§ SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
, who had the following Notice on the Paper:—That there is urgent necessity to set in operation a complete system for protecting this Country from an enemy's enterprizes, and to provide for it financially by means more adequate than are to be found in the Annual Estimates,said, he was going to venture to call the attention of the House to the defences of the Kingdom, and in doing so he might be allowed to observe that the Memorandum just put forth by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) appeared to him the most satisfactory statement of the kind that had been issued in his time, for it recognized the necessity of a complete scheme of defence, and implied an intention to provide for it. In dealing 239 with the subject he would like to begin by conciliating possible objectors. Many hon. Members regarded all proposals for an increase of our armaments with distrust, as in their minds tending also to increase the probabilities of war. He wished to assure them that he would deal only with matters absolutely and purely defensive, which, far from increasing those probabilities, would tend to diminish them by lessening the chances of invasion, for the most formidable enemy would think twice be-fore invading a prepared Great Britain. He would also ask those hon. Members who attached to all military plans a bellicose and provocative character to believe that officers who occupied themselves with measures of defence must be actuated by the desire to preserve the people of England from those very evils which the most peace-loving of our citizens desired to avert. They had lately heard proposals from a very influential Member of the House to cut down expenditure by the simple method of making it conform to the standard of some former year. But he would remind hon. Members that material of war was becoming every year more and more costly, and also that when expenditure on necessary armament had been for a series of years less than it ought to be, there would inevitably come a time when it would look greater than it ought to be. Therefore, endeavours to rule present and future expenditure by the standard of the past were absolutely irrational and fallacious. The situation, then, as it impressed itself on his mind was this—a small Island on the one side, a whole Continent of possible enemies on the other; the Island having a Coast line which offered to the enemy many imperfectly defended ports and numerous favourable landing places, and opposite to it impregnable harbours, where Fleets could assemble, and whence invading Armies could issue; the Island with a large population indeed, affording plenty of willing defenders; but these, for the most part, so imperfectly equipped that they would be absolutely unable to take the field even for a few days—and even when they sent forth an Expeditionary Force it could only be made complete by pulling to pieces the Regular Forces left at home; while opposite they saw the Continent absolutely swarming with 240 Conscript Armies burning for action, kept at all points fit for immediate war, in equipment, in training, in organization, in transport, in means of concentration—the fact that each was always in presence of tremendous antagonists binding all under the heaviest penalties to maintain themselves in the completest readiness for action. And when they remembered that this Island contained immense wealth, and that that wealth would be looked on by the enemy as the legitimate reward of victory, it was no wonder that the situation inspired many experienced soldiers, many experienced sailors, and, he might add, experienced War Ministers, with absolute dismay. Economists argued that because England had never been invaded in our time it never would be. He was not aware that the Bank of England had ever been broken into in our time; but that was no reason why the Directors, while continuing to pour gold into their cellars, should dispense with bolts and bars and police. Now, if he referred for a moment to the Navy—which he did with great deference to the Naval Members of that House—it was because, it being often and justly styled our first line of defence, that phrase was taken to mean that it could be relied on for the defence of our Coasts. But experienced sailors and other naval authorities had lately assured us that its many Imperial duties would not leave it to be relied on for this task, and that such an alliance of Great Powers against us as we often hear talked of might well deprive us for a time of the command of the Channel. It was for such an opportunity, and for that alone, that Napoleon was waiting in 1805, when it was to be noted the naval power of England was at its height. His Army of Invasion was ready at Boulogne—transport flotilla prepared for instant embarkation—all that was wanted was the presence of the French and Spanish Fleets in the Channel for a few days, when a powerful Army, commanded by Napoleon himself, would have descended on our shores, and nothing but a series of fortunate events, leading to the victory of Trafalgar, prevented this plan from being realized. They must, then, take it for certain that if we were to be secure we must render our Coast independent of our Fleet; and he now turned to the question of insular defence, which might be considered as 241 of two kinds—first, the means of repel-ling an enemy's ship from the Coast; secondly, of opposing an invading army. So dependent were we on our communications with other lands, that it was difficult to say which of our many great Ports we could lose without sustaining vital injury. But the great Military Ports having Dockyards and Arsenals were of prime importance. It was on these that our ships of all sorts must rely for secure harbourage against an enemy superior at the moment. And as soon as our Fleets were at sea, it was on those Ports they must rely for indispensable supplies of all kinds. It was to them disabled ships must look for repairs; it was in them new ships must be built to replace the waste of war. They were, then, indispensable to our Navy. On the other hand, should an enemy seize one of these Ports, imagine what a footing it would give him for invasion, with a safe harbour in which to land his troops and material, on which to rely for supplies of all kinds, and in which to mature his plans before marching on London. A generation ago the Government of that time (Lord Palmerston's) was aroused to a sense of our weakness, and fortified the most important of these Ports against the ships and artillery of that time. But ships and guns had since made progress at a fabulous rate, so that now, while the works then constructed might be ruined by the armament of some foreign ironclads, we had not, so far as he was aware, a single gun mounted on the works that would pierce the armour of a first-class war ship. Since those times, however, a new kind of defence had been devised—that of torpedoes and submarine mines; and these were in course of being applied very completely for the defence of our Ports. Placed under water at certain points and in sufficient numbers, and exploded by electricity from the shore, the mines would inflict ruinous injury on the most formidable ships. But in dark nights or fogs they were, of course, less to be relied on; and it was a regular branch of naval tactics to send light craft to destroy them, or nullify their effect. Consequently, these defences required themselves to be defended, and the appropriate means was found in light, quick-firing guns, and machine guns to lire on the light craft. But if the iron- 242 clads could stand in with impunity, they would crush these light weapons with their huge shells. Therefore, in order to keep them off, it was necessary that the defence should possess guns capable of piercing the armour of first-class war ships. Here, then, they had all the requirements—the submarine defences, the light artillery to protect them from the boats, and the heavy artillery to keep off the iron-clads. What was needed, then, was artillery of the kinds mentioned, and suitable forts to hold and protect it. Now, he would not convey the idea that because we were still unprovided with guns and works the officials whose business is was to provide them were in fault. They had, one and all, for years been persistent in their representations. Indeed, considering the great interests involved, it was almost pathetic to read the remonstrances uttered by these War Office officials and War Ministers and their reception by the Treasury. Scarcely inferior in importance were our great Commercial Ports, on which we relied not only for the maintenance of our trade, but for the means of feeding our population. Setting London aside as of a paramount importance that we all recognized, what would be the effect in this country if the telegraph should announce that a hostile iron-clad was approaching Liverpool? Should its enterprize be successful, should it with impunity set on fire or hold to ransom that great city, the example would inspire incessant depredations on our Coasts; while, on the other hand, the sinking of an iron-clad or two in such attempts would be a warning that the enemy could not afford to neglect. Now, such of these Ports as were situated on rivers or estuaries were more easy to defend than those which lay open to the sea, and which might, therefore, be bombarded at long range. It was very satisfactory to know that our chief river harbours were being now put in a condition of submarine do-fence; but it was still necessary to supplement that kind of protection with artillery, generally by guns placed in earthworks. Some Ports, like Liverpool, had expanded so greatly towards the sea that they were now within range of ships. Therefore, the chief requisite—though in less degree than for the Military Ports—still was light artillery, to protect the submarine mines, and 243 armour-piercing guns to keep off iron-clads. These guns might, according to circumstances, be placed in existing works, adequately strengthened, or in earthworks on commanding points, or in floating batteries. In fact, he was certain that the statement of our exigencies by those whose business it had been to consider these matters would confirm his view—namely, that our requirements were mainly limited to guns of the classes he had named, and to sufficient works in which to place them. Now, the estimate of cost of guns, of completing the submarine defences, and of the works for the whole system of Military and Commercial Ports throughout the Kingdom, was, in round numbers, under £.5,250,000. With respect to the question of cost, it seemed to him well worth consideration whether the great Ports whose property and trade and the safety of whose inhabitants these measures were designed to secure might not, on due appeal, see lit to contribute to the expenses. It was true that the question was a national one; but they had the paramount interest in it, and by taking a special part in their own defences the necessary works could proceed simultaneously, and be all the more acceptable, because giving large employment to labour in their respective localities. Another consolation was afforded by the fact that the problem of defence was no hasty scheme inspired by panic, but had been long and carefully considered by experienced officers, and that nothing but money was wanting in order to begin at once to put it in execution. And there was yet another circumstance which might bring us comfort. We were often told that when implements of war were undergoing constant changes, so that the weapon or the ship of one year was obsolete in the next, it was not worth while to provide ourselves with them till finality should be reached. The argument, though fallacious, as tending to render our armaments inferior to those of Powers which kept abreast of the times, was easily turned to powerful account. But what he would point out was that finality was, in an important particular, now in sight. For it was evident that if ships were to keep the sea and to possess high speed—both indispensable requisites in war ships—there must be a limit to the weight of armour they should carry; and if the 244 limit was over-passed, they became means of destruction, not to the enemy, but to their own crews. That limit must now be nearly, if not quite, reached, so that the armour-piercing guns of to-day would remain permanently effective, and we need not hesitate to provide ourselves with them. And, finally, he should point out that in a competition in defensive strength between ships and shore batteries the batteries could always be made stronger than the ships, and could also be provided with appliances for screening the guns, which a ship did not admit of; and we might thus feel confident that we could render our Military and Commercial Ports absolutely secure if we chose to set about it. He now came to the question of our internal defences against invasion—that was, the Army with which we could meet an invading Army; and he concluded that everyone would agree that, if we had an Army at all, it should be sufficient for that purpose. We might remember that no less influential a person than the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) suggested that we should dispense with costly defences, and rely on a substitute of unparalleled cheapness—our "undying historic memories." It was unfortunate that the only historic memory applicable to the case should be our subjugation by William the Conqueror. But however that might be, he could imagine the perplexity of a hostile Army landed and looking to be met with a storm of shot and shell and a forest of bayonets on finding itself confronted only by "undying historic memories." He was inclined to think that, on recovering from its pleased surprise, it would resume its march upon London, while we, on our part, would have to console ourselves with the advantages which the noble Lord said our refusal to spend money on armaments would have secured to us—namely, cheap beer, and tea, and tobacco, and an Income Tax still not exceeding 8d. But he feared the beer, and tea, and tobacco would be for the refreshment of the enemy, who would also undertake the control of the Income Tax along with all the rest of our National Revenues. Happily, we had something more substantial to rely on. In conjunction with the Regular Forces in the country, the Militia and Volunteers formed an immense Army, fit in num- 245 bers and in quality of men to oppose any Armies which could land on our shores. But those Armies would consist of trained and disciplined troops, while our Auxiliary Forces could give only a fraction of their time to military exercises. Moreover, they could not take the field for want of equipment. The first stop was, then, to equip them. Supposing them to be as complete in field equipment as the Regular Army, there were circumstances which would be much in favour of our national troops defending their own soil against even a professional Army which crossed the sea to attack us. In the first place, we might be prepared beforehand to such a degree that it might almost be said every soldier would know his own place in the system of defence. For in Great Britain we had a very compact and not extensive theatre of war, in which the points at which an enemy could land and the groups of roads by which he would march inland were all ascertained, as were also the positions in which in each case the Field Army could be concentrated to oppose him. And troops could act efficiently on the defensive with much less training than if they had to manœuvre and attack. After being trained in their own exercising grounds in the construction of hasty intrenchments, such as all troops were expected to assist in making, and in the occupation of them for battle, they could, in the place of the present annual exercises, rehearse what would be their part in case of war—whether the defence of their own particular section of coast line, their share in a pitched battle, or the duty of garrisoning fortresses. For instance, it being known beforehand where a battery would be placed near the Coast for the defence of the Mersey, the Lancashire Volunteers might be trained in occupying ground for the defence of that battery against troops or seamen landed to attack it. Again, the line being known beforehand of a position, say in Sussex, to oppose an invading Army coming from Brighton, the troops to form the Field Army being all assigned to their corps in it, might be encamped in their places for their Autumn exercises in the parts of the line they would occupy. And, lastly, all the troops destined to garrison the fortresses in their own localities—those of Devon 246 and Cornwall, for example, for the defence of Plymouth—should, as a regular annual exercise, form the actual garrison of that place for a time sufficient to make them thoroughly acquainted with their duties. That was specially necessary for Volunteer and Militia Artillery, who would thus become familiar with the many appliances, the magazines, and stores of all kinds, and the actual guns—and that was most important—which would be in their charge in resisting an attack. And whatever bodies of Artillery were disposable for Coast defence or for the Field Army should receive at once the guns—and practise with them—which they would use in the field. A step had already been made in that direction, with the best effect, in giving the Volunteer Engineers who were located on the banks of our great rivers an important share in taking charge of and working the submarine defences of the neighbouring ports. Besides thus assigning the troops to their own ground we should possess another kind of advantage, for while an enemy must bring everything with him—horses, forage, provisions, transport—we should possess ample supplies of these all over the country, and by keeping a constant register of them—horses, wagons, wagoners, and forage—in each district, they would be always available on the shortest notice. We had already gone so far as to make considerable progress in a military study of the country by instructed officers. That should include the registration he spoke of; and also the precise use of every road and portion of railway for any intended concentration should be laid down beforehand and exact calculations of all movements prepared. Such matters would, in his opinion, be best intrusted to a specially selected staff under experienced direction, and their work might be periodically submitted for approval to a military council, also specially selected. Besides men, and material, and equipment, there would still be another matter indispensable to the efficiency of our Field Army, and that was the building of stores and magazines at points where they would be ready for the supply of the troops with equipment and stores and ammunition and guns when taking the field. In this way the whole scheme of operations for our Home Army might be laid 247 out in all its particulars; and what would else, on the approach of an enemy, be a scene of hopeless tumult and confusion, would become one of orderly and prompt action. And as nothing so demoralized troops as apparent want of purpose of those who directed thorn, so nothing gave them such assurance of victory as to sec that all their movements were tending to the execution of a well-considered plan. And, in the meantime, the immediate effect on the Auxiliary troops themselves could not be but most encouraging—everyone would know and feel that he had certain duties, and that he was fitting himself to perform them, and a Volunteer, instead of that somewhat vague entity which he now felt himself to be, would know that he had a distinct part in that design of defending the country for which alone the Volunteers were called into existence. Lastly, in all schemes of defence, it was necessary to secure the safety of London by forces independent of armies in the field, so that no corps suddenly cast upon the Coast for the purpose, or which should have succeeded in evading for the moment our Field Armies, should be able to clutch us by the throat, a move which might be itself decisive and bring us to our knees. The plan he advocated to prevent this was the most inexpensive, and, he would add, the most easily practicable that had yet, as far as he knew, been propounded. It was to raise the Volunteers of London from 25,000 to 60,000, and to train them specially for its defence—by laying down the positions which they must occupy on any side threatened in order to keep an enemy at arm's length—and to give the London Artillery Volunteers, already sufficient for their purpose, the requisite number of guns of position. Thus a line north from the Thames at Barking would bar the approaches from the Essex Coast; one by Erith, through Chislehurst to Bromley, would close the approaches from the Coast between the mouth of the Thames and Hastings; other positions would complete the circuit around London, and the capital would be secure against a sudden rush from any side. And these guards of London would always be kept instructed and prepared for this service of its defence. He calculated that all these steps necessary to put our National Forces in this condi- 248 tion of defence—the equipment, the leases, and construction of all magazines and stores, the execution of the military plan of defence, and the raising of certain additional Volunteers, especially Artillery—for they were not always most abundant in the localities where most needed—would cost less than £1,000,000. He had now, in as few words as he could employ, endeavoured to place be-fore the House the requirements for Home defence. He had spoken only of Great Britain, because he wished to confine the first view of our defences to what most nearly concerned us, what was most vital, and what could be most easily taken in at one view. It needed no words of his or of anybody to enable hon. Members to imagine what weight and consideration we should derive in the Councils of Europe from a recognition of the fact that this Island was practically impregnable. Many plans of invasion now reposing in many foreign war bureaux might then be torn up. Commercial enterprise of all kinds would, he imagined, receive a fresh impetus from the feeling of security against recurring panics. And all this might be realized for the sum he had stated—that was to say, in round numbers, £6,250,000. It might, perhaps, be asked why so small a sum could not be spread over a term of years, and provided for in the Annual Estimates? He answered, first, because that plan had been so often found a total failure. As an instance, he might quote that the defence of our Commercial Ports was provided for in this way—the cost was to be spread over five years; last year was to be the first of those years, when £100,000 was to be taken for the purpose in the Estimates as the instalment of that year. What was the result? The sum was cut down in the Estimates to £10,000. If this work was to be done by means of the Annual Estimates, then if it were over done, of which he was seriously doubtful, it would be certain to be spread over a period vastly in excess of that originally estimated for. He would ask, then, that it should be raised by a loan, and set apart for the purpose intended, and for no other, and thus made secure from the exigencies and temptations of the Budget. Another advantage would be that the work might proceed at once all over the 249 Kingdom, and be finished in a comparatively brief time—two years might see it accomplished; a period surely long enough for us to remain with our defences incomplete. Also, in considering the comparative smallness of the sum, he would point out that it was only a part, though a vitally important part, of the Imperial scheme of defence. The defence of Ireland must be provided for when the proper time arrived, and of the Colonies also; the coaling stations were already in progress, but that progress might be greatly accelerated by including them in the loan; and notwithstanding the progress of the Navy, the Admiralty would not object, he presumed, to be endowed with the financial power to raise the Navy to its proper pitch. And it must be remembered that, of all modes of expenditure, the various defences of the Kingdom were the most satisfactory, as at once giving a vast impetus to employment at our great centres of population. This plan of a loan had already been tried on former occasions with success, and on occasions, he might say, not comparable in urgency to the present crisis. There was, then, no novelty in what he proposed, nothing which had not already been agreed to and found to answer. We should thus have a guarantee against the tendency of all Governments in this country—a natural tendency, but one nevertheless very dangerous—to be so solicitous to discharge their duty as guardians of the public purse that they were apt to neglect their other duty as guardians of the public safety. From this cause, and also because of the vast means of offence which other nations had accumulated, we had fallen far below the requirements of our position. We were fond of boasting that we had an Empire on which the sun never set; but we forgot that Empire was a luxury expensive in proportion to its extent, and that the boast would be indeed a vain one if, when the time came, we should be found unprepared to defend our Possessions.
§ CAPTAIN COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
said, the scope of the question of defence could not be limited purely to the United Kingdom. The danger of invasion from a given Power was largely influenced by its carrying power—in other words, its Mercantile Marine. He entirely agreed with the hon. and 250 gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) that if this country went to war with a Maritime Power there would be a scene of disastrous confusion, due more to moral causes than to a hostile landing being effected. It was hard for him, at least, to realize that any Power could throw 100,000 men on our shores unless we had, more or less, lost command of the sea. Moreover, it would puzzle any European Power to concentrate carrying power for such a force. The great danger to this country would lie in a series of small blows delivered at its seaports, and for that method of attack we were unprepared. We had for years talked much of the defence of our seaports, but had done very little. The value of the export and import trade of London and Liverpool was in excess of the value of the total sea-borne commerce of Franco, which meant that if we wore unprepared a blow could be delivered by a small force at or off these places which would be equivalent to the universal destruction of the whole sea-borne commerce of France. Then, again, the trade of the Port of London alone was more than double the value of the whole sea-borne commerce of Russia. The effect of leaving our Mercantile Ports undefended would be to enable a French or Russian cruiser to do irreparable damage to our commerce. He protested against any delay in taking the common-sense precautions which were absolutely necessary. Assuming, however, that there maritime or coast provisions were made, no complete step would have been taken for the safety of the people of the country. It would be in vain that our Ports were protected, or our coast line secured. We could not maintain a passive defence of this Kingdom for more than a few weeks, because the people could not live. If our arrangements for the protection of our sea communications were weak, the effect would be apparent in time of war almost immediately. The sense of insecurity would at once affect the Stock Exchange; there would be the stopping, first, of the food supply, and, secondly, of the importation of raw materials. The price of both would go up, the factories would have to close, and. hundreds of thousands of workpeople would be turned on the streets, where they would be met with extremely dear bread. In fact, 251 such a state of confusion and disorder would arise—with which it would be almost impossible for the authorities to cope—that the results would be irreparable; and under the pressure of such circumstances no Government could carry on even a passive defence. Further, he wished to point out that the interests we had to defend were drifting further and further away. The task of establishing satisfactory defences was vastly more complicated than it was when we last fought for our supremacy at Trafalgar, when we had a population in the United Kingdom of only 15,000,000 persons to be provided for, and when the food supply of the country was provided within our own shores—wholly independent of external resources—but now all that was changed. In those days one ton of shipping was sufficient to meet the wants of six inhabitants, whereas now each man, woman, and child required the services of a ton and a-half of shipping during the year. Then, 23–24ths of our external trade was confined to European waters; now, more than a moiety of it was thousands of miles beyond European waters. It would not matter, therefore, whether the blow was struck in the Channel or thousands of miles away, the consequences might be equally grave. He earnestly trusted the House would forget for a moment current controversies and Party differences, to consider whether, in the event of war, in two months, under conditions which it was perfectly possible and reasonable to contemplate, our naval and military preparations wore adapted to our requirements. If not, a great responsibility rested upon them not to shirk the question, and not to shirk spending such sums as were reasonably necessary. It was not merely or primarily a question of expenditure, but one of administration; and he desired to say that he would be no party to dipping further into the pockets of the taxpayers unless the present system of administration was entirely changed. Between the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Colonial Office, a great deal of money was lost. With constantly changing Heads of Departments, and a general tendency to get rid of export authority, there was no guarantee for economy and efficiency. While cordially supporting the Motion, his contention was, let naval work be 252 done by naval men, and military work be done by military men, and lot us appoint, for a fixed period of years, a capable War Minister, who should be responsible to this House and the country, and control the war expenditure and all war forces.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, he thought it desirable that some sort of protest should be raised from that side of the House against the assumption which had pervaded several previous speeches—that our chief business was to spend money on naval and military armaments. He was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member who had just resumed his seat (Captain Colomb) say he was not inclined to dip more deeply into the public purse, because he desired, in the first instance, to see some improvements in administration. He agreed with him so far, but he could not agree with the general tone of alarm which characterized the greater part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech. But not only ho, but other hon. and gallant Gentlemen who spoke before him, complained that, do what they would, and do what their Predecessors would, they had never been able to stir up the Administration of the country to a proper state of alarm as to the perils which are always impending over our seaports and our sea coast. He was aware, as one who had taken an interest in public affairs before he became a Member of that House, of the repeated efforts which had been made to stir up alarm on this subject. Every few years there was a panic excited, and a few millions had been spent; then the panic subsided, and the people became indifferent until the hot fit came on again. Why could not the Government be stirred up to take so serious a view of this matter as the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought necessary? He thought it was because the Government practically believed that our seaports are safe. And why? Because they thought that it was not for the interest of anyone in the world to attack them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of this country as an Island teeming with wealth; and he seemed to think that all other countries were teeming with burglars, and that their one idea was to come and rob our ports. He was aware it was often said that expenditure on military and naval armaments was a 253 question of policy; and he was of opinion that, if we pursued a right line of policy, our seaports would never be in danger. Why did the United States feel so tranquil? It was because their position and their policy kept them free from the entanglements of the Old World. It might be said that we should have a difficulty in pursuing an isolated policy like that of the United States. He admitted that we could not take up quite the same position as the United States; but he said that our position as an Island, separated from the Coast of Europe, enabled us to keep clear of most of the difficulties, the petty jealousies, the international rivalries, and the dynastic intrigues which constituted the questions which were perpetually threatening war on the Continent of Europe. For if we could mind our own business, and attend to the substantial interests of the country, we should never be in danger of invasion. In that way we could secure the blessings of peace. They had all heard of the difficulty of getting more, money out of the already over-burdened taxpayers of this country. The hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) had told them of the touching appeals made by military administrators, and even by the War Minister himself, to the Treasury to give them a little more money for naval and military armaments. But there were appeals far more pathetic than these appeals, such as that made by the Victoria University for £2,000 a-year to improve the education of the Northern Districts, appeals for free schools and for technical education to keep us abreast of other countries in the world. Those were more pathetic and interesting appeals than appeals for increased armaments; but these appeals on behalf of the higher wants of the county would never be met so long as we lavished our treasure on the means of destruction. He was as anxious as anyone that our land should be kept safe from attack; but the taxpayers could not bear the two burdens—that of the old barbarism and of the new ages of improvement. They could not afford at the same time to lavish our treasure on guns that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) said, take £200 to fire a single shot, and at the same time supply our people with free schools, technical 254 instruction, and all the higher needs of this age of progress. We could not bear the two. He, therefore, thought it was the duty of our Government so to frame our policy that we should not irritate other nations of the world, and not invite attack, confining ourselves to minding our own business. If we took that line, he contended there would be less expenditure necessary for our Fleet to protect our commerce and Dependencies, while for our military strength we could depend to a large extent on our Volunteers. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen seemed to laugh at the Volunteers. ["No, no!"] Possibly, then, it was himself they were laughing at, and their laughter had more justification. Although the Volunteers might not have in all respects the value of long-trained soldiers, yet he did think that should an enemy invade our land—a thing to his mind almost impossible—our Volunteers would be able to give a very good account of him; so that for purposes of defence we might rely more than we did on our Volunteer Service. He rose to make one protest against the assumption that the chief object of the House was to prepare for war, and also to urge that if we only adopted a common-sense, pacific policy, we could do with much less expenditure on our Naval and Military Services.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM (Winchester)
said, he believed that the country owed a debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant Member who had introduced the debate (Sir Edward Hamley); but he thought it was a mistake and fatal policy to spread over a term of years a work that ought, in the interests of the nation, to be undertaken with the least possible delay, in order that the country might be put in a state of defence. There were two subjects to which he desired specially to draw the attention of the House, One was the proposed reduction of the Artillery Force. He asked the Secretary of State to pause before committing himself to the mistaken policy of reducing our Forces in the very arm which it was impossible to supply at short notice. Comparing the numbers of the Artillery Force of this country with those of the Artillery Forces of Continental nations, he found that Great Britain had 612 guns to 337,000 men, including the Native Indian Army, which was without Artillery; France, 255 1,938 guns to 565,000 men; Germany, 2,040 guns to 460,000 men; and Russia, 2,278 guns to 871,000 men; so that the proportion of guns for every 1,000 men was in Great Britain l.81; in France 3.43; in Germany 4.43; and in Russia 2.61. Instead of economizing by reducing the Field Artillery, lot the authorities begin their economies in that Augean Office—the War Office—and other Departmental Offices, including the Circumlocution Office described by the Surveyor General of Ordnance—and sweep away half that army of quill-driving officials, who could not distinguish a cutlass from a piece of hoop iron, or a properly made cartridge from one that would jam, and who went upon the principle that because these things were in store they had got to be used, and who seemed to think if their ideas and calculations were not carried out the Army must go to the dogs. In 1884 he insisted upon the necessity of the numbers of the Army being increased, and received an answer from the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) denying such necessity. He was, however, glad to say that within two years of such answer his right hon. Successor at the War Office Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) added to the numbers of the Army some 20,000 men—the numbers being in 1884 201,905, and in 1886 220,063. In 1884 he also pointed out that the term with the Colours ought to be increased; and he was glad that something had been done in this direction. Lord Airey's Committee, composed of a distinguished body of officers, laid down in their Report four cardinal points—that the term with the Colours ought to be altered; that the numbers of the Army ought to be increased; that the system of one battalion feeding another should be abolished; and that once a man was posted to a battalion he should remain with it during his whole active service. The first two recommendations had in a degree been carried out; the last two had been disregarded, and the evils which they were intended to remove still continued. The system of one battalion feeding another was in the highest degree detrimental to the Service—one battalion dragged the vitals out of the other, to the disgust of men and officers, and to the destruction of the morale and 256 esprit de corps of the regiment. Regimental officers and non-commissioned officers complained of the persistent round of drill and drudgery without over being able to see their battalion in an efficient state. In 1882, when a certain regiment was sent to Egypt, 400 Reserve men had to be drafted into it to fill up the vacancies left by 400 recruits who were left behind; and the officers gave a pitiable account as to the state of their regiment for several months after—the Reserve men having been away some time from the Colours, and being rather lax, and there being no sufficient leaven of old soldiers. The using of the Reserve in this way had the further objection that it was using up our second line in the first. If the Reserve men were called upon in this way, there would be nothing to fall back upon. Next, as to the system of sending men from one battalion to another. It was a great hardship on the men, who had thus to break up old friendships, and were always in a state of uncertainty as to whether they might not the next day be moved into another battalion, and be made to serve under new officers, of whom they knew nothing. It really seemed as if they were tending towards the system of a third unit. There wore at present nine double battalion regiments with both battalions abroad, and with depots of 650 men each at home; and the Cameron Highlanders, which is a single battalion, with a depot of 321 men, so that out of the 68 depots there were 10, or one-seventh of the whole, under the system that he advocated. In addition to this, every depot was in excess of its strength, some double or treble, and in some cases four times the number of its establishment. Taking the first 12 regiments on the list, he found that they had an effective strength of 2,104 men, against an establishment of 828 men. Two of these with 277 and 243 men respectively against establishments of 69 each. Taking the whole Army, the numbers were 14,971 effective, against an establishment of 10,396, showing an excess of 4,575. It could not, therefore, be said that the depot system was not capable of expansion, as hero they had it already expanded by nearly 4,600 men. Why not extend it boldly still further, instead of allowing it to creep in by degrees in the face of paper establishments? He 257 should like to see three battalions to every regiment, one to he always at home, and to act as depot. Effective battalions were wanted at home as well as abroad, and under the present system they would never exist. It was absurd to appoint Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry composed of officers of distinction and practical experience if their recommendations were to be overruled by civilians and financial considerations. He hoped that before the debate closed the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) would be able to give the House an assurance that before next year the whole of the recommendations of Lord Airey's Committee would be considered, with a view of abolishing or mitigating a system which was fraught with injury to the Service, and a danger to the country at large.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
Permit me, Sir, to endeavour to put forward a clear statement of a question now pending of momentous importance to the whole nation, to the efficiency of the Army in general, and of the Cavalry Service in particular—namely, the proposed immediate abolition of five of the batteries of Horse Artillery, out of a Home Establishment of 13 batteries. It will be allowed on all sides that no reduction in any branch of the Service should be carried out, unless it is distinctly evident that the efficiency of the Army will be increased thereby; or else that an important economy will be effected by such reduction, without impairing that efficiency. I request the indulgence of the House whilst I prove, from the mouth of distinguished soldiers accustomed to organize and command Armies, and by not complicated statistics, that the efficiency of the Service would, on this occasion, be deeply impaired, and that the cost of the re-establishment of these batteries at a future time will be extremely heavy. I venture to claim that I am able to show that sufficient Horse Artillery is an essential and most important element in an Army; that its conversion to Field Artillery is no sort of compensation for its loss, as Field Artillery cannot perform the duties of Horse Artillery; and, further, that I am able to prove, by the simplest calculation of numbers, that if the proposed abolition of five batteries of Horse Artillery takes place, it will 258 only be possible to make the First Army Corps up to the War Establishment: that the Second Army Corps would be mythical, and that all Horse Artillery in India and elsewhere will be dependent for reinforcements and supply in cases of any emergency, and even for relief, to the breaking up of that First Army Corps. The reduction of the five batteries out of 13 of the Royal Horse Artillery would affect, to a vital extent, the operations of the divisions and brigades of Cavalry in the field, in which Horse Artillery boar a part of such paramount importance; and it must tie the hands of the Commander in campaigns and battles when he would wish to throw guns up at speed into important positions. Marshal You Moltke has given his opinion that—Because, in modern warfare, the long range and destructive fire of Artillery necessitates a scattered formation, there will be more frequent opportunities for Cavalry.General Sir Edward Hamley says, in his Operation of War—Let it also be granted that Cavalry properly trained and led, may play as great a part as ever on the stage of war: combined with new and larger proportions of Artillery, its action may be decisive of the fate of battles, and launched in pursuit of a broken foe it may finish a campaign which would else wade through fresh carnage to its woeful end.Further, he says—To gain from this mobility its greatest effect, field batteries should, to a certain extent, be converted into Horse Artillery, by which the greatest possible rapidity of manœuvre would be attained; batteries would constantly shift their position, so as always to take the line diagonally or in flank, and by rapid retreat would baffle a counter attack.In 1870 Horse and Field Artillery were ordered to push on at once to the battle field of Spicheren. The Horse Artillery accomplished the distance—21 miles—in three hours, and arrived in time, while the field batteries took four and a-half hours, and only came up when the action was over. The same happened to the same batteries on another occasion, when the field batteries were again too late. Marches at such a pace are impossible in Field Artillery, and, therefore, they cannot take the place of Horse Artillery. Prince Kraft zu Hohenlohe desires that the whole of the Corps Artillery should be composed of Horse Artillery. We have the instance also of Sir Drury Lowe's Cavalry and Horse 259 Artillery's brilliant advance on Cairo after Tel-el-Kebir. Horse Artillery is an arm most difficult to construct, and impossible to improvise. The impression that the new Horse Artillery gun is a heavy gun, that cannot work with Cavalry, is quite erroneous; it is a 12-pounder breech-loader, powerful and accurate, with all ranks mounted, and it is able to go anywhere with Cavalry—whose right arm it is—when pushing out miles in front, on outpost duty, in advance and rearguard duties, reconnaissance, covering the deployment, and concealing the movements of an Army, keeping up communication and cutting off and threatening those of the enemy, protecting the fronts and flanks of an Army. It is a powerful auxiliary in the attack, and a friend in need in pursuit, and in the hour of danger and defeat; it can keep pace with the advance, and by pouring a destructive fire on the enemy, pave the way for the Cavalry to victory; it dislodges the enemy from positions in which the sword cannot reach him, and it does fearful execution when the enemy's Infantry, concentrated in masses, bids defiance to the horsemen; it checks pursuit, and gains time for the Cavalry to re-form under fire; it is of great use in passing defiles and bridges in the face of the enemy, in defending broken ground against odds, and in many other ways it is Cavalry's best assistant. The action of Cavalry and Horse Artillery in spreading a curtain round an Army was brilliantly exemplified by the Germans, in the War of 1870, by which, often without bloodshed, their sudden appearance, miles in front of the Army, caused towns to give up their keys and surrender. The enemy felt, the touch was never left go, troops were watched and their movements reported, whilst the main bodies were advancing at comparative ease. Cavalry and Artillery work in complete harmony with the Infantry—the principal arm always—and subordinates its action to that of the latter. The rapid advance to the Moselle of the Cavalry, and the consequent paralyzation of the French plan of operations, contributed not a little to the success of the German operations. Cavalry and Horse Artillery can never be dissociated. Frederick the Great, fully recognizing the necessity of this association in the Seven Years' War, organized batteries of Light Artillery, 260 capable of moving at the pace of squadrons, and intended to support all their enterprizes. The Duke of Wellington's letters from India describes the advantages that Lord Lake derived from attaching quick-moving guns to his Cavalry. Amongst numberless instances, let it be remembered, that Lord Gough, at Sobraon, kept his Horse Artillery' fresh, and brought it up at speed to carry annihilation into the Sikh Army, retiring across the Sutlej. To-day we read in the Italia Romana, in a letter from an Italian officer in Abyssinia—We are all sure that the catastrophe would have been averted, if the column had been accompanied by a small force of Cavalry and guns.Valentine Baker Pasha has said, that had a Horse Artillery battery been available at the second action at El Teb, where he was himself severely wounded, the loss to the British Force would probably have been greatly diminished, as the battery could have taken, from its mobility, the works of Osman Digna in flank before the delivery of the main attack on the front. Horse Artillery is essential to the rapid movement and the quick tactic of the present day. Field Artillery—to whom all honour in their magnificent service is due—in consequence of the weight and the impossibility of carrying the detachment men on the carriages, the difficulty of keeping up a supply of men in time to fill up casualties, and the slow advance, as the men who work the guns have to march on foot—are not available for this duty. A true and well-known axiom is—Mobility is an essential for good Artillery; it is the power to move rapidly when requisite, not continual movement that is required.General Lord Wolseley, in his Pocket Book, lays down—It must be remembered that batteries of Field Artillery are not supposed to move faster than a walk, as the gunners march on foot.An incident at the Alma may be mentioned. Lord Raglan prayed that some guns might be brought to a particular knoll, whence they could dislodge the enemy's guns on the causeway. Two guns of Turner's field battery were at length brought up—a gun horse killed in the river had delayed them—had this been a Horse Artillery gun a detachment horse would at once have replaced it—then two guns ultimately reached the spot indicated, but without these 261 detachments, who had been unable, being on foot, to keep up, the Artillery officers, including Colonel (now Sir) Collingwood Dickson, and Brigadier General Strangways, who had been at Leipsic, and was killed at Inkermann. and who was commanding the Artillery of the Crimean Campaign, dismounted and worked the guns with their own hands. Had this been a Horse Artillery battery, the detachment would not have been left behind. As a result of this incident, the number of Horse Artillery batteries was speedily and importantly increased. Are we to expect in all future wars that a contingent, such as we sent to Egypt, will suffice, and that no further batteries of Artillery would be required? Turn back to 1854–5. Is no experience gained by the unprepared state of the Army in those days? The position of England is quite exceptional, and it does not do to compare her with other nations. Not only have we to keep up the usual proportion of Horse Artillery guns recognized for the requirements of our Cavalry and Corps Artillery, but we have always India, for which we must be prepared to meet an emergent demand at any moment for more guns; and also, looking at our numerous Colonies and interests abroad, how often do we not have to enter into small wars where, possibly, Horse Artillery are required, sometimes without a Cavalry Brigade? I would instance the case of the Trent affair in 1862, when a battery of Horse Artillery was placed under orders to proceed to Canada, but subsequently countermanded. There has been a battery of Horse Artillery in Egypt for a length of time without a Cavalry Brigade. Owing to the great mobility of Horse Artillery, it has frequently been sent on service to accompany Infantry. For instance, the Chestnut troop with the Light Division in the Peninsula; C Troop with Light Division in the Crimea. Several instances in India, especially in frontier warfare. The non-commissioned officers and men are specially selected, as well as the officers; and it is their pride in their work and efficiency, and in the knowledge of their own value, which has kept them always in their high state of efficiency. The contemplated reduction of the five batteries of Horse Artillery will seriously affect the pay of non-commissioned officers and men of those bat- 262 teries. The change will deprive every non-commissioned officer and artificer of 2d. a-day, gunners 1½d. a day, drivers ½d. a-day, trumpeters no less than 9½d. a-day. The trifle that Government may save by such economy will do an infinity of damage in the Recruiting Department, and to the confidence in the class from which the best soldiers are drawn. I have it, on the best authority; that a very largo number of men who enlist for the Artillery ask to be sent to the Horse Artillery. They are told that that cannot be, but that they must work their way to it by good conduct and smartness. Beyond doubt, surplus Artillery is worse than useless; it hampers and delays the columns, keeps troops out of action for escorts, blocks roads, and impedes a retreat. Have we at present a surplus? No; on the contrary, we have not one man, one horse, one gun too many for our absolute requirements. To supply the two Horse Artillery batteries sent to Egypt in 1882, the batteries left at homo were so crippled that they could not have drawn their own guns out of the barrack yard. The Secretary of State for War has spoken of this reduction as being, in part, simply "a conversion." Death itself is simply a conversion; he admits that five batteries of Horse Artillery are to be obliterated, which loss is tantamount to death to them, and to the Service; besides this destruction of five batteries, certain other batteries of Horse Artillery will have only four guns instead of six—namely, after the reduction, there will be five batteries with six guns, and three batteries with only four guns. The reduction of certain batteries by two guns in peace time, to be put into store, is most paralyzing. In Germany the batteries in peace time are reduced; but men are available immediately from the "Reserve," which is a fact there, and not a fiction as in this country. Artillerymen from the "Reserve" have to attend trainings at manœuvres a certain number of times, so as to keep up their knowledge. Our Reserve Artillerymen never have this practice. Further, the mode of draught in their Artillery is the same as that for all farm purposes; ours is quite different. The horses of the country are all available; ours are not. They are also registered; ours are not; pairs of horses accustomed to work together, can be procured and put into 263 batteries at very short notice. In our Service, we should have to unman and unhorse other batteries, supposing that they exist. The Secretary of State for War claims that the increase of guns for Garrison Artillery, and for the Volunteers, will make up for the loss of guns that should be in the fore-front in a campaign. It would be as well to say that, in the interest of India, the 11th Bengal Lancers are to be reduced, but that the 3rd West India Regiment is to be increased. The allotment of baggage animals to Infantry regiments—namely, 240 horses (see Army Estimates), cannot be put as a set-off for the loss of five batteries of Horse Artillery; and the arrangement does not got over the fact that 30 guns, with the greatest mobility, are lost to the Service. We, at the present time, have of Horse Artillery—four batteries of six guns for the First Army Corps; four batteries of four guns for the Second Army Corps; five batteries of four guns for a Reserve. It is quite safe to say that, to complete the batteries of the First Army Corps to War Establishment, every gunner, driver, and horse of the five Reserve batteries would be required. If these, then, are abolished, the batteries of the Second Army Corps will have to supply, as far as they can, the men and horses required, and thus the Second Army Corps' batteries will be entirely denuded of horses, and almost entirely of non-commissioned officers and men. It is only by keeping up a strong force of Horse Artillery that we can hope to put an efficient proportion of it in the field. The difficulty in these days of procuring good horses, sound, and of proper stamp for the Horse Artillery, is great, even in peace time, when there is no hurry; and what may we expect when war is upon us? Remember, a single unsuitable horse may mean the impotence or loss of a gun. It was my duty to buy, as quickly as possible, 500 horses in Ireland, during the Campaign of 1882 in Egypt; horses for Horse Artillery and Cavalry were most difficult to procure, and but very few indeed were at all fit to send out to a campaign; baggage horses were easy to obtain. The power of Artillery in the field is in the number of guns efficiently put into the field; and not in the number of men capable of garrisoning the forts at home and in the Colonies. 264 If it became necessary to increase the Garrison Artillery, it could be done at any time, to a very largo amount, from the Auxiliary Forces—Militia and Volunteers, Reserves, &c. Guns put into store are guns reduced, as the men and horses to work them will not be kept up. The Secretary of State for War has not explained the cost of the proposed changes, or the amount of saving in expenditure; we must therefore conclude that the saving is nil, or else that the saving is to be expended elsewhere he states that all the Horse Artillery that will be required—that is, for this now scheme of organization—will be eight batteries of six guns each for the First and Second Army Corps; that none of them will be kept on war strength, and five only of those eight batteries will be maintained at First Army Corps strength with six guns; that three Horse Artillery batteries of the Second Army Corps will only have four guns each, and men and horses in proportion—adding that, "in war time, of course, these Horse Artillery batteries will take the field with six guns each." He does not explain how this is to be, as the five other batteries to-day in existence, and able to supply officers, non-commissioned officers, men and horses are to be abolished next month It should be understood that there are to be three Establishments in the Horse Artillery—batteries at war strength, at which there are to be none—175 men and 163 horses; First Army Corps' strength, at which there are to be five batteries—162 men and 104 horses; and a low Second Army Corps' strength, at which there are to be three batteries—120 men and 72 horses. Therefore, it is evident that to form only four batteries at war strength in case of need for the First Army Corps, it would be necessary to denude the whole of the 2nd Army Corps, with the exception of 470 men and 84 horses, and this without eliminating the men and horses unfit for active service from any of the eight batteries that it is proposed only to retain. Are the two Army Corps—if they can be formed—(which they have never boon, except on paper, for 12 years) to be left entirely without reserve? Is India, in emergency, to be dependent for a supply of Horse Artillery on the breaking up of these two Army Corps? If the proportion of Horse Artillery is too 265 large for our Army, it would appear that the authors of this new scheme are the very advisers who are responsible for the taxpayers of the country having been for years past heavily burdened for an excess of force in this arm! Field Marshal Lord Napier of Magdala, in "another place," has clearly demonstrated that the proposed reductions in the Royal Artillery in general are fraught with extreme peril—that they would cripple efficiency; that 30 guns would cease to be Horse Artillery guns; that more than 600 trained and skilled Horse Artillerymen would be taken from this important arm, and would have to be sent to other duties which require much less skill; also that the Imperial Forces have not, by an immense number, their proper proportion of guns, according to the proportion recognized by the principal Military Authorities of Europe. That noble and gallant Lord took the numbers of batteries of Horse and Field Artillery, assuming that, on an emergency, the considerable number of batteries that have already been reduced from six to four guns might be completed to six guns—a process most exhausting to other batteries—and proved that the 106 batteries of 636 guns are not, in any way, in proper proportion to the Imperial troops, of which Returns give a total strength of 289,960, and that this 636 guns would stand to them in the proportion of only 2.2 guns to 1,000 men. Napoleon laid down three guns to 1,000 men—a low estimate for the present day—but according to which we should require 869 guns, or 233 more than we possess. The German standard is now 3.6 guns per 1,000 men, according to which we should have 1,043 guns, instead of 636. Jomini, with whom General Lord Wolseley agrees in the Pocket Book, says this—"the proportion should be three guns to 1,000." Frederick the Great began with this proportion, but quickly increased it. In India, in 1879, a proposal very similar to the present scheme of reduction was recommended by a Commission on Army Organization. The Minutes of the Commander-in-Chief in India on the Report is so much to the point that I venture to quote from it. The Commander-in-Chief wrote—It is proposed by the Commission to reduce the Horse Artillery in India from 15 to 10 bat- 266 teries. In this sweeping reduction I cannot concur. The Commission consider that after providing this arm for two Army Corps, no more is required. No Reserve and no means of keeping complete or efficient the 10 batteries of Horse Artillery in the two Army Corps has been provided, nor is any provision whatever made to meet the contingency of more of this arm being required elsewhere. It suffices to say that, in Bengal, with six Horse Artillery batteries in the field and four in the rear, these latter have been so denuded of men to replace the casualties in the former, that it has been found absolutely inexpedient to further denude them of the few effectives still left; and we have been obliged to telegraph home for 110 men of this branch to meet requirements during the coming season, and which will cause an increase in the present fixed Establishment of this arm in Bengal of 70 men. Such facts speak for themselves.Now these were six-gun, not four-gun, batteries. Again—No Horse Artillery would be available for external uses in the event of any considerable force being despatched beyond sea. In fact, this branch, which perhaps requires the longest training of all, is entirely overlooked, not only as regards Reserves for that portion employed in the field, but also with reference to any internal or external contingencies which might arise during another war, such as that in which we are now engaged.…. At present, Bombay, with its two batteries of Horse Artillery in or about to take the field, has no Reserve, and if the casualties from invaliding, &c, in these batteries approach those of the Horse Artillery batteries, which took the field from Bengal in 1878–9, the result will be that, after completing the foremost battery from the one in rear, the latter will be unable to turn out more than two guns, if it be not rendered entirely unfit for service.The Commander-in-Chief in India explains—To place a battery in the field, the first thing to be done is to transfer to it men and horses, not recruits and raw horses, but men and animals trained to the work. The wear and tear in the field is excessive, and has to be met from batteries in the rear. The history of I. C. Royal Horse Artillery, and a statement of the drafts required to keep it efficient, and the necessity under which it became obligatory to relieve it, would astonish those who have had no concern with the details of such affairs.Sir Frederick Haines, in a further Minute on the subject, remarks—In my Minute of the 20th March, 1880, reference is made to the fact that Bombay had but two batteries of Royal Horse Artillery, that they were in or about to take the field, and that they had no Reserve. What happened? E-B battery suffered severe losses at Maiwand, an it was necessary to repair them by the despatch of a complete division, men and horses, harnes and gnus, from a battery in Bengal, at Umballah, Bombay, having no reserves either in men or horses trained to that branch of the service.267 He further explains—On the outbreak of war it would be necessary to complete the batteries selected for service in the front from those that remain in rear. There are many men and horses, though equal to the ordinary duties of peace time, are quite unfit to stand the exposure and privation of active service, and all of them have to be eliminated, and their places filled up by effective transfers from the other batteries. This same process has to be continued throughout the campaign, and the result is that, whilst completing and maintaining the batteries in front, we render inefficient a large proportion of those in rear, and this to an extent which is not apparent from the mere returns of the casualties occurring in front—for while giving away these serviceable men and horses, the rear batteries, in many instances, have been receiving in exchange the inefficients they replace, so that not only are the numbers reduced, but their quality becomes seriously deteriorated; in fact, they can no longer be looked upon as efficient batteries. In India, in 1878, to complete 10 batteries to a war footing, it required 105 transfers of men. To complete the same batteries for service again in 1879, it required 214 more men. The drain, therefore, on the rear batteries during one year alone amounted to 349 men, which is equal to the strength of two batteries. To complete I.C. Royal Horse Artillery in the field, for the period of the war, lasting eight months 42 men and 41 horses were required; for the second period, lasting live mouths, 41 men and 46 horses were required; or, in the whole period of 16 months, from the time they were warned for service in 1878 until their recall in 1880, they expended 83 men and 90 horses, which was more than half their original strength.The Commander-in-Chief added to his Minutes these words—The advantage of Horse Artillery consists in its mobility, which enables it to act with Cavalry. Field Artillery is less mobile and to substitute it for Horse Artillery would be either to deprive the Cavalry of its guns, or to reduce its mobility to that of a Field Artillery, the rôle of which is to work with Infantry; and also it appears to me that by looking too much to the saving that might be effected in the time of peace, the necessity of being prepared for war has, as regards this branch, been lost sight of.It is fully recognized abroad that—Horse Artillery must be trained and kept ready; it is too late to make them when war begins.Mounted Infantry, and much that is most useful, you can improvise. Since the Mutiny, no Horse Artillery in India are manned by Native Artillerymen; consequently, the Horse Artillery batteries are completely dependent on the Home Establishment for Reserves. The Indian Government keep, at its own expense, two small depots in England, consisting of recruits intended to replace 268 annual reliefs in India of men discharged and invalided, and a certain number of old horses, and old guns, for training purposes only. The whole of the Horse Artillery throughout Her Majesty's Dominions would be dependent, in case of necessity, on the breaking up of the First Army Corps to fill up any casualty that might occur. The Secretary of State for War has stated that he would not place a responsibility on the House that he should himself bear. That responsibility on this occasion is indeed most onerous. The responsibility of deducting so seriously from the efficiency of the arm, most difficult to establish, and of such eminent importance in war; and this responsibility he must take in direct opposition to those officers who have had immense experience in organization and in war, and who have commanded our largest Armies, in opposition to the opinion of officers of high standing in the Continental and English Armies—in opposition to statistics which prove distinctly that the whole fabric of the First Army Corps must fall to pieces if this reduction is persisted in. One question must strike all thinking men. What is this First Army Corps?—for 12 years a paper Army, only to be found in the Army List—it cannot exist in substance—it must be but a shadow of the substance; for instance, one regiment of Cavalry that helps to form it has, out of an Establishment of 400 horses, 82 three year-old, and 48 four year-old, and 30 wanting to complete. I may here say that one battery of Horse Artillery has, during the past year, been raised, at considerable expense, to the First Army Corps' strength. It is now complete with men and horses, and the latest equipment throughout. The battery is to be reduced at once, or converted into something else. Does this seem to be wisdom? Thanking the House for the indulgence extended to me, permit me to say that it has been my duty, for several years, in India and at home, to instruct Horse Artillery and Cavalry combined; also that I have witnessed Horse Artillery so enfeebled and reduced by the casualties of a campaign and climate that it could hardly reply to the enemy's fire. I feel sure that it is the wish of Englishmen that troops in front of campaigns may be sustained in a way worthy of England. 269 No doubt, the proposed reduction of so many distinguished batteries is a source of bitter disappointment to officers, noncommissioned officers, and men. Famous batteries are to be obliterated, for a time at least. Who's heart has not thrilled at the story of the deeds of the Rocket Troop—the only English force at Leipsic—the Battle of the Nations! where 80,000 men were killed—and of the glorious history of the Royal Artillery, which splendid corps has won the motto that stands pre-eminent amidst all trophies—"Ubique." On this I will not further enlarge. I have avoided all thought of sentiment. I represent the case solely on practical grounds. In the interests of the nation and of the Army, I do earnestly entreat the Secretary of State for War to relinquish this scheme. As to the question of expenditure. In the recent five years, under my command were some 50 batteries and battalions, and it has been my duty to inspect every regiment of Cavalry at home, and my knowledge of soldiers tells me that there is no wish that the expenditure of public money on the Army should be increased; but that there is a very deepfelt anxiety that waste and extravagance should be put a stop to, that the money should be well spent, and that sudden and reckless blows should not be struck at any branch of the Service which, hitherto, it has been accounted necessary to maintain in the highest state of efficiency. In the next campaign on the Continent, that an English Army may be engaged in, may the Commander, by consummate skill, paralyze his enemy by gaining his flank, by cutting off his communications; then, indeed, will the bloodshed be comdaratively small, and most assuredly in succeeding in that grand aim, Cavalry and Horse Artillery, with its mobility and speed, will prove itself to be that Commander's best weapon and England's truest friend.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
said, he hailed with the greatest pleasure the appearance for the first time of a lucid statement, which afforded some promise of a consecutive and well-thought-out scheme of organization in our Army. He hoped that it might be found to combine efficiency with economy, and with those strong military features to which previous speakers had referred. While he said 270 this, however, he concurred in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Lambeth (General Fraser), who had stated the case against reduction of the Royal Horse Artillery. He should like, however, to put the case even more strongly, and to say that he believed no possible economy which could be attempted would lead to greater extravagance or waste in the end than this economy which had been palmed off on the Secretary of State for War. He was at a loss to conceive who were the military advisers of the right hon. Gentleman. He was almost inclined to think that some of the right hon. Gentleman's advisors had been attempting to play a practical joke upon him; but it was a joke which would not be likely to be successful, when the right, hon. Gentleman had held the reins of Office for 12 months more. If there was any real military weight at the back of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, where was it to be found? Who was the military originator of the scheme? Certainly not the Adjutant General (Viscount Wolseley), who was opposed to it, and there was the strongest possible condemnation of it by Lord Napier, whose authority stood only second to, and whose experience was in some respects more varied than, General Wolseley's. But it was not only in regard to the Home service that he objected. he contended that it was a veritable breach of faith in regard to our Army in India, and of the contract entered into with the Indian Government in 1879–80. This reduction was unwise, not only as regarded the Army at home, but as regarded the possibilities of augmentation in case of war in Europe, and the possibility of our having considerably to reinforce our military forces in India. To his mind, the proposed economy resembled the economy which would be practised by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, if he were to take his best case of Sunday razors and apply them to the cutting of paving stones. He could not conceive any greater waste or misapplication of money than that which would eventually be caused by replacing the Horse Artillery, a splendid arm of the service, which they were now destroying for no purpose whatever. He recognized the necessity that we should have two Army Corps, capable of being placed in the 271 field at short notice, instead of one; and in this connection he supported the Secretary of State for War in that augmentation. But he trusted, before the debate closed, the House would have an indication from the right hon. Gentleman that he reserved an open mind on the question of reducing the Horse Artillery, and that he would reconsider the subject before the Estimates were finally passed. As an instance of the importance of Horse Artillery at certain critical moments, he would refer to an illustration partly used by the hon. and gallant Member opposite. The battle of Sobraon had been referred to, an action in which the regiment in which he had the honour to serve had taken a leading part (the 10th Foot). The battle was fought on February 10, 1846. In the course of the fight 12 guns in all of Horse Artillery were brought into play at a critical moment of the action on the 1,000 of Sikhs then swarming across the river, and, by their aid, the neck of the Sikh arm}' was practically broken in less than twelve minutes. He could also cite, as further examples of the immense importance of the services of Horse Artillery at critical moments in action, the ease of the battle between the French and the Germans at Gravelotte, where he was a personal spectator of the scene, and also the experience of a battle fought by Lord Wolseley in Egypt, at Masammah, on the 24th August, 1882. He turned next to a most important question connected with the popularity of recruiting. As a magistrate of two counties he had observed that there could be no more deplorable position than that of soldiers passed into the Reserve, who were often obliged to go about the country like beggars, unable to find the means of obtaining a decent livelihood. Something, he urged, ought to be done to prevent men who had served the Government in a military capacity from becoming reduced when they passed into civil life into the condition of waifs and tramps, who had frequently to ask for charity because they could not procure suitable civil employment. If some prospect of occupation in civil life could be held out to those men it would be of very great advantage to the Army and its recruiting, and also to the employers of labour, who, if they knew that all the men were not liable to be taken away from them at short notice, would not, as they did now, 272 think the Reserve men were a class who ought to be avoided like a pestilence. That was a matter in which he was sure that all economists might concur, and he hailed with satisfaction the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman held out to him of having that important subject discussed fully when the Vote for the Reserve was brought forward. With regard to the details which had been placed before them by the right hon. Gentleman, they were not only useful in the highest degree, but they were put forward in a manner which offered ever}' assurance) that the right hon. Gentleman was entering on a career of usefulness which would correspond to the high promise that he had given in the offices of State which he had hitherto filled. It was a distinct advantage that he had now laid before them an organized military system and the prospect of organizing two Army Corps instead of one, and that the line of communications of the two Army Corps would also be looked to. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should not see his way to taking steps for the improvement of the organization of the Cavalry. Since 1875 our Cavalry organization had been truly declared to be the most wretched and unsystematic in the world; and no greater field of usefulness was still open to the right hon. Gentleman than that of giving a methodic organization to our Cavalry, both at home and in India, which, as to both horses, men, and officers, were second to none in the world. He did not think they could find in Great Britain one regiment, and not half-a-dozen in India, which they would send into the field at the present moment with a strength of 600 effective men and 600 effective horses. There was another subject which an hon. and gallant Member had touched upon, that of Mounted Infantry. He was very much disappointed that no mention was made of that arm of the service, which used once to be sneered at by the Cavalry, but was now acknowledged by them to be their best assistant. Lord Wolseley had always said that our Cavalry was so very expensive, and in such small numbers, that we could not spare a single horse for Mounted Infantry. But he had advanced the opinion that Mounted Infantry could be improvised whenever a campaign took place. Upon that subject he (Sir Henry 273 Havelock-Allan) begged most respectfully to disagree with the noble General, who formed his opinion in 1882, when we had the nucleus of a good Mounted Infantry which had gone through the two Zulu campaigns of 1879 and 1880. He understood that a proposition for teaching men of the Infantry some part of Cavalry duty—about 50 in each battalion—set on foot by the hon. and gallant Member for South Hampshire (Sir Frederick Fifz Wygram) had been again submitting this year in the Southeastern Division by Sir Baker Russell, and especially at the camp at Shorncliffe, and that it had been rejected because it would cost the paltry sum of £5,000. If they could form a permanent nucleus of Mounted Infantry of only 10 or 12 squadrons which could be supplemented when necessary, it would be worth, not £5,000, but £10,000 or £12,000 a-year to the country as an adjunct to the Cavalry. There was one other subject upon which he would like to touch, although as a regular soldier it might be considered impertinent on his part; but he knew that many Volunteer Colonels were very much interested in the matter, and that must be his excuse in mentioning it. A Committee had sat on the particular mode in which it might be desirable to increase the Capitation Grant to the Volunteers. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to increase the Grant of 30s. to.35s. all round, but he himself agreed with those Volunteer officers who said they would rather have the 35s. differently distributed. The present system went very hardly with those men who were bound to shoot out of the third class before they could earn any grant at all. He believed there had been a very strong feeling expressed that, with all the desire which the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly had shown of encouraging the efficiency of the Volunteers by giving them a larger money grant; still that grant had been made in a way which did not entirely meet their wishes and requirements, and they asked for a reconsideration of the matter. If, instead of there being one grant of 30s. and one of 35s, there were one grant altogether, and there were a relaxation of the stringency of the rules relating to musketry for two years—after that he would like to set them more stringent—the efficiency of the whole body would be much increased. 274 To revert to the civil employment of reserved soldiers, he trusted he might not be mistaken in supposing that the right hon. Gentleman intended to give him an opportunity of discussing at the proper time that important question. He took it for granted that when the right hon. Gentleman had further considered the matter he would give him a Committee on that subject, for he thought that would commend itself to everyone who desired economy and who wished to promote the efficiency of the Army.
§ CAPTAIN COTTON (Cheshire, Wirral)
said, he hoped the House would allow him, as an Artillery Officer who had served in both the Royal Horse Artillery and the Field Batteries, to state his opinion on the proposed conversion and reduction of the Royal Horse Artillery. He congratulated the Government on the now departure which they had taken in endeavouring to render effective the paper system which had hitherto existed, of forming two Army Corps for our home Army, and of placing them on such a footing that they should be lit for immediate service. They all remembered that before the last Franco-German War Marshal Le Bœuf in 1870, told the Emperor Napoleon that the Army of France was complete in all its details, down to the very last button on the soldiers' gaiters. No doubt the buttons were there, but no one could place their hands on them when they were wanted, and that was very much the case with some matters in our Army. He rejoiced to think that the Government had realized the grave evils which existed, and were endeavouring to remedy them. But as an Artillery Officer, he could not be silent on the proposed conversion of the Royal Horse Artillery. As he understood it, the Secretary of State for War stated that, as there was a deficiency in our Field Batteries, in order to compensate for that deficiency without increasing the expenditure, he wished to convert certain Horse Artillery batteries, of which he had a surplus, to provide for the want of Field Artillery. That was an intelligible proposition enough, but he would reply with two others; first, that the Horse Artillery was a. corps d'élite, one on which the greatest care and discipline was lavished, so that it was the most difficult branch of the Army to reconstitute. The next proposition was that if they 275 reduced the Horse Artillery batteries to a minimum, the time must inevitably come on active service when they would have to call on the Field Batteries to undertake the duties of the Horse Artillery; and that, he maintained, they were quite unable and unsuited to perform. Many nations were not decreasing, but strengthening their Horse Artillery. Belgium was doing so, and also Italy; while he had good authority for stating that Spain would be glad to do the same, could she afford it. While he did not believe we intended to go to war with anyone, he would ask whether, if we were to have an Army at all, this was a time to mutilate and cripple one of its most important branches? He quite admitted they would have a sufficient number of guns in comparison with those of foreign nations; but the First Army Corps was supposed to be thoroughly equipped and ready for service at a moment's notice. If that was not so, then the whole raison d'étre of the new scheme went away. With the First Army Corps they were to have five Horse Artillery batteries, with six guns each; but the batteries were not complete. They had no ammunition waggons. At the moment they were needed for service the Horse Artillery batteries would have to be put up to the war strength at once. Now the present full strength of a Horse Artillery battery was 104 horses, but the war strength was 168 horses; so that before we could embark a single man on active service we should have to increase these five batteries by 61 horses each—total 320. The only way we could get these horses would be by denuding the Second Army Corps of its horses. That was a very important point, and worthy of careful consideration. Then the men of the Horse Artillery were specially selected, not only on enlistment, but also on transfer from the rest of the Artillery. Therefore, considering what the Horse Artillery was, what it cost us to keep up, and the care there was to maintain it as an efficient force, it was evident it would be a work of the greatest difficulty to reconstitute it if once disestablished. Then there was the privilege of slightly higher pay, which the Horse Artillerymen enjoyed, and he thought that the loss of even 1s. per week would not be looked upon by the men with favour, especially 276 by those who were married, while it would have a doubtful effect on the recruiting. With regard to the proportion of field guns per 1,000 men, it was already less with us than it was with some of the foreign nations. Russia had always had a strong force of Artillery; Germany had a little over 3 per 1,000; the French had 3¾ while we had under 3 per 1,000. These figures were only at the commencement of a campaign; but very often circumstances occurred in campaigns when the Field Artillery in places had to be very largely increased. When the Gorman Army invested Paris in 1871, the number of Field Artillery guns was increased to 4 per 1,000; in Prince Frederick's campaign it was also increased to 1 per 1,000. Then, if occasion did occur when it was necessary to largely increase your Field Artillery generally, it is quite conceivable that occasions might also occur when there would arise an increased demand for Horse Artillery in particular. They were told that under the circumstances of modern warfare it was not very often necessary to change the position of Artillery, and therefore the Horse Artillery were not of so much use as they were formerly. He disputed that altogether. With a small active Army like ours they ought to use all the mechanical means in their power to strengthen it in every respect. They must have a very large number of guns, which should be able, not only to carry out the ordinary duties of Field Batteries, but, when required, to take up new positions with the greatest possible amount of mobility and celerity. This could only be done by Horse Artillery. It was an arm of the service which, as was said to him the other day, had to ride 25 miles to covert before it began its day's hunting. With the inferior breeding of the horses, the severe work they had to do would most surely tell on the Field Batteries. This would happen—either the men would have to dismount when going up hills, and they would arrive at the scene of action thoroughly exhausted, or there would be no gunners at all. It seemed to him quite impossible that Field Batteries could ever be a complete substitute for Horse Artillery. The Secretary of State would be better advised if he had drawn his information on this subject from practical Horse Artillery and Cavalry officers. Especially he would ask the House, before he sat 277 down, not to be misled on this subject by what had been said in "another place" by the Under Secretary of State for War, that, as regarded the Artillery, there was not, taking the whole force, a reduction, but an increase; that there was a reduction in field and horse, but a considerable increase in the garrison artillery. Why, it might just as well be said that there was no reduction of the Cavalry and Infantry of the Line if you took 500 men from them and added the same number to the Marine Artillery. Under all these circumstances he would ask the Secretary of State for War if he could not see his way to reconsider the question of the conversion of these batteries of Horse Artillery. There was one battery which had a glorious history, which had played a glorious part in covering the retreat at Maiwand and prevented it being a rout; and he would ask the Secretary of State to pause and see if he could save it from being entirely expunged from the Army List.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
said, he must express his acknowledgments to the Secretary for War for the excellent Memorandum which had accompanied the Army Estimates this year, and hoped its publication would be an annual one. Satisfactory as the Explanatory Statement was in many of its details, especially in regard to clearly showing the large sum borne by the Army Estimates for the cost of stores for the Navy; there was one reference to the cost of the Artillery batteries which appeared meagre, for it failed to afford any information about the relative charge for Horse and Field Artillery, and yet advocated economy by breaking up Horse Artillery Batteries, in order to raise up more Field Batteries. He could not but wonder at the partial attempt which the War Office had made to effect economy by reducing the Horse Artillery by five Batteries and replacing them by Field Batteries. He was no admirer of an undue proportion of Horse Artillery; but he thought it would be better for the Secretary for War, if he desired to effect economy by changes of organization, to look in other directions for hotter results. We had undertaken the defence of India, and to supply that country with a sufficient force of Artillery; but he had no hesitation in saying that the Artillery 278 Establishment in India was entirely below what it should be. At present we supplied India with 11 batteries of Horse Artillery and 42 of Field, in all 318 guns, giving about three guns to 2,000 Infantry and Cavalry; a proportion far below the number which the most experienced General agreed on as necessary—the Horse Artillery guns, 66 in number, being far less than the number needed for our Indian Cavalry. He thought the House was entitled to ask that the views of those who had advised the Secretary for War to make this reduction should be published, and that proof should be given as to whether higher economies had been advised in other brandies of the Service. Those who had studied the organization of the Cavalry and Infantry could point to large economies being possible in those two arms. For instance, the Household Cavalry of three regiments and 21 troops, comprising only 950 privates, could be converted into one regiment of six squadrons of 120 effective privates in, each; the surplus 200 privates being told off into band, acting non-commissioned and employed men. So also with regard to the Cavalry of the Line, consisting of 28 regiments formed into 221 troops, and having about 13,000 privates; these might be formed into 60 squadrons of 150 effective privates each, leaving 4,000 surplus privates for band, employed, recruits, lance-corporals, and thereby needing only 15 regimental cadres, each of four squadrons. With regard to the Infantry of the Line, consisting of 141 battalions of 1,410 companies and 94,600 privates, this strength could only yield about 70,000 effective privates, after deducting band, recruits, lance-corporals, non-commissioned colour guard, pioneers, employed. This effective number could be formed into 600 companies of 120 privates each, and requiring about 100 cadres for battalions of six companies each. Those were economies on an effective scale, which might, on money considerations, be enforced with a far more useful end than that resulting from the abolition of 30 fully-equipped Horse Artillery guns, of such good organization as could not be equalled on the Continent.
§ SIR FREDERICK FITZWYGRAM (Hants,) Fareham
said, that the question of the Horse Artillery had been very fully discussed that evening, and 279 he wished merely to refer to one particular point which he thought had not been sufficiently pressed. There were two distinct uses for Horse Artillery; in the first place to accompany Cavalry, and in the second place to act as a re-servo to be sent to any point which might be pressed in an unforeseen manner. With regard merely to its first use, no doubt the proposed organization was sufficient; but as regarded the second, which was becoming of more consequence every day, he thought that it was utterly insufficient. In former days the range of muskets was small, and battalions were drawn up in close order, so that the line of fire was concentrated, and the amount of ground covered was, comparatively speaking, restricted. Now, on the contrary, in a great battle the troops covered three, four, or five miles. The Horse Artillery was with the attack, and the Field Artillery with the Generals commanding the different divisions. On a sudden attack upon any vital point it would be impossible to get up the Field Artillery in time. If the General commanding the division had to send Artillery to a point two miles and a half off, with the détour behind the troops which would be necessary, it would take Field Artillery an hour before it could get to the spot, whereas Horse Artillery could get there in 20 minutes. For this reason he thought that it was absolutely necessary to maintain the strength and efficiency of the Horse Artillery. Another point connected with the Artillery which he wished to bring before the House was the organization of the regiment of Artillery. He had not a word to say against the Artillery; on the contrary, it was a credit to itself and to the nation; but he had for a long time past thought that its organization was not as good as it might be. It was a very large regiment, and ought really to be divided into two corps, one concerned with field duties, whether Horse or Field Artillery, and the other having to do with garrison guns. These two duties were now totally different. In former days there had not been this marked distinction; there was only one form of gun, which was a smooth bore; the mechanical portion of the gun was the same; and the largest was a 68-pouuder, the Horse Artillery being armed with a 6-pouader. Now, however, the two classes of gnus were 280 very distinct from one another; there was the small class of gun used by the mounted branch of the Artillery, and the enormous gun, the mechanism of which required a life of study to understand it. In spite of this, all officers of Artillery were placed in one corps, and went from one duty to another. This system was not good training for the officers, and the result was sometimes that the square man was put in the round hole. This did not conduce to the best interests of the Service, and he thought that the organization ought to be such as to avoid this evil. He would, perhaps, be told that the system was an advantage in allowing a certain amount of exchange; that those who were fond of riding and field sports, and were quick in the eye, could go into the mounted, and those who were interested in science and mechanics into the mechanical branch of the Artillery. He admitted that, and his suggestion would be that the Artillery should be maintained as a general corps as regarded subalterns; but that on obtaining his captaincy an officer should be placed, according as it seemed best to his superiors, either in the mounted or in the dismounted branch of the Service. "With regard to the question of the Cavalry, his opinion was that we had too many regiments in our Cavalry, with the result that they were all weak and therefore ineffective. If there was one force that ought to be kept up to its full war strength more than another it was Cavalry, because it was a force that it was very difficult to organize in a hurry. It was true that they had Cavalry reserve men, but it was his experience that when they were in the reserve very many of the men never got outside of a horse, although some, no doubt, might be employed in stable work. The consequence was that after three or four years they were not fit to come back and take their place in a regiment which was ordered for service at short notice, He thought, therefore, that every Cavalry regiment ought to be kept at all times up to its full war strength, and also that every regiment should be of the same strength. He objected to having weak regiments in the second or third line for this reason—that when they augmented the regiments of the first line they ought to be fit for active service; whereas, as a matter of fact, there were generally about 120 young men not trained and 100 recently 281 bought horses. This had come under his notice especially in the case of the 19th Hussars when they went out to Egypt in 1882. In his opinion every Cavalry regiment ought to consist of' five squadrons—four for active service and one to form a depot. In every troop and every squadron there were a certain amount of untrained men, and a certain number of men unfit for embarkation on the day, and under the present system it was necessary to draw upon other regiments; and the same was the case with regard to the horses. This was an evil which ought to be avoided, and if they had a fifth squadron it ought to be able to supply the complement of horses and men for service. He would probably be asked, "Where are you going to get the money for this augmentation?" He believed that they had too many regiments and too weak regiments of Cavalry; they had 17 regiments at home and one in Egypt. To add a fifth squadron would involve great expense. He ventured to suggest, how over unpopular it might be to his brother officers, that it was absolutely necessary to reduce the three junior regiments. If they did so they would get four squadrons towards the 15 which would be needed to supplement and make efficient the other regiments; and when they had reduced the regiments, the staff, and officers, they might readily get the money to furnish each of the remaining regiments with the extra squadrons which he believed to be absolutely necessary for the efficiency of the Cavalry Service. With, regard to the question of the ago of the horses, his experience was that, though it was not desirable to get four-year olds, yet they would do a fair amount of work, and would go fairly well through a campaign. He, therefore, saw no objection to four-year-old horses in the Army. Perhaps a more serious matter in this connection was that owing to the small percentage of horses allowed to be cast in each year we were obliged to keep every horse materially sound up to 18 years of age, and yet it had been declared that no horse over 14 years of age was to go on foreign service. To keep horses over 14 years unfit for foreign service was an absurdity and a fraud on the nation. The nation believed that it had 7,500 Cavalry horses, while he knew 282 that a certain proportion, probably 1,000, were too old to go on foreign service. We had given up the system of keeping old soldiers unfit for foreign service; surely the same rule ought to apply in regard to horses. An old soldier might teach the lads habits of sobriety and order, but he failed to see that any such virtues could be imparted by an old horse that was not allowed to go abroad. A good deal had been said lately about the supply of horses in this country; but his own belief was that the supply was fully equal to the ordinary demand, but it was contrary to common sense to suppose that breeders would breed more than the trade and the commerce of the country and the usual demands of the Military Service would absorb. He believed the number of horses in the country, roughly speaking was 3,000, 000, and 500,000 in Ireland.' It would, he suggested, be a useful thing if the Secretary of State would cause the police to send in a return of the actual numbers. There were probably 2,000,000 agricultural horses, of which, after making allowances for the horses that were too heavy, and for those under four years and the number over 14 years, he calculated there were about 230,000 of proper age and about a suitable size for military service. How many of these wore sufficiently sound? Colonel Ravenhill, an experienced officer, thought that not above one in ten would be sufficiently sound for military purposes; but taking one in five as a fairer number, that would leave about 50,000 agricultural horses available. Again, 1,000,000 horses were employed in the ordinary trade of the country and among private owners; and of these, making similar deductions as before, about 35,000 would be available for purposes of war. Adding these 35,000 to,10,000 agricultural horses, there may be 90,000 to 100,000 horses suitable for Army purposes in this country. How many would owners be willing to sell? Few men keep more horses than they really required; possibly they might sell 10 per cent—i.e., 10,000; add 5,000 in hands of dealers—total 15,000. No horses are of any use for an immediate campaign except horses in actual work. How many horses did we want? It was calculated that each. Army Corps wanted 12,500; two Army Corps would want 25,000. Twenty-five 283 thousand horses were wanted, and for use in campaign probably another 10,000, or 35,000 horses in all. Where, then, were the rest to come from? This was a serious question. There were various means by which the authorities might get the horses. They might take the horses by conscription, but he did not think the nation would listen to such a proposal. They might persuade the nation to keep 20,000 always up in case of war, but he did not think the nation could be persuaded easily to adopt such a plan. They might have a register of horses, but he did not believe in that proposal. Then they might resort to foreign markets. Hon. Members, no doubt, had lately read glowing accounts as to the number of horses to be had in foreign markets. His own impression was that those estimates were entirely fallacious. He did not believe that there existed, either in this or in any foreign country, a surplus of horses above what the trade and commerce of that country required. In 1880 a committee of gentlemen came from Hungary and offered the Government 10,000 horses, to be landed at the London Docks. He advised the Secretary of State for War to accept the offer. The Secretary of State for War sent several gentlemen of experience to Hungary, where they stayed six or seven weeks, with orders to buy 800 horses. They came back with 420 horses only, and of this number very few came up to the promised height of 15.2. Most of them were under 15.1, a large number were only 15 hands, and some only 14.2. More recently the Secretary of State for War sent a small committee to Canada to see what that country could do in the way of horse supply. The result had been what he anticipated. While they could buy horses straight from the ranche, they came back with only 50 horses of a suitable size and age accustomed to bit and bridle. With the view of increasing the number of horses, various schemes had been suggested for horse breeding. He did not believe that any scheme would produce a greater number than the trade of the country could absorb; and, in his opinion, there was no more fatal scheme than that of stopping the export trade. It was also proposed to place stallions throughout the country; but he doubted whether the 284 Government could supply the number of sires necessary for horse breeding. He admitted that, to a certain degree, Government stallions might improve the breed of the horses of the country; but he denied that they would increase the number of horses in the country. There was one particular class of horse diminishing in this country essential for Cavalry purposes, and this was the riding horse. In former days every farmer rode to market; but now, owing to the improvement in communication and other causes, perhaps 20 or 30 farmers rode to market in the district with which he was familiar, where formerly there used to be 200 or 800. The result was that the number of riding horses was sensibly decreasing. Ireland was the country they had to look to for mounting our Cavalry, and he thought it might be advisable to station Government stallions in districts throughout that country. Last year he brought before the notice of the Secretary of State for War the subject of Mounted Infantry. The use of this force was increasing every day, and its importance was being recognized. In his judgment, there was no collision in the slightest degree between the Cavalry and the Mounted Infantry. The great distinction between the two forces was this—the Cavalry soldier fought on horseback, and his horse was his primary weapon; the Mounted Infantry soldier used his horse only as a means of transport to reach a particular point, where he dismounted and fought with his rifle like a foot soldier. Last year he suggested that bodies of 30 Infantry soldiers should be sent, after the drill season was over, to the nearest Cavalry barrack to be instructed in mounted duties, and to stay there from about the 15th of October to the week before Christmas, and that after Christmas a second batch of 30 men should be sent. In that way 60 men would be instructed in their duties during the year at very little expense. He was aware that a scheme had been started to set up a Mounted Infantry school at Aldershot; but to carry it out would involve the getting and keep of horses for the purpose. In the scheme he had suggested this would not be necessary, because at this particular period of the year spare horses were always available in Cavalry barracks. He did not think the Cavalry regi- 285 ments would raise the slightest opposition to such a scheme. He also commended the position of the pioneers to the attention of the Secretary of State for War. He asked the Secretary of State for War for one favour—namely, that he would give the new rank of major to the senior riding-master in the Army. He thought the regimental riding-masters were an excellent class of hardworking men, who had a claim to one of the honours of the blue riband, which was bestowed by new warrant on the Department.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
said, that that was the first occasion on which they had had before them, in anticipation of the discussion of the Army Estimates, a Memorandum prepared by the Secretary of State, and thought every hon. Member must fully appreciate the advantage of having such a paper instead of the general statement hitherto usually made orally by the Minister for the Department at a late hour of the night, he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman, not only on being the first to have that opportunity, but also on the eminent ability, clearness, and completeness of the paper that he had laid before them. At the same time, he thought there were some points in the paper to which exception might be taken. The earlier portion of it was framed on this principle—the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to analyze the general bulk of the Estimates, and he resolved them into three parts—namely, the personnnel, the administrative portion, and those Votes which dealt with supplies, and he founded on that the argument that after all the amount of money on which saving could be effected or to which economical administration could be applied was but small; because, if they maintained an army of a certain strength, the men must be fed, clothed, housed, and so forth, and somehow administered, and it was not until they came to the supply of warlike stores and the erection of buildings that there was any great field for economy. Now, he ventured to think that there was a fallacy underlying that argument. In the first place, among the charges for personnel there were many matters which were the most proper subjects of all for economical administration. He did not speak only of the organization of the Army itself, which surely might be either costly or cheap; but such subjects as clothing, 286 rations, fuel and light, transport, equipment, ammunition, barracks, barrack-stores, and others were sources of expenditure of a very elastic kind; and might either be managed economically or extravagantly according as the Minister and his assistants were frugal or careless. And even when they came to the particular division in which the right hon. Gentleman implied that the cost of the Army might be most easily diminished—namely, the supply of stores, he said very rightly that they had committed themselves to many great lines of expenditure and had entered on certain undertakings, and that it was desirable that there should be no interruption in them. But oven there they might often be misled by phrases, and it is possible to proceed a little too fast or too far even on those lines of expenditure which were thoroughly good. The right hon. Gentleman said it was notorious that reductions of Army expenditure had largely been effected in past years by drawing on their reserves of stores. He was not aware to what the right hon. Gentleman referred, or whether he could give any instance or any proof of the assertion he had made. He knew it was often made; but he could not help thinking there was a considerable danger of real extravagance in the very opposite course, and that if they had too largo a reserve of stores it was more extravagant than letting them rather run down to some extent. There were stores and stores; some stores could not be improvised, and required time to manufacture; but there were others of which the pattern was often changing, which were of perishable material, and which could be procured in this country without any long delay; and there was a danger, if the doctrine were accepted that they must always keep a large reserve of stores, of excessive expenditure being incurred in that direction without any corresponding benefit to the country. He did not at all imply that that was done in these Estimates; but when a principle was laid down as it was in that Paper it would be well to bear in mind that there was a corresponding danger in the very opposite direction. With respect to the particular scheme of expenditure under Vote 12 he had not much to say. No one knew better than he did the dreadful amount that was claimed from the 287 War Office year after year for the new armament of the Army and Navy, both heavy guns and small arms. They had embarked on it, and they must go on with it; but what he should like to say was that as much reluctance as was reasonable should be shown in adding new expenditure while they were still Under the obligation to continue the old. Last year, when he came into Office with his hon. Friend near him, they found, as all the world knew, that they were engaged in the terribly costly undertaking of re-arming the Navy and also of supplying the Army with large guns of a new type. They had also begun the manufacture of the new field gun, which he believed was the most excellent weapon that any Field Artillery in Europe possessed, and which ought to be pushed on as quickly as possible. But they found also that a beginning had been made with a new rifle which was to take the place of the Maitini Henry. The new pattern had been approved; an enormous extension had been given to Enfield Manufactory out of the Vote of Credit at the end of 1885. Those extensions were not yet completed: and preparation was being made for going on at high pressure with the manufacture of the new rifle. Now that new rifle was only to be a little better than the Martini-Henry, and he must say that the very first decision they came to was that if possible that expenditure should either be stopped or abated in speed, while they had the other things in hand. It seemed to them that it was desirable to slacken the rate of production of that rifle. They were exposed to blame and odium on that account; but afterwards it was found out that the pattern was not the best; and it had only just been determined to substitute a new magazine rifle, against which he had nothing to say. This was an illustration of the desirability of sometimes being slow and hesitating to embark on a new enterprise. It was said it was intended to produce 25,000 magazine rifles this year; but he understood the pattern was not yet approved; and if that were so he would ask whether it would not be wise to be somewhat slow in commencing the manufacture? Even after a pattern had been approved, especially if it had been approved in a burry, it was not expedient to be precipitate in embarking upon 288 such an undertaking and committing the country to a very large expenditure. It was certain that the Vote for warlike stores reached a huge amount, and it had increased rapidly of late years. In 1884–5 it was £1,250,000; and it had sprang up pretty regularly until it now reached nearly £3,000,000 not to speak of a large sum spent on this service out of the Vote of Credit. This would show how costly all this business was; but the sums involved were so large, and had such a faculty of expanding from year to year, that he trusted some assurance would be given that the limit of the present Estimate would not be exceeded in another year. Last year he consented, in the Estimates he laid before Parliament, to an increase on the previous year of £310,000; and this year there was a further increase of £374,000. It might be necessary; but the amount must be dangerously' near the limit beyond which it was impossible for military expenditure to go. Indeed, some thought it was far exceeded now. We might well consider we had reached the highest level, and that it was not to be exceeded another year. He should not say much about the Establishment of the Army; and he certainly was not prepared to give any opinion of his own on the very vexed question of the reduction of the Horse Artillery, though his prejudices would be rather in favour of that step. As to the general scheme of mobilization, he admitted that it had many advantages, and it was more than a paper scheme. It was well we should have some standard up to which we should move, some point at which to stop, but the scheme ought not to be too pedantically applied. An Army Corps was arranged for regular Continental warfare, with which we had little likelihood of having anything to do. We were mostly concerned with irregular wars; and it was quite possible that although this might be a most symmetrical and, theoretically, perfect arrangement, yet, for the purposes of our smaller wars, more of one particular arm than another might be required. Therefore, he regarded with some suspicion, as a little too austere—a little too pedantic and theoretical—any idea of fixing ourselves to a particular organization of one, or two, or three Corps d'Armée. But it would have the advantage of 289 giving us some solid standing ground on which we could rest, and in that sense there was no harm in looking upon it as a practically efficient organization. The right hon. Gentleman, in the Paper which had been issued, referred to the promotion and retirement of officers. The Warrant issued at the end of the year had done a great deal to remove the serious grievance of men being obliged to retire into private life when they were perfectly fit for their duties. Before he left Office he had carefully considered this intricate subject, and had approved the main provisions of that Warrant, which wont as far as was practicable in the direction the House and the country desired to see followed. In the Warrant was introduced a principle in which he ventured to think was to be found the key to any just system of promotion, at all events, in the higher ranks—namely, that rank should not be given for the sake of rank itself, but should follow employment; that no man, for instance, should be a colonel who did not exercise the duties of colonel; and so of other ranks in the Army. That system had been applied in the Warrant to the rank of colonel, and it would be the means of preventing a state of confusion that would have been hideous to contemplate, because it had looked very much as if in the coming time we should run the risk of being taunted with having no officers but colonels in the Army. the result of the inquiries which he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) instituted last year regarding the Volunteer Force had been most satisfactory, and the War Office was now in possession of the fullest particulars not only as to the individual corps, but with regard to the Force as a whole. It seemed to him the proposals of the Committee as to the Capitation Grant, modified by the right hon. Gentleman, fairly met the necessities of the case. He thought, in making the considerable concession which he proposed, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in the two conditions which he had laid down—in the first place, that there should be some guarantee of increased efficiency in musketry, and some check upon, and inquiry into, the irregular expenditure on the part of Volunteer corps not recognized by the War Office. If that were done, and the additional money was granted in the way suggested, 290 he made no doubt it would satisfy the legitimate requirements of the Volunteers; and the very fact that they had been treated in this generous way—at the same time putting a pretty tight check upon their expenditure—would have the best effect upon the organization and efficiency of the corps.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT (Rochester)
said, it must be a great gratification to the Royal Artillery that their cause had been espoused by Members representing other arms of the Service He considered the proposed reduction of the Royal Horse Artillery as a most dangerous step. It was proposed to strike out 12 guns from the Army, and to turn 18 guns from Horse into Field Artillery. In time of war practically a greater number would be struck out, as there would be ammunition columns wanted. In case of hostilities, the four guns of each battery were to become six; but were hon. Members aware of the great difficulty which would have to be met in making up the reduced batteries? He did not believe that those who had made the suggestion could know what it was they really proposed. They could not be aware of the trouble required to turn out a skilful driver. It took three or four years to make an efficient driver in the Horse Artillery. It would be very interesting to know where this idea of reducing the Horse Artillery had been started. He could not believe that His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief had suggested it, because he knew very well the value of the Horse Artillery. He did not believe that Lord Wolseley suggested it, for he had had practical experience of their value. He did not believe the Secretary of State for War had suggested it, for he had not had time to turn his mind in this direction; nor did he believe it originated with the Intelligence Department. He was constrained to the belief that some permanent official, perhaps anxious to win his 6purs, first suggested the idea. The only grounds of justification for the reduction were, on the one hand, economy and expediency, and, on the other hand, the possibility of having more guns than the Army required. As to the first, he did not think that it would be true economy to reduce any branch of the Service; but it would be very bad economy to tamper with the Royal Artillery. There was a dark shadow hanging over 291 Eastern Europe; would it be wise at such a. time to reduce any branch of the Service? So much, then, for expediency. If the Government wished to enforce economy, let them begin by very considerably reducing the very heavy staff of civilians at the War Office. It was also said that we had more guns than we required. We had 102,000 men in England and the Colonies, and 130.000 Native troops—a total of 298,000 men. That, on the principle of three guns per 1,000 men, meant 891 guns. We had only 492 field guns, and 144 Horse Artillery, or a total of 636 guns. In Franco they had 1,938 guns, or an excess of 882. In Germany the proper number of guns to her Army was 1,116, but there were 2,040. The proper proportion for Russia was 2,070, but she had 2,178; and Austria, which ought to have 678 guns, had l,540. The duty of the Horse Artillery was supposed to be to accompany Cavalry in the field. Its movements were very rapid. It had to clash from one part of the field to the other. A skilful General would hold his Horse Artillery in hand in order to launch it, and check a charge of the enemy's Cavalry. There were numerous instances in which the Royal Horse Artillery had not only done gallant service, but had actually saved the Army. During the Peninsula War Norman Ramsay, when surrounded by the enemy, at the head of his six guns—the "Chestnut" troop—crashed8 through the masses of the French Cavalry, who thought to take him prisoner. Nothing could have been more gallant than the way in which Major Slade saved his Battery of Horse Artillery at the Battle of Maiwand. He had had the honour of serving in that branch of Her Majesty's Forces himself, and he was sure that in the observations he had made he was merely expressing the thoughts of the officers and men of the whole British Army. He hoped, therefore, that grave consideration would be given to the matter before this proposal to reduce the Royal Horse Artillery was adopted. He trusted that the Secretary for War, in conjunction with His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, would, in consideration of the brilliant and faithful services of the Royal Horse Artillery, be able to give these five threatened batteries a fresh lease of life, and would thus furnish them with an opportunity of adding fresh 292 laurels in the future to those which they had already won in the past.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he wished to look at the Army Estimates, as a whole, from a civilian point of view. The first thing that struck the ordinary Member was that, although the Military Forces were reduced, the expenditure was increased. One of the most considerable items in the increase over the Estimates of last year was that of £46,000 under the head of Retired Pay. If there was one thing which had scandalized the public with regard to the Army Estimates more than another, it was the constant increase in the non-effective charges, and especially in the amount for Retired Pay. It must be recollected that these charges were incurred solely on account of the officers. This increase was the more marked as it was accompanied by a de-creased charge for the men. It seemed almost as if everythin8g in the Army was done for the benefit of the officers. Comparatively little was done for the men. The officer's widow received a pension; but the soldier's widow received no- thing. There were many posts in the Civil Service which might well be filled by discharged soldiers, who found considerable difficulty in obtaining employment. In estimating the number of our Military Force very little reliance could be placed on Estimates, seeing that, although it 8was estimated last year that we were to have a Regular Army 177,000 strong, we had at no time more than 144,000. Again, as regarded the Militia, instead of having 141,000 men in training, we had only 108,000. He was glad to say that the story with regard to the Volunteers was a very different one. This country had every reason to be proud of its Volunteer Force, and he remembered that the more bitterly because his own people wore not allowed to bear arms, He, however, could understand Englishmen taking an honest pride in the Volunteer movement, which formed one of the brightest pages in the history of their country. As to the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman had been so bold and so straightforward—not to say rash—in his admissions that he trusted there was a real reforming spirit behind them. At the same time, the right hon Gentleman had had a very sorry 293 tale to tell. Thus, he had stated that this country could not hope, to mobilize more- than two Army Corps, and that we had not sufficient Field Artillery even for that force. Had he Mr. Arthur O'Connor) been the War Minister, he should have hesitated very much about reducing the Horse Artillery, and especially should he have refused to reduce the E Battery B Brigade, considering the antecedents of that battery. The Government should remember that it was more easy to reduce such a force than to re-establish it. He thought that an economy might be effected by causing riding practice to be done in camp. Arguments derived from the German and French Armies could not be considered applicable to our Army, the circumstances of which were wholly different. The German Army was completely territorialized. Every corps had its head-quarters, and knew exactly what it had to do. In Franco a similar system was carried out, though to a smaller extent. But the English Army was dispersed in India, abroad, and in our Colonies. There was one question which the right hon. Gentleman had boldly faced, and that was stores. Two or throe years ago he complained that military stores were being depleted, in order to keep down the Vote. He had since hoard that stores were sold for that purpose. The present War Minister had admitted the depletion of stores, and blamed indiscriminate reduction; but, besides depleted stores, he hoped the Secretary of State would tell them something about the quality of the stores. It was known that such things as picks and axes and other tools were very bad in quality, and it would be well that something should be said upon the subject. He had hoard Lord Wolseley say that the axes issued to the troops serving under him in Canada were of no use except to amuse the inhabitants. Then the clothing of the men was made of material much inferior to that of the Italian, or French, or German Armies. The Transport Service also was in a most unsatisfactory condition, and had invariably broken down in every war in which we had been engaged since the days of Wellington. Regimental transport was particularly inefficient. Yet a great deal too much money was spent in this Department. It was a hobby of the War Office—of the 294 civilian rather than the professional element there—that it was necessary to move every regiment every two or three years. If those movements were made less frequent, it would be possible to effect an economy of £40,000 or £50,000 a year. Then, with regard to mobilization, we were in a very backward condition. He would suggest that valuable practice might be afforded if notice were periodically given to the officers in command of military districts to mobilize within a given time the troops in their district to act against an imaginary enemy. In this way experience and facility might be obtained which would be of good service in case of war. He hoped, in conclusion, that the Secretary of State for War would persevere in a bold course; and, if he did so, the ideas of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) with regard to expenditure might be realized, and the nation get value for its money.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
The course of the debate has, I think, illustrated very well the extreme difficulty of an unfortunate Secretary of State who endeavours to effect economies in our Military Expenditure. It has been extremely refreshing to hear to-night from some hon. Members speeches encouraging one to persevere in an honest attempt to reduce the expenditure of the Army, because, during the greater part of the evening, we have had speeches directly tending towards an immediate increase of expenditure. But I do not think that, even as to the reductions that have been proposed, hon. Members are themselves agreed. Hon. Members really are only agreed on two reductions; they think you can get rid of the Secretary of State for War if a civilian, and that you might largely reduce the cost of the administration of the Army at the War Office. I will not dwell on the latter point, because, as hon. Members know, a Royal Commission has been appointed to investigate that very subject, and if economy can be effected upon the recommendation of the Commissioners, no one will be more glad than myself to give effect to their views, if I should have the honour of continuing in the Office I now hold. The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) suggested, as another moans of reducing expenditure, that we might 295 more largely employ soldiers in civil situations. That suggestion has been frequently brought before this House, and has been accepted with the greatest cordiality by the War Office. Almost all the messengers at the War Office are at present old soldiers, and every exertion is being made by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary (Mr. Brodrick) to extend the system outside the boundaries of the "War Department. I hope the House will not suppose from these remarks that I disbelieve in the possibility of economy in the expenditure of the Army. On the contrary, my short experience at the War Office leads me to believe that economy can be effected, and that it can best be effected by this House arriving at a distinct knowledge of what it wants, and what it intends to keep as an Army. Lot the House form a definite idea of the Army necessary for the defence of the country and of the Establishment necessary for the maintenance of that Army. Lot it then vote liberally every shilling required to keep up that Establishment, and let it refuse to grant any demands that cannot be justified on that ground. The right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who spoke in very kind terms of some suggestions made in my Memorandum, alluded to the question of the reduction of stores. I ventured in the Memorandum to say that economy had often been effected by an undue reduction of stores; but I might have gone further and said that economy had been more than once produced by an absence of all stores. Military stores have been allowed to fall into a condition absolutely unjustifiable, and it has only been the fortunate accident of Votes of Credit that has enabled the War Office to get on at all. Now that is very unsatisfactory, and I hope the House will support me in the view expressed in my Memorandum, that it is essential that the necessary reserve of stores should be kept independently of every other consideration. In connection with the question of economy, the increase of charge for the retired pay of officers has been alluded to. That increase is certainly a very unfortunate fact; but the utmost has been done that could be done to reduce it. If the provisions of the Warrant issued when my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) was Secretary of State for War 296 are carried into effect, it is to be hoped that, at least, a check will be put upon, if an absolute reduction is not ultimately effected in, that item. Now I will pass away from these minor points. I should like to thank the House for the reception that has been given to the Memorandum which I have put forward in explanation of the Army Estimates. It was produced under circumstances of considerable difficulty. I feel that if a Memorandum of this description is to be worth anything more than waste paper, the Secretary for War must be just as responsible for every word contained in it as if he had given utterance to it in his place in Parliament. In that spirit I endeavoured to approach its preparation, and I take the personal responsibility for every word it contains. It is not as complete as I would wish, I confess. But is almost impossible for any War Minister to say to the full extent what he should like to do. There are deficiencies which are obvious to himself, but which he is not in the present position to supply. My object in putting forward this Memorandum was threefold—to endeavour to let the country know what the available Forces of the country really are; to establish a standard towards which all our efforts from year to year ought to be directed, and which would assist Secretaries of State when proposing any necessary increase or preventing indiscriminate reduction; and it was my anxious desire that this House should endeavour to treat the defences of the country as a whole, looking at them from all points of view, and realizing that you cannot add to or take away from any portion of these defences without interfering with the general scheme. Unless you regard them as a whole you may spend a great deal of money without producing much efficiency, or you may effect some small economy which would be fatal to your general scheme. It is from that point of view that I desire the House to regard the Estimates now before it. I have no reason to complain of the comprehensive speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), which dealt with the subject precisely in the spirit I should like to see. He was studiously moderate, and brought to bear upon all he said the education of a lifetime. My hon. and gallant Friend dwelt upon two branches of the defence 297 of this country, one of which was the organization of the Forces at home in the event of invasion. He pointed out that they ought beforehand to be trained and organized upon some definite and consistent scheme. That is the intention of the Memorandum laid before the House, and of the organization scheme we have prepared. That scheme, for which the War Office is much indebted to the head of the Intelligence Department, General Brackenbury, organizes the available Forces for definite purposes and in definite ways; and in carrying it out every unit of our Forces—the Army, Militia, and Volunteers—has the precise functions pointed out that it would have to fulfil in the event of invasion, and arrangements are made for training them beforehand for the performance of their duties. We are now also prepared to say that we have arranged for our Army Corps places of concentration and places of embarkation. We hope before long that stores may be concentrated at these points. When that is done we believe we shall have put into order a complete system of concentration and of embarkation for our Army Corps under the shortest possible notice. I now pass to the other branch of the subject with which my hon. and gallant Friend dealt—the defences of our Coasts. I am free to confess that the picture he drew of the present state of things is not one that can be contemplated with perfect satisfaction. In one direction, however, progress has been made to a larger extent than anyone would gather from my hon. and gallant Friend's speech. I refer in particular to the defence of our Coasts by submarine mines. That has now been going on for many years, and I am glad to say that it has made great progress. We have already spent £416,000 on such mines, and we believe that this work is progressing rapidly towards completion. But this entails further expenditure, because you must have guns to defend these mines, and to defend the quick-firing guns you must have heavy artillery behind, and this has still to be provided. Therefore we are landed at this conclusion—that all the expenditure we have undergone requires further expenditure to make it effective and complete. No definite programme as to this expenditure has ever been laid before Parliament. Great delay has occurred, for which both Par- 298 ties are to blame. Both Parties are also agreed that if we could get the House of Commons in the precise humour to give us what we want we should carry out the necessary plan with expedition. I believe that the works we have done have put the forts into a much more effective position for defence than they have ever been before; but much remains to be done. Hon. Members know what the provision of great guns means. We have expended great sums of money upon them which would have startled our fathers or statesmen of a generation ago. These guns cost an enormous sum of money. Our Vote for arms at the present time is one which, I am bound to say, is enormous, and which for many years has been increasing in amount. Something, no doubt, may be done by the development of the Brennan torpedo, upon which we had a discussion the other night, which can be installed at three stations for the cost of one really big gun. I take a deep interest in all these questions, and I feel the responsibility which rests upon mo. I know that the defences of this country are not all they ought to be, and I am not inclined to shirk that responsibility. And I assure the House that the Government is fully sensible of its duty in this respect. We are considering most carefully how best to secure the fulfilment of the duty which devolves upon us, and if I can see my way to make any proposal for improving the condition in which those fortifications are placed I shall at once do so. Now, I pass to another subject, upon which there has been a good deal of discussion to-night, and on which I hope the House will look from the point of view of our general organization. I refer to the position of our Artillery, which was first introduced to our notice by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham), who delivered a good rattling attack upon mo, and who was followed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lambeth (General Fraser), who spoke with the authority of a Cavalry officer. They brought before the House what they believed to be the mistaken policy of the War Office in proposing the changes we have now put forward with regard to the Artillery. Let me ask the House to look at the whole question from a general point of view. Our Artillery is required for the defence of our Coast, for the defence of 299 our coaling stations abroad, and for the purpose of furnishing the requisite amount of artillery for the two Army Corps, and the question we have to deal with is how to provide for these necessities without unduly adding to the burdens of the country. To provide for the adequate defence of our Coasts and our coaling stations a large increase is necessary in our Garrison Artillery, and there is also a deficiency in the batteries of Field Artillery. In order to furnish our two Army Corps properly equipped for the field it is necessary to provide ammunition columns for them, for which no provision has hitherto been made, except on the spur of the moment. How is all this to be done? In my opinion it is only to be done by cutting down any superabundance and supplying any deficiency. The only superabundance was in the Royal Horse Artillery. I do not know whether hon. Members realize the cost of this force in money, in horses, and in transport. We felt that we were gaining money and horses for the improvement of other branches of the Service. We have added also wherever we believed that there was a deficiency. We have added three Field Batteries which we believed essential for the two Army Corps. We propose to add 1,800 men to our Garrison Artillery, although the whole of this number will not be obtained this year; we hope, however, to add 900 men this year. Hon. Members who have spoken in the course of this debate have taken the view that if we wish to reduce expenditure the course we have taken is foolish. But we are not going to reduce expenditure, and Members will, perhaps, be surprised to learn that, taking into consideration the cost of horses used for other purposes, the actual increase of cost will amount to £23,000 a-year. We are not undertaking this conversion which we have proposed for the purpose of diminishing expenditure, but because we believe that it is absolutely necessary in order to make the Artillery Forces of this country adequate for our needs. With regard to this conversion, I may state that I very deeply regret any pain that has been caused to the very gallant force which it affects. The efficiency and smartness of the Royal Horse Artillery make such a task one of great pain, all the more that one of the batteries proposed to be reduced is one 300 whose services are as such as have been mentioned to-night. More than one oil the batteries whose reduction is proposed have a record of which the Army and the Royal Regiment of Artillery may well be proud. But I am not responsible in any way for the choice of a particular battery to be reduced. They have been chosen on grounds which I behave to be generally recognized as fair to all the interests concerned. But I have listened to the manner in which that reduction has been opposed in the course of the debate, and there are two or three observations which I may venture to make to the House on the subject. First of all it is spoken of as if this conversion of Horse Artillery into Field Artillery was an actual reduction of military strength. Now, that is not the opinion of the military advisers of the War Office. The actual reduction of guns caused by all this conversion is not the 72 guns of which my hon. and gallant Friend spoke, but only 12; and the result of the whole conversion, so far from involving a reduction of military strength, will be to add largely to the defensive forces of the country. Now, if this scheme is to be accepted at all, I hope the House will also accept the other part of our scheme. An hon. and gallant Member told us a story of the state of things two or three years ago when some batteries were sent to Egypt, the batteries remaining at homo being left in a most attenuated condition. Very likely; but our object is to have no longer a large proportion of attenuated batteries, but to make those we have effective and valuable for service. Instead of many skeleton batteries we hope to have a few organized in the most effective manner, ready to be produced whenever they are wanted. I do not know if hon. Members have thoroughly grasped the perplexity of the situation in which we are placed by the great difficulty of horse supply in this country. That difficulty is a very great one, as has been so well pointed out, but it is especially difficult with regard to Horse Artillery; and I do not know if my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lambeth has over thought how he could possibly manage if all the batteries of Horse Artillery were to be called out on active service. I say there are no horses available in the country to man those horse bat- 301 teries in any short time and to make them fit for active service. There is one remaining point. We have heard a great deal of discussion to-night, but nobody has ventured to contradict the fact that the number of Horse Artillery in this country is in excess of the proportion of Horse Artillery in foreign countries. Hon. Members have alluded, indeed, to the general proportion of Artillery to our other Forces, but nobody has said that the proportion of Horse Artillery is not in England larger than it is in any foreign country. It is for these reasons that we have arrived at the conclusion that we ought not to ask the House to maintain this expensive arm to a larger extent than is required for two Army Corps, and that we should not be justified in continuing a system for which we cannot find a sufficient justification; and I must therefore say, with great regret, that I am wholly unable to accede to the suggestions which my hon. and gallant Friends have made that we should continue those five batteries of Horse Artillery. Now, with regard to the Field Batteries, some hon. Members have spoken as if, when we had provided for the wants of two Army Corps, we should have no Field Batteries left. That is not the case. We should have 11 Field Batteries left, and it is intended, partly for purposes of economy, to utilize these for the purpose of forming ammunition columns in the event of the Army Corps being suddenly called upon service. I must honestly say that I should be glad to have more Field Batteries, which would be, of course, always available for the many small wars in which this country might be engaged; but, after carefully considering the subject in its various aspects, we have arrived at the conclusion that we are not justified in retaining a larger force of Field Artillery than is necessary for the defence of the country while we are asking Parliament to give us more money to increase the Artillery in other directions. I will now pass to one or two other questions which have been raised in the course of this discussion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Tottenham) has, in particular, called attention to the strength of our Home battalions, and he would like both these and the foreign service battalions kept at full strength. There can be no doubt that 302 there would be great advantages in the policy which my hon. and gallant Friend recommends; but it would involve an addition of 10,000 or 20,000 men to the Army, and I do not think that the House would be prepared to support any War Minister who should ask for such a number of additional men. Then, my hon. and gallant Friend has referred to the number of men at the depôts, and it has sometimes been urged that we should not have so many men there. The subject is somewhat new to me, and I have not yet had an opportunity of looking into it; but I have always understood that the reason why young soldiers are kept at the depots is very much the same as that for which you send boys to private schools before you send them to college. You do not wish to place them at once in the midst of all the difficulties that it is necessary for them to encounter as they advance in life. In the same way, you do not like a recruit to join his regiment until he is able to encounter the difficulties and hardships which he has to meet in the regiment and when sent on foreign service. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hants (Sir Frederick Fitz-Wygram) has called attention to the deficient supply of horses, and the conditions on which they are retained in the Service with respect to age. I cannot follow my hon. and gallant Friend into the details which he has brought forward; but I can honestly say that I have listened with concern to the facts which he has brought before the House to-night, because I know the enormous difficulty which we experience with regard to our horses. It was, I must say, a very disheartening thing to hear him speaking of the great difficulty there is of getting horses either in this country or in Canada, and, after all, saying that he had no remedy to provide. That view, Sir, however, ought not to satisfy a War Minister, and it does not satisfy me. The subject of horses is one of the most important character, as I ventured to say earlier in the evening, and it is one which my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War and myself are taking up in earnest. We are examining all the suggestions put forward for the purpose of improving the supply of horses, and considering, with regard to the mode of purchase, whether we should not en- 303 courage home-breeding, by providing some means by which the farmers might know when horses were required, and by every means which we think practicable. I can assure the House that we do not intend to let this year pass by without doing our utmost to improve the supply, whether it be by following the suggestions of hon. and gallant Members, or by other means which may commend itself to the War Office. There is, I think, only one other subject that I have to deal with, and that is the subject of the now rifly which my right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has referred to. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of his hesitation to allow the manufacture of the new rifle last year at a rapid rate. I do not at all complain of that decision. Although I admit that the Enfield-Martini is a very efficient arm, and an enormous improvement over that which the Infantry already possess, yet, since that weapon began to be constructed, my right hon. Friend is well aware that the question of the magazine rifle has come before us. In adopting a new rifle, it is necessary that we should be very careful to insure that we get hold of the very best weapon that is to be had, before we undertake the manufacture on a large scale. I assure my right hon. Friend that the matter has been under the consideration of the War Office, and the skilled officers in connection with it, since the year 1881; and we have had a Committee composed of officers not connected specially with the War Office, but officers of the Army and Volunteers, who are most thoroughly qualified to come to a decision on the magazine arm. Every magazine arm in Europe has been examined; the most exhaustive trials have been made, and we have now arrived at the point when we have submitted for trial a very considerable number of Lee and Lee-Burton rifles. Both these rifles have been recommended by the Committee, and we have decided that the best test to which they can be submitted is to issue a certain number to our Forces, in order that they may be tried under every conceivable conditions likely to arise in actual service we hope and believe that many weeks will not elapse before the trials come to a close, and that the Committee will be able to tell us whether or nut they have definitely selected one of these rifles. I am bound 304 to say that if the Committee is able to recommend a rifle for use by the Army I shall not be inclined to hesitate any longer. I believe the time has come when the British Army ought to be armed with the magazine rifle, not alone because of the increased efficiency which the magazine rifle will give, but because the mere fact of the possession of that arm will give more confidence to the Army. We all know very well the confidence which the breech-loading rifle gave to the German Army, and the panic which its possession caused to the Austrian Army; but I go further, and say that I believe that either of these rifles, if they were adopted by our Army, would be a weapon far superior to that possessed by any Continental Army, and would place us, in this respect, far in advance of any other nation. There is a great deal of exaggeration abroad as to the extent to which magazine rifles have been adopted by foreign countries. There is no doubt that some magazine rifles have been adopted; but there is a great deal of doubt as to their efficiency. We shall certainly proceed with caution, and when we get the report of the thoroughly qualified Committee I have referred to, and believe that we have got a weapon thoroughly efficient, and better than is possessed by other Armies, we shall not hesitate to ask Parliament to give us the moans of equipping our Army with that weapon. There are many points of detail on which I shall be glad to answer questions in Committee; but this I should like to say now:—We have discussed general principles affecting the organization of the Army, and I hope the House will allow us to go into Committee at once and take the first Vote. I need scarcely remind the House that it is absolutely necessary for the service of the country that we should get the first Yote tonight, and I ask to be allowed to go into Committee in order that any special question affecting the Yote for men and pay for the Army may be argued and discussed. I am aware that I am, in this, asking a great sacrifice of some hon. Members who wish to bring questions forward. But my hon. Friends will recollect that the point to which, I believe, they specially desire to refer—namely, the question of increased Capitation Grants—is one which will not affect the Volunteer 305 Force during the course of this; year. I dwell upon that point, because it is one which I know very well hon. Members wish to raise; but there may be others to which my remarks also apply. We shall have other opportunities of discussing these matters; but the main reason why I ask that we may be allowed to go into Committee without further delay is because it is the intention of the Government to accede to the proposal, which seems to be acceptable to the House, that, to some extent, at any rate, the Army and Navy Estimates should be referred to a Committee upstairs. I hope, therefore, that the House will allow us to take the first Vote tonight, so that we may be enabled to constitute the Committee without delay.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) has made an appeal to hon. Members, who have particular points to refer to, to allow the first Vote to be taken at once. But I confess that, looking on the general question of the expenditure) of the Army, and considering the very few opportunities which lie before us for general discussion as to the Army generally, and its proper strength, hon. Members on this side of the House, at any rate, are entitled to a few minutes respite; and I ask the forbearance of the House while I make a few remarks. At the outset, let me congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the very able, fair, and courageous statement which he has made, after the short time he has been in an Office where most of the items are now to him. I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the very gallant way in which he has stood to his guns. He has to-night sustained the attack of every hon. and gallant Gentleman who has spoken on a single item in connection with which it has been imagined that it was a proposal to reduce expenditure and weaken the strength of one branch of the Army. I refer to the Horse Artillery. One hon. and gallant Gentleman has, however, shown that, in this matter, there will be no economy to the taxpayer, and that it will, in. a certain sense, weaken the strength of the Army. We have had a regular field day on the present occasion; and I never remember one on which professional talk has been so universally 306 indulged in. I almost regret that any civilian, who has simply the interest of the taxpayers of the country at heart, should venture, by a single observation, to destroy the harmony of those hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have had the whole evening to themselves. But I wish to draw attention to one remark which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War made at the outset of his speech. He said, first make up your mind as to the strength of the force required for the defence of the country, and then consent to the maintenance of this force at an efficient point. Well, Sir, I agree with that view as being thoroughly business-like; and I consider the suggestion one which ought to commend itself to every hon. Member of this House, and to the country at large. But what were his recommendations for the defence of the country? I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman there, and declare that this enormous military expenditure, which will be followed by a large naval expenditure, is wholly in excess of the requirements of the country. I cannot help thinking that the mind of the right hon. Gentleman and the utterances of those hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have spoken tonight are affected by the military frenzy which now exists on the Continent, and I think it would be as well if the right hon. Gentleman had turned aside for a moment and given us the views which the Government have with regard to the present state of Continental affairs. I do not hesitate to say that the Votes now asked for are far beyond the real necessities of the case; but, on the other hand, if there is any contemplation oil the possibility or probability of a British Force being sent to the Continent to take part in any great military operations, that our Force is ridiculously inadequate to such an end. I think it is necessary that the country should make up its mind as to the course it will pursue with regard to Continental affairs. It is not long ago that a right hon. Gentleman, who is assumed to be entitled to express an opinion on the condition of Continental affairs, declared at the Mansion House in the most solemn, terms that the condition of Europe, in respect to the relations of one nation to the other, was very grave indeed. I believe there is cause for the very gravest 307 anxiety to those who are interested in the maintenance of the peace of Europe. But the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) has also given his opinion as to the immediate position of Continental affairs, and for one in his position I may say that he has used most singular terms. He spoke of the prospect having improved. I venture to protest against that mode of speech. But has the Government made up its mind that it can in any case be its duty to take part in any Continental quarrel, and undertake the sending of a considerable force to any part of the Continent? If that is the position, then I am obliged to say that I do not think that the preparations made by the Government are by any means adequate to such a view. But I believe that the people of this country are coming to the conclusion that there can be no quarrel fomented on the Continent in which it would be the duty of this country to take any part, either military or naval. The increasing taxation which the country has been called upon to bear during the last 12 years, the depression which has become chronic in many industries, and the out cry against the intolerable burden which rests upon the shoulders of the people, convinces me that there is a growing intention on the part of the people of this country to say "hands off" with regard to Continental affairs. I should like to read a few words of my right hon. Friend the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), who said—I cannot help thinking; that Europe is inarching towards some great catastrophe; the crushing weight of their military systems cannot be supported with patience, and their effects may before long sweep away the personages who occupy Thrones, and the instruments who govern in their names.I believe that an utterance of this sort which comes from the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham is one which must affect the mind of every thinking man in this country. It certainly looks now as if Continental nations were going towards some great catastrophe. I ask, is this country prepared to take a share in this great race, and to leap into this gulf? We are in a position so far unentangled with Continental affairs that we have the chance of holding back ourselves, and, at the same time, of exercising a wise and 308 restraining influence in Europe; and we are the only European Power which is able to do so. I cannot help thinking that there must be many people in this country who would be very glad if our Government could see its way towards a prompt withdrawal from any position which might involve the entanglement of the British Forces in any quarrel, either with regard to Bulgaria or as between Germany and Franco. There is absolute silence on the other side of the House. I desire to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). I know very well, from the kindliness of his nature, that he would willingly do all that lies in his power in order that the peace of the Continent may be maintained; but in order that was may have some security for that, I behave it is necessary for the Government to show far more courage and consistency than it has shown in its declarations on foreign policy. Once let it be known that this country will lend its best influence towards the settlement of International disputes, and then not alone would the Government consult the true interest of this country, but, instead of having to bear the humiliation which would follow the course of interference which I have indicated, its position would be raised in the minds of all right-thinking people at home and abroad. I come now, Sir, to the question whether this large Force is necessary for the defence of the Empire; and I say that I am convinced that the security of the Empire will be increased and its safety insured just in proportion as we withdraw from meddling in the affairs of Europe. If we do not meddle in those affairs we shall have the respect of Continental nations; and the more consistently we take up that position and maintain it, the more advantage will follow. What are the Forces available for the defence of the country? I shall say not one word about the Yeomanry, which everyone knows, for the purpose of defence, has been obsolete for generations; but I am about to offer a suggestion whereby the right hon. Gentleman may fulfil the demands proposed to be met next year. There is a proposal of a Capitation Grant for the Volunteers of a which is to be postponed until next year. My suggestion is, that the right hon. Gentleman should 309 give 10s., and this, I am convinced, would be for the advantage of the country at large. Let them suppress immediately this soldier-play of the Yeomanry, and give the money to the Volunteers. It will cause a small increase in the Vote, but it will be approved by the country. We have 500,000 soldiers available for defence—that is, 140,000 Regular Troops, including officers; Militia, 120,000; Volunteers, 220,000; and at the back of that the Reserve Force, making a total of 500,000 men. I venture to say that, with a whole year's preparation on the part of Continental Powers, it would be impossible that they could land 300,000 men on these shores, and we have 500,000 men to meet them. Considering the security that our Fleet affords us, I venture to say that if 200,000 or 300,000 men were to embark for these shores, not one-third of them would ever reach the country. They would only be sport for our men-of-war, and the destruction would be terrific. Therefore, I say that the country would be justified in demanding a considerable reduction, both in the number of the soldiers and the expenditure which is incurred for the purpose of defence. We have never been able to get a cheap Army in this country; instead of its costing less per head, the tendency of late years has been to increase, and it will be so more and more in the Army, and especially in the Navy. As weapons become more scientific, they become more costly. I say there is no finality, either as to rifles or the armament of the Navy. There is a continuous advance made, one competitor going a step further than another, and, as competition increases, increased cost must necessarily follow. the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) brought great credit to the Conservative Party by putting forward some professions of economy in respect to the two great spending Departments, and the noble Lord left the Government because he could not make an immediate impression upon the rest of his Colleagues; but, instead of there being any diminution of expenditure, we have had, I believe, Supplementary Estimates amounting to £750,000, and we have also had an increase in the Estimates submitted to us to-night. Not only the noble Lord the Member for South Pad- 310 dington (Lord Randolph Churchill), but the right hon. Gentleman opposite, put forward professions of economy, by which I understand that the Conservative Party gained considerable credit throughout the country last year; but I venture to say that we have not to-night any substantial prospect of a reduction upon the Army and Navy Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman admits that in regard to our Coast defences they are left in a very inefficient position, and that it is necessary to go on, year by year, spending much more money. The right hon. Gentleman did not hesitate to say that if he were War Minister he should be courageous enough to ask the House for a considerable increase in expenditure in connection with some branches of our defences. I only wish to say, in impressing the points I have dwelt on upon the House, that this country should cither make up its mind to force every Government into an improved attitude in regard to this question of non-intervention, or it should be content to have an additional load year by year hung round its neck like Continental countries, which we see groaning under the increasing burdens they have to bear. On looking over the figures as to the proposition of annual expenditure on interest of war debts and the maintenance of armies and navies, I find it is calculated that half the taxation is disbursed in this way. But we in this country have gone far beyond that. We are spending nearer two-thirds of our taxation on the Army and Navy, interest on the National Debt, and on the small attempt we are making at reduction of Debt. This, I maintain, is an appalling state of affairs. When I remind the House that since the year 1870, or a little further back, the Civil expenditure has doubled itself—largely, of course, in consequence of that Act of true wisdom passed by this House, namely, the Education Act of 1870—when, I say, we remember that this enormous increase has taken place in the Civil expenditure, although what we are spending on education is productive, and will be remunerative, surely we ought to be making a grave attempt, on the other hand, to reduce our expenditure on an overgrown Army and Navy. I think the House of Commons will fail in its duty if over and over again this 311 question is not raised and discussed—if we do not avail ourselves of every opportunity that offers itself of raising it in order to make some impression on the Government, and the policy they pursue in regard to foreign affairs. When we consider the Estimates put before us year by year, and observe the enormous total of £31,000,000 spent on the Army and Navy, we stand appalled; j but we must remember that this by no means covers the expenditure. As year by year passes, we see Votes of Credit agreed to, now for £6,000,000, now for £11,000,000, for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 on another occasion. If these are all totalled, it will be found that there is an addition of 10 to 20 per cent to be made in the ordinary Estimates presented to this House for Army and Navy Services. All I can say is, that I think the prospects of the country's industry are of a most gloomy character if, while we are subjected to increased competition, and to a denial of ordinary seasons at home, we are called upon to bear burdens that were unknown during very prosperous periods of our history. One of the first duties of the Representatives of the people—particularly when they know so well the suffering that almost universally prevails amongst almost all classes except those who enjoy the proceeds of public taxation—is to make an effort, it may be over and over again, to produce some permanent effect upon the Government in the way of bringing about a reduction of these swollen Estimates.
§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I had intended to bring before the notice of the House the question of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) in regard to the Capitation Grant for the Volunteers, and more especially to his injurious proposition to make it entirely dependent upon getting out of the third class in musketry; but after the appeal the right hon. Gentleman has made to us, I will not prevent him from taking the Votes in Committee. I am the more induced to take this course because I understand the right hon. Gentleman to promise me that he will make no order effecting a change in the matter of the Capitation Grant until he has received a deputation of commanding officers of Volunteers, and has had time to consider 312 the views which they will lay before him.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think the hon. Member who has just sat down is quite right in refraining from making a long speech on this occasion; but the reason which should restrain him does not apply to me. We have had three or four very able and very long speeches from the other side of the House, so that the views of hon. Members in that quarter may be taken to be pretty well ventilated. It is unfortunate that they cannot state their opinions without doing it at considerable length; but, at any rate, after what they have said, we in this quarter have a right to be heard. I think I am quite right in asserting that hon. Members on the other side have spoken for by far the greater portion of the time to-night. I will, therefore, take the liberty to occupy a brief space. I can quite see that the central idea that has been in the minds of the advisers of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is with regard to the formation of two Corps d' VArmée; but I must point out that it will be a very dangerous idea if they let it go too far. The idea is to have a completely organized Army of about 70,000 men for two Corps d'Armée, and they are prepared to make sacrifices for that. No doubt it is a very good thing to have 70,000 men who can be mobilized at any time. It is a good thing from a War Office point of view, though from the point of view of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) there should be no such idea as the formation of two Corps d'Armée, capable of rapid mobilization, as it would be a temptation to this country to in terpose in foreign complications. I am not sure that the advisers of the right hon. Gentleman are not sacrificing too much for their idea, because it seems to me that a great country requires something more than 70,000 men for defensive purposes, or for use in the event of a large war. I do not think it should be left out of consideration altogether that some day or other this country may be invaded. The hon. Member for Bradford says that if 500,000 men were sent out to invade us only a very small proportion would be able to land on our shores—that probably two-thirds of them would be sunk on the way. For myself, I do not think that that would be the case; but let us sup- 313 pose that the 500.000 men were enabled to reach our shores—what force would you have to meet them? The hon. Member for Bradford says that we should have 500,000 men to meet them—and he is not very far wrong. Taking into consideration the Volunteers and the Militia, and swelling the force of the garrisons we have in our fortresses, we might take it that we have a fair fighting force of 300,000 men. Still, does anyone think that the number of Horse Artillery we should find ourselves possessed of would be sufficient for a force of that size? They certainly would not be sufficient for such an Army, although they might be for two Corps d' Armée of 70,000 men. It must be remembered that it would take at least two years to turn a Field Battery into an efficient Horse Artillery. You cannot improvise Horse Artillery. You are now going to give up all our Horse Artillery except only so much as you require for 70,000 men. Our Horse Artillery must be ready to run away if need be, and to take rapid action in the field, and in order to bring about a proper state of efficiency in such a force you require the best men you can get, and the best training you can procure. The men must all be first-class riders as well as efficient in musketry practice. Horse Artillery, in fact, would be worse than useless on active service unless it is very good. It seems to me, therefore, that with a largo and complete Field Artillery, including in that word Horse Artillery, you will be what commercial men call cutting it a great deal too fine. The Government in 1872 reduced the Volunteer Artillery, and I remember pointing out at the time that the course they were taking was a very dangerous one. The defence for the step at that time was that the Volunteer Artillery would not be effective as a Field Artillery; but now you are reducing our Horse Artillery because they are too good. You are cutting away at both ends. You have taken away from the number of our Field Force, and now you are taking away from the Force which is by far the most difficult to re-create; and I repeat emphatically that in this proceeding you are doing a very dangerous thing. I give you this advice just as I presumed to offer you advice in 1872. It will take two years before the present Horse Artillery cease to be Horse Artillery and become Field Artil- 314 lery; and I would advise the right hon. Gentleman to make his conversion in such a manner that during the next two years the Horse Artillery which he is converting into a Field Artillery may be re-converted into a Horse Artillery. I think it is not at all unlikely that within this period of two years he may find it necessary to reverse the process he is now undertaking. I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman another point—namely, the pay of the men. The Force that he is going to convert into a Field Artillery have been getting higher pay as Horse Artillery, and they have come to look upon this higher pay just as the right hon. Gentleman looks upon his emoluments as a right. the amount the men have been receiving as extra Horse Artillery pay is only a sum of £1,500; but this is an amount that these men will miss, and that they ought not to be deprived of. You say you will bring the men back into the Horse Artillery. Well, you may bring some of them back—you will no doubt, with the exception of a few, bring them all back. You will bring the very best of them back, but there will be some inferior to others, and these will not be picked out, so that in the matter of pay you will be inflicting an injustice upon those few left behind. The item is only a small one, but I think, in justice to these men, the point I raise should be considered. There is another argument which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War made use of which I think on reflection, he, with his logical mind, will see is not a sound one. He says that one reason for not increasing the Horse Artillery is because there is not a sufficient number of good horses in the country. I contend that this matter of the supply of horses is simply a question of supply and demand. If you keep the number of horses down in peace time, you will not have a sufficient number to draw from in time of war. The question of the supply of food and the other points are only so many arguments brought in to support a preconceived idea, and I must say I think the right hon. Gentleman is pushing that idea altogether too far. You will have our Volunteers without any Field Artillery support—you take away from the Field Artillery and then you suppress the Horse Artillery, and you take away a number of horses from the Field Ar- 315 tillery for the purpose of putting them in an ammunition column. Supposing our two Army Corps lose a battle, and are taken prisoners, what will be our position? You will find that you have left our Volunteers with no guns at all, excepting a small force of Horse Artillery, and in the worst possible state for sustaining a fight—that is to say, with all their horses taken for the ammunition column. With regard to this other question connected with the Horse Artillery—namely, the question of horses—my contention is, that there is an ample supply of good animals in the country, which you could obtain if you would only pay a little more than you do for our supply. If you raised your contract price you would find very little difficulty, in the course of three or four years, in getting all the horses you want. I will tell you how you obtained your horses some 10 or 12 years ago, because I was acquainted with the officer who had to buy them. You had a largo contractor in London, who arranged with the farmers in the North of England to buy all the horses that they could supply of four or five years of age. It was found that the farmers sent all their best horses to dealers to be sold for carriage purposes, and those that were not good enough for carriages were thrown into the Artillery. This was because the Army contractor was not able to compete with the private purchaser. If he had been prepared to give a little more money for his horses, 3'our contractor would have been able to get the best animals. I hold that there are any number of good horses to be obtained in London alone. I am certain that if you sent men round to gather up all the horses that could be found in Hyde Park, and in other parts of London, you would get, in the course of a week, 20.000 of as good horses as you could possibly want. I repeat that you do not pay a sufficient price for your horses. There is another method, as has been pointed out by a Cavalry General, by which you could improve our supply of horses and the quality of the horses you obtain at the same time. I think this result would be effected by establishing sires in Ireland. I do not know that sires are so much wanted in England as they are in Ireland; but under present conditions in Ireland the horses run small, and are hardly of 316 much use for Artillery. They are well-bred animals, but rather too light. I had intended to say something about the magazine rifles, but do not think it desirable to take up the time of the House at this late hour. I must say, however, that I do not think the late Secretary of State for War gave very good advice to the present occupant of that Office. I think if you keep waiting for the best magazine rifle which can be produced, it is very possible that you may bring about a condition of things similar to that which astonished the world during the short war between Germany and Austria not long ago. We all know the extraordinary result of the adoption of the needle-gun by Germany. The German needle-gun was by no means a good weapon; but, poor as it was, it had an enormous advantage over the weapon in use in the Austrian Army. It seems to mo, therefore, that it would be advisable for the Army Authorities of this country to possess themselves now of 10,000 or 20,000 magazine rifles, although there may be a better pattern invented later on. If we had such a supply, we should be ready for any pressing emergency, and should still be in a position to reconsider the question of the adoption of an efficient pattern. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War could follow the advice of his Predecessor in regard to the magazine rifle without incurring a certain amount of risk.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
Before you leave the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) whether he would tell us why, in the new Royal Warrant, he has deprived medical officers of their relative rank? I would tell him that the course he is adopting is causing considerable dissatisfaction amongst the medical officers of the Service. Gentlemen who have occupied the position of the Secretary of State for War have recognized that with medical officers, as with many other people, rank is everything. By your new arrangement you are bringing about a most important change in the status of the medical officers—in fact, from their point of view, you are degrading them. That is their feeling—they feel that you are degrading them to a lower status than the Commissariat. 317 I think this branch of the Service does rot deserve such treatment. If the right hon. Gentleman will glance over the list of casualties—if he will search among the records of the killed and wounded for the lust few years, he will find the names of a large proportion of medical officers. If he will look into the records to see who have obtained the Victoria Cross of late years, he will find that medical officers have as much right as any other men in the Service to be called combatant officers. I contend that this is no mere matter of sentiment. The position and comfort of those officers is being affected by the proposal of the Government. They are combatant in position as well as rank, and I fail to see what the Medical Service has done to justify such treatment. I think they would understand your arrangement much better if you were giving them the same pay as combatants; but you are doing nothing of the kind—you are merely degrading them from their present positions. If this policy is carried out, I believe you will find great difficulty in getting medical men to join the Army. Instead of abolishing relative rank, you ought to have given medical officers actual rank, as is done in Continental Armies. That would be considered by medical officers as something better than even an increase in their salaries. I do not know of anything the members of the Medical Department have done to cause the War Office or the Horse Guards to deprive them of the very great privilege I have mentioned. During the time I speak of they have lost greatly in killed and wounded, many of them have gained the Victoria Cross, and they have done a great deal to reduce the death-rate in the Army—the death-rate has been reduced from 19 to 6 per 1,000 at homo, and from 17 to 15 per 1,000 in India. I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the reasons which have caused the Government to reduce the Medical Profession to its present position in the Army, and thus create great dissatisfaction amongst our Army medical officers.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I do not propose to engage the attention of the House for more than a very few minutes; but I wish to mention certain educations which might be very properly effected in the Estimates, and the 318 saving applied to the benefit of the private soldier in the way of a free kit and rations, which he has always been promised, but never yet been able to get. The first item in which I suggest a reduction is that for the Staff—very nearly £200,000 is required for the General Staff. A reduction might also be very well made in the item—£90,000—for Commissariat and Transport. Our Army is the most over-stocked Army in Europe. We have the Quartermaster General's Staff and the Adjutant General's Staff—two Staffs which ought to have been amalgamated 16 years ago. We have the Medical Staff, the Commissariat Staff, and the Ordnance Staff, and I cannot help thinking that these Staffs might be amalgamated in peace time as they are amalgamated in war time. The Staff we keep at Aldershot, in order to supervise about half-a-dozen skeleton battalions, is equivalent to the entire German Staff in time of war. The next matter I wish to advert to is the increased expenditure on civilian clerks at the War Office. Last year the civilian clerks were increased to about 400, and their pay amounted to £118,000. We have about 85 military clerks receiving only £100 a-year each. The work is very easy and very quickly learnt. I cannot understand why we should not have more military clerks at £100 a-year each, and fewer civilian clerks drawing £290 a-year each. The worst of all is that these clerks have to justify their existence, and they do this by calling for Returns, the number of which increases every year. There is no reason why money should not be saved by cutting down the Returns made in the Service. For instance, the Returns which are now made monthly might be made half-yearly, and the Returns now made half-yearly might be made yearly. At present soldiers are turned into accountants, in order to produce Returns which are never wanted by anybody, which are no more good than the Blue Books which hon. Members get every morning. One word with regard to the expenditure on military law. The administration of military law costs £35,000 a-year. This expenditure is occasioned as much as anything by the number of desertions and courts martial. Last year there were 1,500 desertions, and about 10,000 courts martial. Now, if commanding officers were allowed to eliminate the 319 bad characters from the ranks, the number of desertions and the amount of crime would diminish. Bad characters are turned out now, but as soon as they are turned away they enlist in another regiment. The only way to reduce crime in the Army, and to eliminate bad characters, is to mark every man, from the Commander-in-Chief downwards, who enters the Army. I should like to call attention to the question of transport. In England regiments are moved from one place to another two or three times a-year. Cavalry regiments move right across England once a-year, without the slightest rhyme or reason. It is said the practice has always been carried out, and it always must be. An enormous sum might be saved by a reduction in the expenses of transport. The sums saved might be expended in ameliorating the condition of the private soldier, in giving him a free kit and free rations, and 1s. a-day, which has been promised. A free kit he never gets; but at the end of every year he finds himself £1 in debt. As to free rations, he is supplied with 1 lb. of bread and three-quarters of a pound—very often only half-a-pound—of the worst possible meat, and his 1s. a-day which has been promised to him is brought down to about 8½d. I venture to think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) and hon. Members who know anything of the subject will agree with me that nothing disgusts a soldier more than to find that he has been taken in—that, in fact, he was induced to enlist upon false pretences.
MR. DELISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
Mr. Speaker, it is with extreme reluctance I rise to interpose between the House and the Committee; but I consider I have a duty to perform. I wish to direct attention to a very important point in the Memorandum which has been supplied to hon. Members, and to remind the House that in that Memorandum an admission is made which reflects very seriously upon the conduct either of this or previous Parliaments. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) states in this Memorandum—It will be observed that provision is made in the Estimates for carrying on the works of defence at our coaling stations, and for providing them with guns; beside the amount to be 320 voted for the work of submarine mining. The sum taken is somewhat in excess of that which has for the last two years been included in the Estimates. It will enable the defences of Hong Kong, Sierra Leone, and, approximately, those of Singapore, to be completed.It is to the word "approximately" I object. I shall show, in a very few words, that the use of that word "approximately" amounts to an admission that the House of Commons has been guilty, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in the previous paragraph of the Memorandum, of "a breach of faith." At the same time, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the courage and candour which have enabled him to place before us the real state of things. We have made a bargain with Singapore to provide the necessary armaments, if the Government of the Straits Settlements would pay for the forts, and yet we have failed to fulfil the obligation we undertook. A more serious charge could not be made, and I would not have made it, especially at this late hour (1.15) of the Sitting, had I not been connected with the Colony of Singapore, and had some opportunity of learning something of the circumstances. Only the other day I received two letters upon this subject from Members of the Straits Settlements Legislative Council. I will not give the writers' names; this might be inconvenient; but I may be permitted to read passages from the letters. One of my correspondents says—After the answer given by the Secretary of State for War to Sir William Crossman's inquiries on Tuesday, it is quite clear that much greater pressure than any that has yet been brought to bear is needed to make them ask for more money, which is what is required to enable the manufacture of guns to be expedited by holding out inducements to private firms to lay down machinery at once for manufacture of guns. It is nearly three years since the Imperial Authorities knew what they had to do, and they have so far given Singapore four new guns, and remounted a few obsolete inefficient ones; and they propose to give us the balance by driblets, "to be completed in 1889. And, meantime, are they going to give us first-class modern ships till we get our guns—have they got them to spare for the purpose? The Secretary of State for War says on certain stations, including Singapore, the Government has spent £183,530, and expect to spend £206,555—i.e., on the armaments of those stations: but he is very careful to avoid saying over what period that expenditure is extended.I will now read an extract from the second letter I have received, the writer 321 being a gentleman who is well up in everything which concerns the defences of Singapore—I am very glad to see that you propose to call attention to the question of our coaling stations. Ever since I have come home, I have been representing how disgraceful it is that the Mother Country does not fulfil her obligations to her Colonies; and have been urging that we should not put off till to-morrow what should be done to-day. At Singapore we have rushed through what we were asked to do, only to find that a part of the ordnance has not even been ordered yet. People write and talk as if something colossal was involved. Why, if the recommendations of the Royal Commission had not been emasculated, it would have only meant the cost of construction of three first-class ironclads for all our coaling stations put together.Now, the point I wish to impress upon the House is that until the armaments of any Colony are completed, the money spent is as good as thrown in the sea. Your capital is dead capital; it makes no return. Therefore, I say that, in the interests of this country as well as of the Colonies, it is the duty of the Government of the day to see that at all costs the armaments and fortifications which have been commenced are completed without any delay. We are informed that Singapore will not be armed for several more years to come, except "approximately." Singapore is the high road between the Eastern Seas and the Southern Seas; it commands the whole of the trade between England and China, and much of the trade with Australia; and, therefore, it is most important that this, at least, of our coaling stations should be adequately defended. If the Government are unable to get from this House a Vote of money sufficient to enable them to perform what is a most serious duty, they ought to raise a loan for the purpose. The point has already been well touched upon by the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley). The sentence which follows the one I have quoted from the Memorandum shows there is a means of doing what is a matter of duty, and which, if not done, implies a breach of faith. It is said—Some advance will be made in other cases also; but it cannot be denied that an acceleration of this work beyond the rate of progress laid down in 1884 would be eminently desirable, especially as it is well known to everyone who has looked into the subject that more than one station of primary importance still remains undefended.I would venture to suggest that no ad- 322 vance need be made in the other cases until our obligations are satisfied with regard to Singapore. It is surely more prudent to have one place quite completed than half-a-dozen approximately complete. Besides, when you read these words you imagine the Government are going to act upon the lines laid down in 1884; but they are going to do no such thing. The fault lies between the Government and the House of Commons. In 1884 it was solemnly declared to the Government of Singapore that if they would spend a certain sum of money upon the fortifications, the guns should be completed and ready to be mounted on the fortifications in 1887. This Memorandum clearly shows that it is not intended that the armaments shall be completed until 1889. I maintain that if you are really in earnest in respect to the fortification of our coaling stations, you ought to set about the work at once. When I was at Singapore there was a fleet of eight Russian war vessels cruising about and surveying the harbours for nearly six months at a time. They could have seized upon the place in as many hours if war had been declared. Lest anybody should think I have been guilty of exaggeration in what I have said, I will call attention to the words of the Memorandum. My experience is a very short one; but I doubt whether any Minister of State has ever made such a candid confession which so seriously involves the credit of this House and the Government as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War does in this Memorandum. The right hon. Gentleman says—I am anxious to bring prominently forward the fact that the manufacturing and engineering departments necessarily enter into contract engagements extending over several years, and that a sudden curtailment of Estimates may often mean not only the stoppage of a particular work, but the loss of a large part of the money already expended, or it may involve a breach of faith. Take, for instance, the expenditure upon our coaling stations, which is, and ought to be, regulated by the general scheme laid down in 1884, accepted by the Treasury, and at that time submitted to Parliament. Upon the faith of that scheme we have induced some of our Colonies to vote, and to expend large sums of money on the understanding that, if they would undertake the cost of the works, the Imperial Parliament would find the armaments. In more than one case the Colony has kept its part of the bargain, while the Imperial Government has not obtained the necessary funds to do so. 323 In all these cases the faith of Parliament is deeply pledged, and, quite independently of the great interests involved, we are bound in honour to provide the necessary funds, at least upon the scale laid down in 1884.If the House is not willing to vote the money this year, I ask it to authorize the Government to raise a loan with which to complete the armaments in a proper way. It' such a proposition cannot be entertained; if the House is utterly careless of the engagements made by previous Houses of Commons; if the House is prepared to follow the example of a noble Lord and sacrifice its reputation upon the altar of thrift and economy, I can only hope that the authorities who are interesting themselves in the celebration of the Jubilee of Her Majesty will devote the funds they have collected to build a superfluous Imperial Institute Hall to discharge this most important and necessary duty of the country—namely, to fulfil its engagements in respect to the fortifications of our coaling stations, at least as far as Singapore is concerned.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
It is not my intention to deal at length with the question before the House. We have practically gone round the world in our discussion this evening, and I had intended to bring under consideration, and call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman who has this matter in hand to, the fitness of Seychelles as a coaling station. But, we having had a satisfactory answer from a right hon. Gentleman belonging to another Department connected with the subject, I shall not deal with it to-night. I think we have not received a satisfactory assurance from any hon. or right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench with regard to the Medical Department of the Army, which, by the statement made earlier in this discussion by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), appears to be in a very unsatisfactory condition. I remember that not many years since, when that Department was as low as it could possibly be, we could not get young men at the various Medical Schools to enter for the Army Medical Department. Since that time you have had progress made in this Department, which has tended to allay the fears and satisfy the longings of men who entered the Service. I am not going to pursue that 324 point, however. I wish to say that I have received five letters upon the subject of the Army Medical Department from different parts of the world. Some of them are from personal friends, and, if what I understand from them be true, the state of affairs is at present very serious. The last letter I received only yesterday afternoon, and I am told that, practically speaking, the medical men in the Army who are serving at Aldershot do not know whether they are entitled to wear the uniform at all, and if they are entitled to wear the uniform, whether the badges they hold in the Service are not to be altogether done away with. These gentlemen have to go through a long training, to undergo a good deal of trouble and self-denial, and they have to expose themselves to much danger—quite as much as any hon. and gallant Gentleman who has spoken in the debate of this evening. That being so, I say that the rights of these men must be recognized; and I maintain, unless something is done to improve their position in the Army, that you will be placing yourselves in a false and unwise position. I will quote a few figures taken out of the last Report which I have been able to lay my hands upon this evening in the Library. I find that of 187,786 men you have an enormous proportion admitted yearly into hospital. If you take these figures and lay them to heart, you will see that by doing anything which will militate against this most important branch of the Service, you will do great harm not merely to the Army, but to the various factors which compose it, and perhaps to that portion of the population from which you recruit the Army. You have 9,302 non-effectives, and you have 3,019 men discharged last year as invalids. I say that if you do not offer inducements for the best men to enter the Army, men who are able not only to deal with sickness when it crops up, but who can distinguish whether the recruits submitted to them are sound men, you will get into your Army a large number of cripples whom you will have to discharge, and also have to pay for. There are upon the Paper a number of Amendments to this Vote by some of the highest authorities in the House; among them the hon. Member for Hackney has a question upon this very point, and I am assured by my hon. Friends 325 from Ireland that they are not satisfied with the answers which have emanated from the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I sincerely hope. Mr. Speaker, that before this debate closes some satisfactory assurance will be given to gentlemen who are already in the Service; and I also trust that some assurance will be given to the junior medical officers in the Army that they will not immediately be translated to a warm climate—India, for instance—in their first year of service. That has been the practice, and I have pointed out how it has happened again and again that numbers of these young men having joined the Medical Department have met their death in the first 12 months. Many of the men who enter the Service are young and unseasoned; and, therefore, I say you should give them a chance, and when they have become seasoned you can utilize them: but it is a great mistake to send out men to hot climates, as appears from the Reports presented by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), which show the actual cost of each trained soldier. Practically speaking, if you pass them through a certain amount of training and pay a certain amount of money for them, and if they become invalided and die in the first year of service, you will be inflicting a great loss on the country. I trust that the suggestions which I have made will be taken in the sense in which I desire them to be received by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Estimates; and I will, in conclusion, draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and other Medical Schools have practically endorsed this appeal on behalf of the Army Medical Service. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give me some assurance that the grievance of this Department of the Army will be dealt with in a satisfactory way.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.