HC Deb 14 March 1895 vol 31 cc1134-9

who had on the Paper the following notice:— To call attention to the incompleteness of the Territorial system between Regulars, Militia and volunteers, and to move a Resolution, said he wanted to call attention to the operation of the territorial system in the Home District, although he could not move a Resolution. Every one had been pleased to read in the Memorandum the paragraph as to the numerical strength and efficiency of the Volunteers; and both sides of the House would congratulate the Secretary for War on his having authorised experimental mobilisation in the Home District. The scheme had been on paper many years; but it had never been tried in any thorough form in this country. It was proposed to invite the Reserve men to come out for a week. If that meant that they were to be invited to do so voluntarily, he feared that only inferior men would come out. If the thing was done at all, it ought to be done properly, and it was highly desirable that the Reserve men, under arrangements that they should not lose their situations, should come out with the battalions to which they are attached, He was a strong believer in the territorial system; it had done a great deal to popularise the Army by connecting particular regiments with particular districts. In illustration, he might point to the experiment of last year, the march through Wales of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, which was attended with great success. In the Army List the names of different Volunteer regiments were placed alongside those of territorial regiments to which they were supposed to be attached. But the 28 corps of Volunteers in the Home district did not appear to be affiliated to any territorial regiment, while the 3rd London, the 10th Middlesex, were affiliated to the King's Royal Rifles, and others were affiliated to the Rifle Brigade. It is hardly fair to give to the Rifle Brigade depôt at Winchester 19 adjutancies and over 60 sergeant instructorships. The Volunteers in the Home district are brigaded under colonels in in command of the Guards. The Volunteer forces of the Metropolis were greatly indebted for the interest taken in their instruction and welfare, by the officers of the Guards, and also by the non-commissioned staff. Therefore it seemed to be a pity, when appointments were to be made to permanent posts connected with the Volunteers of the Home District, such as adjutancies and sergeant instructor-ships, that they should be given to regiments other than the regiments with which they were, in a military sense, intimately connected. He believed the King's Royal Rifles and the Rifle Brigade were not, strictly speaking, territorial regiments, although the Volunteer forces in the Metropolis had been made over to them. If the Secretary for War would look into the matter, he would see that it was not quite fair that the different regiments of Guards should have no opportunity of obtaining posts in connection with the Volunteer forces of the Metropolis. Perhaps the officers had no desire to obtain them, but, however able might be the officers of the Rifle Brigade, it would still be an advantage to the Volunteers that they should be able, occasionally, to have Adjutants from the Brigade of Guards. And it was rather hard upon the noncommissioned officers of the Guards, who had a great deal to do with the organisation of Volunteers in the Metropolis, that when the time came for them to retire from active regimental life, they should not have the opportunity of obtaining sergeant-instructorships in the Volunteer Force, posts for which they were so admirably fitted. Another point was that the line regiments had three or four battalions of Militia affiliated to them. The Grenadier Guards, the Cold-stream Guards, and the Scots Guards were the only Infantry regiments which had no Militia battalions and no Volunteer battalions affiliated to them. Both the Militia and the Volunteers would look upon it as a distinction to be affiliated to them in a territorial sense; and when one saw the Volunteer force serving, as it was in London, intimately connected with the different regiments in the Brigade of Guards, it was only fair his right hon. Friend should endeavour to give the Brigade of Guards, as of right, some of those permanent posts he had specified in connection with the Volunteer force of the Metropolis.


reminded the House that last year, on the Army Estimates, attention was called to the sanitary state of Wellington Barracks, and on that occasion the Secretary of State promised it should be immediately attended to. Now that they had the assurance of his right hon. Friend, he hoped the matter would be placed on a more satisfactory footing. He agreed that it was satisfactory to find that the country now had from 84,000 to 85,000 men in the Reserve; but he could not help saying, as one who had taken part in military Debates in the House during the last 15 years, that our Army had been, to a great extent, sacrificed for the sake of the Reserves. He recalled to the House that some 14 years ago there was a mobilisation of the Reserves on Portsdown Hill. On that, occasion he accompanied the Duke of Cambridge and the Headquarters Staff when those Reserves were inspected, and at the time ho could not congratulate the Military Authorities on the place to which they were invited to come forward. A more bare, bleak, uncomfortable spot was not to be found in the South of England than Portsdown Hill. The men, too, were not treated in a satisfactory way in respect of accommodation, and the Commissariat provided for them. He heard many civilians who took part in the mobilisation say that they would never do so again unless proper barrack accommodation was provided, and the commissariat was improved. Another matter to which he would call attention was the importance of providing suitable ranges for Militia regiments armed with the Lee-Metford rifle. It was highly desirable that such regiments should have facilities for firing their musketry course with the weapon with which they were armed. Last year many militia battalions armed with the Lee-Metford rifle were unable to go through their musketry course with that weapon. The Sussex Regiment, for example, found that their range accommodation was such as to make it unsafe to use the Lee-Metford rifle, and the old Martini-Henry had to be re-issued to them for their musketry practice. A state of things like that was eminently unsatisfactory. It was a curious fact that, the first battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, stationed in Ireland, was still armed with the Martini-Henry, although the Militia battalion of the regiment was armed with the Lee-Metford. The Militia recruits were drilled at Chichester with the Lee-Metford, but when they enlisted into the Regular battalion in Ireland they had to be sent back to drill for some weeks in order to learn tin Martini-Henry drill. He hoped that Lee-Metford rifles would be served out to the battalion in Ireland without undue delay. The time, he thought, had now arrived when the House and the country should be informed whether in the opinion of the Military Authorities the territorial system was satisfactory or not. He had been studying the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and he did not, understand from that Report that the system had answered in all counties as well as was expected. In some counties scarcely any men enlisted in their territorial regiments. The system appeared to be most successful in respect of recruiting in Suffolk, in Sussex, and parts of Lancashire; but in the North of England generally men seemed to be disinclined to enlist in their territorial battalions. This disinclination was specially apparent in Cumberland and Yorkshire. If the territorial system was to be carried out successfully something must be done to weld together the different branches of the Service. Old soldiers like himself looked back to the days when regiments were numbered, and to the old associations connected with those regiments; but still, if the territorial system was proved to be a success—and they ought to be told if it was so or not—he, for one, would do all he could in his humble way to assist the arrangement. In conclusion, he desired to say a word with regard to rifle ranges. Last year he obtained a Return from the Secretary of State for War, in which it was stated that there were only 48 rifle ranges in the United Kingdom. He understood, however, that certain arrangements were now being made to add to that list, and he saw, from the right hon. Gentleman's memorandum, that, there was a large tract, of country in a certain part of England—he would not mention the name—which it was proposed to utilise; but he would like to ask whether it was that locality situated in the Midland counties to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded last year? No doubt a large sum had been spent upon ranges, and as the memorandum stated, £20,000 was asked for annually; but he hoped that if more money were wanted, the right hon. Gentleman would not scruple to ask for it.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

thought the time had probably come when the House would like to get into Committee with a view of hearing the right hon. Gentleman's statement the first thing to-morrow. He did not wish in any way to delay Mr. Speaker's leaving the Chair, and therefore he would only ask for information on one particular point, and that, was as to the advantages offered to reserve soldiers in the way of employment in the Post Office. There was an impression that the facilities offered by the late Postmaster General had been modified. He did not know how that matter stood, and he would like some information upon it.


The evidence is being given to the Committee upstairs.


would like to know the nature of it, but if the House now desired to get into Committee, he thought they might do so on the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman should make his statement to-morrow, when he would probably be able to give him the information he desired.


pointed out that his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War had already stated that this matter was before a Committee. He could give an assurance that the present advantages offered to reserve soldiers were as great as they had ever been in the past. Evidence had been taken by the Committee from the Post Office, and that evidence would be presented to the House.

The House then went Into Committee, and Progress was immediately reported.

The House having resumed,