§ On the Vote of £614,200, for capitation grants and miscellaneous charges for Volunteer corps, including the pay, etc., of the permanent staff.
SIR H. FLETCHER (Sussex, Lewes)
I have only one or two points about which to ask the Financial Secretary, but I do not see my honourable Friend. I gave him notice of the Questions. One is as to the transport of Volunteers. The Chairman will recollect that a year or two ago there was a Committee appointed by the War Office for the purpose of inquiring into the best means to be adopted for effecting the transport of Volunteers. I believe the Committee reported some 772 time ago, but we have heard nothing more about it, and I think it most desirable, if my honourable Friend the Financial Secretary can give it, that we should have some information on the subject. It is, no doubt, a very important question in connection with the Volunteer force. The question of mobilisation without transport is almost impracticable; therefore, as the Committee has sat, and as, I believe, it has reported, I think it most desirable that we should have some information on the subject. There is another point on which I would like to hear from the honourable Gentleman, and that is the question of the ranges. That is a question of the greatest importance to the Force, and I know the War Office has had it under its consideration for some time past. Probably the time has arrived now when some information may be given as to the number of ranges which are now available for use by Volunteers armed with the Lee-Metford rifle, which has now been served out to almost all the Volunteer rifle corps in the kingdom. One other matter is scarcely a novel one, as I brought it forward some three or four years ago, and that is the question of instructing the Volunteers in the manual exercises, the same as carried out by the Regular Army. Since the formation of the Volunteer Force they have been instructed in the use of the short rifle, but I think, now that there are so many Volunteer battalions existing under the territorial arrangement, the same manual should be adopted by the Volunteers as that in vogue in the Regulars. I am happy to say, now, that Volunteers are vying with the Regular Army in formal manœuvres and otherwise. But what I wish to impress upon my honourable Friend is that it is not desirable that one part of the Forces should be drilled by the manual, and the other part drilled differently; and I suggest that it should be considered whether it is not desirable that one system alone should be general. Speaking as one of the oldest Volunteers in the country, I can safely say that it would be most acceptable to the whole Force. I do not wish, at this period of the Session, to bring on other matters which might have been more properly discussed earlier, and will limit my remarks to these three matters.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War a question on the Report of the Committee on the decentralisation of the War Office, which recommended that certain appointments, such as Volunteer adjutancies, should be placed in the hands of generals commanding districts. I would like to know if that recommendation will be carried out, because it seems to me that in these days of auxiliary Forces the appointment of these officers and those on the staff of those regiments should be in the hands of generals commanding districts, because they have a much better opportunity of judging of these officers' qualifications than a decentralised War Office can ever have. There are also two or three returns in that Report which it is suggested should be done away with. I hope and trust that suggestion will be carried out. The other question I have to ask the right honourable Gentleman refers to the organisation of the Volunteers. I know that that Committee had simply to deal with the decentralisation of the War Office, and had nothing to do with the decentralisation of the Army. At present Volunteers are organised in brigades, and that is an important step; and I would ask the right honourable Gentleman whether it is contemplated to group these brigades into divisions, because I believe that divisional organisation will be very much more useful, in case of invasion, than the system adopted at the present time. I think it will be found that that is the system in practice in Germany. The Germans are the most practical soldiers in the world, and they have demonstrated that the grouping of brigades into divisions provides the readiest method of mobilisation in time of war.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The honourable and gallant Member who has just sat down touched upon an important subject, and one which he thoroughly understands—namey the organisation of the Army in time of war. There is no doubt in regard to the question as to the Volunteers—in which we are concerned at this moment—that some brigades are too large, and some of the London brigades in particular, and I admit it is necessary to make some arrangement by which to make these Forces more effective in times of emergency. The case put by the 774 honourable and gallant Gentleman has come under the consideration of the military authorities within the last two months, and I think it probable that before long some important step will be taken. I can assure the honourable and gallant Member that the desirability of assimilating our peace organisation to that which would be employed in war will not be lost sight of. He has also asked me whether this recommendation in the Decentralisation Committee's Report, in regard to the appointments, will be carried out. It is difficult to give general officers complete power, as there are a number of cases in which the adjutant-general must have a voice in the appointment. As my honourable and gallant Friend knows, the post of adjutant should fall to a man well known to the regiment, and the remark applies equally to a battalion at home as to a battalion abroad. The whole scheme has been to give the general officer as much power as possible, with an exception where his authority overrides the authority of some other officer. With regard to the general subject of decentralisation, I may remind the Committee that there has already been a wholesale massacre of returns and references. In reference to the question put by my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes, it is true that here also, a great many changes are contemplated, but no final decision has yet been come to as to Volunteer transport. A difficulty arises, no doubt, but it must be remembered that in the case of mobilisation in time of war, the transport of Volunteers would be more eagerly taken up on the spot than would be possible were they hundreds of miles away. The question has not been lost sight of; I myself have for many years made it my study, and we will see if something cannot be done in the direction suggested by my honourable and gallant Friend. With regard to the manual exercise, I understand that it was never originally intended to be confined to the short rifle. As to the question of ranges, considerable progress has been made in this matter during the year. There are central ranges in several districts, and I am able to announce that on our land upon Salisbury Plain we have laid out two more ranges, which will be available next year, and Volunteer 775 battalions will have every opportunity for practice on Government ground. We have reserved certain space for the Volunteers; they will have their ranges, which they who choose can avail themselves of for class-firing. It should be observed that this is not only a great difficulty, but one of increasing difficulty, as the more the population grows space is diminished. I trust, therefore, that Salisbury Plain will prove of great benefit in the future.
SIR H. FLETCHER
May I ask one more question in regard to the manual exercise? I observe permission has already been given to one brigade, the Hampshire Volunteers, to drill according to the manual of the Regular Forces. I brought forward this question some years ago, and I have also written to the War Office, but have received no reply. Now that that rule has been made with regard to one brigade, why not apply it to the whole Volunteer Force, and issue instructions accordingly? Speaking from long experience and knowledge of the Force, I think it is most desirable that we should only have one manual.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £710,400 for transports and re-mounts.
§ COLONEL WELBY
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War as to this question whether he can give the Committee any idea as to the number of untrained re-mounts which actually come into the ranks. I want to arrive at the real state of efficiency of our Cavalry regiments at the present time. My experience shows me that in regard to certain regiments, 15, perhaps 20, per cent. of those regiments' horses are of no use for active service, because they are so young. I urged upon the right honourable Gentleman before, and I urge upon him again, to say whether, in making a return of the horses belonging to our Cavalry, he discriminates between re-mounts and those trained in the Army, for the efficient fighting strength of our Army must be ascertained. Whether it be in regard to horses or men, this return does not convey to the lay mind any adequate idea of the strength of the Army at the present time. And I would like to know whether the War Office has any substantial reserve of horses other than what is shown in 776 this Vote. There are the horses for which 10s. a year is paid. Great stress is laid on the value of them. Certain horses, which come up for a certain number of years, do their work very well, but I think, if you take the thousands of horses over which we have control, and were to suddenly swell the strength of our cavalry regiments, these regiments would not be fit to meet the French or German Cavalry. With good riders it is utterly impossible to win with unbroken horses in the ranks when charging. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman whether there has been under consideration any proposal to try and introduce into the Army some more real reserve of horses. In Germany they buy the horse, and train him, and as soon as he is fully trained he is put on to the reserve, and he goes into the country for farm work or other labour. He is carefully inspected by inspectors from time to time, and the Government are able to lay their hands on him at any moment. When I was once in command of a Cavalry regiment, I asked one of the staff if we had everything ready for mobilisation. He said, "Yes." I asked where were the reserve horses, and he said, "Oh, we have not got those." I say it is misleading to the public at large to say that we have all these horses in reserve, when it is not the fact. I suggest to the right honourable Gentleman that it would be far better to have a few thoroughly well-trained horses at a cost which would appear in this Vote than to have a lot of untrained horses upon which we have merely got an eye. The other question I would ask has reference to whether the re-mount department could not supply horses for the mounted officers in the infantry, and whether it would not be possible to buy horses cheaply to do infantry officers' work, and let them out. Again, could not these horses be let out to those infantry officers at a low rate? There is no doubt, where an officer is anything but a rich man, this question of horses is one of very great hardship indeed. I should like to know why the re-mount department cannot supply the Infantry officer. Let there be horses which are suited to them, and by some arrangement with the War Office let the horses be loaned. The Government can more readily lay their hands on these 777 horses, and I do think they might do a great amount of good in this direction. At the same time, it would increase the number of trained horses which the country would have at command.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My honourable and gallant Friend has brought forward the case of re-mounting the infantry officers, and I would remark that in the case of mounted officers, both in the Cavalry and in the Infantry, we have already, to a certain extent, taken a step forward in that direction. A young officer, on joining, is allowed to hire a horse at the cost of the nation——
§ MR. BRODRICK
True, it only refers to the Cavalry, and whether it is possible to extend that system must depend on how far the State is a loser by the transaction. As to the provision of this extra number of horses, it must be borne in mind that we have no power to control what an officer may do when hunting and so forth. I, personally, have always been in sympathy with what my honourable and gallant Friend says—namely, that a mounted officer has to provide himself with one or two horses at a heavy cost, which is by no means lessened if he has to sell them on changing. Therefore, this is an experiment I would like to see tried more widely. As regards the number of horses, I may mention that we added 400 in the month of March to the Cavalry, and there will be a larger percentage in the future; and it is confidently expected that Cavalry regiments, taking the field, will be able to keep the horses which they already have. I feel, however, that I must speak up a little for the reserve of horses, which my honourable and gallant Friend appears to think is not a substantial reserve. I am inclined to put this question to him: Is it more desirable to have a horse sent out, as in Germany, to do farming work, or to have a horse out of the 14,000 we have got, and of which 8,000 are fully trained? When it is considered what we propose to add to the number of horses, either in the Cavalry or Artillery, I think there is not the slightest fear to be apprehended; and, although it is quite true that the horses in the reserve have not been trained, we believe that, with a large number at our command, we could supply 778 horses for the Cavalry and Artillery which would be fit to do their work within a week. So that I really believe that this country is better off at the present time for meeting an emergency in the matter of horses than it ever has been.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £862,000 for clothing establishments and services.
§ COLONEL WELBY
I must apologise for wearying the Committee, but I would like to ask the Secretary for War a question as to the desirability of keeping the full dress of Cavalry regiments distinct from their working dress. The point has cropped up several times in respect to regiments of guards and hussars; and in the amalgamation of certain of these individual regiments they have suffered not a little. As to the 6th Dragoon Guards, I do not quite know how that question has been settled; but I do think a mistake has been made. At one time, there was a tendency to introduce a practical garment, which would be of such a shape as to lose nothing in appearance. I do not think the War Office has always recognised that ours is a Volunteer Army, and that we cannot turn them all out alike, as in Germany, or in France, where everybody is forced into the ranks. There, if they put a man into a nightgown he has to wear it. I do think that the misfortune of our Army has always been, ever since I can remember it, that whenever a practical garment has been introduced, the commanding officer has tried to improve upon it, and failed. Only the other day, my old regiment was sent out in the ugliest garb the War Office ever designed. Instead of having the old bearskin, so famous in history, they had a hideous substitute. I think, if it were more strictly laid down that there should be a show dress as well as a working dress, fewer difficulties would arise. At the same time, we should go on the principle of combining smartness with serviceability. The quality of the cloth should also be seen to. In my own regiment, I hare known hundreds of jackets give down the middle. I urge these facts on the attention of the right honourable Gentleman now, and I know that he will do his his best to devise a remedy.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I concur entirely with the suggestions which have just fallen from the honourable and gallant Member that it is desirable to make some regimental distinction. Unfortunately, there is always the difficulty with us that the short jacket never looks well on some figures. There can be no doubt whatever that in any change of this kind the popularity of the uniform has to be taken into account, and where there is a doubt on the point it is best to let well alone. We are anxious to provide for the exigencies of the Service by giving an interchangeable undress jacket, and yet retain the full dress, with all Its regimental associations.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £118,200 for establishments for military education.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £54,300 for miscellaneous effective services.
§ Question put, and agreed to
§ On the Vote of £67,200 for scientific services.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I desire to call attention to this Vote. It is in the Navy Estimates, and it ought not to be there. You have got two scientific services. One is a Navy Estimate, and it is generally counted as for the United kingdom; the other is a special scientific service in England. The first item of it is for the Astronomer Royal and for the expenses of Greenwich Observatory. I compare that with what the Scotch Astronomer Royal and the Scotch Observatory get, and I find there is a very great difference. I observe that the Astronomer Royal is generally put down as an Imperial personage and the Astronomer Royal of Scotland as a Scotch official. That shows how inadvisable it is for this Vote to be in the Navy Estimates. It ought not to be in the Navy Estimates at all. It ought to be in for special service. All that is paid to the Astronomer Royal for Scotland is £400 a year, whereas in England the Astronomer Royal is paid £1,000 a year. An 780 assistant is paid £600, or more than the salary of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland. It seems you have a very well-equipped laboratory, and you have a number of assistants very well paid. We vote to the Royal Society £15,000 a year for doing exactly analogous work, and the Royal Society is spending the money very badly. Nobody has any control over it except the Astronomer Royal himself. They pay a small committee £1,000 a year, and they give their secretary £800 a year, which is spending the money very foolishly. The whole thing ought to be changed. I strongly object to the amount coming in this Estimate. There is next an item for the observatory at the Cape of Good Hope. The Astronomer gets £900 a year, or more than twice the amount the Astronomer Royal for Scotland gets. It appears that the Astronomer Royal for Scotland is a much less important personage than one of the assistants out at the Cape of Good Hope, for you pay the chief assistant out at the Cape from £500 to £600 a year. We have just now a very important observatory on Ben Nevis, the highest observatory in Great Britain, and it would have had to be closed this year had it not been for a public-spirited citizen who has come forward and subscribed £500, which will enable the observatory to be carried on for another year. And yet, if we go as far as the Cape, we find as much as £7,000 a year spent on the observatory. I want to know whether the Admiralty will take this very admirable observatory on Ben Nevis under their wing and give us £500 to maintain it. Otherwise we will require to move next year one or two reductions, in order to see if, by a little economy, we can get something to maintain this observatory.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
It is rather for the Treasury than for the Admiralty to decide whether the observatory at Ben Nevis shall be maintained at the cost of the State. I have no doubt that very excellent work is being done there. But the work done at the Cape of Good Hope is especially valuable to the Admiralty; it is one to which we attach very great importance, and not too much is paid for it.
781 On the Vote of £237,000 for the Royal Naval Reserves,
§ SIR C. DILKE
I am sure the Committee will be glad of anything the First Lord of the Admiralty can tell us with regard to the progress made with the new Naval Reserve.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
The new system has been working admirably during the past year. The essence of the new system is that the men who go to sea are to have six months' training. There was a time when the scheme rather hung fire, but certain slight changes have been made, and we have been able to obtain as many men anxious to go to sea for six months as we have been able to accommodate in our ships. The right honourable Baronet will see that it must be mainly in the Channel and Mediterranean ships and vessels near home that the men must be placed. It is only a limited number of men we can accommodate. I think about 750 men have been afloat at one time—that is to say, quite as many as we were anticipating. What is particularly satisfactory is that these men have been inspected, and they have proved to be most excellent material. I have had an opportunity of seeing some of them; and the Admiral Superintendent of Reserves had seen them in considerable numbers, and his report of them was particularly good—they were amenable and got into the way of the ship. I have also had reports from captains. One captain wrote to the Admiralty—If you can send me 50 more men of this class I shall be glad to have them in my ship.The general result of the scheme was most satisfactory. I hope that is the kind of information the right honourable Gentleman desires.
§ SIR C. DILKE
I am sure the Committee will be very glad to hear the satisfactory report the right honourable Gentleman has made on this subject. I should be glad to hear what steps have been taken towards an extension of the Reserve system in the Colonies. In Newfoundland especially you have an enormous class of hardy fishermen whose wages are very low. It appears to some of us that when it becomes necessary to increase the Reserve a substantial and 782 valuable force could be obtained from Newfoundland, if necessary.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY
Yes; I had an opportunity of seeing the Premier of Newfoundland when he was here, and we went very fully into the subject. We agreed that certain experiments should be made. He offered that all facilities for making an experiment should be granted; and we agreed that we must ascertain whether the colony will submit to it—whether the sea-going population would go to sea for six months for the necessary tests. If they will, I will do all I can to bring about the experiment. If we can arrive at a satisfactory arrangement we will.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Votes of £232,900 for miscellaneous effective services, and of £60,300 for additional naval force for service in Australasian waters, agreed to.
§ Progress was reported, and the House resumed.