HC Deb 16 March 1896 vol 38 cc1063-110

156,174, Number of Land Forces,—


Before I proceed to make any comments on the details of the Estimates submitted, I should like to dwell for a few moments on the total Vote for which we ask the House. The amount is £18,056,000, a sum large indeed, since it is more than that for which we have hitherto obtained the finest Navy in the world, and which comes apparently within appreciable nearness of the expenditure of Foreign Powers who maintain three or four times the number of troops that we do. It has been pointed out over and over again in this House that for £28,000,000 Germany maintains 21½ army corps and eight cavalry divisions; for £26,000,000 France maintains 20 army corps and seven cavalry divisions; for £31,000,000 Russia maintains 22 army corps and 22 cavalry divisions. Our position is wholly different, and our forces are organised for home and colonial defence on a different system. It is none the less a common statement by outsiders that enough money is voted, if only it were properly spent, that the introduction of a practical system would introduce enormous economies, and that, while we are spending £18,000,000, we can barely put two army corps into the field. I wish, in introducing these Estimates, to bring out the facts to justify in some degree the totals, and thus, so far as different circumstances admit, to supply material for a comparison with Foreign Powers. I have had, for this purpose, the Votes so redistributed as to show at a glance what the Army costs us as mobilised for war, and the Paper is now obtainable in the Vote Office. I trust that, wearisome though figures are, these may not be found uninteresting. From them you can see at a glance that, at an annual cost of £6,620,000 during peace, we put into the field for home defence three army corps and four cavalry brigades, composed of 112,000 Regulars and Army Reservists. This includes pay, good-conduct pay, deferred pay, retired pay and pensions, barracks, fuel, transport, clothing, equipment, rifles, ammunition, forage, medical attendance, chaplains, schools, libraries—in fact, every species of expense attaching to these troops. The total amount for men and officers together thus averages under £59 a head. And be it remembered that in turning out three army corps thus constituted, we do not include a single man under one year's service, and we shall have less Army Reserve men in our ranks than any nation in Europe on mobilisation. Our garrisons in the fortresses abroad, the colonies, and in Egypt, amounting to 38,400 men, cost us annually £3,254,000 or £84 15s. per man for every expense, all being on the full-pay list. We shall have on mobilisation in defensive positions at home and in garrisons 333,000 men, costing £3,603,000, or, on the average, £11 per man for every expense. Behind these again we have 90,000 men, being the staff at the depôts, men of under one year's service, and unallotted troops, costing £3,211,000. Our expenditure on warlike stores of all descriptions is £1,420,000, which includes ammunition for and maintenance of big and small guns at home and all over the world. We spend £432,000 on fortifications, works, and buildings other than barracks. The War Office costs for Military Department, £142,800; Civilian Department, £123,000; non-effective, £51,300; total, £317,100—an expense which I am glad to say is decreasing on the Civil side by a reduction in the more expensive parts of the clerical establishment; and we thus reach our net total of £18,000,000. Of this total it will be noticed that the three army corps absorb about £6,600,000, or one-third, and even this is an excessive estimate, seeing that we have some 80,000 pensioners, and are paying all the pensions for long service, while maintaining a reserve of 80,000 men due entirely to short service. The above, then, are the figures on which I shall rely in entering on the dangerous ground of comparison with Foreign Powers. In doing so, let me be clearly understood at the outset to say, we can only hope to make a relative comparison. Germany has probably the most economical army in the world. ["Hear, hear!"] Are we, in relation to Germany, extravagant on items which we can reduce? You cannot run a voluntary army on the same lines as a conscript army. [''Hear, hear!"] If I select only one item—that of the army corps—for comparison, it is because you cannot compare our expenditure of £3,000,000 on forces in the colonies with that of a country which has not to maintain garrisons in colonies. Let me, therefore, note, first, the main items of difference in order in insure a correct comparison. We pay our private soldier 1s. a day and £3 a year deferred pay, and every other rank in proportion. Germany pays 4⅛d. per day. We give a ration costing 5d.; Germany gives 3½d. We pay Army Reservists 6d. per day, or £720,000 a year; the German Army Reservist receives nothing. If paid 6d. a day, the German Budget of £28,000,000 would be raised to £48,000,000. With us, every officer and man, if he loses health or serves long enough, gets a pension. We pay pensions of £2,870,000, including all our war pensions. The German army pension list is £2,500,000 for an army many times the size. They paid £28,000,000 out of the war indemnity to the sufferers in the Franco-German War, and for 25 years have never had a man abroad or under fire. We provide our troops with attractive clothing made at current rate of wages; the German clothing is obtained at the lowest price consistent with durability. We are buying this year over £2,000,000 of stores in this country, where, fortunately, the conditions of labour give a better return to the workman than in any foreign land except the United States; and yet we are held in the total figures to a comparison with countries who can place most of their contracts at something like 25 per cent. reduction on the amount. But, above and beyond all this, with fortifications to build and maintain, ports and coaling stations to arm in all parts of the globe, and every modern requirement to introduce into our Army, we have taken but £12,000,000 in 25 years by way of loan, for permanent works outside the Annual Estimates; while Germany has spent out of the French War indemnity and loans which can be traced, no less than £66,000,000 in the equipment of fortresses and troops during the same period, and other nations have been similarly drawing on capital for similar purposes, leaving to the Annual Estimates the actual cost of maintaining and training the men. The actual figures of comparison between the forces mobilised as army corps in Great Britain and Germany work out as follows:—Our three army corps and four cavalry brigades cost £6,620,000. The personnel of the 21½ German army corps and eight cavalry divisions cost, taking their Estimates on the same principle as ours, £26,056,000, or an average of £1,210,000 per army corps. We thus arrive, as a starting-point of comparison, that British army corps cost £2,200,000 apiece, as against £1,210,000 for the German army. But any analysis of the German Estimates to bring out the actual cost of an army corps is almost impossible, not only because their estimates are most intricate, but because their paid staff includes the machinery for mobilising a much larger number of men than 21 army corps. But it is necessary to add that if you give the Germans serving on the active list alone pay, deferred pay, forage, and clothing at the English rates, you must add pay, etc., £8,819,000; rations, £1,757,000; forage, £300,000; clothing, £402,000. You thus add to their Estimates a sum of £11,278,000. The pay of Reservists would add a further £20,000,000. Their total would thus become nearly £57,500,000, while, if they gave pensions on the same scale as we do, they must add nearly £300,000 for each army corps. But oven then you will have added nothing for the extra number of officers we maintain, the moving of our troops, while German corps remain stationary, for more expensive barracks, for better hospitals, for the higher price of horses, and for all the items which add attraction to the soldier's life, but are not held to be necessary in a conscript army. The Committee will therefore see that it is not possible accurately to bridge over the difference between the £2,200,000 cost of the British army corps and the £1,200,000 apparent cost of the German army corps; but the figures mentioned above show that the main items of difference are found, namely, by what actually goes into the men's pockets, that we pay our private soldiers 3¼ times as much as Germany pays; 3½ times as much retired pay arid pensions, and that these items alone, with the difference on rations, represent £670,000 out of £1,000,000 of difference. I think the Committee will see that the margin on which economies can be made is reduced to exceedingly small dimensions. And be it remembered, if you have a military system like the German, which is so supremely economical, that, as General Brackenbury told us, some £2,000,000 are subscribed annually by the relatives of the men with the colours to eke out the ration given them, you find to some extent how it is possible, as is done at this moment in Germany, to keep 584,000 men with the colours at an average expense for men and officers, pay and pension, food and clothing, barracks and training, rifles and equipment together, after allowing for keep and purchase of horses, for less than 2s. 4d. a day apiece; and as we cannot hope, and should not desire to treat our Army on these terms, I cannot help hoping the above figures—which, much as we owe to the Intelligence and Finance Department, who have enabled me to bring them together, are of course approximate—may go some way to dispel the exaggerated views which prevail as to the extravagance of our military system. [''Hear, hear!"] The two material facts for the Committee to keep in mind are, first, that if this country required such an addition to its mobile force as to make it necessary to raise three more army corps, and if we could devise a means of getting the men, you can double your three army corps and have six army corps, not by doubling your Estimates, but by adding about £6,600,000, or one-third, to them, and yet retain over 400,000 men for home defence; and, secondly, that on the three army corps you place in the field at home, you pay for not adopting conscription about £3,000,000. What I have aimed at doing is to enable the country to appreciate, and the House to criticise the value we are getting for our money. ["Hear, hear!"] I am far from pretending that economies have been exhausted in the British Army. There is much that can be done in detail by a watchful care over every contract made and over every item of expenditure. We shall heartily welcome the assistance of the Committee to this end, though I am bound to say that since Parliament met I have had interviews with at least 100 hon. Members, who have suggested to me desirable items of increase, and no one has yet favoured me with any suggestion for a, reduction. [Laughter and ''Hear, hear!"] Looking to our expenditure for the future, and to the possibility of reductions, Lord Lansdowne attaches great importance to the principle initiated by Mr. Stanhope in 1888, that the administration of Army Funds should be in the hands of the military heads of the Army, and should be extended in the districts. No centralised and bureaucratic system can be economical. ["Hear, hear!"] I was sorry to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe speak the other night as if there was a certain suspicion between the military and civil side of the War Office. He must have been thinking of old days, when the great evil of War Office finance was the division between civil and military responsibility, which fortunately, has come to an end. Until recent years it was held to be the duty of the soldiers to spend and of the civilians to save. Until quite modern days the soldiers and civilians inhabited different buildings—the civilians in Pall Mall, the soldiers within easy distance of the Treasury in Whitehall. The idea that the functions of General Officers commanding districts had to do with the expense as well as with the discipline and health of the troops is of modern growth, but the Commander-in-Chief is quite prepared to hold this as part of their military duty; and as a step in the direction of interesting officers who have the practical working of the different commands in the same cause of economy, the Secretary of State proposes to delegate to them responsibility for expending money within certain limits. This reminds me of the amusing speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Cheltenham, who detailed the correspondence he had had with the War Department on various small items, to which I could add many similar occurrences which have come to my knowledge and which prove, at all events, that the War Office is conducted on commercial principles. [Laughter.] We realise that the present procedure is troublesome and often costly, and we propose to give commanding officers responsibility in certain cases for allowing and disallowing small charges which have hitherto proved the source of voluminous and often irritatng correspondence. This will be a step towards what we hold to be the only sound system of Army finance—namely, to decentralise expenditure, and to give those who expend money the greatest incentive to save it. We believe that it is futile to place at the War Office highly-talented officers, such as those by whom we are now surrounded, unless we avail ourselves to the full of their abilities. I could give many instances to prove that the experiment commenced in 1888 has worked well. To mention one in the present year. The Quartermaster General, Sir Evelyn Wood, who controls the transport and supply Votes, has in the last two years produced an annual saving of £21,000 on not a very large Vote, by systematising the transport of stores, and if any man can steal a march on him he will have to get up very early in the morning to do it. ["Hear, hear!"] I trust I have not wearied the Committee with these general considerations, but this is the only and the right moment for attempting a comprehensive view of our position. Taking the past year, I need not detain the House long. As regards the personnel of the troops, the Adjutant General is well satisfied with the recruits raised, and desertions both from the line and militia have fallen to the lowest point reached since the institution of short service. [''Hear, hear!"] An experiment was made in mobilisation in the home district, and about 1,500 Reservists came up, 94 per cent. of whom were found medically fit. [''Hear, hear!"] The military authorities were exceedingly satisfied with the quality of the registered horses, of which we have now 14,000 ready at a moment's call. The militia present at training has remained at the strength of recent years. In only two particulars has there been a difficulty in keeping the forces up to strength—namely, in the Army Medical Department and in the officering of the Volunteers. With regard to the latter, the efforts which we propose to make have already been explained to the House, and have been, I may say, favourably received, and I do not propose to touch upon it now. The Army Medical Department is now short of its establishment by 17 officers, and Lord Lansdowne has given very serious consideration to the causes which have led to a falling-off in candidates for this hitherto popular service. In considering the question Lord Lansdowne has had the advantage of receiving two deputations, which have laid the views of the Service fully before him. We have endeavoured to trace this falling-off to its true cause, and among the causes alleged to explain the apparent unpopularity of the Service, I may mention the following:—(1) The social status of its members as compared with that of combatant officers; (2) the manner in which the entrance examinations are conducted and the examiners selected; (3) the arrangements for tours of foreign service; (4) the smallness of the opportunities offered for special study and original research as compared with those open to practitioners in civil life; (5) the increasing strictness of the entrance examination; (6) the prolongation of the curriculum of medical students to five years. It is evident that, where so many explanations are suggested, we cannot arrive at the real causes of the falling off in candidates without careful study, and Lord Lansdowne cannot give a hasty decision. But he fully recognises the importance of securing the full confidence of the profession. We hope to be able to deal with some, at all events, of the points which have been brought to our attention. ["Hear, hear!"] Turning to the question of material, I have already put before the House the efforts made to bring our artillery up to full strength, and we have taken £137,200 in the Estimates of next year, contrasting with £68,900 taken in the Estimates last year, to complete the process, so that in a few months we may count on 81 guns with their full equipment in excess of the establishment of 12 months ago. The whole of the militia have now been armed with the magazine rifle, and there is, in addition, the full reserve of arms authorised by the Army Board for the line, reserve, and militia. We propose at once to begin the issue of the magazine rifle to the Volunteers, and to push it on as rapidly as is consistent with maintaining a proper reserve, so that weapons carrying the same ammunition may be in the hands of the whole of our forces. ["Hear, hear!"] And this brings me, naturally, to the question of cordite, and the supply of small-arm ammunition, which has proved a matter of more than passing interest to many Members of the House. As regards the keeping properties of cordite, the Inspector General of Ordnance assures us that, as a result of a long series of experiments, the powder has proved satisfactory in every respect. It has given excellent shooting results, its keeping qualities have been good in hot, dry climates, and the ballistics have not been appreciably affected by excessive temperature. In dealing with small arm ammunition, I will put the facts before the House in the fewest possible words. In September last we told Parliament that our policy was to provide the equipment of ammunition laid down in the regulations for every rifle and carbine in the hands of the troops. We estimated that to do this, without providing a single round of reserve, we required a Vote of £70,000 before the close of the financial year, and that sum we obtained by the unanimous vote of the House of Commons. I have now to state how far we have been able to fulfil these promises. The trade firms on whom the War Office counted in April last to supply 10,000,000 rounds in the 12 months, have scarcely completed 3,000,000 rounds, and the factories have had to work hard to make up the deficit. They have, mainly owing to the expedient adopted by the Financial Secretary of obtaining a large number of components from other trade firms to be made up in the factories, succeeded in maintaining an output for many weeks of 2,000,000 rounds per week. By dint of this the factories have, beyond their own work, gone some distance to make up for the deficiencies of the trade. On September 30th last we were deficient by the equipment of nearly 200,000 men, or 60,000,000 rounds. Of these we shall have made up 54,000,000 by March 31st, and from April 1st (when the shooting season begins), instead of, as last year, making only about 1,000,000 rounds a week and firing off 1,500,000 (thus losing ground throughout the first six months), we shall be firing off 1,500,000 and making 2,000,000. The sum included in the Estimates will enable us to maintain the equipment and create a central reserve of 25,000,000 rounds, and I trust it will be felt that we have redeemed our promise and dealt frankly and fairly by the House. [Cheers.] Before I leave the past year I desire to touch briefly on the reorganisation of the War Office which has taken place. The Papers laid upon the Table of the House have placed hon. Members in full possession, not only of the main scheme of the new organisation, but of the system of office procedure which has been adopted. The arrangements made during the autumn were laid down after a thorough discussion of the plans suggested by rival schools of thought, by one of which it was desired to make a supreme Commander-in-Chief, and by the other a Council of equal Heads of Departments. We have all along held the view that amongst the high military officers at Army headquarters, one should be clearly recognised as the principal adviser of the Secretary of State. [Cheers.] The adoption of this view is, however, in our belief, consistent with the recognition of the full responsibility of the heads of the Military Departments, and such responsibility has been given to them. The Heads of those Departments are no longer required to approach the Secretary of State through the Commander-in-Chief or the Adjutant General acting for him, but direct. As regards the working of the new system, we have found great advantage from the institution of the Army Board, and from the more frequent meetings of the War Office Council, which had almost fallen into disuse. Lord Lans- downe has repeatedly referred questions of purely military import for the decision of the five officers who constitute the Army Board—such, for instance, as the supply of small arms, reserves of ammunition, the artillery, and other questions of great importance—and he has thus obtained what may be reckoned the considered advice of five picked officers in the Army in a concrete form. Questions of policy have also been frequently discussed at the War Office Council, over which the Secretary of State himself presides, and I may say generally that the new system has been found in these respects expeditious and effective, and will afford to our successors a useful record of opinions given, and of decisions made upon them. ["Hear, hear!"] Turning from the past year to the programme for the coming year, the first place must be given to the policy revived by Lord Lansdowne of holding manœuvres on an extended scale. The military authorities consider the exercising of large forces together as absolutely essential to the proper training of the troops. The cost is estimated in all at about £125,000, and we believe that, if it is worth the while of the House of Commons to vote £18,000,000 to procure troops, weapons and armaments of the best quality, it is the truest economy to spend a sum not amounting to 1 per cent. in a training which every other nation finds necessary for its field army, and the absence of which was so severely felt and is so constantly recalled by all who took part in the Crimean War. In connection with this subject I would also mention the attention which is being given to the question of the cavalry, to which our attention was called by the gallant Member for St. Pancras. A considerable number of our cavalry regiments have in past years been scattered at out-of-the-way stations without proper exercising-grounds, and without any opportunity of practising brigade drills or combined movements. The organisation of the cavalry is engaging the attention of the authorities but I am not in a position to make any statement upon it at present, as anything which it may be found desirable to do could only be done after careful deliberation and with full regard to the sentiment of the force. One thing, however, we propose to do, and that is, by the purchase of rights, or by purchase out and out, to provide ground upon which cavalry can manœuvre in force [''Hear, hear!"], and as this is a service of a permanent character which cannot be readily provided for in Estimates, we propose to ask for the money in the form of a loan. I alluded just now to the small proportion of permanent works in this country which have been carried out by capital expenditure, but Parliament has in recent years recognised that there are certain works which can be most efficiently and economically carried out by a scheme involving money spread over a period of years. In 1888 we obtained a loan of £2,600,000 for national defence, and in 1890 a loan of £4,100,000 for the construction of barracks. Neither of these loans was assumed to be complete or to do more than meet immediately pressing demands. With regard to the defence loan Mr. Stanhope said:— It will be fully understood that the scheme now submitted does not pretend to be an exhaustive one or to complete all the defences which the military authorities think necessary and desire to see carried out. What it does aim at is to carry out in the next three years, or, in other words, as quickly as possible, all the most urgent of these defences. A great deal has, however, been done under the loan. The military ports and coaling stations at home and abroad have been for the first time properly defended and armed with modern artillery, and some of our colonial barracks were reconstructed and storehouses were built by which we were able to decentralise stores hitherto harboured at Woolwich. If more is required to be done now, it is because additional protected harbours are required for the fleet, and modern armament has greatly developed. As regards the barrack loan of £4,100,000, the facts are as follows:—A sum of £11,000,000 was asked for; the Army and Navy Estimates Committee, which sat under Lord Randolph Churchill's presidency, vouched for the necessity of the service, and £4,100,000 was granted as the sum which would meet the most pressing services and those most likely to be carried through in five years. During this period Aldershot has practically been rebuilt, and very large sums have been spent at the Curragh, Shorncliffe, and in Dublin. Over £200,000 has been laid out in married soldiers' quarters, greatly to the comfort of the class of the Army which perhaps feels military life the most hardly [''Hear, hear!"], and great improvement has been made in the sanitary condition of the barracks. The returns show that at Aldershot alone the admissions to hospital per 1,000 have fallen from 886 to 605 in four years, and in the United Kingdom from 810 to 055, a result which I think it is fair to cite as due largely to the improved barracks, and which I wish Mr. Stanhope, who had so earnestly at heart the good of the private soldier, could have lived to see. Much, however, still remains to be done. The system of building wooden huts to last 20 years, cheap and expeditious though it was, reacts on the soldier when those huts have lasted 30 or 40 years; and it is now necessary to replace those which have grown out of date by permanent buildings, and to complete the various camps. This is not the time to enter into detail, but out of the loan which will be proposed we hope to commence this year the new defence works to which I have referred, to continue the barrack programme, and to treat for the training-ground for cavalry.


A Bill will be introduced for the loans? Can the hon. Gentleman state the amount?


I cannot state the amount, because some of the services have not been absolutely settled, but the loan will certainly be a subject for a Bill. One more difficulty, in which this House is much interested, remains to be noticed. The increased range of the rifle, almost keeping pace as it does with the increase of population, has rendered a great number of ranges, especially those used by the Volunteers, unsafe for practice with the full charge. The latest calculations show that of these ranges in three classes, 300 are safe, 150 can be made safe, about 650 are unsafe, making a total of 1,100 ranges. The problem of how this most essential part of regular militia and volunteer training can be carried on has been before the War Office for some years. In 1892, Parliament assisted the Volunteers, as far as the financial difficulty is concerned, by sanctioning the lending of public money to purchase ranges, and this has been to some extent utilised. But we must face the fact that there are parts of this country in which it is impossible in the immediate neighbourhood of each corps to obtain a range suitable for the new rifle, and it would be impossible for the Government to assume the burden of providing and equipping ranges for the benefit of individual volunteer corps. What, however, we propose to do is this. In certain districts and at recognised centres we propose to buy land and establish ranges for the use of the forces in that district. The general officer commanding the district will be charged with the administration of the ranges. It will be his duty to see that besides the shooting of the regulars and the militia, these ranges are made available at convenient times for all volunteer corps who cannot carry out their practice at the ranges they have hitherto used. It is by no means the wish of the War Office to close ranges easy of access to the corps. On the contrary, we rely on public spirit to provide them as heretofore where it is feasible. But in the last resort we recognise that the Government must render itself responsible for providing reasonable facilities towards efficiency. Where it is possible we hope to provide space for the holding of camps in connection with the range, so that the expense of travelling may be limited as far as possible. I trust I shall not be pressed as to the localities in which we propose to establish these ranges, for our experience is that nothing establishes such an El Dorado in a district as a proposal to purchase land by the Government. [Laughter.] Land, however barren and unlettable, becomes the most fruitful soil in the country, and crops multiply as if by the wand of a magician. [Laughter.] We shall, therefore, keep our own counsel, and only state generally that if the House will pass the Loan Bill the provision of ranges will become a prominent item in our programme. If I have left the question of mobilisation till last, it is not because there is any subject to which it stands second in importance. I spoke on Friday of the decentralisation of stores throughout the country. We propose to follow this up by a further measure, for which some credit is due to Mr. Fleetwood Wilson, the head of the Clothing Department, by which the 400 tons of clothing which would have been sent to districts at the time of mobilisation will be stored at the depôts. The military authorities have thus arranged that the Reservist will be armed, clothed, and equipped at the depôt. We have taken up the question of volunteer transport in a practical spirit, and care has also been devoted to the railway arrangements. I may also say that great progress has been made in the acquisition of defensive sites around London, and that the system of bringing our reserve forces in peace to train at the guns which they will have to use in war is now largely in force. These, then, are the main items of the programme on which we hope to enter this year. If it be objected that after a reorganisation of the Department we contemplate no revolutionary changes, my reply is that we do not aim at startling the public, but at benefiting the Army. Changes in organisation are only the scaffolding on which efficiency can be reared, and with an Army, of all bodies in the world, change for the sake of change is the thing most to be avoided. [Cheers.] We are endeavouring to build up on our established system of national defence, so that it may be as effective for Great Britain, even if it cannot be as symmetrical as that of Continental nations, from whom we can learn much, though we cannot imitate them. National defence in Great Britain has built itself up rather according as individual patriotism and occasional emergency has dictated, than on any recognised or concerted scheme of strategists and politicians. We cannot, like Continental nations, adapt the country to the Army; we hope to adapt the Army to the country. Military authorities tell us that we have taken considerable strides in preparedness in the last few years; we hope this year to take a long stride further in the same direction. In completing the rearmament of the troops, in providing training by manœuvres and ranges, in forwarding mobilisation, in building barracks and completing fortifications we may be doing nothing new; but we are at least adopting a standard which we may hope to attain, and below which it will not be easy in the future for this or any Ministry to fall. I know that much will remain to be done; the life of Ministries is short, but art, and especially the military art, is long. I have no doubt we shall hear to-night criticisms, and valuable criticisms on our scheme; we shall hear of many omissions, and possibly of some defects. But, whatever may be said or felt, I feel I may be allowed at least to claim that this overhaul of our defences, which is the work primarily of a Secretary of State and of a Commander-in-Chief, who have not between them been 12 months in office, is a genuine tribute to the un-intermittent and arduous labours of the last few months [cheers], and I trust that the Estimates we have formed upon them, justified by the heads of the Army, sanctioned by the Committee of Defence, and put forward on the responsibility of the Government, may obtain, as I submit they deserve, the favourable consideration and sanction of the House of Commons. [Cheers.]

On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval, the Vote was agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed:— That a sum, not exceeding £5,862,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, Allowances, and other Charges of Her Majesty's Army at Home and Abroad (exclusive of Iudia) (General Staff, Regiments, Reserve, and Departments), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1897.


said, the statement of the Under Secretary for War had been specially interesting because of the comparison he introduced between the cost of our Army and foreign armies. No doubt conscription largely entered into the consideration which governed that comparison, but the figures he had given went to show that it did not enter to that overwhelming extent some were inclined to think. When the present Government came into office there was a wide and searching discussion of the whole principles of Army administration, and two large questions were raised to which the Government turned their mediate attention—namely, War Office administration and Cabinet responsibility in connection with national defence. From the statement of the Under Secretary for War it appeared that War Office administration had been developed on the lines of the scheme laid before the House last August. But he himself was far from satisfied with the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility in the form it had assumed, and they did not see in the Army or Navy Estimates any evidence that up to the present time the matter had been thoroughly considered. It was true that we had a new Commander-in-Chief, that the Government had not been in office long, and that the Cabinet Committee on Defence had not long been constituted, and that it would be a mistake to change too suddenly the principles on which the defence of the country had been conducted in the past. But next year they would expect to see in the Army and Navy Estimates more evidence that the matter had been thoroughly considered. The expenditure of the country on land forces, taking England and India into account—for the problems of the British Army could not be effectively considered unless the Indian Army was taken into account—had been £36,250,000, and the Under Secretary said this was larger than the expenditure of any other Power. But for the £36,250,000—and the sum would be larger next year—we did not attain such results as, in the absence of conscription, we should look for here and in India Here we seemed to fall between two stools. We had confessedly no Army in this country at present that could hope successfully to resist invasion by armies organised on a Continental scale. We spent a good deal of money on our land forces without obtaining for the money we spent an Army which would enable us to resist invasion supposing our fleet failed. We failed not in the numbers of men but the organisation of those men. We failed in tactics, in artillery, and the practice of our Generals in command. He was glad to hear of the manœuvres, which in future were to take place in this country, and he hoped that under our new Commander-in-Chief there would be a development of our Army, in the sense of a modern Army, which we had hardly had up to the present time. The Undersecretary had spoken of the attempt that had been introduced to make a greater measure of decentralisation. Before it was possible to free the hands or brain of the Commander-in-Chief for the consideration of the larger problems of defence, it was necessary to keep him clear of irritating details to the consideration of which the Commander-in-Chief in this country was subjected as no other Commander-in-Chief was in other countries of the world. With regard to the reorganisation of the War Office, he should like in a word to defend what he had said as to its being made on the suggestions of August last. They were told that when a question affected more than one military department, the head of the department dealing with it would refer the papers to the other departments concerned, that the question might be considered in all its bearings. But all important questions would be referred to the Commander-in-Chief before it was submitted to the Secretary of State for War. That was an important point gained. The whole of paragraph 3 seemed to set up the Commander-in-Chief as the principal adviser of the Secretary of State; but there was one paragraph which appeared to tell in the opposite direction. On page 8 they were told that the Secretary of State would give the Army Board information as to the approximate amount within which the Estimates for the year were to be kept. That was wise, perhaps, from the point of view of economy; but there was this difficulty, that it was not shown upon what facts the Secretary of State was to form his opinion. The logical and the best position would seem to be that necessary demands of the services for the defence of the country should be first stated, and, when the military and naval advisers were agreed, their recommendations should be laid before the Secretary of State. But, as things stood, no one could tell what was the plan proposed to be pursued, and upon what preliminary facts the Secretary of State was to found his opinion, unless all this was provided for in the general arrangements of the Cabinet Committee. It might be as suggested, that cavalry officers had somewhat exaggerated the miserable condition to which some cavalry regiments were reduced; but at all events the majority of the regiments at home were short of horses as compared with the cavalry of every other country. Last year he said that what had been done in Belgium might be an example to us. In Belgium there were eight cavalry regiments in eight stations, chiefly manufacturing towns, and the regiments had been concentrated in two stations at two towns. He earnestly hoped that the Government might be working in this direction, and that the small detachments in manufacturing towns might be grouped together in places where they could get real cavalry training, as they did in India. He had still to complain that not only had we regiments with 225 horses on the establishment, but that those numbers included horses that would not be counted in any other army in the world. In other armies no horses were counted until they were six years old; but we counted horses of three, four, and five years; and, therefore, our deficiency was in fact, greater than it appeared to be. It was said there had been an increase of Artillery; but he did not believe there was anything the country would call an increase. There was a diminution in the time of Mr. Stanhope, and since that time there had not been what he would call an increase. There had been a decrease at home, although there had been an increase in India; and, on the whole, the force was not larger than it was some years ago. There had been no increase in horses or men; not until this year in guns; and that was not an increase without a corresponding addition of men and horses. With the Reserves the number of horses might be made up, but not the number of trained men; and we could not be said to increase our Artillery until we increased the number of trained men. The Yeomany Cavalry he feared lost a great deal by attempting to be what its training hardly fitted it for, whereas, if it were humbler in its aims it might be a useful force of mounted infantry for certain purposes. With regard to ammunition, the statement of the Under Secretary was partly reassuring, although it fell short of the expectations of last year as far as private firms were concerned. In respect of stores of ammunition and of rifles, we had been behind other Powers in the past, below the standard which was considered fair and proper by all. He was glad that the new rifle was about to be issued to the Volunteers, because it was specially demoralising to a Volunteer force to be armed with an inferior weapon, and it took the very best troops to fight with an inferior rifle, as the Germans once did. A great deal of mystery was often made in this country about military matters, such as the store of ammunition, and it was supposed to be disastrous to state facts which were probably known to the Powers. Last year in the famous Debate on cordite he was glad to hear the present Leader of the House declare that no harm could come of making a full statement and of taking the country into confidence. The position last year was that we had about 51 million rounds, whereas we use 24 millions in a year's practice. We had 51 million, rounds of cordite, and, as far as he could make out, there was an actual decrease between 1894 and 1895 in the total quantity of ammunition. The House had also been told that the private makers of ammunition furnished much less than the Government had anticipated, but that they were able to make up the stock to a sufficient amount. He would have preferred that all official mystery should have been set aside, and that the House should have got the real figures. There was really no secresy in this matter. All the details were known to the agents and representatives of foreign Powers, and were discussed amongst them, so that there was no necessity for official reticence. There was a further difficulty in the matter of cordite. He had never said a word against cordite ammunition, for this was a matter in which the opinion of experts must be accepted. But it was admitted that acetone, one of the products used in the manufacture of cordite, could not be up to the present time made in this country.


said, that acetone was not at present made in sufficient quantities in this country, but, potentially, there was nothing to be apprehensive about.

MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)

Is it not true that we have a sufficient quantity of acetone from different manufacturers to last for a considerable time?


That is so.


said he was glad to hear that; but he thought the fact that we could not make this product was a matter for anxiety.



MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

said that, if the Government were satisfied with the condition of the Cavalry Service, as the Financial Secretary to the War Office had stated the other day, they must be extremely easily pleased, because the present trooper, as everyone knew who had studied the subject, was an underbred, coarse horse, incapable of doing the work required in the English Cavalry—carrying 8½ stone, able to gallop, and able to take its place in the line at manœuvres. The best way to obviate the difficulty in regard to Cavalry horses was to follow the example set in Austro-Hungary, by distributing good stallions over the horse-breeding districts. There were some Government stallions in the South and West of Ireland, but they were absolutely useless, because they were for cobs, ponies, and undersized animals, which were by no means the kind of horses required for the Cavalry Service. If the Government would only distribute good stallions over the horse-breeding districts, and especially in the South and West of Ireland, and set up remount depots, where three-year-old horses could be kept until they were sufficiently matured to go into the ranks, the difficulty would be obviated. That was done in Austro-Hungary, and anyone who had seen Cavalry manœuvres in that country was aware that the experiment had been extremely successful. There had been talk about the reserve of Cavalry horses; but it was well known that those horses were practically unbroken, and were absolutely incapable of taking their places in line. Besides, this reserve of horses consisted of 11,000 animals, and as there were 13,000 dragoons, it meant only one horse for every two men. Why could not the Government adopt the system of Austro-Hungary, where the military authorities picked up three-year-old horses cheaply, and allowed the farmers to keep them, Diving them a small consideration on condition that they brought in the animals in a sound condition for training every year? In regard to the militia, a branch of the Service of which he knew something after he had left the regular forces, he had heard some hon. Members speak of it as if they regarded it as the corner-stone of the Army of the future. The militia appeared on the Estimates as 140,000 men. That seemed a respectable force; but enormous reductions had to be made from it. There were 32,000 men who were absent; 30,000 men who belonged to the Militia Reserve, which was not a Reserve for the Militia at all, but for the Line; 36,000 men who were Militia recruits, and every gentleman who knew what a Militia recruit was could hardly consider him an efficient soldier; 12,000 men passing from the Militia into the Line; then there were the men who enlisted in half-a-dozen Militias, and were counted half-a-dozen times over; and after all these were deducted there was not much of a Militia left to talk about. This force—from which they had to deduct something like 70,000 men, with officers who did not properly belong to it at all, but were simply passing through it in order to join another force—whose real officers, indeed, were interesting relics, but too old for service—having no transport and no artillery, they could hardly consider as the corner-stone on which to build up the Army of the future.


said, he wished in the first place to congratulate the Under Secretary for the War Office on the not only very satisfactory but extremely clear and able statement which he had made to the House. The hon. Gentleman commenced his statement by a comparison, more elaborate than he had ever heard attempted in the House before, between the expenditure on our Army and the expenditure on the continental armies. He was very glad the hon. Gentleman had done so. He had been familiar with the particular division of our forces for separate purposes which the hon. Gentleman made the basis of his comparison, and had always thought that it led to a very striking result. The only observation he would make upon the hon. Gentleman's tactics would be expressed in a proverb he had heard attributed to the Canadians, but which was a credit to any country—namely, that "It is never wise to shake hands with the devil until he comes in sight." The hon. Gentleman brought forward this elaborate comparison in reply to criticisms that were made, and in so doing had provoked such a speech as that which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. But he took the view of the Under Secretary for War. In making a comparison between this country and Germany, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean did not keep in view two important facts—one, that in Germany conscription took men away from the ordinary work of the country at the very best time of their life, and when they were most useful to society. ["Hear, hear!"] If he were to assess that consideration in money it would be difficult to say what the effect would be in comparison as to cost. The other fact was that the same principle, which applied to conscription, placed the whole civil community in Germany practically at the disposal of the Army. In Germany the country was adapted to the needs of the Army, whereas in England, the Army was adapted to the needs of the county ["Hear, hear!"] The same consideration should be taken into account in regard to the manœuvres on a large scale. In this country we had to pass a Bill and set up a Committee to assess damages and consider rights and prejudices of the general community, whereas in Germany, the troops could march straight across country without any obstacle or difficulty. If they took into consideration the additional cost imposed on this country for its defence, and the fact that we had to garrison India and the Colonies, that also made a material difference compared with Germany, which was exempt from such demands. All those facts showed that it was impossible to have an accurate comparison; but, as he had frequently said, our Estimates had, at any rate, this advantage—that they brought under the notice of the House and the country, almost the whole of the cost of our military system, and he was not aware that any Foreign Estimates even professed to do anything of the sort. With regard to the dearth of Volunteer Officers, the Under Secretary proposed to take a certain sum of money with a view to assisting officers in meeting the cost of their outfit. He was under the impression that, in the evidence taken before a Select Committee on the matter a year or two ago, this was not found to be a very important element in the matter. At the same time, he desired to say that he had no objection to make to what was proposed to be done. ["Hear, hear!"] The Army Medical Department was again short of officers. It was in the unfortunate position that the influx of candidates could be largely controlled by the medical schools. If they were in a good humour there would be plenty of candidates; whereas, if anything was done to offend them on particular points, there would be a dearth of candidates. But he hoped the Under Secretary and his colleagues would be able to get over the difficulty. With regard to material, the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean rather complained that he (Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman) spoke last year of the rearmament of the Artillery. But what he said was that the late Government proposed to abolish the system of depôt batteries, and that the Artillery should be conducted in the same way as the Line—["Hear, hear?"]—the individual battery superintending and carrying out the training of its troops. In the Estimates of last year he provided for all the guns that were required for redistribution, as he stated to the House. The Under Secretary had now, as the hon. Gentleman had said, abundance of money at his disposal, and was perfectly justified and called upon to carry the matter forward at a more rapid rate, and, therefore, he had been able to provide, not only guns actually required, but a considerable reserve, and was still increasing that reserve, and he could only say in this the hon. Gentleman had his hearty approval.


said that on the point of the rearmament of the Artillery, what he complained of was that it was stated that there was to be an increase of Artillery, when really no increase had been made.


said that what he referred to was an increase in the number of guns. As to the question of small arm ammunition, the Under Secretary had stated what his Estimates were and had provided for them accordingly. The point on which he desired information was as to the sources of supply. Cordite itself could undoubtedly be produced in any quantity, but the difficulty was to get the cordite and the parts of the ammunition brought and put together in the arsenal. If certain outside manufacturers had failed on their part, he should like to know who they were. Before he left office certain manufacturers stated that they were ready to commence delivery as soon as the necessary formalities were completed. One firm set up a factory in Ireland, and he wished to know how far the plan had been a success and how far the hon. Gentleman looked to those firms in the coming year for provision of the material he required. As to the organisation of the War Office, he was glad to find not only that he could approve of the general scheme adopted by the Government, but that the papers laid before the House were in the main identical with a draft which he had left behind him at the War Office. The draft had only been changed as an unopposed Bill might be amended in Committee. The great object of this scheme he believed to be that the military authority and advice in the War Office should not be concentrated in one officer, but should be shared by all the high officers. Of course, the direct responsibility of these officers to the Secretary of State for the executive duties had always existed in some degree, and it was important to emphasise it. But when the Secretary of State found himself surrounded by half-a-dozen high officers, presumably the best men to be found for their respective places, he was entitled to have the independent mind of each on any subject which came before him. If the old system were resorted to, and everything were to come to the Secretary of State through the Commander-in-Chief, the advantage of the independent mind was not always secured. Human nature was human nature, and the nature of military officers was more than ordinarily human, in that they were always willing to yield to their superior officer. There were many cases which could be quoted of a Secretary of State acting on the advice received through the highest channel, and finding afterwards that the opinion of the most competent of the subordinate officers was directly contrary to that advice. Although it might be difficult, the object should be that, while the Commander-in-Chief was primarily responsible, other officers should have an equal right of expressing their opinions in such a way that they should reach the Secretary of State. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not regard the Board of Admiralty as being in all respects a model of organisation; but it had this advantage—that the First Lord had the full benefit of the mind of each of the officers constituting the Board. He believed that the scheme adopted by the Government was in the main likely to attain that result for the War Office. He was glad to see that the Government scheme largely provided for a very important point—namely, that financial advice should very early enter into the consideration of any question. It was very unfortunate that military advisers should be left to consult on and draw up a particular scheme, and then, when the scheme was in its last stage, the head of the financial department should be called in, for the first time perhaps, to condemn the plan altogether for some financial element which made it wholly untenable. Such a system, which had obtained in the War Office, created great friction; and he hoped that the result of the new arrangement would be that the Accountant General would be called in at the earliest stage of the question to consult with the military advisers. Of course, in any plan such as that of the Government, the points in which it did not work well could easily be remedied. It was, after all, an experiment, though based on the long experience and sound judgment of many men who had the best means of forming a judgment on the subject. As to the formation of a Cabinet Committee of Defence, he had always hesitated to accept the idea in its formal shape. The head of the Committee under the Government's scheme was the Lord President of the Council. Now, it might be very necessary to find something for the Lord President to do [laughter], and it might be very desirable to utilise the great experience and good sense of the present Lord President ["Hear, hear!"]; but, as a rule, it would not be a good system to say that the Ministers responsible for the Army and Navy should be under a Minister who, in the eyes of the world, had no responsibility for either. ["Hear, hear!"] The proper head of the Committee, of course, was the Prime Minister ["Hear, hear!"] for he was thoroughly acquainted with all the details of policy of the different Departments which ought to be brought into consideration. But, in the present Government, the Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary, and had too much to do; and that was the obvious reason why this somewhat odd arrangement had been adopted. But he hoped that it would not in future be considered a necessary appanage of the office of Lord President of the Council to preside over the Committee of Defence and tell the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty what to do in their own Departments. [Laughter.] The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and certain hon. and gallant Gentlemen wished to have a complete scheme for the defence of the country made public; or, in other words, communicated to them. That was equivalent to making them Members of the Cabinet Committee of Defence. He did not think that publicity and generosity could be carried quite so far. [Ministerial cheers.] It was necessary after all to have a certain degree of reserve on these great matters, not only of public interest, but of national safety—[Ministerial cheers]—and it was sufficient to know, as those who had been connected with these matters for some years knew, that that community of interest between the two departments, the Army and the Navy, had been enormously developed of late years, and there were very few points which did not come under the view of the Joint Committee, and afterwards, if they were of sufficient importance, of the Cabinet Committee. With regard to the question of manœuvres, it was the easiest thing in the world to say, let us have manœuvres on a great scale every year in order to increase the efficiency of the Army. But hon. Members were probably not aware that in the whole of England—certainly in the south and midland parts of the country—there were not more than three or four places in which manœuvres on a large scale could be held. If one found one's self, as he did often in the autumn, in Austria or Hungary, Bohemia or Silesia, he saw that there were few enclosures—that when the corn was taken off the fields there was nothing to prevent an army marching straight ahead in any direction; but in our enclosed country there were few, very few, places in which large manœuvres could be carried out. The hon. Gentleman had brought in a Bill which merely made general the provisions that used to be applied to particular localities, according to the place which was fixed in each year for the holding of the manœuvres, and of course, a general Bill of that sort would be more jealously watched than a Bill for particular localities; but he hoped the hon. Gentleman would have no difficulty in passing the Bill through the House, and in applying it to that forlorn and forgotten part of the island to which he himself belonged—[laughter]—and in which certainly manœuvres would be quite as useful as in any part of England. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman was in a very fortunate position, because this year he had only to pay one-half of the capitation grant to Volunteers. He, therefore, had money in hand out of which he could afford manœuvres and all sorts of charming things, but in another year he would have the whole capitation grant to include, and therefore in the following year, he would have to pay for his manœuvres either out of savings, which had as yet been undiscovered, or out of an additional charge on the taxpayers. The hon. Gentleman said very properly, that he had no startling changes to announce. On the whole the progress was satisfactory, and all that he had to announce as intended was in the right direction. [Cheers.]


replying, to the question which had been asked as to the failure of supply from the trade of cordite ammunition, said, that in the first instance the difficulty had been in relation to the character of the cordite which the trade was ably to supply. At first it appeared as if the trade were not able to meet the difficulties of manufacture. That difficulty was got over ultimately, and there was a supply of cordite from the trade which satisfied the requirements of the War Office. Subsequently, great difficulties arose in relation to the cases of the cartridges themselves, and the inability of the trade to surmount them existed now. One of the firms concerned had apparently solved it, and it might be expected that they would furnish a steady supply of cordite ammunition, which would pass examination. Another of the firms was not in so favourable a position, but he was convinced that the difficulties were only of a temporary nature. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, referred to the scheme of reorganisation of the War Office, and said he was glad to find that financial considerations entered very early into the deliberations of the Department. If the right hon. Gentleman had read a little more closely the Memorandum from which he quoted, he would have seen it provided that the military authorities should, in the first instance, formulate their scheme, and that when those schemes were brought to him in due course, the Secretary of State should indicate whether or not they were within the financial tether he expected to have at his disposal. If that was not the case, it would be for the military authorities to suggest in what way their schemes should be modified. No doubt financial considerations entered very closely into every proposal made in the War Office, and he would like to take this opportunity of saying he considered the Department and the country were greatly indebted to the permanent financial official of the War Office, Sir R. H. Knox, for the extraordinary ability he displays in relation to these subjects; an ability which is directed with equal acceptance to the civilian as to the military side of the matter.


said, he gathered that the Accountant General was to be present at every meeting of the Army Board, in order to give the assistance of his advice.


said that that was so, and if the right hon. Gentleman would read a little further he would see the Accountant-General would supply the Board with any calculations or information as to the cost of the proposals before them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had said he considered we were behind other Powers in regard to our reserve of rifles. He hardly knew how that could be, when he remembered that for the regular Army and the Militia there was a reserve of rifles of what was called arm for arm—that was to say, for every arm in the hands of the regular forces and the Militia there was another arm in reserve. For the Reserve, who did not use their rifles, and in relation to the rifles appropriated to whom there was no wear and tear, the reserve was only half that amount.


said, he meant to convey that, in addition to the armament of the Volunteers, which had now to be proceeded with, there were considerable forces outside this country who had to be provided suddenly with arms in time of war, and there were no arms for them.


hardly knew to what forces the right hon. Baronet referred, unless he meant levée en masse.


said, he meant the colonial Militia and other forces in other parts of the world.


pointed out that those forces might provide their own arms. The hon. and gallant Member for Essex had said the military authorities were discontented with the present reserve of forces. On the contrary, he believed the military authorities considered that the provision made in this country, compared not unfavourably with that made in other countries, when all things were taken into account. As he understood it, horses were retained in foreign services long after we retained them; there were a number of horses in foreign services which were of an age at which horses would not be permitted to remain on the list of available horses in the English Army. The hon, and gallant Gentleman had quoted from a so-called confidential Report. He could not understand how, under the circumstances, the Report could be considered confidential, but perhaps he might be permitted to break confidence a little further by citing one or two passages from that Report. He found it stated that, with regard to the Royal Horse Artillery, 90 per cent. of the horses were of a very good stamp, that the riding horses would be quite fit for detachment work in two or three weeks, that the draught horses would be ready for waggon work almost at once, and for gun work too at a pinch, that 75 per cent. of the hussar horses were suitable for light cavalry, and the remainder would do for transport riders or mounted infantry. That being so, he thought the criticisms of a rather severe character addressed to the Committee by the hon. and gallant Member might be subject to some modification.

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

desired to say a few words upon the question of the Army Medical Department. It was quite evident, from what they had heard that night, that there was something very rotten in the state of Denmark—something very wrong in the Army Medical Department, and it was quite evident that it was impossible to get enough of young men from the Medical Service to fill up the vacancies that were occurring in that department. The fact was that the Army Medical Service was below its strength, and the authorities were at their wits' end to know how to fill up the ranks. It was quite true, as the late Secretary for War had said, that it all depended upon the Medical Schools whether there was a free low of candidates or not, and that, if there was anything to which the medical schools took exception, then they recommended young men not to enter the Army Medical Department. There was a kind of boycott, and then something was done. The moral was that, if they wanted anything done in that department or in other departments, they had to put on a boycott and then they got their claims attended to. He was glad to hear that the Secretary for War and the Under Secretary were going to direct attention thoroughly to this matter. He had always thought that the status of Army doctors was much lower since the abolition of the old regimental days. In the old days the doctor was the tried friend of the regiment, he took the lead in social matters, was looked up to, and had a really good time. Now, however, his pay was poor, and he would have to get a little more in order to tempt him into the Army. He asked the Under Secretary to see whether some plan could not be devised whereby, at all events, a partial return to the old regimental system might be brought about. He wished to know whether a young man could not be attached to a regiment for four or five years, in order to obtain a good training and give the regiment the advantage of a constant medical attendant. If that was impossible there was another plan. That was the formation of an Army Medical Corps following the example of the Engineers—a corps in which men could have their definite rank, thus settling all those difficult and delicate questions of rank which had been almost the despair of successive Secretaries of State for War. Considering how well the Army Corps system had worked in Italy and America and other foreign countries, it was thought well worthy of consideration whether something of the same kind could not be introduced in this country. If such a corps was formed he honestly believed no more would be heard of the grievances connected with the Army Medical Department. With regard to the question of examination, he thought the high standard ought to be kept up. The Army had a right to expect the best medical attendance. The question of foreign service was an urgent one. It had been a great grievance to Army dectors for many years, and had had very disastrous effects upon their health. With regard to the question of study for young men after a prolonged period of foreign service, he did not think the arrangements were sufficient. The Army contrasted unfavourably with the Navy in this respect. Naval Medical Officers, he believed, had the right to get a definite period of study when they returned from foreign service. It was but natural that a young fellow's medical knowledge would get a little rusty after being away for five or six years, and it was very much to his advantage as well as to the advantage of those he had to treat, that he should have an opportunity of going to one of the great centres and rubbing off the rust that must mentally have accumulated. He thanked the Under Secretary for his statement, and was sure that both he and his chief would do what they could to put the Army Medical Department upon a more satisfactory footing.


referring to the state of the cavalry, said he believed our regiments would be far more effective—far stronger and more ready for foreign service—if they were fewer in number. With regard to the supply of horses, he believed it was ample; that the horses were easily obtained at the usual regulation price, and that with scarcely any exception every regiment in the Army was perfectly well satisfied at the present time. Complaint had been made that the number of horses was not sufficient for the men. He took exactly the opposite view, and for this reason. Horses were, comparatively speaking, very easily got and trained, whereas a dragoon could not be trained under one year's service. As to horses, there was no complaint from the regiments as to a shortness of horses as compared to men, and he had always advocated a larger proportion of men to horses. Sufficient horses for war could be trained in a few days, and it would be better to keep a large number of men trained, for they could not be trained under a year. He was glad to hear that the cavalry were to be more concentrated, but he did not believe in the officers being kept in leading strings at Head Quarters. The cavalry was a service in which they wanted dash and self-confidence, and where they wanted a young man to use his brains. If they did not get these qualities when they were young, they would never learn it in after life. There were one or two other remarks which he wished to make. He was in hopes that after the General Election, and with a new Secretary for War, there would have been introduced a better system of promotion. The Military Secretary might be the best man in the whole world, but his idea was that there should be a board of promotion or selection appointed at the Horse Guards, consisting of the heads of the departments. A young man should be recommended by his immediate superior, and this should be endorsed by the officer commanding the district. Then the whole board should look into it and see whether he was the right man or not. It was a great burden to have the rejection of a man placed upon any one official. He was not in favour of a very severe system of selection in a service like theirs, but he did not think that No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 should be passed over and 5 selected, simply because he was the best man of the lot; but if 1, 2, 3 and 4 were not perfectly fit he would pass them over. A man might be fit for one place and not for another. That was often the case, for they often had to form a different opinion of a man after he had been made the commanding officer. After six weeks in his new post they might form a different opinion about him. He thought the men should be well and truly selected. It had been said that the system of selection was unpopular. If fairly done, he did not see why it should be. He thought it was necessary. It was a great burden to place on the Military Secretary, and if they brought the man before the Board, it was not the individual that rejected him and declared that he was not the fittest man for the post. He asked the Secretary of State to inquire about the claims of the old pensioners over 60 to be employed in Government works. With the assistance they used to get in this way they were comfortable enough, but that had ceased to be the case. He thought it would be a good thing if pensioners were employed in dockyards, and Woolwich, at such wages as they were worth.

MAJOR DALBIAC (Camberwell, N.)

said, that the statement of the hon. Member the Under Secretary for War must commend itself to all who were interested in the Army Service and also to the country generally. That statement, however, was, of course, open to criticism, and he desired to make a few observations with regard to it. In the first place, he would deal with the subject of the Army Corps for foreign service in connection with the Reserve. The hon. Gentleman had made one remark that would commend itself to everyone, namely, that the country paid a sufficient sum for the Army Service if the money were properly applied. In his view, however, there were instances connected with the Army Reserve in which the country did not get its full value for the money that was voted. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the 112,000 men who would constitute these three Army Corps which would be first called out in case of necessity. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of the 80,000 men who formed the Army Reserve, and said that, in the case of the three Army Corps being called out, there would be fewer Reservists in them than would be the case of any Continental Army Corps. Anyone who was acquainted with the existing state of things in this country would see what little foundation there was for the remark. It was well known that our infantry battalions at home were nothing more than the depôts of their linked battalions serving abroad, and that they had to supply some 150 to 200 men annually to keep up the strength of the linked battalions which were on foreign service, thus leaving none in this country who were available for active service in case of emergency. The result was well exemplified in the fact that we had had to send out to Ashanti a composite battalion because we had not a single battalion at home that was fit to send out, unless its ranks were filled up from the Reserve men. In 1882, when the campaign in Egypt took place, each battalion that was sent out had to leave behind it between 350 and 400 immature men, who were absolutely unfit for service, and the places of those immature men had to be filled up from the Reserve. It would be still more necessary to adopt such a course at the present time owing to the fact that the short-service system had now become paramount, whereas in 1882 we had still a large number of long-service men at our command. At present we had not a single long-service man in the ranks. Therefore, in order to put these three Army Corps in a state to take the field, we should have to exhaust every single man of our Army Reserve. In his view the full nominal strength of the Army Reserve only existed upon paper, because owing to the want of an annual medical inspection of the men forming it, a large proportion would be found unfit to take the field. It was true that last year when a few hundreds of the Army Reserve were mobilised it was found only 6½ per cent. of those called out were unfit for active service. But 6½ per cent. on a total force of 80,000 would be a very large number. He had had many opportunities of seeing the Army Reserve men, and he found that numbers of these men when they left the Army, generally failed to obtain any active employment, and that they became loafers and drunkards, and therefore, were absolutely unfit to take the field by the side of able-bodied soldiers. He could not see why the country should be called upon to pay for the 6½ per cent. of valueless Reservists. Seeing that we had centres for medical inspection all over the country, there would be no great hardship upon the men if they were required to submit to an annual medical inspection, and those who were pronounced to be medically unfit for active service should be at once discharged. A campaign at the present day lasted only a few months and during that short time the Reservists who were left behind would not be likely to become fit to take the field. Therefore, we ought to have behind this first line of Army Reserve some further Reserve which we could draw upon to fill up the enormous losses that would occur in any campaign under modern conditions where modern weapons were used. There was one other question he wished to raise, and that was, the new Warrant affecting the Ordnance Store Department, which, though not yet promulgated, had been hanging over the heads of the officers in the Department for a year. Under the Warrant of 1880, these officers joined the Department under the impression that they would be able to renew their service in the Department, and came forward for Departmental promotion and pensions. They were now threatened with orders to return to their regiments and had been living under the threat for a year, without anything definite being settled. To send them back to their regiments would, in a great measure, be an injustice. An officer joined the Department, not from choice, but very often because circumstances compelled him. Though the life was not so pleasant as a regimental life, on entering the Department they drew a very considerable increase of pay, and looked forward to promotion and additional pensions as compensation for the loss of the pleasanter life in the regiment and of the prospect of earning distinction in the field. A great many of them had been eight, nine and ten years in the Department. He did not ask for compensation, or anything of that sort. He simply asked for justice both for them and the taxpayer of the country. During the time these officers have been away from their regiments immense changes in drill, tactics, and general details had been effected, and it was now proposed to send them to a position in which they would have to instruct others in things of which they were absolutely ignorant, and to do work of which they were incapable. It was also proposed to replace them in the Department by officers absolutely new to the work. He had had an opportunity of inspecting the system of book-keeping in vogue in the Department. It might be a necessity and it might be the best system, but he would maintain that there was not an hon. Member in the House who could make head or tail of it unless he had some months' study of it. A more involved and confused system it would be impossible to originate. Yet, officers who had made themselves masters of it were to be taken away and sent back to their regiment to instruct people in things they knew nothing whatever about. They never could possibly hope for regimental promotion simply because they knew nothing about regimental work, and every prospect they had would be obliterated. Other officers were to be put in their places, who would take many months, probably years, to master the book-keeping system, and all this was to be done nominally in the public interest. He contended that it was absolutely opposed to the interests, both of those taken out and those brought in, and was diametrically opposed to the interest of the taxpayers of the country generally. He asked for some assurance that the interests of officers in the Department and of the public would be duly considered. A few years ago the same thing was done in connection with the Army Service Corps, but officers who wished to return to their regiments were allowed to do so, and the same power of choice was given to those who desired to remain in the Department, and as vacancies occurred they were absorbed. He asked that the same plan might be followed in the case of the Ordnance Store Department, and that officers who were efficient in that Department should have the option of remaining in it to reap the benefits they had a right to expect under the Warrant of 1880. The new system ought not to be applied at once but by degrees. The idea was that the proposed change would result in a saving of money, quartermasters being substituted for the officers now serving in the Department. But he believed that what might be saved in that way would go to pay officers of the Royal Artillery in the higher grades who were employed in the same kind of work. For his part he could not see how officers of artillery were better qualified to take charge of small arms, blankets, tent pegs and coal boxes than officers of the infantry. He trusted that when the Warrant relating to the Ordnance Store Department was promulgated it would be found that substantial justice was done to the officers to whose position he had drawn attention, and who had been kept in a state of suspense for more than, a year.

MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)

said that everyone recognised that this was an experimental year, great changes having been effected at the War Office. He congratulated the Under Secretary of State for War on his exceedingly important and useful exposure of the fallacy of comparing our Military Estimates with those of Foreign Powers who had conscript armies. The hon. Member had dispelled the wide-spread delusion that we were largely overcharged for the maintenance of the British soldier. He would like to receive some further information as to the efficiency of the registered horses. He attended the mobilisation, to which reference had been made by earlier speakers, and he made it his business to accompany the horses on the march and to see them in troops, batteries, and stables. In his judgment there was a remarkable conflict of evidence in the report from which the Financial Secretary had quoted. From all he heard from the officers of the cavalry and horse artillery battery the report was exceedingly favourable. The officers told him that what appeared to him to be a miracle occurred. They found that the registered horses were capable not only of taking their part as draught horses, but that they could be made available as troop horses in the cavalry. He believed that a whole troop of the 4th Hussars was mounted on improvised horses. He would be glad if the Under Secretary would confirm one or other of the views expressed in the Report. Something ought to be done with reference to the recruiting station at St. George's Barracks. It might seem a small detail, but this was a station where two-thirds of the recruits for the Army were received. It was unworthy of the British Army; the station was disreputable and uncomfortable in its accommodation. It had been condemned by every officer. Two companies of the Guards were kept in the barracks. He had been told that they were to be removed, but that it was not contemplated to make any radical change in the station itself. In none of the similar stations allotted to the Navy, Marines and other forces were men and boys required to enter into their profession under such depressing circumstances as prevailed at St. George's Barracks. He invited hon. Members to go over the place and see the condition of affairs for themselves, and to note how unworthy the station was for the main place of entry to the service of the British Army. He hoped that a good central recruiting station might be provided which should compare favourably with any of the great Navy or Marine depôts where men entering the service could go and feel pride at joining the Army under the auspices of such an institution. He should like also to receive some assurance that the guns of the Army would be dealt with in a different fashion from that which had hitherto prevailed. He had asked a question with reference to the howitzers manufactured for the Indian and Home Governments. He had pointed out that we are making patterns for a 5.4 inch howitzer for India, to be manufactured at Bombay, and a 5-inch howitzer at Woolwich for the use of the Home and Colonial Army, but the answer he had received scarcely seemed to him to be serious. It was said that the howitzer in India was intended to break down walls, while the howitzer in Europe was intended for a different purpose. It was pointed out that they would be harnessed with bullocks in India and with horses in Europe. That was hardly an answer to the question. The fact was that the howitzer had not been really designed as part of a plan, but had been produced as the result of a pure blunder. Sixteen guns had been made for India and no more would be made. Those guns would be dragged by horses in India, if horses could he got to drag them, but as the howitzers were in India and as ammunition would have to follow them everywhere confusion would result until the guns were withdrawn. Taken with other facts this was very important. We had got into such a wilderness with regard to the types of guns that he did not know how we should be able to extricate ourselves from the difficulty. A satisfactory assurance from the War Office with regard to the field guns of the Army was also desirable. This was about the fourth re-armament of the horse artillery in recent years, and the last was only carrying out the ideas which artillery officers had insisted upon over and over again, namely, the heavier the projectile the lower the velocity. We were transforming the old 12-pounder gun and making it a 15-pounder. But it was not a 15-pounder at all; it was only so in name, because it would not carry a 15-pound projectile, and consequently was being converted into a 14-pounder. He wanted to know whether those were included in the guns they were to have at the end of four months, because all these guns would have to be reconverted into 14-pounders. There they had already a certain, amount of complication, but that was only a small portion of what they enjoyed at this moment. He found that they had no less than 24 guns of 6-inch calibre and under in use in the Army now, with the exception, of two, which they had relegated to the Navy. They had three 40-pounder breechloaders; a 20-pounder breechloader, 16 cwt.; a 6-pounder breechloader; three 7-pounders, all of different weights and of two different calibres. So serious was this, that he was informed not long ago that ammunition for the 21½-inch 7 pounder was actually sent for a battery on service in India with the 3-inch calibre and an interchange of ammunition being impossible, a very serious result occurred. They had a 25-pounder muzzle-loader; a 4-inch howitzer; a 14-pounder breechloader; a 15-pounder breechloader; four 12-pounder batteries, which, by some extraordinary arrangement, had actually been sent to one of their great colonies, where there was not a single other 12-pounder in use; a 6-inch howitzer, 30 cwt., and a 6-inch howitzer, 25 cwt.; a 16-pounder muzzle-loader; a 12-pounder breechloader; and they had still some 13-pounder muzzle-loaders. These guns had a considerable position at one time, but they had been discarded. What did they mean by discarded? They had actually sent these 13-pounders to another colony, which was a great fortress, and where no other similar gun existed. Then they had a 30-pounder breechloader, which was in an experimental stage; a 5-inch howitzer; these four batteries of 5.4-inch howitzer, and another 6-inch howitzer for India. This complication constituted a very serious state of things. Some of these guns might be classed as obsolete, and there was no intention of ever renewing them, but they were all there, and they were depending upon them, and the complication of ammunition it involved was something terrible. He ventured to suggest that some assurance should be given to the House that a greater control would be exercised in the future over the Ordnance Department. The Ordnance Committee had misled them over and over again. It misled them absolutely with regard to the Navy, and they saw now the confusion it had left them in in regard to their land guns. Here was the last instance, and he would respectfully suggest to the Under Secretary that ho might possibly recommend that this error might be cancelled, and that instead of sending these four batteries of 5.4-inch howitzers cruising about in India—there was not another gun in the whole of the British Empire, on sea or on land, which would take the 5.4-inch projectile—he would regard it as a bad debt, stop the making of the pattern at Woolwich, and take the first step in the direction of uniformity of ammunition and type of gun.

MR. H. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)

desired to call the attention of the Committee to one point. This was the refusal, on the part of the Secretary of State for War, to accept the proposal for the formation into a regiment of 537 gentlemen who had been educated at the public schools, or who had failed at the Army examinations, or who were in the Militia of Her Majesty's Army at the present time. They asked for no privileges, except that they might have the privilege of serving together in one regiment. He respectfully desired to call the attention of the Under Secretary to this, because, speaking from the British taxpayer's point of view, he was quite unable to understand the reason why such a very excellent offer was refused. He had no doubt the hon. Gentleman would be able to give some reasons for the refusal, but he would like to point out to him that that refusal appeared to have been conveyed in a somewhat curt letter, and no reasons given for it. It seemed to him that a double advantage would have been gained in accepting an offer of this kind. The country would be making use of most excellent material which was desirous of placing itself at the disposal of the service of the country. This country had, in young gentlemen educated at the Universities, a larger amount of material than any other country, and why they should not, under legitimate circumstances, make use of such material, he was at a loss to understand. They might be told that to accede to such a request would cause jealousy in other ordinary line regiments. That seemed hardly a valid objection, because surely an ordinary line regiment would take any other line regiment on its merits, and if efficient soldiers were granted the ordinary privileges of a line regiment there could be no ground for such jealousies. No doubt they would be told that the word ''gentleman'' was a very indefinite term. He granted that they found gentlemen in all ranks of life, but there was a solid advantage in the fact that the young men in question who desired to offer themselves for service at the ordinary rate of pay, and under the ordinary conditions, had had a University and College education. He ventured to think that was a solid and practical advantage. If such men were to offer themselves to be enrolled in an existing regiment they would probably all be accepted. The only privilege they had asked for was that they should be united in one regiment by themselves, but that otherwise they should be treated on exactly the same footing as any other private soldier in Her Majesty's Army. He was totally unable to understand why that offer should not be accepted. He trusted that when the Under Secretary made his statement he would explain to the Committee the reasons why the offer was refused.


said, he had listened with a certain amount of interest to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The hon. Member was anxious that young gentlemen from the Public Schools and Universities should be allowed to enter the Army. But they could do so already, for if there was a certain amount of application on their part to study, there was no reason why they should not succeed in passing the examinations which would entitle them to their commissions. For his part, he saw no reason why the application which the hon. Gentleman supported should be acceded to, and he sincerely trusted the Committee would not entertain it for a moment. He could not help commending the remarks which had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Camberwell with reference to the Army Service Corps. He hoped the Secretary for the Colonies and the Liberal Unionist Party would take heed of the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast. The examinations for positions under the Army Medical Department were boycotted, not only by Irish, but by Scotch and English candidates. A pretty plight our Army would be in if there were no medical men to look after the wounded. At the last examination there were only 18 candidates for 17 places. This was due to the treatment of medical men in the Army. The examiners deserved to be boycotted. English as well as Irish medical journals had condemned the existing state of things. The War Office called upon Army medical men to retire at the age of 55, and, although the Department had been riddled with questions on the subject, not one of them had been answered in a way that gave satisfaction to the medical men of London or to the Army Medical Service.


said, the hon. Member's remarks would be more appropriate to the Vote for the Army Medical Establishment.


said, he hoped that hon. Members who desired to add anything would endeavour to allow the Debate to close before 12 o'clock.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

said, he wished in three or four sentences to convey his impressions of the statement made by the Under Secretary. He was sure he was expressing the sentiments of the soldiers in the House when he said they recognised the straightforward and generous intentions of the hon. Gentleman, whose statement would be received with equal pleasure by officers outside. Personally, he desired to lay considerable stress on the Manœuvres Bill, and to express a hope that it would be carried in its integrity. In nothing were we more deficient than in the opportunity of carrying out manœuvres on a large scale. The last manœuvres were in 1872, and he had the good fortune to go through them all. It was the general opinion that those manœuvres were of the highest value in the education they afforded to all branches of the Service. The Under Secretary gave them satisfaction with respect to the efforts made to supply the former want of small arms cordite ammunition—a question of painful remembrance for some. It was satisfactory to know that at all events we were close upon realising the full quantity we ought to have in hand. It was satisfactory to hear that the concentration of the cavalry, which had long been advocated by officers, would be carried out. The more concentrated the cavalry were, the better it would be for the regiments and for the whole Service. On the difficult subject of the provision of ranges, the hon. Gentleman skated with great celerity over thin ice, and it was to be feared he would have great difficulty in realising his ideal in providing ranges in hilly districts, or at sea away from shipping. Great stress had been laid by military critics on the thorough training of the Volunteers, who were on all sides regarded as an essential part of the defensive force of the country. The Volunteers would never be worth anything at all until they were armed with a good rifle and thoroughly trained in the use of that rifle. It had been suggested that district rifle ranges should be provided at which all the military forces in the district could have united rifle practice. But, to make it possible for the Volunteers in their short fortnight of camp training to undertake such an annual musketry training, it must be carried out within easy reach of the quarters of each corps; or, if they had to travel in order to go through their musketry course at the district ranges, they would have to be treated liberally in the way of railway fares. Some criticism had been offered on the mode in which promotions were carried out in the Army. Recently, a considerable extension of time had been given to officers in their various commands. He found no fault with that. If a good officer were in command of a regiment, it was an advantage to the regiment to have the services of that officer for a longer time. But, in the case of regiments having battalions abroad, those officers who were coming to the top of the battalions had some reason for faultfinding if the extension of commands were made so suddenly as to upset all the arrangements that would be made in the ordinary course of promotion. He thought that circumstance ought to be borne in mind by the War authorities. Fault had been found with the large number of Guardsmen having commands in different districts. The Guards did not desire an undue share of commands; but they were content to know that all the commands held by Guardsmen were filled to the satisfaction of the men commanded and the authorities, who were the best judges of whether or not the duties were properly discharged. There was another matter of importance to which he desired to draw attention. In the Ashanti Campaign, which had ended more easily than had been generally anticipated, part of the fighting force was made up of a composite battalion, at the head of which was one of the most promising of Army officers, and which had done its work well. But, in making up that battalion, the war authorities had taken the picked men of five or six regiments; and he greatly feared that, if it had been necessary to put those regiments, thus denuded of their best men, into the field, they would have felt the want of the stiffening element which the trained soldier supplied. He therefore doubted the wisdom of forming composite battalions. He would prefer to see each regiment put to the work that lay to its hand, if it were able to carry it out. In conclusion, he congratulated the Army and the country on the generous spirit displayed towards the Army in the statement of the Under Secretary.


said he did not want to stand between the Committee and the Vote, but he thought some answer ought to be given by the Under Secretary to the points raised on both sides of the House.


said that most of the points—including the question of Army medical officers—were met in his statement; and, as to the others, he intended to communicate with the hon. Members who had raised them.


desired to speak more on behalf of Members supporting the Government than of Members of the Opposition, in asking the Under Secretary to a make a satisfactory reply to the various questions that had been addressed to him.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question, "that the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.

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