attached to heavy cavalry and heavy horses were attached to light cavalry, according to the fancy of the colonels. With regard to the reserves of men he would point out that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Office had the power to create these reserves by simply applying to the cavalry service the Short Enlistment Act which was passed three years ago. That Act had been applied to the infantry, and he hoped no time would be lost in applying it to the cavalry. In connection with the remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Captain Talbot) as to the scarcity of horses, it had been said that a great number of horses would be re- quired by us in the event of war breaking out. But we had established new means at our command, and machinery was coming to our aid to help us in the movement of our supplies; and the result would be that a smaller number of horses would be required than had been expected. Now, the hon. Member proposed a plan by which farmers should be lent horses by the Government. But in his opinion that would be a very good plan for the farmers but a very bad one for the Government; for the Government would only use them in time of war. But we wanted horses for the Autumn Manœuvres, and he should like to ask the hon. Gentleman if farmers would be willing to let their horses go in time of peace when they wanted them the most for the harvest.


said, he had the honour of bringing this subject forward in 1871, and he then hoped to obtain an answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He brought it forward again in 1872, and also again in 1873, on which latter occasion he drew the attention of the House to the fact that the Germans reckoned one horse to four men, and we one to 15 men. He also pointed out that we were deficient in our Reserves. He quite agreed that that House was not the United Service Institution; but it was a place where attention might be called to the great deficiency of our cavalry horses and reserves with advantage. What he complained of was that nothing had been done, notwithstanding that the attention of the Government had been several times called to the subject. It was true that we were not threatened with a foreign war; but the old proverb told us that if we wished to avoid war we must be prepared for it in case it broke out. He was not present when the right hon. Gentleman made some remarks on the War Estimates of the present year; but, as he read the Report, the right hon. Gentleman said—"If you want horses you must vote the money, and I will buy them." But he was now rather shrinking from his responsibility.


stated that what he said was, that a Committee had been appointed by the House of Lords to consider the cheapest mode of obtaining horses; but in his opinion the best plan was to wait until horses were wanted and then go into the market and take care that good ones were bought.


But in what position did this leave us? Supposing we waited for a war to break out, and then went into the market to buy horses, were we likely to get them? Would it not be more prudent to secure a sufficient supply of horses in reserve, to be brought into the field at a moment's notice, without being dependent on any market whatever? He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House what course he intended to adopt? On the question of the Government stud he made no observations. Sending round the country a number of stallions would much improve the breed of horses. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to wait till the Committee of the Lords had reported, or did he mean to have a Committee of military men to consider the whole subject? Would he be prepared, when the Army Estimates were brought forward next year, to express his views? He (Lord Eustace Cecil) thought the nation ought to be prepared at once with a sufficient stock of cavalry as well as of artillery, ready to take the field at any moment.


said, he regarded the subject as one of great importance to the country, and as the Resolution only dealt with one branch—the supply of horses—he regretted that the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Talbot) had brought his Motion forward without waiting until the Committee sitting in "another place" had made its Report. He thought that if war broke out to-morrow the nation would have very great difficulty in finding cavalry horses, and still more difficulty in finding reserved horses, the dearth of horses was so very great. The cart horses throughout the country also had become exceedingly scarce, and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Office was buying French horses for service during the Autumn Manœuvres. He concurred in the recommendation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, that the Government should go into the market and buy horses three years old, and they would then have the pick of the market, and enable the farmer to get a remunerating price for his horseflesh. At present the farmers could do better by producing beef and mutton; but if they could get a market for their three-year-olds they would breed horses with profit to themselves and with advantage to the country. If that course was adopted, he thought they could afford to dispense with a Government breeding establishment. Then the cavalry and artillery cast horses every year. Why should not these horses, by being cast at the proper time, be utilized for the Autumn Manœuvres? In that way a great saving might be effected. He hoped that due consideration would be given by the authorities to the suggestions which had been thrown out.


said, his experience had convinced him that our cavalry had always been stinted and starved, and of late years its inefficiency had been increased. The horses were not so good as they used to be, and the removal of officers from their regiments to Sandhurst was not a step in the right direction. Sending men to their regiments for a year and then sending them to school again was not the proper thing to do. There was nothing the cavalry were employed to do at the Autumn Manœuvres which might not be done from Aldershot, where the horses would be under cover at night. He understood that the number of hours on an average that the horses were employed, exclusive of Sundays, was eight a-day, and when they returned they were picketed, not 5 per cent of them lying down. The consequence was that there was no end of broken knees and other injuries. There was no doubt there was a want of officers, and if, instead of the Autumn Manœuvres, we had been engaged in real service, we should have been without officers in a month. In his time we used always to buy horses at three years old, and the system was a good one. Many persons, when they bought a baddish four or five-year-old, used him at once; but no one would think of using a three-year-old at once. We should buy nothing but three-year-olds and good ones, and if we could not get a good horse for a small sum we must give a larger one. That was the system which would succeed. We had not sufficient horses, nor men enough for those horses. It was all very well to say "a man for a horse;" but in his opinion the men ought to be increased in a greater ratio than the horses, and the horses ought to be good, unless, indeed, we were prepared to have a band of donkeys to carry out our arbitration policy.


observed that the real question was entirely one of demand and supply. If money were no object, it would be very easy to have a very large force of horses; but the question was really one of expense. The hon. and gallant gentleman the Member for Stafford (Captain Talbot) began his observations by referring to what he called the centralization system of the War Office. Now, on the part of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and the Office over which he presided, he would repeat what he had formerly stated, that if there was one object more than another which he had at heart it had been to de-centralize the War Office—to allow general officers commanding districts to command their own districts, and officers commanding regiments to command their own regiments. That was the policy which he had faithfully pursued. Of the three propositions laid down by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the first was that the cavalry should be sufficient. He would leave his right hon. Friend to explain to the House his policy and the steps he had taken to maintain the cavalry in a state of sufficiency and efficiency as regarded numbers. With regard to the cavalry being ready to take the field, the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew that regiments of cavalry varied in strength; some regiments were of larger proportions, both as regarded men and horses, than other regiments. He had no hesitation, however, in saying that those regiments which were destined to go abroad were quite sufficient for the Army to which they would be attached; and as regarded maintaining cavalry in the field, he had no hesitation in saying that we should be able to maintain the cavalry as well as during the Crimean War. The hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the great review in the Crimea where there was only one squadron on the ground composed of heterogeneous materials. Now, if he referred to the review at the close of the war, at which the Russian Generals assisted, it was quite true there was only one squadron present, and that was of the 11th Hussars. The rest of the cavalry had been removed to the Bosphorus, where an equally striking review was held by the Sultan, at which 14 regiments were present, less one squadron of the 11th Hussars left in the Crimea for orderly duties, both men and horses being perfectly capable of taking the field, if operations had continued. These regiments were perfectly complete, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would move for a Return of the force, he would lay it on the Table. The number of horses required for re-mounting the Cavalry, the Royal Artillery, and the Army Service Corps was about 1,500 annually. The cavalry were re-mounted entirely in Ireland, with the exception of the 9th Lancers. The horses bought were generally three and a-half years old—they were reckoned four years old in October. At present it might be interesting to know what the state of the mounted services was. On the 2nd of June the establishment of horses of the cavalry, artillery, and engineers (exclusive of India) were 14,033; of which there were effectives 13,894. We wanted 132 horses to complete the Cavalry, six in the Artillery, and one in the Royal Engineers. As to the age of horses, there were under five years of age 948 in the cavalry, 194 in the artillery, and 18 in the engineers, making a total of 1,160 under five years old. Speaking generally, no one could say these were not horses of the right age and stamp. He was sure the hon. and gallant Member would be very sorry to put a trooper of his own regiment on a three-year old horse. Looking to the number of horses—only 1,500 annually—required for the public service, he thought under the present system arrangements were admirably managed, and the regiments perfectly efficient. Commanding officers were perfectly satisfied with them, and he did not think they would be satisfied if the horses were bought by any other means. The course pursued in the Artillery was to purchase horses from the dealers; the Deputy Adjutant General of Artillery passed them after inspection, and then they were drafted over to the regiment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had made some rather severe remarks with reference to the horses with which he was more particularly concerned for the Autumn Manœuvres last year. Now, he distinctly and emphatically denied that statement. He thought those horses were of very fair average, admirably suited to the purpose, and they did their work remarkably well. The hon. and gallant Member should consider under what circumstances those horses were provided. He had not the power to buy them when he liked—he was limited as to the period of purchase. He must have them as soon as he could within a given time. The House only voted a certain sum of money for the Autumn Manœuvres, and he was bound to economize that sum as much as possible. It was said he ought to purchase by tender, but that would only lead to dealers bidding against each other. Then it should be remembered that two-thirds of the horses used at the Autumn Manœuvres were foreign horses. Who was to go to the Continent to buy horses for him? He was obliged to buy through a dealer, and the contract had been very well performed. He had passed 60 horses that morning, and having inspected them, he might say they were for the greater part of a good stamp. [Mr. OSBORNE: How much did you pay for them?] Well, horses all over the world had risen in price. He was paying £47—an increase of —5 on last year; and he thought himself very fortunate in getting them at that price. Undoubtedly the horses last autumn when sold did not fetch a very good price; but there were reasons why. In the first place, they were worked very hard, and they were driven by men who were inexperienced in driving. Having introduced the system of regimental transport, it was quite impossible to have drivers so trained and so careful of their horses as he hoped and as he was sure they would become with more practice. It should also be borne in mind that the stable accommodation for these horses was not of the very best description; for if he had come down to the House and called for a large sum of money to provide stabling many hon. Members on both sides would have questioned the prudence of such a Vote. Probably, there had not been for many years a season of such continued rain and bad weather as that which followed the Autumn Manœuvres. Well, of course, horses, like other people, suffered from that kind of weather. At all events, he thought horses caught cold as well as we did. However, these horses were well cared for, and fetched an average price of £23 9s. 11d. all round. His hon. and gallant Friend had asserted that the Government lost £40,000 by the horses; but, at any rate, a great deal of work was got out of them, and if the Government had contracted for the same amount of work, he thought it would have cost quite as much. The horses they were now buying were for the most part young ones—generally five, six, or seven years old. He believed there was not one above 10 years old. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knew perfectly well that we had a certain number of dismounted men, because it was impossible to have a horse for every man. Indeed, Colonel Baker always advocated having a large number of men with a very small number of horses. The great object of the Committee which was examining this question, and which was nearly ready to report, had been to lighten the weight of the cavalry by taking away from them everything that was not absolutely required. He would now make a few remarks with reference to providing reserves of horses. The proposal in regard to a stud was one which few hon. Members would advocate, as its establishment would be extremely costly. In breeding horses we had what was bred—namely, a very uncertain production, whereas by purchasing in the market, we got what we required, as we need not take a horse unless we liked it. Again, Government farming would render another new establishment necessary; but his opinion was, that Government establishments ought to be as few as possible, and therefore he thought it was far better to go into the open market and buy when and where we could. In conclusion, he promised to attend to many of the valuable suggestions which had been made in the course of the present discussion.


concurred in some parts of the statement made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance, especially that part wherein he said that officers commanding cavalry regiments did at the present moment obtain a very good class of horses. He also agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be unwise to overburthen ourselves with more horses than we required; but he was unable to endorse the statement that it was inexpedient to purchase horses at less age than four years. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, indeed, that horses were purchased at three and a-half years old in the month of October, but he omitted to mention that they cost as much as four-year-olds. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to have gone a step further, and said that if horses were purchased at four years, or at three years and six or ten months old, we were certain to have a large number of competitors. Foreigners, and especially Frenchmen, would come over to compete with us for horses of that age, but not for three-year-olds, and therefore we ought to purchase horses at the age of three years. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wenlock had argued that it was not necessary to have a reserve either of men or of horses; but the opinion of the War Office was decidedly in favour of a system of reserves. He wished, however, to give the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell) an opportunity of explaining how the cavalry reserves were to be obtained. The right hon. Gentleman hail found he could not apply the system of short enlistment to the cavalry or artillery, and he wished to know what course the right hon. Gentleman proposed to adopt in case of emergency. Perhaps it might be said the horses might be procured on the spur of the moment; but the plan would not answer as regarded men, and it was well known that the horses which were bought in a hurry during the Crimean War were far inferior to those originally sent out. He contended that if we were to be in a complete defensive state, we should not only have a proper reserve of infantry, but of cavalry and artillery.


said, he was not in the least degree inclined to charge the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Captain Talbot) with presumption for having brought forward the Motion, or to complain of the tone and temper of his remarks; neither had he the smallest inclination to deny the great importance and interest of the subject to which the Motion referred. He should have great pleasure in answering the question addressed to him by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot). It was always gratifying to meet with converts. He was not quite certain whether the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex was a convert to the system of having reserves of cavalry by means of a shorter period of service or not; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought forward the Motion did, upon a recent occasion, avow himself to be a convert to the system of short service. He (Mr. Cardwell) hoped to see the day when this system of short service would be applied to the cavalry as well as the infantry. The noble Lord the Member for West Essex (Lord Eustace Cecil) had said he had brought forward the question three times, and complained that nothing had been done; but the fact was that something had been done—for instance, he had before him a Return of the number of cavalry in this country. There were 23 regiments, 8,053 rank and file, and 6,242 horses in 1857; 19 regiments, 8,949 rank and file, and 6,346 horses in 1868; and 22 regiments, 10,422 rank and file, and 7,661 horses in 1873. Therefore, the first answer he had to give to his hon. and noble Friend was that the absolute number had been considerably increased during the last four years. Preparations had also been made for obtaining a reserve by short service. In 1870 he passed a Bill into an Act for that purpose; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) asked him why the system of short service had not yet been introduced for the cavalry as well as for the infantry. Now, although the labour market had been in an exceedingly abnormal state, the cavalry recruiting had been going on extremely well. The numbers were "up," and we had now arrived at a period of transition, because by the new scheme of localization a new and local mode of recruiting had been introduced throughout the country. It was, therefore, the opinion of the principal military authorities in this country, and of those by whom he had the honour of being advised, that it would not be expedient at this particular moment to introduce any change in the system of cavalry recruiting, and it was thought better to do nothing until the new system of re-organization was actually introduced. With regard to the cavalry reserve, it was also thought more expedient to wait for the now system than to disturb the recruiting that was now going on. With regard to horses, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stafford, while he mentioned several suggestions, adopted none, and said that the present mode of purchase was the most judicious. He also quoted the opinion of General Blumenthal, who said that the English cavalry were second to none, either in men or horses. The Horse Guards and the War Office wished the cavalry force to be adequate and elastic, and every measure would be resorted to in order to give effect to the object which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had in view. The House, however, would not be prepared to come to a Resolution which declared virtually that the Army Estimates ought to be increased, and he trusted that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be satisfied with the discussion that had occurred.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 68: Majority 60.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," again proposed.