§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH)
Sir Arthur Otway, this Vote for Men was laid on the Table of the House on the 27th of April last. It formed part of the preparations which were then sanctioned by the House in the Vote of Credit for various Departments. From some cause or other the Vote for Men was not then taken; but to a considerable extent the men themselves have been raised, and it has become necessary that a Vote should be taken in order to give legal authority to what has been done. No doubt, the late Government entertained a hope that it might not be necessary—I hope also that it may not be necessary now— that the whole force of 35,000 men should be raised. But the Vote having been laid upon the Table, and the circumstances under which it was asked for being now, to a large extent, the same as those which existed then, it does not appear to the Government that they can ask at present for a less number than 35,000 men. I share the hope expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) on Thursday last, that the negotiations which are now proceeding may terminate satisfactorily so far as the delimination of the frontier between Afghanistan and Russia is concerned; but there can be no doubt that a delay-has occurred which, at all events, has prevented an agreement or understanding on that question, and, inasmuch as this Vote is part of the whole understanding on which Parliament sanctioned the Vote of Credit, it does not appear to me nor to the Government possible to ask for a loss number of men; but, at the same time, I may say that there is no intention on the part of the Government to call up the men 438 to the Colours if they are not required, and if the occasion does not arise. Between 11,000 and 12,000 men under the operation of the orders issued by the late Government have been called to the Colours, and they have responded with great alacrity to the demand made for their services. To that extent the numbers borne on the strength, of the Army are in excess of those authorized by Parliament at the present moment, and, therefore, it is absolutely necessary to submit this Vote in the form in which I now submit it. I confess that I am reluctant, and as far as the Government are concerned they are reluctant, to ask for the whole Vote. We have entertained the hope that a complete understanding might have been arrived at with Russia before this period. While Her Majesty's Government have no intention to advance in any degree beyond the demands, with reference to the Afghanistan Frontier, of their Predecessors, the House and the country will feel that it is impossible for them to recede from the engagements which have been deliberately entered into by the Government of this country with the Ameer of Afghanistan. We hope that an arrangement may shortly be concluded; but, until it is concluded, we must maintain the condition of preparation which the late Government thought to be necessary, and which we ourselves believe to be necessary. I, therefore, ask for power from the Committee to raise the full number of 35,000 men if it should be deemed necessary.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further number of Land Forces, not exceeding 35,000 (all ranks), be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, at Home and Abroad, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not propose to question in any way the discretion of the Government in moving this Vote for 35,000 men. I must, however, point out that the course which is being taken with regard to the Vote of Credit and this Vote is not absolutely consistent. This Estimate was laid on the Table at the same time as the Vote of Credit for £11,000,000, and it was then contemplated that a large increase of the Army should be made, not only by the process of suspending the 439 transfer from the Colours to the Reserve, but also by calling up a larger number of Reserve men to the Colours. Subsequently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers) stated to the House that, in consequence of the changed aspect of affairs, it was probable that the whole Vote of Credit for £11,000,000 would not be expended, and he stated what proportion of the sum would probably be spent, and what it would probably be necessary to provide out of the Ways and Means of the year. That Estimate has been in substance, as I understand, adopted by the present Government. A revised Vote of Credit, therefore, will obviously not provide for so large an increase in the Army as was asked for by the late Government. That portion of the Vote of Credit which was to have been expended upon guns and military stores in Egypt, of course, is not susceptible of much reduction; but, with the Ways and Means available to the Government, I may point out that it is not possible to provide for the 35,000 men asked for. It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, that an addition of some kind is necessary. From the process of retaining men with the Colours who would have passed into the Reserve there is, at the present moment, a considerable number of men in excess of the Establishment. What that excess will be it is impossible to say until it is decided how long the Proclamation suspending the men from passing out into the Reserve is to remain in force. It was not the intention of the late Government, or my intention, if no further change had occurred in the affairs of Afghanistan or in the negotiations with Russia, to have asked for the whole of these 35,000 men. I recognize, however, the force of the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and on his assurance that it is not proposed to call out any further number of men unless they are absolutely required, I do not think it is necessary to insist on any reduction of the Vote, though, perhaps, a more logical course than that proposed might have been adopted. There is, however, one question which may be most conveniently asked on this Vote, and that is, whether the Government have formed any intention of increasing 440 the number of troops which it had been previously decided to retain in Egypt? The Committee will have seen, from the Papers presented the other day, that it is not intended to withdraw the troops on the Nile further than Wady Haifa; and that the Province of Dongola, as far as Akasbeh, and the railway, are to be held. I do not now want to criticize that position. As a matter of fact, no decision had been come to, as to what was to be done with the Nile Railway, when the late Government left Office; and it is not very clear what useful object can be served by the railway when the Province of Dongola and the principal positions in that Province have been relinquished in pursuance of the orders given by the late Government. But what I desire to ask is, whether that decision to complete the railway and to protect it would involve the detention, on the frontier of Egypt, of a larger Force than was previously contemplated. Lord Wolseley has stated in one of the Papers which have been presented, that the number of battalions of Infantry required, exclusive of the garrison of Suakin, for Egypt, Assouan, and the Nile Frontier is 12½ battalions. In a telegram presented in the Papers printed the other day, Lord Wolseley suggests that if it were intended not to retire from Dongola, it would be necessary to maintain 18½ battalions instead of 12½ battalions. As I understand no decision has been arrived at by the Government to retain Dongola, I wish to ask whether their decision to keep the railway and to protect it would, in their opinion, entail an increase of the Force for the police of Lower Egypt and the protection of the Nile Frontier, and whether such a decision would not diminish the possibility of the Force being very considerably reduced? In the Papers previously presented, the Committee will see that the Government accepted the advice of Lord Wolseley and General Stephenson on that point pending further consideration. They wore, however, of opinion that the Force mentioned as necessary to be retained in Egypt would, in all probability, be found to be excessive; and if there was no advance on the part of the Mahdi, they were inclined to think that it would not be requisite to maintain a permanent Force as large as that indicated by Lord Wolseley. But now, if a considerable 441 Force is to be employed in the protection of a railway considerably in advance of the frontier previously decided upon, it is doubtful whether such a reduction of the Force would be possible. The only question I desire to put now is, whether the Government have, in consequence of the decision to complete the railway and protect it, formed any opinion as to the increase of Force in Egypt that will be necessary?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE
I may at once reply to the noble Marquess that there is no intention on the part of the Government to increase the Force in Egypt by reason of the retention of the railway which has been in course of construction, and for which all the materials and the rolling stock are on the spot. The Government do not think it right, under all the circumstances of the case, that a railway which has been constructed at a considerable expense, and the construction of which had not been stopped when they took Office, should be forthwith abandoned. It was represented that the holding of that position would be a valuable strategical operation, and that it would enable us to check any rapid advance from the South. Under the circumstances, seeing that the railway would be behind the Force which would hold the head of the railway, it was considered desirable to accede to the wishes of the Officer commanding. There is, I repeat, no intention to increase the Force in Egypt, and it will give the Government satisfaction if, after consultation with Lord Wolseley, they find that it may be possible to decrease it. I can only repeat, so far as the original Vote is concerned, the assurance that I have given before. It is not proposed to increase the strength of the Army beyond the extent that may be required for the exigencies of the moment; but, on our responsibility, we think it our duty to ask for the amount of Force which I have stated, although we hope that we shall have no occasion to avail ourselves of the margin between the actual number of troops now enlisted and those which might be raised under the Vote.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he would like to ask his right hon. Friend whether he would prefer that a general discussion on questions connected with the Army should be taken on this Vote for Extra Men, or on the Vote for the Reserves? It was import- 442 ant to know what would be the most convenient course for the Government and the Committee.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
asked for information in reference to the expenditure on the Expedition to Bechuanaland, how long their Forces would be continued there, and what had been the total expenditure already incurred? He also wished to know what would be the total expenditure in connection with the Soudan War, with the maintenance of the garrisons in Egypt, and for other purposes?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE
In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), I must leave it to the Chairman and the Committee to decide when a general discussion can most fitly be raised. As far as I am concerned, I am perfectly willing that it should be taken on this Vote if, in the opinion of the Committee, that course is the most desirable, or on a later Vote upon which, I understand, it may also be properly taken. In regard to the question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), I am sorry to say that I am not yet in possession of such decisive and dear information in regard to the operations in Bechuana-land as will enable me to give a complete answer to the question he has put to me. The Government hope, however, in the course of a few days, to receive information from Sir Hercules Robinson and Sir Charles Warren, which will enable us to indicate to the House the course which we think it will be most expedient to adopt. As to the cost of the operations in Egypt, I am not aware that the hon. Gentleman has addressed any question to me upon that subject. But if it is the wish of the hon. Gentleman to obtain the best Estimate that can be framed in regard to the cost of those operations, I will endeavour to obtain one; but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it would be a very difficult matter to separate the charges of the War Office from the war provisions and the transport, and other expenditure, which go to make up the total cost of such an Expedition, unless such expenditure has been kept separate in the first instance. Nevertheless, if it is the wish of the hon. Gentleman, I will endeavour to do the best I can to supply the information,
What is there in this Vote which has reference to the question of Bechuanaland? As a rule, a general discussion in Supply has been allowed; but all other discussions have been confined strictly to the subject before the Committee, and, that being so, I am clearly of opinion that the proper occasion on which to raise a general discussion is on the Supplementary Vote for the number of Men. It has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that the general discussion should be taken on the Vote for the Reserves. It would be entirely out of Order, and I should not be prepared to sanction a general discussion on the Vote for the Reserves; and I think that any general discussion which it is considered desirable to raise will undoubtedly be more conveniently and appropriately taken on this Vote.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that, after the intimation which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, he would at once enter upon the general questions he was anxious to bring before the Committee. In the first place, he would venture to say that never had a Minister for War succeeded to Office under more difficult and trying circumstances than his right hon. Friend had done on the present occasion. He believed that his right hon. Friend was perfectly right and justified in asking for these 35,000 men, and he was very much surprised at the tone of the remarks of the noble Marquess who had just sat down; because if there was any man who understood, or who ought to understand, the present position of affairs abroad, especially in regard to Afghanistan, Egypt, and Bechuanaland, it was the noble Marquess. He was perfectly ready to admit that the sum of money which had been asked for was not sufficient to pay or to keep these 35,000 men; but the noble Marquess knew perfectly well that of the 35,000 men, 10,448 had been already raised in excess of the number voted by Parliament at the commencement of the Session. The noble Marquess also knew that 2,537 had been summoned, and had joined from the Reserves. He was also aware that the number who had been authorized to join by their own application was 969, and that the estimated number of time-expired men who 444 were retained with the Colours was 4,100. And yet, with all these additional men, they had only at the present moment 10,448 above the Estimate that was voted at the commencement of the Session, or rather, he should say, at the commencement of the second Session, at the beginning of the present year. He had read with great interest a Memorandum which the noble Marquess had published, in which in the most honourable and creditable manner he had given full credit to all who had worked with him during the last two years at the War Office. He would venture, if the noble Marquess would allow him, as an humble Member, to do so, to give to the noble Marquess himself all the credit, which he thought every Member of the House was prepared to give to him, for having endeavoured, by every means in his power, to place the Army, it was necessary to send abroad, on the spot to which it had to go in a thoroughly efficient and effective state. He was glad that the noble Marquess had placed upon record his views with regard to all of those who had served under him; and he did not suppose that in so short a time any man had had to send out so many Expeditionary Forces— small, no doubt—to maintain the honour and dignity of the country. He believed that the good which the sending out of those Armies had done in the interests of the country was incalculable. It showed that they did not rely upon that timid policy which everyone abroad thought they held, and that they were not going to give up possession of the great and magnificent Colonies and Possessions which they had in South Africa without striking a blow for them. So far as Bechuanaland was concerned, they had showed that they were determined not only to maintain the honour and interests of this country, but to protect those Native Races whom they were bound in honour to protect. In regard to Afghanistan, the noble Marquess had, of course, been forced by circumstances to make every provision for placing an efficient Army in the field. Only the other night—and the House listened with great interest to the statement—they were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), that now that Penjdeh had been ceded, there was only one thing left for settlement—namely, the Zulfikar Pass, 445 The Penjdeh incident had passed away; this was the only one point at issue, and in reference to that Russia had given her word of honour that the Zulfikar Pass should be retained by the Ameer of Afghanistan. If he knew anything of his country, they would insist that Russia should keep her word; and this circumstance formed another reason why his right hon. Friend the (Secretary of State for War was bound to keep up the war preparations which had been begun by the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess stated that he had equipped and sent out three Armies to serve in the Soudan. They all knew what happened in regard to the first Army; and all he would say was that the heroism and discipline of the British troops which composed that Army had never been better shown than at Tamai and El Teb. No finer discipline could have been displayed, and no troops could have been better handled by the officers than the Force which won the battles of Tamai and El Teb. The General Commanding had admitted that he had made a mistake; and he was not above stating it publicly in his despatch. Instead of attributing blame to anybody else, he was quite ready to take it upon his own shoulders. But that fact, instead of diminishing, greatly increased the force of the observation he wished to make to the Committee—namely, that the gallantry of the officers and the discipline of the men who fought those two battles was beyond praise. If the noble Marquess had deferred to the opinions of those who knew the circumstances best at the time, and had sent the Force on to Berber, the life of that noble and gallant man—General Gordon—might have been saved. But other things intervened; voices below the Gangway were heard; and the noble Marquess thought it better, after having sent the Expedition to Suakin, to withdraw it, and to leave Osman Digna to go on with the depredations ho had committed for so long a time. The noble Marquess sent another Expedition to Suakin more recently—a very large Expedition — to assist the Army of Lord Wolseley, struggling at the time, as it was thought, upon the Nile. That Army, numbering, if he recollected rightly, no loss than 12,000 men, was well equipped. He did not intend to enter into a description of all that had happened in the course of that 446 Expedetion; but he might, perhaps, be permitted to say that the gallantry, heroism, and discipline of both men and officers at Baker's Zareba were almost unparalleled. They had saved an Army from annihilation. Strange to say, no inquiry had been hold into the circumstances of that day. He would not ask what were the reasons why there had been no inquiry. He would only venture to say that in the Navy, whenever anything happened to a ship, or when anything went wrong, an inquiry was held, not for the sake of humiliating, degrading, or blaming any man, even if that man had not done his duty, but in order to see what was the excuse and explanation for the position in which the ship had been placed. He would not say one word against the gallant Officer in command on the occasion to which ho referred; but having regard to the number of killed and wounded, and to the utter distruction of the transport, he thought that, in the interests of the Army and of the gallant General himself, it would have been more satisfactory if some official inquiry had taken place, so that it might have been shown how it was that a well-disciplined Force, and a Force occcupying such a position, could have been overtaken by such a calamity as that which befel the Army at Baker's Zareba. The gallantry of the men and of the officers on that occasion stood out most conspicuously. They might educate men for the Staff at Colleges; but they could not put into them those soldier's brains, that eagle eye, and quickness of action, which alone made the soldier, whatever his learning might have been. He deeply lamented what had occurred at Baker's Zareba; but he had thought it right to mention these circumstances in the interests of the gallant men who fought at Baker's Zareba, and whose services had received scant notice and recognition, while honours had been conferred thickly upon others. In passing from that subject, he would only repeat that he had no desire to attach blame to any gallant officer; he simply thought that some inquiry ought to have been instituted, and that an investigation, in which all the facts would have been brought out, would have been much more satisfactory, not only to the gallant Officer in command, but to the Army which he had the honour of commanding. Then 447 there was the third Expedition—namely, the Expedition up the Nile—and he did not suppose that in the history of any country there had ever been a more laborious, or a more magnificent undertaking; and if it had only come to a successful termination it would have been one of the most brilliant achievements the Army had ever performed. It must not be forgotten that in a country like Egypt the climate was, to a great extent, similar to that of India, and yet the Expedition went up the Nile without any men to do the duty of camp followers. The men composing the Force were required, not only to row the boats themselves, but to do things of every sort and kind. Yet they never murmured or complained, but, whether Irishmen, Scotchmen, or Englishmen, cheerfully moved up to the front animated but with the one idea of doing their duty and doing honour to their Queen and country. When they found a body of men like those performing satisfactorily the her clean task they undertook, and overcoming every difficulty, he maintained that they deserved some special and signal mark of appreciation at the hands of Her Gracious Majesty. There was one action he would like specially to mention—namely, the battle of Abu Klea—if the Committee would pardon him for a moment. He held in his hand one of the most interesting accounts he had ever read of that action, from the pen of an officer serving with his own old regiment there, whose Commanding Officer said to him, before he went out—"Depend upon it there will be stirring times in Egypt. Therefore, whenever you have an opportunity, put down from day to day what occurs within your own knowledge, so that you may be able to give a truthful and accurate account of what happens under your own eyes." And what did that officer say?—At about 8 o'clock the square was formed up and advanced. This was roughly our position.He should like to show the letter to the noble Marquess opposite. There was a sketch of the position marking where every regiment was placed, and where the guns were situated both in the front and in the rear of the square. These guns were all inside the square, the artillery in rear of the front, and the naval guns in front of the rear of 448 the square. The letter went on to say—In advancing the fire was very hot, and the men began falling very thick. Dickson—now Colonel Dickson, of the Royal Dragoons—was wounded almost at once; so was Beach, of the 2nd Life Guards; they were both sent back to the Zareba. The skirmishers were then sent out to the flanks and front, and the enemy were seen retiring in numbers. On gaining the rising ground we came in view of a long line of the enemy's flags on the Wady on our left front. My first idea was that the enemy were retiring leaving their flags; but we soon found, to our cost, that this was not the case. At this period Lord St. Vincent, our adjutant, was shot on my right; he was placed on a cacolet. When we were some 600 yards or less from the flags we halted for a minute or two in a hollow. The ground was very hilly, rough, stony, and broken. In advancing again the order was given to bring up our right shoulders; at the same time we saw that the line of flags was by no means deserted, but that there was a dense mass of the enemy lying in the long grass. When about 300 or 400 yards from the enemy they rose up in three masses and advanced on us, wheeling round on the right, and keeping their dressing most beautifully. The skirmishers stopped to fire—a fatal mistake, as they masked our fire in running in. The Naval Brigade, with the Gardner gun, tried, at the same time, to come into action on the left rear corner of the square, but the square closing up to the front left them out in the cold. Colonel Burnaby ordered the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards to wheel up and protect them. This caused more confusion, as they all got mixed up with our men. The Gardner gun was now run back and brought up between the Greys and the Lancers. The skirmishers, at the same time, ran in, causing more confusion. In much less time than I have taken to write this, the enemy came on with a terrible rush and were into us, and a hand-to-hand encounter took place. The right side of the square was on higher ground; they kept firing over our heads when we were driven into the camels diagonally. The camels, I fancy, although they were the cause of much confusion, ultimately saved a complete disaster, as they formed a dense mass which prevented the enemy from getting further.There was only one other passage he wished to read—The Naval Brigade was driven back and had to leave their gun. However, we all made a rush forward and got them back. After 15 minutes or so the enemy broke and turned. After this there was frightful confusion, and it took a long time to get our men (such as remained) together. The enemy were seen retiring on all sides, and for some time we continued to fire on them.He believed that to be a fair and correct account of the battle of Abu Klea, and it showed that the enemy broke through and got into the square while Colonel Burnaby was trying to bring in 449 the naval guns. That caused the confusion which ensued, and the Guards, the Royal Sussex Regiment, the Mounted Infantry, and the Heavy Camel Corps were then enabled to display their discipline and courage, and those qualities which had made their fighting men the wonder and the astonishment of the world. He maintained that something more than ordinary compensation ought to be given to those men. Medals no doubt were very good things, and would be well received; but there was something more than that required. The men who had done that work had performed labour which in India and elsewhere would have been performed by camp followers. All their clothes had been destroyed, and, therefore, a considerable amount of batta ought to be given to them. He thought it was only right that that should be done, in the interests of the public and the interests of the Army, for men who had deserved so well and fought so bravely under a gallant and distinguished General like Lord Wolseley. They all knew that recommendations for honours had been made generously, but they knew also that those honours would not go very far; and it was necessary that the men should not only receive their full need of praise, but also the substantial recognition which he thought it was admitted their conduct deserved. He only desired now to say a few words in reference to the increase of the Army. He was one of those who had always believed, ever since short service was first adopted, that it could not possibly be of use unless the Army was increased by 10,000 men. But now, when they came to look at the calls upon the Army of this country, when they looked at their magnificent Empire, at the greater England far away from these small Islands, he thought no one, even among hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the other side, would say—"Not another man." He wished he could say—"No more war." If they wished to maintain their position, they could only maintain it by being prepared for war. It was because his right hon. Friend had just assumed the Office of Secretary of State for War that he wished to call his attention publicly to the matter, and to ask him to look carefully into this question of short service. Even the noble Mar- 450 quess opposite would not wish to send short service men to India, because he knew very well that they would not be able to do the duty required of them in that great Empire which, in the future, they would have still further to protect. If he was right in his contention, instead of withdrawing their Forces from India, they would have to increase them. What was it that they had generally done hitherto? They had invariably denuded the Army at home of old soldiers in order to keep up the Army in India; and the consequence was that whenever they had anything like a small war— such as the War in Egypt—on their hands, they were obliged immediately to call out their Reserves—those very men whom they ought to have in re-servo for a time of emergency. Some of them they had to send with the first Army Corps sent out, and others to fill up the regiments of young soldiers at home. This happened whenever they engaged in hostile operations, no matter how insignificant. He would point out to his right hon. Friend a circumstance which had been admitted by the noble Marquess opposite; and proofs might be given by the score, if any were wanted, of a similar state of circumstances in other instances. The noble Marquess did not deny that in two regiments sent to Gibraltar there were men who had never gone through their rifle exorcise, and who were unfit to be sent out in any way to a Station like Gibraltar. He could go into other cases; but he had simply mentioned this in order to show the Committee exactly what the state of affairs was. At Portsmouth, at Dover, at Aldershot, and in Ireland, it was impossible to find men enough in the same coloured uniform to do the duties necessary to be done in these garrison towns, and they found men in green uniform doing duty with men in red uniform; the reason being that there was not a sufficient number of efficient men belonging to the same regiments as the ordinary guards. He would go a step further. The noble Marquess said it was absolutely necessary to increase the depots at home when both battalions of a regiment were abroad; and with regard to 15 regiments abroad, the noble Marquess had increased the depots to 600 men. Here he would point out to his right hon. Friend that the one way to 451 mate the men efficient, and know their duty, was to have able and responsible officers and non-commissioned officers; by keeping them at the depot centres with the same officers and noncommissioned officers, and by treating them fairly, honourably, and reasonably, until they had learned their duty and their discipline as soldiers. No man ought to be placed in the ranks until discipline had been thoroughly taught to him, and he was able to understand it. To put men on sentry would not teach them what their duty was, and to put men on sentry who were only half-drilled led to all sorts of mischief. He ventured to call the attention of his right hon. Friend to that fact, and to remind him that those depots ought to be the places from which the men should be sent out to join their regiments, and that they should be large enough to furnish the men who were to go out to the battalion in the Colonies or in India. When they were filling up a regiment from home, the men they sent out ought to be in a perfectly trained condition. They ought to have a first Army Corps with every battalion that was necessary, and there ought to be a second Army Corps which could be mobilized whenever it was considered desirable, and into which, if necessary, might be put some of the Reserves. He did not think, for a moment, that the necessities of the country would decrease. Looking at the views and opinions now entertained by foreign nations in regard to colonization, and their desire to take every available spot of land for themselves, it became the more necessary for this country, both in regard to the Army and Navy, that they should absolutely be prepared for war. He had only one word more to add, and it had reference to the Cavalry. His hon. and gallant Friend near him the Member for South Hants (Sir Frederick Fitz-Wygram) called attention to the condition of the Cavalry in a speech delivered on the 19th of March last. His hon. and gallant Friend was justified in saying that there was not a single regiment of Cavalry which could be sent out complete in men and horses. They had at present six regiments of 600 men, with only 400 horses, and 13 regiments with 450 men and 300 horses. He would advise the Government to follow the example of France and Ger- 452 many. "What did those countries do with regard to their Cavalry and Artillery? They always kept those branches of the Service up to their war strength, because they knew very well that they could not make it up at a moment's notice. The Cavalry Reserve was all very well; but they would have to give the men training again before they could venture to send them upon active service. Of what use was a man who had not been upon the back of a horse for two years? At a pinch there was not much time for preparation, particularly if they got into a critical position; and noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen would be found coming down to the House and saying it was absolutely necessary that money should be voted for preparation even in the interest of peace. Let them now make preparations while they had time. He had ventured to submit those observations to his right hon. Friend, knowing that he could not alter the present position of affairs; but he hoped his right hon. Friend, by a firm bearing and by a determination to do that which was for the best interests of the country, would show foreign nations that they had lost none of those qualities which had made this country superior to others, not only in acquiring, but in maintaining the Possessions they had in India and elsewhere. He would ask his right hon. Friend to look carefully into all those matters, and to carry out such a policy and make such preparations as would keep them in that proud position which they had occupied for so many years.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend had made a speech which he was sure the Committee had listened to with much interest; but it was a speech of a character which was not perfectly original as proceeding from his hon. and gallant Friend, although it certainly sprung from a desire to secure the efficiency of the Service to which his hon. and gallant Friend belonged. No doubt the speech of the hon. and gallant Baronet was one that was perfectly consistent with the Vote proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith). But the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had submitted the Vote was, in his (Mr. Rylands) opinion, neither business-like nor satis- 453 factory. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House and asked the Committee to give him a Vote of 35,000 men, while he said, at the same time, that ho did not want the men, and did not expect to want them. If the necessity arose it might be necessary to raise men, and the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) said the necessity existed now. The hon. and gallant Baronet was perfectly consistent, and he did not flinch for a moment from expressing the views he had on more than one occasion presented to the House. The hon. and gallant Baronet said that the men were wanted, and he was prepared to pass the Vote and follow up the consequence of that Vote—namely, by finding the money for paying 35,000 men. If the advice of the hon. and gallant Baronet was to be followed, and if they were to assert in Egypt the position the hon. and gallant Baronet invited them to assume, no doubt they would want those 35,000 men, and possibly a great many more than 35,000 men. But he (Mr. Rylands) asked the Committee to look at the question, in the first instance, as a Committee of business men. He would recall to their recollection what the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) told them when he asked originally for 35,000 men. The noble Marquess and the Government, of which he was a distinguished Member, came down to the House under circumstances of great anxiety. He told them that an addition to the Army might be necessary in order to support the interests of the country; and he asked for a largo sum of money as well as an increase in the number of men, placing on the Table a Vote in the shape of a Supplementary Estimate for the proposed increase of 35,000 men. But a great many things had happened since the noble Marquess came down to the House, and among other things the late Prime Minister had made a most important statement to the House. Would any hon. Member get up and say that the condition of things was as acute, as difficult, and as dangerous as it was at the time the Vote of Credit and the Supplementary Estimate were laid upon the Table? He contended that the circumstances had entirely changed. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) were to come down to the House 454 and tell them that he wanted a further sum of money—if he were to say, in fact, that it would be necessary to spend not only the Vote of Credit, but some millions more, ho could then understand a proposal for power to raise those 35,000 men; but he altogether objected to a Vote which gave to the Government the power of raising men which they themselves were not prepared to say were wanted. Not only so, but they would not have the means of paying for this additional number of men if they obtained power to raise them; and if they were raised it would be absolutely necessary to come down to the House for an additional sum of money in the form of a Supplementary Estimate. It was quite clear from the statement of the noble Marquess that the late Government did not intend to ask for this large number of men. The noble Marquess stated distinctly that he had kept this Vote from the judgment of the Committee, because he entertained strong hopes that this very large number of 35,000 men would not be required. He gathered from what the noble Marquess had said that evening that the late Government had arrived at the conclusion that it would not be necessary to ask for the full number of additional men, or for any larger number than the actual number which had been enlisted up to the present time. He was glad to see his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Law-son) in his place. He had been looking round for him with some anxiety. He was satisfied that his hon. Friend would not consent to give to the Government the power of raising 35,000 men when they could not affirm that they were really wanted, but, on the contrary, declared that they were not likely to want them. He would, therefore, propose to reduce the Vote from 35,000 to 12,000, which was the number, as he understood, that had actually enlisted, and the number which he gathered from the statement of the noble Marquess was considered sufficient for the purposes the late Government had in view. He believed it to be of the greatest importance that the Committee of Supply in that House should conduct their affairs in a business-like manner. He was quite prepared to believe, because he had always had reason to suspect it, that there had been a great deal of mal- 455 administration at the Admiralty for a long course of years. He did not know what might be the case in regard to the War Office; but the time was rapidly approaching when it would become necessary to investigate the manner in which the business of the country was carried on in all the great Departments of the State. There were certainly reasons to suppose that for the large amount of money expended year by year upon the Army the country did not get their money's worth. There appeared to be a want of business habits, and other circumstances which led to the greatest possible waste and confusion. Allusion had been made by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B.Barttelot) to circumstances which had occurred in Egypt which had led to the destruction of a number of gallant men through the mismanagement of the officer in command. The greatest possible amount of consternation was produced in the minds of the people of this country when the intelligence was first received here; and ho would like the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith), before the discussion closed, to say whether he intended, in answer to the appeal of the hon. and gallant Baronet, to institute an inquiry? He could inform the right hon. Gentleman that the conduct of the Expedition to Egypt to which allusion had been made had been such as to create in the minds of the people of this country a considerable amount of anxiety and alarm. It was naturally asked how it could be possible, and, if so, why it was possible, that they could send out their brave soldiers to carry on the wars of this country, and allow them to be all but sacrificed through the disastrous results of a blunder? It might turn out that it had not been the result of a blunder; but, at any rate, the whole circumstances ought to be inquired into, and he agreed with the hon. and gallant Baronet that in all such cases there ought to be an inquiry, just as there was in the Navy. Whenever a ship was lost there was a court martial, and, in the same way, whenever any circumstance arose in connection with the administration of the Army to call for special comment, and which excited a suspicion that a serious disaster had barely been averted, it was not only right, but absolutely necessary 456 for the future well-being of the Army and the satisfaction of the country, that that circumstance should be fully and impartially inquired into. He had long been of opinion that in this country they ought not to go in for a large Army, but for a well-equipped and thoroughly accoutred Army; they ought to have a well-appointed and a well-trained Army, a perfectly efficient Army, and they ought to have behind that Army considerable Reserves in this country. He strongly objected to an over-grown Army intended to support a system of needless interference in foreign affairs, and in questions in which British interests were not concerned. He would cordially welcome any Government who would heartily set to work to secure efficient and well-trained men in conjunction with the economical administration of the Army. He entirely disapproved of voting an unnecessarily large number of men in order to justify a large expenditure upon them; and upon that account he did not sympathize with the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) in his desire that the Government should increase the strength of the Army to 35,000 men. He begged to move that the number of men be reduced from 35,000 to 12,000.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further number of Land Forces, not exceeding 12,000 (all ranks), he maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, at Home and Abroad, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886."— (Mr. Rylands.)
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he did not rise to support the proposal of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), however desirable the hon. Member might believe it to be, to reduce the number of men on the score of economy. There was one thing which, in his opinion, was above economy, and that was efficiency; and when he found that there was agreement between the noble Marquess on the other side of the House, the late Secretary of State for War, and his right hon. Friend who now presided over the War Office, he certainly did not think, judging from the opinion of those high authorities, that there was much probability of the services of the whole of the 35,000 men being required. He took that opportunity of warmly congratulating his right hon. Friend upon his appointment, 457 although he had undoubtedly undertaken a most difficult task, as he had probably, by that time, found out. His right hon. Friend possessed great administrative talent, having had previous official experience not only at the Treasury, but also at the Admiralty; and he trusted that his right hon. Friend would find that finance at the War Office was, at all events, superior to that which distinguished the administration of the Board of Admiralty. However that might be, he thought his right hon. Friend would not remain long in his present position without finding out that which almost all of his Predecessors had found out. Quot homines, lot sentential. His right hon. Friend would discover that he had a vast amount of skilled opinion to consider, and that a great number of schemes would be placed before him. Ho would also be required to deal with a considerable number of grievances of one sort and another; and he sincerely trusted that his right hon. Friend would form no opinion at present upon the conflicting claims and diversity of opinion likely to be placed before him. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had, with his usual force, placed before the Committee the very gallant conduct of their troops in the Soudan. He (Lord Eustace Cecil) thought there was not a Member of the House, whether a civilian or a military man, who would not agree with his hon. and gallant Friend as to the gallantry displayed by the troops. He would go further—if it were possible to go further —and say that the bravery displayed by the men, under the most trying circumstances, was commended by the united feeling of the House of Commons. His hon. and gallant Friend, however, went a little further, and had touched upon a somewhat delicate matter. The hon. and gallant Baronet had referred to what seemed to be at first a very serious disaster; but what, owing to the bravery of their troops, was converted into a victory. As he understood his hon. and gallant Friend, he asked for a court martial. [Sir WALTER B. BARTTELOT: No.] At all events, his hon. and gallant Friend asked for an inquiry which might lead to a court martial. He believed that a Question was asked of the noble Marquess the late Secretary of State for 458 War (the Marquess of Hartington) not many weeks ago upon the same matter; and the reply of the noble Marquess was that he had referred the question to Lord Wolseley, and that Lord Wolseley gave it as his opinion, as General Commanding-in-Chief, that if an inquiry was considered necessary he would institute one, but that he did not at present think the matter ought to go further. It was a very delicate matter. He had no wish—and he was sure that his hon. and gallant Friend did not wish—to cast undue blame upon any officer concerned in the matter. [Sir WALTER B. BARTTELOT: No; I do not.] He quite believed that, and that his hon. and gallant Friend did not intend to impute blame to anybody; but, of course, when they came to inquire into circumstances of that kind, it was pre-supposed that the inquiry would, more or less, be made public; and if it were made public, no doubt a great deal might be said, when the results of the inquiry were laid before the House, which had better not be stated. He could not help thinking that an inquiry of this kind should be left entirely to the Commanding Officer in Egypt, and to the Executive Authorities at home. If they acted up to their duty, he believed the officer who was more particularly concerned would not escape blame, and might even incur punishment; but it would be a somewhat serious matter, at least as far as the officers themselves were concerned, if, through any misfortune, perhaps not of their own bringing about, they were to incur public blame, and be exposed to the ordeal of a court martial, and, probably, to a punishment still worse than a court martial. He, therefore, thought it was better, under the circumstances, that the Commander-in-Chief should use his discretion, and by private inquiry ascertain whether any of the officers were to blame, and, if so, ask them to resign their commissions. He admitted with his hon. and gallant Friend that a serious disaster had occurred; that it was the duty of the Executive to inquire into the cause of it; and he was convinced that if they were called upon they would do their duty in the matter. If he might be bold or presumptuous enough to offer one or two suggestions upon the general question to his right hon. Friend he would like to do so. He thought that 459 in all questions in regard to the Army and the number of men they were bound to fall back upon the question of efficiency as opposed to that of economy. He thought they were bound to trust to those who sat on the Treasury Bench to say what was required and what was not required; and from the experience he had obtained in Pall Mall he had never yet been able to learn that any estimate had ever been made of the actual number of troops required for the defence of the country, and for properly providing for the defence of their fortifications and garrisons abroad. He knew that the question had been considered, and he recollected a statement made by Lord Airey about it at the time that noble Lord was at the head of a Commission appointed to inquire into the whole state of their military defences. Lord Airey said at that time— and he (Lord Eustace Cecil) believed that it would still be found to be the case— that no estimate by experts and no evidence had ever been obtained, although there had been an immense amount of talk both in the newspapers and in the House of Commons, as to the exact number of men required for the defence of that Empire. They all knew that 130,000 were usually put down in the Estimates as the number that was required, and he had not a word to say about that. But there was a strong feeling among military men and among the public generally that a great many of the men were too young and too immature. The whole question of short and long service hung upon that. It was useless to think of long service again to any extent, because he was able to say, from his own experience, that men would not enlist for long service. Not one-fourth of the men that were required would think of enlisting for long service; and, therefore, they must adopt short service, and take what they could get. In the Army Estimates, at page 7, the Effective Forces were put down. He laid great stress on the word "effective." The Effective Forces required were 130,000 men. Now, he held that all men under one year's service were not effective; and, therefore, he should like to see in the Army Estimates in future a separation drawn and a distinction made. He thought it would be a very easy matter, when the House of Commons were called upon to vote 460 130,000 men, to show that out of that number there were probably 100,000 soldiers of more than one year's service, and 30,000, or whatever the number might be, who were under one year's service. The House would then be enabled to see exactly where they were. They would know the number of immature men they had at their command, and also the number of men they could count upon for the defence of the country in a case of emergency, or for defending their fortifications and garrisons abroad. That could not be a very difficult matter to arrive at. They had every year a Return given to them; but the public and the country, and even Members of the House of Commons, did not understand the Estimates, and were accustomed to run away with the idea that because 130,000 men were given in the Estimates, those 130,000 men were in a fit condition to be sent abroad to undertake any duty. There never was a greater mistake. Probably 35,000, or even more, of the entire number were simply recruits not at all fit for active service. He, therefore, thought it was only right that the men should be properly classified. He thought his right hon. Friend would understand what he meant when he said that in the Navy the boys were classified differently from the able seamen. The Committee at once understood that they were boys, just as they would understand that the young soldiers under one year's service were recruits; and then the House of Commons would be able to see, by taking into consideration also the number of the Reserves at the command of the War Office, exactly what the number of men was upon whom they could depend. He again said, as he had stated before, that he felt some sort of decision should be come to at the War Office as to the number of men that were actually required. He did not want more. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) in that respect, and it was unnecessary to secure the services of one man more than was actually required; but what he did want was that every man who was placed in the Army Estimates as a soldier should be fit for duty, ready to go anywhere and do anything, and with less than that he, for one, would certainly not be satisfied. There was a third suggestion which ho desired to make to 461 his right hon. Friend, who might accept it for what it was worth. They had been told by Lord Wolseley, in a despatch laid upon the Table that morning, that their troops must remain in Egypt. He would read the exact words of Lord Wolseley—You cannot get out of Egypt for many years to come.If that were correct—and ho had no doubt that it—was ho would not ask for a declaration of policy from the Government at that moment; but if that was the case, he thought they must cut their coat according to their cloth, and be prepared to send out troops which would be able to stand the climate. That led him to a matter which he had often advocated in that House, and he had advocated it also out of the House, both in writing and in other ways—namely, the employment of coloured troops. He found, on reading that most interesting book The Journal of General Gordon, that he was supported by General Gordon himself in his recommendation that there should be a further adoption, of coloured troops. He had over and over again spoken about this matter; and he could not help thinking that a return to the old policy of 20, 30, or 40 years ago would be a very wise step. There were then three West India regiments, a Ceylon Rifle Corps, a St. Helena Corps, and the Cape Mounted Rifles, besides all the coloured troops they had in India. What number of coloured troops had they now? If hon. Gentlemen would examine the Army List, they would find that there were only two West India regiments beyond and above the Sepoy regiments. If they were to hold North Africa, and to retain their position in Egypt, and to protect their large Possessions at the Cape and in South Africa, it was necessary that they should have troops able to stand the climate of the tropics. He would read the extract to which he had referred from General Gordon's journal. He did not think there ought to be the slightest difficulty in ascertaining what troops were necessary for service in India. He would not, of course, under the circumstances, think of choosing Arabs or Mahommedans; but it would be very easy indeed to take troops from other parts of Africa, troops who were certainly brave, and who would do good service if properly officered. Some time ago 462 he had asked a Question of the noble Marquess the late Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) if it was true that a certain number of Zulus were to be enlisted for service in the Soudan? His Question was received with a sort of jeer by hon. Members from the Sister Island, and he was asked whether he wished to have savages employed? He had certainly no desire to see savages employed; but he did not see why any troops they enlisted for employment in the Soudan or anywhere else should be classed as savages. He had a personal acquaintance with the Kaffirs; and he believed that, if they were properly drilled and officered by Europeans, they would become as good troops as any they had in the Service. As to the question of savages, he believed that the people of civilized countries had committed acts in times of insurrection or revolution quite as horrible as any that had ever been committed by what were considered to be savage races; and he did not, therefore, see that this feeling with regard to savages applied to one race more than to another. But, however that might be, he was of opinion that there were in Africa men who, under proper discipline and led by proper officers, would be equal to any service that might be required of them. General Gordon was of the same opinion, and he would now turn to a passage in General Gordon's Journal which by accident he had come across that morning. At page 189 General Gordon said—he thought the Committee would bear with him while he read it, for no one had ever had greater experience of coloured troops than that gallant officer both in Asia and Africa. Therefore, ho did not know that he could cite a better authority than General Gordon, who said—I believe that a good recruitment of Blacks and Chinese would give England all the troops she wants for Expeditions; mixed with one-sixth English, I would garrison India with Chinese and Blacks—with one-sixth English no Army could stand against us.That was General Gordon's recorded opinion, and whether General Gordon was right or wrong it was for others to judge. The view of General Gordon certainly agreed very much with the opinion he (Lord Eustace Cecil) had long entertained. The employment of coloured troops would also compare very 463 favourably with regard to the cost. There could be no question that the English soldier was about the most expensive article the country could possibly have. He fully admitted that, when they got him in perfection, no finer or braver man existed, and that he had always done and always would do very good service. It was calculated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), a good many years ago, that every English soldier of 20 years of age cost £100. There could be no doubt that every English soldier now cost £120, and possibly more; and when that was compared with the comparatively small cost of the Blacks, he believed that in the end, considering the vast Possessions they held, they must be driven to do something of that kind; and he, therefore, threw it out for the consideration of his right hon. Friend. He did not know that it was necessary to trouble the Committee much longer. He certainly felt very strongly indeed that, after all their discussions, of which this was probably the last in which he would take part in that House—but after all the discussions they had heard year after year from one side of the House and the other, it was almost a disgrace that they could not introduce some practical plan which could give satisfaction to all—not only to those inside, but those who were outside the House, who had a constant tendency to a scare. It was always being thought that this country was liable to be invaded, and it was always fancied, and sometimes feared, that they had not a sufficient number of troops to keep up the old prestige of England should the necessity arise. He maintained that such a state of things in a wealthy country like this, with men who had spent their lives in studying the wants and the requirements of the country; who had over and over again talked of them both inside the House and out of it—such a state of things, he maintained, was a disgrace, and especially when it was put on the ground of economy. It was the duty, no matter what Party was in power, of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty to come down and say—"So many men are required and so many ships, or otherwise we will not be responsible for the safety and honour of 464 the country." Until that was done there would be this constant scare in regard to invasion. Over and over again they were complaining of the want of military and naval power, and were making themselves almost the laughing stock of foreign countries in this matter, because they knew perfectly well that we had both the men and the money if we chose to employ them. The only reason why it existed arose from that miserable parsimony and economy which overtook hon. Members on both sides of the House when in Opposition, without any regard to the honour and glory of the country and the efficiency of its Military and Naval Services.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he regretted very much to hear, from a remark which had fallen from the noble Lord, who had just addressed the Committee, that they were about to lose his distinguished services. The noble Lord had had great experience in connection with military matters and was a very high authority. He (Sir George Balfour) did not think that the Army had been kept in an efficient state for some years past. Having, during his service, had occasion to assist in deliberations, and to make calculations for Army organizations, he had formed the opinion that it was almost impossible to collect data by which to fix on the strength to be maintained. The one guiding rule was money, and that could only be fixed by the nation; but this principle could and ought to be acted on —that whatever might be the number of men required the Army ought to be kept in an efficient state. He wished to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War the necessity of calculating very carefully the number of men required during one year by the several branches of the Service, and then provide for maintaining the depots in a state of efficiency. One of the things they had always had to complain of was the insufficient state of the depots. An examination of the monthly Returns showed that for some years past the fixed Establishment of the depots had been quite insufficient, the actual number in depots being double the number allowed—that meant that the battalions had been kept below their strength in order to fill the depots. This drain, added to the number of men wanting to complete, had resulted in the 465 active Forces being 10,000 below the Establishment. He also wished to know how long it was intended to maintain the Native troops at Suakin? It was not politic to require Native troops to garrison places not fit for European soldiers.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, it was an important fact, and one worthy of the attention of Her Majesty's Government, that up to a recent date very few men in the Reserve had availed themselves of the Order of the late Secretary of State for War to come back to the Army. He believed that the result would have been very different had certain advantages been offered to the men. The Committee would remember that he had already drawn attention to that subject. Everyone desired to see old soldiers retained in the Army; but he was convinced that it was impossible to keep a proper proportion of old soldiers in the Army until some alteration was made in the present system of deferred pay, which, as it stood at present, was an inducement to men to leave the Colours and go into the Reserve. He thought, in the interest of the Service, that the system should be done away with, and that instead of the payment of a sum of money a free ration should be given. He could cite Lord Wolseley himself as an authority in support of the view which he was now recommending. Lord Wolseley had pointed out with reference to the recent Campaigns that the men had not only done their duty well, but cheerfully, a fact which he attributed to the good quality of the food which they received. He (Colonel Colthurst) thought it clearly established that the ration given at home was scarcely sufficient for the men, who might be said to be enlisted in this country on false pretences; because, although they were told they would get 1s. a-day and free rations, they found after enlistment that 2d. or 3d. a-day were deducted from the amount promised them. He believed the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the War Department could not do anything that would be more beneficial to the Army in the sense he was speaking of than to give the men what they wore told they would get when they joined the Service—namely, a free ration. He sincerely hoped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would be directed to that point; and he ven- 466 tured to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should also consider whether some other inducements could not be held out to men to rejoin the Army— men who, although they might find it difficult to get Civil employment, would not return to the Colours on account of the many changes that were made, and the general state of uncertainty which prevailed.
§ SIR ROBERT LOYD LINDSAY
said, he had no desire to extend the discussion on this Estimate, but simply rose to make a very few remarks with reference to the inquiry which it was suggested should be hold on the subject of what had occurred in the Soudan. He ventured to point out that hon. Members would do well not to place any great reliance upon information received from abroad, which very often came from irresponsible persons, whether newspaper reporters or officers in the Service. It seemed to him that in dealing with this matter the only person to whom they could look for sound information was the Commander-in-Chief himself, Lord Wolseley. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) said that he desired to have an inquiry instituted in the interest of the officers themselves. But he would observe that when things of that kind were once set on foot, information did not always come forward in the way they would like; and, therefore, he was of opinion that no advantage would result from the suggestion of his hon. and gallant Friend. If any inquiry were needed, he thought it should be instituted with reference to the uncertainty of the orders given to the Commander-in-Chief in the recent Campaign, but that the proposal for such inquiry should come from the Cabinet alone. He was induced to believe that, had the orders given to the Commander-in-Chief with regard to the friendly tribes been more distinct, his difficulties would have been greatly diminished. There was one point to which he desired to call attention. In his opinion, there was both difficulty and danger in putting rifles into the hands of soldiers not thoroughly trained to their use. He considered that full instruction was necessary for the use of the rifle, and he had reason to believe that accidents had occurred to Cavalry soldiers from the want of such instruction. In con- 467 clusion, he repeated his opinion that no useful purpose would be served if the inquiry into the war in the Soudan suggested by his hon. and gallant Friend were instituted.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst) had quoted Lord Wolseley to show that the troops in the Soudan had done so well because they had good food. But if his hon. and gallant Friend had studied Lord Wolseley's despatches, ho would have found that that was not entirely due to having good food, but to the absence of drink. He was glad to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) making this Motion. His hon. Friend was addressing the Committee when he entered the House, and it reminded him of old times to hoar him pitching into the extravagance of the Government, and he said to himself —"There is one live Radical loft." But if they were to go on with the old policy adopted of late years by the country, sanctioned by a large majority in the House of Commons and by the late Government, it would appear that, so far from Her Majesty's Government having asked for too many men, they had not asked for half enough. What was that policy? It was a policy of invading, robbing, bombarding, and ravaging unfortunate countries who were weaker than ourselves. Upon that policy, whether pursued by Liberal or Conservative Governments, he looked with the utmost horror; he regarded it as a policy hateful in itself and injurious to the best interests of the country. He hoped that when they had a new House of Commons and a new electorate a total change in those things would be brought about. He did not know whether it would be so; the new electors might be as warlike as the old ones; but he looked for a better state of things, in which the great Armies they were now called upon to vote would find no place. For those reasons, he should vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley for the reduction of the Army; and he trusted that it would lead to the country not having in future a great number of men wherewith to work out these national crimes.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, it was true that they had had several wars in the last 468 three years; but he did not wish to characterize the policy of the Government with regard to them quite so strongly as the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had done. In the opinion of some, there had been no great strategy shown by the officers commanding. The men had fought extremely well; but they were told that their good behaviour was largely owing to the fact that they had had good food and very little drink. That brought him to the point he wished to lay before the Committee. Ho asked what did the private soldiers get out of all this? In some countries they got a good deal of plunder; but in our Campaigns, with the exception of a medal or two, they got nothing whatever. He would go farther and say that now that they had household suffrage, ho did not think it wise to shut out the private soldier from distinction in the profession of arms. That had certainly been the policy of the late Government. In his opinion, there was only one way in which they could improve the position of the private soldier, and that was to open a career to him by giving a certain number of commissions to men in the ranks. Of course, the greater number of soldiers would only rise to the rank of Captain; they would not all become Generals or Field Marshals, although some of them might do so. But what was the case at present? There was the position of Quartermaster, which was given to men who had been Quartermaster's clerks, whoso duty it was, amongst other things, to take an account of the stores of the regiment. Those were men taken from their duty as soldiers and put to a useful occupation; but he did not think that those commissions led to anything of advantage to the men. Then there was the position of Riding Master; they were extremely useful men in a regiment, but their rank did not lead to anything. But, leaving out those, he asked how many commissions were given to private soldiers in the course of last year? He had on a former occasion put that Question to the Secretary of State for War, and the reply was that there were 20. Now, that he considered an extremely inadequate amount of promotion as open to the private soldiers in the Army; and he was strengthened in that opinion by the remarks of historical 469 writers, one of whom remarked that no country ever succeeded in arms unless promotion was in keeping with the general feeling of the people. Even of the 20 commissions referred to, ho was told that a large proportion were obtained by gentlemen — not private soldiers, in the ordinary sense of the word—who went into the ranks in order to work their way up to the rank of officer through that of Sergeant. He did not object to those men having commissions; but he would not leave out the ordinary private soldier, who had perhaps few friends, and no influence at the Horse Guards. He would say that a commission should be within the reach of a Sergeant Major, who, as a rule, was a good soldier, and was possessed of a good deal of smartness which every officer was not. The number of commissions could be very largely increased, and the present number was so small that that might be done without decreasing the number of commissions given to the Militia. The Militia system, during two or three years, had worked well; but now men went into the Militia to get a commission in the Army, so that, practically, there was a return to the old system of nomination. A considerable number of those nominations were made by the Lord Lieutenants of counties, and very few reached the men in the ranks. They were not given to them, but to men who had gone in for two or throe years to qualify, against whom he did not say one word, but between whom and the ordinary private soldier there was a great difference. Ho hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would increase the number of those commissions, and make them bonâ fide the reward of those who had done their duty in the ranks. They were familiar with the conduct of the troops in recent Campaigns; they had read of 12,(100 contending with 10,000 savages; they had seen them without water standing still in square, exposed to the attack of those savages; but what benefit did the private soldier derive from his courage? For his own part, he should like to see 10 or 20 commissions given to the Sergeants who fought at Tel-el-Kebir and at places on the Red Sea, as well as a considerable number to privates, and that without their going through any test. That he was convinced would produce a totally 470 different feeling in the ranks of the Army. At present, he contended that nothing was done for the private soldier, although some of those who joined the ranks for the purpose of qualifying were promoted, and got in some eases large rewards. He could quote the case of a man in one of the recent Campaigns who had been promoted without having worked his way up. He happened to be acquainted with his family, one of the best in the county, and he knew that he went in to qualify. But, as he had said, there was nothing done for the private soldiers in the way of giving them commissions, for the Quartermasters and Hiding Masters were not Commissioned Officers; and, therefore, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would do something to make the private soldier feel that a commission was within his reach if he did his work well.
§ MR. BULWER
said, he wished to express the great gratification he felt at seeing the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) sitting on the opposite side of the House. He could remember the time when hardly a single Estimate passed through Committee without his criticism, although he regretted to say that during the last five years he had been almost completely silent; and the consequence of that was that the National Expenditure had risen from £75,000,000 to £85,000,000, and this year to £100,000,000. The hon. Member's speech that evening had a business-like sound; but he would like to hear some reason for the vote which the hon. Member was asking him to give for the reduction of the number of men. He would ask the hon. Gentleman whether he realty knew anything about the matter? Did he know how many men were wanted; did he know what they were doing and what were the services required of them? He had not heard from the hon. Member a single argument showing that he had anything beyond a general acquaintance with the subject; all that he had said with regard to the Vote was that too much money was being spent. He ventured to remind the hon. Member, as a business man, that, in maintaining our Army and Navy, they were simply paying for their insurance, the cost of which must increase, as in the case of private persons, with the increased value of their 471 property. He saw no reason whatever for supporting the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, that the present system of retirement, both as regarded the Army and the Navy, caused the country to lose the services of many excellent and competent officers, and, moreover, created discontent in the Service, and even prevented men entering the Naval and Military Services. They had given the best years of their lives to those Professions. Many men who were perfectly efficient would rather give up their pensions than leave their Profession; and, therefore, he appealed to the Secretary of State for War to consider whether some mode of changing the present system of retirement could not be devised by which the services of those very competent officers could be retained.
§ MR. CAUSTON
said, he rose for the purpose of bringing to the notice of the Secretary of State for War a grievance which he had drawn attention to earlier in the Session. He had had cause to bring the case of the Quartermasters before the Committee; and he now rose to express the hope that, notwithstanding the change of Government, the grievance of those men would not be lost sight of, and that Her Majesty's Government would give it their favourable consideration. The Quartermasters believed that they had the sympathy of many officers in the Army and at headquarters, who knew how to appreciate their services; but they were, at the same time, under the impression that there was some influence at the back of those connected with the Army that pulled against them. He had no intention of going over the case again on that occasion; but he ventured to say that if the right hon. Gentleman would do him the favour to read what he had stated on this subject earlier in the Session, he would find that the Quartermasters had a grievance, and that he had made out a strong case for its removal.
SIR FREDERICK FITZ-WYGRAM
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend near him the Member for Berkshire (Sir Robert Loyd Lindsay) had attributed the failure of the Camel Corps to the inability of the Cavalry men to handle the long rifle. But he should have thought his hon. and gallant 472 Friend would have known that the mechanism and construction of the weapon was the same as that which they were accustomed to. It was of the game form, took the same cartridge, and was the same in all its parts; and, therefore, he was of opinion that, whatever failure there might have been in the Camel Corps, it was not due to that cause. He wished to bring before the Committee the necessity there was for endeavouring to organize a Mounted Infantry Corps. The value of Mounted Infantry was increasing almost every day, with the extended area now covered by military operations in time of war. The possibility of transporting troops by railway had also rendered it necessary to countervail those movements by Mounted Infantry. In Russia he believed there were in the Army about 50,000 Mounted Infantry, and all agreed that our Mounted Infantry had done good service in Egypt. There was no parallel between Mounted Infantry and Cavalry; the Mounted Infantry fought on foot, the camel or horse being merely the means of transporting them, whereas the Cavalry soldier fought on horseback, and the horse was his weapon. Therefore he said that no increase in the Cavalry would do away with the necessity of increasing the number of Mounted Infantry. The latter were carried by horses or camels to points whore they were wanted in good time; by means of these animals they were also able to make longer marches than they could otherwise make; and when they arrived at their point they dismounted and fought on foot with the long rifle. He also thought it would be an advantage to have an addition of mounted men to every regiment. At present an Infantry regiment was unable to stir unless it had a Cavalry escort, which it was not always easy to obtain. As a matter of fact, scouting could not be done by men on foot to any effective extent, and his proposal to the Secretary of State for War was that there should be attached to every Infantry regiment about 20 horses, which number bethought would probably be sufficient for training some 80 men. If they were to have mounted men at all it was necessary that they should be thoroughly instructed in the management of horses, because without that knowledge a man would soon give a horse a sore back. He believed that 473 his proposal, if adopted, would have the result of making the Army more effective than it was at present, by forming the nucleus of a corps of mounted men, which would be very useful in time of war.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he did not see how any hon. Gentleman sitting on that (the Liberal) side of the House could hesitate to support his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands). When they recollected the circumstances of the proposal of the noble Marquess below him (the Marquess of Hartington) it would be remembered that there was a crisis, an emergency—that the country was supposed to be in peril when this extraordinary Vote of 35,000 men was proposed. But surely it was recognized on both sides that the emergency had passed away, and that the danger no longer existed. Confirmation of that fact was given, because the money was not asked for to maintain the difference between 35,000 men and the number already enlisted. He thought it would be well to resist the temptation to increase the Army unnecessarily. What would the men cost supposing they were enlisted? Something like £3,000,000 per annum in addition to the present expenditure. Surely the expenditure was already sufficiently large and extravagant; and it could not be contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith), in the present political state of the country and their foreign relations, that those men should be called in. The moral effect of reducing the number of men from 35,000 to 12,000 would be felt not only in this country, but in Europe at large. In the present overgrown military and naval systems in what were called civilized and Christian countries the world was in constant and increasing danger of a breach of the peace. They in this country were supposed to have a control over their military and naval expenditure, and over the Heads of those Departments; and if, under present circumstances, they had not the moral courage to say that as the danger had passed away, and there was no further call for the men at that moment, the expenditure should be reduced, they would be missing a great opportunity of returning to the path from which, unfortunately, they had wandered far away to the injury not only of this country, but of Europe in general.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not intend to refer to a good many of the subjects that have been touched upon in this interesting, but rather discursive discussion. Hon. Members have mentioned the two discussions which have already taken place on the Army Estimates, and in which I have taken part. I do not wish to repeat anything I have already said, and the only two points I consider it necessary to refer to are the Amendment of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and a matter I shall touch upon subsequently. I am not able to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The Supplementary Vote for Men which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith), and which has been put from the Chair, is a Supplementary Vote which was laid on the Table by myself as a responsible Member of the late Administration; and I should, therefore, be in a considerable difficulty in voting against it. It is true, as has been said, that circumstances have changed to a certain extent; and it is extremely probable that if the late Government had remained in Office they would have withdrawn the Supplementary Estimate and proposed one containing the same wording, but of another figure. However, taking into consideration the assurances given, it does not appear to mo that the Commit-too should take such an extreme course as to reject the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has admitted that circumstances are changed. He says he believes—he not only hopes, but believes—that there will be no necessity for calling to the Colours the number of Reserve men required to make up the 35,000. But he is unable to state, and the other responsible Ministers are also unable to state, that the circumstances which rendered it necessary to ask for a large increase to the military resources of the country have changed to such an extent that all danger has passed away, and to give Europe the impression that this country is no longer under the necessity of making or maintaining any increase to those resources. That I understand to be the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with the Government that it would give a false impression, and perhaps be raising false hopes, and placing the country in a position of false security, if we were to 475 make alterations in the Supplementary Estimates at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman has assured the Committee that the men will not be called out unless it is absolutely necessary that they should be; and, under the circumstances, I do not think that we should be running any risk whatever, but that, on the contrary, we should be strengthening the hands of the Government, by agreeing to the Motion which they have proposed. I cannot vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The only other subject to which I wish to refer is that dealt with by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who referred to the great cause which the House and the country has to be grateful to the officers and men who have taken part in the numerous Expeditions which this country has sent out. I have on past occasions endeavoured to render my humble tribute to the manner in which all ranks have conducted themselves in those Expeditions; but this, I think, is hardly the occasion to enter upon the subject, more especially when we know that the Government intends, before the Session closes, to give an opportunity to Parliament to express publicly their thanks to those who have taken part in the Campaigns. Regret has been expressed that an inquiry has not been held into the occurrence at Baker's Zereba, in which General M'Neill was concerned. I gave the House, some time ago, the substance of a despatch which the late Government received from Lord Wolseley upon the subject, and his reason for holding the opinion that any such inquiry could not be conducted with advantage, but, on the contrary, with disadvantage, to the Service. The House and the country were at the time, I believe, satisfied that there was considerable force in that opinion. The practice of trying Commanding Officers in the Navy by court martial when a ship is lost or injured may be a practice very well adapted to that Service; but I doubt whether it is a practice that could be introduced with advantage in the Army. At any rate, it could hardly be introduced except in the case of an actual reverse; and whatever criticism may have taken place of the operations at Baker's Zereba, the result cannot be described as a reverse. Though we suffered very severely, especially in 476 our transport, the surprise ended in a vigorous repulse and discouragement of the enemy, and the destruction of a large body of his forces. Under what circumstances is it proposed to lay it down that there is to be an inquiry? Is it proposed to lay it down that there is to be an inquiry not only when there has been a reverse, but when there has been a success also? If we are to have inquiries with regard to these operations we must have one after every action that takes place, because hardly any action could take place without some of the officers present who are not responsible to the Government, or some of those irresponsible Civil gentlemen who now so numerously accompany our troops on active service, being of opinion that it could have been conducted in another and a better way. I am of opinion, as Lord Wolseley suggested, that the officer who will not risk something is not the officer we want at the head of our troops, and that the officer who will not take responsibility is not the kind of officer we should have. An officer who has responsibility is extremely likely to do something which will be criticized and will not meet with the approval of officers who have no responsibility. It has been said that a court martial need not be constituted to inquire into this matter; but I do not know in what other way the inquiry could be conducted. The facts are simple enough, and are perfectly well known. Whether mistakes occurred or not, there has been, as far as I know, on the part of all the officers concerned, the most complete frankness and straightforwardness in the statements that have been made as to what occurred. There is no difference of opinion, as far as I know, in any of the accounts. The orders given by the General, and the way in which they were executed, are perfectly well known to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, to the Adjutant General, and to the other Military Authorities; and all that is to be done is for them to decide whether blame or censure should be passed in consequence of the orders given and carried out. As I stated some time ago, His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief intends to wait until the return of Lord Wolseley to this country before he alters the opinion which he has formed upon the matter. He wishes to 477 consult his Lordship as to the impression ho formed of what took place; and after such consultation he will consider whether or not any expression of opinion on his part is or is not necessary. As the Committee is aware, Lord Wolseley returned to London to-day. His Royal Highness will now have the opportunity of consulting him upon the subject; and until he has taken advantage of that opportunity it appears to me that any expression on the part of the Committee as to the necessity of an inquiry is altogether uncalled for, and would tend to lower the prestige of the Army. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into any other subjects that have been referred to, and I will conclude by saying that I am unable to support the Amendment.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he hoped that some inquiry would be held as to the disaster which occurred to General M'Neill's Zereba. All who had read an account of that disaster must be convinced that there had been an utter absence of proportionate caution on the part of the Commander. If ordinary precautions had been taken, judging from the reports sent home, the disaster could not have occurred. The excuse made by the noble Marquess for not holding an inquiry was that it would tend to decrease the confidence of the rank and file in their officers, or deter the rank and file from properly performing their duties.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he begged the noble Marquess's pardon. He was merely drawing an inference from the noble Marquess's statement. The noble Marquess seemed to think that an inquiry of this kind would have a tendency to lower the prestige of the Army and destroy the patriotism of those who composed the rank and file. He (Mr. Gourley) held a contrary opinion, and, in spite of what had been said against the view, considered that a course should be pursued similar to that adopted in the Navy. If a vessel took the ground or came into collision, or if any other accident happened to her, however trivial, a court martial was held on the officer in command. What was the effect of that? Why, it had a tendency either to clear the officers and men from blame, or place it on the proper shoulders and 478 create more care in the future. In the same way an inquiry into a disaster in the Army, such as that which had occurred to the force under General M'Neill, would have a tendency to increase the confidence of the rank and file in their Commanders. An hon. Member who had spoken had excused General Graham in regard to his first disaster in the Soudan, because he confessed he had made an error; but the hon. Member had forgotten this fact—that nearly the whole of the Naval Brigade under that General's command had been almost cut to pieces owing to faulty square. There ought certainly to have been some inquiry on the part of the War Office into the disaster that had befallen that force. But what had happened in the case of General Graham? Why, he no sooner reached the Soudan, than apparently he commenced to make similar blunders to those ho made during his first Campaign. Therefore, without troubling the Committee further, ho did hope that, inasmuch as in answer to a Question he (Mr. Gourley) had put to the ex-Secretary of State for War when he promised to make some inquiry, he would not follow the advice of the noble Marquess, but would cause a strict inquiry to be made into the causes of the disaster which befel the Zereba under General M'Neill's command.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH)
I am obliged to confess that I do not possess the confidence or the knowledge which the hon. Gentleman appears to possess, and which would render me capable of at once saying, of my own knowledge, that those who have served their country have mismanaged and misconducted the operations which have been intrusted to them. For my own part, I prefer to rely upon the advice of the noble Marquess, who was responsible for the Army when the transaction occurred; and I believe that the course taken by the noble Marquess was wise and just, and that nothing could be more injurious than to call an event of this kind a disaster, when it has brought into light some of the best characteristics of the English soldier. Whatever may have been our loss—and, no doubt, there was lamentable loss of life —the loss inflicted upon the enemy was crushing and complete. It is notorious that the enemy, of whose bravery and adaptability for war it is impossible to 479 speak too highly, has not stood up again against our Army since that engagement. That was the last action fought in the Soudan, and that was the last time the enemy stood up before our soldiers. I will not pursue the subject further, as an opportunity will soon be afforded of doing justice to the, I was going to say marvellous, bravery of our troops. They have been exposed, under circumstances of great difficulty, to dangers from which ordinary men would have recoiled; and they have maintained the character of Englishmen in a manner which must make us proud of the services they have rendered to their country under conditions excessively trying. In a climate which, under ordinary circumstances, would deprive men of vigour and power, they maintained the character of English troops and the soldier's reputation. I have received a great deal of most excellent advice, and I wish to tender to hon. Gentlemen my warm thanks for the kindness that has prompted them to give me that advice. I can assure them that, so far as I am able, I hope to give good effect to everything that I find of a practical nature in that advice. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) has already warned me that he will exercise the greatest possible vigilance over the War Department now that we have changed sides. We all know that he is capable of denouncing extravagance and maladministration in the warmest and most eloquent terms; and I hope he will keep a vigilant watch on me. I can assure him that I will give him every assistance I can to stimulate economy and improve the efficiency of the Department as long as I have the honour to preside over it. But I must demur to the suggestion that, because I happen to sit on this Bench, I am willing to be a party to any extravagance or to any expenditure that, in my opinion, is not required for the defence and security of the country. I have been reminded of the necessity of looking to efficiency as well as to economy. I entirely accept that view. Hon. Gentlemen have told us that we must have, not a large Army, but a well-appointed Army, and a thoroughly efficient Army, with large Reserves. I entirely agree with them, and I hope they will support the Secretary of State for War, whoever he may be, in securing that this 480 Empire shall possess, not a large Army, but a well-appointed and efficient one. I do not think any Administration, whether composed of Members on this side, or on the other side of the House, desire the Army to be formed on any other principle. Well, an hon. and gallant Gentleman, whom I do not now see in his place, spoke of the number of men who join voluntarily from the Reserves; and I may, perhaps, be allowed to say one word as to how the men came out from the Reserves. The men of only 15 regiments were called out, numbering 2,492, and of these 2,309 responded to the call, a circumstance which reflects the highest possible credit on the men themselves, and which shows the extent to which we can rely upon the Reserves in time of emergency. The hon. and gallant Member also asked how many had joined voluntarily. Well, out of the 15,000 now serving, 9,000 joined voluntarily, and have returned to the Colours. I should only be detaining the Committee at a moment when there is no reason for doing it if I ventured to go back on the many suggestions that have been made in the course of this discussion. I should like to have referred to the valuable suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Hants (Sir Frederick Fitz-Wygram); but if he will permit me to study the information that has been given to me, I hope at some future time to be better qualified than I am now to express an opinion upon it, and upon many other suggestions which have been made. As to the particular Vote before the Committee, I have said already that I hope it will not be necessary to call for the men; but, upon my responsibility, I believe the best course to take is to furnish the Government with a Force that will be sufficient if the necessity for it arises and an emergency should occur. I trust that no such emergency will arise.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 12; Noes 98: Majority 80.—(Div. List, No. 220.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.