§ LORD ELCHO
, in rising to call attention to the recent Army reforms, and to move a Resolution, commenced by observing that in 1871 the Government of the day induced Parliament to incur liabilities to the amount of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 for the purpose of establishing our military organization on a sound footing: in a subsequent year further liabilities were incurred for the same object to the amount of £3,500,000 sterling. It was thus hoped that the 1288 measures of the late Government had placed the Army on a secure footing, but sceptical letters had appeared in The Times, and sceptical speeches been made this Session; but, after the speech of the Secretary for War on the Army Estimates, the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) expressed a hope "that the discussion on the Estimates would reassure the public;" and the leading journal spoke of "the welcome reassurance conveyed by Mr. Hardy's speech." Under such circumstances it was an ungracious and ungrateful task to play the part of Cassandra, and speak rough things when smooth things would be much more acceptable. Yet this was the task he had set himself to do. He asked then the indulgence of the House, and the more so as he could not, in treating this subject, use high-flown language such as they had heard so much of from the Opposition on the Regimental Exchanges Bill. He could not speak of woman's virtue and of soldiers' honour as they had done—honour which, in passing, he might say, was as safe in the keeping of the soldier as of any right hon. Gentleman opposite; but he would have to deal in figures of arithmetic and not in figures of speech. His talk must be of soldiers' height, age, and chest measurements; matters in themselves prosaic and sublunary, but upon which depended the honour of Nations and the fate of Empires. He should ask the House to affirm a Resolution to the following effect:—That the state and prospects of our present Army organization, as regards the obtaining of a sufficient and continuous supply of efficient soldiers, are calculated to cause well-grounded apprehension, and demand some immediate remedy pending the remote and uncertain results of a more complete development of the Brigade Depôt system.In this Resolution he spoke of "the present system." It was, however, only by courtesy that he called it "a system," because it was a happy-go-lucky plan of proceeding, and, in fact, we had no system at all. If a military system was gauged by the test that it involved the largest expenditure of money with the most limited possible results, then we had that system. But if, on the other hand, a sound military system depended on the organization of the manhood and power of the nation and on putting them in the field at the lowest possible 1289 cost, then we had no system at all. The fact was, we had never had a satisfactory military system in regard to men, even in the plenitude of our power in the Great War against Napoleon. We got the men at that time in the most haphazard way—by the sweepings of the gaols, by bounties, by endless Acts of Parliament, and by enlisting foreign mercenaries, of whom in 1815 we had 50,000 in our pay. In the Crimean War we had 15,000 foreign mercenaries in our pay, and he remembered Lord Ellenborough rising in his place to protest against the system of hiring foreign mercenaries to fight our battles, and yet, notwithstanding all this, when the strain of war was upon us our Army was always below its establishment. We never had up to the year 1871 an organized military system such as would supply us with a sufficient number of efficient soldiers. This, after the war of 1870, was felt so strongly that, in that year, the late Government brought in a Bill to reorganize our military system. It was divided into three parts—the abolition of Purchase, Localization, and the improvement of the Ballot Act. The latter two were dropped, and, practically, the measure was only for the abolition of Purchase. The late Prime Minister admitted this when he said that by dropping the other two parts of the Bill "the Government had lightened it of everything immaterial." He had no wish to revive the question of the abolition of Purchase; but two points were raised in the discussion on the Regimental Exchanges Bill to which he should like to refer. The House had been told that the Purchase system "had eaten into the heart and core of the officers of the Army." A great injury was done to the officers by that statement, because Purchase had been forced on the officers by the Government, and the Government had gained by it. It appeared by a Parliamentary Paper laid before the House that £1,772,000 had been got out of the officers by the Government sale of commissions. Mr. Joseph Hume, in 1835, made a speech with reference to this question of Army Purchase, in which, adverting to the fact that the Queen's Pages received commissions in the Guards without Purchase, he stated that "every commission given away took between £2,000 and £3,000 out of the pockets of the public." 1290 The Government, therefore, made money out of the officers. The other point was with reference to the cost of this abolition of Purchase. The House had in the recent discussions frequently heard that it would cost £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. He believed that was only a small portion of the real cost of the abolition of Purchase. The present Retirement Commission was appointed, first, in order to consider the present check to promotion, which was so great that the lowest lieutenant-colonel on the list would not, it was said, become a general until 1905, and to prevent the principle which had been described as "promotion by seniority tempered by selection" from becoming "promotion by senility distempered by selection." He should be surprised if the Retirement Commission did not arrive at the conviction that the calculation made some years ago by Captain Vivian was near the mark—that it would be impossible to establish a system of retirement or promotion in the British Army under £1,000,000 a-year. That sum represented the interest of £30,000,000, which, added to the £8,000,000 that the abolition of Purchase would cost under the present arrangement, would make the entire cost of Purchase abolition between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000. And for what? He had heard it said by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Durham (Major Beaumont) that Parliament had done nothing by the abolition of Purchase which it could not have done without it, and that the whole of their work was still to be done. Not long ago the leading journal commented upon a letter written by his relative, Colonel Anson. The Times said upon the letter that "the British Army was the best-fed, the best-clothed, the best-lodged, and the best-officered Army in the world." If it were the best-officered Army in the world, they were officers who had grown up under the system of Purchase. The reforms of the late Government had, he ventured to think, failed to put our military power on a footing of efficient organization. Considerable apprehension existed on this point in the public mind, and, in order to focus it, he had tabled this Resolution. He submitted that the words "well-grounded apprehension" were, under the circumstances, a justifiable 1291 expression on his part. As regarded the men, the present supply of efficient recruits was calculated to cause the gravest apprehension. It would materially clear the ground if those who succeeded him in the discussion would, if he might make the suggestion, follow his lead and deal with this question mainly, if not entirely, with reference to the Infantry. The test of a nation's military strength and power was not its guns or its Cavalry, but the number of bayonets it could put into line at the shortest notice. The Artillery and Cavalry stood in the same relation to the Infantry of an Army which the Bass in music occupied with regard to the Treble—they were accompaniments, and nothing more. He should, indeed, have passed by the Artillery, but for a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Have-lock), who said that the late Government had greatly increased our Artillery. He (Lord Elcho) gave them full credit for having done so. It was true we had 336 guns; but they were only on a peace establishment, and we had neither men nor horses to put them upon a war footing. He had received a letter from an officer on this subject, whose name he would not mention, but it would carry great weight with the House. His correspondent stated that to place 336 guns on a war establishment it would be necessary to buy 8,776 horses, and to improvise 5,272 carefully-trained and instructed gunners and drivers. A battery of Horse Artillery, he said, on the peace establishment, required 143 men and 114 horses; on the war establishment, 223 men and 250 horses. A field battery on the peace establishment required 144 men and 88 horses; on the war establishment, 269 men and 253 horses. But we had only men for 60 guns Horse Artillery and 126 field batteries, and only horses for 42 guns and 78 field batteries:—total, effective, 120 guns. Now, as regarded garrison batteries, there were 2,182 guns mounted for coast defence in the three districts, 25 men per gun would be required in time of war, and we would be only able to man 200 of the 2,182 guns, not leaving one man for Scotland or Ireland. The recruiting, too, for the Artillery was falling off. The recruits were required to be men of a certain physique, and they were not getting them. Since the Recruiting 1292 Report came out, they were, in fact, short by 1,100 men, and many that we had were men of bad character, as was proved by the fact stated by a recruiting Artillery officer, who told him that he had obtained only 75 recruits where he should have obtained 300, and that of the 75 at least 40 were men who had been, as he believed, discharged with ignominy from other regiments; but owing to the abolition of marking they had no proof of it. With respect to the Cavalry, his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir Henry Havelock) had stated on the Estimates that he considered the condition of that branch of the Service "deplorable." He was not disposed to go so far as his hon. and gallant Friend, as he believed the Cavalry got good recruits, and, though few in number, were in a high state of efficiency. But the true test, as he had said, was the Infantry, and on that head he would have to trouble the House with some figures taken from official documents. Taking the Estimates for the year 1875–6, he found that the Infantry at home—in England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Channel Islands—rank and file, amounted in all to 43,730, and if he added the Brigade Depôts 7,100, the total would be 50,830. He, however, made a large concession in doing so, because it was notorious that a large proportion of the Brigade Depôts consisted of old soldiers who were engaged in the training of recruits. But what they wanted was not nominal but effective soldiers, and he unhesitatingly said that a soldier under 20 years of age could not be regarded as an effective soldier. He had, therefore, to deduct from the 50,830 the number of soldiers under 20 which he found in the Blue Book for 1873–4—they had not a Return for last year, which he believed was greater. The number was 12,991, which would leave the total at 37,839. But he had to make a further deduction for casualties, such as desertion, sickness, camp and other duties, and so on. For these he would deduct one-fifth, although he would be justified in deducting one-fourth. That would amount to 7,567, which would reduce the total to 30,272, as the only effective force of Infantry we could put in line in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Channel Island, or could count upon for home service and for strengthening regiments 1293 abroad, in the Colonies and India. With respect to the Colonies we had, there, including drafts on passage out, a total of 14,140 rank and file, and from that number he would deduct one-tenth, as many of the men were engaged in garrison duty, leaving a total of 13,726 for Gibraltar, Malta, and West Coast of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, China, Bermuda, the Dominion of Canada, and other Colonies. And on this subject he would remind the House that if the policy of denuding the Colonies of our soldiers had been carried out before the Mutiny, we should have lost India. In the main, India was saved by the troops which were sent there direct from the Cape and Mauritius. With respect to the East Indies, the Infantry of all ranks, including drafts on their way, amounted to 47,500, or, deducting one-fifth for casualties—9,500, a total of 38,000—a very poor and beggarly account, even if the men were all of the proper physique. But it might be said at least the Militia was in a satisfactory condition. Its establishment was 119,000—in reality, the total effective Infantry enrolled were only 102,000; but making deductions for casualties—men absent without leave, men under 19 years, and the men in the Militia Reserve—the Infantry amounted to only 43,190. The desertions were very numerous; out of 25,000 men there had been no fewer than 10,000 desertions. Therefore, whether they looked to the Infantry of the Line or the Infantry of the Militia as regarded numbers, they could not be considered in a satisfactory condition. War would very soon test that fact, but they had a sufficient test in the Autumn Manœuvres. He had seen by the reports of correspondents that at the manœuvres at Dartmoor the deductions for casualties amounted to one-third, and even the journals which defended the present system were obliged to admit that the result was thoroughly unsatisfactory. The regiments at the Manœuvres were very weak on parade, instead of being up to their proper strength, and in a total force of 8,000 men, the casualties amounted to 2,400 men. He came now to the question of quality. The quality of the men was a matter of the first importance, and the present unsatisfactory state of our Army organization was due largely to the inferior 1294 quality of the recruits. It appeared from Returns before the House that there were in the Infantry 3,316 men having a chest measurement of under 33 inches, 11,173 having chest measurement of between 33 and 34 inches, and 20,101 of between 34 and 35 inches, making a total of 34,600, or 28 per cent. having a chest measurement of less than 35 inches. The Army recruits were measured straight round the chest under the arms, while the police recruits were measured slantingly round the chest, whereby the former obtained an advantage of 1½ inches in nominal chest breadth. The police standard of 37 inches chest measurement, therefore, would be equivalent to 38½ inches according to the Army measurement; while the minimum Army standard of 33 inches would, according to the police measurement, be equivalent to only 31½ inches. These figures showed what a different class of men was secured by the police pay of 24s. a-week as compared with that which was attracted by the Army pay of 7s. a-week. In addition to this difference in the chest measurement of the police and Army recruits, there was also a striking difference in the physical and general appearance of the two classes of men. He had, along with some Members of the House, gone to inspect first the police recruits and then those for the Army in St. George's Barracks. He asked his hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) to accompany them, because the hon. Member, to his honour be it said, had handled the pick in his youth, and had by his industry and frugality saved wherewithal to educate himself at a Scotch University and thus fit himself for the high position he now held. There could not, therefore, be a better judge than the hon. Member of the physical qualities of a recruit. The recruits that had been accepted were all drawn up in line—Artillery and Cavalry on the right, Infantry on the left—a seedy-looking lot, which, if clothed in red, would indeed have been "a thin red line." On being shown the Infantry recruits the hon. Member had exclaimed—" Good God! is this a specimen of our Army? It is a deception," or words to that effect. He might well say so, for it was a most miserable representation of the famous British Infantry, and it was a sad thought that the nation's honour was 1295 entrusted to such keeping. He held in his hand a Return published this year, showing the inefficiency of the Army recruits, which he thought was a sufficient answer to those who maintained that the physique of our recruits was satisfactory. That Return contained statements from some of the commanding officers of the different regiments in the various military districts as to the quality of the recruits who had presented themselves for enlistment from April to December, 1874, and it appeared generally from these statements that the physique of their recruits was most unsatisfactory. The recruits, besides being deficient in physique, were unsatisfactory also on account of their extreme youth. Professor Parkes, of Netley Hospital, who was a high authority on military hygiene, had expressed a strong opinion that, although a recruit might be usefully trained at an early age, no man under 20 could be regarded as being an effective soldier. Thus, he said—If the State will recognize the immaturity of the recruit of 18 years of age, and will proportion his training and his work to his growth, and will abstain from considering him fit for the heavy duties of peace, and for the emergencies of war till he is at least 20 years of age; then it would seem there is not only no loss, but a great gain by enlisting men early.If, therefore, the House chose to establish a nursery for young recruits, the latter might in time be turned into very good soldiers; but they must not be regarded as effective until they had attained, at all events, the age of 20. The main objection to the establishment of such a nursery of recruits, however, was the great cost it would be to the country. Recruits enlisted at 16 years of age cost the country, by the time they were 21 years of age, in the Cavalry £410 each; in the Artillery, £245 each; and in the Infantry, £210 each. He agreed, therefore, with the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms) that, as a matter of economy, it would be better that we should cease to enlist recruits under 20 years of age, even though we had to offer an increased rate of pay to a better class of men. The hon. Member opposite seemed inclined to maintain that the physique of our soldiers was satisfactory; but if hon. Members would refer to the Recruiting Reports which had been laid upon the Table of the House for the years 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, and 1875, 1296 they would find that nothing could be stronger than the condemnation of the present state of affairs in the Army as regarded the quality and physique of the recruits which those Reports contained when read without the qualifying sentences of the recruiting officers. Those Reports showed that, in the opinion of the recruiting officers, when the pressure of the short-service system came into play, a larger number of recruits would be required annually, and then the difficulty of obtaining men of proper physique would be greatly increased. It has been stated also that 20 per cent of the men in our Army were unfit for service; that they were not of the stuff of which campaigning soldiers were made; that a steady deterioration in their physique had been going on for some time, and that a large number of them would have to be left behind in the event of war, being weak and immature. This was the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland, who had pointed out that, whereas we required at the present time an annual supply of 23,000 recruits, we should require in 1877 or 1878 an annual supply of 32,000. Another hon. and gallant Member opposite the Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) had said that our Army organization, although it had been the work of his own Party, was breaking down every day. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had himself stated that on the occasion of his visit to Aldershot he had found that the Artillery gunners were inferior in quality; that there were variations in regiments, the men being in some poor physically, and morally bad; the men in general were young, younger perhaps than usual. He (Mr. Hardy) had further shown that he did not put much faith in the ultimate success of the Brigade Depôts by remarking that recruits enlist away from home and their own districts. Now, what was the cost of the system he had been describing? When the brigade system was complete there would be 68 or 70 depôts; but at present there were only 23 in full operation. It was proposed to spend £3,500,000 on barracks. While he admitted that localization was a sound thing, this seemed to him to be localization run mad. He had received what he believed to be a reliable calculation of the cost of one of the depots—a calculation allowing for 1297 the pay of 10 officers, 18 non-commissioned officers, 10 corporals, and 45 old soldiers—officers, £1,829; non-commissioned officers, corporals, and old soldiers, £3,264; total, £5,673. This multiplied by 68, the number of depôts to be established, gave the enormous sum of £385,775 as the total annual cost of this new recruiting system. And nearly half of the recruits, it should be remembered, were raised in London and the other large towns independently of the depot system. But, notwithstanding that expenditure, they had been assured by the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland that they were "gradually coming face to face with an emergency with which they were unable to cope." It was strange where all the money went. There was no doubt it was spent honestly, and he knew that those who were responsible for the expenditure looked most narrowly into the various items. But when they came to consider the cost of the British Army there were some facts staring them in the face which could only be described as startling. In 1873, he spoke upon this question, saying that our Army was in many respects in a better state in 1853 than in 1873, and the leading journal remarked that he was unlucky in drawing a contrast between 1853 and 1873. But the fact was that in 1853 we had, for much less money, more men in the Infantry—which he took to be the test—than in 1873. Returns which had been laid on the Table at the instance of the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir Henry Pelly) showed that the total number of the rank and file in the Infantry at home and abroad in 1853 was 74,840, and that in 1873 the number was 72,450. In 1853, according to the Estimates, the expenditure was £9,002,715, and in 1873 it was £13,582,000. This year he calculated they had 64,970 bayonets, at a cost of £13,488,200. He ventured to say this was not a satisfactory state of things, particularly when it was considered that at least 12,000 of the soldiers were mere boys. The only consolation he could find was in a passage in Coningsby, written 30 years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister. He referred to the words—" The nation will be saved by its youth." Perhaps it was in anticipation of our having so youthful an Army that the right hon. Gentleman 1298 wrote that passage. Some one might ask what remedy he (Lord Elcho) would propose for the unsatisfactory state of things to which he had called attention. He would not enter into the general question whether long or short service was best. It was his opinion that probably a mixture of both would be best, and that in the case of those who were enlisted for long service it would be well, after they had been some time in the Army, to pass them into the Militia. He looked upon the Militia as the backbone of our military system, and believed that in spite of the schemes by which its destruction was threatened it would, he was confident, take at least as long to get rid of the Militia as to get rid of the Established Church. It was not for a private Member of the House to propose a remedy for the existing state of things. It was for the Government to find a remedy. The suggestions commonly made were to the effect either that there should be a system of compulsory service, or that the soldiers should be better paid. There had been lately a discussion at the United Service Institution, lasting three days, on a prize essay on Recruiting, written by Captain Hime. There was always a crowded audience, and the opinions of such a gathering were entitled to great weight. Conscription—general conscription—was advocated in the essay; but not one of the officers who spoke in the course of the discussion was in favour of it. That somewhat alarmed him, for he had held that mere inducements of pay would not be sufficient, and that our military system must be based upon some form or other of compulsion. But he was greatly relieved when Colonel Lumley Graham got up and expressed the view that, in order to be sound, our military system must be based on the principle of compulsory service in the Militia—an opinion which was generally cheered by the meeting. That was precisely the view he (Lord Elcho) took. He thought that men should not be enlisted for the Army under 20 years of age, but that they might, at a somewhat earlier age, enter the Militia, as proposed by Lord Sandhurst, and that those who enlisted for long service should pass the first part in the Army and Reserve and the latter part in the Militia. He did not mean to press this as a remedy. It was for the right hon. Gentleman who was re- 1299 sponsible for the efficiency of the Army to find out, with the aid of discussions like those at the United Service Institution, what was the proper system to adopt. There were, however, certain propositions bearing upon this question so plain and simple—propositions which it required no military knowledge or training to understand, but which were matters of plain, ordinary civilian common sense, and these, he would venture to state, as they came before the House, supported by the unanimous approval of the meetings at the United Service Institution. The rules of the Institution forbad the bringing forward of resolutions; but he endeavoured to turn their flank, and submitted certain proposals, embodying his own views, in order to be able to judge whether or not they were received with favour. He first read the Resolution which he was that evening submitting to the House, and it met with unanimous approval. His next proposition was that, as regarded the manning of the Army, the state of things was most unsatisfactory. That met with great approval. He went on to say that in the present position of European armaments and feeling, we ought not to sit still and do nothing, trusting to the complete development of the Brigade Depôt system in 1879. He added, that at the best the Brigade Depôt system was a doubtful and insufficient remedy. That, also, met with universal sympathy and approval. Another proposition endorsed heartily by the meeting, was to the effect that if obliged to raise the existing cadres of our Infantry Battalions to a war strength, these would necessarily—from their heterogeneous composition—be less reliable and efficient than more homogeneous regiments which fought at Alma, Inkerman, and in the Indian Mutiny. That was a matter of great importance in regard to the quality of the regiments. How were their attenuated battalions to be filled up when required? The Secretary of State told them he would have to find 58,000 men for this purpose, and of these he hoped to get 7,000 men from the Army Reserve, and 23,000 or 25,000 from the Militia Reserve, who must be deducted from the strength of the Militia. The Secretary of State, therefore, would get for the regiments of the Line 25,000 Militiamen, partially trained, and little more to be compared with the 1300 soldiers in our regiments in 1853 than a Volunteer would be if put into a Line regiment such as we then had. And how was the right hon. Gentleman to obtain the remainder of the men he would require to clothe his skeleton battalions with flesh and blood? Why, by a return to that of which they were perpetually boasting that they had got rid—namely, by bribes and bounties. In that way they were to get back men who had passed from the Army into civil life, and who were under no obligation to return. Regiments thus heterogeneously composed and made up of such elements could not possibly be compared with the men who fought at the Alma and at Delhi. His gallant friend, Colonel Anson, in one of his pamphlets said, that if at the time of the Mutiny they had had such regiments and the same quality of recruits as they were now having, India would certainly have been lost. He recollected his gallant friend Colonel Colville, of the Rifle Brigade, saying that when his regiment was going to the Crimea it had to be made up to its full strength, 1,000; and that was done by getting volunteers from another battalion of the Rifle Brigade which had just come from the Kaffir War. A hundred and fifty of those seasoned warriors were put into his regiment; and what was the feeling? Why that even those 150 veterans, not knowing their commanding officer or the regiment, and the regiment not knowing them, were even an element of weakness rather than of strength to the regiment. Any civilian of common sense might conceive what a regiment of 400 or 500 boys would be with such a heterogeneous collection sent into it, as the Secretary of State looked to in order to clothe his skeletons with flesh and blood. A regiment ought to be homogeneous. The officers, non-commissioned officers, and men should know each other, and should not be made up of men thus thrown together, packed off, perhaps, at 24 hours' notice to go to uphold the honour of England in a foreign land. That was a matter on which there was no difference of opinion among the officers at the United Service Institution. Another point of which they approved was, that no recruit could be considered an effective soldier fit for service in the field under 20 years of age at the least, or over 35 for foreign service. And then, 1301 as to the Reserve of 7,000 men, it had never been called out, because they had no power to do so. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) told them the other night that Lord Sandhurst had "invited those who had nothing better to do "—that was the curious phrase—to go out and take a turn at the Autumn Manœuvres; but that invitation was not accepted. He therefore thought—and his opinion was endorsed by the meeting to which he had referred—that that Reserve of 7,000 men ought to have its value and its fitness tested at the Autumn Manœuvres, and that, if necessary, a Bill should be brought in to enable that to be done. Then, with respect to the Militia Reserve, it might be imagined that they had their 103,000 Militia without the Reserve, but the Reserve had to be deducted. It was General Peel's original intention that, for every man who volunteered for the Militia Reserve, the officer of the regiment from which he volunteered should raise another. They should know what their Militia and what their Reserve really were; the two should be kept separate; and the Militia Reserve should be borne in excess of the ordinary Militia establishment. That was also endorsed at the United Service Institution. The last proposal was that the Militia Reserve men should be trained, not with the Militia regiments, but with the depôts of their affiliated Line regiments. He knew what his right hon. Friend's answer would be to these proposals; it would be this—" If I am not to take any man into the Army who is not 20, the system will break down, and I shall not be able to keep up the establishment." His answer to that was—"If your Army system and your establishment depend upon this—that you have to admit into your ranks these striplings, these weedy boys, under 20, your whole system is rotten, and it is time you endeavoured to find out some other." He went further, and said that to send them out to maintain the honour of this country and to fight the regiments of foreign troops—he did not care whether French or German—such as they might have to meet, would be, as far as regarded these men and their officers, simple murder, courting, as Lord Sandhurst said in his place, disaster and defeat; and, as regarded this nation, it was absolute treason on the part of those 1302 who were responsible for the efficiency of the Army. He felt quite certain that his right hon. Friend felt the responsibility of his position; and he (Lord Elcho) did not apprehend that the right hon. Gentleman would expose this country to the disaster which would inevitably ensue from sending out our regiments to fight in the way in which they were. He had now completed the task he had set himself; he had laid bare what he believed to be the true state of the Army. He had, to use a familiar phrase—one that would be intelligible even to the intellects that believed that Orton was Tichborne because they were convinced that he was Orton—taken the gilding off the gingerbread, and shown the nation what the value of their fairing was, and what it cost. He believed the state of things in the Army to be alarming. It was thought now that all was calm. They thought so in 1870. They had the Queen's Speech in February telling them all was serene. Then, in July, they heard from the Foreign Secretary that there was not a cloud in the horizon; but in a few weeks the Secretary of State for War had to come down there, and ask for 20,000 additional men for the Army. They were not easily obtained, for the standard had to be lowered and five months spent in getting them together. And it was with this Army they were to turn out of Belgium the soldiers of whatever nation interfered with its neutrality. Why the idea was too comical and ludicrous to be entertained seriously for a moment. He had said that his task was ungracious and ungrateful; but he hoped in discharging it, and in speaking rough things, he had not shown the slightest political feeling, or given offence to any one. He gave full credit to the late Government, and he fully admitted they did owe a debt to the noble Lord (Viscount Cardwell) for what he had done for the Army. They owed to him localization, which was sound in principle, the Autumn Manœuvres, improvement in the Volunteers, the establishment of the Intelligence Department, and they also owed to him putting on a clear footing the relations existing between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State, which he hoped was now satisfactory to both. He gave full credit to the honest purposes of the late Government; and as regarded the present Secretary of 1303 State, he had displayed a candour in his statement which showed he was endeavouring to do his best, disguising nothing in order to make things pleasant to the House of Commons. Moreover, on the question of compulsion his right hon. Friend was not like his Predecessors who had spoken on this point—he did not turn up the whites of his eyes and thank God we were not in this country as other men were, but had shadowed forth the possibility of an ultimate resort to it, saying that he was surprised at the feeling in favour of compulsion in quarters where he had least expected it. His surprise must, indeed, have been greatly increased the other day when he heard a distinguished Member for a metropolitan constituency (Sir Andrew Lusk) say that he thought sooner or later they must come to compulsion of some form or other. He (Lord Elcho) did not believe compulsion or conscription to be required for the Army. He did not advise them to Prussianize the Army; but he did say Anglicize the Militia. He did not wish to enter into any question of foreign policy, but what did they see abroad? Whole nations were in arms, and the martial hosts were such as the world had never seen before. There were thunder clouds in the sky, and they could not say how little a thing might bring these thunder clouds down. They had all been more or less frightened out of their propriety by the Belgian question. In the late war all his sympathies were with the Prussians. He looked upon that war on the part of France as a wicked, wanton, dynastic war. He had the greatest admiration for Prince Bismarck, he admired him because he was a man who knew his own mind; there was no impulsive sentimentality about him, nothing molluscous, he was essentially a vertebrate animal with moral backbone and feet; but they now saw what was the result of the German Cæsar growing great on a diet of blood and iron. When France was the ruling military Power in Europe, it appeared as if no dog were allowed to bark; but now it looked as if, Germany being the great military Power in Europe, no mouse was to be allowed to squeak. He questioned whether they were in a much better position as regarded the peace of Europe from the transfer of the military power on the Continent; but he was certain that the 1304 state of affairs abroad was such that at any moment the armed hosts might encounter each other, and therefore it was desirable that England should put her house in order. Cardinal Manning, a few days ago, when assuming his new dignity in the Church of St. Gregorio, at Rome said, the first duty of man was to his God, the second to his family, and the third to his country. No one in that House would, he thought, dispute the first of these propositions unless, indeed, it meant that duty to God implied submission and subservience to any form of sacerdotalism; but as regarded the second proposition, he would put it last. He held that a man's duty to his country was before his duty to his family. It had been so in all ages of the world, and all history showed how readily the life of husband and of child had been given and sacrificed at the call of country. In England, the love of country was as strong or stronger than in any other country in the world, and he believed they might safely appeal to it. It was, indeed, said that the nation had become degenerate, and that public duties were ignored in the eager, selfish pursuit of wealth. He denied that proposition. 150,000 Volunteers had for 15 years been giving it a living lie, and he further maintained that the flame of patriotism in this country, if it were properly fanned by the responsible authorities, would burst forth as brightly as it ever had done in any period of our history, and that it had not been quenched or put out by showers of gold. It was not, however, without accepting sacrifices of some kind that we could place our Army on a proper footing. If the Government appealed to the patriotism of the people, it would not fail them, and he invited his right hon. Friend to trust and test it, in the conviction that if he did so he would be able to fill a niche—that of the Scharnhorst of the English military system—which had been hitherto unfilled. His firm belief was, that if his right hon. Friend would rely upon the patriotism of the. English people, he might place our military establishment on a sound footing, thus securing the honour of the nation and making this Empire safe. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the state and prospects of our present Army organisation, as regards the obtaining of a sufficient and continuous supply of efficient soldiers, are calculated to cause well grounded apprehension, and demand some immediate remedy pending the remote and uncertain results of a more complete development of the Brigade Depôt system."—(Lord Elcho.)
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
, referring to the Report quoted by the noble Lord, said, the remarks as to the recruits being deficient in physique applied only to the reports of some of the commanding officers. For example, the noble Lord alluded to the fact that in the Northern District the recruits consisted chiefly of men of low physique from the manufacturing towns, but this was stated by three only out of the nine commanding officers in that district. Taking the total figures for the whole country, it appeared that 78 commanding officers were satisfied with the recruits; 26 were fairly satisfied; while only 32 reported that they were not satisfied. It was plain that any local system of recruiting in this country would be complicated by the reliefs for India, and it was on that ground that all comparison between this and foreign countries would fail, and this point the noble Lord failed to see. The noble Lord was wise in discarding the idea of a general conscription; but it appeared to him that the proposed ballot for the Militia, or, rather, compulsory service for the home Army, ought likewise to be discarded, and at the present time he found that the Militia were getting more recruits than ever. It was not so much for military reasons that ballot for the Militia should not be revived, but because it was totally unfair, and because it would interfere detrimentally with the commercial undertakings which made us the richest nation in the world. We must continue on the old voluntary plan of enlistment, and see what could be done to induce men of good physique and good character to join the Army. He thought that the localization system which had been established promised, when fully developed, to prove a satisfactory means of accomplishing the object in view; and he considered that there was no system of recruiting so satisfactory as that of Brigade Depôts. The localization was already producing its fruits. According to the last Report of Major 1306 General Taylor, the Inspector General of Recruiting, the result of the system had been that we got 3,400 more this year than we did in the preceding year, and he further said—This increase may, in a slight degree, he attributed to the additional number of Brigade Depôts at work, but to a still greater extent it is to be ascribed to the system generally being better understood, the several agencies performing their duties more thoroughly, and the outlying portions of the several sub-districts being brought into clear communication with their local centres.There were causes some time ago which made men consider that the Army was not a profession to which they should resort, but those causes had been done away with. The abolition of flogging was one, and the mistaken notion about branding was another. These prevented men from entering the Army. There had been also an increase of pay, a better kit provided, and a system of short service introduced, and the stoppage for meat ration had been abolished, and as education became more developed, and all these things were better understood, both the Army and the Militia would become more popular. It certainly appeared to him that the Army had been much improved, and they had got rid of the bad characters, and by that means improved the morale of the service, and this would induce a better class of recruits to take their places. Hon. Members were hardly aware that the system of localization was not thought of for the first time in the year 1872, for it appeared that it had been gathering force for at least 10 years previously. The Recruiting Commission, 1867, said—On the one hand strong evidence has been laid before us to show the advantages resulting to recruiting from a local connection being maintained between individual corps and certain localities.This showed that localization, which was the key of this question, was carefully considered then. Again, as to the pay of soldiers. Some years ago a Return was presented to that House showing the weekly pay to soldiers, and it appeared that, calculating everything, the Infantry soldier had as much as 13s. 9d., and of course the men in the Guards, Artillery, and Cavalry had much more. Now, he found that in some districts the wages of unskilled labourers in the agricultural districts were not so good as the pay of the soldiers of the Line, For 1307 instance, in Dorsetshire the wages of an agricultural labourer were between 9s. and 12s. per week; in Surrey the wages were between 13s. and 14s.; and in Hampshire, between 9s. and 10s. In the northern counties the wages were between 12s. and 18s.; but, practically, in the other counties the pay of an Infantry soldier and the wages of an unskilled labourer were about equal. Further, soldiers of the Line could look forward to good-conduct pay, while the agricultural labourers had nothing more to expect than their wages all the year round. Some persons seemed to wish to have men in the Army equal to the police constables; but they were, in fact, skilled and educated men, as they had to perform very important duties—duties of a higher character than those of an Infantry soldier—and to have men in the Army of that class, and pay them at the police rates, would be a waste of public money. It had been suggested that if recruiting into the Militia were stopped, all those who recruited into the Militia would go into the Line; but he did not believe that half of that class which now went into the Militia would go into the Line, because a great proportion of that class were men of skilled labour. Therefore, to stop recruiting into the Militia would, in his opinion, be a great mistake. To sum up all that which he had pointed out, he thought that the only way in which they could get good recruits for the Army would be to popularize the Depôt Brigade system and to carry it out as was being done now—that was, to have troops in the midst of the large populations to localize our forces and connect them to particular places; and he contended that there was nothing in the military service which bore out those fears which some men prophesied, and that they would be able to get recruits, as far as they needed them, under the voluntary system of enlistment.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he should not have referred to the question of conscription but for the fact that very recently a prize had been awarded to an essay, the writer of which said, in effect, "give me conscription and I will give you an Army." This was no doubt true; but the whole idea of a conscription was so alien to the feelings of the nation that its adoption would lead to the country generally pronouncing 1308 against the maintenance of a standing Army. The question which the House had to consider was whether the voluntary system had been fully and fairly tried, and had broken down to the extent which had been alleged. He agreed with the noble Lord who had brought this question forward that the present physique and condition of the Army were unsatisfactory; and he hoped the Secretary of State for War would not consider him obtrusive if he suggested the propriety of his giving the House some information as to the condition in which he found the Depôt Centres on taking office and their condition at the present time. As far as his information went, there was appointed at each Depôt Centre a Colonel and a Staff, whose duty it was to enlist recruits; but, if report spoke truly, there were in many places where these Centres had been established no recruits to be enlisted. Therefore, the duties of the officers appointed must be very light. Their position reminded him of what he saw when he visited a nobleman in Ireland some years ago. He found a coachman and plenty of helpers on the premises, but no horses and no carriages. As far as the question of physique was concerned, the hon. Member who had last spoken did not seem to think the condition of the Army was nearly so bad as it was represented to be by the noble Lord and other authorities who had spoken and written on the subject. Now, a short time ago he had a short conversation with a Bedford magistrate and asked him whether, in his opinion, the county to which he belonged was doing its fair share in supplying men to the Army and Militia. The reply was that the county sent a fair stamp of men into the Militia, and that as for the Reserves Bedford Gaol was full of them. On hearing this he communicated with another Bedfordshire magistrate—Sir John Burgoyne—an old Guardsman who had seen much service in the Crimea and elsewhere. Sir John, who was a visiting justice of the county sent him some details with reference to 96 military prisoners who, at the date of his letter—February 26, 1875—were undergoing various terms of imprisonment in Bedford Gaol, under sentence of courts martial, adding—It is deplorable to see such a miserable lot of men bearing the name of soldiers, and I am 1309 convinced that three-fourths of them can never be made available for any service except to swell the Returns of the Recruiting Department, which some of them have done several times over. No wonder our Army is costly when we enlist and maintain in gaol men who are utterly worthless and useless.The memoranda referred to—and for which Sir John Burgoyne was solely responsible—set forth that one man enlisted in June, 1872, had been three times tried and sentenced by courts martial and had passed two-thirds of his time in prison; a second man enlisted in May, 1874, had since that time been once sentenced to imprisonment by the civil power, and had been twice sentenced by courts martial for desertion; and had only done duty for about two months. A third soldier enlisted in August, 1871, had been three times tried and convicted by courts martial for desertion and had also fraudulently enlisted on three separate occasions. There were several other cases included in the list which were equally strong in the same direction. The feeling of the soldiers themselves on this question was much stronger than most people believed. A short time ago he saw a letter in which a non-commissioned officer on duty at Aldershot said—I am getting tired of this treadmill work. We have over and over again the same thing—desertion and rejoining from desertion with courts martial, as the order of the day. What a farce they have turned soldiering into! The word soldiering is not applicable to it, nor has it been for the past few years. You will remember Farr, and his is one out of hundreds of cases. He deserted from Belfast, turned up again in the 25th Regiment, and, being tried, went through his punishment. He afterwards joined the depot, and having deserted again turned up next in the 26th Cameronians, where he was once more tried and punished for his offence. He tell us that while in a state of desertion from us on the last occasion, he got a kit out of the 106th Regiment before he joined the Cameronians. It is now ten to one whether the authorities will discharge him, and if they do they will not cure the disease. Unless branding or something as good is introduced, we shall only be dealing with figures, not soldiers. In July next I intend to leave the service, after 23 years' service, and I feel as able to soldier as ever. I would feel insulted if I was compared to some who are joining now as far as stamina in concerned.The noble Lord had referred to the police constables, and wished to have the same sort of men in the Army; but the fact was the Government wanted men for constables, letter-carriers, and tide-waiters, and competed for them, and 1310 then from the mass of the worthless left behind they recruited for the Army. In 1868, he endeavoured to induce the House to accept a scheme which would have entitled men who had served a certain time in the Army to writerships and other posts of employment in the Government Service. This proposal was received favourably at the time by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who was then at the head of the Government, but up to the present time nothing definite had been done concerning it. In a discussion which took place at the United Service Institution a short time ago, Sergeant Major Leith Adams gave some testimony which bore so much on the stature and condition of the troops that he would venture to quote a short extract. That officer said—Now, I must candidly assert that the physique of our Infantry is not at present up to the standard of our race, and I cannot conceal from myself a feeling that, unless remedial measures are adopted, it will sink lower and lower. This conclusion has been arrived at mainly from my personal inspection of about 25,000 recruits, over 17,000 of whom have been passed into the Army. There is no gainsaying the fact that the numbers and quality of recruits have been steadily declining of late years, more so since the introduction of short service and doing away with pensions, &c.At the business meeting of a company with which he was connected it was his duty on one occasion to declare a dividend of 6 per cent. upon which a shareholder proposed 12 per cent. adding that it was the Directors' business, not his, to find the money. In the same way some hon. Members thought their duty had been sufficiently discharged if they called attention to the evils of the present recruiting system, leaving it to the Government to find a remedy. But that was not the view he took of the matter, and he had accordingly drawn up a series of recommendations on the subject, which he ventured to submit to the Government and the House. One of his suggestions was that all applicants for employment in certain grades of public Departments, such as policemen's, tidewaiters', and postmen's places, should be asked to serve for a certain term in the Army; after which, if their conduct was good and they were properly qualified, they should have the preference over all other persons. Under that system some 120,000 or 130,000 1311 men, trained to the use of arms, would be kept in the public service ready to be called upon in the event of any national disaster threatening, and that without costing the country a single shilling. By this means, also, we should get into the ranks that superior class of men of whom so much was heard and so little seen, instead of the deteriorated class which was now enlisted. In proof of the necessity of introducing this superior element into the Army, he would read an extract from a letter which he had just received from Captain "Walter, an officer who had been largely instrumental in originating the Corps of Commissionaires—I have lately occupied myself with examining the statistics of the Corps of Commissionaires, and find that since its foundation in 1859 no less than 2,334 pensioners have joined. Out of this number upwards of 25 per cent have been discharged for misconduct. Now, as those who have been admitted are above the average standard of character, the fact just mentioned is a proof to my mind that the morale of the Army is not what it ought to be, and far below what it used to be. Some persons are easily pleased, and, of course, if the moral or physical standard is sufficiently lowered it will be easy to prove that the recruits of the present day are equal to the prescribed tests. The result of my experience here obliges me to say that the present state of the Army is deplorable, and my recollections of the service as a regimental officer from 1843 to 1853 also convince me that any comparison between that period and the present is equally disadvantageous to the latter. In no point, however, is the difference so striking or so important as in the quality of the non-commissioned officers.He had no doubt that later on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would refer to the experiment which had been tried by the Postmaster General to give employment to soldiers. The Postmaster General, in his Report on the subject, stated that out of 220 nominations, not fewer than 103 failed, eight persons declined the medical examination, some were found too old, the addresses of others could not be found, and 22 persons were without any character, and out of the whole only 40 were admitted into the service. That attempt, therefore, to benefit the service had signally failed. Now, he should like to know whether the selection had been fairly made, and how it was made—whether the officers were asked if they had a number of men whom they could recommend as fit for the service. If they were taken from the Reserve he did not think that any fair case had 1312 been made out against the system. He would now refer to a few matters, and would offer them as suggestions towards an improvement in the service. In the first place he would say, re-introduce the long service with pensions. He would couple that with a shorter service, to be rewarded in the manner which he had described. He would make the Militia the real Reserve, and add recruiting to the Regular Army. He looked on the Reserve in a great degree as a delusion, and believed that the number would not exceed 37,000 in the year 1880. He would further say, officer the Militia with those who had served in the Regular Army and the Reserve, and that officers going on half-pay should be bound to serve with some portion of the Reserve Forces if required. He would allow exchanges at the discretion of the authorities between the active and the Reserve forces. He would suggest that men who, before completing their service, were considered unfit for foreign service, but were fit for the performance of home duties, should be transferred to the Militia, and not discharged as they were at present; that pensioners should be borne on the strength of the Militia, and paid by its Staff; and that the pay of sergeant majors should be increased, and that sergeants should retain their good conduct pay. With regard to the last point, he would point out that the condition of no class in the Army was more deserving of attention than that of the non-commissioned officers. A good many officers of experience were of opinion that it would be a good thing that disciplinary battalions should be formed either in India or elsewhere abroad, and that all bad characters should be transferred to them and not discharged as at present. That was, in his opinion, a better plan than discharging men and leaving them to re-enlist. Such a system had succeeded in the French Army, and the service was by no means unpopular with the officers. Again, something must, in his opinion, be done to check the desertion and re-enlistment, and the most natural and simple measure of precaution was to mark the men and officers on joining in the arch of the foot, and so afford a perfect mode of identification. They ought not to shrink from applying remedies because they might for a moment risk a little popularity.
referred to the Returns showing the number of recruits who had joined the various branches of the service from 1870 to 1874, for long and short service respectively. In 1870 there enlisted in the Line 12,000 for long service and 2,000 for short service. Last year only 1,400 enlisted for long service as against 10,000 and upwards for short service. The proportion of men, therefore, who preferred short service was 40 times greater than it was four years ago. It was true that in the Cavalry and the Artillery that was not the case, but then those services were exceptional. In the Engineers for the first three years no one enlisted for long service; but during the past year there were 287 enlistments for short as against 188 for long service. These figures showed, he thought, that short service was growing in popularity. Again, as to the quality of the recruits obtained, he was of opinion that the Returns were not altogether unsatisfactory. He was not, at the same time, one of those who thought that the quality of our recruits was all that was desirable. On the contrary, he looked forward with hope to the introduction of a better class of men into our Army. He, nevertheless, maintained that the Returns disposed of the arguments which were published in the public papers some time ago, to the effect that our Army was being recruited by men who were in every sense unfit to be soldiers. As to short service as it now existed, it was not really short service. It involved enlistment for 12 years, of which six were spent with the colours and the remainder in the Reserves; while no provision was made for the soldier when he had concluded his period of service. There were, he might add, two classes of men who enlisted, as it might be, for either short or long service, for the man who enlisted for the latter must make the profession of arms his business; whereas in the case of the former his connection with civil life was not to so great an extent interfered with. The term of six years, however, did not seem to him to be happily chosen; because while it was sufficient to break a man off to a great extent from his civil connection, it was a longer period than was necessary to make him an experienced soldier. For these reasons he maintained that the short service system, as introduced by Lord Cardwell, had not 1314 had a fair trial. He most emphatically protested against the idea that compulsion must necessarily be associated with a short-service system. Our position differed from that of Germany, inasmuch as we were able to fix upon a certain number of men as sufficient for the defence of the country. But on the Continent, where the Army was nothing less than the whole fighting force of the country, there arose at once a reason for compulsion. The raising of a sufficient force was a question of sufficient pay, and he held it would be a far cheaper arrangement for us to find the pay directly and hand it over to the men in the shape of so much coin than to tax the industries of the country by taking away those who were engaged in them when they were most wanted. He was one of those who regretted that Lord Cardwell had not gone further in the way of short service. Speaking of the Infantry, and not of special services, he would like to see men enlisted to serve with the colours for three years, and then paid really well on passing into the Reserve. Such an engagement would, in reality, amount to service almost for life, because when a man had served with the colours he would pass into the First Reserve and then into the Second Reserve, and when he had completed the full number of years he would be released from military service. It would be neither wise nor politic for the State to take the best years of a man's life and then turn him adrift, a disgrace to our humanity and a scarecrow to deter others from enlisting. A man who had served his full time ought to be placed absolutely above want. The cheapest way for the State to do this was not by paying a pension which had not been earned, but by increasing each man's pay gradually, keeping back a certain amount, and on the completion of his service handing over to him a sort of terminable annuity, which would end with his life. He did not expect he would be supported by the opposite side of the House when he said that the beginning and ending of all Army reform was the stopping of all recruiting from the Militia. Only in that way could they prevent one service from clashing with another, and secure that one "harmonious whole" of which so much had been heard and so little seen. Lord Cardwell and other high authorities had said that there was nothing to 1315 be urged against his plan in theory, but that its weak point was we could not get the men. It was said that this short service would require 30,000 or 40,000 men every year. Well, the Returns showed that in 1874 we obtained 20,000 recruits for the Regular Army; and if to these were added the recruits for the Militia, irrespective of the Volunteers, the requisite number would be almost reached. It was said that the men who recruited for the Militia were of a different class from those who recruited for the Army. He admitted that; but if short service were introduced a better class of men would be got. No doubt it would be better to stop recruiting from the Militia, but he did not say that this should be done at once; but if it were correct that by shortening the period of service and increasing the reserve pay the country would get a better class of men as soldiers, then there was the strongest reason for pushing the short service system to its legitimate conclusion. He thought they were much indebted to Lord Cardwell for the two great propositions he had introduced—the abolition of Purchase and short service. Army reformers desired that the country should be divided into military districts, each with a corps d' armée ready to take the field; and although that had not resulted from recent legislation such a state of affairs was not impossible under it. He might add, in perfect sincerity, that so long as the necessary steps were taken he would be as happy if they emanated from the opposite benches as if they were proposed by the Party with which he usually acted.
§ SIR HENRY PELLY
said, he trusted he should receive the indulgence of the House when he said a few words on this most important subject. It was the first time he had addressed the House, and he would not trespass long upon their attention. He had served in the Army for 10 years, and took the greatest interest not only in it, but in the great object of its existence—the safety, honour, and integrity of the Empire. No one who had attentively listened to the speech of his noble Friend could venture to deny that it was supported by figures and facts which were not his own, but official Returns which were in the hands of Members, and incontrovertible. His noble Friend confined his remarks to the Infantry. All soldiers would agree 1316 that in that branch lay the real strength, the true test of efficiency, of an Army. He was a Cavalry officer himself, and must admit, with regard to the Cavalry, what the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) said of Artillery—that, however highly important, however indispensable—they were only auxiliary to Infantry. Looking, then, at the state of the Infantry force, so far from taking a pessimist view of its state, he considered that his noble Friend had considerably under-estimated the probable inefficients at one-fifth. All experience pointed to a much higher proportion. Even allowing his noble Friend's figures to be correct, what force had we to oppose to the armed millions of Continental Powers? Only 30,000 bayonets, after deducting those who were, from physique and extreme youth, utterly unfit to take part in a campaign. He had no remedy to propose for the present state of things beyond that proposed by his noble Friend; but there was one point intimately connected with the question on which he might make some suggestion which the War Minister might think worthy of consideration. He referred to the epidemic of desertion which afflicted the Army. He ventured to suggest that it would be advisable to have a central depot for all recruits at Aldershot or elsewhere that might be decided on, where they might be kept for a month's instruction; and if they deserted and reappeared, they would be again brought under the same instruction. The expense would be much smaller than with 5,572 deserters from the Army out of 20,640 recruits, very many of whom re-enlisted. Then, again, the police, who formerly received £ 1 for the apprehension of a deserter, now only received 10s., at the discretion of magistrates. Though extra money should not make the police more zealous in the performance of their duty, it undoubtedly did so. He also thought it would be necessary to return to the system of "marking" with the letter "D." The question admitted of no delay. When danger came—as it might at any moment—where were they to turn for help? The time had long since passed when an Army could be raised for an existent war. Could they trust to a levée en masse? That was a "broken reed at best." Their levies would be scattered, as Gambetta's were, like chaff before the 1317 wind. He supported the Motion, in the belief that, if carried, it would materially assist the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War in the arduous task which the Army and the country felt he so ably discharged.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, though a difference of opinion might exist upon many points which had been adverted to by the noble Lord, yet everyone must agree that the bringing forward of this Motion was timely, inasmuch as it would enable the authorities to show to the country that they were alive to the importance of the subject, and quite prepared to effect those changes which were required to make our Army more efficient. He differed from the noble Lord on those points where he found fault with the present organization of the Artillery. At no time in our history had we such a fine force of Artillery as we had at the present time. We might not have a war establishment of horses; but as regarded men the batteries were nearly of the same strength as the Indian batteries, and our field Artillery in India had been maintained of late years on an efficient footing, and had never failed to perform its duties. At the present time we had no fewer than 366 field-pieces, completely manned. There might be some deficiency of ammunition waggons; but our present establishment of field batteries was considerably in excess of the establishment maintained in Germany, which had no greater advantage than we had in procuring horses. He could not from the Reports see that the recruits were inferior to those enlisted under the system of 21 years' service, although he admitted that we had failed in obtaining the improved material which had been expected from short service, the fact being that about the same class of men enlisted as formerly. In the course of the inquiry of 1866 he became well aware that there were many men in the Army under proper age, and who were not fit for the work. General Peel, in view to improve the Army by inducements to join the service, added to the pay of the soldiers, which increased the expenditure of the Army by £500,000 a-year. No doubt pecuniary advantages were a great inducement to men to join the Army; but this increase of pay, unaccompanied by the adoption of certain other recommenda- 1318 tions of the Royal Commission, had not been effectual either in respect to increasing the number or improving the quality of the recruits. He had always considered that some improvement in the condition of the non-commissioned officers was much wanted. The practice of the Indian Army was a good example to follow; and if good men were raised from the non-commissioned grades to the warrant-officer rank to fill situations in the Store and Commissariat Departments it would elevate their position, while it would not entail upon them those expenses which made Army commissions of such doubtful advantage to them. He also viewed the present rule of enlisting every man for a fixed period of short service as unwise. He would allow a soldier great latitude as to the period of enlistment—if not for one year he would certainly let him join for three years' service. The permission to enlist for three years' service during the Crimean War was a great inducement. There was also something to learn from the experience of India under the East India Company. When he first entered the Indian service the men were enlisted under Wyndham's old Act for three periods of seven years' each. At the end of the first seven years a small bounty was given to a man if he was willing to serve for another seven years. After the 14 years he had earned the right to receive a small pension; but if he were in good health he might receive another bounty, and serve for a third period. A short service could always be extended. All that was necessary was for a soldier whose service was about to expire to give a three months' warning-notice of his intention to leave, or of his desire to extend, his service, which need not be accepted if the soldier was objectionable. Then came the difficulty of obtaining men for the existing universal service in all parts of the world. He was one of those who thought it impolitic to abolish the special European Army for India. It was too late to return to that separate Army system. He would, however, urge that the existing service at home and abroad should be so arranged as to enable recruits to know how they might enlist to go to India. Under the old system of an Indian Army when there was a difficulty in obtaining 1319 recruits for service elsewhere the Indian service was invariably full, and any number of men might be obtained. During the Crimean War Lord Hardinge did all he could to induce the recruits for Indian regiments to volunteer for service in the Crimea, but they refused, preferring to go to India. Arrangements for obtaining recruits for colonial service might be more difficult, but something might also be done in this direction. He must say he was never satisfied with the mode in which the recruiting service was carried on. He felt disposed to advocate the separation of the recruiting department from the military branch at the War Office, believing that those duties might be more efficiently performed—separate and special branches organized in communication with or by the registrars of births, marriages, and deaths in the various districts. He thought it was worthy of the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman whether the civil organization could not be so improved and enlarged as to enable it to perform the duties which were now fulfilled by the recruiting department of the Army. He would urge improved modes of raising recruits voluntarily, in order to prevent conscription, which had been mentioned as applicable to the Militia. Once let a Government have the power of forcing men into the ranks of the Army and there was the greatest risk, as in Germany, that it would be turned into a force of an offensive description. It would be dangerous to entrust any Government with such a power. The extension of the agencies for recruiting was the most urgent needed, for the success of recruiting depended on the number of recruiters, and just in proportion as they covered the country with recruiters so the Horse Guards succeeded in obtaining recruits. The Guards always had a larger proportion of men detached for recruiting than any other regiment, and the Guards formerly never had any difficulty in obtaining the number they wanted. With respect to the formation of depot centres, in this view, no doubt, if rightly formed, they were improvements, but he did not think they were sufficiently numerous to secure the results in respect of recruiting which was expected of them. The noble Lord the Member for Haddington had referred 1320 to the state of things which prevailed during the Crimean War, and compared it with that which now existed, and certainly the comparison was one which deserved attention on the part of our military authorities. During that war our Army, though largely and expensively augmented, yet it dwindled away to nearly as low a position as it was in now, or, rather, it never was able to raise the men that Parliament had voted for its ranks. That was owing to the fact that either the Militia failed to furnish the requisite proportion of recruits to the Army or to the defects in our recruiting system in not raising men, or perhaps to both causes. At all events, it was plain that, from whatever cause, the Army was then very far below its fixed establishment, and the fact was important in view of the question whether if war broke out we had the organization whereby we could bring our Army up to the requisite standard, or even be able to maintain our present force. At the present moment we had fewer rank and file than we had in 1854, while the expenses of the Army—owing, among other things, to the existence of those small and attenuated battalions which had been referred to—were greater now than they were then. During the War with Russia, our depôts held large numbers of young lads; but Lord Raglan, in the Crimea, used strong language as to these boys being sent out as soldiers; this had been and was now a great defect in our Army as compared with that of Germany. There the main body of the men were fully matured, aged from 24 to 28, in all their bodily strength, no doubt the results of universal service. He believed that with proper organization we could procure the required number for our Army of men who would be free from the defects which Lord Raglan pointed out. He quite agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) that the force of Infantry we could place in the field appeared to be small; but if they looked to their total strength which was, or could be, made available, he did not think there was any cause for alarm, seeing that they had no fewer than 208,000 privates of Infantry, including Militia, Guards, and Infantry of the Line, and under proper arrangements, these could be largely increased. With such a force, if they abstained from interfering with the affairs of the Continent, he could 1321 not but think that they were in a position to defend the Kingdom and maintain the honour of the Empire.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
remarked that this question had become a most stupendous one, in view of the declaration of our Colonels that they would not be answerable for the consequences if they had to go into action with men of the class that now formed our regiments. Many useful suggestions had come from both sides of the House; but, even if they were all adopted by the Government, they would, in his opinion, bear but little fruit. The real fact requiring to be taken into consideration was the state of the labour market. He did not for a moment believe that the lack of recruits was owing to the unpopularity of the British Army, but it was due to the labour market. Seeing what large wages men could get in almost every civil employment, it was absurd to expect that in times when the excitement of war was wanting they would give up such prospects for the small pay our soldiers received. On the other hand, it would be impossible for our Estimates to bear the strain of paying our soldiers such a sum as would enable us to compete for men in the skilled labour market. It had been remarked many years ago that the question of armaments was a question of policy. Now, if there was any nation in Europe bound over to keep the peace it was England. Any English statesman who would adopt a warlike policy would be regarded as a raving lunatic. But with other nations the standing policy seemed to be one of war, and not of peace. If, then, England, with her peaceful instincts, retired from the councils of Europe, the guarantees of peace were proportionately diminished. There were probably Powers which must desire that the present state of military paralysis in England should continue; while those who, in England, desired only the continuance of her trade must observe with dismay that the voice of England was hushed among the nations. Lovers of free institutions everywhere, also, must lament that our armaments should be allowed to be the laughingstock of Europe. It was right, then, that they should not rashly disarm, but that they should rather look well to their armaments. And this was precisely what other countries were doing. Germany led the way with her landstrum. France 1322 with her territorial army was doing the same thing, and Austria had followed suit, all her subjects having to serve under the standard. Even Italy, which had nothing to gain from war, and Denmark and Sweden, who ought to be beyond the reach of these baneful influences, had been seized with the mania, and were in arms. What was the reason of Europe thus bristling with bayonets? It arose out of the transactions of the late war. At the end of that struggle, England was not able to prevent a territorial re-distribution. It was, in fact, a territorial redistribution which had brought this state of things about; and the peace of Europe at the present moment was not worth 12 months' purchase. Had England been able to prevent this territorial re-distribution the certainty of European complications at no distant date would have been prevented. But England was unwilling or unable to do so. The consequence had been that Europe was now armed to the teeth. The great practical question was this—What was the military organization that would least affect the trade and the industry of the nation? He should be sorry to see our Military Estimates increased. He thought that if £14,000,000 was not enough to secure our military position there must be something more needed than the supply of money. What we really wanted was a small standing Army that could be rapidly and extensively increased in time of war. Raw recruits would be of no use in an emergency, for the war would be over before they could be made available. Lord Cardwell's Reserves were ludicrously inadequate to the task of supplementing our standing Army in case of necessity. What we required was not a Prussian, a French, or a Continental system, but an English system of reserves, which should be suited to the genius and the character of the people. In this country the people could not be hurried into war without their consent, and, therefore, we did not require those large legally organized reserves to carry out a policy which it was anticipated would be unpopular. He agreed with what had been already stated this evening, that the well-drilled men who should swell the ranks of the Regular Army in time of war should come from the Militia. He should like to see the Militia formed into a permanently embodied force, in which every man in Eng- 1323 land, whatever his rank or position, should be required to serve for 12 months. At the end of the term of service, the men should be allowed to merge themselves in the civil population, and no compulsion should be used to force them again into the ranks even in time of war. He had such confidence in the military spirit of the nation that he was certain that in time of danger such numbers of well-drilled men would rush into the Army as would astonish the world. Should such a system be adopted, our standing Army might be still further reduced, and we might return to the old system of long service. To some such system the country must eventually come if we wished to preserve our position, and not to become a cypher in the councils of Europe or the prey of nations that envied our greatness and our foreign possessions. He could not concur in the noble Lord's expression of astonishment at finding that the hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) regarded some form of compulsory enlistment as inevitable. Patriotism and public spirit were not a monopoly of either side of the House; and when it became desirable to adopt compulsion, hon. Members who sat on the Opposition benches would no doubt be as ready as others to give it their support. It was not a question which could be brought at once to an issue; the feeling of the country was not yet prepared for compulsion; but he, for one, felt confident that the military system of England would eventually be placed on a satisfactory basis. Whatever might happen, he trusted this would never become a Party question.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he could not agree with some of the observations of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Butler-Johnstone). He must dissent from the doctrine that the exigencies which were anticipated as possible required the House to consider whether it was not their duty, in some form or other, to entertain the principle of compulsory military service. Surely the richest country in the world did not require to have recourse to the expedient of imposing a poll tax upon the people. That was a semi-barbarous proceeding, of which despotic and bad Governments were so fond, and which was the curse of modern Europe. He supposed there was not a man in that House that did not deplore the exigency of war; but he 1324 hoped, also, there was not one who would not be ready to support a Minister who, at the risk of unpopularity, did not shrink from coming down to that House informing it that an ally was in danger, and proposing to it what his Cabinet thought necessary for maintaining the historic honour of the country. At the same time, he had for the last few years regarded with increasing anxiety the very imperfect system of recruitment existing in connection with our Army. Pour years ago, as the result of a Motion he made, an Address was presented to Her Majesty praying that—She will be graciously pleased to give directions that measures he taken to prevent as far as practicable Soldiers enlisted in any Regiment of Cavalry or Infantry of the Line, being called upon to serve Her Majesty out of the United Kingdom, who shall not have attained the age of twenty years.The Royal Message, in reply, said—The subject of your Address had already engaged the attention of My Government, and I have given additional directions in conformity with your desire.There could be no higher authority on this subject than Professor Aitkin, of Netley, who had forcibly drawn attention to the high percentage of soldiers under 20 brought to the hospital, and who, in a preface to one of his lectures, had written as follows:—If military duties and drill do not lead directly to the premature death of the young soldier, they sooner or later lead to his discharge as unfit for duty. Thus he becomes a burden on the civil population, with one or more of his vital organs damaged, for the remainder of his life.However difficult and at whatever cost he abjured the Minister that this wretched system should cease for ever. In no other country in the world was the physiological and practical mistake made of risking the defence of the country on the shoulders of those who were incompetent and incapable of doing the work required of them. He spent yesterday at Netley, and the best request he could make was that Members should visit that place and see the patients for themselves, and they would not wonder, when they considered that these young men had to undergo hunger, thirst, and night watches, and were liable to every disease and tropical ailment, that the Army 1325 dwindled in numbers. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would keep the pledge given four years ago, and, moreover, that he would adhere to the words he had himself spoken a few weeks ago when he moved a Vote of £4,500,000 for 129,000 men. It was men the money had been voted for, and men they ought to have. In Germany, about which we heard so much, no one was allowed to bear arms before he was 20. [Lord ELCHO: Twenty complete.] Indeed, there could not be found in any European country a parallel to the state of things in this. The way to maintain peace was to let our neighbours see that we were able to maintain it; there was no other security for us now-a-days, and we could never vindicate ourselves to our people and our children unless we took care betimes, when the country was quiet and prosperous, to obtain an efficient Army. That eminent physician, Sir William Fergusson, referring to the extreme youth of our soldiers, said—There is good reason to believe that evil must arise from sending recruits to India at an early age. Men of experience are against the practice, and, physiologically, I consider it unfair to the constitution of a born Englishman.The Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to entertain the idea that we should keep the peace nolens volens as long as possible, and that with that view he was prepared to charge the country with a larger sum than was otherwise necessary in order to pay off the National Debt. He (Mr. Torrens) was prepared to vote any amount of money that might be necessary to secure real soldiers and place the defences of the country on such a footing that no jealous, envious, or ill-natured enemy dare attack us. The pension which formerly induced adults to join the service had been taken away, and now they wondered that men did not enlist. He said, let them restore the pension which their fathers were wise enough to offer the soldier, and let them also, if requisite, give him better pay. He believed that the people of England were not so degraded, so unworthy of the name they bore, to whatever party they belonged, as to shrink from the sacrifices which might be demanded of them to uphold the honour and security of their country.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, that the question was how were they to have an Army for the defence of the country, and it appeared to him that they were doomed never to gain anything by experience. The Royal Commission of 1866 on Recruiting gave a most prophetic warning, winding up their Report by remarking that recent events had taught us that we must not rely in future on having time for preparations; that wars would be sudden in their announcement and short in their duration; and woe to the country which was unprepared to defend itself against any contingency that might arise or any combination that might be formed against it. Those words were scarcely written before the war between Prussia and Austria in 1866, followed three or four-years later by the struggle between France and Germany, occurred to give them only too complete a verification. Were we, he asked, only to look to the defence of the country, and never to contemplate the time when we might have to fulfil any of the engagements into which we had entered? Again, were we in a position to meet such another war as that of the Crimea, and also at its close to encounter another Indian Mutiny, should the stern necessity arise? Why, only two years ago, when an expedition of about 2,000 men was about to be sent into Africa, we were obliged, in order to find those men, to break up three regiments; and that fine regiment the 42nd Highlanders had to borrow 137 men from the 79th Highlanders. Was that, he asked, a state for an Army to be in? In 1868–9, when Sir John Pakington was War Minister, our force was 137,530 men; but in 1869–70, the year in which the Franco-German War broke out, when Mr. Cardwell succeeded him, the number was reduced by 24,000. He believed great harm had been done to the different branches of the service by the constantly changing policy which had been pursued. The Army of this country in time of peace might be comparatively small; but, whatever it was, it should be in the highest state of efficiency, and capable of expansion upon the contingency of a sudden outbreak of war. Who were the men to keep up the real esprit de corps of our Army? The old soldiers of our military service of whom the Duke of Wellington said that they were the soul and strength of the regi- 1327 ment; and Lord Cardwell had said much the same thing. But where were they now to be found? He deeply regretted the withdrawal of the old pension system, believing that the change had had a most injurious effect upon our military strength. The system of economy had been carried to such an extent that the defences of the country were seriously imperilled. As an illustration of that system, he might mention this fact. A regiment which was quartered in Dublin applied for an escort to carry its colours to Lichfield Cathedral, to be there deposited. The answer given to the application was, that a sergeant might be sent in charge of the colours, but the country must be put to no expense on account of the matter. An officer of the regiment, being disgusted with this reply, carried the colours himself to Lichfield Cathedral; but on approaching the place of their destination he was met by a crowd who followed him under the belief that he was an acrobat. He fully agreed with many of the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), especially as regarded the class of men who were now enlisted into our regiments, and he hoped the Government would give the subject their earnest attention.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, they had had speeches addressed to them that night from almost every quarter of the world of military criticism. There was one thing which he observed in connection with debates on this subject—that so long as the speakers confined themselves to the destructive part of the argument their unanimity was wonderful; but the moment they attempted to disclose to the House the cures they would apply to the evils they were so forward in exposing their unanimity ceased, and they became wide as the poles asunder. So far as he could make out, also, if any one of their theories were adopted, the supporters of the other theories would bestow upon it more acute criticism and view it with even greater animosity than they displayed towards the system which now existed. He had a few words to say, first as to the evils alleged to exist, and then as to the remedies proposed. They had heard a great deal as to the numbers in the Army. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire had taken the year 1328 1853, and had compared the number of Infantry at that time with the number of Infantry serving in 1873. Now, he would observe that the year 1853 was one in which there was a larger force maintained in the United Kingdom than in the previous or subsequent years. The number of Infantry was 50,458 in 1851; 45,932 in 1852; 53,651 in 1853; and 49,325 in 1854; but he presumed the noble Lord took the year 1853 because it was exactly 20 years before 1873. [Lord ELCHO: I took the Infantry on the whole establishment, in England and the Colonies.] The noble Lord had spoken of the Infantry in England, Scotland, and the Channel Islands, and then went on to refer to the whole establishment. It was of the former only that he was now speaking. Of course, the noble Lord was entitled to take for the purpose of his comparison a year exactly 20 years distant, but it was only fair to remark that, as it happened, in that year the force was exceptionally large. Having stated that, in 1873, there were altogether, rank and file, only 50,830, the noble Lord had proceeded to make certain deductions; but, of course, if a comparison were instituted between that year and a year two decades before it, a similar deduction must be made in the earlier year. The comparison in that case would not appear so unfavourable. But what was the real difference in the two cases? Whereas, in 1853, that number of Infantry represented a small number of cadres full of men, in 1873 it represented 70 cadres—a very much larger number than before—kept at a low strength, but capable of being filled up from Reserves. That was the system on which the Army was now constituted, and hon. Members must not forget the advantage of it when it should be complete. It was said we had not the means of filling the cadres up, and several speakers had referred to the fact that there were only 7,000 in the Army Reserve. But the reason was very simple; it was that the short-service system had not yet come into play; for there was not a single man who had entered the Army under it and passed into the Reserve. The six years not having elapsed, those 7,000 men who were so often spoken of as an inadequate Reserve were all long-service men who, as occasion offered, had been allowed to 1329 pass voluntarily into the Reserve, and thus they were entirely over and above any calculation that might be made as to the result of the short-service system proper. That fact was constantly ignored or forgotten; but he hoped the House would understand now that the Army Reserve which would result from short service had not yet come into existence. As to the Militia Reserve, 28,000 was the existing number. Many objections had been urged to this Force, to which he might simply reply that the Militia Reserve had been maintained, because there was no Army Reserve; and he presumed that when the latter reached its full proportions—which it must do as the men went out from the service with the colours—then the Militia Reserve might, at any time, be put an end to, if it were found desirable. It never professed to be more than a stop-gap. The real object of short service was to obtain elasticity. They had heard a good deal about the Crimea from the noble Lord and the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell). The House was told that if we again attempted to take a Sebastopol or to suppress an Indian Mutiny we should fail; and in a former debate the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) told them very graphically of the wretched boys who were sent to the Crimea and trampled to death at the storming of the Redan. The effect of short service would be to prevent the possibility of any such calamity occurring again. The very reason why those boys were sent out to the Crimea was that we had no Reserve at that time, and the gaps caused by disease, fatigue, wounds, and death had to be filled by imperfectly drilled and imperfectly developed recruits. In future old soldiers would be sent out, and this would be done under the short service system. That was the theory and intention of the system. [Lord ELCHO: Hear, hear!] He was glad that the noble Lord admitted so much. As to the number of recruits, the Reports of the Inspector General of Recruiting were taken, he presumed, as being satisfactory on that head; for last year, the great inflation of the labour market having ceased, recruits came in in sufficient numbers, so that recruiting was almost allowed to cease. More, indeed, was said as to their quality. 1330 For his part, he preferred facts to rumours or assertions, and attached more importance to statistics, compiled by responsible officers, from details furnished by other responsible officers, and laid on the Table by the Head of the Department, than to vague reports of what one or another officer said. The House had been told that every officer one met said that the recruits were unsatisfactory. The statistics circulated that morning furnished a complete answer to that allegation. What were the answers of officers commanding regiments with regard to recruits sent to them from April to December, 1874? There were answers from 136 commanding officers. Of these 78 were "satisfied;" 26 were "fairly satisfied;" and 32 only were "dissatisfied." The noble Lord had read the "remarks" appended to this Return as if they applied to the whole of those answers from commanding officers; but those unfavourable remarks came only from the 32 "dissatisfied" officers. And the House would observe how entirely this Return confirmed the opinion expressed by the Inspector General of Recruiting in his Report. What did he there state of the Infantry recruits? He said—In a large majority of regiments and depôts the quality is satisfactory. A smaller proportion is fairly good, but in many instances complaints are made to a degree that is far from satisfactory.This Report, which had been issued before the Inspector General knew anything about the answers just referred to, was the exact counterpart of those answers, so that the genuine character of the Report was established, although it was said such Reports were not to be depended on as they were made to suit the Heads of Departments. With regard to the physical qualities of our soldiers, according to the latest Return, in the whole Army there were only 111 in 1,000 men under 20 years of age, and 334 in 1,000 from 20 to 25 years. The general average age of Infantry recruits was 19 years 9 months and one-fifth. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Torrens) had spoken of sending recruits to India under the full age, and had drawn a terrible picture of the skeletons he had seen of young soldiers, practically killed by the hard work imposed upon their immature strength. He did not 1331 know how far the hon. Member's investigations into those skeletons and bones had gone, but this he, for his own part, would say, that taking the opinion of the medical officers of the Army generally, and not of scientific men who had far less practical knowledge of the subject, he found that in the Report for 1874 they expressed themselves as—fully satisfied with the physique and general appearance of the men who have joined the several corps. A very few exceptional cases have been remarked upon, chiefly of lads, objected to as being deficient in stamina and bodily development; but these in nearly all instances have grown since into strong healthy young men.They must bear in mind that these recruits were engaged to serve in the Army a short time with the colours, and then in the Reserve. They passed through their drill and acquired a knowledge of their duties while young; then they were passed into the Reserve, and would be the men to be brought out in the First Line in case of war. By that time instead of being 20, they would have reached the age of from 23 to 25, or more, so that they were not dependent upon those young soldiers, as they would be if they had no Reserves. The other statistics as to physical condition were likewise satisfactory. In the Army there were only 200 men in 1,000 under 5 feet 6 inches in height; while, as to chest measurement, there were 709 in 1,000 who were 35 inches and over. Next, came their moral qualities. It appeared from the Report of the Director General of Education that the standard of education among the soldiers was improving. As to medical condition, the latest Report, for 1872, showed that "all the ratios were considerably above the average." What were the facts as to desertion? The percentage of desertions to recruits in 1861 was 41. In 1870, during the excitement of the war, it fell to 12. In 1872 it rose to 33, in 1873 it was also 33, those being years of great excitement in the labour market, and in 1874 it fell to 27. Taking the net loss by desertion, the percentage of deserters to recruits in 1869, when the late Government came into office, was 18; in 1874 it was 17. And it must be remembered that the abolition of branding undoubtedly greatly facilitated desertion. But that step was taken at the 1332 urgent instance of Parliament, and Parliament was not likely to retrace it. The result of a review of the whole case appeared to be that they were able to hold their own, in the competition for recruits, in the unskilled labour market. He did not say that it might not be better if they could get a higher class of men; but what they really required was to obtain able-bodied and intelligent men, and those they found in sufficient numbers in the classes engaged in unskilled labour. If they attempted to obtain recruits from the class of skilled labourers, they would have to raise the pay of the soldiers considerably, and they had no assurance that they would not experience the same difficulties with which they had now to deal. In prosperous times artizans might desert the Army for other employments, and their abstraction from the industry of the country would indirectly but effectively add to the cost of the Army to the country. They were at present able to compete with success in the unskilled labour market, and the sensible course appeared to him to be that they should trust to the advantages which their soldiers received being better appreciated than they were at present. It was not a question of wages; the mere pay of the soldier might be small; but he had many advantages over his fellows in civil life. He was better housed, clothed, looked after, and fed; he had medical attendance, reading-rooms, recreation rooms, and many comforts, and luxuries, of which those in the same position outside of the Army had no notion at all. Nothing was better calculated to make these advantages known and appreciated than the district system, the object of which was to search out every corner of the country, and to bring the advantages of the Army to every man's door. Coming now to the other end of the soldier's active service, he would say a few words of the Reserves. The pay of the Reserves, 4d. a-day, was only a retaining fee, and until it was found to be too little, it would not be prudent to raise it; it was the pay of the Royal Naval Reserve, and the answer to the statement that the Reserves would not be forthcoming when required was that on the occurrence of the Trent affair the men of the Naval Reserve turned up in a way which exceeded the anticipations of those who founded that Reserve. 1333 For the purposes of identification of the men nothing was required but local watchfulness, and that was furnished by the brigade depot system. The existing Reserves, it should be remembered, as he had already pointed out, were not the fruit of the short-service system. That system was calculated to give the country a large Reserve; and he believed that if it were completely carried out, the Reserve would reach a normal strength of 80,000 men. [An hon. MEMBER: When?] He could not say exactly, not having the figures before him; but his impression was in 10 or 12 years. And now he wished to glance at the alternatives they had been offered as a substitute for the present system. The alternatives proposed were two—first, there were those who would extend short service further and give higher pay, and thus, as they thought, obtain a better class of recruits. On the other hand, there were those who would have compulsory service in some form or other. He would remind the House that there was one essential postulate underlying both these proposals, which was that there should be separate Armies for India, the Colonies, and the British Isles. Parliament some time back put an end to the system of maintaining a separate Army for India, and he did not think the Government of the present day was likely, except on the strongest possible grounds, to reverse that policy. So long as it continued to be the policy of Parliament, it was incumbent upon those who advocated its reversal to prove their case, and it was not for him to disprove it. He therefore wished the House to understand that he was not undertaking to set before it a fair statement of the arguments against that proposal, but he wished to indicate a few of the considerations which lay on the surface of the question. There was no doubt that if they were to accomplish the tripartite division of the Queen's Forces, the solution of the whole problem of military organization would be greatly facilitated; but it could not be accomplished without the greatest difficulty. How could that esprit de corps, and that regimental system so dear to hon. and gallant Members, survive such a division? Which regiments should we assign to home service, and which should we banish to India? Again, those who maintained that there should be three 1334 armies, and, at the same time, advocated an elastic short-service system, seemed to forget that the armies for India and the Colonies must be long-service armies, and that there would be no Reserves to fill their ranks. At present the officers and men of the British Army had a varied and adventurous service, which gave them an experience in their profession which no other Army acquired, and of which they would be deprived by a division of their forces. If the Army were divided into three portions, the home division would become little better than a well-drilled Militia, the Colonial Army would be degraded into little more than a police, and the Indian Army would be subject to those evil influences which in former days had such a fatal effect on its efficiency. The House would see the importance of this question, which could not be urged too strongly, for if the division of the Army was a condition which must be granted before certain schemes came into operation, and if it was an impossible condition, then those schemes were, of course, utterly impracticable. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. J. Holms) proposed that the pay of their Home Army should be increased by 6d. a-day, and that the Reserve should receive £30 per man; but that was a very large addition to make all at once, without any good reason for it, if we could get men without it, and he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) would be curious to see how this scheme could be worked out without a large addition to the Estimates. He did not see how a Home Army of 66,000 men serving for three years could be kept up, as his hon. Friend said it could, by 20,000 recruits annually, or how an Indian Army of 66,000 serving for seven years could be maintained by 8,600 annual recruits; and they might well doubt some of the more far reaching and elaborate calculations of his hon. Friend, when the figures which lay upon the surface were so open to question. His hon. Friend, both in the House and out of it, had frequently urged the necessity of having a business-like organization and system in the Army. Now, having had some short experience in the world of business, as well as in the official world and in public life, he had no hesitation in asserting, and he thought it right to say so, that the monopoly of business 1335 qualities was not confined to business men, but that many public servants and soldiers had as much business-like capacity as was to be found in the world of business itself. Now, with regard to the question of conscription, it seemed to him to be open to very serious objections, not on the high ground of the freedom of the individual, but because, however applied, whether enforced for the Regular Army or for the Militia, or any branch of the Service, it was the most unfair means of carrying out the defensive arrangements of the country. It was taxation by lot; taxation equally heavy, whether it took a man's money in the payment of a substitute, or his own time and service. If every man was to serve it would be equal all round; but he did not know whether the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) had ever considered the enormous drain on the productive industry of the country which would be involved by every man serving for a year in the Militia. He trusted that the country would not submit, save in the last necessity, to be reduced to such a dreadful alternative as that of compulsory service in the Army or the Militia. The noble Lord's idea was, he believed, that conscription should be applied to the Militia, with an exemption for the Volunteers. [Lord ELCHO: Under the existing law.] Did not the noble Lord know the result of the application of that law? In 1803, Mr. Addington passed a law for compulsory service in the Army and Militia, with an exemption for the Volunteers. And what took place? Why, that out of 500,000 persons liable to serve, 420,000 offered themselves as Volunteers. The noble Lord's way of keeping up the Volunteer Force, whose great glory was its spontaneous character, would be to frighten people into it by the threat of conscription. And if there was to be this universal service in the Militia, would it have no effect on recruiting for the Army? Men passed in large numbers from the Militia into the Army. Between 4,000 and 5,000 had done so last year. But surely, if men were compelled to serve in the Militia, many who now offered themselves as recruits for the Army would not do so. What was the effect at the beginning of the present century? Mr. Windham, in speaking on the subject, said that— 1336The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Addington) had not only not provided an Army, but had rendered it impossible that an Army should he provided, for the Volunteer system had locked up 400,000 of the active men of the country.These were very serious precedents, and worthy of consideration. He would ask the House what was the right thing to do at the present time? The systems both of short service and of localization were introduced a very few years ago. The short-service system had never yet been completed. No men who had entered under it had passed into the Reserve. The localization system had only been just set up; the officers were not thoroughly familiar with their new duties; many of the depôts were not even formed; and it was idle to suppose that any great results could have occurred. His right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), speaking the other night of the conduct of the House in its dealings with the Foreign Loans Committee said, that it reminded him of the action of children who sowed seeds, and dig them up to see whether they were growing. But if the House adopted the Motion of the noble Lord, it would go far beyond the impatient curiosity of children, for it would condemn a system which had not even had a chance of failing, and would dig up the seed for the express reason that the grain was not already garnered, at a time when the most that could be expected would be to see the tender blade appearing above the surface of the earth.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he thought the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had shown clearly the position in which the late Government had left the Army of this country, and the question for consideration now was, what was necessary to be done under the circumstances of the case? The noble Lord (Lord Elcho) had said that there were no appreciable Reserves—that the short-service system had not come into play, and that only 7,000 men had gone into the Reserve. But he did not point out that even with that small number the late Government had not the moral courage to let the country know that these men were actually a reserve. The hon. Member for Stirling Burghs admitted that the system had so far failed that they had not got that class of recruits which he and Lord Cardwell expected to get—
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
observed, that he had not said anything about the class of recruits, but that it was not proposed to go out of the class of unskilled labour.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he would not argue that point further. Everyone knew from what class the recruits were obtained. The whole case was summed up in the demand for labour. When labour was dear recruits were very scarce. When men could not obtain labour they entered as recruits. But, notwithstanding the dearness of labour, and the other circumstances which had occurred during the last four years, the Returns showed that 118,161 men had been recruited for the Militia, and that 79,193 men had been recruited for the Army, making a total of 197,354. In view of this remarkable result of the voluntary system, how, he asked, could they with any show of reason propose to introduce a conscription? He thought, however, that his noble Friend had done good service in bringing the question before the House; because the discussion which had taken place would show his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War what were the opinions of the House on the subject. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite that the two systems introduced by Lord Card-well had not yet had a fair trial, and that it would be madness to ask the Secretary for War to do something very different. But there were many things which ought to have been done by Lord Cardwell which had been left to his successors properly and judiciously to carry out. The depôt system had been established, and a certain number of colonels, with large staffs, had been appointed; but when they got recruits in certain districts, it was found that they were wanted in other parts of the country, and some of them had actually been sent from Chichester, recruits that ought to have joined the 35th Sussex regiment, to join a Highland regiment in Scotland. That was certainly not carrying out the depôt system to its legitimate conclusion. He would venture to ask the Secretary for War, in dealing with this question, to begin with the privates, and see whether it was not possible to do away with some of the stoppages, and out of those stoppages to provide a fund which might be given to them when they left the Army. He 1338 would also ask, with regard to the corporals, and especially the lance-corporals, and lance-sergeants as well as sergeants, that their pay should be increased, and that when these men left their regiments, and by reason of their good conduct were appointed either to the Militia or Volunteers, their service in the Militia or Volunteers should count and entitle them to a pension for so many years' service therein. If these suggestions were acted upon, he believed a better class of recruits would be brought into the Army. He thought we should have 25 regiments filled up to their proper strength, and fit to land in any part of the world. As to a Re-serve, he wished his right hon. Friend to bear in mind that the great object of a Reserve was, that when our regiments were sent abroad, they should be filled up with men who were trained soldiers and of a certain age. But a man who had left the Army for several years was not fit, at a moment's notice, for foreign service. The authorities ought, therefore, to know where every man who joined the Reserve was to be found. He should not be allowed to leave one district to go to another without giving notice to the proper authorities; and he ought to be called up every year for 12 days' training. Besides this, care should be taken that he had proper clothes and accoutrements, and was practised in the use of the arm with which he would be supplied. That was a very important point in these days of new inventions, and in the change of weapons which these inventions involved. He knew that the reason which had been urged against dealing with our Army Reserve was that farmers and manufacturers would not employ men who were liable to be called out for 12 days' training every year, and to be drafted for foreign service if required. He had a far higher opinion of Englishmen than to believe that they would be influenced by such motives as these. He believed that the classes he had named were as anxious and determined as any class to support the honour of our flag and the honour of the nation in every part of the world.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, he knew that in seconding the Motion of the noble Lord he was undertaking a grave responsibility, inasmuch as the Motion was one to a certain extent of want of confi- 1339 dence in one of the great Departments of the State. The most extraordinary-thing which had struck him in all these discussions was the exceeding apathy that existed on the subject, both in Parliament and in the country. We spent £14,000,000 yearly on our Army, nearly one-third of the entire Revenue of the country, excluding the interest on the National Debt; and yet, when the subject of the Army came before Parliament, it excited no sympathy either in that House or without it. It appeared as though people who spent their lives in making money by civil and commercial pursuits had never realized to themselves what an Army should be, but looked upon it as a kind of toy, to be kept up with red clothes and other external paraphernalia. But in this country, as in others, the existence of an Army was a grave burden on the resources of the country; and when the time came for active service, either abroad or at home, and we found our Army inefficient, it would cause a great amount of commercial ruin and of widespread suffering among all classes. He saw great danger in the apathy which prevailed as to the inefficiency of the Army at the present moment. His hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had made a speech that night, the whole object of which seemed to be to seek the domestic convenience of this country, instead of recognizing its dangers. The responsibility which the Minister of War had taken upon himself was a grave one. It was the custom of this country to place at the head of the Army and Navy Gentlemen who had no professional knowledge of either of those Departments. In Mahomedan countries some officials were bound to read certain portions of the Koran and learn them by heart, in order that they might be reminded of the gravity of the duties they had before them, and he should like the Secretaries for War in this country to read the Report of the Commission that inquired into the sufferings of our troops in the Crimea, in order to remind them of the value of private information about the Army as opposed to purely official information, and to warn them of the mistakes of red tape. He would like them to read the history of the Redan, to be warned of the danger of enlisting lads and trusting to them; and to read the 1340 history of the Indian Mutiny, in order to be warned against the danger of living in a fool's paradise. If the Secretaries for War, as they came into office, would read those melancholy chapters of British history, such discussion as they had had that evening would not be needed. It would be no consolation to us, if some day a terrible national disaster befel us, that we had carried out the principle of appointing unprofessional men to the control of these professional services. It had been stated that a Departmental Committee had been appointed to inquire into, and report on, the condition of the Army. He had understood that the War Office and the Horse Guards were thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the Army and of the recruits. They had every means of acquiring the information; the recruiting centres and all the regiments were only a few hours' distance from each other, and information could be easily and speedily obtained. The country paid enormous sums for the supervision, regulation, and management of the Army and of recruiting, as set forth in yearly and half-yearly Reports, prepared by a costly staff at the War Office. He had always supposed that the information department in the War Office was a going concern, not needing to be galvanized into life by pressure from without. But, if that was the case, how was it that the Secretary for War and the Commander-in-Chief had been obliged to issue a Commission of Inquiry into Recruiting? Had not annual Returns been sent in for the last seven years? Had they not Major General Taylor's Return? If the Departments were masters of their duties, why send out a Commission? There could be no greater proof of apathy, not in the country alone, but where above all it ought not to reign, than in the issue of this Commission. Then there was a most extraordinary conflict of opinion with respect to the condition and physique of the men. He recollected Lord Cardwell, when a Member of the House, saying in the course of a debate which took place in 1873, that any one who had been present at the Autumn Manœuvres of the previous year, and seen the admirable condition and regular marching of the men, must be a very fastidious person if he was not satisfied with what he saw; but if the 1341 House would turn to the Medical Report for that year they would find that those who took part in those Manœuvres were picked and selected men. In fact, a vast number of wretched youths had to be left behind because they were physically incapable. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had shown that the case was still worse in that year. In 1874, Lord Sandhurst brought this question under the notice of the House of Lords, when he told their Lordships that the recruits for the Infantry were wretched lads who could not carry their knapsacks. Lord Sandhurst, he would remind the House, had much more experience of the Infantry than any living man, whereas Lord Cardwell had none. He had served in the Infantry; he had spent his youth there; and was now in command of the garrison of Dublin, the largest Infantry force in the United Kingdom; but nevertheless, in contradiction of his statement, Lord Card-well said, that the Medical Report on the condition of the men was satisfactory. If Lord Sandhurst was right Lord Cardwell was wrong, and if Lord Cardwell was right Lord Sandhurst was wrong; for if both were right then the Medical Report must have represented that a force of wretched youths who could not carry their packs was satisfactory, which was a reductio ad absurdum. In fact, they had the most lamentable accounts of those weeds and boys. Dr. Leith Adams reported that the assurances of improvement were not realized, and he spoke of the staminaless youths who came from the great cities. He (Colonel Mure) had received that day a remarkable document. On the 9th of March the Secretary for War went to Aldershot and inspected the recruits of 1873 and 1874. He did not see the soldiers who had developed out of the recruits of 1871 and 1872, nor did he go to the hospitals and inquire the opinion of the medical men. The document, however, showed that in one of the three hospitals situated there, there were on the 9th of March, 261 patients, and of these there were 54 boys under the age of 20; in the second hospital there were 199 patients, of whom 51 were boys under 20 years age; in the third there were 136 patients, including 19 boys under 20 years of age. He would now direct the attention of the House to the extra- 1342 ordinary increase in invaliding which had taken place since the introduction of the new scheme. During the three years 1867, 1868, and 1869, the number of those invalided at Aldershot was 622; but in the three years 1872, 1873, and 1874, the number invalided was 1,168. Great as was the increase of invaliding exhibited by those figures, the percentage of the youths included in them showed a still larger increase. He had not the exact figures, but it was something very great. If they went on descending lower and lower in the scale of efficiency they would come to the condition of the giver of the wedding feast in Holy Writ. When they could not get good men to come in and join the Army, they would have to send out and gather in the halt, the lame, and the blind. Now the halt, the lame, and the blind were all very well for a parable, but they were not fit recruits for an Army. He knew that the difficulty in getting strong men was very great; but he preferred to reduce the numbers, and restrict recruiting within the limits of our capacity to get efficient men. Out of 96,000 men at present in the United Kingdom, even if we drew on the men necessary for drafts for India and the Colonies, we could not put 40,000 men on the Continent, Guards included, owing to the large proportion of immature recruits in the ranks. His noble Friend (Lord Elcho) had quoted Dr. Parke, the head of the hospital at Netley, who had stated that a lad was not fit for service in the Army unless he was from 20 to 21 years of age. The best authorities said, that 21 was the age, and Dr. Parke quoted several high authorities in support of that opinion. He (Colonel Mure) had statistics which confirmed that view. We had at present a Committee trying to ascertain how we could prevent recruits from entering the Army while they were too young, and a Commission trying to discover how they could persuade officers to leave the Army before they were too old. The fact was, the officers were growing older and older, the men younger and younger, and the result would be that while the officers would go on creeping into their graves the men would be crawling into their cradles. In short, if things went on as they were now going on, we soon should have an Army of men in their nonage commanded by officers in their dotage. Our Army 1343 could be well compared to a costly engine, which consumed an enormous amount of fuel, but was so badly put together and unskilfully managed that it turned out a ruinously small amount of work. The Army cost upwards of £14,000,000 of money; but it was not only money that they were burning. There was another class of fuel employed, and that was the ruin to the constitution, and the suffering caused to those wretched lads who were sent out to India. He begged the right hon. Gentleman to endeavour to come to some arrangement by which a stop would be put to the system of sending out these wretched lads to India, ruining their constitutions, and then sending them home to the workhouse and the pauper's grave—for it must not be forgotten that now, even when permanently invalided, they received no pension, excepting for the first six months after their discharge from Netley Hospital. A vast proportion of the soldiers they enlisted were perjured boys. He did not blame the lads for misstating their ages on enlisting, for they were forced to do so by the hard necessities of their position; but what was to be said of the calm deliberation with which the military authorities winked at the perjury that was going on? He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for "War would put his shoulder to the wheel, and see if he could not move us out of our present difficulties. Much of the difficulty arose from misunderstanding the financial position of the Home Government and the Indian Government. Were we safer in India than we were in 1857? We held it with the greatest difficulty then, and were we stronger now? The right hon. Gentleman the other evening stated that the death rate in India was only 13 per 1,000. He was very much surprised to hear it. He believed that in 1873 it was 19.30 per 1,000, and in 1874 it was very much the same, although the Returns of those who had died on the voyage home had not yet been received. But even if the death rate in India were only 13 per 1,000, it should be remembered that the Army of India was not kept on a war footing. They were sending the men to the Hills, and laying them up in lavender. It reminded him of what was said when one officer asked another whether such a man was a good rider. "Oh," said his comrade, "he looks very well 1344 on horseback, but the moment the horse begins to move he tumbles off; "and so the Army in India might look very well, but let them move that Army, and it would fall to pieces. There was an opinion very prevalent in this country that we should not go to war again; but that matter was not within the power of any man or the collective wisdom of any body of men. The Government of this country was practically a Democracy—the people were the masters. It was said that we were not a martial nation; but was it not the fact that we had conquered almost the whole world by men voluntarily carrying arms? At the present moment we had, including the Navy, 500,000 men voluntarily carrying arms. If the conscription were abrogated in Belgium, Germany, and Prance, those countries would have attenuated battalions of attenuated boys. The temper of this nation could not be relied upon as a guarantee that we should never again be involved in war. The history of the country at the periods of the Crimean War, and subsequently of the war with China also conveyed a warning. Although the present right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) and the late Mr. Cobden, who had devoted their lives to conferring benefits upon the people, warned them against the folly of rashly flying to arms—the crime and suffering which they were going to undertake—what happened? Why their advice was scouted. The Crimean War took place, and the result was a torrent of tears, oceans of blood, millions of treasure, and a torn-up Treaty. The Chinese War followed. For opposing it the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Cobden were both turned out by the very constituencies which they had done so much to benefit. Much had been said of the conflicting evidence adduced on the efficiency of our land Forces. The right hon. Gentleman preferred to believe the prophets of good, those who made things pleasant. Let them go on as they were doing now, and sooner or later a time would come when a witness would come into Court whom they would be obliged to listen to and believe. That witness would come un-subpœaned, unsolicited, and his precognition they would be obliged to respect. That witness would be a noble people misled by their rulers, enervated by prosperity and money-getting, in mourn- 1345 ing and humiliation for some grievous and overwhelming national disaster.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, after the long discussion which had taken place, and the great number of figures which had been cited, he should abstain, as far as possible, from going into any arithmetical calculations. The hon. and gallant Colonel who had just sat down had certainly not shown any of that apathy that was said to prevail in the country. If strong language could have any effect, it had not been spared. The hon. and gallant Colonel spoke of the military authorities conniving at perjury; he said they did not take the trouble to ascertain anything connected with the Army; and with regard to himself, he admitted what he said to be true—that when he entered upon his present office he was extremely ignorant on matters connected with the Army; but this he would add, that he had done his best to make himself acquainted with it since. [Colonel MURE said, that he only complained of the system.] The hon. and gallant Colonel complained generally of them all. He said they were so ignorant that they had actually appointed a Committee to get the best information they possibly could; but at least the hon. and gallant Colonel could not say that he had kept back from the House the information which had been collected. If it was to be said they were not to have a Committee or Commission without avowing their entire ignorance on the subject, those whose duty it was to act would be brought into the position of being autocrats in office, and they must dispense with those military men who were placed there to assist them. The hon. and gallant Colonel, when he spoke of those military men, little knew the ability, attention, and care which they brought to bear on this subject. When he (Mr. G. Hardy) formerly spoke upon the Estimates he explained that he desired to proceed cautiously and slowly with respect to Army reform, and to give a fair trial to the scheme introduced by his Predecessor. But he might add that he did regret that when that scheme was instituted more was not done to create a Reserve in the first instance, which might have, so to speak, stopped the gap until the service of the short-service men had been completed. Then with respect to the Militia Reserve he thought his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Campbell- 1346 Bannerman) hinted that it had been instituted by Lord Cardwell; but that was not the case. [Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN explained that he had not said so.] He accepted the explanation. But passing from that he might say that even short service was not a new thing. During the Crimean War they enlisted men for two and three years, and on other occasions they enlisted them for 10 years, under the Warrant of General Peel. The hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel Mure) had stated that when he (Mr. G. Hardy) went down to Aldershot, he did not take care to see many things which he ought to have seen. He had, however, sent word the evening before that he wished to see all the recruits there in their nakedness, to use a familiar expression, and not combined with men who had served a long time, whereby a better appearance might have been presented. Indeed, it was only for the purpose of seeing our recruits that he had gone down on that occasion. No doubt he should have derived much benefit had he visited the hospital. As for the recruits, all he could say was that he had consulted the medical men in respect to them, and especially in respect to their age. The hon. and gallant Colonel complained that they got many recruits of 18 who said they were 20 years of age; but he would remind the hon. and gallant Colonel that that fault did not lie with him. Not only did those young men pass the recruiting sergeant, but they were certified to by the medical men as being, in their opinion, of the proper age, and when they were deceived what remedy could they have? It was idle, therefore, for the hon. and gallant Colonel to tell them that they were conniving at perjury when they were simply acting upon the authority of the medical men and the authority of the recruiting sergeants, who had the best means of ascertaining the real facts of the case. Then the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) called upon him to pledge himself to do something which it was utterly impossible for him to do, and for this reason—that they had no means of deciding whether those young men really were the exact age which they represented themselves to be. All he could say with respect to that part of the subject was that the men they sent to India were supposed to be the proper age, 1347 or trained and physically fit for the service. He had had a great many questions put to him that night; but they were, for the most part, of a very conflicting and contradictory character. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell) had asked him what was the condition of the Brigade Depôts when he came into office? Well, it was this. There was nothing practically done except the appointment of colonels, and he was not yet, therefore, in the position to give a competent answer as to what would be the real value or effect of that system. It had not yet had a fair trial, and that was what he was anxious it should receive before he pronounced any opinion. He had received many hints upon that subject during the course of that debate; but the opinions had been so conflicting that the House would agree with him it was not very easy to decide off-hand on it. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone), again, proposed that they should keep down the existing Army and substitute for it an embodied Militia. That was an entirely different system from any other that had been suggested. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster, for his part, had made a great many suggestions. He had said that the Government should provide civil employment for the men who had served in the Army, and that such system had not been fully tried in the Post Office. But he (Mr. G. Hardy) had consulted the Postmaster General on the subject, and the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) had informed him that the system had been efficiently tried in that Department of the public service, and that a more complete failure could not possibly be conceived. He would, however, admit that it was a very important and desirable thing that they should, as far as possible, give employment in the Civil Service to men who had served in the Army; and he could only promise for himself to do all he could to help forward that object. His hon. and gallant Friend had also referred to the corps of Commissionaires which had been formed under the auspices of Captain Walter; but it should be borne in mind that they had been organized at a time when the system of long service prevailed, and when the conditions were totally different from those which at present existed. With 1348 respect to desertion, he might say he had looked back into the subject and found that desertion had prevailed to an enormous extent in former years, and was not a peculiarity of the present time. There was certain always to be desertion when inducements were held out, as they necessarily were, for the men to obtain money by re-enlistment, or by disposing of their kits. But his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster said, they should have long service combined with short. No doubt a great deal might be said in favour of that proposal; but it would require further consideration before being adopted. His hon. and gallant Friend further contended that the Militia should be officered from the Army. That system he (Mr. G. Hardy) admitted, would be of very great value. Indeed, it was not a new idea to him, and very few people would deny that if they were to have a real Reserve they must have it commanded by efficient officers. Another question to which attention had been called was the expediency of giving some advantages, in addition to those which they at present enjoyed, to non-commissioned officers. Well, upon that point all he need say was that he hoped before the close of the Session to bring forward a scheme that would prove advantageous to that meritorious body of men. He need not go into the question of disciplinary battalions—the question of making all men who deserted and were bad characters serve in one regiment, which should be stationed abroad. Those who deserted, it ought to be remembered, were of very different classes. Some ran away from bad motives, others went on what they called a "spree;" and not a few who left their regiments were by no means men of absolutely bad characters. That was a point that required very care-fid consideration. But on the first blush of it he did not think this country was prepared to see regiments composed entirely of bad characters. The hon. and gallant Member for South Durham (Major Beaumont) had urged increased pay; but, on the other hand, the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) objected to any further increase of the Estimates; and he (Mr. G. Hardy) thought the House would agree with him, that it could not be done without the latter. Passing to another point, he might say that he did not think the 1349 Army would benefit by stopping recruiting for the Militia, because a totally different class went into the Militia from that which went into the Army. He had heard of a collier, for instance, who enlisted in the Militia in order to get a month's fresh air above ground and not be allowed to get drunk. For his own part, he had never professed to be an optimist with respect to the Army, and while there were, he believed, 30 per cent of our Infantry recruits which were not entirely satisfactory, there were 70 per cent, of which the opposite might fairly be said. He could not, however, concur in the opinion that none of the 30 per cent would ever become good. It had been stated by several hon. Members that evening that no man was fit to enter the Army until he was 20; but he would venture to say that, whether in agricultural or factory work, men were found to be very efficient under that age. It had been said by the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) that we were getting worse and worse, and that the Army was composed of more children every year; but, no doubt, young men at 18 or 19 years of age, and with good drilling, would turn out efficient soldiers. In 1873, there were in the Army 28,263 under 20 years of age, while in 1874 they had fallen to 19,764. Up to 35, there was a larger number in 1874 than in 1873. A great deal had been said about chest measurement. He had not had much knowledge connected with it; but he was assured that the chest measurement as at present conducted was a fair measurement. It was 34½ inches for the Infantry, and that was said to be adequate to make an efficient soldier. He should not like the House to suppose that the Army was getting only the dregs of the population. Colonel Hammersley, Inspector of the Gymnasia, in his Report on the Infantry Recruits, said, in comparing them with the young cadets of the Royal Military Academy, and the young officers at the Royal Military College, that the average chest measurement showed that the recruits under the present system of recruiting were physically superior to the young men in a higher grade, and that all of them when they reached the age of 20 or 21 ought to be fit for any exertion that might be required of them. It struck him as very singular that those young men at the military academies 1350 who had been better fed, and had had everything necessary to make them physically strong, should not have a better chest measurement than the recruits now enlisting. It was said that we ought to look at the police force. That stood on a very different footing from the Army. The police were allowed to marry, they settled down in houses in the neighbourhood, and their duties did not require those quick and rapid movements demanded in the Army. Some of them had, no doubt, been in the Army when young; but they had now settled down to a very solid and heavy body that would hardly be appropriate to Light Infantry regiments. He would admit that it would be desirable if they could get the same class of men, and men of the same stamina for the Army. From inquiries he had made with regard to men of 20 years of age belonging to better classes, he did not see that they could, by additional pay or any other means, secure them for the Army, owing to the great pressure in this country for workmen. By the time a young man was 20 years of age he had usually settled down, if in the manufacturing districts, to some kind of work which suited him. Sometimes he received high wages. They were able to move about and find better employment than they thought they could find in the Army. It was proved by the great number of persons who bought their discharge that they must belong to classes who could raise some money, because it cost £30 to purchase a discharge, and their doing so, so soon after their entering the Army, showed that they came of a class who, when in the Army, did not altogether like it. He had heard a great deal said about the bad character of the Army. He had reason to suppose that certain regiments recruited from certain places had a great number of bad characters in them; but circumstances showed that if the men were treated well, they were not insensible to the sentiments of rectitude and good feeling. He had heard of a man of education who had taken his degree at college, who, having a great taste for the Army, had enlisted and taken his place in the barrack-room as a common soldier, and had associated with the other men. This gentleman was of exemplary character, with plenty of means, yet lived like the soldiers, and the men had respected him to that degree, that 1351 after a short time there was no bad language or swearing heard in his room from admiration of the man who had come so unexpectedly among them. That was a trait in their character that deserved to be mentioned, and he thought that some of the harsh epithets applied to them should be modified. His noble Friend (Lord Elcho) had referred to what took place at the United Service Institution, where there was a long discussion on recruiting, and that opinions expressed by him in the form of questions received general assent. He thought that they might naturally suppose that those who took part in the discussion at the United Service Institution were interested in theories of their own; and though he did not say they were not representative men, they were not such representative men as would be met with if they took the Army promiscuously. His noble Friend was not able to test his opinion then by a resolution because it was forbidden, and he was only able to draw forth applause by those well-turned sentences which he was so qualified to employ. He was not sure that he had followed his noble Friend as to the mode in which he would deal with the Army. He had some difficulty in ascertaining what it was his noble Friend wished in respect of the Army. He was in favour of a ballot for the Militia, and he proposed that to enter the Volunteers should exempt from the Militia. That raised large and difficult questions. In the beginning of this century repeated attempts were made in that direction, but it did not succeed as was expected; but the Volunteers became a large body, and as they were much more drilled than now, and were brought out in regiments and trained as such, they were naturally able to exercise greater influence in war time than the Volunteers of the present day. He regretted his noble Friend, in the course of his speech, did not say one good word for that Force, the organization of which, he had done so much to promote—the Volunteers. Although not in a position to be placed in battalions at the beginning of the war, he could not but think there were many stalwart men among them, and that in an emergency they would give an account of themselves against any enemy who endeavoured to invade the country. With regard to defensive armaments, it was often 1352 stated, and might be said to be admitted, that we had an equivalent for 200,000 men in the strong fleet we could place between us and the Continent. In respect to the Continent, it was necessary that armies should be able to move at a moment's notice; but that was not the case with us; and, therefore, so far as defensive warfare was concerned, we stood on a totally different footing from any other European Power. It must not be forgotten they had not failed in the wars in which they had been engaged, and though they had met with great disasters, they had managed to come out of them creditably in the end. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Mure) had said that he (Mr. G. Hardy) ought to have read the story of the Crimea and the Report of the Crimean Committee. He had done so at the time, and had read a good deal on the subject since; but he could not help reminding the hon. and gallant Gentleman that although it might be perfectly true that at this moment we could not embody home battalions like those which fought at the Alma, because at that time we had old soldiers, yet that if we provided a Reserve of a seasoned character, the home battalions might readily be brought into an efficient state in time of action. It had been said that we ought to have in the front rank a certain number of regiments brought up to the highest standard, and he admitted that the subject was one requiring the gravest consideration. Considering our position with respect to guarantees, it was a matter of some importance that we should be able at any time to send forth as largo an Army as we had done in former years, and, if possible, on conditions which would enable us to keep it up by a system which would ensure not boys, but men of some service in the Army besides. The system, which the noble Lord complained was not kept up as before the Crimean War, was a few years ago deliberately abandoned, at the cost of a large expenditure, which was still going on, with the view that there should be a Reserve at length of 80,000 men. It might be necessary to take steps to obtain an efficient Army Reserve sooner than through short service by means of the Militia Reserve. That was not an untried Force, and although it was not brought up to the perfection that the Army was 1353 by constant drill and manœuvres, some of those regiments commanded by his hon. Friends in that House would present a very fair front by the side of Regular troops. It must not be forgotten that some of the Militia regiments which were sent abroad at the time of the Crimean War were spoken of in terms which might almost be applicable to regiments of the Line of the highest character. He was very reluctant to go much further into this case; because he must ask the House to extend to him that length of time which he thought necessary to consider those things carefully. Of course, his noble Friend proposed his Resolution in the kindest possible way; but he could not help saying that if agreed to, it would convey the opinion of the House that he had not been proceeding with sufficient speed. His object was to investigate all the facts and circumstances carefully, and not to throw discredit hastily even upon the things that he might not eventually approve of, so that when he made a statement to the House it would be one that would carry conviction with it. With respect to the troops, he was bound to admit that a great deal remained to be done. A large amount of organization and preparation was needed, and the military authorities were bound to see that the Reserves were forthcoming, and that they should be found in readiness when their services were required. Further, he would say that the time would come when it would be necessary to allot to every man in the Reserve the place in which he should appear when he was wanted, and when it would be necessary to organize in such a way that it would be known where every Army Corps was to be found. In spite of the remark that many of our officers were decrepit, he entertained no doubt that there were many young officers who were perfectly well able to lead men into action; and one who had lately distinguished himself—Sir Garnet Wolseley—remarked on a recent occasion that he would rather lead young men than old men into action. He merely mentioned this, however, to show that there was a conflict of opinion on the subject. The hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), had referred to the education of the Army, and it was remarkable how steady an 1354 increase had been going on in the education of the Army. It was shown that in some of the regiments which had the best recruits the men were both physically superior and better educated; and when we were getting men of that sort, though the improvement did not go so far as could be desired, it would scarcely be wise to throw too much discredit on our Army. It was our only Army, and we had to make the best of it. As regarded the defence of the country, it must be remembered that they were in other respects better provided. There were fortifications on the Thames and other rivers that did not exist before; larger stores than before, and in place of 40 guns, in 1846, they had now 336. And, although his noble Friend was justified in saying that the Infantry was the foundation of the Army, still he ignored the Artillery rather too much. For his own part, he would remark that no Artillery in the world, on a peace footing, was better horsed than the Artillery of this country. He would not detain the House any longer. He deeply felt the responsibility which rested upon him and was grateful to the House for the kind manner in which they had received his Estimates. He trusted the noble Lord, contenting himself with the discussion he had raised and with the opportunity he had had of bringing many valuable suggestions before their notice, would not press his Motion to a division, or endeavour to force his (Mr. G. Hardy's) hand by asking him to make premature declarations which might tend to embarrass his action and eventually discredit his administration.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
expressed his sense of the candour and fairness of the statement which they had just heard from the right hon. Gentlemen. He was sure the House would not grudge the right hon. Gentleman any time which he thought it necessary to ask, in order that he might make himself thoroughly acquainted with this important and difficult question. The right hon. Gentleman had now the benefit of more than one year to give his attention to the subject; and it was impossible he could have come to the conclusion that there was anything radically wrong in the arrangements proposed by his Predecessor, Lord Cardwell, and be able at the same time to make the statement to 1355 which the House had just listened. There was one observation of the Secretary of State for War in which he could not concur. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed regret that when the present system was introduced by Lord Cardwell, some steps were not taken to create immediately a larger and more efficient Reserve. It was difficult to see how that could have been done otherwise than by the mode proposed by Lord Cardwell, of passing a certain number of men through the ranks. For the immediate creation of a larger Reserve the right hon. Gentleman had had exactly the same means at his disposal as his Predecessor had, and yet had not thought it necessary to ask the House to sanction any further proposal in that direction. With regard to the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho), to whom they were indebted for the interesting discussion which had taken place, he was sorry to have heard in it some observations which did not seem consistent with the exhortation at the conclusion to look upon this question without any Party feeling. If the noble Lord himself viewed it without Party feeling, it was difficult to understand why he had introduced into the debate his favourite subject of the abolition of Purchase, which had nothing to do with the question. The noble Lord, moreover, had scarcely redeemed the pledge with which he set out—that he was not going to deal in figures of speech, but only in figures of arithmetic. He had dealt in a somewhat free manner with a document which had that day been laid on the Table of the House, and had given to it a meaning which was scarcely justified. But, without going into details, even if the state of things was as bad as the noble Lord wished them to believe, it could not be contended that it was the fair and true outcome of the system established by Lord Cardwell. It was nothing but the remains of the old system, the evils of which Lord Cardwell had fully acknowledged. If the old system had continued, there was no reason to suppose that the average age of the recruits and of the soldiers would have been a day greater than at present; and, as pointed out by the hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), the short-service system had not yet come into operation, so that the existing evils could not be attributed 1356 to it. Nothing should induce them to abandon the plan they had so deliberately adopted except proof of its total failure. He preferred the testimony of official and responsible persons, such as the Inspector General of Recruiting, whose Report could not, on the whole, be deemed unsatisfactory, to the somewhat vague and wild assertions made either in newspapers or in that House. The question could not be disposed of by declamation about sending "wretched boys" to India, when they were told that those "wretched boys" were found satisfactory by commanding officers, and that the rate of mortality amongst the troops was decreasing. It appeared that the number of recruits they were obtaining was sufficient, that crime in the Army was less than it ever was before, and that good-service rewards were increasing. All that indicated a state of things which ought to make them hesitate to undo everything that had been done during the last few years and begin entirely de novo. He did not clearly understand what the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) proposed that the Secretary for War should do, unless it was to put an end to the present system and resort to a compulsory one. [Lord ELCHO said, he wished to see the existing law enforced.] But the noble Lord had not shown how that would facilitate enlistment, or increase the number of recruits. No doubt, there was a good deal in the state of the Army that might be improved. No doubt, the pay they gave attracted a considerable portion of the unskilled labour of the country, and a much higher rate of pay would probably attract a superior class of men. To him it was a matter of more astonishment that so many good recruits were obtained rather than that they obtained so few. For although everybody was willing to compliment the profession of arms when they spoke of it as a body, yet, almost all who undertook to give advice to their countrymen, while acknowledging that in the abstract the Army was a glorious profession, yet told any young man who thought of enlisting in it that it would be a disgrace rather than a credit to him to do so. As long as that was the case, it was not very surprising that there should be a difficulty in getting the very best class of recruits. It might sound something like a paradox; but he thought the best way in which they could 1357 improve the quality and probably also add to the number of their recruits would be by adopting stringent regulations as to the character of the men they selected. There were reasons known to everybody who was familiar with barrack-rooms which made them not the most desirable places into which a highly respectable young man could enter. He could understand the authorities of the War Office should be unwilling to throw away any chance of enlisting men who might be useful at present; but when a good Reserve had been established, he believed that they would have greater facilities for choosing the recruits whom they would take, and that then—without resorting to anything like conscription—it might be possible to obtain an adequate number of recruits, and also to exercise a considerable selection as to their quality.
§ LORD ELCHO
, in reply, said, he had not treated the question as a Party one, though he felt bound to allude to the abolition of the Purchase system which had cost the country a large sum of money without any apparent benefit. He rejoiced that his right hon. Friend had given up the name of the Control department; and, although he felt some disappointment at the tone he had adopted, yet it was a necessary result of Parliamentary government. It was complained that he made no proposal. It was for the paid servants of the State, who were responsible for the safety of the nation and its honour, to decide and make proposals. His part was done when he had shown from official figures the lax state of the Army. He wished to ask the noble Lord opposite and his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for War, whether they considered when Russia fixed the age at 21 for its soldiers, Prussia at 20 years complete, and France at 21 years, they would be justified in regarding as effectives the youths in the Army under 20 years? If they rested on that foundation those who were in office took on themselves grave responsibility. He regretted that his right hon. Friend did not shadow forth that he would do something to put the Army on a sounder footing than it was now.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.