§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
proposed to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words—this House, while ready to provide the funds required for the efficient maintenance of our Military forces, desires to be convinced that the present system of enlistment and terms of service are such as to be suitable to the requirements of the Empire.He said the total cost of our national defences was now larger than it had ever been before. Last year the military and naval Votes with the loan money and the Indian expenditure and the expenditure of the self-governing colonies, amounted to £63,000,000 a year, and as far as it was possible to compute the expenditure of the present year it was likely to be on the same scale. Some items would be less, some more, but £03,000,000 a year seemed to be the sum at which our military and naval expenditure stood and was likely to stand. Of this enormous sum the military 1566 expenditure of the country formed more than half. This was a curious fact, because this Empire was called an Empire of the Seas, and all persons; concerned in Imperial defence, including soldiers, were generally inclined to admit the Primacy of the Navy in defence. It was a remarkable fact that, although it was generally admitted that the Navy stood first as regarded the defence of the Empire, more than half of our defence expenditure was spent on the land forces. Of course he could not say what the expenditure for the next financial year would be, but taking the Estimates of the next financial year, it was fair to say that our military expenditure at home now stood at £18,855,000. It was difficult to detach the Army at home from the Army in India, and the Indian expenditure in the previous financial year, without anything for Burmah or Chitral, amounted to £16,127,000 odd. Adding together what we spent out of Votes here for the Home Army, and what was estimated for the present year for the Indian Army, which was largely paid here, they obtained a total expenditure of £34,982,000 for the land forces. In addition to that there was a large expenditure on military works, which next year, when from five to six millions sterling would be taken in the Loan Bill of the present year, would be very large. There was also the expenditure of the self-governing colonies, so that he estimated the total expenditure on land forces or fixed defences at at least 39 millions a year. All parties—and the Army itself—were willing to admit that the Navy stood first. That admission had been made very fully on the part of the present Government by Lord Lansdowne, who was responsible for the present Estimates. The present Secretary of State for War had admitted fully that it was the duty of the Navy to protect us against invasion, and to protect our coaling stations, which were garrisoned by the Army, against invasion. He had told them that the coaling stations of the Navy need only be garrisoned by the Army as against what he called cruiser attack, and said that they were not required to be prepared to resist attack from a large hostile squadron, carrying with it a considerable expeditionary force, as from such attack it was the business of the fleet to protect them; and that 1567 the enemy's fleet could not be watching or engaging our fleet and at the same time delivering an attack in force against one of our coaling stations. And yet the Empire was spending 39 millions sterling on land forces and fixed defences. India, of course, contributed towards these Estimates, and so did the Crown Colonies, but the latter contributed at a very different rate to that at which India contributed. [Cheers.] The present Government, moreover, had been decreasing the contributions of the Crown Colonies; that was the case with the Straits Settlements, according to the latest Return, and with Ceylon, where the contribution towards these Estimates was fixed at 7½ per cent. of the gross revenue, exclusive of land sales. It was a remarkable fact that, at a time when plague and famine were rife in India, we obtained the utmost farthing from India, although this pressed with even cruel severity upon the Indian taxpayer, while we obtained only 7½ per cent. of the gross revenue of a colony like Ceylon whose prosperity was extraordinary. We were spending on our land forces and defences, putting aside the self-governing colonies, 37 millions sterling, and he thought that even the Under Secretary for War would not deny that our military system was by far the dearest in the world. There was an attempt made to explain the enormous cost of our military system by the absence of military conscription in this country, but large deductions had to be made on the other side. For instance, the cost of forage in Germany or France was overwhelmingly greater than our own—partly because we had hardly any horses in our Army. [Laughter.] Then it had to be remembered that such countries as France or Germany had to keep clothing, ammunition, and arms not for the Army with the colours or for a reserve like our own, but for a war Army of over four million men each, and all that had to be kept up out of the annual Votes. This, he thought, went to prove that the absence of conscription was not in itself a sufficient answer to those who urged that our Army was too dear. On one occasion he had had to read a paper at the Statistical Society on the question of the cost of the Army, which produced a very interesting discussion between the military authorities of this country, and 1568 it had to be admitted that the word "conscription" did not constitute a complete answer to the argument drawn from the cost. On the other hand, it was admitted that the British Navy, considering the money we spent on it, was on the whole more efficient than the navies of other countries, and he thought it was also cheaper. In this argument in regard to conscription the War Office took credit for the amount of the pay which was given to the soldiers. But the pay of the Volunteers was non-existent, that of the Militia was very small, and the pay of the private soldier, although larger than that of the private soldier in foreign armies, was, in his opinion, very much less than it might be with advantage to the country. He admitted that no close comparison between the cost of our Army and those of foreign countries was possible; he merely protested against this argument of conscription being considered as a complete answer to the question of cost. Then he would ask what return we got for this cost in the shape of an Army that could really be employed for those purposes for which it was possible to contemplate our Army being used. ["Hear, hear!"] He would assume that we possessed command of the seas. The Secretary of State for the Colonies made a very interesting speech last Saturday week at Birmingham upon this point, in which he said that the House of Commons had increased the Empire and that it must therefore increase its Army of defence. That was rather a specious argument, but one that would not bear investigation. To begin with, large portions of our Empire, such as Australia and British North America, with the exception of the fortress of Halifax, were not defended by the Army at all. They might say that the number of troops we sent abroad needed to be increased; but it had not increased of late years, but had rather diminished, and yet there was an enormously increased expense. The Secretary of State for the Colonies had deprecated any depreciation of our defence resources, and he should be the last person to make any statement with regard to them which could strengthen the hands of foreign countries, but they all knew that, foreign military attaches in this country, and the intelligence departments of 1569 foreign armies were thoroughly acquainted with everything that could be said for or against our military system. He believed it was understood by foreign Governments that the utmost force we could send out of this country was 16,000 men. It must be admitted that our Army was the only army in the world which had no permanent organisation in brigades, divisions, or corps, no permanent staff for war, and, he was afraid, no general training for war in the absence of manœuvres, which alone could train an army for service in the field. He feared that that fact must mean disaster in any serious war in which our Army was engaged. Undoubtedly the opinions expressed in evidence before the Wantage Commission by men now responsible for the Army—Lord Wolseley, Sir Evelyn Wood, and Sir Redvers Buller—exceeded in pessimism anything which could be said by any Member of the House. The Adjutant General at the time of the Wantage Commission said—the military authorities have never been told what it is that the British Army is expected to do in war,and he went on to point out that whatever it was that the Army was expected to do it was unfit, as at present organised, to do it. Lord Lansdowne admitted most frankly that the British Army was unfit for war.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
When did he admit that?
§ SIR C. DILKE
He admitted it in another place. The Adjutant General in his Wantage evidence said, "not a single battalion at home is fit to go to war."
§ SIR C. DILKE
said the Reserve was untrained, and in that respect it differed from every other reserve in the world. It was not the intention of Lord Card-well when he established the short service system that the Reserve should be used on any but great occasions, and one of the worst points in the present policy of Lord Lansdowne was that the Reserves Bill, which had been condemned by every competent military Member of the House, was to be reintroduced. When giving his evidence the Adjutant General must have forgotten the battalions of Guards. It would be universally admitted that 1570 those battalions were fit to go to war. The Under Secretary shook his head, as he evidently thought they were not fit; he should have thought they were fit to go to war without their Reserve men, or, at any rate, could have picked up sufficient men to go to war very quickly. The Guards were the force in this country which, next to some battalions of Volunteers, were most easily mobilised; but they differed from the Volunteers in being under highly skilled officers and noncommissioned officers. ["Hear, hear!"] One of the great defects in the present scheme was that it would spoil the only battalions which at the present time were fit for war. Sir Evelyn Wood, in his evidence before the Wantage Commission, said:—We have not 30 per cent. of the rank and file who are equal to carrying the service marching order,and Lord Wolseley agreed. Anyone who had watched the inarching at Aldershot during recent years must have noticed a progressive decline instead of an improvement, and one seldom saw a British battalion carrying packs in marching order. ["The Guards!"] He was talking about the ordinary infantry. Foreign armies carried their service marching order on all occasions. Even the Swiss, who had a very short period of training, marched with 60lb. weight on their backs, and they could march 30 miles a day. In the present state of things the Government proposed to drop the manœuvres. The Under Secretary shook his head, but the Secretary of State spoke of less extended manœuvres. £80,000 in one lump was dropped, and there was a large diminution in land transport work, which was explained as meaning that there were not to be manœuvres in the present year. Many persons believed that we could never have a really efficient army unless we had manœuvres. But even manœuvres could not make battalions, and he asked what return we got for the money Ave spent. Of course in India there was a certain return. We could put upon the frontier in India a force of 70,000 men, of which two-thirds would be natives. But even to put that force in the field 700 officers would have to be got from home for whom no provision had ever been made in the Estimates. What did we get 1571 here? We got the Guards and a little field artillery, but nothing else without fresh expenditure and a great waste of time after the declaration of war. The field artillery were to be slightly increased this year. They were diminished by a previous Government, and credit was taken afterwards for having increased them again. But there was no increase in men or horses, and he could not understand what the increase was that was not to be discovered in horses and men. He could not attach any particular importance to the increase of artillery when it was measured by one battery. The net amount of increase in field artillery was to be under 200 men and 66 horses, and he dared say that in these horses were included some garrison artillery horses, for some garrison batteries had officers' horses on the establishment; but even assuming that the field artillery was to get all these 66 horses, that was not a large increase, considering that the field artillery had been steadily declining in amount for a number of years, whilst the War Estimates had been increasing. There was one part of the proposals of the Government which he heartily approved—namely, the proposal to increase the West India Regiment. That would tend to secure our naval base at Sierra Leone, and was a step that had been pressed upon the attention of the Government by private Members for the last five or six years. But what was going to be done respecting the British infantry? It was admitted that the battalions at home were killed for the sake of the small Indian mobile army. The work thrown upon officers and noncommissioned officers who had to train the masses of recruits to be drafted to India was work calculated to break the hearts of the best men. Nothing could be more painful than the description given of our existing battalions in this country by men who knew the facts of the case. There were too many boys in them, and they were there for too short a time. Lord Lansdowne had said that the evil was the total inability of that portion of the Army which was at home to support the portion abroad, and that our present system was worked under conditions which absolutely precluded the possibility of success. Previous Secretaries of State for 1572 War had been telling the House for many years that the Army was in a satisfactory condition. Remembering the optimistic statements made from 1888 onwards, he thought the frank description of the condition of the Army which Lord Lansdowne had given was remarkable. In 1892 his right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War, speaking on the subject of war administration, referred to the "appalling cost," and said, "we are tied by traditions, prejudices, and habits which it is hopeless to overcome." He asked the House to make the attempt now to overcome the difficulties of which his right hon. Friend then spoke. If there were co-operation between those Radicals who honestly desired to get the article for which the country paid and the soldiers who now realised almost without exception the difficulties into which the Army had fallen—if there were co-operation between those two sections of the House he felt certain that the difficulties would be overcome at once. His right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for War, whilst admitting the primacy of the Navy, had declined to contemplate the possibility of our taking part in a continental war. How, then, could he justify an expenditure of £36,000,000 a year upon our land forces? When he quitted office the right hon. Gentleman had prepared, as Lord Rosebery told the country at the Albert Hall, a great scheme of administrative reform. What were the results of that great scheme? There was this plan now brought forward by the Government. The Secretary of State for War had said at Bristol that all would be right if the House of Commons would give him 11 more battalions; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had replied that he would not consent, and now the Government brought forward a totally different proposal—a makeshift. The Secretary of State for War said that we must establish equilibrium between the battalions at home and abroad. Up to the present time there had never been such equilibrium, and it would not be established by the proposals of the Government. It was part of Lord Cardwell's scheme that whenever two regimental battalions were absent from home at the same time the militia battalion of the regiment should be embodied. But that had never been 1573 done, and there had never been equilibrium, because ever since 1872 there had been more battalions abroad than at home. By sending three battalions of Guards away and so spoiling the only good infantry battalions that we had at home, and by creating a battalion of Cameron Highlanders—as if that could be done by a stroke of the pen—they would have four additional battalions abroad. This was called a temporary arrangement. What was the meaning of that? Was there the smallest probability that the state of affairs in South Africa would shortly permit the return home of troops from that country, or was it likely, after the speech to which they had listened on Friday, that a battalion would be brought home from Egypt? He thought that that was unlikely, and that the plan of the Government would have nothing temporary about it. Even if 11 battalions were added to the Army, was it probable that our military system would be a success and that the country would get an adequate return for its outlay? The Secretary of State had brought forward his plan as an anonymous proposal. It was talked about vaguely as Sir Arthur Haliburton's plan, and the Under Secretary had said, "This plan is put before us by the military authorities as the best and most economical." Who were the authorities thus referred it? Did the Under Secretary mean that it was the plan of the Commander-in-Chief? They did not give their confidence to the Secretary of State for War or to the First Lord of the Admiralty in military or naval matters apart from the advice which they received and communicated to the House. They, like himself, were amateurs, however great the pains they took; and when a new system was being established, or a now departure made, while admitting that their past system had failed and that they were engaged in patching it up, the House ought to be furnished with some kind of military authority in support of the scheme. ["Hear, hear!"] Personally he did not believe that this was the plan of the military authorities; he did not believe it was the plan of the Commander-in-Chief, of Sir Redvers Buller, and of Sir Evelyn Wood. The present plan was not even that of the Secretary of State for War himself at the time he made the speech; and it might, indeed, be a plan 1574 which was forced on the military authorities, and which they might have accepted from the Government; but from a perusal of it he did not think that it was the plan which they themselves had devised. The Under Secretary for War could not object to what he had just said in using the ordinary sources of information as to what the real opinion of the military authorities was. In the Debate on cordite ammunition, it was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the real opinion of the military authorities was known, although the Financial Secretary for War of the late Government (Mr. Woodall) said thatthe War Office had been advised by the Director of Artillery, whose conclusion had been accepted and confirmed by the Adjutant General.He said that this was an anonymous proposal. The Government when they came into office chose Lord Wolseley as Commander-in-Chief. If the Government were not going to back Lord Wolseley up in the proposals he made they ought to come to the House and say what was his opinion and their opinion of the situation. The Government ought to have the courage to back him up, because otherwise they misled the country by the weight of the Commander-in-Chief's name. The fact was that the House and the country were receiving the opinions on what was evidently a complicated disease, not of the physician but of unknown amateurs. [Cheers.] He thought that the Government had on this occasion a great opportunity. They made a new departure by appointing a Committee of the Cabinet for defence, and they made certain variations in the reforms of the late Secretary for War; and he believed that public opinion would have supported the Government in any drastic and effective measures to remedy the present condition of the Army. [Cheers.] He was, how-ever, greatly disappointed at the miser-able makeshift proposal which the Government had offered to the House. ["Hear, hear!"] This particular anonymous proposal failed to meet the battalion difficulty. It obviously left the Field Artillery far below the responsibilities of the country; it increased the fixed defences of the country, which were already large in proportion to her mobile strength; but it spoiled one of the home Infantry forces. The Guards were now a 1575 short service Infantry force; the majority of the men served three years, and it was difficult to send abroad a three years' force. It was impossible under three years' service to allow the Guards to go abroad in the sense in which the Line battalions went abroad. They could not be sent to India or to any other distant place; they could only be sent to the Mediterranean, which meant Malta, Gibraltar, or Egypt. But in all these places the difficulties of training were very great, and the sentry duty was very heavy; the troops so used were essentially garrison troops. If the Guards were sent to Egypt, to Malta, or Gibraltar, the young soldiers would be subject to fever in a considerable degree, and undoubtedly most of the battalions which were sent there would pass into the Reserve virtually untrained. They would get no proper exercise in field work, and in the garrison stations they would become garrison troops. Then the battalions left at home would undoubtedly, though not in so large a degree, undergo the deterioration to which Line battalions were subject by having to keep up their corresponding battalions abroad. It was said that Lord Methuen approved the Government scheme He was one of the best generals of his age which we or any other country possessed—[cheers]—and Lord Methuen had shown that he was a very excellent Parliamentary speaker. But in his judgment Lord Methuen had managed to express his extreme objection to the Government scheme in language which was interpreted by the Government to be language of resigned approval. Lord Methuen said there were three evils in Gibraltar which existed in a greater degree there than in London: Drunkenness, disease, and heavy sentry duty.The question of recruiting was one with which he had nothing to do, but he did hope that if any difficulty was found in getting recruits, and if the Brigade of Guards was in consequence to lose its fine physique, some steps would be taken to stop any deterioration.Lord Methuen added thathe should not be doing his duty if he did not point out the dangers and difficulties in the way.[Cheers.] It was not needful to dwell on the great cost and extreme inconvenience of having those troops perpetually at sea. 1576 They would have, according to the Government scheme, to be continually relieved at Gibraltar, to be frequently crossing the Bay of Biscay, and there would be the cost of transport; but this was a minor detail. The real point to consider was whether the troops sent to the Reserve would not have had their efficiency destroyed by their want of training, and whether the battalions at home would not be ruined in order to support the battalions at Gibraltar. As to the reduction of military expenditure, while at the same time securing reforms, he said that he had not much hope of a considerable saving in the military Estimates so long as we proceeded on the present lines. One economy which might be effected would be to hand over the naval bases to the Admiralty. He believed that the Admiralty did not want to take them, but foreign Admiralties had to take charge of such bases. There were some, again, who would vote the money in a lump to the military authorities, and let the Commander-in-Chief spend it very much as he chose, without control from that House. In short, these people thought the Army should be left to itself. Lord Cromer gave some interesting evidence upon that point before the Indian Expenditure Commission, and he said:—The fault of the English system is that it looks too much to the amount spent but not enough to seeing that the money is well spent, and sometimes certainly it is not well spent.It would be necessary for Parliament, if it wished to have what Lord Wolseley called a cheaper Army of equal strength, or a larger Army at the same price, to adopt a complete change of system. The real question was what that system should be. He thought it should be a short-service system for the Home Army, combined with a long-service system for India and for the naval bases, if the Admiralty would not take those bases. Lord Roberts had expressed an opinion on that point. He said:—If a system had to be framed afresh to meet our requirements, the separation—he did not shrink from the word—of the infantry into permanent home and foreign service battalions might be conducive to the interest of the soldier and of the State.1577 He also used these words:—The present system is extremely prejudicial to India financially.Now, one of the reasons which had been given for not making a great change was that somebody in the War Office—he believed Sir A. Haliburton—thought it would mean that India would have to pay more for her Army than at present. It seemed a remarkable fact, however, that Lord Roberts, with his enormous experience of India, and General Chesney, with his still greater experience of Indian military finance, should both unhesitatingly express the opinion that financially India would be the better off for the change. When, some time ago, he, in collaboration with Mr. Spencer Wilkinson, ventured to write on this subject, they had certain actuarial calculations with regard to the cost of separate systems for enlistment for the Home Army and for India. Those calculations had been contradicted, but they had never been in his opinion upset, and since then, with some modifications, they had received the public approval of Lord Roberts and General Chesney. The system that Lord Roberts suggested was three years' service for Home, with a prolongation for India of the men who wished to remain for nine years' service. That was the essence of Lord Roberts's scheme. It had been said there would be difficulty in getting sufficient men for the long service. [Ministerial cheers.] On that question he submitted that the opinions of Lord Roberts and General Chesney should have some weight, and also the experience of the Royal Marines. He believed Lord Roberts was right in his belief that half the men would go for long service if the service were made reasonably attractive. If that were the objection of the Government to the change, then he suggested it would be possible, as regards certain forces, to bring the question to the test of actual decision by the men themselves. It would be easy to see what proportion of men could be raised, for instance, when the Marines were being increased, as he presumed they would be this year, by volunteers from among short-service men. He should be prepared himself to suggest a plan by which such a test could be made. If he were asked what the expenditure of the country on its Army 1578 ought to be, he answered that he would be prepared, and he believed the country was prepared, to spend whatever was necessary for our life and existence. [Ministerial cheers.] But they wanted to have it shown that we were, on the total computation of this immense expenditure, allotting a proper share to the Army and Navy respectively, and spending the portion allotted to the Army in the most effective way. [Cheers.] He had no desire to express want of confidence in the Government generally; he confined himself strictly to their military scheme, but he knew it was open to them to declare—and Governments generally were not slow to do so—that they would treat any Amendment in Supply as a vote of want of confidence in themselves. Some hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite had given notices which technically amounted to want of confidence also. He could not assent to the milder form of asking only for inquiry, because the fact was, since he had been a Member of the House, the reports of Committees and Commissions on this subject already mounted to a column taller than himself, and everything that could be said had been said in evidence, and was on record. He appealed to those who wanted their money's worth for what they spent, and also to those who wanted an Army fit to do that which, by the admission of the Government themselves, our present Army was not able to perform, to vote for his Motion.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
seconded the Motion, and said that, although the right hon. Baronet had called himself an amateur, he was yet an admitted expert in all matters connected with civil and military administration, and his reputation extended far beyond the walls of that House. [Cheers.] In his opinion, the charge of inefficiency of the Home Army was caused, not because Parliament voted insufficient money, but because the money was improperly and inefficiently spent. [Cheers.] The country got the maximum of cost and the minimum of result in its Army. An expenditure of 19½ millions resulted in a force of 154,000 with the colours and 78,000 in the reserves. He was glad to know that the Government were going to increase the Army, but many regarded the proposals as makeshift and patchwork. He approved of several of 1579 the proposals, but he did not think that those with reference to the Brigade of Guards would increase its efficiency. He did not wish to say anything in depreciation of that Brigade, which for 250 years had been bound up with the history of the Empire, and which was the oldest commissioned corps in existence. The Foot Guards were largely recruited in London and the metropolitan counties, and the men were able while soldiering to keep in touch with their friends. Thus, when they joined the reserve, they were able to get civilian employment much more easily than soldiers of the Line; and it was that fact which was the great deterrent to recruiting for the Line. If the Foot Guards were to be sent abroad they would lose this advantage. At Gibraltar there was no drill-ground suitable for large bodies of troops, and there were so many garrison duties for which men had to be detached that the Colonel had little opportunity of getting the regiment together. By forming the Guards into six battalions—three at home and three abroad—those at home, which fed those abroad, would be reduced to the position of squeezed lemons. As to the field batteries, Lord Lansdowne said that by increasing them by one there would be guns enough for the three home Army Corps. According to the French and Prussian standards, there "were five guns to 1,000 men; and at that rate we ought to have 375 guns for our three Army Corps. But the number of guns we should absolutely possess would, at the most, be 320, and for the 400,000 infantry, beyond the three Army Corps, there would not be a single battery. Those who were in France in 1871 would know that the defeat of the Army of the Loire and of the Army of the East, under Bourbaki, was almost entirely due to shortness of guns. It was easy to improvise a regiment of conscripts, but a battery could no more be improvised than an ironclad. We were to have only 320 guns, while a small country like Roumania in 1885 had 300 guns, and Servia had 285. As for ammunition trains, which were an essential part of the artillery service, we had absolutely none in this country. The War Office had not shown a proper grasp of this question of army augmentation. This scheme ought to have represented a parting of the ways with the old 1580 methods. The addition of a few thousand men was nothing; augmentation ought to have been considered in connection with a well-conceived plan of national and Imperial defence. The Authorities might have considered the scheme of a long-service army for India and a short-service army with a reserve for this country; the garrisoning of small outlying stations by the Marines, instead of by Line regiments which, so shut up, became inefficient for want of proper drill and manœuvring. The War Office might have considered also the scheme put forth by the Daily Chronicle for an Imperial army, in the formation of which the colonies should be invited to join, paying some part of the cost and finding a recruiting ground. Before giving this money, the House should consider what the War Office had done in the last 50 years. Its path had been strewn with failures. There was the scheme of 1872, the most fatuous and ridiculous ever imagined, in which the whole country was parcelled out into eight army corps which had no existence; the squadron system, which was soon abandoned, and the linked battalion system, which had proved an utter failure. In 1860—a normal year—the Army Estimates were £14,900,000, and for this sum an army of 230,000 men might have been put into the field. Last year's Estimates amounted to £19,500,000, and the total forces available were only 229,000 men. So that in 36 years the War Office had increased the Estimates by 36 per cent., and reduced the nominal forces available by 21 per cent. That did not encourage the voting of more money to this Department. The French army represented a charge of 25 millions a year, and for that expenditure there were 600,000 men with the colours, and reserves of 2,500,000. In the German Confederation there was an expenditure of 27 millions, and there were 585,000 men with the colours, and reserves of 3,250,000. Switzerland, with a population of three millions, spent £1,000,000 a year, and had a first reserve of 250,000 men and a second of 220,000. And these forces were all brigaded and available when wanted. In 1870 the Prussian Staff put 400,000 men on the line of the Rhine and the Vosges in a few weeks. How long would it take the War Office to mobilise 35,000 at 1581 Aldershot? But, unsatisfactory as was the nominal force available when compared with our expenditure, it was still more unsatisfactory in reality than on paper; for nearly 37,000 out of the 156,000 men were serving in the colonies. Most of the men of the Home Army serving abroad were shut up in Gibraltar and Malta, and in other small stations, where they had no chance of getting the necessary field drill and instruction. They consequently lost their efficiency and were unable to meet European troops in the field. In regard to the rest of the Home Army, 116,000 men, he would point out that the present Commander-in-Chief stated before the Wantage Committee that there was not a single battalion fit to be sent abroad, each being like a squeezed lemon; that it would have to be supplemented by the Reserve; and that that Reserve was practically a sham. He did not think there could be a stronger condemnation than those words of Lord Wolseley. Then, take the case of individual battalions. He knew one which was supposed to have a strength of 950 men in the ranks. But 400 of the men were under 20 years, and could not be sent out of the country. About 5 per cent. were what were called "specials"—their chest measurements were short and they were under 5ft. 4in. In addition to all that, there was a draft of from 120 to 150 men to be sent to the battalion serving abroad in the course of the next month. What then became of the strength of 950 men when only 320 men could be put into line? Lord Wolseley was therefore right when he said that the battalions at home were nothing more than "squeezed lemons." Then as to the cavalry branch of the service. He had never been able to understand, though he had served ten years in a dragoon regiment, why, with 13,000 dragoons, they should not have 13,000 horses to put them on. He knew very well that there were a great many double horses in some regiments—more horses than men to ride them very often. But that was because of the system under which recruits, after a lot of money was spent on their training, were put into the canteens or made officers' servants of instead of being made dragoons. Lord Wolseley had described the Reserve as a sham. How could there be an efficient 1582 Reserve when they were never called up? Some of the men of the Reserve had not worn a red coat for nine years, and since they left the colours, rifles, powder, guns, projectiles—everything, in fact, had been altered; and now the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary proposed to introduce a new helmet. Then, as to the Auxiliary Forces, he did not think he need take up the time of the House in describing their condition. He could understand the position of hon. Gentlemen like the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who wished to have the Army disbanded and the Navy dismantled, and desired to trust, like Lord Randolph Churchill, the warlike instincts of an ancient people; but he was surprised that a proposal to largely increase the expenditure on the Army should be made by right hon. Gentlemen who knew perfectly well that the Army was neither efficient nor to be relied on.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he always listened with the greatest possible respect to everything that fell from the right hon. Gentleman who had moved this Motion. There was probably no Member of the House who was not an Army man who had given so much of his time or attention to the subject of the organisation of the Army as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. He therefore regretted very much that it became necessary occasionally for him, as Under Secretary for War, to controvert the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, who, however, was often found supporting the policy of the present Government in regard to the defensive forces of the Empire. But he thought that on this occasion every Member of the House who had heard the denunciation of the whole Army system and the hostile criticism of every arrangement connected with the Army at home and in the Colonies, in the course of the two speeches which had been made in support of the Motion, must wonder how it was—to quote the concluding words of his hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex—that men who knew that the Army was neither useful nor efficient could ask the House to spend a large extra sum in bolstering it up. [Cheers.] He wondered what his hon. Friend's idea was as to the process 1583 of mind by which a number of men sitting on the Treasury Bench could so far forget all the attributes on which all Members of the House prided themselves as to unite in bolstering up a rotten Army system and in making fresh demands for money without satisfying themselves that the money could be effectively spent in improving the condition of the Army. [Cheers.] He thought the fact that nine Secretaries of State had supported the system introduced by Lord Cardwell—modified since then in some minor respects—ought to be some guarantee that that system was not so absolutely rotten as it had just been described. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had said that the country ought to get more value for the money it spent on the Army; but the right hon. Gentleman never threw out a suggestion, in the course of his speech, as to how that better value was to be obtained for the expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had, indeed, made one suggestion—that was that the soldiers should be more highly paid. Of course, they would all be glad to see that done, but it would mean an enormous plunge into the National purse. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman had put forward a scheme which had to some extent received the imprimatur of Lord Roberts. What would be the result of such a scheme if adopted? It would magnify every evil under which our Army system now suffered, and put upon India an increased charge of £640,000 a year. [Cheers.] Let the House consider what our Army had to do. There was no other army in the world subject to similar conditions. ["Hear, hear!"] In the first place, we had to maintain a force in India and the colonies of nearly 100,000 men; secondly, we had to provide a force fit for mobilisation to the extent the military authorities deemed necessary; thirdly, we had to provide the possibility of sending two army corps on foreign service; and, fourth, we had to provide for the exigencies of possible small wars, and he would remind the House that the small wars which we had undertaken—often surrounded with great difficulties—had been carried out with more success than had attended the efforts of foreign Powers under similar circumstances. [Cheers.] 1584 The short-service system was based on the principle that we should have an equal number of battalions at home and abroad, the battalions at home to find drafts for those abroad. The effect of this, of course, was that the home battalions were depleted annually of a number of their best men. That system was tried by Lord Cardwell under two different organisations, first with the home battalion at 450. That system failed entirely, and it was deserted for a system in which nearly all the battalions at home were placed on an establishment of 720 rank and file. But after the Indian and colonial drafts were taken away from these battalions they were reduced to a number at which they could not be sent abroad without drawing upon the reserves. It had been made a matter of complaint that the battalions were not effective for foreign service without the reservists being drawn upon; but that was inevitable, and he did not apologise for it under the circumstances. There was no foreign regiment, so far as he knew, which could be mobilised for the defence even of its own country without calling on the reserves. It was true that our reservists were not called out for training as foreign reserves were; but the men could not be called up arbitrarily without interfering with their employment. It would, of course, be an advantage to train the reservists to a greater extent, but it could not be done compulsorily. ["Hear, hear!"] In considering this point he would ask the House to bear in mind the extent of training the British soldier had with the colours. The British soldier was eight years with the colours and four or five years in the Reserve; and was it reasonable to suppose that a man would forget in four years what he had learnt in eight years of active service? In the German infantry the soldier was 20 months with the colours and two or three years in the reserve, but the men were trained ceaselessly, morning, noon, and night, and he would ask what sort of recruits would be obtained in this country if a man's life was made practically a slavery, as was the case with the German soldier in the first year of service? ["Hear, hear!"] He would be a bold War Minister who would come down to that House and propose a similar system of training for the British soldier. The French soldier was three years with the 1585 colours and seven years in the reserve, and the Austrian soldier the same. Therefore, the British soldier spent more than twice the time with the colours and a shorter period with the reserve than the foreign soldier. ["Hear, hear!"] In 1885 the reservists attached to 14 different regiments were called out for inspection. He would not give the names of the regiments, but he would read some of the reports of the inspecting officers. The first was a cavalry corps, and the men were reported, after a month's training, to be "fit to take their places in the ranks." The reports went on as to the other regiments—" efficient in drill," "efficient in drill and military duties," "efficiency excellent," "thoroughly efficient," and so on, the reports generally being to the effect that the Reserve men were efficient and tit for active service. ["Hear, hear!"] That experience ought at once to dispose of the idea that our Reserve force was a sham. ["Hear, hear!"] Whatever were the faults of Lord Cardwell's scheme, it, at all events, had this advantage—that it had provided for the first time an efficient Reserve of 80,000 men fit to take their places in the Line regiments. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had complained that there was a deficiency of field artillery at home, in comparison with the strength of the infantry. He might state that the field artillery had now been increased to the extent sufficient for three Army corps. ["Hear, hear!"] We had in store, and practically in readiness—though a few guns were still under conversion—all the reserve guns necessary for those Army corps to meet casualties or exigencies. The right hon. Gentleman also complained that there were no field guns attached to the great force of Volunteer infantry in the country; but, surely, if the Volunteer infantry was to be regarded as an integral part of the national defences, it was only right that they should take into account the 200 mobile gains in the hands of the Volunteer artillery, which would, in the event of invasion, be undoubtedly used in support of the infantry—["hear, hear!"]—though he was ready to admit that the Volunteers were not yet furnished with a regular artillery force. With regard to the complaint that the military manœuvres had been dropped this year, he could only say 1586 that the explanation was simple. The Government had had many difficulties to contend with in the matter, but they had an important Measure in hand relating to it, and it would be pushed forward as soon as possible. At any rate, the Government did not go one step from the declaration they made last year—namely, that it is desirable from time to time to hold large manœuvres. They hoped in the next year to have the large tract of ground on Salisbury Plain, to which reference had previously been made in the House, and for the purchase of which the necessary estimate had already been taken. The ground would be new to the troops and new to the generals, and would enable troops to be manœuvred on a much larger scale than at Alder-shot or elsewhere. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman asked, "Do we get a force for any of the purposes of the Empire in any way equivalent to its expense?" and he had expressed his regret that the demand was so small. He did not think it was a small demand. ["Hear, hear!"] It was the largest increase which had been made to the Army for 25 years. [Cheers.]
§ SIR C. DILKE
said he did not express regret that the demand was so small. He expressed no opinion one way or the other upon that point, but he did express the belief that a large saving could not be made with the present system.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he was about to justify their proposal. It was quite true they had not asked for more field artillery.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said they did a good deal for field artillery last year. They added 81 guns, and they had got horses and men for three Army corps. After all, they could not do everything at once, and it was perfectly obvious that they must apply the military organisation to what they had got before they began to lay down plans for an occasion which had not yet come upon them. As regarded the garrison artillery, they had faced the question of providing for the adequate defence of the forts and coaling stations by largely increasing the number of such artillery. But the right hon. Baronet and those behind him had concentrated their attention on the infantry. What were the facts about the infantry? He 1587 hoped the right hon. Baronet would not think him discourteous if he declined, at that moment to enter into the question of the Guards. It was to be raised on a distinct Motion later in the evening, and he thought it would be convenient to the House that the discussion should take place then. ["Hear, hear!"] But as regarded the number of regiments which it had been said should be added to the Line, he might say that the present number of Line battalions abroad was 76, and the present number at home was 65. Incidentally he might say that the right hon. Baronet was in error in stating that 25 years ago they had proportionately a larger number abroad.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he had so understood him. At all events, the position 25 years ago was that they had 71 battalions at home and 70 abroad. No short-service system could have a fail-trial which for a long period had a strain of that kind put upon it. What it meant was that they had regiments abroad with no battalions at homo to relieve them and forced to draw their recruits from depôts—by no means the best method of training recruits—and forced, therefore, to take a very large number of young soldiers into their ranks, and who, when they did come home, were in a state of very much less efficiency. The proposal of the Government, if it was accepted, as he hoped it would be, by the House, would prevent the necessity of raising six new Line battalions, as it would mean that instead of having 76 Line battalions abroad and 65 at home, they would in future have 73 abroad and 69 at home. The right hon. Baronet said, "Why didn't you make a clean business of it and raise four more new battalions?" ["Hear, hear!"] Their reply to that was that they had a right to consider that two of the battalions which were sent to South Africa last year were only there temporarily, and that any change in the state of affairs there which enabled them to bring those battalions home would make the number of battalions at home equal to those abroad. But the right hon. Gentleman challenged this decision, and practically said it had not been supported by military opinion. The Army Board, of which the Commander-in-Chief was a member, had been 1588 consulted continually throughout the year with regard to this proposal, and it finally submitted to the Secretary of State the following proposals:—(1) To add one battalion of field artillery; (2) To add 3,500 men to the garrison artillery; (3) To raise two new battalions of Guards; (4) to raise an additional battalion of the West India Regiment; and (5) To raise an additional battalion of Malta Militia. The Army Board also considered the condition of battalions of the Line, and they held that it was necessary that the lining should be put into such a position that the foreign battalions could be supplied without having two battalions of the same regiment abroad at the same time. The Government had made that decision except with regard to the two battalions he had mentioned, and therefore he was entitled to say, in reply to the right hon. Baronet, that the proposals of the Army Board, under the instructions which the Government naturally gave as to the purposes for which the Army was intended to be used, had been met by the provision which the Government had made. He might go one step further and say that, so far from there being, on the part of the military heads of the War Office, any feeling that they had been defrauded of what they might naturally have expected, the proposals of the Government, taken as a whole, had been gratefully accepted by one and all not merely as an instalment, but as, in the words of the Commander-in-Chief, "such a step forward as the Army has not made for many years." [Cheers.] He did not wish to labour this point, but he should like to say that the language with which their military advisers had agreed to the proposals of the Government had been very different to that of the Gentleman who had spoken in the House that afternoon. After all, they could only be guided by those who had the responsibility. They had followed them, he believed, not only in the main in the proposals they had made, but they had followed them, he believed, to the whole extent of the soldiers they were likely to obtain. ["Hear, hear!"] He had a few words to say as to the alternative proposal laid down by the right hon. Baronet. That proposal was a revival of the scheme which he submitted in great detail and admirably worked out some time ago. That scheme 1589 was that the recruits should be enrolled for three years at home and for nine or 18 years in India.
§ SIR C. DILKE
I said nothing about 18 years to-night. I confined myself to that scheme as criticised by Lord Roberts. I accepted to-night the criticisms of Lord Roberts.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he did not want to hold the right, hon. Baronet to anything but his present view. His present view was three years at home and nine years in India. Did that improve the condition of the Army at home? Would it improve the condition of the Army at homo if, after a man had done three years' service at home, he was to have the alternative either of going into the Reserve or of going to India for nine years? Lord Roberts was a great authority, but there were some statistics which were perhaps even higher than Lord Roberts. Those were the statistics of the health of the Army in India during the closing years of long service. ["Hear, hear!"] Before the end of long service 65 per 1,000 of the Army of India were dying. The cost of India annually represented, as compared with the previous rate, the difference between 65 per 1,000 and 17 per 1,000. ["Hear, hear!"] If they could reduce the amount of life to the figures, the cost to India by this reckless expenditure of human life was calculated to amount to £1,000 per day, or £365,000 per year. There was not merely the question of health. There was also the question of efficiency. He believed it was held widely by other soldiers of eminence that nine years in India was too long a time to employ private soldiers without a change. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal was, after the 12 years' service to send the men back home. Was he going to pension them or would he turn them out at the age of 30 without a farthing except what was due to him as deferred pay? He did not know whether he took the question of pensions into his scheme or not, but the cost of that scheme would be something like £640,000 a year more than the present system of providing a good British Army with shorter service and an Indian Army, and would be, in his opinion, of most military authorities, far less efficient. That House had appointed committee and commission, one after another, to inquire into the needs of the 1590 Army. They had Lord Randolph Churchill's Committee, which considered the financial arrangements of the Army in 1887. They had the Duke of Devonshire's Commission in 1889, and they had the Wantage Committee in 1890. The Wantage Committee was specially charged with considering the terms and conditions of service in the Army, and he thought that, as that verdict had been challenged, they had some right to ask the House to abide by it. Lord Wantage's Committee said, not that the system had failed, but that the working of the system had been such that it had not had a fair chance. The House was now asked to improve the working of the system and to put that system into such a condition as Lord Wantage's Committee desired it should be in. The right hon. Gentleman had a scheme and the other hon. Gentlemen had their schemes. There might be a separate Indian Army or there might be a return to the long-service system, which, as Lord Wolseley had observed, would be like making water run up hill, but there was no scheme on which reliance could be placed with that certainty which could be relied on as to results, as was the case with the short service, and until a better system was produced, surely it must be said that short service held "the field. ["Hear, hear!"] What had it given us? We had for the first time a force of 200,000 under pay in England by voluntary recruiting. He admitted that the first year recruits were too young; he admitted that the battalions at home were unfit to go abroad without reserves. If we could afford to pay a larger scale of pay we might secure recruits in competition with the ordinary labour market, but we could not do that; we could not hope to attract men who could earn 4s. a day at other labour, but at the same time those who knew our soldiers after two or three years' service allowed that there never was a time when the British Army was in a better and sounder condition, except as regards the first-year recruits. Under these circumstances he urged the House and every Member to read the evidence given before Lord Wantage's Committee, and to believe that they came to the conclusion that it was not the system that had failed, but that the working of the system required improvement. The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. 1591 Arnold-Forster) had written a letter to The Times in which he regretted to see the hon. Member spoke of a small section having had their fling and having done their level best to ruin the British Army. That section thus alluded to included nine Secretaries of State, four Adjutants-General, and two Commanders-in-Chief, of whom one was the most distinguished representative of the old school of military thought, and the second was the most prominent General of the new school. In asking the House to reject the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, he did so in favour of a system which had given us the best Army we had ever had, which had produced results which could not be surpassed by any system which could be suggested in place of it, and which, if the House would only give the extra regiments now proposed, would enable the system to have a fair trial, enabling line regiments to fulfil the part they were intended to bear, and carry out a well-conceived plan which, in the opinion of the highest authority, would secure the efficiency of our Army. [Cheers.]
§ SIR H. HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S. E.)
said he had no intention of voting with the right hon. Baronet because, though there were some parts of his speech with which he thoroughly agreed, his own view was in accord with that of the Under Secretary. He had not had an opportunity of looking closely into the figures of the right hon. Baronet, and it was not of the slightest use to follow a comparison of the cost of foreign armies with the British Army. This matter had been discussed in the House, and had been well dealt with by the late Secretary for War. It was not possible to make the comparison, not only because of the fact that while on the Continent there was the system of conscription, and we had to go into the open market, but also because of the comfort and almost luxury of the position of the soldier in the British Army as compared with foreign armies. While the pay of the latter was about a halfpenny a day, our men received from 6 to 12 times that amount, and were lodged and maintained in a manner which in continental armies there was no attempt to approach, nor would he have that standard of comfort in the least diminished. In the remarks 1592 of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to artillery, and in his comparison of the number of guns required by the infantry, he forgot to mention that, of the total number of infantry, 250,000 were Volunteers, and that they had a fairly adequate amount of Volunteer artillery—some 280 guns, many well horsed; and the only reason why they had not a larger force of field artillery was that the military authorities did not think it desirable to institute Volunteer field batteries. But they had some seven or eight, and the number might be increased at any time if it should be thought desirable to make the increase. Of the specific proposals of the Government he thought they were excellent so far as they went, but he found fault with the Government for not proceeding further in the same direction. To the proposal so far as the Guards were concerned he objected, and he predicted that in a few years it would be revised. At first one or two battalions would be sent abroad, but soon the difficulties of recruiting would come in, and the scheme would have to be abandoned. He agreed with the Under Secretary as to the advantages of the short-service system, but the fault he found with the scheme was twofold—first, that it should not leave well alone and the Guards as they are; and, next, that it did not give the nine extra battalions all military reformers had been asking for during ten years past to make the short-service system work well. The question as it concerned the Guards would come up for subsequent discussion, but he was perfectly convinced that there would be no shadow of objection on the part of officers of the Guards to any scheme for the advantage of the service—their public spirit and esprit de corps would induce them to sacrifice all personal considerations to that end. The objection to that part of the scheme was that the opinion of the officers commanding the Guards had never been asked. They were surely the first people who ought to have been consulted. The defect of that scheme was that it was proposed to send three battalions of the Guards where both the popularity of their recruiting and their efficiency as trained soldiers must be diminished. One reason of the popularity of the Guards was that the soldiers, on the termination 1593 of their three years' service, had little difficulty in obtaining civilian employment. If they were sent abroad that would cease to be the case, and the popularity of recruiting for the Guards, and their efficiency also, to a certain degree, would be reduced. The men composing the Guards regiments were as fine as any in the whole world as regarded both drill and training, but they were going to be sent to a place the principal characteristics of which were, according to Lord Methuen, disease, heavy duty, and heavy drinking. The circumscribed space which they were to occupy must result in contributing to their inefficiency, whilst the way it was suggested to remedy that by making the terms of service shorter would not prove effective, and would add greatly to the expense. He was of opinion that short service had in the main been of substantial benefit. ["Hear, hear!"] The defect of the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was that he had no remedy to propose. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if the present system was put in the melting-pot, was there a single person ready with any effective substitute for it. ["Hear, hear!"] He himself did not know of any such person. With the exception of the proposal relating to the Guards, he approved of the scheme of the Government, which he should support in the hope that this one step in the right direction would be followed up by further steps in succeeding years. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
said he had not intended to take part in this discussion, as he had given expression to his views on many previous occasions. But, when he heard the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf of the War Office, appeal to the fact that so many of his predecessors had taken the same view that was taken by the present Administration on that subject, he thought it only right that he should express his entire confirmation of that statement. ["Hear, hear!"] He would go a little further and say that, to his own knowledge, more than one Secretary of State had gone to the War Office strongly prejudiced against the present system, but when they became aware of the real internal difficulties of working such a complicated Army as theirs, they altered 1594 their opinions and accepted the present conditions. He would even go a little further, and say that soldier after soldier had gone to the War Office, and they also had found reason greatly to modify the opinions they had previously entertained, and he doubted very much whether they could find any soldier at the present day who had occupied a high responsible position connected with the Army who would endorse the view put before the House by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. ["Hear, hear!"] He was quite aware that the right hon. Baronet had been able to quote the evidence of two very distinguished officers. But they were officers the whole of whose service had been passed in India, who had to do with the finished and manufactured article, and not with the manufacturing and finishing of it. They had no knowledge or experience of all the difficulties surrounding the question. There was one point he should like to urge upon those who had a conscious or unconscious inclination towards the system of long service—namely, that if the right hon. Baronet's Motion was good as against the present Government, it was good as against the whole series of Governments from Lord Cardwell's time down to this. ["Hear, hear!"] Why was short service introduced? It was introduced because the long service system had notoriously failed, and because the Recruiting Commission had produced evidence which could not be resisted, and which showed that they could not recruit the Army under the long-service system. It therefore came to be a question of short service or nothing. There was really no choice in the matter, and those who were responsible at the time had to face the necessity of altering the old long service pension system. ["Hear, hear!"] His right hon. Friend was not an upholder of long service; he wished a very short service for this country, but for the Indian and the colonial service he would still have a long term, with the consequence that had been already pointed out—that in addition to being an inefficient system it would be a costly and a cruel one. They would send the men out to India and keep them there until they either died or their constitutions were hopelessly damaged, and then bring back the remnants to this country to be pensioned and to eke out their 1595 wretched existence. They had this to be said for the present system—that, if illogical from many points of view, it suited their conditions, and what they endeavoured to do was to keep the men who went to India long enough for efficiency, yet sparing as much as possible expense to the Indian Government, while at the same time not keeping them so long as to do material damage to their constitution. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet had quoted the evidence of Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, and others before the Wantage Committee. Lord Wolseley was rather apt to make strong statements, and in some of his evidence he had made rather sweeping admissions as to the condition of the Army. But did Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, and Sir Evelyn Wood, who had given that kind of evidence before the Wantage Committee, endorse the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? Not one of them. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Baronet had quoted some words he had himself used with regard to the way in which they were hampered by traditions and local difficulties. He remembered the occasion and the matter of which he was then speaking, and he repeated it now. It was when the infantry was organised in double battalions and localised as it was now over the country; he did not hesitate to say that it would have been better to have formed larger regiments with more battalions, to have had smaller districts, and thus have saved a great deal of expense in barracks and staffs. ["Hear, hear!"] He appealed to anyone in the House what would have been done if the A-shire regiment had been sent to the B-shire district, or the colonel of the C-shire Militia had had to serve under the Commanding Officer of the D-shire district. [Laughter.] They were beset on all hands by county prejudices and jealousies, and by the traditions and susceptibilities of the regiments. There were enormous difficulties in dealing with the distribution of regiments of the Line. Take the case of the Cameron Highlanders. He made a feeble effort to dispose of it, because it was an utterly anomalous regiment. As a Scotchman his heart bled for it—[laughter]—and feeling was too strong against him. But now, the Government which the right hon. Gentleman represented had a great 1596 courage. Here was a single battalion which, according to the last return, was kept in a state of efficiency by 11 recruits drawn from its own district; and to get over the difficulty the happy thought had occurred to the Government to have two battalions and divide the 11 recruits between them. [Laughter.] This showed the difficulties met with when they attempted to do anything businesslike in regard to the different regiments. He had already spoken of the system, and said all he need say about it. The question the House had to consider was whether the present system had worked thoroughly. He had listened with great pleasure, as he always did, to his hon. and gallant Friend who preceded him in this Debate, than whom there was no one with a wider knowledge of the Army or more qualified to advise the House on any military question. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. and gallant Friend alluded to the excess of battalions out of the country. That was really the crux of the question. If we had had from the first a larger number of battalions in the country than serving abroad, or, in other words, had maintained the system as it was originally intended, none of the difficulties which had so far been discovered would have arisen. But what reason had they to believe that the excess of battalions abroad would be permanent? That had always been the difficulty. He had had this responsibility himself, and he had never felt quite certain he was justified in coming to the House of Commons for a large additional sum for the Army on the ground of the excess of battalions abroad, because he was not certain what change of policy might not create an inequality without any other mode of interference. He believed we had 52 battalions of the Line in India. Would it not be possible to bring home two or three of those battalions? He was not aware that there was a serious objection to a step of this sort being taken. Then he came to a difficulty to which he felt bound to allude, and which had really had a good deal to do with this question. Of late years, greatly to the public advantage, the Army and Navy had been brought together on the question of the defence of the country. They had heard each others' views, and now the whole system of national defence was arranged on full consideration 1597 of the views of the two services. Pie ventured to hope that both services were perfectly fair and reasonable in the matter. But the distinguished officers at the head of the Navy declared that they would not be responsible for conveying any reinforcements to any of our foreign stations after a declaration of war. This statement had been made authoritatively and it was accepted as gospel. But he was not aware that there was anything in it which should make it like one of the postulates of Euclid that people should accept as beyond contradiction. What did it mean? He was not aware that that claim on the part of the Navy had ever been made before. But now the theory was that the Navy was to have the supreme command of the seas. If this doctrine were put forward by a weak Navy he could well understand it. But it was put forward by a strong Navy, and if it were not strong enough let them strengthen it. But it seemed to him to make a considerable claim on the intelligence of the ordinary outsider merely to say it was impossible for it to convey troops to Gibraltar or Malta after a declaration of war.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I never said that.
§ SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said it might be right or it might be wrong. He pointed out the great influence that it had. What was the consequence? We had seven battalions of infantry at Malta treading on each others heels, deteriorating day by day in many respects. They were not in a suitable place for a part of our mobile forces. He tried when in office to get one or two away, but he was immediately extinguished when any proposal of the kind was made. He was told it was a scandalous thing, that the infantry garrison at Malta was not large enough at the present moment, and the War Office ought to send more men there. That was a state of things not in itself desirable. Malta was nothing but a Navy base. The Army had no use for Malta; yet all its best infantry battalions in piping times of peace were kept there year after year deteriorating under their eyes, and they were told there was no help for it. The same thing applied mutatis mutandis to Gibraltar. He was 1598 merely showing how many considerations must be taken into account. He did not venture, after his past experience, to contradict the theory to which he had alluded as a postulate to be accepted. It might be right or not. He pointed out the consequences, and if it could be got over, the equalisation of battalions was pretty well accomplished. The proposal they had heard with regard to the Guards was terra incognita. It had not been explained, so he should reserve what he had to say about it. But he had thought it desirable in connection with this question of the Army system and its administration to make these few plain observations upon the evils and possibilities of cure which attach to the present state of things. Holding strongly the view that our present Army system, although it was easy to find fault with it, could not be replaced by any other which would not have ten times more evils or which would at all come near it in meeting the various requirements of the Service, he need hardly say he should support the Government. [Cheers.]
MR. ARTHUR BRROKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
said that although the Motion of the right hon. Member for Dean Forest was practically a vote of censure on the Government, it would be recognised in every part of the House that the motive was a most creditable one and only sprang from a desire, shared in a large degree on the Ministerial side of the House, to direct general attention to the present serious condition of the Army. Nothing the right hon. Baronet had said had so heartily enlisted his own approval as his observation that the public would have backed up the Government in making much more thorough and carefully elaborated proposals than they had done. He was not by nature a democrat, but he thoroughly believed in the policy of completely trusting those from whom you wanted extensive favours, and he thought that in the case of naval policy the public had shown an absolute will ingness to vote any sum of money provided it had some guarantee that it would have commensurate results in return. It was no new discovery that our military system was excessively expensive. The Wantage Committee, so often referred to, contained references to the fact that the efficient maintenance of our military establishments and the defence 1599 of our positions at home and abroad, must always, under any system of voluntary enlistment, be a matter of great difficulty. The voluntary system was more responsible than, anything else for the excessive cost of the Army, and though the right hon. Baronet tried to minimise that objection, his arguments did not disturb the central fact that a soldier who was paid under the voluntary system had to be more highly paid. In his opinion there were many people in this country who held extravagantly optimistic views with regard to the Navy. They talked about the sister service exactly like the French used to talk of their Army just before the events of 1870. The cause of those views being held with regard to our Navy was to be found in the fact that so many of our military critics were fond of depreciating our Army and of always looking at its seamy side, both in public and in private. He did not think that either the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, nor his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex, were quite fair in the statements they had made with regard to some features of our Army. It had already been pointed out that evening that our Army occupied a most difficult position, and had more anomalous duties to perform than that of any other nation. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman did not give sufficient credit to the Reserve, which formed a most important feature in our short system. He, however, entirely sympathised in the complaint that the Reserve men were not adequately trained, and that great difficulty was created by employers objecting to the Reserve men in their employment being called out for annual training. If this difficulty cropped up too frequently that House would have to deal with such employers, who could not be allowed to sacrifice the Army for their own interests. As a general rule, the Reserve men had responded admirably when they had been called out. Thus, in 1878, out of, in round numbers, 14,000 men summoned, 13,000 had come back to the colours. In 1882, out of 11,600 men summoned, 11,000 had responded to the call; and from the figures which had been set forth that night the same thing had occurred in 1885. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member 1600 for Essex, and certain other military critics, were in the habit of ridiculing the physique of our young soldiers. It was a fact, however, that our minimum standard of height was considerably above that of foreign armies. Putting aside the exceptional standard of the Guards, he might remind the House that the minimum standard of height in the Line was 5 feet 4 inches, as against the minimum standard of 5 feet in the German army, which actually had in the ranks of their line battalions soldiers who stood "5 feet nothing." He had had the honour of serving for some years in India, and he had seen, our magnificent battalions there in their full war strength, who were constantly being moved out of their cantonments at a moment's notice, and it was impossible not to be deeply impressed with their warlike efficiency, which could hardly be surpassed. He should recommend our military critics to visit India and to look at those battalions for themselves, because he was satisfied that if they did so we should hear a great deal less said in depreciation of our Army as a whole. His right hon. Friend had said but little about the possible invasion of this country; and it had been suggested that the proposals for the fortification of London did not enter into the serious military policy of our defence, but were rather devices to lull the fears of the uninformed multitude. He feared that the military authorities were really placing absolute reliance for the security of the country against invasion upon the Navy alone. With regard to the difficulty arising out of our linked battalion system, he thought that when, by any accident, two of the linked battalions were sent abroad at the same time, the third battalion, in other words, the Militia, should be embodied, in order to feed the other two. If in the present instance 11 militia battalions had been permanently embodied, it would have had rather a striking effect upon the people of this country. He thought that that experiment might fairly be tried. He also agreed with the suggestion of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Essex that, in order to give some outlet for local patriotic feeling, a regiment might be localised in each of our more important dependencies, such as Canada and Australia. As to the proposals of the Government generally, he repeated 1601 that the public would have been prepared for something much more sweeping and involving much greater cost if it had only been explained to them that it was necessary. Nevertheless, he trusted that the Government, having once decided upon a scheme, would thoroughly persevere with it, and would not, like their predecessors in office, allow themselves to be led away by social influences. With regard to a second battalion for the Cameron Highlanders, he should have liked to have heard that the wish of Lord Card well, to the effect that a superior class of young men should be attracted to the Army, had been fulfilled. He commented on the absence in these proposals of any definite plan for sending small expeditions out of the country in cases of emergency. The Guards would have been a specially serviceable body for this purpose, and he could understand that to send them to do duty in a fortress in time of peace might have a very injurious effect on their recruiting. He would not discuss the additions to the Army, which were really microscopic, any further, except to express the hope that the field battery might at least consist of six guns and not four. The issue raised by the right hon. Baronet was, of course, one of want of confidence. If that Motion were carried, and the Government defeated, did he (the right hon. Baronet) desire to return to the torpid sway of the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War? and did he think that would advance the objects which he, in common with the right hon. Baronet, had at heart? It was useless to contend that our military position and the military administration of this country were absolutely satisfactory, but he was not prepared to interrupt and terminate by a vote of censure the first important step taken for many years to improve the efficiency of the Army.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said there was very considerable difficulty in properly discussing these military proposals. The first thing the House required to be convinced of was whether the money provided would do the work that the Army had to do; but before they 1602 could say what the Army had to do they must first decide whether the country was safe from invasion. That was a question which could not be decided by the Military Authorities at all, but was a Naval question, involving also the question of transport and the Mercantile Marine of this and other countries. If he were to attempt to discuss that question on the Army Estimates he would no doubt be told by the Speaker that this was a question which should be discussed on the Navy Estimates. But he wished to point out that the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman), a late Minister responsible for the War Department, had said that the number of battalions at Malta might be reduced. The root of the whole question of the inequality between the foreign service battalions and the home service battalions rested upon the answer to the question: What was the number of battalions that it was necessary to have in garrisons abroad? He entirely agreed with Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman that we had too many battalions at Malta. His opinion of the difficulties and the cause of the failure of the military system was that they arose from the fact that we had never actually defined, and no Minister in the House had been in a position to say, given our supremacy at sea, what are our military requirements? He would require a distinct statement how far naval supremacy affected our military policy. The steady absorption of our Army into garrison service he regarded as a great danger, and considered that the result obtained was not at all in proportion to the expense to which we were put by such a system. He understood that the increase of the garrison battalions was the result of the recommendation of the Colonial Committee, but he asked if the Authorities of the War Office were going to produce to the House the recommendations and Report of that Committee? It was a curious fact that the proposals now made by the Government were exactly the reverse to the proposals made before the short service system was introduced, when, in 1870, as preliminary to the reform in the Army, they took away one battalion of the West Indian Regiment, and abolished the Canadian Rifles and the Ceylon Corps, 1603 and turned Garrison Artillery into Field Artillery. Now another preliminary reform in 1870 was a reduction in the fleet, when it was announced, amidst the cheers of the House, that the Navy Estimates were lower than they had been for many years; therefore, the difficulty he found in discussing the Army Estimates was that of having clearly in their minds what the Statesmen guiding the defences of the Empire really thought of the military necessities. Evidently the tendency was that the stronger the fleet became the more they should lock up the Army; but, in his opinion, the stronger the fleet the freer should be the Army. His own conviction was that they were overdoing the cost and the number of men provided for the sedentary duties of the Army. If they took the case of Malta, all the troops in Europe crammed into Malta would not prolong its existence under the British flag for one hour when our naval supremacy had ceased; while, if we exercised a dominating influence at sea, how was it possible for any great sea expedition to come down and attack Malta? Therefore, the real cause of complaint in regard to the little apparent result they got from the Army was that they did not face fairly the question of what our Army was for, and what were its necessary functions. He found that for garrison service, and service in defensive positions alone, they absorbed 372,123 men at a cost of nearly five and three-quarter millions, while the field Army, which was the real Army, cost only just five millions, and absorbed only 112,000 men. He did not think such a system was satisfactory, or that the country was getting value for its money. Our Navy was really the defensive arm of the country, and so long as it fulfilled its duty offensive expeditions over the sea by foreign military force were impossible. He wished to draw attention to this fact. There was a statement made by the War Minister that such and such things were going to be done on the recommendation of the Colonial Committee. Was the right hon. Gentleman going to produce the Report of that Committee? Because this question and the Guards, and, indeed, all these questions resolved themselves into this, What was it that determined the necessity for strengthening the garrisons abroad? If it was proposed to keep so many battalions at Malta—the 1604 very flower of the Army with the colours outside India—surely the House had a right to know what were the broad grounds on which it was proposed to keep seven battalions locked up at Malta? In this matter he did not consider himself tied by any Party obligations. ["Hear, hear!"] He felt himself bound to vote on matters affecting the national defence according to his own lights and judgment; and, unless before the Debate closed he could get some satisfactory statement from the Front Bench as to what were the real circumstances that led to increasing the strength of these garrisons, and unless he had some clear statement as to why it was, with the naval supremacy in their hands, the Government could contemplate for a moment a large hostile force coming across the sea to attack them, he was bound to say he should vote for the Motion, because he did not think the Government were fulfilling the requirements of the country. He felt this very strongly when he looked at the general position abroad, and remembered that if the supremacy at sea was real, the main military question simply resolved itself into a question—apart from India—of offence. The naval base must be secured from the cruiser attacks of which the Duke of Devonshire spoke, but he could not see that seven battalions were wanted at Malta, besides an enormous force of artillery, engineers, and sub-marine mines, to resist cruiser attacks. If the fleet was sufficient, any organised attack on British possessions abroad was impossible. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, then, were the Government locking up the flower of the Army in these garrisons? Unless he could get some more satisfactory statement as to the reasons and grounds for all this enormous accumulation of force and all this enormous expenditure on garrison service, he should feel bound to give his vote for the Motion, not so much on the question of enlistment or terms of service, as upon the primary question of military policy. He trusted the House would have some satisfactory explanation. It was no good for the Under Secretary to get up and say that the military authorities feared invasion, because the highest military authority at his back had the most extraordinary notions on the subject, namely, that the Army must be 1605 looked to because the fleet might, disappear in a night. The point on which he wanted a clear and explicit answer was this, had the military policy in regard to these preparations for great military attacks been settled, not by the military authorities, but by the most serious consideration of the possibility of an enormous military force parading about the sea to attack our possessions, while we held the supremacy of the sea On the answer the right hon. Gentleman was able to give to that question certainly depended into which Lobby he should go. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. BRODRICK
said the question which his hon. Friend had asked was one scarcely coming within the scope of the Motion. The Secretary of State had quoted the opinion of the Colonial Defence Committee and the other authorities which had influenced the opinion of the Government on the probable points of attack and the force that ought to be maintained. Those recommendations had been put before the House on the responsibility of the Government, who, of course, had carefully considered both the naval and military effects that might be produced. The hon. Gentleman might rest assured that if the Government came to the House and asked for what they considered the needs of the national defences, it was after considering the whole naval and military requirements of the nation.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ GENERAL McCALMONT (Antrim, N.)
pointed out that our voluntary system of enlistment gave every man in England a freedom which was absolutely priceless, and although he did not deny that our Army was expensive, the reason lay in that fact. As long as the voluntary system existed, we would undoubtedly have to pay the price of freedom for it. Every miltary man would like to see the system advocated by the right hon. Baronet, but there was great objection to it, and that was the objection of pensions which it would entail. It was an ideal system, but he did not think it could be introduced now. We had adopted another system, that of linked battalions. That system was the very best that could be devised at the time it was brought forward, but from the day of its conception 1606 until now, it had never had the slightest chance of success, owing to the action of various administrative Governments. He read several extracts from Memorandum of General MacDougall's Committee's Report on Details of Army Organisation, to show that essential recommendations had never been carried out. It was quite impossible that system could go on under the circumstances. We had now; 76 battalions abroad and 65 at home. The fact was, that to work the system properly we required a margin over and above the reliefs of six battalions attached to the First Army Corps. He could not understand how the Under Secretary for War proposed on any ground whatever to carry out the linked battalion system, unless he had, at any rate, an equal number abroad and at home. The proposal of the Government, put it any way they liked, left us in at minority of four. He could not understand the attitude of the Government. He was a representative belonging to the Conservative Party. He had been wont to go down to the constituencies and denounce the Party opposite, declaring that when the Conservatives came into power they would do something for the Army, and would put it on a proper footing. He was bound to say, as a military man, and, he must humbly add, one who had had considerable experience, he regarded the proposals of the Government as absolutely contemptible and paltry. If ever we wanted an, addition to the Army it was now, because the territory of the Empire had grown in a prodigious way. We had annexed Cyprus and the Transvaal, though we afterwards gave the latter back to the Boers, which hon. Members opposite would say was the right thing to do But we had since added Bechuanaland and Rhodesia to our South African dependencies. They could not call it a temporary expedient to send out four battalions to South Africa. The Under Secretary looked to get two battalions back from South Africa. In his opinion they would probably have to send out 10 more battalions there. We should have to keep our troops in South Africa, or else he was entirely wrong in his prognostications. Turn to Egypt. We had several battalions there. Was that looked upon as a temporary measure. Here we were with a deficiency of at least 11 battalions, and 1607 all this was due to the fact that successive Governments had never done any thing to carry out the most essential points of General McDougall's Committee's recommendations. The increase of the Depôt organisations to meet emergencies had been quietly ignored. Nobody knew what chaos reigned at present from one battalion preying upon another. In consequence, no one knew that except the regimental officers of the British Army, and they had no means of expressing their view of the facts in this House; but, having commanded a British regiment, he could vouch for the fact. For two or three years, while he commanded that regiment, when he objected to the system carried on he was told by the Adjutant General that, according to the plan, the regiment was for the time being useless. That was a contemptible position to put any colonel in. What did the Government do? They came down and asked the House of Commons for two battalions to the Guards, and claimed, by a process of arithmetic, that in so doing they were adding six battalions to the Army. They were doing nothing of the kind. As a matter of exchange they were adding six battalions to the Line, but merely adding three battalions to the Army. For the Government to come down with a miserable £5 note proposal of that kind—he said it was a contemptible thing for any Government to do. He was extremely sorry to have to go so far as to say that. One of the greatest difficulties they had to contend with was that they could only get a diluted opinion as regards the military advisers of the Crown. At the present time they had the Commander-in-Chief, the Quartermaster General, the Adjutant General, and the Commander of the Forces in Ireland. He did not suppose that any Government in modern times had had the advantage of more skilled advice, or officers more experienced in war, than those four officers. What he would like to have would be the concrete opinion of those general officers, or else the individual opinion of any one of those officers on the proposals before the House. Everyone who had served in the Army as long as he had must feel that some of the remarks of the Under Secretary could hardly represent the opinions 1608 of the military advisers of the War Office. Those opinions must have been whittled down, so that the force had been altogether destroyed, to trim with political exigencies. They had to cut their coat according to their cloth, and that cloth was served out to them by a set of clerks in Pall Mall who did not know the requirements of the service. This great Empire would some day meet with an unparalleled catastrophe if these methods were persisted in. The service Members were supposed to swallow anything offered to them, but he was not prepared to swallow some of the proposals of the Government; and he said this from a strong conviction that the Army was not up to the requirements of the Empire. He saw it was proposed to add some 400 horses to the cavalry; but if our cavalry were to be put in a state even relatively equal to that of France and Germany, 2,000, even 4,000, rather than 400, more horses would be needed. At the same time, the Government must be thanked for the proposal, because they were the first Government in the last 20 years who had added a single cavalry horse. The ideal cavalry organisation of France and Germany was four squadrons to the regiment and 24 squadrons to the division, while we were content with three squadrons to the regiment and 18 to the division. It would be well to follow the standard of Powers which had had so much reason to study the matter, and which had at present such magnificent cavalry divisions. If he had expressed himself more warmly than he intended, it was simply in the interests of the service which he had so much at heart. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
said the system under which enlistment was now conducted in the Army, as far as foreign service was concerned, was the best system for the country. The men who were trained in service abroad returned eminently fitted to make a good reserve. In advocating a return to the long service system, it had been forgotten that Lord Cardwell's system of depot centres had never yet had a fair trial. The idea of that system was, that all the arms of the service should be so brought together that they worked, not as units, but as a whole. Further, these depot centres were to be made stores, where everything would be found 1609 necessary for the troops ordered on active service. But the money—£3,500,000—voted by Parliament for establishing this system was spent for quite different purposes. A great proportion of it went to build barracks. The time had come when the War Office should take this scheme into consideration. If war were to break out to-morrow we should find ourselves in the same position as we did at the outbreak of the Crimean War and during the Abyssinian campaign. To send an army corps into the field would cause considerable confusion. What we wanted was some organisation which would give us a better preparation for actual war. The late Secretary of State for War had that evening declared that the naval authorities declined to be responsible for the movement of the garrisons in the Mediterranean. That was a very serious state of things. He thought that, under the new Committee of the Cabinet, something like co-operation of the services had been brought about; and he hoped that reasonable and sensible co-operation would be insisted on. Manœuvres ought to be conducted, not by the Army alone, but by the two services in co-operation. There should, for instance, be exercise in the embarkation and disembarkation of troops and stores. It was essential that the forces should be employed in times of peace at such work as would be required of them when actively engaged in war. He also considered that we were not getting money's worth for what we were spending on the Army. When his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury was an independent Member he was always laying before the House evidence of military extravagance. He remembered that on one accasion his hon. Friend showed that the cost per head of our Army was three times more than the cost per head of the Army of any other country. The total cost of an English soldier was £130 a year. The greater portion of that cost was due to extravagance in organisation and administration, and that therefore was a branch of the service in which economy was badly needed.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
said he did not agree with the conclusions of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, when he advocated two 1610 Armies, enlisted under different terms of service, for home and India. Such a scheme was not likely to be beneficial either to the Army or to the military needs of the country. But, on the other hand, the proposal of the Government did not appear to him to meet the requirements of the service. They were no doubt a step in advance, and as such they would be welcomed; but what was required was not so much what he should call, with great respect, a patching-up of the present system, as the remodelling of that system on a working basis. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the opinion of the Adjutant General, who had said that there was not a battalion of the Line in this country at the present time that was ready for war. It was' popularly supposed that our battalions were ready for war at any moment. But if it were otherwise, it was not the battalions but the system that was to blame, and it was the duty of Members of the House, as the representatives of the electorate of the country, to find out where the defect lay, and to suggest an adequate remedy. Personally, having had forty years' practical experience of military life, and therefore having some knowledge of the subject, he thought the two questions of linked battalions and short service should not be mixed up together, but should be considered separately. At present, military opinion was not strongly against short service. Under that system we escaped the great number of pensions which lay at the end of long service, and besides, the term of service was being gradually extended. But the linked battalion system had never appeared to him to be a good scheme. It was like an Army working in fetters. He had always held that it was not right to sacrifice the efficiency of one battalion in order to feed another, and keep up the system of linking. It was intended under that system to have at home precisely the same number of battalions as were abroad. But if it became necessary to maintain permanently abroad a number of battalions in excess of the number at home—say, in the case of a European war—what, then, would become of the linked battalion system? The system was based on the idea that an even balance should be preserved between the two linked battalions—the one at home and the other abroad—but it was conceivable that in 1611 certain eventualities that balance might be disturbed. What should be done was that the links should be severed, the battalions should be set free, as before, and restored to their old numbers; that the depot system should be made a reality; that each battalion should have two strong companies at the depot to feed the battalion at home or abroad, and with a framework ready so that it could be extended when necessary into a fresh battalion. He was sorry it was proposed to add only one battery to the Field Artillery. It was a service that took a long time to train; there was none that could be extemporised less quickly in the field, and none it was more essential to keep at all times up to its full strength and efficiency. Therefore, while willing to accept the proposals of the Government, he did not think they were complete or efficient. There was one other point to which he wished to refer, and that was the responsibility for military policy. They had had a short statement from the Under Secretary with regard to Army matters, but which he thought the House and the country would like—
§ COLONEL SANDYS
said he would, therefore, only add, in conclusion, that the conditions which were proposed in the present instance appeared to him hardly sufficient to meet the requirements of the service. Hon. Members were willing to accept them at the present time, but he trusted the time would soon come when the Government would see fit to accede to the wishes of the House and go more fully into the requirements of the Army.
§ CAPTAIN PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said it was with great diffidence that he rose to make a few remarks on the proposal now before the House, and his diffidence was increased by the statement of the late Secretary for War that until they had sufficient knowledge of an official character upon the question it was really impossible to express an opinion. He was, however, somewhat strengthened in appearing before the House when he remembered that the same right hon. Gentleman had said that the cost of the Army was appalling, and was at present increased by prejudices and traditions which it was almost hopeless to overcome. He for one did not give up hope entirely, 1612 and he trusted that the other military Members of the House, who were almost all of one mind on certain points, would not give up hope until the country knew the real facts of the case. The Under Secretary for War, in his very able statement, said, in direct contradiction to what the Secretary for War stated in another place, that the state of the Army was quite satisfactory up to a certain extent—that we had succeeded wherever we had gone in our wars. He had always held that the British Army was good, but he did not think that was quite the question before the House. The question was, was it as good as it might be? Was it as good as this great nation had a right to demand? He did not think that any answer could be given to that question except in the negative. He did not think it was right to say, as the late Secretary for War said, that the present Commander-in-Chief had a very large field of expression. He thought that when a man like Lord Wolseley gave utterance to the words that the Reserve was a sham, those words ought to be received with great respect and attention. He had had some slight personal knowledge of those distinguished officers, Sir Evelyn Wood and Sir Redvers Buller—the latter of whom was better known by the very determined way in which he expressed himself—and he did not think that anything but absolute truth could be attached to any evidence they might give before a Committee. But the principal object for which he rose was to refer to the words in the Motion, viz., "dealing with the present system of enlistment." That was a matter which he had the honour to bring before the House on the Estimates last year. He was convinced that, whatever might be said about systems and about the different ways of managing the Army, until they went to the very root of the question, until they dealt with the actual material of which the Army was composed, the sources from which that material was derived, and the way in which it was derived, they must be beating the air. That was the very root of the question, and until they looked at the way in which they got their recruits, and the time of getting them, they would never attain the ends which they had all in view, viz., that the country should get its money's worth for the money which 1613 it spent on the Army. It was wise to see what foreign countries were doing in this respect. Most foreign countries enlisted men at the age of 20 or 21, and only one European country enlisted at the age of 19. But the normal age of enlistment in this country was 18, and practically general officers were allowed to accept recruits at the age of 17, and it was a well-known fact that recruits were taken even at much lower ages. Those recruits were merely undeveloped boys; their minds and their characters were not those of men, and yet they were expected to do the work of men, and to resist the temptations of men. In 1894, in order to get 37,000 recruits no less than 62,000 candidates were examined, and, therefore, 25,000, or over 40 per cent. of all the applicants, were rejected. That to his mind showed that the class from which recruits were drawn was almost entirely composed of the lowest of the community, especially in view of the small requirements of the Army recruiting departments. He thought that if we could organise our Army on the real lines that we ought to do, we would obtain a better class of men. We expected a great deal more from our soldiers than we did a very short time ago. He held that as long as we continued to take our recruits at anything under 20 into the battalions in which they were expected to serve, they could not, from the force of circumstances, do the work nor acquire the knowledge expected of them. Perhaps the most serious aspect of this matter was the nation's responsibility as regarded the individual units who were persuaded into joining the Army. Until they altered the present conditions under which the men, instead of leaving the Army better than when they entered it, left it worse, they would never get the parents of boys anxious to send their sons into the Army. The same rule ought to apply to the non-commissioned ranks as to the commissioned. There was an unparalleled anxiety to get into the latter, and if the Army was treated on logical lines, by making it sufficiently attractive to the rank and file, there would be the same competition to enter the ranks of the Army as there now is to obtain a commission. Another point he desired to refer to was the terrible 1614 state of the health of the Army, and it made the responsibility all the greater when they thought of the comparative youth of those who were invalided while their service was going on.
§ CAPTAIN PIRIE
said he was merely going to prove that the enlistment suffered in consequence of the neglected state of health of the soldiers. He could only say that when a man left the Army he was often worse than when he went into it. He left it, in many eases, a beer-drinker, and that was one of the greatest detriments to a man obtaining employment when he left the service. He did not deny that a great improvement had taken place as regarded the question of temperance, but there was great room for further improvement. As remedies for meeting the present difficulty, he suggested that our tropical and semi-tropical coaling stations should be placed under the Admiralty, which would relieve many of the battalions now in garrison there. Then, also, with regard to our smaller Crown colonies, he thought their efficiency might be maintained with much smaller staffs of officers. At some of the stations the staffs were ridiculously large. Thus, for example, at Bermuda, ten staff officers, nearly all of the rank of Lieut.-Colonel, are maintained for the control of a force less numerous than a single German regiment—and this, of course, not including regimental officers. The time had come when those anomalies should be remedied. Twenty-five years ago Yokohama was garrisoned by marines, and the experiment was proved to be an unqualified success. The Secretary of State for War stated that those stations absorbed no fewer than 18 battalions; but if the coaling stations were placed under the Admiralty, and garrisoned, if only partially, by marines, many battalions would be relieved. He could not understand there being any objection on the part of the Navy to undertake the work. ["Hear, hear!"] Another method by which he would seek to change the present unsatisfactory system would be not to admit any recruit into a battalion until he was 20 years of age, but if it was necessary to enlist recruits at a lower age, then they ought to be placed first of all in training 1615 establishments, similarly to training commissioned officers at Woolwich and Sandhurst. As long as recruiting at the present age went on, he held that satisfactory results could never be obtained. ["Hear, hear!"] The Under Secretary for War seemed to refute the idea that men could be got to enlist under present conditions for long service, but the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten that it was the object of the authorities to throw every obstacle in the way of the men, to prevent them from enlisting for long terms. He believed also that the pernicious system of deferred pay had done more harm to the Army than anything else, and it was one of the first things he would abolish in the present system. They could not expect finality in the matter, however, until the Army was so reformed and the soldier so treated that he would be made to feel that the greatest punishment that could be awarded him was to be dismissed from the service, and until there was as great competition to serve in the rank and file as there was in the commissioned ranks. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,), Manchester, E.
while not wishing to interfere with the Debate, ventured to point out that there was another Amendment following on the Paper which raised a question of very great interest, which deserved to be debated, and on which the public would desire to have some information. He alluded to the subject of the additions to the Guards. ["Hear, hear!"] He therefore thought it would be for the general convenience of the House that the present Debate should be brought to a close with or without a Division, so that the other subject might be considered. When his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary made his statement on Friday there would be every opportunity of discussing the general question. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said he felt bound to make a few remarks on the matters under consideration that night, as he understood that on Friday an Amendment would be moved for a reduction in the number of men, which would have the effect of preventing any hon. Member from dealing with the subjects which were now before the House. The two front Benches were agreed on 1616 the present policy adopted in regard to the Army; they had similarly agreed before, and the result of such agreement had always been the breakdown and failure of our Army organisation. ["Hear, hear!"] Until this system was changed the British Army would never make any progress. The system was contrary to common sense. It was a crazy system which could never produce any satisfactory results. The plan of linked battalions supposed that two battalions formed one unit, but only by accident had the two battalions of one regiment ever been quartered together. They generally met each other in the Suez Canal. There never would be regimental solidarity with one battalion at home and the other abroad. The depot system for recruits had undoubtedly been a failure; to those brick buildings scattered all over the country were sent recruits and some old veterans who were employed there in cleaning pots and pans, looking after vegetables, and doing other military duties of that kind. [Laughter.] Another batch of recruits would go to the home battalion. Was it credible that this could be a wise system? The whole staff of officers of the home battalion had practically not to learn military duties, but to play the part of masters of schools and of drill-masters to the recruits. When the men thus under training began to know their masters and to become soldiers they were sent away to another battalion. Let the House look at the contrary effect of the system pursued in regard to the Royal Marines. The recruits for this force were sent to large depôts and kept there for nine months. They were then turned out the best drilled soldiers in the world—[cheers]—and sent straight to the various divisions. To make any comparison between the line battalions at home and the Royal Marines, either at home or abroad, was perfectly idle and absurd. ["Hear, hear!"] It had been urged that there should be a system of short service for the Army at home and of long service for the troops abroad. The system of short service—the term of three years—had been tried at home in the Brigade of Guards, and it had succeeded after the long term of seven years had failed. 1617 They had a long service in the Royal Marines, and there they had, side by side, a three years' service and a 12 years' service, both producing admirable results. Between those two they had a seven, or eight, or six years' service, which they pretended was a short-service system, and which was an absolute failure. ["Hear, hear!"] Their practice in the matter was contrary to common sense. They expected to get good soldiers and plenty of them, and yet they told every man or boy on enlisting that they would keep him for six years and then turn him adrift a ruined man, unless he got aid from some charitable institution, to which he must go and beg the right to live. ["Hear, hear!"] He defied anyone to suggest that that sort of system could attract the right class of men. He asked any hon. Gentleman to tell him of one single instance since the short-service system started of any battalion in the British Service—except the Guards or on the Indian Establishment—that had paraded on its war strength in war. As a matter of fact, their Commander-in-Chief, or others, had selected their battalions. ["Hear, hear!"] They picked and chose and filled up their battalions with the best men they could get from here and there. A war would test this system, and they would then see whether they were dealing in realities or not. It was said that these men were very fine fellows. 80 they were. Those who survived the perils and temptations of Indian life grew up to be fine soldiers; but they came back here to be ruined and to go into the workhouses. Only last Session he asked that these men might receive a little more consideration at the hands of the Government—men who were discharged into the workhouses by scores and hundreds. [Ministerial cries of "No."] He hoped he should have an occasion of proving that statement. He was told that a great number of these men had been employed by the railway companies, but that the railway companies found they were not the proper class of men, and it was not fair to press them to take a class of men whom they really could not make use of. Was that the necessary consequence of serving Her Majesty? Not a bit of it. They got men discharged from the Marines by hundreds and from the Navy 1618 by thousands, and everybody was glad to get their service. But they got those men whose careers had been broken by this Army service discharge, and they came out as they went in—very little better, and sometimes, perhaps, a little worse. He claimed that the failure of the system, which was now undoubted, was the natural and inevitable consequence of the system; and he trusted the House would not be misled by the rosy statements they heard sometimes. They must discount and discount the legitimate and splendid pride their officers took in the units they commanded, and they must go and see for themselves what these battalions were. He did not care where hon. Members went, they would find the same miserable, tedious sham going on of these battalions being treated as depôts for other battalions. ["Hoar, hear!"] What he believed they wanted was a recasting of the system on some common-sense lines. ["Hear, hear!"] They wanted to do away with this plan of making one battalion depot for another—a plan never' heard of in any land except this or fairyland. He wanted to see the men transferred, when they were properly trained, to the regiments in which they were to serve. They wanted to see their superior officers really occupied in doing the work which they entered the Army to do, and not doing the work which, as a matter of fact, was being done by non-commissioned officers in the depôt. They were burning the candle at both ends, for they were preventing the right men going in, because they did not allow them to go in under conditions which good men would be content to accept. For these reasons he would support the Motion of the right hon. Baronet.
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
desired to challenge the statement of the Under Secretary for War that the 200 guns belonging to the Artillery Volunteers were perfectly mobile and could be used in case of an invasion. Those guns—and he dared say the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact—were absolutely useless, for they were obsolete. There was not a Volunteer company in the country that had got breech-loading field pieces, while the battalions on the coast had only muzzle-loaders. He would like to know why the right hon. Gentleman said that these 1619 200 guns could be used in case of invasion, and were perfectly mobile. He did not object to the proposed expenditure. Far from it, but with this expenditure the artillery of the Volunteers should be put on a proper basis. He happened to be an old Volunteer officer, and remembered that the guns were and remained now, he believed, all muzzle loaders. What was the use of these? Those were not the best weapons with which to resist an invasion. He would go further in reference to the expenditure upon artillery, and deny that the best weapons were given to the Royal Artillery. They might brag of the efficiency of batteries and horses, but the weapons were old. The breech mechanism of the field pieces was old, it had the side swing and not the proper drop action for quick-firing. Why spend money on the obsolete mechanism? He merely directed the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to these facts. It was all very well to come to the House and ask for money, and the right hon. Gentleman was only doing his duty in that, but the money would not be wisely spent unless it armed the British Army with the best weapons. The, Royal Artillery could not compete with continental artillery, simply because the weapons were not of the modern type. The quick firing of the French and German artillery could beat ours, to use a common expression "into fits." He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be practical in this matter. It was his duty as Minister of the Crown, and not only a duty he owed to his colleagues but to the nation, that, before asking for money he should show it was for supplying the best article he could get.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
felt an apology was due to the House, and he hoped Members would bear with him while he called attention to a matter which would not be in order on later Amendments. The Under Secretary had reproached the right hon. Baronet who moved this Resolution with not having provided any solution of the difficulties which he had placed before the House, and the taunt had been repeated by hon. Members who had followed. But it seemed to him, if the right hon. Gentleman established his point, if he had shown that the state of the Army at the present time was unsatisfactory, that 1620 it was inefficient and required to be reorganised, then he had done all that could be expected from a civilian Member of the House, the solution of the difficulties resting with the paid officers of the Crown. ["Hear, hear!"] It was not for a civilian Member of the House to offer the solution of these difficulties. He asked the patience of the House because he believed that to a certain extent he could suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary some lines upon which he could amend the future organisation of our Army. No doubt our Army presented a most complex problem. We had to provide for home defence, for the possibility of landing a large force on the continent, for our Indian Army, and for the garrisons of our colonial and foreign possessions, and all this had to be done with the voluntary system. To provide for all these difficulties we had a system which dated from a time when we had no colonial possessions or Indian Empire to defend; the system of district commands, a system which had been thrust aside by all continental nations. We had rejected it in India, where we had a far better organised and more efficient Army. This system of district commands dated almost from the beginning of our standing Army. So different were the districts in this country that it would be found in their staff officers they varied from nine up to twenty-one, and in battalions in these districts they varied from one to fifteen. In spite of these irregularities they were co-equal in power, each independent of the other, and simply tied to the War Office and subject to the War Office. In England these districts were nine in number, in Scotland one, and in Ireland four. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brodrick) that if he really wished to lay the foundation of a properly-organised Army system in the country, he should change these district commands into Army Corps commands, those in Great Britain to two or three Army Corps districts and those of Ireland into one. When he said a change, he meant much more than any change that had been made on paper up to the present time. He did not mean merely reorganising them on paper, leaving these Army Corps subordinate to the War Office as at the present time; he meant 1621 more than that. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary for War thought of waiting until the War Office took the initiative, that would never come until they were in their graves. What the right hon. Gentleman needed to do was, to speak with the authority of the Government to which he belonged, with the force of the public opinion of the of the country behind him, and say that this antiquated system must cease and be replaced by a system in accordance with continental and Indian experience. It must be something real. The Army Corps must not be simply generals who are under the thumb of the War Office, they must be in command of the Army Corps, responsible for everything concerned in the district, ammunition, materiel and arms, and all preparations for defence. Let these be as independent as the Army Corps leaders in Germany, and only by laying the foundation of some such system would the organisation of the military force of the country be effective? What the right hon. Gentleman was doing was simply patchwork. The War Office was an old building, and whilst to an old building they might put a bow window, or an attic, or a new storey, they could not adapt it to new requirements. ["Hear, hear!"] They must start at the very foundation and build upwards. If the right hon. Gentleman would not do this the money he was now asking to be voted for the Army would be wasted, for he would not get any effective return for it. It was a question of organisation, and unless the right hon. Gentleman took that in hand and insisted upon its being real, complete success would not attend his efforts. ["Hear, hear!"] He could warn him that when he came to attack the War Office system he would find there was an enormous vis inertiœ. It was a building in which had collected an enormous number of staff officers and staff clerks. They naturally loved power—as did everybody—they had got it in their hands and would keep it if they could. But if the right hon. Gentleman would speak with the strength of the Government and of public opinion behind him, he could say to the War Office that it should be reduced to the limits of any general staff of the foreign armies, and that these staff officers and clerks who were superfluous should go to the Army Corps district. ["Hear, hear!"] 1622 He pressed it upon the right hon. Gentleman as a matter of organisation, and he would tell him that, if he genuinely asked for a solution of the difficulties in connection with the British Army in this country, that solution could only come from such a system of decentralisation as he had mapped out to him. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
observed that the proof of the short service being the better system was that the very regiments they proposed to increase were those which had been successful because of the short service. They were, indeed, the very regiments that were most easily recruited because they had the option of short service. Then came the question of the battalions at home. The Under Secretary said they were supposed to be of a strength of 720 each, or taking the drafts for India 520. He had himself been at Aldershot for something like twenty years, and he had never seen—except in a very rare case—a battalion of 520 men on parade, and he did not think they very often saw 400. As to the question of the Artillery the increase that was proposed would bring the number of horses and men up to what they were about thirty years ago, when there were both more horses and men than now. He thought it was Mr. Stanhope who brought about the reduction, and the Artillery were now about to be put back to the old numbers by the proposed increase. But independently of that, the Army was supposed to be increased, therefore the proportion had fallen enormously. Coming to the Reserves, there was one Reserve which was a perfect myth, namely, the Militia. The Militia Reserve was composed of men who were reserved naturally by being in the Militia. The Militia in the old days was a reserve that filled up their battalions at the battle of Waterloo, and on a hundred other occasions, and formed the Reserve Army of this country. They took 30,000 men out of the Militia, called them Militia Reserves and gave them a pound or thirty shillings a year for the sake of having that name. No members of the Militia would object to see that force used for foreign service when required, and the country would then be enabled to save the £30,000 a year they were 1623 now spending on a Militia Reserve, which was practically a stage Army, and which became reserved twice over, first, as the Militia Reserve, and then as the Militia. They had got no artillery for the Militia. They had got Garrison Artillery but there was not a single gun to supply them with. Then there was the Yeomanry, which was very good for scouts and so on, but hardly sufficient to supply the Army with 70,000 men—at least with cavalry—which the Militia was supposed to be able to do. They had thus got a large reserve in the form of Militia without a single gun, and without any real cavalry to support them in the field. He thought this reform was a fictitious one. They increased the infantry, in which they were strongest, but they increased the Artillery to such a small extent as to be utterly inefficient for use as a Reserve, and they did not really improve the existing force of the country against invasion. The only thing they did, was to enable their best force for protection namely, the Guards, to be divided, so that a certain portion of them could be utilised as were the Line regiments, by being sent abroad, but by that means they destroyed the few battalions that were left at home. He complained of the inefficiency of the Army at home. Something was radically wrong with the system of recruiting, and should be altered if we were to have anything more than a paper Army.
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
held that the proposals of the Government were unsatisfactory in themselves and insufficient for the needs of the Army. The Under Secretary for War spoke of the recommendations of the Military Board. Military members knew what they were. The Military Board was obliged to take what was given to it. He did not deny that the permanent officials of the War Office were painstaking and industrious, but he contended that they and the Secretary of State should have a freer hand, and not be told by the Treasury: "You cannot have any more money; you must make the best of what you have." The Militia were below the proper strength, and no attempt had been made to enforce the Constitutional law of raising it by ballot. He exceedingly regretted that. The system of deferred pay was most objectionable, and the sooner it was 1624 abolished the better. He was surprised that no proposals had been made for extending the manœuvres. The Under Secretary for War had referred to the acquisition of 60 square miles on Salisbury Plain for that purpose. Did he think an Army could manœuvre on a space eight miles by eight miles? Such an area was nothing more than a large drill ground. Our Reserves did not receive sufficient training, and when they were called out to fill up weak battalions, as had been done in the case of Egypt, they had in some instances been found to be extremely insubordinate and difficult to deal with. But why were the Reserves not called out oftener? It was said that if called out they would not get employment. They got retaining pay, and why not call them out at least for a few days every year"? ["Hear, hear?"] He had been in the Army 30 years, and he had never known the Militia Reserve to be called out. He believed that any hon. Member who was in the service would bear him out in that statement. He maintained that when the Reserve men had been called out in England they had been found to give a great deal of trouble. [Cries of "No!"] As to what had been said with regard to the provisions of guns for the Artillery, he happened to command a brigade of Volunteers, and he should like to know where the guns were that would be a necessary adjunct to the force if they were called upon at short notice to go into action. As far as he could ascertain we had something like 200 guns only nominally assigned for that purpose, which amounted to about half a gun per thousand men. The Government had made no adequate provision of these arms, but they came down to that House with a mere makeshift proposal to carry out the linked battalion system. He would not detain the House longer at that late hour of the night, and he could only apologise for having occupied its time at such length. The matter, however, was one of great importance, and it was this fact that had led him to trespass so long upon the good nature and indulgence of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said that the state of our military forces was a subject that fully deserved the attention of that House. For some 18 1625 or 20 years he had held a Commission in Her Majesty's Service—not in the Regulars, but in the Militia—and he had taken a great interest in the question of the recruitment of the force. It appeared to him that it was a mistake to recruit for the Army and for the Militia separately. They ought to recruit for the two branches of the Service together, and after the men had received a certain amount of training they should be allowed to elect whether they would join the Militia or the regular Army. As it was, he believed that some 15,000 or 20,000 men who were recruited for the Militia went into the regular Army every year. That appeared to him to be a very wasteful and unworkable system, which ought to be abolished. Then, in order to stop desertion in the regular Army, a soldier, after a certain probationary period, should be free to return to civil life or to remain with the colours as he thought fit. The Government, in place of adding three battalions to the Guards and sending them to Gibraltar and Malta, where they could not be properly trained, and consequently must deteriorate, should have added four regiments to the Line, which would have been a real and a useful addition to the Army. In his opinion the proposal of the Government to send the Guards abroad would render it very difficult to obtain recruits for that branch of the Army. The hon. Member for Aberdeen had drawn attention to the excessive amount of drinking that went on in the Army—but in India it would be found that some 30 or 40 per cent. of the men were
§ total abstainers. With regard to the Militia Reserve, it was a singular fact that during the Russo-Turkish War, when the men belonging to some regiments were called out, actually more turned up than the number that were called out. That this was the case was brought to his attention by the fact that when the Reserve men in his regiment were paraded for inspection prior to their being drafted into the linked battalions of the line, four more men than the complement were found to be present, and it was only after the roll-call had been taken that the intruders were discovered. In any case, it showed an excellent spirit. With regard to the question of the Militia, it was ridiculous to count 135,000 men as the Militia force. The Militia force was only 105,000 men, the fact being that 30,000 belonged to the Militia Reserve. Rut in time of emergency there would be, unfortunately, only 75,000, because 30,000 would have to serve in line regiments. The Government had not grasped the nettle and done what be believed the country would have backed them up in, namely, to add four regiments (eight battalions) to our Army. If they had done so, he should have loyally supported them, but as they had not done the right thing, he should vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left, out stand part of the Question:"—The House divided:—Ayes, 107; Noes, 63.—(Division List—No. 20—appended.)1627
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bousfield, William Robert||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Arnold, Alfred||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole|
|Ascroft, Robert||Brookfield, A. Montagu||Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds.)|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Bullard, Sir Harry||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Butcher, John George||Courtney, Rt. Hon. Leonard H.|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Caldwell, James||Cox, Robert|
|Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness)||Campbell, James A.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Caustoan, Richard Knight||Dalbiac, Major Philip Hugh|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Darling, Charles John|
|Balfour, Gerald William (Leeds)||Cecil, Lord Hugh||Denny, Colonel|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. Blair (Clackm)||Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)||Dixon, George|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Charrington, Spencer||Doxford, William Theodore|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Chelsea, Viscount||Drucker, A.|
|Bethell, Captain||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Clarke, Sir Edward (Plymouth)||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Ellis, Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh.)|
|Fardell, Thomas George||Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Joliffe, Hon. H. George||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Kemp, George||Pretyman, Capt. Ernest, George|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J.(Manc'r)||Kenny, William||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Purvis, Robert|
|Finch, George H.||Knowles, Lees||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lafone, Alfred||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir Matthew W.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Flannery, Fortescue||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)||Round, James|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Lecky, William Edward H.||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Flower, Ernest||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Folkestone, Viscount||Leighton, Stanley||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Forster, Henry William||Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Forwood, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur B.||Llewellyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swnsea)||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.(Essex)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Garfit, William||Lockwood, Sir Frank (York)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Gedge, Sydney||Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Load.)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (L'pool)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Smith, Mon. W. F. I). (Strand)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Godson, Augustus Frederick||Lucas-Shad well, William||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Gordon, John Edward||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Macdona, John Gumming||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. G'rg's)||Maclure, John William||Start, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||McArthur, William||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||McCalmont, Maj.-Gen (Anr'm N)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||McEwan, William||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Green, Walford D.(Wednesb'ry)||McKillop, James||Pre, Alexander|
|Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.)||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Valentia, Viscount|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon Lord George||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Warkworth, Lord|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Milbank, Powlett Charles John||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Monckton, Edward Philip||Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)|
|Havelock-Allan, General Sir H.||Muntz, Philip A.||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down)||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Willoughby do Eresby, Lord|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Myers, William Henry||Wodehouse, Edmond R. (Bath)|
|Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Woodall, William|
|Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H|
|Hunt, Sir Frederick Seager||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice-||Parkes, Ebenezer||Younger, William|
|Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Penn, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Sir William Walrond and Mr.|
|Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Anstruther.|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Griffith, Ellis J.||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Allen, Wm.(Newc-under-Lyme)||Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Roche, Hon. James (East Kerry)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Joicey, Sir James||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Labouchere, Henry||Shaw, Wm. Rawson (Halifax)|
|Brigg, John||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Leng, Sir John||Spicer, Albert|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Lloyd-George, David||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Tennant, Harold John|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Macaleese, Daniel||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||McDermott, Patrick||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Davitt, Michael||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Dillon, John||McKenna, Reginald||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Doogan, P. C.||McLeod, John||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Edwards, Gen. Sir James Bevan||Milner, Sir Frederick George||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.)|
|Engledow, Charles John||Morton, Edward John Chalmers||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hud'rsf'ld)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES, Sir Charles Dilke and Major Rasch.|
|Finch-Hatton, Hon. Harold H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Parnell, John Howard|
|Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Pirie, Captain Duncan Vernon|
|Greville, Captain||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
, in whose name the following-motion stood on the Paper—That the proposal to station three battalions of the Guards in the Mediterranean requires further serious consideration at the hands of her Majesty's Government,said it was most distasteful to him to criticise any of the measures brought forward by the Government. He knew he was pledged to support them on every possible occasion, and he thought he had fairly redeemed that pledge. ["Hear, hear!"] But what he had to criticise that evening was not an error of policy he considered it an error of judgment which might easily be altered in the respect of which he was going to speak without any difficulty or loss of dignity to the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government had determined, and he thought rightly, to strengthen the Army, and with that proposition he thought nobody on his side of the House and very few on the other side would find fault, though from the speeches they had heard that night they knew there was a difference of opinion as to the method in which it should be carried out. He wished particularly to speak of the quartering of a portion of the Guards in the Mediterranean. The officers of the Guards, though they did hold very serious objection to the plan, objected not from any selfish motive or because they entertained the slightest objection to serving Her Majesty in any quarter of the globe, but because they believed the plan would be detrimental to the Brigade of Guards and would diminish its efficiency. ["Hear, hear!"] His objections to the plan were that the War Office would not obtain the requisite number of recruits of the necessary physique, and that the scheme would in juriously affect the Household troops by applying to them the linked battalion system which had already failed in the Line. The Brigade of Guards was a privileged body of troops, their privilege being to guard the Queen, and they maintained a high standard in drill and physique. Lord Lansdowne wanted to make use of the Guards to relieve the present strain on the Army. Instead of altering the linked battalion system he was going to use the Guards in a makeshift manner at the risk of impairing their efficiency. The Secretary of State acknowledged that 1630 on starting for Gibraltar a battalion would require a large draft of men, and he called that a loan in exchange; but, as a matter of fact, it would be depleting the battalion at home. A battalion at home would have to supply very nearly 200 men, which would reduce its numbers to about 540. He did not find fault with the proposal to increase the Brigade by two battalions, if the recruits could be got, but could they? The Guards, in numbers and efficiency, were now a pattern of excellence to the battalions of the Line; but instead of making the latter equivalent in numbers and, if possible, in excellence to the Guards, the Government were going to level the Guards down to the standard of the Line battalions. How were the Government going to keep up a strong battalion abroad with a yearly waste of about 200 men? The waste would have to be supplied from the battalions at home. The Secretary of State was optimistic in his views. He could not affirm that he would obtain the necessary number of recruits. He only hoped that he would, and confessed that if he found he could not, he would be prepared to modify his proposal. In case of an offensive expedition being necessary from this country, how many men could be put into the field? According to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean, not more than 16,000. That was a small enough number of men, but of that small force the Guards would form the very backbone, complete as they were now in numbers. It must be borne in mind that the three years' enlistment system prevailed in the Guards, and consequently twice as many men would have to be drawn off for relieving battalions abroad as would have to be drawn off in the ease of Line battalions where the period of service was longer. Then there was the question of training. He presumed that it was in a man's second year of service that he would be sent to Gibraltar, where he could obtain no training in field firing and other necessary duties. After his three years' service he would be passed into the Reserve for nine years, during which he would have no opportunity of practising those duties. At home the Guards got a very fair amount of training at manœuvres or at Pirbright, and they were practised in marching in London. It should be 1631 remembered that it was still to be proved whether the men who had been some time in the Reserve would be as efficient on mobilisation as one hoped they would be. There was no doubt that we got a large proportion of our recruits from men who believed that their services in the Brigade of Guards would enable them to get positions on the railways and in the police force. These men also had this advantage—that they were on the spot, and were thus able to obtain these situations with greater ease. He would not allude to the question as to whether it was a breach of faith to ask the Brigade of Guards to serve abroad. Technically speaking, he believed it was not; but it was going perilously near it. It was true that it would cost more to have raised the Line battalions, but the cost of maintaining the battalions of the Brigade of Guards was very nearly £10,000 a year more than the Line battalions. Where were the officers to come from for the new battalions? Were the Government going to bring in officers from other corps and to place them over the heads of officers already serving in the Brigade? The late Secretary for War had stated that of late the standard of height had been higher than it was before. But within three months the height had been reduced from 5ft. 9in. to 5ft. 8½in.; and he remembered the time when the standard had been as low as 5ft. 6in. In times of difficult recruiting they would even have a lower standard than that of these extra battalions. The standard of height, which it was desirable to maintain in the recruits for the Guards, would thus be deteriorated. He feared that the Government had come to a decision on this matter without sufficiently going into the question. Had they consulted an officer commanding a battalion or a regiment on these important points? So far as he could gather not an officer commanding a battalion or regiment had been consulted on the subject, or, if consulted, were in favour of it. On the contrary, they were unanimously against it. He understood that Lord Methuen had been consulted, and that he had reported in favour of the proposal; but if that was so, he could not understand the conduct of Lord Methuen in another place in damning the Measure with very faint praise indeed. If the Government were determined to carry out their policy, he 1632 believed it would certainly deteriorate the quality of the men forming the Guards. In time it would certainly weaken, if not ruin, the Brigade. This would not be the first time that the height of men for the Guards had been reduced owing to the want of recruits. In 1878 the Scots Guards wanted 460 men, and the establishment was reduced from 2,000 to 1,500 men; in 1881 they were reduced by two companies, which showed that it was not always easy for the Brigade to procure men of the size and chest measurement necessary for Household troops. He suggested that the authorities should note three points—(1) the battalion abroad should be of the same strength as the battalion at home; (2) their service abroad should not exceed one year or, at the outside, 18 months; and (3) no draft should be sent from the home battalion to the battalion abroad.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Beds, Biggleswade)
endorsed the remarks made by his hon. and gallant Friend who had just sat down. The subject was one he had always advocated and preached the gospel of on public platforms on every possible occasion—that was to say, the increase of the Army, and the increased efficiency of the Army. It was a matter of deep regret that on this the first occasion for some years when the Government had been able to bring forward a measure of this kind he could not profess himself in sympathy with them. He did not speak from the sentimental, but from the practical point of view. He was a practical soldier, having been acting adjutant of the Guards for some years, and afterwards adjutant of his own regiment. [Cheers.] He cordially agreed with the Under Secretary when he said it was not the system which had failed, but the manner in which it had been carried out. The late Commander-in-Chief, in his evidence before the Wantage Committee, stated that "every battalion at home is inefficent." The Adjutant General at that time said, "At the present moment we have not a single infantry battalion effective at home." And the General Commanding at Aldershot and Lord Wolseley gave evidence to the same effect. The latter added that the "only exception to that state of things was the Guards." Lord Wolseley spoke with perfect truth when he referred to the great difficulties 1633 the officers of the Guards had to contend with in order to produce that state of things in their ranks. He thought he was right in saying that when the short-service system was first introduced the officers and non-commissioned officers of the Brigade of Guards were perfectly appalled at the task they had before them. It was only by putting their backs into it that the Guards were brought up to the same state of efficiency in three years' service as they had been under long service. He would brush aside the question of the privileges of the Guards. They had had many in the past, and most of them had departed one by one and every officer felt that the rest would go some day or other. He would ask leave to brush aside the opinions of the officers, as it was admitted on all hands that their convenience was not part of the question. There might be some gilded youths who could not endure a year at Gibraltar, and there might be men of property whom it would not suit to leave the country. But the Army would not lose if these men left it. But the one difficulty in the past had been that all the officers of the Guards had been volunteering for active service in all parts of the world. He hoped, however, that this question of the Guards going to Gibraltar was not looked upon in any way in the light of a penalty or a punishment. But it could not be forgotton that only two years ago, when one of the battalions of Guards relaxed their discipline somewhat, the authorities, after mature consideration, inflicted this very punishment on officers and men. With regard to Gibraltar as a station, he had served with a Line regiment at Gibraltar for a year. The duties there were particularly hard, and the fatigues were most irksome. The manœuvring ground was so small as to be hardly worthy of the name, and the ranges were not adequate. From the moment that the soldier set foot on Gibraltar his education as a soldier ceased. If three battalions of Guards were sent to Gibraltar it would be for a year or 18 months; and this was the fact which must be faced—that on the outbreak of war the three battalions at Gibraltar would be trained as soldiers up to 18 months and no further, while the three battalions at home would be just training up to 18 months. Supposing the first battalion of Grenadier Guards went out this 1634 year; they would draw the best men they could get for the second battalion. In 1898 the second battalion would go out and the first would come home; and the second would then have, not two battalions but only one to draw upon, and from that moment the drafts would always be on one battalion only. The Line regiments had an advantage over the Guards in this respect, because they each had a militia regiment affiliated to them on which they could draw. It was said that these proposals were the outcome of Lord Wantage's Committee; but they were only one of three suggestions made by the Committee. The first suggestion was to take in the Cameron Highlanders and raise five new Line battalions. The next was to treat Malta and Gibraltar as home stations. The third suggestion of the Committee was the one the Government had now brought forward. But the whole crux of the question as to the adoption of that suggestion was, as the Committee had pointed out, the state of the recruiting. It was perfectly true that a few years ago the standard for the Guards had to be raised owing to the number of recruits. But last summer, during the so-called military manœuvres, the Grenadiers were 100 below strength, and a recruiting party had to be sent to London to recruit, especially among the Militia, and it was only by the superhuman efforts of the recruiting party that the battalion was brought up to the required strength. At the present time the Coldstreams and the Scots Greys were also below strength. The fact was that in the years 1894 and 1895 the labour market was in a bad condition, recruits were plentiful, and so the standard had to be raised. But with the advent of a Unionist Government came prosperity, in some trades at least—[laughter]—with the result that the number of recruits fell off and the standard had to be lowered. Therefore, considering the actual condition of the Brigade of Guards at the present moment—under strength and with the standard lowered—it was hardly an opportune time to try this new experiment. ["Hear, hear!"] The only real defence of the Government's proposal which he had heard was the defence of economy. It was said that there would be a saving of £200,000 a year. He should like to know how these figures were arrived at. 1635 He doubted whether they would stand the test of investigation. But would anyone seriously propose that for the sake of saving £200,000 a year, they should risk destroying the efficiency of what Lord Wolseley had truly described as the finest body of men in the world?
§ CAPTAIN BAGOT (Westmorland, Kendal)
thought the experiment which was to be made in respect to the Guards was one the result of which appeared to be extremely doubtful. If battalions which had to find men for their linked battalions abroad would be decimated, it would be interesting to know what, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, was the peculiarity of the Guards which would place them in a different position. Certainly a Brigade of Guards would have two battalions at home to one abroad, and, therefore, the battalions at home would be only decimated or squeezed to half the extent of other battalions. The Guards were the only real short-service battalions we had; they represented, on a small scale, the continental regiments which had real short service and a large reserve. The present peace establishment of a battalion of Guards was 744 men and the war establishment 999. The establishment of a battalion in the Mediterranean was 921 rank and file, and he presumed that under the scheme the right hon. Gentleman would send a battalion of Guards to the Mediterranean of the same strength as line battalions were there now. In that case, battalions of the Guards which were ordered to the Mediterranean would have to find 208 men in place of those left at home. It would also have to find the deficiencies between the present peace establishment—744—and the 920 it would require to have in order to be on the establishment of the Mediterranean, that was 177. In all 385, or roughly speaking 400, would have to be found by the two battalions remaining at home. That would leave each of the two battalions at home 544 strong, of whom a certain proportion would be recruits. The crux of the question came when the first relief was to go out and the first battalion on the Mediterranean service come home. Take the three battalions of the Grenadiers. The first battalion would go out to the Mediterranean and at the end of the year it would come home, and the first relief would have to 1636 go out. When the first battalion came home it would have a large number of time-expired men of three years' service. Who would find the 400 men to make the second battalion fit to go to the Mediterranean? Clearly the first battalion which had just come home could not do so. The third battalion would have to find the men. The third battalion would then be left with 344 men, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman, and anyone interested in the Army, whether he would like to see such a battalion of Guards doing duty at home. He greatly feared that under the scheme of the Government the battalions of Guards left at home, after furnishing the reliefs for the battalions abroad, would, in a few years, be reduced to the condition of the Line battalions as described by Lord Wolseley—namely, that of squeezed lemons. He wished to direct attention to another consideration. Hitherto the Guards had been regarded in a certain sense as show battalions, and had been proudly displayed to the foreign visitor as specimens of British infantry. Moreover, the Guards being kept in London got a knowledge of the streets, and were brought frequently into contact with large masses of the people. They were also extremely popular, and in the case of any public disturbance, which unfortunately sometimes occurred, the Guards, composed as they were of steady and trained men, would be much better able to deal prudently with an unruly street mob than a Line battalion made up chiefly of recruits. That was a consideration again not altogether unworthy of the attention of the authorities. ["Hear, hear!"] However, he thought that, in the circumstances, hon. Members would be satisfied if the Government would state that the proposed change would only be in the nature of an experiment, and that, it in the next few years it was found to have any disadvantageous effect on the efficiency and physique of the Guards, that experiment would be given up and the brigade would be allowed to revert to the present system. ["Hear!"]
§ Debate adjourned.
§ Supply,—Committee upon Wednesday.