HC Deb 16 March 1894 vol 22 cc519-21

desired to call attention to the organisation necessary for more rapid mobilising of the forces for home defence and the training of the Reserve. That question had not received the attention it deserved, and was well worthy of consideration by the House. Our Army was our second line of defence. Though it was small, we were spending about £18,000,000 a year upon it, and there was no reason why it should not be thoroughly efficient in all its departments. The reason why no great anxiety was shown in military matters was because the nation at large believed that all necessary measures were taken up to the requirements of the Army. He pointed out that the scheme of mobilisation existed only on paper, and had never been put to the test in any way whatever. The invasion of our shores seemed so improbable that people seemed hardly to recognise that such a scheme was essential to our safety as a nation. All the stores of clothing were concentrated at Pimlico. Could the Secretary of State for War assure him that it was sufficient for the wants of the whole Reserve force? Could he assure him that all this clothing was marked for its destination, ready to leave the stores at Pimlico at once? To ask that all the Reserve forces throughout the Kingdom should be mobilised at once would probably be asking too much; but he asked that the scheme should be tested in one district. If the light of public opinion was thrown upon it much good would result. Mobilisation was really organisation of forces in readiness for the field—i.e., bringing up the units to war strength. No doubt our present system was a good one, and a great deal of time and attention had been devoted to it by experts. The late Mr. Stanhope had said that we had a scheme of mobilisation which we could act upon tomorrow if there was any danger of invasion. It was difficult to persuade the public that there was anything to fear in that direction, but that was an event possible at all events, and some actual working scheme of mobilisation was necessary for our national safety. Let the Secretary of State take any district he liked, give orders to the general officer commanding to mobilise at once, let the general officer issue his instructions by telegraph, and then the scheme would be submitted to a practical test, and they would be able to see how the system worked and where its failures were. They would also be able to test the system of the centralisation of stores, at Pimlico. He did not believe that they would; be able to get the stores out in time. They should always count on the possibility of mistakes. They had heard of mistakes in connection with our small wars, when a different ammunition from the ammunition required would be sent out. These mistakes showed that the centralisation of stores would hardly bear the strain put upon it in a time of great national danger. In close connection with the matter of mobilisation were the questions of the ammunition used by the Volunteers and the different patterns of machine guns in use. He would urge on the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War the necessity for taking those matters into consideration. The question of the training and exercising of our Reserve forces was also an important point for consideration. At present the training was not carried on as efficiently or on as broad a plan as it ought to be, especially when compared with the system adopted by military nations on the Continent.


I would appeal to the House that we should now go into Committee, because in the statement I intend to make I can reply to the various points that have been raised.

Main Question put, and agreed to.