HC Deb 13 March 1896 vol 38 cc898-944

*SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth) rose to call attention to the necessity for the more adequate adaptation of existing military forces to the oversea requirements of the Empire in war, and to the conditions and requirements relating to the embarkation, the sea-transit, and the disembarkation of land forces, as a determining influence on all military arrangements necessary to provide for the "safety of the United Kingdom, and the defence of the possessions of Her Majesty's Crown," and to move:— That this House, before having submitted to its consideration the Army Estimates, should be in possession of an explanatory statement from Her Majesty's Government, setting forth the general principles of defence which have determined the gross amount proposed to be allocated to naval and military purposes respectively, and indicating the main lines of the general plan or programme of British defence to which the Admiralty and the War Office administration, arrangement, and expenditure are respectively to conform. He said that the quotation in his notice was taken from the Mutiny Act in 1815, the words for "the preservation of the balance of power in Europe'' were inserted, but in 1868, they were struck out. This indicated a change of circumstances on the Continent and a change in our attitude; our policy of maintaining an Army to preserve the balance of power in Europe had become a thing of the past. We had now to deal with Army Estimates which involved a total outlay for effectives of £17,000,000 for the defence of the Empire, and he wished to address himself to the diminution of the striking power of our Army oversea. We had greater land frontiers than any other Power in the world, The defence of the Empire depended upon the co-operation of naval power with military force, and yet the House was not permitted to discuss the policy of defence by the combined action of both Services. We could not have economy or efficiency until the House devoted one day of the Session to the question of defence as a complex one depending upon both Services. All history went to show that passive defence had always been a failure. It was impossible to examine the military necessities of the Empire without reference to its naval power, and the exercise of naval power restricted to a certain extent the mobility of a portion of the military force. On the Estimates there appeared 642,515 men; and the total effective force was 587,113. This force could be divided into three groups—the regular forces and the reserves available for oversea service, the militia and yeomanry available for service within the United Kingdom, and the volunteers available for service within Great Britain. It was not possible by the Estimates to fix, even approximately, the cost of each of these three groups. But, taking the number of effectives in the first group, there were with the Colours at Home and in colonial garrisons, 145,270; first class reserve, 70,723; second-class reserve, 110; and militia reserve, 30,000. That gave a paper total of 253,103 as the mobile force which represented our striking power overseas. In the second group there were only 97,137 men, because from the militia must be deducted the 30,000, already accounted for; and hi the third group there were the 232, 150 volunteers. This made a grand total of 582,390. Of this number, not 44 per cent. were available for service abroad. The regulars and Reserves in the regimental establishments at home numbered 109,552, and there were 37,603 more locked up in colonial garrisons. These latter were seasoned troops, ready to take the field; but under the present system there were no means of supplying their places, and, therefore, they must be deducted from the striking power of the Empire overseas. Neither could all of the 109,552 men on the regimental establishments at home be regarded as available for oversea requirements. There was no return as to the untrained men, but 29,192 were recruited a year ago, so there could be only 80,000 who had had more than a year's training at the present time. Then part of these forces were pledged to India, and these deductions would reduce the total available to 75,000 men. Thus, the men with the colours, 67 per cent. were in the training schools, as the home regimental establishments might be called, and 33 per cent.—and the best troops—were locked up in colonial garrisons. Moreover, in case of war, further deductions would have to be made for the 75,000 men available at home to reinforce the colonial garrisons. Therefore, although the Estimates showed an expenditure of £17,000,000, and a number of men considerably exceeding 500,000, yet not one-third of that force was available to take the field overseas. What was the origin of this want of mobility? It was not due to any particular military policy, but to the influence of popular feelings in past times. Up to 1859 this country had simply the regular Army and the Militia, but in that year, partly owing to the invasion of Italy by Napoleon III., partly owing to some foolish utterances by some French colonels, and partly owing to the ill-considered expression of Lord Palmerston that steam had bridged the Channel, the country received a great fright, and then, not in response to any call from the military authorities, but in mere panic, the people rushed to arms, and initiated the magnificent Volunteer Force of the present day. That meant that our military policy was based on the assumption that our primary danger was a great military invasion of these islands. It was necessary to examine the grounds on which such a theory was based when our striking power overseas was reduced to uphold it. The possibility of a military invasion was primarily a naval consideration, and therefore it was impossible to examine the basis of our military policy at all without reference to the naval power. It was no use pointing to the tremendous magnitude and growth of foreign armies. They could not swim across, and they could not come in balloons. Therefore it was a question of ports, and the facilities of transport. It was to that question that he would address a few observations, and if he selected France for illustration it was not because he wished to open any question of foreign policy or of the attitude of the nation to France or France to the nation. He took France because she was geographically the nearest Power, and obviously the possibilities were greatest where the seaboard was nearest. Had France since 1860 developed very considerably her carrying power; had she enlarged her ports; had anything happened to make it easier for an invading army to come now than in 1860? Our military preparations for passive defence had increased enormously, but the steam transport of France had not increased to anything like the same extent. Did the ports between Dunkirk and Brest present the great steam transport necessary for an invading power? No. The great bulk of the shipping transactions in every one of these ports was carried on in British ships. France altogether, counting every steamer she had above two tons, had only 1,200 vessels. These were distributed over innumerable ports lying from Dunkirk in the Channel to Villefranche in the Mediterranean. More than half of the tonnage was only fit for and employed in coasting trade. The Mediterranean coasting vessels could not in any number come to the Channel, and he doubted very much if very many of the coasting steamers between La Rochelle and Biarritz could possibly come to the ports between Dunkirk and Brest. In order to collect the larger vessels at any port, France would have to suspend the whole of her mercantile operations for many months. That all tended to show that while on the one hand we had been drifting into a military policy which made its main aim military resistance of a military invasion, there was nothing to justify that policy so far as the question of carrying power constituted an argument. He asked the House to think of some of the considerations that would naturally present themselves to the mind of the Commander of a French invading force. The first would be the sea transport obtainable—that and not the magnitude of the army must decide the total number of the expedition. Next he must consider the ports suitable for the issue of an invading force, and the collection at these ports within a given time and without interruption of the units of sea transports to carry the army. Then he must have regard to the capacity of these ports to hold the vessels when so concentrated; and to the local features, such as depth of water, width of entrance, wharfage, rise and fall of tides, and the distance of the ports from each other, as affecting the concentration, as a whole. He must further consider the arrangements to secure the uninterrupted issue of each separate portion of the expedition from each separate port, and the uninterrupted transit of each portion to the rendezvous either in the Channel or at the point of concentration on our coast where the attack was to be delivered. Lastly, he must consider and arrange for all means for disembarkation required to be carried out, and the time it would take to hoist out the boats and appliances to land units of the military force as an organised body sufficient for the purpose of covering the rest of the force. It was not the growth of continental armies, or the imagination of the English people, but the plain facts with regard to sea transport and ports that had to be taken into consideration. His contention was that these facts had never been authoritatively dealt with, either by the War Office or the Admiralty. [The UNDER SECRETARY dissented.] He would ask the hon. Gentleman specifically to state when it was dealt with, and what was the result of the inquiries—what was the capacity of the ports and transports of France to launch an invading army on the water. He did not expect the hon. Gentleman would be able to give an answer. If he was able, then the fact was this—that, having first founded and then developed a military policy, an inquiry had recently been made as to whether it was correct or not. They had had a very interesting illustration of the truth of what he said. The present Commander-in Chief, in 1888, when Adjutant General of the Army, made a statement which was founded upon calculations relating to transport. That statement was to the effect that a vast army could be suddenly thrown upon these shores. The late Mr. Stanhope, then Secretary of State for War, was asked if he supported that statement, and he did support it. The noble Lord the Secretary for India, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, was asked a question as to the calculation of transport strength, and he denied the accuracy of the figures given by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The consequence was an unseemly difference of opinion in the House between the Admiralty and the War Office Departments as to the possibility of invasion by a given force. He was not aware that the point had been settled since. That, however, affected only the question of the power of transport. The present Secretary to the Treasury twitted the noble Lord with this difference of opinion between the Departments, and when he (Sir J. Colomb) asked his noble Friend whether he would furnish the House with a statement as to the capacity and wharfage of the ports between Dunkirk and Brest, the noble Lord replied that the matter did not come within his official province. That was the position of the House in the matter, and upon that sort of policy the country was expending 17 millions on the Army. This unsatisfactory condition of things must continue until the House so altered its form of procedure that naval and military matters could be considered together and as a whole—the Army in relation to the Navy and the Navy in relation to the Army. The possibility of invasion was regarded from a twofold aspect—first, that we had lost command of the sea; and secondly, that our fleet, though not beaten, might have been decoyed away from the Channel. Again, he would ask hon. Members to place themselves in the position of a possible invader. If we had lost command of the seas, the enemy would possess it, and he might say that he could take time to carry out his operations. Moreover, he might take into account the consideration that loss of the command of the seas would mean to us commercial paralysis and the whole population idle in the streets, and that this fact must lead to capitulation sooner or later. It might be said that the attempt at a great military expedition against this country under those conditions would be a foregone conclusion. But even so, would the enemy run no risk while carrying out his operations of transport on the sea? ["Hear, hear!"] Would he incur no danger from the resources of the Mercantile Marine of England? ["Hear, hear!"] In 24 hours over a thousand steamers might issue into the Channel, and it might be taken for granted that in such an emergency the British merchant seaman would make a last rally for our supremacy of the seas. [Cheers.] An invader would not be likely to overlook those risks. Then let them look at the matter from the point of view that, though we had not lost command of the seas, yet our fleets had been decoyed away. The concentration of the transport strength would be a difficult work, and take a considerable time to effect, and it was really impossible to conceive that such a concentration could be effected at all so long as we had command of the seas, and regarded the enemy's coast as our frontiers. ["Hear, hear!"] The process of concentration would take much time, it would be known, and if known, the fleet could not be decoyed away. Therefore, from the point of view of transport power and probable sea difficulties, he contended that the fears of invasion by a great military expedition were wholly exaggerated, and that we had sacrificed, and were still sacrificing, effort and money in developing a policy of military resistance of invasion when we ought to give our attention to increase the striking power of our Army beyond the seas. ["Hear, hear!''] He wished particularly to impress upon hon. Members the importance of the House being able to consider, or review, matters of Army and Naval policy together—to consider the resources of Imperial defence as a whole. In support of this view, he might remark that, since he last introduced a Motion of a similar kind in 1888, it had been resolved to place the control and guidance of the whole war power of the country in the hands of an inner Committee of the Cabinet, presided over by the Lord President. The joint arrangements of the Army and Navy for the protection of the Empire were formulated and controlled by that Committee, who were independent of the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] For the House could not review the work of the Committee. It was a new Department as it were, and though it might be composed of responsible Ministers, yet the House of Commons was precluded, by its own rules, from reviewing its policy and action. That, he apprehended was a matter for grave consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] He had found fault with the absence of effective means for the mobilisation of the Army, and he sincerely believed that the want of mobility was a danger to the country and the Empire. Every reform that could be introduced to increase the mobility of the Army and enable us to realise the strength of the 37,000 trained and seasoned soldiers locked up in colonial garrisons—that would enable us, indeed, to realise promptly our whole military strength, would be a great advantage to the country. Our policy should be to realise the strength of this force for over-sea purposes in war, and to adopt means to readily replace them. His view was that if the proportions of the invading danger had been unduly exaggerated, then both the Militia and Volunteers were not required for the defence of the country, and the Militia might be made an Imperial force. He believed that such a change would attract recruits rather than keep them away. Twenty-five years ago, when paying off a Militia regiment, he took the trouble to ask every man a question on this point, and the result of his inquiry was that 90 per cent. of the regiment replied that as far they were concerned, they were prepared, if embodied, to go for service in garrisons beyond the seas if their bounty was increased. He would ask the Under Secretary whether the War Office had formed any opinion in favour of extending the liability of the Militia for service to Imperial garrison work, and if so on what terms? Assuming that to be carried out, the infantry portion of 37,000 of the best trained men on the regimental establishments would be at once released. Finally, he came to the Volunteers. They were a force whose service was limited to Great Britain, and he would suggest that they ought to be required to serve in any part of the United Kingdom in time of war. He thought that the Volunteers should be liable to be called upon to serve in Ireland if necessary in war. He concluded by moving the Resolution which stood in his name, and thanked the House for the patient hearing it had given to him.

*SIR HENRY HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S. E.) rose to second the Resolution. He had himself a somewhat similar Resolution on the Paper, namely, to call attention to the necessity of a large expansion of the military defensive forces of the country on a purely voluntary basis. That Resolution was, perhaps, capable of some misapprehension, but the object he had in view was almost identical with that of the hon. Member who had just spoken, and he would like to explain, that in asking for a large expansion of the military forces, he did not propose to ask the House to sanction one additional man to those already borne on the Estimates. He wished to show that by an adaptation of means to the end, by re-organisation, by looking carefully into the machinery of the military system, the power for action of this country beyond the seas, if necessity should arise, might be almost doubled without the addition of a single man to the Estimates. His hon. Friend had so ably dealt with the whole question of the possibility of invasion, that he should leave it untouched, and if he touched in any degree on matters of foreign policy, he should only do so in so far as it was intimately connected with the defensive policy of the country. The habit which had grown up of late of maintaining almost a conspiracy of silence on the defensive policy of the country, placed those who wished to discuss it under great disadvantage. Foreign countries had the advantage of us in that respect, that though they did not rest on democratic institutions as we did, they took the whole of their people into their confidence upon military matters. There was, in his opinion, no occasion for that limitation in the discussion of our defensive policy. One of the main purposes of the Resolution was to endeavour as far as possible, subject to the limitation to which he had referred, to obtain in the future, simultaneously with the Army Estimates, an explanatory state-from the Government setting forth their scheme of defence, together with a statement of the gross amount required for military and naval defence. There were indications, which he hailed with satisfaction, that in future years they would be able to discuss the question of the military defence of the Empire without being, so to speak, blindfolded, because on these occasions they would have an official explanatory statement of the general defensive policy of the Kingdom, and of the means adopted to render that policy effective. The supporters of this Resolution did not propose to ask for any additional expenditure. They only asked that the existing number of men might, by thorough organisation and more adaptation, be so placed at the disposal of the military authorities of this country as to be available at any time in much larger numbers than would be possible now for offensive and defensive operations beyond sea wherever our interests might require their services. With regard to the number of men already borne upon our roll and liable to be called to arms in the United Kingdom, he had one or two observations to make. He had often, been surprised, when talking with foreigners, to discover their immense and complete ignorance of the really large number of men that we had at our disposal for home defence. He doubted whether the general public of this country, and he was sure the general public in other countries were not aware of the fact that at this moment in the event of a declaration of war we could have in this country 600,000 effective men under arms within a fortnight. But the state of affairs was different when service away from home was contemplated. For many years they were told that for foreign service there would be one Army Corps of 30,000 men available. Within the last five years, however, they had heard of a second Army Corps, but he did not find in the Estimates that any progress had been made in the direction of a possible mobilisation of this second Army Corps, and he believed that up to the moment our aspirations as regards mobilisation for purposes of defence beyond the seas had been limited to the employment of one Army Corps of 30,000 men. He was not surprised that foreign nations looked upon this country as a quantité négligeable as far as land operations beyond sea were concerned. That was a dangerous and humiliating position for us to occupy. Justice was not done to the taxpayers, who contributed £18,000,000 a year for the Army. In return for the money which it expended, this nation ought to have an armed military force capable of acting in defence of its interests in any part of the world. Analysing the forces at our disposal, he found that there were 150,000 men available for service abroad, a reserve supposed to number 80,000 men, but at the present moment numbering only 77,000; about 75,000 men in India, in addition to a Native Army of 120,000; a Militia of 120,000 men, of whom 40,000 constituted the Militia reserve; and a Volunteer force, which was increasing in efficiency day by day, of nearly 235,000 men. He would now direct attention to some of the contingencies which might necessitate the dispatch of forces over sea. The advance of Russia, though a friendly Power, towards the frontier of India was a fact that we could not shut our eyes to. In the last 15 years Russia, through Central Asia, had approached 1,200 miles nearer to our Indian frontier, and for nearly 200 years her policy had been steadily directed to the acquisition of a large port on a seaboard which was not frozen in for a considerable time of the year. It was well known that her policy was to gain possession eventually of Constantinople. Circumstances again had arisen on the south-eastern frontier of India, where the gradual advance of another friendly Power had placed our frontiers co-terminous with the frontiers of France, Siam, and China. He said without hesitation that all those circumstances taken together constituted the strongest justification for the Motion of his hon. Friend, and of the endeavour he had made to see the people of this country taken into the confidence of the authorities on a question which excited little attention, but if it did excite the attention it deserved would place our Army on the same footing in popular favour as our Navy was at present. If these questions were to assume an acute form, and to resolve themselves into a demonstration on the northern frontier of India, what would our position be? Out of the available force we had in this country there would be required at less than a month's notice a reinforcement of our Indian force of 50,000 men. Lord Roberts and others were of opinion that the available force in India for operations on the north-west frontier would not exceed 60,000 men in two Army corps at Peshawur and Quetta. If, therefore, any demonstration should be made against our Indian frontier, we should be obliged immediately to send at least 50,000 men to reinforce our garrisons in India. As to the south-eastern frontier—Burmah, Siam, and the provinces of the Chinese Empire—it might happen that it would be necessary to reinforce our armies in Burmah, the Straits Settlements, and China by at least 10,000 men. We might also hear of certain contingencies calling for the reinforcement of our forces in Egypt to the extent of 10,000 men. Out of the disposable force, we might at any time be called upon at a month's notice to send 50,000 to India, 10,000 to Egypt, 10,000 to coaling stations, and communications in the Straits of Malacca and the Eastern Seas. What, then, became of the one Army corps which they were told successive Secretaries for War had carefully prepared and elaborated. That Army corps would be absorbed three times over. Those who had closely examined the military aspect of our needs said, that in order to put this country in a position to support its military interests abroad, three Army corps, or 90,000 men, ought to be available for foreign service contingencies. Two of the Army corps should be complete, and the third should be available for completion, say in two months. What they asked for, therefore, was not an increase of expenditure, but a better adaptation of means to an end through better organisation. We had in this country a magnificent force in our Militia. Its nominal establishment was 130,000 men, of whom, 30,000 were now pledged to service beyond the sea. But why should not the War Office endeavour by voluntary means, say by a bargain on both sides, to make the entire body of Militia available for service abroad? He had no doubt that if the proposal was made known to the Militia, the conditions of service abroad being an extra bounty of £2 per man, the whole force would meet the offer with enthusiasm. During the Crimean War, he believed that 25 battalions of English and Irish Militia voluntarily came forward for service abroad. They took nearly the whole of our garrisons in the Mediterranean—Gibraltar, Malta, and Corfu, thereby freeing as many of our soldiers for the regular service abroad. In the last 20 years, not only had we formed a Reserve of 80,000 men through the passing back of Army men into the civil population of the country, but in the population there were between 40,000 and 50,000 men of prime military age between 30 and 35 who had completed their service in the Reserve, of whom they might engage a considerable number for service as supplementary to the regular Army by a small bounty. No money could be better expended than the money devoted to the aid of a voluntary agreement with such a body of men. Speaking with the experience of one who was a magistrate in two counties he said that the employment of these men was so irregular that they would be only too glad to embrace the opportunity of going back to the colours. When the facts of the case were recognised, when it was recognised that with a very small and inconsiderable addition to our present expenditure, we might more than double our effective forces for service abroad, the people of this country would only be surprised that the ingenuity of various Secretaries of State for War had not been previously directed to the subject.


desired to draw attention to the administration of the War Office.


pointed out that the whole subject of War Office administration might be raised on the Question that he do now leave the Chair, but not on the Amendment.


went on to say, that the late Mr. Stanhope, perhaps, did more than any one else to place the administration of the War Office on a satisfactory footing, and, with one exception, which he would allude to further on, he acted in the right direction. But the present Government had made a retrograde movement in the creation of the War Office Council on which the present organisation of the War Office was based. By this retrograde movement we were not in the same position as before to place our military forces in line for the defence of the Empire. This Council continued that dual system which had rendered the War Office incapable of organising the Army on the footing which was necessary for the defence of the country, and it was to that point he wished to direct particular attention.


I am afraid that does not come within the scope of the Amendment. When the Amendment is disposed of it will be open for the right hon. Member, when the main Question is raised, to speak on this point.


said he would reserve his remarks accordingly.

COLONEL W. KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

said, that while he cordially agreed with the intentions conveyed in the Amendment, he could not endorse everything which was assumed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who proposed it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman rather laid it down as a matter of great importance that we might reduce our defensive power in proportion as we increased our attacking power, but it seemed almost impossible to dissociate the one from the other, and just in proportion as you maintain your defensive power you, of necessity, increase your attacking power as well. Therefore, he could hardly see the consistency of the line of argument that to increase the striking or attacking power the defensive power might, to a certain extent, lie reduced. In truth, the two questions were so bound up together that he could not conceive any military system that did not deal with both. The hon. and gallant Gentleman laid down for the consideration of the House the possibility of invasion, and he said there were eight considerations that must occupy the thoughts of any commanding officer contemplating the possibility of an invasion in this country from any possible foreign country. But his hon. and gallant Friend left out one consideration that would be more present to the mind of that possible commanding officer than any other, and that was the question how when once he got into the country he could by any possibility get out again. That, indeed, would be the dominant factor in the consideration any enemy's commanding officer would give to the subject, and this additional consideration went far to fortify his hon. and gallant Friend in his argument that the possibilities of invasion were not so very great as by some people they were supposed to be, and that we were entitled to consider more fully perhaps than we ever had done, the expediency and desirability of making a large part of our defensive forces available for striking that blow to which allusion had been made. It had been suggested that one of the means by which this power of striking a sudden blow might be attained would be by the release of our colonial garrisons, consisting, of course, of seasoned troops, making these garrisons available for the sudden attack and replacing them by less experienced troops. Of course, it was essential for the success of such a blow that it should be rapidly delivered, and rapid movement of troops could be best effected from home, and one of those colonial garrisons might be the base from which to strike the blow. He also wanted to take some little exception to one proposition of the Amendment, and that was that at certain intervals in that House they should have indicated to them the general plan or programme of British defence. He was as eager as his hon. and gallant Friends to be informed of all those features which so thoroughly interested soldiers or sailors, but from the point of view of the general interest of the country he thought there would be grave reason to doubt whether it would be advisable that such a general plan should be unfolded. If it was unfolded for the consideration of that House it was equally unfolded for the consideration and knowledge of the world at large, whether friendly or hostile to them. He should hesitate long before he could follow his hon. and gallant Friends into the Lobby on that part of the Amendment. He would also urge the great loss of time which would be involved, and the loss of time in a policy such as this would, he thought, be absolutely fatal to its success. When his hon. and gallant Friends came to closer quarters they certainly did propound for the consideration of the military authorities one or two suggestions which were really of considerable importance, and might be worthy of taking into immediate consideration with a view to reducing them to some practical result in due time. It was, of course, patent to all who were interested in military matters, that the position of the Militia was capable of improvement, and he thought it would be well if the feeling of neglect which existed in the minds of the keenest officers of that force could be obliterated, and a more hearty acknowledgement of their high value placed on their services. It seemed to him that in all these Military and Naval matters they were a little apt to be somewhat pessimistic. He thought they were a little bit apt not to give credit to their chiefs of departments, to their great officers, and to their administrators for that which they were capable of effecting. He fancied it would pretty well startle this country, as it would startle any foreign foe, if it was revealed to them at this moment—as it would be most indiscreet to do—the rapidity with which a very competent force, armed with all that was requisite, could be placed at one of their chief ports and be conveyed to any conceivable point at which a blow could be struck. He, understanding how things stood in this matter, did not wish to associate himself with the pessimistic school of soldiers, because he fancied enormous advances had been made through the agencies of their Intelligence Department, and of the earnestness and zeal with which the service was now being conducted in those directions, in which some people seemed to think they were utterly behindhand. While he gave to the Amendment his support on many main principles, and while he wished to express his own opinion that in some matters there was still room for improvement, still, altogether, ho thought it would perhaps be unwise if it was adopted in its entirety.

* MR. EDWIN LAWRENCE (Cornwall, Truro)

said, that underlying the speeches both of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, there was the assumption that this country was rendered perfectly secure by the Volunteer force of nearly a quarter of a million of men. It was on the recognition of that force that he desired to say two or three words. The immediate result of that force which sprang to arms, not at the instigation of the War Office but spontaneously, was, that this country took a position abroad such as it had not taken for years before. He acknowledged that this Government had, for the first time, given some additional recognition of the force by providing in the Supplementary Estimates for a payment in advance of the Capitation Grant. That showed that this Government was moving in the right direction, but he wanted to ask them to go a little further. There were two ways by which they made men earnest in a cause—one was by paying them in money, and another was by giving them reputation and honour. Through evil and through good report—and more, through evil than good—the Volunteers had continued, with little thanks and less honour. He happened to meet, a few days ago, an old Volunteer officer who had served in his corps upwards of 22 years. He told him he was not allowed to wear his uniform or bear his rank; that he had been 10 years a private and 12 years an officer, and that his 10 years as a private did not count. He took the trouble to refer to the Regulations, and he found——


Order, order! The hon. Member is dealing with a matter which is remote from the question raised by this Amendment.


thought it was germane to the question, because he wanted to ask the Government to make the Volunteer corps stronger.


I quite understand that to be the hon. Gentleman's point, but it seems to me too remote from the question of the Amendment. The hon. Member will be at liberty to address himself to that point when the main question is before the House.


said he would content himself by saying that he trusted the War Office would endeavour in every possible way to strengthen the Volunteer corps, so that they might be able to fulfil every service in this country in time of need.


said, his hon. and gallant Friends who had moved and seconded the Amendment had performed a public service for which the House and the country ought to be thankful. He was unable to sympathise with the view that Naval and Army matters should be taken together in this House. He believed it would lead to confusion, and to Army questions being entirely overshadowed by Naval questions and absorbed by them. He did entirely agree with the view as to the necessity of their possessing proper striking power, and he agreed as to the fallacy of basing their whole military system on the assumption that their Army was only required for purposes of defence. Within a very few weeks the country had been reminded of the undoubted possibility of a large army being required for offensive expeditionary purposes. Of course, with regard to India, where they were accustomed to contemplate the possibility of a collision with a European Power, the military system had been brought to great perfection. They had the inestimable benefit of battalions up to war strength composed of seasoned soldiers; and they had probably as fine Native auxiliaries as any country ever possessed. But they had been reminded by recent events of the possibility of having to dispatch a military force to other parts of the world—to Egypt, where, of course, they could co-operate with the Navy to their heart's content; possibly to South Africa; and Canada, he thought, ought to be added to the list of places to which military expeditions on a large scale might have to be sent, to help the Canadians in defending their territory and in maintaining and illustrating that loyalty and devotion to the mother country for which they had become so famous. The more one thought of these things, the more one was urged to the conclusion that their general military organisation was absolutely antiquated for any purposes of this kind. More especially was their persistent avoidance of making the Army Corps the real unit for executive, and as far as possible for administrative purposes, he believed accountable for many of their present shortcomings. Personally, he should like to urge the military authorities and the Government to agree to the ultimate institution of the Army Corps at home as the unit which should take the place of the present districts—that was to say, that a general officer should not command a district, but that he should be allowed to command an Army Corps, as he did at the present moment even in some of the second-rate European military Powers. The more the necessity was recognised of having a large force available to be sent abroad for offensive purposes, the more pressing became the need of seeing that the actual defensive forces were kept in a high state of efficiency. He was very glad that in nearly all the speeches that had been made in the Debate, some anxiety had been shown for maintaining the thorough efficiency of the Militia. The Militia included a very useful body of armed men, who were under proper control and discipline, and who, in a very short time would make most valuable soldiers in the first line. But he ventured to submit that the law as it at present stood required altering with regard to the obligation of the Militia to serve only in the United Kingdom. If there was one point more than another upon which all military reformers were agreed, it was in the necessity of enabling the Militia to serve wherever their assistance was required, so that in times of national danger they should be available to be sent out of this country. One hon. Member had said he was sure if the Militia were called upon to do it they would have no hesitation in responding to the call. That expression had an after-dinner ring about it. They were always saying that if any force was called upon to do whatever was patriotic, it would do so. He remembered that a gallant Commanding Officer who was a Member of that House did make an appeal of that sort to a battalion a few years ago, and their unanimity and steadiness was something quite surprising, but unfortunately it was in the wrong direction; for they did not volunteer to go—not a single man. In military matters he was not a believer in the word "may," or in trusting to public spirit; but he was in favour of definite regulations, one of which ought certainly to provide for the sending of the Militia abroad in time of national danger. Turning to the question of the Volunteers, he said that, after listening to the scheme that had been unfolded by the Under Secretary for War, he must confess that this important body had never received such generous treatment before. All that disappointed him in the remarks of the hon. Gentleman was that he did not conclude by saying the Government thought the time had come when the Volunteers must subject themselves to a considerable improvement in their military status and in their subjection to military discipline. And, next in importance to discipline, came the need for improvement in their mobility. They had hardly any mobility at the present moment, and what discipline they had they voluntarily conceded, very much of their own will and pleasure. A Brigadier had to contend with dreadful anomalies and difficulties. In the first place he could very seldom get his brigade together. He had to send them invitations like ordinary invitations to dinner, to ask if they would attend his various gatherings. There was nothing in the present law to enable him to report as inefficient, and so stop the capitation grant of any battalion that did not go where he told them to go. With regard to the transport for brigades, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would take some opportunity of telling them whether it was the case that a Committee had been sitting upon the subject of Volunteer transport, which would have some report to make to form the basis of further useful action. He would also ask the hon. Gentleman to inform them whether the very handsome grants for the outfit of Volunteers were by any chance to be retrospective, or only to apply to the present and future. He did not know whether this Amendment was to be pressed to a division, but he hoped the effort of its Mover to awaken greater interest in military questions might receive the reward it deserved, and that in future years our naval policy would not monopolise the whole interest of the public, but that greater consideration would be given to the pressing problems to which attention had been called that evening.


was sure that everybody who had listened to the discussion which had been going on for two hours would feel that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth was one of great interest. He must say that he sympathised very much with the observations of the hon. Member for Rye when he said he thought it was not desirable, from an Army point of view, that Naval and Army discussions should be mixed up in this House, because, undoubtedly, under these circumstances, the Army discussion would go to the wall. Having regard to the experience of the last few days, and to the claims continually made upon the Leader of the House to intrench upon the brief space of time given to Army discussions, in order to enable a fuller opportunity to be afforded for discussion of Naval affairs, he thought the hon. Gentleman's warning was not thrown away. One very satisfactory feature of the present Debate was that all the Gentlemen who had spoken, and most of whom had held Commissions in Her Majesty's Service, had expressed the opinion that the condition of their forces and of their national preparedness for war had greatly improved of recent years. ["Hear, hear!"] The part of the Debate which had been addressed to the point of further improving the condition of preparedness had therefore started from a common basis; but as regarded the methods of obtaining that end, there was not the same unanimity. The Mover of the Motion at the outset said that the policy of maintaining the Army as a means of preserving the balance of power in Europe had passed away, and the whole of his speech appeared to be directed to proving that that fear of invasion was greatly exaggerated, and that they were wasting a great deal of time and money in preparation for an eventuality that was extremely unlikely to occur. In support of this contention, the hon. and gallant Gentleman cited a great many facts and figures connected with the naval preparations of their neighbours, and expressed the fear that by their policy they might sacrifice the striking power to which they owed their Empire. He confessed the Government were not able to follow altogether the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his summary of the state of their preparedness. He thought he should have the support of the late Secretary for War when he said that in putting the policy of organising their home defence in the forefront, and making that the main pivot upon which the operations turned, there had been a complete continuity of policy between the two Parties. ["Hear, hear!"] For some years past it had been felt that they must put the question of home defence in the first rank, and consider as subsidiary to it the question of the extent to which they might have to send forces abroad. His hon. and gallant Friend was quite correct in saying that in case of need they could mobilise in this country over 500,000 men. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to consider what number of men were available for what he called their striking power beyond the seas. In the first place he took the question of their colonial garrisons, in which he had told them there were 38,000 men, representing some of the most effective of their forces, whom he regarded as being locked up and unavailable for common need. The cost entailed by keeping the men in these garrisons the hon. and gallant Gentleman looked upon as being more or less thrown away, and he had suggested that they should be replaced by a less valuable force. He was not quite sure that military authorities would agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. ["Hear, hear!"] Their colonial possessions, and their great fortresses in the Mediterranean had been fortified and armed, and their security guaranteed, by an enormous expenditure of public money. Their maintenance was vital to the prosperity of the Empire, and he was quite sure military authorities would look with considerable suspicion upon any policy which was likely to leave any forces in possession of their colonies and the garrisons there who were not competent to fulfil the requirements it might be necessary to call upon them to perform. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not, therefore, think that in considering what was called their striking power they ought to look to depleting their colonial garrisons of their best troops. With regard to home establishments, we were not as weak in forces as at first supposed. The hon. Member admitted that, taking away all the men under one year's service, there were 80,000 regular troops available for service abroad. He also admitted we had 80,000 in the Army Reserve, but complained that, having 500,000 or more in all, we had only 160,000 men available for service abroad, and he spoke of this as representing a paucity of striking military power. The whole question we had to consider was what was this country arming to do abroad. 160,000 men might be a small force compared with the armies which cotinental nations could put into the field, but it was a large force compared with the forces Great Britain ever had employed on the Continent of Europe or elsewhere. He believed that the Duke of Wellington had 40,000 or 50,000 men at Waterloo; the largest number in the Peninsula was between 50,000 and 60,000. In the Crimea the largest number ever assembled was between 50,000 and 55,000. As to the Militia, it had been very pertinently pointed out that they had to some extent suffered from the great attention paid to the Regulars and the Volunteers. Nothing, however, was more greatly appreciated by the Secretary for War than the value of the Militia. It was because the Militia was so much valued that it was not easy to accede to the suggestion which had been made to increase the inducements to Militiamen to enter the Militia Reserve, and so become available on emergency for the regular Army, for it was evident that this could not be done without largely reducing the efficiency of the Militia. It might be possible to increase the present number of Militiamen now enrolled in the Militia Reserve from 30,000 to 60,000—but if so, in case of war, we should leave, nothing but the cadres of Militia regiments to be filled up by recruits. As to the Amendment moved by his hon. Friend, if he was not able to lay before the House any exact proposal which might be made by the Government in case of emergency for the employment of troops, it must not be in the least supposed that emergencies had not been contemplated. So far as was possible, forecasts of the results of the existing situation were continually made, and schemes for immediate action, if required, wore prepared. ["Hear, hear!"] It was in no boastful spirit that he said there was no country which had such experience as Great Britain, and there were no officers more to be relied on than British officers in connection with, embarkation, sea transport, and disembarkation, of land forces. We had an unexampled Mercantile Marine, we had officers who were fully in touch with transport questions, our stores had been greatly decentralised, and a reserve of horses numbering 14,000 had been provided. In addition to the 160,000 men, the Government hoped in a very short time to have a complete artillery equipment for three Army Corps, and reserves of guns as well. ["Hear, hear!"] The Estimates of the relative amounts required for military and naval purposes had been carefully considered, not merely by the heads of the Departments, but by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which, since last year, had become a reality. ["Hear, hear!"] The Defence Committee not only had regard to the amount of the Estimates, but had on several occasions had before it schemes in which the two arms would act together. He did not pretend that everything had been done that could be done, but, at the same time, he thought it would not be denied that, under successive Governments, great strides had been made in the last ten years. He hoped, therefore, it would be understood that, although he had to say "No" to the Amendment, it was not because the Government was in any way out of sympathy with the objects the Amendment had in view. [Cheers.]


I think that, with lucidity and adequate fulness, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for War has dealt with all the points that have been raised. The only reason I intervene between the House and the conclusion of this part of the Debate is that the Resolution contains direct reference to the Defence Committee, and, therefore travels outside strictly departmental limit. I understand my hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the Resolution desire to express by it their sense of the extreme necessity that there should be an organised power in the Executive Government which shall review not merely our naval strength or our military strength considered by themselves, but which shall take into account the mutual relations of the two, and the work they have to do in combination. If I have rightly interpreted the views of my hon. and gallant Friend they meet with our full acceptance. We think there ought to be a co-ordination, of the defensive forces of the Empire, and the labours of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet are directed towards that end. But it is scarcely possible, as my hon. Friend the Under Secretary has pointed out, for this Government, or any Government, to lay on the Table of the House detailed explanations of the various objects and plans which determine the amounts to be allocated to different purposes. As everyone is aware, the British Empire is of so complex a character that it would be quite impossible to set out in any precise statement the details referred to, even if it were expedient on public grounds to do so. The Continental Powers of Europe know with what enemies they may possibly have to contend, what forces those enemies can bring into the field, and precisely the methods of defence and attack which will be used by all. We are differently situated, and it is quite impossible for us to state in detail the combinations and permutations of the various military and naval movements we might have to resort to. I do not think it would be desirable, even if you did work them all out in detail, that they should be embodied in published documents. I think my hon. Friends will probably be content with the general sympathy and agreement on the part of the Government which I express with their views, and they may rest assured that the general scope of the policy which they desire to recommend will not be lost sight of by the present Government. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that after the statement made by the First Lord of the Treasury he desired to withdraw his Resolution.


said he had no wish to interfere with the desire just expressed, nor with the arrangement entered into as to the closing of the Debate at 10 o'clock, but he must utter one word of protest. On the introduction of the Navy Estimates it was denied that they were intended as a menace to any Power, but the hon. Member for Rye had speculated upon the possible necessity of dispatching an expeditionary force against the United States of America, and talk of that kind in the House was a very dangerous thing, and was calculated to produce bad feeling between this country and the United States.

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

SIR BEVAN EDWARDS rose to call attention to the administration of the War Office. He said he did not come forward as a pessimist, for no one had a greater belief in the stability of the Empire than he had. He was animated only by a desire to draw attention to the necessity for perfecting our War Office administration. He desired to speak of the dual system of civil and military management which had grown up, which still existed, and which was at the root of all questions affecting the administration of the War Office. It was due in great measure to the dual system that the administration of the War Office had not been what we could all have wished. The Under Secretary for War had admitted that there was much leeway to be made up. For himself he wished it to be understood he was not finding fault with either the present or preceding Governments. If he found any fault at all it was with the system which had grown up and which no Member had been strong enough to deal with in a satisfactory manner. The system arose out of the old distrust in this country of a standing Army. It was that distrust which excluded the officers of the Army from the administration of the Army and which created a large civil branch to control the military branch with results that were felt adversely down to the present day. The time had come when such a system with its results ought to be put a stop to. Mr. Stanhope took steps to do this, in the direction of placing the administration of the War Office on a proper footing; and the good work of Mr. Stanhope was continued by his successor the right hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Sir H. Campbell-Banner-man); and it had been left to the present Government to take a retrograde step in the issue of an Order in Council by which the good work which Mr. Stanhope commenced had been unintentionally undone. He appealed to the Government to trust the soldier—to grant what might be called Home Rule for soldiers. Surely such men as Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, Sir E. Wood, General Grant and many others were capable of administering the Army under the responsible Ministers of the Crown without having to go to the War Office clerks and permanent officials for their views and ideas and Orders in Council. If these officers could not administer the Army, no one else could. Officers were not allowed to administer the Army in time of peace, but in war entire power was placed in their hands. No other Army in the world was administered on this dual system. The Navy was not administered on these principles; why was it applied to the Army? In the Crimea lay the bones of thousands and thousands of our soldiers killed by administrative failure; but he would not refer to that. Since then our wars had been small. The Ashanti war of 1874, thanks to Lord Wolseley, and the Zulu war of 1878–9, reflected no credit on the War Office. It required 10,000 or 12,000 men, after one notable disaster and many failures to accomplish against the Zulus what Dr. Jameson carried out against the Matabele, with a handful of men and without disaster. In 1882, by immense efforts, and after calling out the whole of the Reserve, we sent in six weeks 20,000 men to Egypt; and since then there had been various small expeditions without any noteworthy breakdown. He congratulated the War Office in the late Ashanti expedition, but its operations were more like those of a police force than those of an Army in the field. Look at War Office administration as it affected the organisation of our forces. We had Cavalry without sufficient horses, and what horses we had were chiefly three and four year olds. Our Artillery was not only deficient in horses but there was an insufficiency of guns, and what we had were of different calibres. The commissariat and the medical establishment were insufficient. The Army Reserve was below its establishment. The Militia was imperfectly trained; it had no organisation except battalion; it was without officers; its men could not shoot. And this was the state of the old constitutional force—the backbone of our military system. Its establishment was 134,000 men. But the numbers on the 1st Feb. were 117,000, or 34,000 short, although the 117,000 includes Permanent Staff and Militia Reserve. The Yeomanry was rapidly vanishing out of existence; and the Volunteers were 31,000 below their establishment, and deficient in an immense number of officers. Looking at the Estimates, they found a pension list amounting to nearly £3,000,000 manufactured by an army whose strength was shown to be only 223,000, including the officers and men of the Regular Army on the Indian Establishment. The officers alone received £1,500,000. Comparing the cost of our Army with the armies of foreign Powers, he found that Russia maintained a peace establishment of 800,000 men at a cost of £27,000,000; Germany a peace establishment of 584,000 men at a cost of £24,000,000; France a peace establish-of 524,000 men at a cost of £25,000,000, while our peace establishment of only 146,000 cost £20,000,000. So that from whatever point of view one looks at it—whether as to readiness for war, or as to the efficiency of the different branches, or as to its great cost as compared with other administrations—War Office administration stands condemned before the country. He had said that there was one exception he would make to the changes made in the administration of the Army in 1888 by the late Mr. Stanhope, which, he thought, had worked most unsatisfactorily, and that was the change made in the administration of the ordnance factories. There was much in the administration which called for inquiry. The present system, which was established eight years ago, was an entirely new departure from that which had been for many years before carried on in a satisfactory manner. Some centralisation was undoubtedly desirable; but not the enormous office centralisation which had been created. It had produced a state of affairs which, in the event of war or of sudden calls upon the factories for purposes of preparation, the system would hopelessly break down. Those factories employed 16,000 men—at least nearly as many as the whole of the dockyards; but Unlike the Dockyards, they were administered by a civilian, thus making a complete official severance of the factories from the Army and Navy. The House had recently heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty of the excellent work done by the Dockyards which were under naval officers. Why should not military officers be placed in like manner over the Ordnance Factories? The complete success of private firms manufacturing ships and warlike stores was brought about by the employment of naval and military officers to superintend their works. But in face of all this experience, the War Office was bent upon handing the factories over to the control of civilians. These factories expended nearly £3,000,000 annually. The Army and Navy depended upon them, to a great extent, for the supply of munitions of war. Therefore, their proper administration was of supreme importance. An examination of their published accounts showed them to be in a state of complete administrative confusion; and yet the object of the change, eight years ago, by which they were placed under a civilian, was that they should be conducted on strict commercial principles. The Fourth Report from the Committee of Public Accounts for 1895—one of the members of which was the present Secretary to the Treasury—contained many passages condemnatory of the management of those factories. He, therefore, asked the Under Secretary for War if the Secretary of State would consider the desirability of instituting an Inquiry, either by means of a Committee of this House, or in any other way he might think best, into the administration of the Ordnance Factories? What was wanted was Home Rule for the Army—in other words, the Army to be administered by soldiers under the Minister responsible for the War Office. If this were done, it would lead to a large reduction of the number of civil clerks and to a greater infusion of the military element. The Regular Army to be administered in this country and the Colonies was only 145,000 men—one-sixth of the peace establishment of Russia, and one-fourth of that of France and Germany. For no one could contend that the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers added much to the difficulties of administration. That was a mere bagatelle. Every other Power could administer its Army effectively; and the reason why England could not do it was because of this dual system, which he had endeavoured to point out. He had every confidence in the distinguished Statesman at the head of the War Office. He felt sure that Lord Lansdowne would leave nothing undone to remove these grave blots upon our administrative system, so that we might shortly take credit to ourselves before the country for putting an end to the disgrace which had always been attached to War Office administration; and, further, that our officers and men feel that, if called upon to serve their country, their lives would not be frittered away by administrative failure.

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

called attention to the question of the employment of reserve and discharged soldiers. This matter had had the platonic regard and the benevolent neutrality of successive Secretaries of War, but it stood precisely now where it stood when a Committee reported on the subject in 1887. It was necessary for a proper understanding of the subject to go back very briefly on its history for the past 17 years. Up to the year 1871 there was no occasion whatever to raise the question of the employment of reserve and discharged soldiers, because up to then the Army consisted of a certain number of men who had served practically for life. In 1877, after the introduction of Mr. Cardwell' s short service system, a Committee was appointed to examine the question, and they reported that it was advisable that soldiers should be given employment in Government Departments when they were found qualified for the work. Although that Committee considered that the matter ought to be taken up at once, nothing was done for 18 years, when, upon the Motion of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, a Return was granted, showing there were 867 humble posts in the 25 Government Departments which could be filled by soldiers, that only 75 posts were filled by old soldiers and sailors, and these were in the Departments of the Woods and Forests, the Admiralty, and the War Office. The late Mr. Raikes, when Postmaster General, proposed to encourage the employment of old soldiers in the Post Office by ordering that boys, if they chose to serve with the colours, should be allowed to count the service in the Army as if it were service in the Post Office. The proposal was acted upon by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir J. Fergusson) when he was Postmaster General, but in 1892 Mr. Arnold Morley, as Postmaster General, reversed matters, and ordered that civilians should have preference over soldiers in employment in the Post Office. In 1895 another Committee recommended, amongst other things, that extreme care should be taken about the discharge of soldiers, that a paper should be given to each soldier when discharged stating what he could do; that men when discharged should be given certificates which should be accepted by the Civil Service Commissioners as qualifying them for civil situations, that their pay of reserve men should be given in addition to salary, and also that they should be given berths in the police wherever possible. While successive Secretaries of State were platonically declaring for 18 years they would help the employment of reserve and discharged soldiers, it was necessary to consider what the men were doing. Mr. Lock, one of the Charity Commissioners, had stated in evidence that on a certain night one-fifth of the whole number of casuals under 40 in the parish of St. Pancras were reserve and discharged soldiers. In the parish of St. George's two out of 20, on a certain night, were reserve and discharged men. Mr. Lock also stated that the Charitable Organisation Society found that a large proportion of the casuals amongst whom they had gone were reserve and discharged men. Mr. Arnold White, who marshalled the evidence before the Lords' Sweating Committee, showed that of 4,000 casuals he had gone amongst 20 per cent. were reserve and discharged men, and the Howard Society said precisely the same thing. Mr. Booth, sometimes called General Booth, stated that half the men in a particular Salvation Army Refuge, on a particular night, were reserve and discharged men. Then there was the evidence of the Inspecting General of Recruiting. Lord Lansdowne appeared to be satisfied with the report of that officer, but if he was he was satisfied with very little, because it was clearly shown that the War Office had had to take an inferior class of men because they had obstinately refused to help the men to find employment after they had done their service with the colours. Of 50,000 men who applied to take the shilling 40 per cent. were discharged for physical disabilities, 19 per cent, of them were "specials," and men who were either under the regulation chest measurement, or under height, or under age, or under weight. Something like 5,600 were undersized men, taken because the Inspecting General could not get any better men. The Government could adopt one of two courses. In the first place they might strengthen the only Society which now found employment for these men—the National Society, established for the purpose of finding the men work. The Society had found employment for some 9,000 men, with an aggregate of wages which amounted to about £750,000. The Government now made the Society the miserable grant of £200 a year, but if they would only grant £5,000 a year the Society would take the whole work of finding employment into their own hands, and thus relieve the country from the disgrace it now suffered of seeing these men wandering homeless about the streets. The second course was to take over the Society lock, stock, and barrel, and establish a bureau at the War Office, with depôts in every town of the country with a population of 50,000. Under those circumstances, they would do away with the difficulty, and be able to find civilian employment for the men after they left the colours. He had not taken up the question solely in the interest of the reserve and discharged soldier, but he looked at it from what he thought was a larger and, perhaps, a more Imperial point of view. He was certain that nothing acted so much to the detriment of recruiting as the difficulty which men had in finding employment after they were discharged from the Army. It was no use setting forth to the recruit the advantages of the service, and providing him with better food and clothing, if the one essential thing were left undone. The Government ought to find civilian employment for the soldier when le left the service.


said, that as a Member of the last Committee which inquired into this subject, he could testify that the question was of national importance. The old soldier was worthy of greater regard than he received from the Government, and he hoped the reply of the Under Secretary for War would be more complete and satisfactory than official replies had been in the past. Year after year committees had reported on this question, and the Reports had been put into the wastepaper basket. The recommendations of the last Committee were very modest, and could do no harm to anyone, while they might confer much benefit on the reserve soldier. Would it not be possible to keep the old soldier longer with the colours? The War Office positively discouraged the seven-year soldier from remaining, its object seeming to be to pile up an enormous reserve. If a man left the service and wished to rejoin, the War Office actually insisted on his refunding the deferred pay which he had received with his discharge. He would suggest that the present system should remain, but that the deferred pay in a lump sum should only be given to a man on the completion of 12 years' service, and that he should then be guaranteed some civil employment. That arrangement would go far to settle the recruiting difficulty. There was nothing to prevent the Government from taking over the splendid Commissionaire Corps and increasing its present establishment substantially. If the Army were to be popular and composed of men of good calibre, both physical and mental, the only thing was for the Government to exercise a paternal supervision over the young soldier when he left the colours.

* LIEUT-GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

said, that the present system of providing drafts from home for the regiments on foreign service was as bad as any that could be devised. The regiment at home had every year to part with one-third of its duty men to make up the foreign drafts, and thus the army corps which would have to meet a European enemy was depleted of many of its best soldiers. As the organisation of army corps was not compatible with the requirements of this country, the only thing to do was to make the regimental unit as efficient as possible. In the Crimea it was the regimental system which saved the British Army. Officers and men knew and relied on one another. But now, men were trained under one set of officers, and then sent out to serve under another set; this was good for the foreign battalion, but it could not be conducive to the general efficiency of the service, and especially to that of the home battalion. The Under Secretary for War said that of course in time of war he would not send untrained soldiers to reinforce the colonial garrisons. Then where would he send them?

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,


said, that he wished to avail himself of that opportunity for supporting with all the power at his command the appeal which had been made to the Government by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex, in favour of our old soldiers. His hon. and gallant Friend had spoken with a knowledge of facts that must have impressed all who heard him in that House, and which would have its effect out of doors. Those hon. Members who had had the experience of living in country districts near large towns knew that day by day and week by week there were continuous streams of old soldiers which flowed from workhouse to workhouse. These old soldiers formed the worst class of recruiting sergeants that could be imagined, because they were the centres of attraction to the unemployed lads, and naturally prejudiced them against joining the Army. He did not hesitate to denounce the present system as a scandal to the country. He did not say that young men were actually decoyed into the Army by false representations, but undoubtedly young rural labourers, who were not particularly well-educated, had present to their minds when they enlisted the hope that if they did their duty whilst in the Service they would be provided with some means of livelihood when their term of service had expired. One startling and significant fact that had come to his knowledge with regard to the difference of treatment that was received by members of the Civil Service and by old soldiers was exemplified in the Police Force. For instance, if a postman joined the Police Force, he was allowed to count three out of every four years service in the Civil Service towards his pension, whereas an old soldier who joined that force was not allowed to count a single year's service in the Army towards his pension. This was a matter that demanded immediate attention and redress, and he hoped to obtain from the Ministers present more than the dilatory reply that the matter would receive attention.

* COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

said, that in considering this question they must not lose sight of the impossibility of providing Government places for all our out-of-time soldiers. We ought to teach soldiers after three years' service a trade as part of their duty, and when a man went to the Reserve he should have the opportunity of exchanging that service for general service in India and elsewhere if required, with a pension at the end. He believed that if that change were introduced it would be a great thing for the Army in India—the loss to the Reserve being made up by the discharge of a soldier prematurely.


said, that this question of the employment of old soldiers, whilst a very important one, was very difficult. It was quite in vain to draw any analogy between the circumstances in this country and abroad. There were undertakings in foreign countries in the hands of the Government which offered a very considerable amount of employment. He thought it quite possible that the grievances under which old soldiers and reservists laboured might have been exaggerated. He had seen some of the Returns from Boards of Guardians as to the number of men who presented themselves for relief, and he found that the ages of the persons referred to absolutely vitiated the accuracy of the Returns. But he quite admitted that the matter was one of considerable urgency, and it had received and was receiving the most careful attention of the Secretary of State. Quite recently there had been before the Department various proposals under which it might be possible that greater and easier opportunities of obtaining employment might be placed at the disposal of these men. But the difficulty was to establish a system which would help the men to get employment without at the same time incurring a responsibility towards the men and making it appear that the War Office undertook to provide them with employment if they sought it. He thought he would not be going too far in saying that the terms of the Fair Wages Resolution of the House of Commons had unexpectedly presented difficulties in this matter, and it was suggested that the question of the employment of reservists might be taken up in connection with the Commission proposed by the late Under Secretary for the Colonies, which the Government had declared it their intention to give, to inquire into the terms of the Fair Wages Resolution. A Commission sat in 1895, presided over first by Sir George Chesney and afterwards by Lord Wolmer, and took a considerable amount of evidence. But it did not make any Report on that subject. It was therefore thought that good might result from the re-appointment of that Commission and a reference to it of that particular branch of the subject. The matter was under the consideration of the Government, and if that course were adopted he thought it likely that the House might get some information which would lead to a better method of finding employment for these men. He hoped his hon. and gallant Friend who had raised the question would believe that the War Department had not lost sight, of the matter, and that they were working on lines which would probably lead to its solution. ["Hear, hear!"] He had listened with attention to the somewhat doleful speech of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe, who seemed to think that the end of all things had come for the British Army. The hon. Gentleman's criticism amounted to this—that he thought that what he called the dual system of administration in the War Office was defective and led to more or less deplorable results. He was not prepared to admit that that was so, and he was bound to say that he did not see any means of escape from it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to think that the House of Commons should abrogate its functions and give carte blanche to the military authorities. He believed that, so long as there were large sums of money to be expended, the House of Commons would keep a tight hand on them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there were at the War Office a considerable number of extremely able and well-qualified military men, and that their views ought not to be thwarted by War Office clerks. He did not see how they were to get out of that state of things. His hon. and gallant Friend went on to describe the state of things in the cavalry, artillery, and the Army at large. He stated that we had cavalry without a sufficiency of horses, and that we had artillery without guns or with guns of different calibre. But the military authorities, who, the hon. and gallant Member thought ought to be supreme at the War Office, declared that in their opinion the British cavalry was as well horsed as the cavalry of any foreign Power. As to the question of artillery the hon. and gallant Member could hardly have understood the statements made last night on the Supplementary Estimates. When the plan that was then explained should have been fulfilled, as it would be in a few months, no one would be able to say with any accuracy of the artillery that it was without guns or that the guns were of different calibre. A comparison had been drawn between the cost of our Army and the armies of foreign countries, but those who had made that comparison over looked the fact that we had to pay our soldiers and that in foreign countries soldiers were not paid. Ordnance factories, to which reference had been made, might not in their administration be free from faults, but to say that their present condition was a danger to the country was not justifiable. He was disposed to think that if we went to war the condition of our ordnance factories would be a source of considerable danger to some other countries. ["Hear, hear," and Laughter An item of £92,000 had been described as a "bloated item" which might encourage dishonest manipulation, but the matter had been carefully considered by the Treasury, and the decision arrived at was that there was no necessity to make any change. To say that the ordnance factories were a source of public danger was all rubbish. They turned out an enormous quantity of munitions of war every year, and if at any time the country should be in great need of additional munitions of war it could rely confidently on those factories. Last year it was found that there was a considerable deficiency in cordite ammunition. Means were sought to supply the deficiency, and the trade, having absolutely failed to fulfil its contracts in the matter, the Government had to fall back upon the ordnance factories, which had now raised their output of small-arms ammunition from three-quarters of a million a week to over two millions a week. If at the end of this financial year they found themselves within easy distance of the requirements which had been described in that Debate, it would be because the ordnance factories had not failed them, and if there should be any deficiency it would be because the trade had failed them. The ordnance factories supplied our troops with an enormous mass of war materials. Four hundred thousand Martini-Henry rifles had been supplied, and 12-inch wire guns and 4-inch quick-firing guns were now being turned out in large numbers.

MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.),

wished to call attention to the unfairness of keeping Cadets who had passed out of the Woolwich, waiting before they were given their commissions. The Board of Visitors appointed by the Secretary of State for War had already drawn attention to the subject. The Cadets competed to get into Woolwich, where they spent two years, and at the end of that time, if they passed out they expected to have commissions, and it was a reasonable expectation. Out of the candidates who passed out in August 1894, ten had not yet been commissioned, and 29 Cadets who passed out in March last had not received commissions. Thus some of these young men had nothing to do for a whole year. It was undesirable that a youngman of 20 should be placed in that position, and it might be detrimental to his career. In consequence of remonstrances of the Board of Visitors an arrangement, he knew, had been proposed, under which these gentlemen could go to an artillery station after leaving the Academy. According to the Visitors' report they were allowed to dine at mess at the artillery station, but only in plain clothes. They were apparently neither civilians nor officers, and their social and military position was very peculiar. The Board of Visitors, in their report, expressed the opinion that the delay that occurred before these young men obtained commissions was in contravention of the spirit of the 28th paragraph of the Standing Orders relating to the Royal Military Academy, which paragraph said, that at the end of the course Those Cadets who are qualified shall be gazetted to the Royal Artillery or Engineers. He thought that the Under Secretary for War would agree that this was a state of affairs which should be altered. No doubt it was difficult to estimate the number of officers that would be wanted, but still it appeared to be unreasonable that those cadets when passed, and when there was not an immediate vacancy to fill, should be cast aside as supernumeraries. In his judgment they should be entered for some important work at some of the stations, and set to work in a proper manner. It was a great grievance to those gentlemen who had passed through Woolwich, and unless it was redressed the effect would be to discourage men of the highest ability from going to Woolwich, especially for the Artillery service.


called attention to a grievance felt by Volunteer officers who were not permitted to count their service in the ranks except on the basis of five years' rank service for one year officer service. Recently a gentleman had told him that he had served in the Volunteers for 22 years, but he was neither allowed to bear any rank nor to wear his uniform. There were hundreds of such cases throughout the Volunteer force of the country, and he appealed to the War Office to do something to remedy this state of affairs. Nothing that could be done to improve the force would have more effect than the remedying of this grievance, because, if the Government wished to make the Volunteer service popular, they must honour those who had served the country. In his opinion nothing had contributed more to the security and honour of the country than the Volunteer service, and he was sure that the country as a whole owed that force a debt of gratitude. He appealed to the Secretary for War, therefore, to make this small concession to the Volunteers, and to permit them to count rank as in the regular army. Two years in the ranks should count as one year officer service, and thereby a large number of men would be enabled to carry their rank and their uniform into civil life.


drew attention to the Reserve Forces, which increased in numbers and importance every year. The question of their fitness for actual service, however, had been overlooked. He did not know whether it would be possible to have an inspection of men in the Reserve forces every year, but he should like to hear the Government say that they intended, for the future, to inspect the men at least once in two years, though he preferred once every year. If these men were to be of use at all, they should be in a condition to serve their country. It would be an additional advantage if the men were brought into contact with the depot where they had to join, so that they should be seen and known, and where an inspection could be made of the men in order to see whether they were fit and ready for service. There would necessarily be some expense connected with this inspection, but it would be a small one. The clothing of the men was also an important point. The decentralisation of stores from Woolwich was a step in the right direction, but ho should like to know how far this arrangement was being carried out. The regimental depôts were probably the places where the clothing could be most readily obtained, so that when a man came to the depôt he should find his clothing ready for him to put on. The man should be actually a soldier from the moment when the unit joined the depôt where he was ordered to come up for mobilisation. Another point connected with the clothing, was the question of boots. Unless a good pattern, suitable for marching was provided, the soldier would be practically useless. The durability of the present boot was uncertain, and for that reason he did not think that it was adapted for the work which it was called upon to perform. They ought to possess a field-service boot of the best possible pattern that could be made, but he did not think that the present boot served out to the soldier was the best possible pattern. He should like to hear from the Under Secretary for War as to the probable inquiry into the best pattern of boot, that the Committee was not to be a Departmental one, but that it should consist of men entirely independent of the War Office or of any Department concerned with clothing. In the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, reference was made to the march of the First Battalion of the Welsh Regiment through South Wales in July and August. The difficulties accompanying recruiting under our voluntary system to supply the waste of the Army must always be great, except in time of war, when men were fired with enthusiasm; but this experiment seemed to have been an extraordinarily good one. The march lasted 20 days, and 67 recruits enlisted for the regular Army, of which 44 elected to join the territorial regiment. Would it not be a good plan to inaugurate similar marches throughout England, not only in single regiments, but in brigade? If the Secretary of State would allow the three branches of the Service, the infantry, cavalry, and artillery, to march occasionally through the villages of distressed Essex it might be the means of securing happier times for the unfortunate part of the United Kingdom The mere fact of a large body of troops passing through the villages would tend to popularise the Services, increase the trade of the villages and do good to recruiting. He asked the Under Secretary for further details in regard to the health of the Army.

* COLONEL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)

, said he did not pretend to understand the Army Estimates, and what was more, he never yet met anyone who could criticise them effectively. It would be very much for the benefit of the Service if they had a clearer and more distinct statement of Estimates of the War Office. The House of Commons was called upon to vote 18 millions sterling for the Army, and there was a belief, and he believed well founded belief, that the taxpayer did not get full value for his money. The Under Secretary of State had talked about decentralisation of stores; they wanted not only decentralisation of stores, but decentralisation of administration. In the War Office, too much had been centralized, and there was too much administration centralized in the Civilian Department of the War Office. Every officer, no matter how high his rank, how great his experience, had also a financial administrator to look after him. He could do nothing without the financial authorities. A few years ago it was his good fortune to be encamped about a year on the borders of the Orange Free State. He was sorry to say there were some soldiers there who deserted into the Orange Free State, in some instances, with arms, ammunition, and horses. His regiment was quartered on the frontier, and it was their business to catch those deserters. Notice having been sent that some men had deserted, parties were sent out to intercept them. This frequently involved hard work and great exposure. The general officer in command of the Army gave authority that a certain reward should be given to the search men, and this was sanctioned by the officer commanding at the Cape and by the Commander-in-Chief at home. The money, £10 or £5, was distributed among the various parties who were successful in catching the deserters, and it was paid over by the paymaster. The regiment moved to India, many of the men had finished their time of service, and were sent home. Then, he was shown by the paymaster a letter from the War Office, saying that this money would have to be refunded, the reason being that, while the payment had been sanctioned by the military authorities, it had not been confirmed by the financial clerks at the War Office. The full circumstances were then explained, but the paymaster again came to him a short time afterwards and showed him a letter from the War Office, ordering him to refund this money out of his pay. He said, "Sir, I have a wife arid family and am a poor man, and cannot afford it, what am I to do?" As he (Colonel Russell) was then about to proceed home he undertook to go to the War Office on the subject. On asking to see the official who had signed the letter, he was shown into a room where he met a most amiable gentleman reading The Times. [Laughter.] On telling him the story with some further harrowing details the gentleman said, "I never heard of such a case; who could have given this decision?" He pulled out the letter and asked, "Is this your signature?" He said, "It is." He put down his Times, summoned around him other officials, and said he would look into the matter. He did not hear from this gentleman again, but the paymaster afterwards informed him that he had not been obliged to starve his wife in order to repay Her Majesty's Government. He could give other cases. A short time ago he received notice that he owed the Government 8s. 6d. [Laughter.] He considered that at this moment the Government owed him 8s. 6d. He asked how, and they told him in consequence of a halter bought at the Cape during the Zulu war in 1879. [Laughter.]He said he did not remember it. They said he must pay. He called attention to the fact that the halter was sent round the head of the horse he had bought in Zululand in 1879, and pointed out that he could not take the horse away by the ears or tail. He was quite sure that Irish Members, had they been present, would, with the well-known liberality of their nation, bear him out that always when they sold a horse they gave a halter with it. He pointed this out to the War Office, but his argument produced no effect at all. He was told he must pay the 8s. 6d. for the halter. He looked up his accounts, and found a receipt—to horse and halter—and then he considered Iris case proved. He sent a copy of the receipt to the War Office. They returned him a most decided snub. They said they could not acknowledge his argument, and that the money would be deducted from his pay. [Laughter.] He absolutely refused to pay, and a heap of correspondence took place. Eventually he was implored by the local paymaster to pay and save trouble. He did pay the 8s. 6d., and he considered that that sum should be added to the seventeen millions to be voted this year for the Army. [Laughter.] In regard to the Ordnance Factories, the hon. Member for Hanley had asserted that they were carried on as a commercial business. How could that be when they had no capital. They had a Vote every-year, which they were obliged to spend, and any balance that remained unexpended went in reduction of the National Debt. They could not acknowledge any loss. The Ordnance Factories were undoubtedly more efficient and satisfactory when they were not under civilian management. Formerly they were under the control of the Director General of Artillery, but now that officer had no control over them. He could not hasten the work, and if he thought any number of guns, or guns of a certain kind, were required for the Army, he had no power to procure them. In on other country was such a system in vogue as was adopted by this country in regard to factories, and he was confident that as long as that system prevailed the management would be unsatisfactory. He complained of the form in which the Estimates were presented; they were mixed up together with absolute ingenuity so as to make them complicated, and to prevent anybody being able to put his finger on one particular point to which he wished to draw attention. ["Hear, hear!"] The taxpayer did not get the full value for his money under the present system, and never would until there was a radical reform of the War Office, until more responsibility was given to the general officers, and until there was decentralisation of the control as well as of the stores.


said he desired to remind the House that, by an arrangement which was come to by general consent, this Debate ought to conclude before 10 o'clock. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War had been asked many questions, and he would take an opportunity of answering them in Committee.

* CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.),

in a maiden speech, said that in spite of the optimistical remarks of the Under Secretary for War, and while recognising that the Government were ready to do, and were doing all in their power to improve the organisation of the Army, he felt that hon. Members would be remiss in their duty if they did not mention defects in the Service which they knew to exist, and which for the security of the country ought to be remedied. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, he had just left the Cavalry Service, and he could say from personal experience that its condition in respect to strength and resources, was not satisfactory. He regretted, therefore, that more was not proposed to be done for the cavalry. The cavalry suffered, in one respect, more than any other branches of the Service, from the fact that it had no representative at headquarters, at the War Office Council, and, perhaps, that was the reason its interests had been neglected. ["Hear, hear!"] He was confident that not a single colonel commanding a cavalry regiment would say that the existing state of things was satisfactory. The condition of the regiments as to both men and horses, except those on the higher organisation, was deplorable, and squadrons were at a lower strength than was to be found in any foreign regiment. There were two cavalry regiments which were sent to the strikes in Yorkshire in which there were not more then 120 men and horses in one, and 180 men and horses in the other. In foreign countries there were generally 150 men and horses to a squadron and five squadrons to a regiment, while we have had only four squadrons of less strength to a regiment. In those foreign armies it was usual to have four squadrons ready to enter the field, and one was kept back as the depôt, where remounts were provided, and where both horses and men might be constantly under training. We had no such system, and the fact was a source of grave weakness. ["Hear, hear!"] In the Estimates less than 7,000 horses were set down for 19 regiments, and, practically, if regiments were made up to war strength, there would be no fewer than five regiments without any horses at all. It might be answered that there were 14,000 registered horses in reserve, but as a matter of fact only 4,000 of those animals were supposed to be set aside for the cavalry, and most of them were untrained. At the manœuvres last year many of those reserve horses were employed, and they proved by no means satisfactory. It was very important to the strength of the whole Army that the horse artillery and cavalry should always be maintained at the highest possible pitch of efficiency, as they were most difficult services to train, and he hoped serious attention would be given to the subject by the War Office.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Forward to