HC Deb 19 February 1891 vol 350 cc1089-149
MR. HANBURY (Preston)

I desire to call attention to the pay and position of the non commissioned officers and privates of the Regular Forces. I have had once or twice, perhaps more than once or twice, placed on the Paper notices hostile to the administration of the War Office, or, at all events, to particular departments of it; but this Motion is not offered with any intention of that kind, and I hope my right hon. Friend will not deal with it in a controversial spirit. The Motion deals with the facts admitted by all who take an interest in the Army—facts which will have to be faced sooner or later, and the sooner the better. We have had, within the last two or three years, serious intimations that the supply of recruits has been falling off. We find that in 1885 we were able to recruit 39,500 men; in 1886, 39,000; in 1887 the number dropped to 30,700; in 1888 it fell still further to 24,700; but in 1889, under the extreme pressure of lowering the standard, it rose to 29,000. Last year it was 31,400, or nearly 8,000 a year less than it was five years ago, and we have 34,000 to be recruited during the present year. I think this decrease in the number of recruits available constitutes a very serious fact, and it becomes the more serious when we take it in connection with the fact that there is an increase in our land frontiers, which therefore require a larger Army to defend, and that our wealth also is enormously increasing, so that what has to be guarded by the troops becomes more valuable as time progresses. We have, too, an increasing population, yet we cannot get a larger number of recruits. It is rather difficult at the present time to ascertain the exact increase in the number of men of military age, because the Census Reports only give the ages in periods of five years. We know that between 1871 and 1881, the population of men between 15 and 25 years of age, grew at the rate of 43,000 a year, and I think it is only a fair and reasonable estimate to state that at the present moment the population of the military age—that is between the ages of 18 and 25—is increasing at the rate of 30,000 a year. With such an increase in the number of men from whom we naturally expect to draw our recruits, the fact remains that, not with standing the inducements of every kind offered by the War Office, we are unable to enlist the number of men we require yearly. Undoubtedly, men now have a fuller knowledge of the conditions of service, and can tell whether a military life is, or is not likely to suit them. During the last year we have had almost despairing appeals sent out from the War Office to the officers at recruiting districts praying them to use every means to attract men into the Army. The Inspector General of Recruiting himself gives a most remarkable instance of it. He tells us that there is immense difficulty in getting 1,000 men a year for so popular a force as the Foot Guards, although 15 noncommissioned officers are stationed on recruiting duty at the most favourable spots throughout the Kingdom, and although special terms are offered to the recruiting officers at regimental districts, seeing that 5s. is given for a recruit for the Guards, while only 2s. 6d. is given for a recruit for the Line. In addition to all this, we have what is a much more serious matter, and that is the almost ridiculously reduced standard both of height and chest measurement. I find that in 1870, the last year of long service, the standard for Infantry stood at 5ft. 8in. What is it now? The Foot Guards themselves last year reduced their standard from 5ft. 8in. to 5ft. 7in., an inch below what was the regular standard of the whole of the Infantry during the last year of long service. But putting the Foot Guards on one side, how about the other branches of the Service? I find that Artillery gunners have reduced their standard from 5ft. 6in. to 5ft. 5½ in.; the standard for Drivers has been reduced from 5ft. 4in. to 5ft. 3in., and the chest measurement of 34in. is put down to 33in. I do not know what sort of a soldier you can get with a chest measurement of that kind. Your present Infantry standard is 5ft. 4in., with a chest measurement of only 33in., and a weight of 1151bs. One would think that that is as far as the authorities would have ventured to go. But will the House believe that this is merely a nominal standard, and by no means the real standard. I was surprised to see in the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting last year that over 6,000 men—or rather boys—between the ages of 18 and 19, who were below this standard were actually passed into the Army, below a height of 5ft. 4in., and having less than a chest measurement of 33in. I am sorry to see that exactly the same thing has been going on during the last year, although, unfortunately, the Inspector General of Recruiting does not give us the figures. I do not think the War Office Reports should gloss over matters of this kind. We should have the figures put plainly before us, so that we might know the exact number of these utterly worthless recruits. I hope that in the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War will give us this information. It must be recollected, too, that these men whom we do not get in sufficient numbers, do not represent the total number of recruits. They are really the cream of the recruits, for they are those who pass into the Army after two selections have taken place. A certain number are first rejected by the recruiting sergeant, and then we find that no fewer than 47 per cent. Were rejected by the medical officer. Yet I repeat that with all this you do not get a sufficient number of recruits. In 1890 the Establishment was short of a little over 4,000 men, and I am sorry to say that in January, 1891, it was short of 4,692men. That, of course, is the Establishment of the Regular Forces. It is a startling fact that even with this ridiculously low standard we cannot keep up our Establishments. Then what about the other branches of the Service? If the Regular Army is short of men how about the Auxiliary Forces, to which we have to look to support them? I find the Militia are 1,865 less than last year, and 22,559 below the Establishment. My right hon. Friend says the Yeomanry are stationary; but the expression, with regard to that force means a very bad state of affairs, because although the Yeomanry Establishment should only be 14,000 strong yet its present strength is 3,500 below that number. The Volunteers, too, have fallen off in number by 3,000. I believe that, to some extent, is due to the weeding out of inefficient men, possibly a step in the right direction. And with regard to the Militia, it is necessary to bear in mind that even with their reduced numbers no fewer than 28 per cent. of the men were absent from training altogether. Again, I find another source of difficulty in the facts dealing both with men entering the Service and men who are at the end of their service. These facts bear upon recruiting, as it were, at both ends of the scale. I find that 1,313 purchased their discharge within three months, against 1,042 in the same period in the, preceding year, so that it does not look as if the Service is becoming most popular. Again, the number invalided was at the rate of 9.7 against 6.5 per cent. in the previous year, and it does not appear, therefore, as if we were getting stronger men into the Army. I am sorry to say that that is the conclusion at which the Inspector General of Recruiting has himself arrived, for he says that even the reduction of the standard has made no appreciable difference to the number of recruits. Then, again, take the men leaving the Service. Only 20 per cent, of the men leaving the reserve join again for the supplemental reserve, and thus in five years we have lost 38,000 men, a most invaluable body on whom we might have relied for fighting our battles. The Inspector General of Recruiting, while admitting these facts, suggests the possibility that we shall have to pay our soldiers more money in the future. If we are obliged to do so I believe there is nothing within the scope of the Army Estimates upon which the people would most willingly expend money than the pay of the private soldier. Undoubtedly, a great deal of money is spent in our Army Estimates, and a great deal of it is wasted; but I think that an increase of pay is our last resource. Let us see whether there is not some other inducement which can be offered to men of good physique and character to join the Army. The other day I came across an article in a magazine by an officer who knows more about private soldiers and takes more interest in them than any other man living. I refer to General Sir Frederick Roberts. He wrote an article in one of the magazines so long ago as 1884, and I am sorry to say that hardy one of the recommendations therein made has been attended to. He laid great stress upon the uncertainty of a soldier's position, and especially a non- commissioned officer's position. He laid stress, too, upon the fact that a soldier is more or less deceived when he enlists in the Army. That is a very strong statement for a man in his position. He says that under the present system there is no esprit de corps in the Army. If that is true, it is an alarming state of things He says the Army does not offer now, as it used to do, a career to good soldiers. That, too, is a lamentable state of things. Then, again, he says the social status of a soldier is not what it should be. There are a good many bad characters in the Army, and they are not driven out as rapidly as they ought to be. Then he mentions a whole series of petty annoyances, such as an unnecessary amount of "sentry-go," an almost ridiculous amount of drill, and a mania for mere parade movement. If all this be true it appears to me that a good deal might be done before we are reduced to the necessity of raising the soldier's pay. What is it Sir Frederick Roberts has to say upon this question? He lays great stress upon the uncertainty of a soldier's pay. I believe this is a grievance which is felt by officers as well as by men. They say that by the constant issue of royal warrants it is utterly impossible for a man to know what his position is from day to day.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

Will the hon. Member give an instance?


I believe my hon. Friend the Member for one of the London divisions has a Motion on the Paper with regard to the position of officers, which raises this very question.


But will the hon. Gentleman give me an instance with regard to private soldiers?


No, I cannot do that, but I can quote the words of Sir Frederick Roberts. He says that he has time after time wanted men to take stripes, or desired a sergeant who has completed his term to remain in the Army, and the reply has been, "No, Sir, we do not wish to stop in the Army any longer; it is the uncertainty that is driving us out of it." I shall be willing to show that quotation to my right hon. Friend if it will have any effect upon him. But what is far more serious than the uncertainty of pay is the fact that you do not keep good faith with the soldier after you enlist him. The soldier after all is not a keen lawyer. He is not a highly educated man, and as Sir Frederick Roberts says, "he is misled by the pamphlets which invite him to join." He takes the language of the posters, and these posters tell him that on his joining the Army the soldier is supplied with clothes and free kit, and whilst in the performance of his duty he receives a daily free ration, of meat and bread. But although the soldier is led to believe he will get a free kit and free rations, we know very well that that it is not what is meant. We are told that he ought not to be satisfied with reading the posters, but should go to the post office and get a pamphet that describes the advantages of the Army. But if he were to read the pamphlet I do not know that he would be any the wiser. What does the pamphlet say? It says that in addition to money wages, the soldier receives a ration of bread and meat, lodging, fuel, light, medical attendance for himself, and, if married, for his family. That on joining the Army he is supplied with a complete outfit of clothing and a free kit, and afterwards he is supplied periodically with the principal article of clothing without charge, but that he is required to supply his own under-clothing and other necessaries and to pay for repairs as well as for groceries, vegetables and washing, but not for his bedding. Now, let us take the question of food. The ration is valued at sixpence, but I should think it only represents one-half or two-thirds of soldiers' food in the course of the day.


One half.


My hon. and gallant Friend says it only represents one-half Then I think it ought to be made very distinct in the posters and pamphlets that a free ration only means one-half of the food a man requires. I have no doubt a man gets an adequate supply of bread. It is in the matter of meat that he falls short, for certainly the three-quarters of a pound (including bones) which is provided cannot be considered sufficient for youthful and growing recruits. Then it is questionable whether a soldier gets all he is entitled to. The contracts are not always given to the most respectable or responsible men. They are given to the men who will supply at the cheapest rate; and the year before last I find that the average contracts for the whole Army was only 4d. per pound. That is a very low rate. I believe there are documents in the War Office which would convince my right hon. Friend that before the meat reaches the soldier a good deal of pilfering goes on. Then, again, some of it is spoiled by bad and inefficient cooking. Would it not be possible, in order for the soldier not to be misled in any way, for the Government to supply him with the whole of his rations? That would reduce the uncertainty of his position. Now, I will go a step further, and take the case of his lodgings. The soldier is told by the pamphlet that he is going to have free lodgings, but he would not assume from the words of the pamphlet that he practically takes the barracks upon a repairing lease.


No, no.


It is all very well for my right hon. Friend to call "No, no," but in the first place a soldier has to pay a considerable sum for barrack damages, and what galls him more than anything else is the belief that the money he pays does not go to repair the damages. Either the Government is unfairly treating the soldier, or somebody is dealing unfairly with the Government. Again, take the case of fuel. Has not a soldier to buy it in the winter?




My right hon. Friend says he does not, but the evidence is that a soldier has to buy a considerable amount of fuel in the winter time. Then, again, take the question of medical attendance. He is told he is to have medical attendance free. I am not quite sure, but that if he had his full pay and free medical attendance it might not lead to a great deal of shamming and malignering, but that might be carefully guarded against, and I do say that the deductions from a soldier's pay ought not to take place when he is in hospital from no fault of his own. The regulations already provide that if he is in hospital suffering from wounds or from illness contracted during service in the field, he is not to be subjected to these stoppages; and I say that that provision should be extended to every soldier who goes into hospital through no fault of his own—suffering, perhaps, from inflammation of the lungs caught while on sentry-go. Again, the man is promised a complete outfit of clothing. together with periodical renewals of the principal articles of clothing. But what interpretation do the War Office put upon that regulation? They say that a shirt is not a principal article of clothing. Will my right hon. Friend deny, therefore, that a soldier's shirt has to last for seven years? Then my right hon. Friend will not deny that a soldier has to pay for his sea-kit when he embarks on board a vessel, and also for a great part of his Indian uniform when he goes to India. Is that in accordance with the promise of the War Office? I was present at a lecture at the United Service Institution a little while since, when an officer from Woolwich gave some very interesting statistics on this point. He took the case of a driver in the Horse Artillery who was sent to India. By the time the voyage was completed and he had been in India two months, his pay would have amounted to £5 7s. 6d., but out of that he would have been called upon to pay £3 8s. 10d. for clothing. Surely that is distinctly contrary to the promise made to the soldier that he shall have a free kit. Again, the soldier is promised the use of the library free. But he does not get it free; he has to pay so much a month. I know the War Office contribute a certain amount—I think it is £2 10s. 0d. per Company per year—towards the support of the library. But why is it not stated to the recruit that he will have to pay for the use of it? Then, again, he is told that he will have an opportunity of learning a trade. But we know that, with the exception of mounted branches, in which trades are taught useful to the War Office itself, and with the exception of some few regiments, there are no workshops for the men, and no inducements are held out to them to learn a trade. The teaching of a trade to a soldier is, perhaps, the most important thing in connection with his recruiting, and one of the things that is more likely to act as an inducement to him to enlist than anything else. I hope, therefore, fuller opportunities will be offered men to learn a trade when they get into the Army. Then comes the question of clothing. Soldiers feel a very great grievance in regard to the return into store of their old clothing. Knowing, as I do, what becomes of the clothing, what a miserable sum is paid into the Exchequer every year for the old clothing of the Army—a sum of, say, £40,000 or £50,000. Knowing the way in which the clothing is disposed of to a ring of Jew contractors, and the way in which the Army is disgraced by the use of worn-out uniforms by sandwich men and others, I do say it would be wise to grant to the soldier the small boon of letting him use his old clothes for the more dirty work he has to perform, and thus save him many a 6d. or 1s., to the extent of which he is now out of pocket. There are many other complaints in connection with clothing. It is utterly impossible to drive into the mind of the soldier that it is fair and wise that he should pay for non-expired clothing. He often thinks a coat is a great deal more worn than the War Office think it is, and that he has to pay a great deal more for the non-expired portion of its use than he ought to pay. He does not understand either why, when he has supplied himself with clothing at his own cost and it is lost, he has to refund the War Office for the unexpired portion of its use. Could not a great many of these grievances be swept away? Why not find a soldier a full and sufficient kit at starting, and give him enough money to keep him in clothes during his time of service? Such a system would teach men carefulness, cleanliness, and thrift. Another point on which Sir Frederick Roberts lays great stress is the want of esprit de corps in the Army. Sir Frederick Roberts says— Instead of being able to settle down in some corps and make it his home, he must be prepared to join a strange battalion in the East and West Indies, as if he had no more feeling than a bale of goods. He finds himself suddenly separated from his friends and acquaintances, and being thrown amongst an entirely new set of men has, so to speak, to begin the world again. Sir Frederick Roberts adds, that even the smartest man in the battalion has to go, and all the thanks he gets is to hear himself spoken of as "one of that wretched draft we got the other day from the home battalion." It is perfectly clear that if comradeship and love of regiment is to have any influence in the Army, this system is about the worst you can adopt. Again, I do think that if you are going to make the Army popular, you must get fewer bad characters in it. I believe that if you got more men of good character in the Service, even if yon paid them more, you would save in the end, as you would have fewer desertions and less imprisonment. Sufficient care is not taken to keep up the social status of the soldier. We are too ready to recruit anybody we can get. I have already said we are too ready to recruit men who are physically unfit for service, and it is a still greater evil, to my mind, to recruit men who are morally unfit. I would much sooner see the Army short of a few thousand men if, as a result, we got a better class of men than we do now. No doubt a large proportion of those who enter the Army now are men of good character; but a few bad men, a few fraudulent enlisters will carry mischief, evil, and insubordination from one battalion to another, and these are the men we must take every possible means of keeping out of the Army. I do not know how we are to accomplish this. We have done away with branding, and I would not advocate returning to it, but if some mark—even if it were only a vaccination mark—were placed on all men in the Army, from the officers downwards, you would know that you were not recruiting men who had fraudulently enlisted. If you cannot do this you might send Army recruits to one or two large stations where they would be likely to be recognised if they had been there before. You will have to deal also with the question of drunkenness in the Army a great deal more thoroughly than you have done up to the present. Drink is the cause of 19–20ths of the crime in the Army. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has taken any steps with regard to the sergeants' mess. From all I can hear the sergeants' mess which originally was intended to add to the position and dignity of the sergeant, has been for a great many years used as a mere dram shop. If the right hon. Gentleman will study the recent work of Colonel Buckstone he will find that one of the greatest curses in the Army is the sergeants' mess. Although they are forbidden to do so the sergeants serve men with drink during the forenoon, and make a profit because they sell at enhanced prices. How the evil of drunkenness is to be grappled with I do not quite know, but I think a check would be put upon the amount of liquor consumed in the sergeants' messes—it is out of all proportion to what the sergeants require for themselves—if the drink was bought through the Canteen Fund, and the bills paid as they ought to be by some commissioned officer. I also believe you would prevent a great deal of the drunkenness if you were to feed the soldier a little better. I have a keen suspicion that drink after all is the cheapest form of food the unfortunate soldier can find. It is not that he has any inclination to drink when he enters the Army, but he finds he is not properly fed. Having to buy his food he buys the cheapest, which he finds to be drink. I think this is a great argument why you should take the whole of the provisioning and rationing of your soldiers into your own hands. Again, if you are to raise the moral standard of the Army you will have to give the soldier more privacy. At present the soldier can hardly be by himself for a single hour in 24. He dines and sleeps in the same room. I find that 45 years ago a most important Commission set to inquire into the proper way of re-arranging our barracks, and the first recommendation they made—the one they laid most stress upon—was that soldiers should have a dining room distinct from their sleeping room. That is the case in some barracks, and I hope that in the new barracks he is building the right hon. Gentleman will see that the private soldier has separate dining and sleeping rooms. Whether you can grant him that or not there is at any rate one thing you ought to grant him: it is what is granted to every soldier in the German Army and in the English Army in India. At present the private soldier has no means of putting his things under lock and key. He has only a shelf and bag, and if you have bad characters in the regiments there is a good deal of stealing and pilfering. The recruit's kit especially is liable to plunder, and the recruit is not the man to dare to make his grievance known. Moreover, what career does the Army offer to a man? Sir Frederick Roberts says you have deliberately chosen the worst system, both for the convenience of the soldier and the interest of the country. He points out that seven years with the colours is not a short enough period to give you an adequate Reserve and it offers no career to the soldier. He takes the case of the artisan who joins the Army just at the time that he would be about finishing his apprenticeship. When he has spent seven years in the Army it is too late for him to begin work again. The same with the labourer. When he leaves the Army he cannot find employment, and is dissatisfied with his lot. Then there is the loafer. You might make something of him; but you treat him in the same way as the artisan and labourer, and he goes back to be a waif and stray. And you actually give £21 when a man, after seven years' service, leaves the barracks. You induce men by every means in your power not to make the Army a career. The bulk of the men, 'who have not learnt habits of thrift, spend the £21 in drinking and debauchery, and possibly in two or three days it is all gone, and when it is gone they cannot re-enlist because they cannot pay back their Reserve money. These men form the army of scarecrows who go through the country under the name of Reserve men, doing more than anything else to deter decent men from enlisting in the Army. And what is your Reserve? It has now been in existence 20 years. In 1870 you had 20,000 Reserves, and now you have 58,000. 6,000 or 7,000 have joined by means which are not usual; that is to say, they have been allowed to leave the colours before the seven years had expired, in order to enable you to form a large Reserve. You have only obtained the increase of 38,000 during 20 years. How many of the 38,000 are trained? None of them are trained. How many will turn up if necessity arises? To begin with, how many are in the Militia? That is a fact about which we ought to have some information. I think if we had all our Militia and Reserves called out at the same time, we should find that men belong both to the Militia and Reserves. I also wish to say a word upon the question of pay. I believe that deferred pay is to a great extent wasted. At any rate, if you are going in the last resort to increase the pay of the soldier, I do not believe the Army Estimates need be one penny bigger. There are many ways in which you might retrench. Deferred pay is one way. The great clerical staff is another. Some of the honorary colonelships are another. The great expense incurred in moving troops from one place to another is another. It is right that regiments should have the best quarters in town, but I hope that the building of new barracks will obviate the necessity of a frequent moving of troops. There is one set of men to whom you must pay more than you do now, and they are the non-commissioned officers. The noncommissioned officers are the very backbone of the army. Their responsibility now is very great; under the old system, when the non-commissioned officers were very old soldiers, I am afraid the subalterns threw a great deal of work on them, which ought properly to have been performed by others. If such a system worked with old seasoned soldiers, I doubt whether it will work with young soldiers under the territorial system; especially, you should do every thing you can to enhance the condition of the noncommissioned officer. He often comes from the same neighbourhood as the privates, he may meet the privates when he goes home on furlough, and it is essentially necessary he should be able to enforce discipline. Then, again, there are certain payments with regard to the non-commissioned officers which ought to be attended to. A lancecorporal, for instance, ought under the regulations to receive 3d. a day extra during the whole time he is lancecorporal, but I understand that as a matter of fact he only receives the same pay as a private soldier. How can he exercise discipline under such cases? Take the case of a man who has gained good conduct pay. If the man becomes a sergeant, I am told his good conduct pay is stopped. That surely ought not to be done. I am actually informed that the total pay of the married sergeant, whose wife is unable to do any washing for the company, is less than the pay of the married private, whose wife can do washing. The importance of the non-commissioned officer in the Army is so great that everything ought to be done, even by increased pay, to get them to remain longer in the Service. It may even be necessary to increase the pay of the private soldier. What is the pay of the private soldier? I have heard different statements: I have heard different commanding officers draw up different scales. The War Office make it out that a man is able to put by 4s. 3d. at the end of the week. I think the sum is more like half that amount. People compare soldiers to porters and others, putting aside altogether the fact that a soldier may sacrifice his life and sacrifices his liberty to an extent which hardly any other person does except, perhaps, the private servant, who has his wages and all found. Taking figures of the War Office, the soldier only gets between £12 and £13 a year and all found. Would you get a manservant for £12 or£13 and all found? Although I do not advocate it, I believe you would do the right thing for the Army and a popular thing in the country, if you were to offer greater inducements, such as those I have mentioned, and even by raising the pay of the soldier get better men to join the Army. The private soldier cannot strike like the average labourer; he cannot make his grievances heard like the average labourer, and yet he gives his life to the service of his country as the average labourer does not. The English soldier takes a part in war that no other private soldier does. Most of our great battles have been soldiers' battles, and the private soldier in the English Army runs a greater risk of losing his life than the private soldier in any other Army in the world. This is especially the case with picked men. This country is almost perpetually engaged in small wars, and therefore picked men run greater risk than men in other Armies do. Under such circumstances, we have a right to demand that the Government shall make the soldier's position as comfortable as they can. I do not only deal with the question of pay; I go further, and say you are bound to raise the social status of the soldier, to drive the bad out and get the good men into the Army. The honourable nature of the service counts for something, and there are no soldiers in the world called upon to fight more honourable battles than the soldiers of the British Army; they fight for defence of their country, for the commercial position of this country, upon which the trade and welfare of their fellow-subjects depend. Proper means, therefore, should be taken to remove this slur from the Army. Let the Army occupy as proud and honourable a position as the Navy, and there is no profession in the world to which a man should be more proud to belong.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in view of the increasing competition of civil employment, the present conditions of Military service urgently require to be so far modified as to provide a more regular and adequate supply of suitable recruits,"—(Mr. Hanbury,) —instead thereof.

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

(5.30.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)

In seconding the Motion I propose to do so with extreme brevity, and without any technicalities and details that can be avoided. The stereotyped War Office reply to these complaints is that though the conditions of life for the soldier leave much to be desired, yet he is better off than when the present Secretary for War took office, or much better off than in the Anti-Crimean War period. That may be so; but what we say and what General Rock, the Inspector General of Recruiting, says is, we cannot get good men for recruits while the rate of pay compares so unfavourably with the rate of wages in the labour market. The soldier does now serve under better sanitary conditions—except, perhaps, in the Royal Barracks, Dublin—he is better looked after. We know that in the Anti-Crimean period, he received a bounty of £4, and then his kit cost him £6, and stoppages were levied at the rate of 1d. a day for three or four years. Things are different now, and though the stoppages are sufficiently heavy, they are not so bad as they were. We know that 40 years back the old soldier had 2d. a day to live upon, and he now gets 5d.; that he has better quarters, recreation rooms, and his rations, though deficient in quantity, are better in quality than in former times. Yet the soldier is not happy, and I appeal to the recruiting test as indicating a grave dissatisfaction with the present state of things. Forty years ago we could get as many men as we required of the height of 5ft. 10in., with a chest measurement of 35in., and now we have to reduce the height to 5ft. 4in., and the weight to 8st. 2lb.; the class of men we get are extremely indifferent, and even then we cannot get enough, for there were 5,000 short on January 1, 1890, and this year I believe we are 2,500 short. I propose, if the House will permit me, to call attention to the grievances which the soldier has to submit to during the three periods of his existence; that is to say, when he enlists and does his soldier's duty, when he passes into the Reserve, and after he has been discharged. The first grievance he suffers, when he becomes a recruit, is that whereas he expected free rations he finds he does not get them, and so he feels he has been done, as he has been. He begins his service with a grievance, and he does not forget it all the time he is under the colours. There are several other minor grievances with the details of which I will not trouble the House, but which spring from the red tape and hide-bound way in which the Army has been managed for years past. Some of these hide-bound regulations have been relaxed by the influence of the present Secretary for War, especially in reference to passes and furlough, but several grievances remain. One is that when sent on foreign service a soldier is charged 13s. for a sea kit and the dress he wears on ship board on a voyage to India, the Cape, China, or elsewhere. Now, the soldier does not go to please himself; he goes in obedience to orders; and, therefore, it is rather hard that he should be mulcted in the sum of 13s. for the clothes to wear on duty. Then there is another point in reference to time-expired clothing. It does not sound like a very big thing, but it gives rise to much complaint, and gives considerable trouble to officers commanding regiments. I fail to understand why a soldier should not keep his old time-expired clothes. He might use them on shipboard, instead of having to pay 13s. But he is forced to give them up, and the only object I can see is to put a certain amount of money into the pockets of Jew contractors who buy them, and pay an infinitesimal sum into the War Office. The clothes go on to the backs of sandwich men in the streets, or they are sent to the East End, put under a "devil," as it is called, worked up into shoddy, and exported to South America. Very little out of the whole transaction goes to the Government. Another and more serious grievance is that the men are only half-fed. This is a matter which has frequently been brought before the attention of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire; but the House cannot be too often reminded that, although some £17,000,000 sterling are annually voted to the Army, yet the men are kept in a state of almost semi-starvation. The daily rations given to the soldier are 1 lb. of bread and ¾ lb. of meat. I do not advocate an increase of the meat rations, for probably that would be too expensive, and the right hon. Gentleman would not entertain it; but the pound of bread is certainly insufficient, and the result is that the young soldier of 18 years of age, whether he is big or little it does not matter, eats all his bread for breakfast and dinner, and gets nothing else from 1 o'clock one day until 7 o'clock the next morning. It is absolutely useless providing the soldier with moral books, recreation rooms, bagatelle boards, and all the rest of it, while he has a vacuum under his belt which he cannot fill with bread and cheese, for the stoppages in his pay will not allow of it. Then there is the last grievance the soldier suffers when he enters the Reserve, or when he is discharged. All the other questions I have mentioned, or that my hon. Friend the Member for Preston has alluded to, are but "leather and prunelli," are as nothing compared with the grievance there is in want of employment for Reserve men and discharged soldiers. There is an institution called "The National Association for the Employment of Discharged and Reserve Soldiers," the Chairman of which is Sir Donald Stewart, and the secretary Lieutenant Colonel Boyes. This Association has spent some £400,000 in the course of five years in assisting Reserve and discharged soldiers to obtain employment, and the Government aid the Society with a grant of £200. To-day I ventured to ask the Secretary for War if this grant could be increased, and I confess I fail to understand the argument in his reply that, because the public do not come in with their subscriptions, and the funds of the Society are at low water, therefore, it is impossible for the Government to increase this miserable grant of £200. Last year, with a stroke of the pen, the right hon. Gentleman gave the Volunteers £190,000. I have no objection whatever to that, but surely it is the duty of the Government to find employment for Reserve men. There are about 450,000 men who have passed through the Army. Of these some 59,000 are in the Reserve. 100,000 have emigrated or have died, and some 300,000, roughly speaking, are scattered over the country seeking work, haunting the docks, crowding the casual wards of our workhouses, tramping the streets, and generally bringing the Army into discredit and disgrace, because the Government will not assist in finding employment for these men. "General" Booth says—and I suppose it is possible to believe some of his statements—that, taking a sample of 2,000 men at the East End, he found that fully two-fifths of them were discharged soldiers. To the Reserve men the Government say, "Here is your 6d. a day; we do not want to be troubled with you unless you are called out; you must not leave the country." So the Reservist, unable to find employment, wanders over the country and becomes a scarecrow and terror to recruiting wherever he goes. The result of all this is that the standard of recruits has to be lowered, with the alternative of not getting any at all. It has been reduced to such an extent that absolutely we cannot get men big enough to work the guns of the Garrison Artillery, and the height for drivers in the Engineers has been reduced to 5ft. 3in. Indeed, special men are taken at a height below that, and men are enlisted not much bigger than the African pigmies of whom Stanley has written. The worst of it is that in the last 10 years the standard has been gradually going back, and the fact is that in this country there is every component requisite for an Army except the men. An Army which relies upon voluntary enlistment depends upon its popularity, and that popularity it will never have until the men are better fed, better treated, until their general status is raised, and they are not, at the end of service, cast off like an old shoe. There is hardly a respectable man now to be found entering the ranks. ["No, no!"] I take my stand on the Report of the recruiting officer. Notwithstanding a redundant population, the ranks are being filled with men of 5ft. 3in. and 5ft. 4in., and unless the Government increase the inducements to enlist by providing for the employment of discharged soldiers the Army will not get a better class of recruits than it get to-day.


May I be permitted to explain that when I said just now that respectable men were not enlisting, I meant men of respectable physique? I was making no reference to moral character.


I support the Motion though I do not agree with the hon. Member who moved it in all the details of his speech. I hope the time has arrived when something may be done. I do not attach much importance to certain points of administration raised by the hon. Member. Taking the case of rations, I have always found less complaints in the Artillery and Cavalry than in the Infantry. When the hon. Member said the extra messing cost 1s. 3d. of the value of the rations, I thought this might be true for the Infantry, but one-half would be nearer for the Artillery. The proposal I would make is an extremely simple one: that the pay should be increased by 4d. a day and the deferred pay at once, so that each man should have a clear 6d. a day extra. This would cost about £750,000 a year, but it would very greatly increase the efficiency of the Army. There would be a set-off also Tinder reductions of charges arising out of desertions, cost of escorting and removing deserters, and expenses of recruiting. Foreign critics say that our Army is not what is was; that the men are too young; that they are not to be compared to the long service men; and I do not want the statistics of the Inspector General of Recruiting to confirm my own experience, when I see regiments at Aldershot or elsewhere and observe that the men are below the average height of the race inhabiting these Islands. This is due to the inadequate pay, which does not attract a better class of men. After making full allowance for the soldier's rations and housing, what he is being paid is practically 13s. a week. It is possible, I know, so to manipulate the figures and include the pay of Non-commissioned Officers, the payment for good shooting, and good conduct pay, and so to raise the apparent average; but, as a fact, more than three-fourths of the men receive value at 13s. a week. For this they submit to restrictions and loss of liberty, to which men in civil life are not subjected, and at Aldershot or at times of active service, the mendoa fair day's work, though, of course, I do not mean to say that in a quiet country town the life of a soldier is an arduous one. Now, take the working classes all over the country, are they satisfied with wages of 13s. a week? We know they are not, and that they combine and strike for 4s. or 5s. a day, and they are quite right to get as much as they can by fair means. But the soldier is obliged to be content with his 13s., though he is dissatisfied, and the effect is shown by your recruiting statistics. The men have a fair claim to an improvement in their pay, and they are right in doing what they can to get it. Certainly, I would not advise soldiers to strike; the partition between a strike and a mutiny is a very thin one. But this they may do: they may make every effort to get their pay raised by representations among their civilian friends, and especially among Members of this House. They may stop recruiting as much as possible, and insist that Members shall take up their cause, and soldiers have many friends among the electors of this country. They may bring pressure to bear on Members of Parliament through their civilian friends, and if intending recruits hold aloof I do not doubt that their claims would soon be recognised. This latter was the course pursued a few years ago in the medical branch of the Service, with the result that the pay and status of the medical officers were improved. Similar pressure the private soldier might bring to bear, and it would be foolish for the War Office to lay themselves open to such pressure. How can you expect to get good men when the pay is so small? The men you get are young and immature; how do you think they could successfully defend, for instance, the North-West Frontier of India against the race of men who might attack it. Your only method of getting the men you want to effectually use your new and expensive rifle is to raise the pay and convert the deferred pay into ordinary pay. You give the deferred pay to the men at the worst possible time. No doubt it would be difficult to abolish the system, inasmuch as the Chancellor of the Exchequer would object to its being converted into ordinary pay, and to the charge being unexpectedly thrown on this year's Estimates. Any conversion which takes place should be spread over three or four years. You are gradually getting a worse and worse class of men in the Army, and it is fortunate that the officer superintending recruiting has especially drawn attention to it this year. The reason is that you are only paying 13s. a week—at least, that is my allegation, and if my calculation is not accurate, I should like to hear it specifically contradicted on figures. In the West of Ireland the United States Army competes with the British Army. The young men know that the pay in the United States Army is better than in oar own Army, and the bulk of them see the advisability of going to America to enlist in preference to enlisting at home. England and the United States are the only two countries which have well paid Armies, but the United States pay better than we do. They give something like the market rate of wages, whereas we do not.

٭(6.5.) GENERAL SIR E. B. HAMLEY (Birkenhead)

The hon. Member who moved the Resolution has set himself a very difficult task—that of exciting public interest in the condition of the Army. That it should be a difficult task is very unfortunate, and I despair of seeing the Army put on a sound and satisfactory footing so long as that difficulty prevails. Let us hope that the startling nature of the present emergency may be promptly and widely recognised. It is nothing less than this: that the sources from which the Army is recruited have for some time been failing us, and that at a rate which must cause extreme anxiety, and for which a remedy cannot be too promptly devised. Let me put this question: If you cannot keep an Army by voluntary enlistment what is the alternative? Is there any kind of effort which should be spared if we can thereby avert it? First, let us look to the failure in mere numbers. The body of recruits obtained for the year was, taking it in thousands, 39,000 for 1885, and had declined to 25,000 in 1888. I will mention the subsequent years presently. Now there is a circumstance which always renders it easier to obtain recruits, and that is a depression in trade. Accordingly, the years in which trade is worst are those in which most recruits are forthcoming. This fact is most unsatisfactory as showing that only in a dearth of other employment can we get a sufficiency of recruits. But there is another fact which renders the prospects of recruiting peculiarly gloomy. It is that while recruiting is declining the population is steadily increasing. Every year the numbers of young men suitable for the Army increase. Almost every year the numbers qualified for enlistment diminish. There is one way in which this decline has from time to time been met. There is always, of course, a standard fixed of what should be required physically from recruits, but this standard may be lowered. A new stratum of material is thus reached, composed of what would have before been rejected. This lowering process has been found necessary even in the years when trade is most depressed. The numbers of 1885 were only procured by lowering the standard in 1884. Let me remind the House that the Infantry soldier carries a rifle which cannot be called light, together with ammunition, knapsack, and great coat; that he ought to be fitted to bear these on a march of from 15 to 20 miles, or rather on a succession of such marches, without being unduly fatigued, certainly not exhausted; and it will be seen that the minimum of physical competency has been reached—nay, that we have got below it. In fact, we have long since touched bottom. It is hardly possible, therefore, to tap a yet inferior class for our Infantry. But there are two branches of the Service which require men of greater strength and stature—the Artillery and Foot Guards. In 1889 the recruits were brought up to the number we then obtained by lowering the physical requirements of these branches, and that lower standard still prevails. The consequence is that many men are in the Artillery who are unequal to their work. Now, it is true that there was an increase of enlistments last year, when 31,000 men were procured. But how? By admitting immature youths below the standard—admitting them in thousands—in the expectation that they might grow up to the mark. But for this the supply would have been at its lowest ebb. It is, therefore, the bare truth to say that the supply continues to fail. All this time, besides the general waste of the Army, there is the constant loss to regiments of men who complete their term of service and pass into the Reserve, including all of seven years' service and a few of five and of three. And how are these trained soldiers replaced? By recruits, most of whom are not fit for service for two years. We have a fixed establishment for the Army of men fit for service, and that is not maintained even in numbers by counting as efficient all those who will be inefficient for two years. Judged by efficiency the Army is always really short of its establishment by a great part of the recruits of two years. It is now short by a great part of the recruits of 1889 and 1890, and it must be remembered that our estimate of what is required for the Military Service of the Empire is habitually the lowest possible. Yet, even counting the actual numbers, we are short of the establishment by some thousands, which of itself constitutes a real peril; while what we lose in strength by the inferiority of the troops is not to be calculated. I do not object to the enlistment of immature youths; I only insist that the establishment ought to be kept complete without counting these or other inefficient men. Now, what is the working of the system under these conditions? Each battalion abroad must be kept prepared to take the field and must be maintained in its number of men—say 900—all efficient for service. Each is linked to a battalion at home of 700 men, which is to keep the other supplied with trained soldiers. Therefore, these home battalions are mainly composed of the residuum—that is, of insufficiently trained men—and are always in a state of transition. They are the nurseries of the others. Now, I would ask the House to consider how important it is that commanders of regiments should feel an interest and pride in them. These are the strongest incentives to the exercise of the zeal and energy and constant vigilance which have produced the famous battalions of the past. But what commander can be expected to feel an active interest and pride in training men who are to be taken from him and sent to do credit to others? This is the situation of the Colonels of our home regiments. I hope the Reserve is better than my hon. Friend has depicted it; but I would here note respecting it a strange piece of improvidence. We have a Supplementary Reserve, in which men can enter after completing their service in the Ordinary Reserve. But only 20 per cent. of them join it. And why? Because the pay in the Reserve is 6d. a day; in the Supplementary Reserve only 4d. Thus, for the saving of the 2d. per diem, we lose the chance of getting the other 80 per cent. of these men, none more than 32 years old, and thus thousands of trained soldiers in the prime of life disappear every year in the general population. It would seem impossible to save our pence more ruinously. It would be unjust to throw altogether on the Secretary for War the responsibility for the unfortunate condition of the Army. It is a matter which presents many formidable difficulties. But then we must also remember that it is for a Secretary for War not to evade or gloss over such difficulties, but to meet and overcome them; else, why a Secretary for War? And what more pressing duty can he have than to maintain the Army in essential and indispensable strength? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will say he does his best. But what if, while he is doing his best, the Army is crumbling around him? What if he should wake up some day to find that the failure of our military strength has placed us in imminent danger, and that the country knows it? Then he will hear the terrible question, "What have you done with my legions, Varus?" I doubt not Varus will be able to give a reply which will be highly satisfactory to himself; but, for all that, I fear that in that day things may go very hard with Varus. It is in the hope that a calamity of this kind may be averted by prompt and wise measures, and that the attention of the public may be aroused, that I now offer these few and brief remarks to the House.

٭(6.22.) VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has described the present state of affairs as amounting to no less than a grave emergency, and I believe that in so describing them he has done great and real service to the country. It is not, in my opinion, possible better to summarise the situation than it was summarised by him, when he said the Army was habitually short of the recruits of two years. He also stated—and the Inspector General's Report shows the accuracy of his statement—that the Army would not at the present moment be only 2,700 men short if it had not been tilled by children, who can in no sense be regarded as physically capable of bearing arms. I confess I think the House of Commons ought to feel very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) for all he has done for the Army during his tenure of office. He has completed the armaments of the coaling stations and put guns in them; he has re-armed the Artillery with the best field gun in Europe; he has, at any rate, endeavoured to provide the Infantry with the best magazine rifle, and he has for the first time grappled with the question of the better housing of the troops. All these are national services, and I hope he will add to them by grappling in the same spirit with this question of recruiting. I wish to enter my protest against what seems to me to be the excessive and absurd amount of "sentry-go" the soldier has to go through. In the Guards halt the men's time in the Service is occupied in pacing up arid down opposite St. James's Palace or some other building. In the name of common sense what is the use of surrounding St. James's Palace, the Home Office, the Horse Guards, and the Foreign Office with sentries? If they are placed outside these offices, why are they not placed outside the Charity Commission or the Education Office? The system is excessively foolish. It wastes the health of the soldier, wastes the money expended on the training of the soldier, and makes the Army unpopular. Every Member of the House will feel that wherever Her Majesty or the Prince of Wales is there should be a guard of sentinels.

An hon. MEMBER



Because in a great nation like this you require to keep up the state of the monarchy; but it seems to me absurd to surround St. James's Palace all day and night with sentinels. There is no doubt the Brigade of Guards is unpopular, and I believe that statistics show that many men are invalided from colds and weak chests which are brought about by sentry duty. Sir Frederick Roberts, in an article in the Nineteenth Century, entirely confirms the view which I have put forward. The hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (Sir E. Hamley) made a great point when he asked why we should wilfully deprive ourselves of the services of men of the Army Reserve, who refused to go into the Supplementary Reserve. Here you have the highest possible class of trained soldier who, for want of adequate remuneration, refuses to enter the Supplementary Reserve. You are losing every year thousands of the best soldiers in the world, who, probably, for a small, additional reward might be retained in the Service of the country. With regard to the general system of recruiting, the country has been covered at great expense with regimental depâts, each of which has a staff of officers and noncommissioned officers. In theory you could not possibly have a better system through which to get at every hamlet and village in the country, and exhaust all the resources of the country for supplying the needs of the Army. But does the country get the full benefit of the money spent every year on this system? Do the officers go to the depâts meaning to work, or because they, think they will have two years of easy time? It is perfectly notorious that many officers only go to them because they believe they will have little or no work to do. Is not this quite natural when the War Office and Horse Guards make no difference in the career of the soldier who has been very successful at his depât, and that of the man who has been very unsuccessful? I know a very extraordinary case in point, which I can vouch for from my own experience. In one depât an Adjutant worked as I should think no Adjutant at a recruiting depât ever worked before. The consequence was the results were so good that the Inspector General of Recruiting, in his Annual Report, was obliged to take notice of them. Did he give credit to the officer who had brought about these results? No; he did not. He gave credit to his successor who had held the post for a few weeks. Here was an officer who for five years had worked in this way and then had to leave the Army because he saw no possibility of getting on in it, and take to another career in which I believe he has done well. Why, I ask, does not the War Office treat the work of successful and hard-working recruiting as a subject worthy of promotion and reward? It is my firm conviction that if they did this they would find a great and satisfactory difference in the Returns from many of the depâts. It is a notorious fact that at many of the depâts the officers are more frequently out on leave than at work in the depâts; and I cannot help saying that if it were known that a hard-working and successful depât officer might look for promotion, recruiting would considerably increase. The best test of this that could be adopted would, I think, be to take a well-known successful officer and put him in charge of the recruiting at the worst of the depâts. In that casa I should be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman£the Secretary for War did not find that in a very short time the Returns from that depât would be altogether different and far more satisfactory than they have been hitherto. With regard to what has been said as to the pay of the soldier, it is impossible that any terms which this country could offer him would at all compete with the wages he can get as a miner or as a skilled artisan The Army can, in reality, only compete with the respectable but unskilled labour of that class of men who are employed in agriculture or in the lower branches of our great industries. Regarding the matter from this particular standpoint I would put it to the House: Are the present wages of the soldier too small? For my part, I am not quite clear that they are; but, at any rate, the subject is one that requires a good deal more investigation than it has as yet had. And there is also the question of the great mass of deferred pay, which the universal testimony of all soldiers of experience absolutely condemns in its present form. I think I am right in saying that hardly a case can be given in which the deferred pay is of any real value to the soldier. Yet there is an enormous sum at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War derived from the detention of 2d. per day for 12 years, because the deferred pay is continued during the Reserve service as well as during the service with the colours. The chief reason for doubting whether the terms are really too low for the class of labour performed by the soldier is one which I derive from my own experience as to what occurs in my own constituency. I do not think there is a constituency in the whole Kingdom in which more is known about the Army than in mine, nor is there one in which the Army is more popular. We have Aldershot at one end and Portsmouth at the other, while on one side we have the Winchester depât, and on the other the depât at Guildford. The recruiting sergeant has little or nothing to do there, for the Army recruits itself. In the parish in which I live there is hardly a single family which has not one or more of its members in the Army; and when the hon. Member opposite talked about only the scum of the population going into the Army—although he afterwards stated that he meant the scum, physically—I would reply that in my constituency it is a most respectable class of young labourers who enlist in the Army. Not only do such men go into the Army of their own free will but they do so because they prefer the Service, knowing, as they do, all about it, and when they have left the Army they go back to their old avocations. I do not know of a single case in the whole of my parish, which is a large one, where a Reserve man is not in employment. The great bulk of them in my constituency, and they are not to be numbered by dozens only, but by scores, are in good and permanent agricultural employment and do not meet with any special difficulty in obtaining it as soon as they return from the Army. I speak from experience when I say that if the nature of the Army Service were properly known in the agricultural constituencies where the higher rates of wages paid to the miners and artisans do not compete with the Army pay, the terms now offered to the soldier would be found to be good enough. If the officers commanding the depâts and those under them would exercise more vigilance and display a little more keenness and resource, I believe the results would in many cases be very different to what they now are, and that in different parts of the country we should find that, as is the case in my own constituency, the Army would recruit itself. I do not propose to trespass any longer on the attention of the House; but I may be allowed in conclusion to point out that that branch of the Service with which I am associated—the Militia—in respect of its recruiting occupies a similar position to that of the Regular Army., It is, I believe, some 23,000 men short. This is not wholly, but it is to some extent, due to the want of enterprise exhibited by the recruiting officer; and my last words to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War on this occasion will be to commend very earnestly to his attention the desirability of making successful recruiting and zeal at the recruiting depâts a real step to advancement in the Service, at the same time taking care to provide against successful officers being treated as my friend was, when his successor was named as the man to whom all the credit for what he had done was due, while my friend himself had to leave the Service.

(6.35.) MR. E. STANHOPE

I think that if every hon. Member who has taken part in this Debate had approached the subject under discussion in a similar spirit to that which has pervaded the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, great advantage would have been gained; because, I hope that every hon. Member, who rises to speak on such a topic, does so with a full sense of responsibility. There certainly is a considerable amount of responsibility devolving on those who bring before the House what are alleged to be the grievances of the private soldier. Every one who does this, does it with the responsibility derived from the knowledge that the words he uses in this House may go forth to the world, and that unless his statements are founded on fact and are uttered in something like the spirit of moderation, which has characterized the speech of the noble Lord, there is great danger that they may lead some ignorant men to expect things they are never likely to get. I must confess that, I was very sorry to hear the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan). The hon. and gallant Gentleman, speaks in this House with great authority on Military subjects, and the occasions are rare on which I differ from him, in the main, in the views he expresses on such matters. It was, therefore, with exceeding regret that I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that, unless an increase of pay was granted to the men of the Army he would recommend all our soldiers—not to strike— but to do their best to bring the business of the Military Service of the country to a standstill by preventing recruiting to the utmost possible extent. I am afraid that my hon. and gallant Friend was carried away by that sort of spirit of insubordination, which sometimes takes possession even of an old officer, and I must repeat that I was very sorry to hear one who is so high an authority on Army matters speak in that way. My hon. Friend who introduced this Debate (Mr. Hanbury) made one of those characteristic speeches to which we are getting pretty well accustomed in this House, but about which I will utter no words of complaint. There were, however, two things in his speech this evening which struck me as matters to which I ought to allude. In the first place he spoke of a Return which has been issued by the War Office, as one of those peculiar Returns which the War Office was accustomed to issue. That Return was issued on the Motion of Lord Dundonald in the House of Lords, and had reference to the ages of the non-commissioned officers. How it is that my hon. Friend could suggest that there could have been any intention on the part of the War Office not to present the exact facts I am really at a loss to imagine.


The War Office itself does not know the ages of those men.


The hon. Member is wrong in that statement. We do know the ages of these men. The hon. Gentleman may say it is not so, but we say that it is so. We have given, to the best of our power and with absolute accuracy, the ages of the non-commissioned officers of the Army. The second point contained in the speech of my hon. Friend, on which I wish to say a few words, is this: It is suggested that the position of the private soldier is altered from time to time, just as the hon. Member has said the position of the officers is altered by Royal Warrants. I challenged my hon. Friend to mention a single instance in which the pay of the private soldier has undergone any change in its conditions from the action of the War Office.


I said it had been so stated by General Sir Frederick Roberts.


I know that my hon. Friend said so; but I say that Sir Frederick Roberts has never said any thing of the kind, and when I challenged my hon. Friend to give a specific instance he was unable to do so. But I do not care to argue this matter in the same spirit as animated the speech of my hon. Friend or as generally animates the speeches he delivers on these subjects. I prefer to meet the points that have been raised, and to consider what those points are and how far they may be consistent with the facts. First of all it is said that the soldier is deceived; that in the attractions which are held out to the soldier to enter the Army we offer him certain things which, as a matter of fact, we do not give him. Now, Sir, let me examine this statement. I fully admit that the poster mentioned by my hon. Friend—the large poster which is put up in many parts of the country—is imperfect, and by no means a full statement of what the soldier has to expect. Of course it could not contain a full statement; it could not include every condition affecting the soldier's life. It may be that the poster is not full enough and does not contain a sufficiently complete statement of what the soldier has to expect—indeed, I think that this is so, and I have lately taken steps to alter the terms of the poster with the view of explaining somewhat more fully to the soldier the terms he has to expect on entering the Army. But I do not admit for a moment, even now, that the man who enters the Army has not the fullest opportunity of knowing what he has to expect. Reference has been made to the small pamphlet that is available to any man in the country at any post-office. It is perfectly well known—it is clear in its terms, and I do not think there can be any possible misunderstanding, as to what we offer to any recruit. I will venture to read to the House two or three passages from it. Hon. Members will find the information in that portion of the pamphlet that relates to the general advantages of the Army. The soldier is told this in paragraph 58— A soldier may be said, on joining the Army, to receive in pay, rations, clothing, lodging, &c., the equivalent of not less than 15s a week. And paragraph 57 explains exactly what it is the soldier does receive. He is warned and expected— To keep up his underclothing and necessaries at his own cost, and to pay for repairs to his clothing while in wear, and for his groceries, vegetables, and washing; and, as a result, in paragraph 59, it is explained— After deducting all stoppages, a well-conducted soldier has at his own disposal about 4s 6d a week. That is the statement made in the pamphlet issued throughout the country, and I say in the main the statements are absolutely true. There may be cases in which a man has not the whole amount of 4s 6d; but it is utterly impossible to account for the particular circumstances of every regiment in every part of the country. In the main, however, that statement is absolutely true, and is borne out by every possible information that is at my disposal.


Does it say anything about the sea kit?


lam coming to that by-and-bye. According to this estimate the English soldier receives 15s a week, or £37 10s. a year. I was reading the other day an interesting pamphlet issued some years ago by Major Ardagh. In that pamphlet he put side by side the following results as to the value of the advantages gained by the soldier in this, country as compared with foreign countries. He showed that in England an Infantry soldier costs £37 10s. a year. In France the Infantry soldier costs £21; in Germany, £18; and in Russia, a country which is sometimes held up to us as a country we ought to imitate in economy, the Infantry soldier costs only £7 4s. a year.


How much in the United States?


I am sorry I have not the figures. I now pass from, that general statement. It has often been said, and it has been said to-night, that the pay of the soldier has not improved. I venture to say, Sir, that in the course of the last 25 years it has very largely improved, and I will give figures of undoubted authority, because they were worked out by the Committee which sat two years ago—figures which, I should think, may be taken as conclusive upon the subject. The Report of that Committee showed that whereas in 1886, after all deductions, the soldier never had more than 3½d. a day, he now makes, under favourable circumstances, very nearly 7d. a day. Therefore the soldier has undoubtedly gained between 1886 and the present time something like 4d. a day. Now, Sir, what are the deductions that are made? The question of hospital deduction has been mentioned, though I think my hon. Friend raised a very moderate amount of objection to the hospital deduction. As a matter of fact, I think it is a very dangerous thing if you treat a soldier in exactly the same manner when he is in hospital as when he is out of hospital. If you are to give him exactly the same advantages in hospital, I am afraid there would be likely to be a very considerable amount of malignering. The soldier while he is in hospital is practically getting himself into a better financial position. Then, Sir, the library subscription has been mentioned as a hardship. First of all that subscription is optional. No soldier is bound to subscribe to the library fund unless he chooses to do so. If he does subscribe, his subscription only amounts to about the tenth of a penny per week, and, considering the enormous advantage he gets by joining the library, I do not think that is a very great amount for him to be called upon to pay. My hon. and gallant Friend also mentioned the sea-kit. Well, Sir, I am bound to say that among all the points which I have investigated in connection with the condition of the soldier, this question of the sea-kit is one which seemed to me to be the most doubtful. It is a point which I have only recently been able to investigate personally, and I think it does require some remedy on our part. Although I cannot say in what direction we shall look for a remedy, I will undertake that it shall by no means be overlooked. Another grievance that has been re- ferred to is that the soldier does not learn a trade. Well, Sir, in that respect we are holding out no undue prospect to soldiers. We tell him plainly, in the posters we circulate, that on some stations he will have the opportunity of learning a trade, but that is all, unfortunately, that we are able to do. There are many stations where we can teach the men a trade, and where we are very glad to do so, and in recent years the opportunity has been very largely extended. But there are other stations where the barrack accommodation is such that we cannot offer the soldier that advantage. Then it has been objected that the soldier has to pay a sum for repairs to barrack furniture, but I think, Sir, on that no grievance can be sustained. All that the soldier has to pay for is wilful damage, and when it is said that he has to pay for the repair of barrack furniture generally, I can only say that that is entirely contrary to the fact. It is always desirable that there should be every possible motive on the part of the soldier to assist in keeping the barracks in good order. When you come to the ordinary repair of the barracks, that is the duty of the State—a duty from which the State has never shrunk. The State has always paid for it, and ought always to pay for it. Now, Sir, I come to the question of rations. A Committee has reported on this subject—a very influential Committee presided over by Sir Redvers Bailer, then Quartermaster General, who was himself specially responsible at the time for these matters. In their Report they say— The soldier's pay is of ft composite character. It consists of pay proper, and an allowance, in the nature of partial board wages, estimated at 5d. a day, which is supposed to be, and which, according to regulation, may be expended on his diet. The question to be determined, therefore, is not whether ¾lb. of meat and 1lb. of bread are in themselves sufficient, but whether these supplies, supplemented by other articles provided out of the messing stoppage, afford a sufficient diet for the soldier. Now, Sir, the Committee proceeded to make a most careful inquiry into the whole question of the sufficiency of the soldier's food. They took evidence from different parts of the country and issued questions, in answer to which they received information which enabled them to present the Report they afterwards. presented, and the upshot of their Report was this:— That the soldier's ration at home-stations, supplemented by a smaller sum than the authorised regimental messing contribution of 5d. a day, affords, under proper regimental arrangements, a sufficient diet. That is a very strong statement, and at the same time a very satisfactory statement, made by a very responsible and careful Committee. They add— We are of opinion that the chief defects in the soldier's diet are due to the fact that it has been too much left to the custom, and that too little attention has been paid to it by those in authority. They followed this up by specific recommendations. The first related to the bread, and it was a very important and a very useful recommendation. To that recommendation full effect has been given, and we hope and believe that in that way many of the complaints that have arisen with regard to the bread have been got rid of. Then they recommended a course of instruction for officers in connection with the supervision of the food of the soldiers. Upon this point again we have taken advantage of the recommendation. First of all, with regard to the supply of food for the soldiers, we have appointed Inspectors, who have gone about the country to see whether the meat supplied is as good as it ought to be. We have had very good reports from these Inspectors. They have in several cases, I am afraid much more often than I should like, detected deficiencies, but the result of their inquiries has been that the quality of the supplies, with regard to meat especially, has improved to a remarkable extent, and I am sure there is every possibility of that improvement continuing. The officers, too, are giving themselves to the work of supervision with an energy that satisfies me that we may look for greater improvement in the future. My hon. Friend also mentioned the question of the meat, and he says that the prices at which we are able to obtain it prove at once that the meat cannot be of good quality. Now, Sir, I asked one of the first butchers in London whether he would be prepared to supply the Army at the rate we are now paying, and he said that, assuming that we did not want the prime joints of beef and mutton pro- vided, he was perfectly prepared to supply the whole Army at the current contract rate then being paid.


How much was that?


About 4d. Then reference has also been made to various changes in barracks for the comfort of the soldiers. I may say at once I am very glad to consider any suggestions for changes in this direction. Everybody is aware of the wide scheme by means of which great improvement is now being made in the general condition of our barrack accommodation, the progress of which I will explain presently. But probably hardly any one knows all the minor improvements. Some of them, not outwardly noticeable, which have recently been and are being carried out, are unquestionably adding much to the comfort of the soldier. In the new barracks we are proposing to introduce "mess requisite cupboards," which afford to each group of soldiers places for their bread, their butter, and other small articles appertaining to their meals, the pattern being the invention of a private soldier as being specially suitable to their wants. A proposal is also coming forward to introduce experimentally boxes for each man to keep his clothes in. If successful this scheme will be extended, it being, of course, not intended to allow these boxes to be moved from the barrack when the soldier leaves it. We are introducing into the new barracks waterproof floors, which will get rid of that very great evil in existing barracks of dirt under the floor. There are also minor sanitary details connected with each barrack-room which have long been, and still are, a source of controversy, but to which we are giving special attention in all barracks. I now come to the issue of fuel, and I will at once admit that the old regulations as to fuel certainly seem to have had the effect of making the amount of fuel at certain times of the year insufficient and at other times unnecessarily large. By the new regulations the greatest elasticity has been established, so that all coal allotted may be burnt at the time and in the manner most convenient to the men. I noticed the other day, when a lecture was being delivered by a quartermaster-sergeant at the United Service Institution, he explained that the new regu- lations were of a most beneficial character. He found that with the free hand the regiment now possessed much more could be done with the fuel than under the old regulations, and I was glad to see he expressed himself thoroughly satisfied with the change that had taken place. Great attention has been given to the cookhouses, formerly very defective, and even now in some cases unsatisfactory. A few years ago an effort was made to substitute new patterns of ranges and apparatus suitable for all the minor purposes of a soldier's cooking, as well as for cooking his dinner. But no greater or more important improvement has been suggested than that which in the form of regimental institutes has gradually provided the soldier with a warm and comfortable club. This work is more advanced in India than in this country, though, here too, the new Barracks Act affords scope for its rapid development. The recreation room, the coffee room, the reading room, and the canteen afford comforts formerly unknown to the soldier. And so with the non-commissioned officers much has been done to elevate their character and increase their efficiency. Sergeants' messes are already nearly universal, and we are following now with messes also for corporals. And in many barracks, where there is space, regimental workshops for carpenters, or for training in other work, are in existence. My hon. Friend asked a question as to separate dining rooms. Many of our barracks do not admit of providing a separate room, for dining. We are, however, glad to be able to do so, and in a good many cases it has already been accomplished. Then there are the quarters for married soldiers. Within the lifetime of men of my own age the accommodation given to married soldiers was only separated by a curtain from that of the unmarried men. Now quarters, insufficient, indeed, but still decent and separate, have been largely provided, and will be in many places improved under the Barracks Act. We are, for the first time, asserting the principle that the great improvement in accommodation, which has most happily for the country been so generally provided for the agricultural labourer, ought to be extended to the soldier, and the new quarters, while thoroughly economical, will show that much better provision has been made. And, lastly, the system of granting furloughs to soldiers, out of the regular drill season, has been largely extended and brought within the reach of much greater numbers by the introduction by the Railway Companies of cheap fares for their conveyance to their homes. I think we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the Railway Companies for the readiness with which they have met our wishes. I have several times been urged to introduce legislation, on this subject, and I am glad that the voluntary action of the Railway Companies themselves has rendered such legislation unnecessary. They have met us in a manner which reflects credit upon them, and which, I believe, will eventually turn out to be to their advantage. I hope that this very brief summary, which by no means exhausts all the points which I might have mentioned, will serve to show the great attention which has been paid to every detail of the soldier's life. There remains the question of clothing. It is surrounded by very considerable difficulties, but it undoubtedly offers a field for improvement, of which I hope to take full advantage. Of the main articles of clothing supplied to the soldier, hardly any serious complaint is now made; occasionally, of course, the greatest difficulty is found in reconciling the practical requirements of field-work with that amount of smartness in pattern which tends, undoubtedly, to the popularity of the Army. We have made very considerable improvements in favour of the soldier in respect of his dress. Twenty years ago we gave the soldier a smart tunic every year; now we give him one in every two years, and we give him every year a Service frock, which is more useful for orderly and similar purposes. In the year 1890 we introduced another thing in respect of clothing, which inquiry has shown to be absolutely necessary in this climate—we gave him a jersey, to wear under his tunic, and this, I know, has largely added to his comfort. As regards the mode of issue of clothing, I do not want to enter into much detail, because we have lately made a very careful inquiry into all its aspects, which is likely to result in considerable simplification. I fully admit that the present mode of keeping accounts in detail in respect of every soldier is troublesome, and open to considerable objection. There is a great deal to be said again in favour of making the clothing, in part at least, the property of the soldier. The Military Authorities were afraid that if any change were made in this respect, and the soldier got his clothing, he would parade about the country in old and worn-out clothing. There is still more to be said for introducing a system more elastic than the present one, which may have the effect of giving to the careful soldier some greater encouragement than at present. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not now state any definite opinion on this subject, because all the facts are not before me, and on these matters I desire to reserve any final opinion until the facts are fully brought before me. My hon. Friend has spoken about the sergeants' mess, and I have already told the House that sergeants' messes are almost universal. My hon. Friend has called attention to the alleged abuse of the regulations controlling these messes and to the suggestion that liquor is sold to outsiders. The regulations which permitted the sergeants' messes to sell liquor to outsiders have been made the subject of very careful inquiry, and I especially asked the attention of Sir E. Wood to those regulations. The result of the inquiry is that, although there have been at times some abuses, the regulations now laid down will, in Sir E. Wood's opinion, absolutely prevent any such abuses in that respect in future, and I am in hopes that the improved supervision now in force will enable those regulations to be effectively carried out. And now the question comes—Is there anything in the present position of recruiting which necessitates the offer of further inducements to enlist, or which is especially alarming? I have seen so many alarmist articles in the Press that the House will not think I am unduly detaining it if I ask leave to state quite plainly the best opinion which I have been able to form on the subject, and I do so with extreme diffidence, knowing too well the great difficulties which surround it, and the tremendous difference of opinion which prevails amongst the highest authorities about it. Anyone who looks at the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting will see that, as regards mere numbers, so far from having had a slack year, we have had, upon the whole, a substantial increase to our numbers. Hon. Members point to the fact that the number of recruits went down two or three years ago; but they should bear in mind the fact that the number of recruits required depends on the number of men whose time expires in a given year or are passing into the Reserve, and at the present time that number is very large. Recruiting has been brisk; and the Inspector General is able to say that, in his opinion, "evidence exists on all sides to show that the popularity of Military Service is not on the wane." This is the satisfactory side of the matter; but the unsatisfactory side is—and I state it with perfect frankness—the youth of the men enlisted and the difficulty of completely filling the ranks of certain corps requiring men of superior physique. When we hear of the standard being lowered, we must remember that we maintain a higher standard than is maintained in any foreign country. I do not know whether, as a matter of fact, the height of the population of these islands is any less than it was; there are some people who say that men are shorter than they were a certain number of years ago. Whether that is so I do not know; but I think that everybody will agree that in the Report of the Inspector General, though there is a good deal that may cause alarm, there is a good deal that tends to prove that that alarm ought not to be exaggerated. From various districts we have the Returns of the generals commanding in those districts, and in many of them we find that even now they are perfectly satisfied with the physique of the soldiers they have obtained. Aldershot is an exception. Sir E. Wood expresses himself as not altogether satisfied; but the Inspector General, in his Return, points to one reason for that—namely, that Sir E. Wood has this special difficulty to encounter—that the battalions, under his command have to be recruited under high pressure, because they are first to go on foreign service. That is a difficulty for which a remedy may be found, and we propose to begin the improved recruiting for regiments which are likely to go on foreign service a little sooner, so that before the men are called upon to go abroad they may have been longer in the ranks and become more seasoned. Passing from that, I say that if we were able to look upon our Army as solely intended for home defence, and without reference to its obligations to serve in India and the colonies, the present supply of men could not be described as generally unsatisfactory. But, of course, we cannot limit our views to that. The large drafts annually required for foreign service, which must necessarily be composed of men of at least 20 years of age, do create a most formidable difficulty. It is very easy to say at once that it can be effectively met by an increase to the pay of the soldier, but that is a matter which requires the most careful examination from several points of view, and all the more because, while in the case of ordinary trades your wages may fall as well as rise, it is pretty certain that, once you increase the pay of the soldier, you cannot in any circumstances retrace your steps. If it be true that the present scale of remuneration fails to attract the right class of recruits—it cannot be said that it fails to attract recruits—then we must look a little further into the matter and examine why it does so. The value of the immediate and direct advantages of a private soldier may be taken, as I have already said, at 15s. a week. That does not include various prospective advantages, and does not include deferred pay. This sum, with the prospective advantages, compares not unfavourably with the earnings of agricultural labourers, from which class the recruit is still so largely drawn, even though the actual enlistment may take place in a town. Moreover, the effect of our system of short service is to attract to the colours young men who have not yet entered any trade, and who are ready to serve for a period not too long to exclude them afterwards from entering one. A moderate increase in the pay of the Army would not have the effect, as it seems to me, of attracting those who have joined a trade. In other words, if you want skilled labour in the Army you must pay the price of skilled labour, as, indeed, the "Royal Engineers do for skilled work done by many of the men that they require. But for the work of the ordinary soldier a skilled labourer is not required, and the addition to the total cost of the Army, which would be involved in the offer of any such terms generally, would be enormous, and I doubt if it would be justified by anything short of absolute necessity. Indeed, I am confident the House would not entertain it unless we proved the absolute necessity. I was struck with the fact that when the hon. and gallant Member for Galway advocated an increase of £750,000 a year only 35 Members were ready to listen to the grievance. But may it not be true that, if you do not necessarily improve the pay of the soldier, you may improve his position, or, at any rate, meet the difficulty in some other direction? I allude, of course, to the difficulty of foreign service. I refer first to the length of time for which men are enlisted. I am not going to discuss the merits and demerits of short service generally. It has, at any rate, done this. It has given us recruits in numbers which, without it, we could scarcely have hoped to obtain, and it would be madness now to abandon it. But it involves no departure from the general principle of short service if I say that the mode of its application to the special need and requirements of foreign service has always created considerable difference of opinion. It would not be difficult to show that upon the details of the best mode of applying it, the opinions of the highest authorities are most divergent and almost irreconcilable. I do not know that I ever read a better statement of the difficulties we have to encounter, or, in my opinion, a more impartial one, than what appeared in a letter from a military correspondent published in the Times newspaper in August. It stated the problem which we have to solve in a fair and reasonable manner, and showed in a conclusive manner that the real problem was whether the average service with the colours was too short or not, and whether any changes could be made without drawing unfairly on the Reserves which would meet the difficulty. I thought that the article stated the matter in a very reasonable and fair manner, and certainly on the whole, on the best consideration I have been able to give to it, I have come to the conclusion that facts show that if the time has not come for action, at any rate the time has come for some further inquiry as to whether a change ought not to be made. Now I come to another much controverted question which closely bears upon the same difficulty—I mean deferred pay—and I will venture to state to the House very briefly the present state of the case. Before 1876 a soldier discharged or transferred to the Reserve received 5s., and 5s. only, to start him in civil life, and to enable him to travel home—a most ridiculously inadequate sum according to our present notions, and a relic of the time when every effort was made to keep a soldier with the colours as long as possible. But in 1876 different ideas began to prevail: 12 years' service came to be looked upon as the limit of real efficiency, and the development of an adequate Reserve became the prime necessity. Deferred pay was the outcome of this change of policy. It was to enable the State, with a clear conscience, to send the man back to civil life, at the expiration of six or 12 years, with a substantial sum in his pocket to make a fresh start in life. These objects, it is fair to say, have been mainly secured by deferred pay, and we have now obtained a Reserve, not free from obvious defects, but affording a real and substantial addition to our military strength. And it is further maintained that deferred pay is in some form an inevitable condition of short service, that it has a direct influence on recruiting and rendering a military career more popular, and that the ultimate prospect of deferred pay has a good influence on the character of the soldiers and tends to prevent desertion. On the other hand, it is also true that the bulk of military authority is absolutely opposed to deferred pay, at any rate in its present form. That must be admitted. They contend that the half million of money now spent on it is to a large extent wasted, because many a soldier, instead of using it for his advancement in life or his maintenance while unemployed, is immediately tempted by the possession of what is to him a large sum of money to waste it without any permanent advantage to himself. And it is added that it is a mistake to suppose that the reckless soldier will be kept from misconduct or desertion by the prospect of ultimately forfeiting it. These arguments, which I have most imperfectly summarised on each side, and upon which I purposely refrain from expressing any opinion of my own, seem to me to establish a case for inquiring into the facts now in dispute. And accordingly I propose to assemble a Committee, some what on the lines of the well-known Committee presided over by Lord Airey—composed mainly of soldiers—to consider the question of deferred pay, and also to refer to it certain questions as to the present terms of service with the colours and with the Reserve respectively, which I have already, perhaps somewhat vaguely, indicated. I feel sure that an inquiry of this description, and the conclusion arrived at by a strong Committee, would serve the invaluable purpose of collecting the experience of the past few years, upon which the foundations of any changes in our system ought to be laid. It has been suggested that a Royal Commission might be preferable; but, upon the whole, I think that a Committee will be more effectual, and will be able to report more quickly. I have already alluded to the opinion of the Inspector General that military service is not losing its popularity. I am in great hopes, on the contrary, that the increasing attention which is being paid to the daily comfort of the private soldier—to some points of which I have alluded—will render it more attractive. The one or two instances to the contrary, of which so much has been made during the past year, only serve to bring out more clearly that, in spite of the avowed attempts of certain agitators to spread disaffection in the Army, its discipline remains satisfactory. Much has been most justly said about the necessity of seeing that your non-commissioned officers should not be too young or too inexperienced. But probably some hon. Members will have seen a Return which was presented to the House of Lords, on the Motion of Lord Dundonald. It is a most valuable and interesting Return, and it shows that the average age of corporals in the Line is 25 years and 8 months, with nearly 6½ years' service; while the sergeants average 28 years and 10 months, with 9½ years' service. These figures speak for themselves, and prove that the youth of our non-commissioned officers has been much exaggerated. Reference has been made to the pay of non-commissioned officers. I must say frankly that it has not been proved that the pay of noncommissioned officers is insufficient to draw into the Service and keep in the Service thoroughly efficient non-commissioned officers. Their pay is considerably higher than that of the private soldier, and they are also in a position to earn pensions. I am not satisfied that any case has been made out for increasing the pay of non-commissioned officers. It may be that the lance corporal does not always get the full advantage of his position, but it is only temporary, and is due to more lance corporals being appointed than are provided for. I am also able to add that crime in the Army has rapidly diminished of late years. The number of men in possession of good-conduct badges has increased in the last four years by 19 per cent. Our military prisons are seldom more than half full, and have been diminished in number, while the number of Courts-martial, of minor punishments, and of fines for drunkenness show a most satisfactory decrease. I attribute much of this improvement to the great attention which has been paid to the subject of temperance in the Army, a work which will be enormously facilitated by the system adopted in the new barracks now being constructed. Much also may be due to the excellent work being done by the ministers of religion, the vast importance of which may be judged, not only from its effect within the Army itself, but from the fact that its influence must be felt in the localities to which our time-expired soldiers return. I have endeavoured to deal as comprehensively as I could with almost all the points that have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston. No doubt there are some points of great importance which I have not touched upon, but which I shall be prepared to deal with in Committee. As we are substantially agreed that some changes and improvements in the terms of the soldier's employment are desirable, and that they should be carried out so soon as they have, upon inquiry, been clearly established, I hope it may not be thought necessary to put the House to the trouble of a Division. We wish to deal with perfect fairness with this matter, while recognising that, as trustees of the public, we should not make any increases in the pay or allowances without adequate proof that it is required by the condition of the labour market, and being agreed on the substantial point, that we must do justice to the claims of the soldier. I trust the House may not be put to a, Division, but that, after hearing what I hope may be regarded as a frank statement from me, the Resolution of my hon. Friend may be withdrawn and we may be allowed to go into Committee.

٭(7.38.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNER-MAN (Stirling, &c.)

I presume that after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman this Debate will not be long continued, but I wish to express my opinion that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman will, I think, not only be regarded as eminently satisfactory by the House, but by the public outside. It may, perhaps, be said that the right hon. Gentleman takes the usual official optimistic view of the whole matter. A little optimism is not unwholesome as an antidote to the pessimism which prevails on Army matters in quarters where military questions are largely discussed—in clubs and in military and other newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman has shown that he is not deaf to many of the complaints that have been brought forward, and that he is anxious to do what is possible to meet such of them as are well-founded. Now, there are only three ways practically in which we can hope to improve the quality of the men attracted to the Army and offer greater inducements to men of a more suitable character and qualification. We may alter the terms of enlistment, we may increase the pay, or we may improve the conditions and comfort of the Service. Now, the terms of enlistment, so far as they affect the Service of the country, cannot, I believe, be very much altered. My idea is, and I believe the opinion of most authorities on the subject, at all events of the more moderate school, is that as we have a voluntary Army, no man should have the idea while he is serving in the Army that he is a prisoner, and has to look forward to a long period of service against his will. There ought to be, and there are at different stages, opportunities afforded for a soldier either to leave the colours and go into the Reserve, or remain with the colours, according as his inclination prompts him. That I believe to be the principle which ought to be maintained. In his Report the Inspector of Recruiting points out that men were occasionally lost to the Foot Guards owing to the terms of the original enlistment being restricted to three years with the colours, and that His Royal Highness with the concurrence of the Secretary of State had decided that recruits for the Foot Guards should have the option of enlisting for three or seven years colour service. The Commanding Officers were directed to ascertain from the recruit, before final approval, that the period for which he had contracted was what he really desired; if not the attestation was to be altered. Since the date of that order there have been 621 enlistments in the brigade, of which 193, or 31 per cent., have elected to take seven years' service with the colours. I quote this as an instance of the kind of arrangement which appears to me to suit best our voluntary system. When only 31 per cent, of the Guards elect to serve for the longer period, and the rest prefer to begin with the shorter period, it is obvious that short service has certain attractions of its own. With regard to the common assertion of the extreme youth of our soldiers, I should like to call attention to certain figures in the Annual Returns which show that whilst in 1871, the year following the introduction of short service, and, therefore, not yet affected materially by it, there were in every 1,000 men 190 under the age of 20 and 320 over 30, in 1890 there were only 147 under 20 and 101 over 30. Military experience shows that from 20 to 30 is the best period of a soldier's life, and that it is not desirable to have in the ranks too many over 30. The returns therefore show that the proportion of men at the best ages is better than it was 20 years ago. As to the expediency of increasing the pay of the Army, the right hon. gentleman has pointed out the objection to an inconsiderate adoption of that proposal. Wages throughout the country may rise and fall, but you can never go back when you have once increased the pay of the men in the Army. It may be that a case could be made out for increasing that pay, but it is a thing to be done only in the last resort. The right hon. Gentleman is taking a judicious course in instituting an inquiry as to deferred pay. It is certainly desirable that when a man retires from the colours he should have something in his pocket, so that he may not be launched into civil life without resources. If there were no deferred pay men would be tempted to remain in the Service on account of the dismal prospect immediately before them on leaving the colours; but as it is there are no fewer than 71,000 men in the First Class Army Reserve. That shows what a very serious addition is now made to the fighting strength of the Army, and we ought not to do anything which would artificially stop the tendency of the Reserve to increase. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) suggested that we should abolish deferred pay at once and increase the pay of the Army, but the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) said one of the grievances of the Army is the constant change to which they are subjected, and how much would a man's position be altered if he found his deferred pay suddenly taken away from him? It is quite obvious that with regard to the men now serving you must hold to the bargain of deferred pay, and you cannot deprive them of the advantages you covenanted to give them when they joined the Service. If, therefore, you forthwith increase the pay you will unfortunately, as has happened in so many cases, have the expense of the two systems overlapping each other. It is, however, possible to do much, and I am glad so much has been done, to improve the treatment of the soldiers in respect of food, clothing, and barrack accommodation. The Army might also be made more popular by mitigating the excessively irritating discipline which has prevailed. We must remember that nowadays we are not taking into the Army, thank goodness, men of the same sort as formerly filled it, but men of a better class. They are men. of better education than formerly, because everybody is more or less educated now; they have a better idea of themselves and of their own dignity than their predecessors had; and they will not willingly submit to the petty and unreasonable restraints of old times, which are extremely irritating and do no good to any one. A great deal has been done in the way of reducing the number of petty offences visited with punishments, which caused much discontent; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will proceed further in the same direction, and will as much as possible mitigate the discipline of the Army, remembering that the soldier is nowadays a reasonable, educated, self-respecting man. There is not much to be said after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure the House may anticipate the best results from the inquiries he has instituted.

(7.54.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

I am extremely glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Preston has brought the subject of recruiting before the House. I give my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War credit for all he has done in the interest of the Army, especially in connection with the new barracks he is building all over the country, and I was glad to hear from him what he proposes to do with regard to the fitting up of those barracks. But I think I may say that my right hon. Friend has hardly gone into the one great difficulty under which we labour at present. The most important question of all is not pay or barrack accommodation, but the class of men we get, and the danger we are exposed to on account of their rawness, youth, and inexperience. I should like to know whether the Return respecting the ages of non-commissioned officers included those who have gone from the Army into the Militia. We have heard from all quarters how young the modern non-commissioned officers are, and how much less respected they are than was the case in former days. I think my right hon. Friend will not deny that if there had been more experienced non-commissioned officers in the second battalion of the Grenadier Guards we should have been spared the unfortunate events of a few months ago. In our First Army Corps I wonder how many recruits there are at this moment who would be unfit to be put in line of battle.


I have here the Return from Lord Dundonald as regards non-commissioned officers, and I see it refers to non-commissioned officers of each rack "at present serving with the colours."


Well, that is, if correct, a very satisfactory Return. The 2nd battalion of the Rifle Brigade some year and a half or two years ago passed over 1,000 men through its ranks in two years to supply the wants of the three other battalions of the brigade then serving abroad. This is a very serious state of things. How, under such circumstances, is my right hon. Friend to keep up the Army at home in an efficient state and be able to put his 1st and 2nd Army Corps into the field without sending out young and inefficient men? I venture to hope that when my right hon. Friend makes his statement we shall hear something very satisfactory on this point. That is the point to which the country is looking. War may come upon us at any moment, and we should have our army ever ready and fit to undertake any duty it may be called upon to perform. (8.0.)

٭(8.30.) DR. FARQUHARSON (A berdeenshire, W.)

I do not in any way wish to minimise the importance of the questions brought before the House this evening, nor do I fail to recognise the great ability of the right hon. Gentleman who has laid his views before us in a speech of such force and importance, but I cannot but carry my mind back a little way and remember how Army Debates were carried on a few years ago. I remember that we used to come down to the House and, on the Motion that you, Sir, do leave the Chair, we were allowed to have an open night, so to speak. Everyone was allowed to talk at large, and as much as he pleased about military matters. But now, Amendments are put down on the Paper, and if a Member does not happen to be sharp enough to get one down, he is tied down to a specific Motion, and until that is disposed of with other Amendments after it, he is unable to bring on that particular matter in which he is specially interested. I am bound to say I think the old plan was a good one, as it enabled us—to use a familiar expression—to blow off a certain amount of steam, which, if confined for too long a period during the Session, is wont to lead to a violent explosion when we get into Committee. Those who have had considerable experience in the House know that the uncertainties of these occasions are disconcerting to private Members, and that Members are inclined some what to accentuate their views when they have the opportunity of dealing with the Votes in Supply. The particular Votes on which they wish to speak they find put down for inconvenient times, and very often they are away—sometimes in bed—when the items in which they are interested are reached. I recognise to the full the ability of the hon. Member who brought this Motion before the House. I think this Amendment most important and most opportune, because reading between the lines I think we cannot but regard General Roche's Report as to recruiting with alarm. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that a little too much has been made of the question of recruiting at the present moment. I do not think things just now are as bad as they are painted. General Roche says that the number of recruits for this year is not unsatisfactory, because there are 2,000 more than there were last year. My right hon. Friend opposite read from General Roche's Report the statement that "evidence exits on all sides that the popularity of the Military Service is not on the wane." My right hon. Friend stopped there. He should have gone on a little further, for General Roche proceeds: —"And that eligible recruits would be forthcoming in ample numbers if they could see their way to them," that is so say, if the inducements in the Service were sufficient to enable recruits to come forward, they would come forward as they used to, in the matter not only of numbers, but also of quality. Though things are not so bad as they are painted, General Roche has indicated that there may be dangers in the future, and he thinks the quantity of the recruits and their quality will not be so good in years to come as they have been in the past. The Secretary for War told us that there is great difference in the numbers of recruits engaged in successive years, and no doubt that is the case; but General Roche tells us that the number of recruits wanted next year to complete the regimental strength of the Army will be 34,000 or 35,000. That is a very large number, and that statement should be remembered in considering this question. My right hon. Friend was, I think, somewhat Utopian in his views when he came to consider the present condition of things, and no doubt it is well to be so, taking a full official standpoint; but I am bound to say he was successful in attempting to show that the condition of the private soldier is really better than that of the agricultural labourer. However, notwithstanding these Utopian ideas, there have been some practical points brought before us by the hon. Gentleman who introduced the question which are worthy of consideration, and I agree that we should regard the matter from three points of view—as affecting the recruit, as affecting the soldier, and as affecting the retired Reserve man. I have always taken an interest in the question of rations, and I would go into it now mainly from the point of view of the recruit. I think the Secretary for War a little minimised the importance of the point brought before us by the hon. Member for Preston, and the quotation he made from so eminent a soldier as Sir Frederick Roberts, when he said that the recruit was, to a certain extent, deceived when he entered the Army as to this question of rations. It is all very well to argue in a metaphysical way that a free ration means a free ration up to a certain point; but from the way it is put by the recruiting sergeant to the man who is thinking of entering the Army there can be no doubt that the idea the recruit has is that he is to get his food absolutely free. The Secretary for War tells us that the recruit has the means at hand of informing himself on the subject; but how can a comparatively uneducated agricultural youth gather the necessary information from a pamphlet of the very existence of which he is unaware? The information a recruit gets on entering the Army is that which is conveyed to him by the recruiting sergeant, and I am speaking from authentic information when I say that the recruiting sergeant gives the information, I will not say in a dishonest manner, but in a manner best suited to his own interest, and the recruit receives the impression that he is to have his food free. If any- one in this House doubts that statement let him do what the enterprising journalists do nowadays; let him put on an old suit of clothes and go to a recruiting station and let him be recruited there or get into conversation with a recruiting sergeant. He will then find what the inducements held out to the recruits to enter the Service are, and I will undertake to say that he will be of opinion that the representations made to him are such as would lead an uncultivated agricultural labourer to believe that lie was about to receive free food. Of course, when the recruit joins the Service the illusion vanishes, and the result is great disappointment and dissatisfaction when the man finds that the food he expected to get free of cost has to be largely paid for by himself. This is a fruitful source of desertion, the men feeling that they have been "done." The recruiting sergeant has a direct incentive to securing a recruit, for he gets for a militiaman, 2s. 6d., for a linesman, 5s., for a foot guardsman, 10s., and, if he is fortunate enough to bag a brace of "blues," £5—or £2 10s. in each case—slip gently into his pocket. Therefore, the object of the recruiting sergeant is to bring down his man; and I dare say, although he puts the matter to the recruit textually and literally accurately, the recruit receives a false impression as to the terms on which he is entering the Army. Another point which has been noticed by one or two Members s the food of the soldier generally; and here I am glad to be able to offer my meed of praise and approval to the Secretary for War for what he has done, especially in the direction of improving the meat and the bread rations. I think it was a good thing to appoint a Committee, and I think that up to a certain point the recommendations of that body were thoroughly practical. They do not, however, go far enough, and if we could only get something to bridge that terrible gap between the dinner one day and the breakfast next morning the state of things would be much more satisfactory. And, I think, in this matter, the question is much more important as affecting the recruit than as affecting the grown-up soldier. The latter, no doubt, has enough food, but the recruit has not enough, seeing that he is growing in all his tissues, and in his case it is hard to give difficult and anxious work to do and not allow him enough food. I do not like the principle of giving the recruit money in place of food. He is mostly surrounded by persons who like to meet with a lad with money in his pocket, and the result is that he is more apt to spend his money in drink and amusement than in food, and to suffer in health and ruin his constitution. I think it would be an advantageous thing if arrangements could be made by which, at any rate, the recruits could be supplied with more food of a nourishing kind. Many other questions have been raised in the course of the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs has pointed out that it would be desirable to relax many of the irritating restrictions of discipline which press hardly on the soldier. You must remember that the working classes have different ideas of labour and independence to those they used to have, and they do not like being bullied as school boys. I think, therefore, it would be found in the long run that a relaxation of the restrictions would lead to economy. Formerly a soldier had a career before him, but that is no longer the case. He is turned out into the world when he has perhaps got into rather idle habits, and he finds it difficult to secure employment. I think, therefore, that the Government should endeavour to confine certain occupations to ex-soldiers such as work in the Post Office and in small Departments of other Government offices. Employers make some difficulty in giving work to Reserve men. We cannot, in the matter of pay, compete with the labour market; but, although we have increased the soldier's pay by 4d. a day, the improvement in the labour market has been greater. A shilling a day is very poor terms for a man going to be killed or to be sent to a bad climate. I think we must make our terms somewhat better; but I admit that if we propose to make any substantial addition to the Estimates—say to the extent of an increase of 6d. per day—we shall be met with an uncompromising opposition. I have no doubt the Committee that has been promised may do something to suggest a remedy although I do not know that it can do much to improve the position of the soldier. A broad the status of the soldier is much better than it is in Great Britain, where he is frequently snubbed and treated as if the Army were composed of nothing but ne'er-do-wells. I hope that the feeling against the soldier will pass away, and, with the many improvements the right hon. Gentleman has made, and those he will make in the future, I have no doubt recruiting will much improve and the condition of the Army will become much better. I would direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the very bad accommodation there is at St. George's Barracks for the examination of recruits. The room in which the examination has to be made is much too small and the premises altogether are very unsuitable for the purpose. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said to night, and what he proposes to do, and I have no doubt, after the right hon. Gentleman's statement, the hon. Member for Preston will withdraw his Motion.

(8.52.) GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Preston has done good service in calling attention to this subject. I am one of those who consider that the soldier at the present moment is altogether underpaid. This is proved by the fact that we do not get all the recruits we want, and that those we do get are not of the stamp we require. I shall not be satisfied until the position of the private soldier in this country is that it is the envy of everybody who is not a soldier. You are supposed to be very particular with the physique of your men, and the fact that 47 per cent, of those who enlist are rejected shows a very lamentable prevalence in this country of people who are not fit to be soldiers. Soon after I entered this House I drew attention to the fact that a soldier had been prevented riding in an omnibus because he was in uniform. I want to see that feeling pass away and to see the uniform respected by everybody. The best way to get the uniform respected is to induce the best class of men to enter the Service. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that recruits are better educated now than they were formerly, but of course the whole population is better educated. There must be something wrong, however, when there is a falling off in the number of recruits. What is wrong very likely the Committee about to be appointed will ascertain; and I have no doubt that some little hitches in the administration will be amended in consequence of the Report which the Committee will present. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that there are some irritating regulations which had better be done away with. The question of the soldiers' old clothing ought to be considered and dealt with. The original reason why the soldier was not allowed to keep his old clothing was that he was very likely upon his discharge to wander about the country wearing his old uniform, and being practically in the condition of a pauper. That reason does not apply, however, to the time when a man is serving with the colours.


I may point out that every commanding officer may keep the uniform as long as he likes.


I am glad to hear that statement, and I think the permission thus accorded to commanding officers ought to be acted upon in all cases. With regard to the rations it was the unanimous opinion of the Committee that the soldier had enough to eat if the proper regulations were carried out; but of course the carrying out of proper regulations is the difficulty, and it needs constant vigilance on the part of everybody to see that they are satisfactorily acted upon. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) spoke of esprit de corps. Of course, under the present system you cannot have the same esprit de corps as was possible in old days, when the trumpeters in a regiment were the sons and perhaps the grandsons of men who had been in the same regiment before them. You must, however, do your best to encourage esprit de corps. With regard to drink being supplied to the men from the sergeants' mess, I may say I have known instances of it myself, and I am glad the question has not escaped attention. I must compliment the Secretary for War upon all he has done for the Army. He has improved the position of the private soldier very materially, although all his improvements have not yet come into operation. To my mind, with the object of making the Service more popular in the country, both the Army and the Navy should be made the stepping stones to civil appointments. Why cannot you get the telegraph boys to enter into the Army by refusing to allow anyone to act as a telegraph boy unless he promises to enter the Army, and then, when he has served his time in the Army, why should not he pass on to the position of a letter carrier. Having said so much, I have only to express a hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his Motion.

(9.1.) MR. COGHILL (New castle-under-Lyme)

In expressing my agreement with the Motion of the hon. Member for Preston, I desire to call attention to one matter which I think deserves the serious consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the head of the War Department. I refer to the billeting system which is adopted in this country, and in regard to which I think our soldiers deserve more generous treatment. I am told by an innkeeper who sometimes has soldiers billeted upon him that when he has found them their beds he has also to find them their breakfasts, but that he has to find the breakfasts out of his own pockets, otherwise the soldiers would go away without any breakfast at all. I think the House will agree with me that this is a very bad system, as it is very undesirable that our soldiers should have to start upon a long march without any food in their stomachs. It is the want of proper food which is the fruitful cause of intemperance in the Army, and I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War does not wish to see intemperance encouraged among our soldiers. The War Office ought at least to make some arrangement by which the men who are billeted in this way should have at least a cup of tea or coffee and some bread and butter. Another point on which I wish to say a word is with reference to the difficulty experienced by the soldier with regard to promotion. Under the present system promotion from the ranks, is practically barred. The men are allowed to rise to a certain point in their stripes; and although it is now allowable for them to receive commissions, it is very seldom that promotion from the ranks is carried as far as that. From a Return for which I moved in this House of the number of promotions that have been made from the ranks, I find that during the last five years in one case six commissions were given in a particular regiment, and that in other regiments only one commission had been conferred. I say that this is not enough, and that greater inducements ought to be held out to men who join the Army. There are many good men who would not mind roughing it for a few years in the ranks if they felt that they were almost certain to reach the higher grades of the Service in the long run. The hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith, who has just spoken, has suggested that both the Army and Navy might be made the means of advancement to posts in the Civil Service, but for my part I am opposed to the taking away of men from the Army and putting them in Civil Service employment. If they are to be promoted they ought to find that promotion in the Service to which they belong, and I think the hon. and gallant Members who are best acquainted with that Service will hear me out in saying that we have no better officers in our Army than those who have had their early training in the ranks. I think that if these two grievances were removed—if the men were better fed and were offered better prospect of promotion the difficulties we now experience in obtaining recruits will at once disappear. We are all under an obligation to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War for the steps he has already taken in the direction of ameliorating the position of a soldier, and I trust he will also take into consideration the suggestions I have just ventured to make.

٭(9.9) GENERAL C. FRASER (Lambeth, N.)

In my opinion it is very desirable that the present momentous condition of the recruiting question should lead to longer service. At the present time, just as a man has become a capable soldier, he is turned out into the world with no choice. I think that this is a mistake, and that a longer period of service would prove a useful remedy. I am very glad to hear that the War Office is about to institute an inquiry into the state of the Reserve, and I trust that it may lead to beneficial results.

٭(9.10.) COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)

We seem now to have arrived at a very critical period in recruiting for the Army. We approach within a few hundreds the total Reserve anticipated by Mr. Cardwell, namely, 60,000 men, and I am glad to hear that there is to be an inquiry into the recruiting system. We have had opportunities of testing, among other things, the effect of our present system upon troops on foreign service. The number of men on that service is very large, there being about 70,000 men in India, and I think the system is one which requires alteration. At present a man enlists in the Line for seven years with the colours and five with the Reserve. A man who remains in the Army for seven years has been divorced so long from his habit of labour that when he returns to civil employment he is not able to earn his living at his own employment, as he would have done had he remained in civil life. I was one who advocated short service before it was adopted—and if our Service was a Home Service, like that of Germany, a short service Army would suffice; but I think we must meet the double obligation here. I think that a man should enlist, for instance, for two or three years. After having been in the Service for six months, he should have the opportunity of adopting the Service. After serving with the colours 12 years, instead of serving the remaining nine years, he should be allowed to serve double that period in the Reserve, in order to obtain a pension. Any man in the Reserve should be allowed to reenlist for general service and go to India. I have found men in the Reserve perfectly capable and of the age desirable in India, and yet they are men who cannot be enlisted for Indian service. I strongly urge that these questions should be considered by the Committee. I think it is probable that some recruits fire deluded by the advertisement which is issued; but hon. Members have also to consider the recruiting sergeant, who is sometimes a man of resource, and puts a gloss upon the poster. Sometimes recruiting is stopped at many stations; and I have heard it said that this is very objectionable. As to the standard height for recruits, the standard of the Grenadier Guards over many years, though often above it, has been 5ft. 8in. as a rule. The standard of the Line must have been in early times 5ft. 6in.; but 5ft. 3in. for the Line is not a proper height for a soldier of the British race. He is too small, and is not really a well-developed man. That is a point which I think ought to be looked into in considering this recruiting question. We not only want numbers, but we want men of good average physique.

٭(9.14.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

I have many soldiers amongst my constituents, and I approve the Motion brought forward by my hon. Friend. I have often heard that recruits say they have been mistaken in the terms of their engagement, which was 1s. a day and free rations, as they believed. But when they entered the Army they found that the rations consisted of 1 lb. of bread and ¾ lb. of meat, including bone. Although the bread may be sufficient, healthy men do not think ¾ lb. of meat weighed with the bone is enough except for one meal. No doubt the men get a good dinner in the middle of the day. I have been at their messes and seen the dinners cooked, and I think that where the officers do their duty and see that the men have what is allowed under the Regulations, this meal is sufficient. Having had their dinner, they reserve a small portion of their bread for their tea, which they have to pay for themselves. Out of the 1s. a day at least 3d. a day goes for their groceries and vegetables. They are left with 9d. But there are various stoppages, such as, for instance, if they damage their clothes; so that the soldier is left with, a very small amount per diem. After the men have had their tea, they have to go from 4 o'clock to 8 o'clock the next morning without food, and then they are provided with a scanty breakfast. That is far too long to go without food. We have a number of very young men in the Army, and they require more food than the older soldiers, who have become accustomed to the régime, though, I am sorry to say that a good many of them do not feel hunger so much because they drink more than the young soldiers. The young soldiers make great complaints, and they hope that the Government will give them something in the way of a free tea in the afternoon. I do not pretend to say that this would not cost the country a considerable amount; still, it should be recollected that in all other walks of life, including that of the agricultural labourer, wages have gone up, while for years the soldier has been kept at his 1s. a day and the same quantity of rations. If there has been a falling off in the number of recruits, it must be because the Service is not sufficiently attractive. I do think it would be useful to increase the amount of food given to the men.


May I ask the Secretary for War whether he will include in the inquiry to be made the case of Reserve and discharged soldiers?


It would be inconvenient to discuss that point before we get into Committee. I have no right to answer that question now; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to answer it in Committee.


The right hon. Gentleman has not only done so much for the soldier, but he promises to do so much more, that I do not think it would be fair to him to press this Amendment. I, therefore, beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

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