§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
For 1258 the second time in the course of this financial year it is my duty to submit a Supplementary Estimate to this Committee for Army services. Hon. Members will recollect that in October last we voted 35,000 men and £10,000,000 in addition to something less than 185,000 men and something more than £20,600,000, which were voted on the normal annual Estimates of the year. That Supplementary Estimate in October last was based upon our expectation of the sum which would fall due for payment in connection with the war in South Africa before March 31. I feel, Sir, that I ought to apologise to this Committee for mentioning so elementary a matter, but my excuse is this, that although we are all more or less experts here and familiar with the methods by which authority is given for raising supplies, there are others outside this House who cannot be expected to know all the details of our financial system, but who take a very intelligible interest not only in the conduct but also in the cost of this war. I was travelling the other day in the train, and I happened to be the unwilling eavesdropper during a very animated debate, in which vigorous charges were preferred against the Government, especially in respect of what right hon. Gentlemen opposite call the Government's want of judgment and foresight, and the most prodigious indictment of all was that my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer laboured last October under the delusion that this war could be successfully concluded for the sum of £10,000,000. I wish to protect my right hon. friend against any similar misapprehension with regard to this Supplementary Estimate. I may perhaps say that, if the force originally estimated at 75,000 men and some colonial troops had proved sufficient, that estimate would have been a close one. But all that is ancient history. We have had to double and more than double this force, and therefore it is I have to come down for the third time in one financial year to the Committee and ask for more men and more money. This Estimate covers two broad purposes. The men and the money needed for the prosecution of this war account for by far the greater part of the Estimate which I am now submitting, but they do not, as I shall show, account for the whole of it. I do not propose, in my opening statement in introducing this Estimate, to 1259 dwell upon the subject of the prosecution of the war, although I hope I shall be ready in reply to give upon that subject any further information which any hon. Member may desire. But I dealt with that subject at some length not many days ago, and I believe I shall fulfil the somewhat general expectation if I proceed at once to other services of a different character—namely, those which are necessary, in the opinion of the Government, for placing home defence upon a satisfactory basis. The amount asked for in this Estimate in respect of those services I may say affords no clue, in our opinion, to their importance, and certainly no clue to their magnitude. We are engaged in an over-sea expedition of unparalleled magnitude, and that has had two consequences. In the first place, in spite of its magnitude, it has failed to achieve its object, and we have to ask for further sums for the prosecution of the war. But in the second place, because of its magnitude it has reduced the resources available for home defence to a level altogether inadequate. On that ground we have to come to this Committee and ask hon. Members to remedy that defect. Now we are making this appeal, but let me assure hon. Members that we make it in no spirit of panic. This risk, against which military defence provides one half of the insurance, and only one half, is not, I believe, nearer, not much nearer, to-day than it was a year ago. But it is perceptibly greater. In exact proportion to the reduction of our military home defences, that risk is greater, and that is quite enough for the Government. It is sufficient to justify their demand, and it is sufficient, I believe, to justify our confidence that this Committee and the country will respond, will even seek to outstrip the Government in their alacrity to respond to such an appeal. Sir, I ought to say that our confidence in the power and splendid efficiency of the Fleet was never greater or more legitimate than it is now. But, whatever that confidence may be, and however reasonably entertained, neither this nor any other Government could be content to see the military resources for home defence fall much below the level to which we have been accustomed, or to brook a moment's delay in taking the steps which are necessary to reduce the risk of which I have spoken to the limits which we can 1260 contemplate with serenity. I have mentioned the Fleet, and at the outset I propose only to mention, to touch upon, and then leave the regular Army. I do that for one reason, because, even during the short time that I have represented the War Office, we have heard the Regular Army discussed again and again. As I pointed out last October, controversy has raged round every detail of it—about its numbers, the composition of its units, the Reserve, the short-service system, the machinery by which it provides drafts to relieve the Army abroad, and at the same time mobilises for home defence. All that has been discussed, and the discussions have been most interesting. But they have had this result; that, so far as I know, the Votes on our Estimates for the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers have not been discussed for two or three years. These most important forces, these great sources, as we think, of actual strength, and, perhaps, greater sources of potential strength, have been altogether obscured and withdrawn from the consideration of the House of Commons. Now, the first question which I think should be submitted to this Committee at this time is how we can turn the Auxiliary forces of this country to the best account. This subject has exercised a great deal of public attention recently. Writers of repute, and in some cases of authority, have urged on the Government recourse to some measure of modified compulsion. The Government do not propose to take that step. It is the view of the Government that these writers have overlooked or altogether under-estimated the vast volume of voluntary effort which has been offered in face of emergency by the Yeomanry, by Volunteer corps, and even by civilians, not only in this country, but in every part of Her Majesty's dominions. We therefore think it inexpedient even to consider any recourse to compulsion until some further attempt has been made to develop and organise these Auxiliary forces in time of peace. Our task—and I put this as plainly as I can to the Committee—is not to throw the whole British Army and Auxiliary forces into the melting pot, with the War Office into the bargain. Nothing could be more foolish at such a moment. Our task is to meet a great emergency by expedients. It does not follow that all these expedients must be temporary. Our opinion is that, wherever possible, these expedients 1261 should form integral parts of a permanent scheme, and that, wherever that is not possible—and in many cases it must necessarily be impossible—they should, at any rate, provide for us instructive experiments from which we may advance towards permanency such a scheme as would provide for the normal requirements of the Empire in times of peace, and yet be capable of expansion in time of war to the limits demanded by a period of Imperial danger. We hold that there is some consolation for our present difficulties in the great response of patriotism which they have evoked. We hold that this is a unique opportunity, and we believe that unless we turn it to the best account it will not remain unique, and we think that unless we profit by the present occasion similar difficulties, perhaps in an aggravated form, may trouble us in the future. It is said we can only learn by experience. That is our intention. A wise man makes a little experience go a long way. We have had enough experience, and we think we have had enough in the last few months to justify us in making proposals of some magnitude to the Committee and the nation. What is the position? We have sent to South Africa a very large proportion of all the men who have been trained in the Regular Army. I am not going into the point as to the units which have been sent or as to the breaches that have been made in the organisation. I refer to the number and no more; but not all the trained men have been sent. In all on February 1 we had still in this country 109,000 Regular troops. Still we are left largely dependdent on the Auxiliary forces. Now, first, I should like to consider the Auxiliary forces in respect of numbers, in respect of their units, regiments, battalions, batteries, and the duties at present allocated to those units under the existing scheme of defence. Lastly, I should like to submit to the Committee the opportunities we intend to give the Auxiliary forces in order that their numbers may expand, and that they may be in a position not only to fulfil their present duties more efficiently, but to take up other duties of a more onerous and exacting character. First, as to the mere numbers. On February 1 there were in this country Militiamen 97,500, Yeomanry 9,000, Volunteers 222,000, or in all 328,000 men. These figures are based on this 1262 calculation. I have only taken into account men who in the Militia and Yeomanry were present at training last year, and in the Volunteers men who were efficient, and then made the necessary additions and deductions. But I must point out that recruiting for the Auxiliary forces during the last month or so has reached a level which it never reached before. It has reached such a level as altogether to make good and exceed the drain to which these forces have been subjected, owing to those numbers who have with so much patriotism and gallantry crossed the sea to fight for their country. The Militia has gained by recruits last month 3,000 men. I ought just to point out that that is an underestimate; 4,729 recruits have joined the Militia, but, as hon. members who take an interest in these matters are well aware, a great number of men joining the Militia engage almost immediately afterwards in the Army. Everyone will, I think, allow that I have made a very liberal and ample reduction when I put the net gain at 3,000. The Yeomanry have received in the last month 2,000 recruits. Of course I it is true that the Yeomanry are sending 8,000 men to South Africa. But all these men were not Yeomen on the establishment. We calculate that about 2,500 of them were yeomen and the rest were civilians who have been brought into that force and trained with great expedition—thanks to the fact that in the Yeomanry we have an admirable machine which, thanks to the energy of the Yeomanry officers, has been admirably worked in order to provide the country at this moment with a considerable force of mounted infantry. The Volunteers have gained by recruiting last month 5,000 men, so that the total gain in numbers of the Auxiliary forces in a month has been 10,000. That is under existing conditions, and with existing facilities I should like the Committee to consider the establishment of these Auxiliary forces, because the number which I gave of 328,000 is very far below the number of their establishment. I will not weary the Committee, if you are satisfied with the details which I am giving, by troubling you with too many figures. But I would take the full establishment of the Militia, the Yeomanry, and the Volunteers which stood last year at 405,107. Well, if you deduct the efficient strength of these forces on 1st February you will find that there is a margin 1263 between those who are available at this moment and the establishment of 76,707. Do not the Committee hold, as we hold, that if under existing conditions the inflow of recruits is as voluminous as I have said, if we alter, if we improve the conditions, if we give further facilities to volunteer, we may count confidently on pulling up at least 50,000 of the 76,000 men? Perhaps I ought not to trouble the Committee with my personal view, but that is that we can easily reach the limits of the establishment. I will say no more on the question of mere numbers. We have got 328,000, but we aim at getting a full establishment of 405,000. Now I ask the Committee to consider one of the things which has never been discussed in this House, owing to the fact that we have not had time to consider the resources existing in the Auxiliary troops, and that is the units of these forces and their allocation under the existing scheme of defence for certain very necessary services. I do not wish to give these in any great detail, but in the Militia there are 32 companies of garrison artillery. Well, if we apprehend invasion, there is a place allocated in a given garrison to every one of these companies. In the Militia there are 124 battalions of infantry. If we apprehended invasion under the existing scheme of defence 96 of these battalions would be required for garrisons, leaving a margin unallotted of 28 battalions. Well, but we have already drawn very considerably upon the Militia; they have volunteered with such patriotism that we have been able to send out, or are about to send, from this country 36 battalions, 30 of which are serving or are about to enter on active service in South Africa. So that leaves us eight battalions of Militia to the bad for the purpose of garrisoning our seaports, arsenals, and commercial harbours. The Yeomanry I need not touch in this respect. The Yeomanry under the present scheme of defence was to act largely as a body of irregular horse worrying the flanks of an enemy. Now as to the Volunteers. The Volunteer artillery are organised in corps, but those under our scheme would be expanded into a greater number of units for the purpose of garrisoning important points of the country. I need not give the details of that. A great number of these artillery units are needed for garrisons, and a good number—namely, 88—are allocated to 1264 positions around the great range of chalk hills surrounding this city, the heart of the Empire. So that under the existing scheme there are only ten artillery units of Volunteers which are unallotted and which we can deal with. In the same way of infantry—there are 214 battalions, of which 75 are allocated to garrisons and 135 battalions are allocated to holding this great base around London and some of the advanced posts on the approaches to this great city. So that under the scheme as it did stand there were only four battalions of Volunteer infantry for which no specific purpose has been indicated or laid down. Now, that being so, we are left to the bad, so to speak, on both Militia and Volunteers together—that is to say, we have made good the Volunteers which have gone to South Africa, but we have not made good the battalions of Militia. Taking the two together, we have less battalion units in the country of the Auxiliary forces by some five than have been given definite posts for the defence of the country. Yes, but if we add 50,000 to the Auxiliary forces in the present year, if, as I anticipate myself, we bring them up to their establishment and add something like 75,000 men, it is clear that you will have a very large margin over and above those units which have been contemplated of from 50,000 to 70,000 Auxiliary troops, which you can divert to other purposes, perhaps of a more onerous and important character. There is another consideration I submit to the Committee. In estimating the garrisons necessary we have considered that about 30 per cent. more of the Auxiliary force would be needed than we should need if we were able to fill these garrisons and to take up these positions with Regulars for passive defence only. If the Committee bear in mind the number of battalions of Militia and Volunteers to whom were allotted the duties of passive defence at 30 per cent., and if they will believe, as we think they may believe, that if we give greater opportunities, greater encouragement, and greater help, the Auxiliary Forces of the country can very well undertake the duties of passive defence without having any percentage allowed in their favour as against Regular troops—if the Committee believe that, why, then, of the Militia you will get in hand thirty battalions and of Volunteers seventy battalions, for if you take that 1265 30 per cent. there were something like ninety battalions of Militia allocated for these purposes, and something like 210 Volunteer battalions, and you will find if we make the Militia and Volunteer forces of the country efficient for holding garrisons and defensive positions, their existing numbers would give us a margin of 100 battalions. We shall leave that margin or the greater part of it for other purposes, to which I will refer later on, but first I will ask the Committee, for it is a very important point, not to minimise the importance of these duties to which I have referred, these duties of passive defence. Recollect that for all our garrisons we depend solely upon the Auxiliary Forces of this country, that in the event of apprehended invasion we should not have one Regular soldier to put into an arsenal, dockyard, or commercial port, however great the interests involved, for the protection of such places from momentary raids. You cannot exaggerate the importance of those duties, and with the Fleet away we must contemplate the possibility of such raids. The Fleet possibly would be away; its first duty would be to be away. [An HON. MEMBER: Why?] The Fleet would be off the enemy's coasts or facing an enemy's fleet at sea. Although I know there is a school of politicians in this House—I will not venture to call them the "blue water" school—who believe that under such circumstances we should be all perfectly happy, I beg leave to tell hon. Members that we should be very much happier if we had 120,000 men or more as an additional guarantee against small raids, movable columns to prevent raids of the smallest character and to prevent small expeditions from landing and interfering with our naval signal stations. Such duties are of the utmost importance; they serve the purpose of protecting the vital parts in our corporate being, just as the muscles of the chest and the ribs protect the heart and lungs; and you cannot do without them, whatever be your means of defence. Well, we intend, if we can, to increase the efficiency of the Auxiliary forces in order that they may undertake these duties, and with the utmost confidence that they will discharge them with perfect efficiency. We hope also to expand the numbers of the Auxiliary forces so that they may be qualified to undertake even other duties. If that be so, it is clear that we must encourage enlist- 1266 ment and give greater facilities for training. Now, I do not know that I need go into the details of the proposals very minutely; but I will take the Militia. As at present advised, we do not contemplate taking any step which would profoundly alter the character of that force. I read only to-day a very interesting article by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire, which may possibly contain the germs of some future reorganisation of the Militia. That is quite possible, but we do not propose now, in a time of emergency, to take any steps which might destroy the characteristics of the force which endear it to those who belong to it, and which might break its traditions and injure it as a recruiting machine; but we do propose to put the pay of a militiaman on a par with the pay of a soldier in the regular forces, and we propose to embody the whole of the Militia during the spring and summer, and to put them all under canvas, except those who may be allocated to some barracks about which there are special facilities for training. That being so, it naturally follows that we should pay the Militiaman for his work more than we have paid hitherto. We should not ask a man to soldier for four, five, or six months for the same remuneration we gave him when he soldiered for only one month. Then, we will do our very best to give facilities for practising at targets; we shall provide the Militia of this country with completely organised military transport, and Militia officers will have special opportunities for training. The Militia force is a very large force, and if we do that we believe we shall awake a great response. It is a constitutional force, and, above all, the county force, and if the county gentlemen of England will only help us and work with us in putting the Militia where it can be and where it ought to be put, we are sanguine enough to suppose that the Militia will be pulled up to its establishment in the course of a year. Then I come to the Volunteers. I noticed some derisive laughter a few moments ago when I said that a number of the artillery batteries of the Volunteers were located for defensive positions on the chalk hills about London, and of course hon. Members know very well that the Volunteer artillery is armed with the old muzzle-loading gun. There are, however, a great many men in this House, and in this they 1267 are at one with a great proportion of public opinion in this country, who have long desired that the Volunteers should be armed with the most modern weapon. That is what the Government propose to do. Then, in ordinary times it is a rule, and a very sound and reasonable rule, that no new Volunteer force should be raised, or any considerable addition made to the Volunteer force, unless notice of it is given in November, in order that the proposal may be considered, with a fair amount of time, for the next year's Estimate. We abrogate that condition, and we say that any Volunteer corps, any Volunteer battalion, may from this day forward enlist up to 1,000, and that where they are already in excess of that number, or reach it soon and feel that they can easily go beyond it, then they may divide into two battalions and proceed to fill those two battalions. [An HON. MEMBER: Is it the same for the artillery?] The hon. Member asks whether artillery corps will be allowed to fill up their establishment—yes, certainly. We shall naturally give a higher capitation grant to the Volunteers, but we shall, and I think with reason, exact a higher standard of efficiency from them. We cannot compel the Volunteers—we do not wish to compel them—all that we say is that we are ready to give them all that they need in order to make themselves into an efficient force. We are prepared to invite them to train under canvas for one month in the course of the spring and the summer—the whole force—in such a way as to suit the convenience of different regiments. Some regiments are recruited from men who are busy at one kind of work, others are recruited from men who are busy at another kind of work, and I do not think it lies with us to say more than that the Volunteers will have in the course of the spring and the summer the opportunity of training for one month under canvas. Then, we shall do all that we can to give them facilities for musketry; we shall make more ranges for them, and afford them every opportunity for practising at those ranges. We shall give them transport. [An HON. MEMBER: Hired?] Hired transport—not in all cases permanent transport, but hired. It was good enough at any rate for the requirements of the Regulars during the manœuvres two years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: Bad enough.] As hon. Members are well aware, with the Volunteers you must pro- 1268 ceed more or less on the lines with which we are all familiar—namely, you give the capitation sum for an article which meets certain requirements, and if you give £1 a day for a waggon which, in your opinion, is suitable to the object in view, I do not think that involves an illiberal policy. Then we shall also encourage Volunteer regiments to form in each battalion a company of mounted infantry, where that can be done without clashing, so to speak, with the recruiting area of the Yeomanry regiment. Since these forces are voluntary, and we are glad that they are voluntary, we cannot say, "You shall train for so many months, and if you do not we shall not continue our assistance." All we can do is to hold up a standard which we think a suitable one, and we think that Volunteer artillery should train for some three months if they are to be prepared for a period of emergency, and we think that Volunteer infantry should train for one month under canvas, if they wish to put themselves upon a level with Regular troops for the defence of this country, or to approach it. I do not know whether I have made that part of our policy clear, if I have I will pass on. I think it is enough to have stated broadly that we do not want to wreck a national movement for the sake of water bottles and transport. I think it most improbable that the artillery Volunteers can give anything like that time for training; all that I do say is that if any particular corps wish to train for three months we will not place any obstacles in their way. ["Oh."] Hon. Members say "Oh," but surely the most impolitic thing in the world for us to do would be to dictate to the Volunteers, who are citizens engaged in private business, holding in many cases positions of trust, and who are kind enough to offer a great deal of their time. What would be more discouraging than to tell them "That is not enough, and you will be useless unless you give more time"?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think on this occasion, when I am bringing in, after all, only a Supplementary Estimate, which, if accepted, will no doubt commit us to the broad features of some such scheme, but will not commit us to the details—and 1269 upon the details we invite suggestion and criticism—it would be inexpedient to discuss questions of detail, and pounds, shillings, and pence, when introducing for the first time a broad scheme of public policy. The response the Volunteers may make will not be in itself the measure of the encouragement which we are prepared to give them. Assume that the Militia and the Volunteers come forward in their hundreds of thousands, we shall be prepared to let them camp; we have at this moment in this country sufficient tents for 600,000 men. Then there is one other similar point upon which I think I ought, perhaps, to touch for one moment. My noble friend Lord Wemyss has urged upon us that we should encourage those who have served in Volunteer forces, and who have left them, to keep up their rifle practice, or, at any rate, to have their names registered so that we should know where to go if we wanted to put every man upon the field of battle. Well, that is a scheme which we are quite prepared to consider in a favourable spirit, but we think that we ought to consider it in consultation with the commanding officers of existing corps. I come now to the Yeomanry. We propose to follow the same broad policy in regard to the Yeomanry. We invite, we encourage the Yeomanry to fill up their numbers to the establishment. We invite every Yeomanry regiment to come out for a month under canvas, and, of course, as in the case of the Militia, we shall increase their rate of pay, their present rate of pay resulting already in a pecuniary burden, and being altogether inadequate to any such term of service as that which we now propose. Further than that I doubt that we shall go. We would wish to consider, again in consultation with officers in any Yeomanry regiments, whether the time has not come for modifying somewhat the tactics in which that force is at present exercised. It is the opinion of those who have the greatest qualification for advising us that this country does not lend itself in any large measure to what are called tactics by cavalry, and certainly it is very hard to drill Yeomanry. However patriotic they may be, and however much of their time they may be ready to give, it is not only hard but impossible to train Yeomanry to take part in charges as a cavalry brigade, and therefore, although it may not be necessary to call them mounted 1270 infantry, undoubtedly, I think, in the future, in regard to the Yeomanry of this country, all will agree with us that the time has come for devoting more attention to the occupation and the shifting of positions. But we do not want to rush them, we do not want to take any steps which might modify the characteristics and the traditions of the force. We see that what it has been, and is to-day, is probably because its traditions have been respected; we know that from the Yeomanry we have raised 8,000 mounted infantry for South Africa; we know that we can raise more, and we hope great things from a force which has exhibited so much versatility and so much zeal. Coming to the general question of the further duties of a more onerous character which are necessary to any effective defence, however great the national patriotism may be, passive defence, of course, is not enough. I have likened passive defence to the muscles and bones of the chest which protect the vital organs, but, however good that protection may be, it is not enough to endure blows; you must be ready to parry and plant them, and for that you need a fist to hit back with. Now that fist with soldiers is a mobile army, and such a force must be capable, if I may quote the words of a military critic who wrote an article the other day in The Times hostile to the War Office—must be ready to take what is called the swift defensive; it must be highly organised, and capable of rapid and precise direction over long distances, and for that it needs, by the universal experiences of all armies, and the consensus of military authorities in all countries, a certain proportion between the several arms of the Service. It needs, also, a staff for commanding the three arms in those proportions, and for the carrying on of a corporate life from day to day in a general movement, and it needs certain other services on which I need not, perhaps, dwell, such as Royal Engineers and Army Service Corps, and so on. Now, I believe that I excite a certain amount—I will not say of disappointment in this House, but of dissatisfaction—when in these debates I talk about army corps. It is very difficult for anyone who represents the War Office to speak about army corps without setting almost the whole of the Committee against him, and I will explain the reason. The reason is this—that one-half of the Members of this 1271 House do not know what an army corps is, and do not want to know; they are content if the sum is done in numbers of men, of guns, and forces, and so on. But the other half knows so extremely well what an army corps is, that they altogether repudiate the War Office definition of it. Let me once for all say what I mean when I speak of an army corps. I mean such a distribution of infantry battalions, cavalry regiments, and artillery batteries, Royal Engineers, and Army Service Corps as will give us that proportion upon which all military critics are agreed. I do not claim that they will be commanded, as in Germany, by the same generals and the same staff in times of peace as in times of war. I know that it is difficult to reach that ideal, but I think we may approach more closely to it than we have done, But so far as we have got, I mean what I say, and claim no more. For this mobile force, which is necessary as a complement for defence, we propose to aim at three army corps and three cavalry brigades. That has been our aim for the defence of this country ever since 1888, and I think we have shown that practically, under the definition which I have given, we have recently reached that standard, because we have sent out more than two army corps, and have in this country the other half of the third. By far the most serious aspect of what has taken place in South Africa is not that we have sent into that country 128,000 Regular soldiers, but that we have sent what I may call the permanent plant of two army corps—the guns, the trained artillery, the engineers, and the Army Service Corps. That being so, we are deficient to that extent. Our proposal is—and this is a permanent proposal—to raise at once the artillery, the Army Service Corps, and the engineers for two more army corps. That is to say, we propose to raise at once thirty-six batteries of field artillery, and seven batteries of horse artillery. In fact, we have for some time past been taking every step in our power to accomplish that object. Now I hope the Committee understand this. I do not want to mislead them. Our scheme is this—that there shall always be in this country at full war strength those permanent parts of an army corps which are difficult to improvise. Therefore, when the army corps are sent abroad there will be three here. When you get the two 1272 army corps back from the war, then we propose to hold up the fourth and fifth—not to maintain them at war strength, but to maintain them as training establishments. Now I come to the men. How can we get them? I hardly feel justified in troubling you with the details. We can take a nucleus of trained men from each of the batteries now in this country; we can take details left from the batteries which have gone to South Africa; we can take the artillery Reservists, of whom there are 3,337 in this country. We do not mean to poach heavily upon garrison artillery. There are in this country a number of men who have served twelve years with the colours and in the Reserve. We propose to invite them back into the batteries, and in order to raise these forty-three batteries—a large programme—we propose to invite all those who have any training or aptitude for such work. Any volunteer, artilleryman, or engineer who feels disposed to assist his country, we invite him to enlist for one year into these field batteries. I now come to the cavalry. There would be three brigades—nine cavalry regiments; and six others will be needed for corps and divisional work. That is, fifteen in all. There are left in this country five cavalry regiments, and we are bringing them up to war strength. Then we have three regiments of Household Cavalry, each one of which has sent a squadron to South Africa to form a composite regiment. We propose to extend each one of these three regiments up to war strength. That gives us eight. Each one of the twelve cavalry regiments in South Africa has left behind it a reserve squadron, and we mean to turn each of these into a service squadron. That will give us the equivalent of four regiments. We hope—at any rate, we shall invite the Yeomanry, in addition to their training as units, to give us, as they have done for South Africa, a troop apiece. If that is done, we can form a whole brigade of mounted infantry from the Yeomanry of this country. That gives, us the equivalent of fifteen regiments—the proportion of mounted and unmounted men which, according to military opinion, should be aimed at. We should need for these three army corps seventy-five battalions of infantry—twenty-five in each. We have—or shall have in a few days, when certain battalions re urn from colonial stations—seventeen bat- 1273 talions of Regulars in this country. We have voted now for three years three more battalions on the annual Estimates, and we are raising them very rapidly. We propose—and this, again is a permanent, and not an emergency proposal—to raise twelve more battalions of infantry, and add them to the establishment of the British Army. That figure has been arrived at very carefully in order that the Army may supply the reliefs and drafts for colonial stations, for India, and South Africa without being subject to a strain which would shatter it altogether. Those fifteen battalions, together with the seventeen, will give us thirty-two battalions of regular infantry. We think that we see our way to raising them. We shall take a larger proportion of men on a three years engagement; we shall allow men who have served in those regiments to come back, as in the case of artillery, although they have done their twelve years with the colours and in the Reserves. In that case we shall allow them to serve on for a pension. I cannot leave out of account the fact that recruiting is now at the flood tide. I remember telling the House when I introduced the Estimates last March that the first four weeks of recruiting last year was a record. In that period we got for the regular Army 4,227 recruits, but in the first four weeks of this year we have got 6,103, an increase of 1,876 on what had hitherto been the record year ever since the Franco-German War. We have another emergency proposal upon which I ought to say a word. There are in this country a great number of men who have received a military training—men who have done their three or seven years with the colours and their nine or five years in the Reserve. For those men there is an existing provision. They are allowed to remain in the Reserve for a period of four years, but that section of the Reserve, E, has been for the most part closed against all except men with some special qualification—artificers and so forth. The door has been opened only a little way when some particular corps has found its reserves sinking to a low level. We propose now to throw the door wide open, and to let men who would have gone into the Reserve come back and serve in the Regular Army for a period of one year. We believe—giving them some inducement for their surrender of positions in civil life—that it will be 1274 possible to raise a certain number of reserve emergency battalions for this year only. The number of such men is very large. It has been estimated by actuaries that the number is considerably over 200,000, so that there must be a great many men against whom no moral or physical disability could be raised. I deprecate too close an inquiry now into the selection of the battalions which will be wanted to make up our seventy-five battalions. It is clear that from thirty to forty battalions will still be wanted to be drilled into this moving, mobile force of three army corps. This problem is a very complicated one. It is complicated by the fact that we have no barrack room, by the fact that the Militia battalions which have hitherto been embodied have been embodied because their Regular battalions have been sent to South Africa, and also by the fact of the varying strength of the Militia battalions. What I would ask the Committee to believe is that the War Office staff started to grapple with this difficult problem; they are now striving to find out how they can select the seventy-five battalions, and I think they should be left a free hand, without being obliged now to mention this or that battalion and so possibly give rise to subsequent disappointment. It may be that here and there it will be right and proper to send a particular Militia battalion to a particular barrack, and that that barrack, will not give sufficient accommodation for such a battalion. Such cases have, indeed, happened already; and in such cases we have been obliged to allow a certain number of the men to go on leave. But if it happens in future, in such cases, since we consider it important to get to work at once, we shall have to resort to measures of expediency, and perhaps billet the men or hire some extra accommodation for them. That, however, will only be done on a small scale, where a particular battalion does not fit a particular barrack. We have been urged to embody immediately the whole of the Militia. We do not think that would be a very wise course. It could only be done by one of two means—either by hutting an enormous number of men, in which case the huts could not be ready until the men could be provided for in tents, or we should have to billet the whole of the Militia of the country; and we believe that would 1275 be the very worst preparation for a force upon which we shall depend so largely during the coming year. Hon. Members will see that we shall need to find by some means a great number of officers for the Army. We wish to avoid one course which we should consider erroneous under the present circumstances. We do not wish to fleece the Militia and Volunteers in order to find officers for the Regular Army; but we do believe that the offer of a small number of commissions in the Regular Army to the officers of the Militia and Volunteers will increase instead of diminish the number of officers in these Auxiliary forces. We propose to offer one Army commission to each battalion of Militia, and it is confidently hoped that at least three young gentlemen will enter a battalion under the belief that each will be the fortunate one to secure the appointment.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
No, I am not talking of times of peace, but now. I am not talking of a permanent scheme, though it will probably be made permanent. We shall need 253 artillery officers, and 622 officers of the Line; but for the bulk of these officers we propose to offer commissions to our colonists; to all the Universities—not Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College alone—but Durham, Victoria, Edinburgh, and in fact all the Universities of the United Kingdom, and a certain small number to the public schools. Then we have the reserve of officers. Some 300 of these have already volunteered for service, and 100 are already employed. We shall look to this reserve of officers to come forward; and we shall look to those who are not in the reserve, but have had five or seven years training in the Regular Army, to show that if the country requires their assistance now they are ready to offer their services. I am afraid the Committee will consider I am explaining this point at too great a length, but it is a very important point. We are deeply sensible of the fact that we are making very large demands upon the temper and patriotism of the country. We are practically asking every man who has had any military training to offer the advantage of that training to us during 1276 this year; and we are practically asking a great many people who have the time to acquire military training to devote that time during the course of this year. If we do that, what shall we have to show in return? I have stated that we have 109,000 Regulars in the country. The increase which I have suggested will at least add 30,000 Regular troops to the Army—I think the number will be higher, but put it as low as 30,000. I stated at the outset that we have 328,500 of Auxiliary forces in this country. If there is the response which I anticipate I put the expansion at 50,000 at the lowest. I believe myself that it will be very much higher. But on those figures we ought soon to have in this country 517,500 men trained to arms or to a great extent undergoing training in the course of the next few months. Personally, I believe the figures will approach more nearly to 600,000 than to 500,000. It must be remembered that this is not an army which is going to march about; but it is a force which has had opportunities of acquiring training, and which will, therefore, be available in the event of any such force being required.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The Regular troops are very largely permanent, or a great part of them—the fifteen battalions of infantry and the forty-three batteries of artillery. It is temporary as regards the artillery, because, as we get our artillery back from South Africa, we shall fold up the artillery of the two army corps. But I cannot disguise from the Leader of the Opposition that the fifteen battalions of infantry are in our mind permanent additions to the Regular Army. The demands which we make of course depend on the view which this Committee takes of our proposals. We cannot very well issue this invitation, and it cannot be accepted, unless the Committee adopts the broad features of this scheme. It may, and probably will, find something to criticise in points of detail. That we expect and welcome. But I think we may anticipate that it will not be criticised on the ground that on the whole it is too large. I think this Committee will feel that as to the scope of it, at 1277 any rate, we are all in substantial agreement—at any rate the majority of this House, and the majority of the people. Times have changed. It cannot be urged against us now, as it was urged some time ago by a clever writer, Mr. Bagehot, against a great statesman, that we object to war merely because it is war, or to expenditure because it is expenditure. No; war, as that writer went on to say, is often necessary. Finance is not an end; money is but a means. He went on to say that it may be one of our duties to see to the military defence of England; and, if so, we must not sit down and count the cost. If so, this is not the age for arithmetic; it is also for statesmen to sacrifice cherished hopes. I do not quote that as an invitation or an incitement to the Committee. I quote it as a prophecy of the temper of the nation to-day. It may be that the sacrifice will be required. But I am convinced that we shall all remember that, thanks to like sacrifices made by our fathers, we have been able to turn our energies to the arts of peace. In memory of our fathers, and for the sake of our children, we shall not shrink when the call is made on ourselves. I should not like to close on a note which might be thought alarming. I said at the outset that this risk, which may become a fact, is not near. I say it again. I may therefore be asked why we should rush forward to anticipate it. For answer I borrow an old phrase—that it is too late to look for instruments when the work calls for execution. Let us begin the search now. We need not seek far afield. The weapons lie apt to our hand in the patriotic fervour of our country. We have but to take them up and set an edge upon them; then, if the call comes, we shall be ready to answer.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a further number of Land Forces, not exceeding 120,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1900."—(Mr. Wyndham.)
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The hon. Gentleman has exposed to us, and not at too great a length, a great scheme for strengthening the Army, and directed especially to the home defensive forces of this country. We have listened 1278 to the hon. Gentleman with that delight which we always experience when he speaks, and he has in most particulars explained with great power of luminous exposition. The first observation I would make is, that we, being here in Committee of Supply for the purpose of voting money for the service of the country, the element of cost has been from the first to the last totally disregarded. We have not heard a single figure from the hon. Gentleman as to what those great changes and increases in the Army are likely to amount to in money. He has not even told us how much of the money required is due to the war now in progress, and how much to future preparation.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Of course, having heard this elaborate scheme of the Government, as explained by the hon. Gentleman, the Committee cannot be expected to pronounce an opinion upon it suddenly. I believe the frame of mind of nine-tenths of those who hear me is that, for the purpose of the present war and for the sake of re enforcing our Army in South Africa and making good any gaps in our home defence which the despatch of reinforcements may cause—for these purposes we are ready to agree to almost anything the hon. Member asks for. It is not upon any point connected with the conduct or necessity of the present war that much criticism or anxiety will be shown by us. We shall not look too closely at his proposals, whatever ideas we may have of our own as to the particular course which should be taken. But what the Committee is entitled to regard, I will not say with jealousy, but with the extremest caution, is proposals which go into the future. We should not, I think, in a moment, not, as the hon. Member very properly said, of panic—because there is no panic in the body of the people—but in a moment of anxiety and alarm, in a troubled air, at all events, commit ourselves to any great scheme for the development or increase or extension or reconstruction or alteration of our armed forces, but we should remember that that is a matter requiring the most serious and careful investigation and consideration, for which we are justified in asking 1279 the Government to give us full time to consider and examine it. I confess that I was greatly relieved when I heard the hon. Member disclaim any intention to apply compulsion in this matter. I have seen letters in the press about conscription, as if conscription was a possibility in this country, as if it were a possibility on either of two grounds—first, because the duties imposed in time of peace upon our Army for garrisoning distant places are duties which never have been, and never could be, imposed upon a conscript army; and, secondly, because the very idea of conscription is foreign to the disposition and temper of our people, and would have the immediate effect, as schemes of conscription have had before, of destroying all that natural fervour to which the hon. Gentleman referred, which leads our people in so magnificent a way to offer their services to their country without any compulsion being applied. I am not in a position to discuss or criticise the detailed provisions which the hon. Gentleman explained to us. I followed the hon. Gentleman as well as I could, and I am sure no one could have explained the proposals with greater facility and clearness and persuasiveness than he, but still we require to see these things in print and to think over them before we can pronounce a definite opinion upon them. There are, however, one or two broad lines upon which I entirely agree with him. The Government propose to develop and to lean largely on the Auxiliary forces. Although I am not one who would admit that successive Administrations have treated the Auxiliary forces with the neglect, or almost the contempt, which is sometimes attributed to them, it cannot be denied that more could be done than has hitherto been done. We have expected from them a far greater amount of proficiency than we were entitled to expect, especially the Volunteers. Therefore, when I heard the hon. Gentleman propose that there should be a change in that respect, and that the Militia should be put on the footing of the Line of the Army, that they should be embodied for a month, that they should have greater opportunities of target practice, that the officers should have means of instruction, and when I heard that the Volunteers should have the best weapons, that they also should be better trained, and have more opportunities, and should 1280 be treated generously in every respect to make themselves efficient, I entirely agreed with him. The only question is whether, if you put too much upon those forces, they will respond to your demands. Take the class of men who join your Volunteers or Militia. Are they the class of men who can go away for a month every year or for a longer period? Such are the considerations which must govern the position, and not what we, sitting at our desks, think is the best thing to do. We have to consider the degree in which they will be tasteful or distasteful to men of this character, and that can only be found out by experience. I approve of the idea, and although it may not be carried out to the full extent which the hon. Member hopes for, still it can be carried to a very great length. Another point upon which, I think, most of those who have considered these matters closely will agree, is that it is most desirable to increase considerably both our artillery and our cavalry. I am fully aware of the effect upon the infantry of the narrow limits of battalions; but, after all, these are matters upon which we must reserve our opinion. These are matters which can be discussed quite as naturally and properly upon the Estimates for next year as upon those for this exceptional year. I should like to look upon this exceptional Estimate, though it does run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, as a War Estimate simply, and to leave the question of future increases and rearrangements for discussion upon the ordinary Estimates of the year. But I am bound to say that if we find that this gives a large increase to the fighting strength of the country we shall have to ask ourselves two questions—Is this increased fighting strength necessary, and what is it that requires this increase of force? We fall back upon the old dictum—that your policy determines your armaments, which is as true now as when it was originally uttered. If it is only that the experience of this war, the first great war we have had since the Crimean War, has shown certain defects—which I have no doubt it has—certain deficiencies, certain points in organisation which require to be modified, certain deficiencies, especially in matériel, then by all means fill up the deficiencies and correct the defects; but if this large addition to the forces of the country means an alteration in the policy of this 1281 country, an alteration in the character of this country, an alteration in the character of the British Empire so that it becomes a military empire, this kingdom a military kingdom, not only we, but a large body of men in tbe country, not confined to one side of politics, would object to the proposal. We should be pardoned, I am sure, if we looked with the extremest jealousy upon any proposal which might tend in that direction, because we should regard it as one of the greatest calamities that could befall our country to take a step in that direction. There is one other thing I should like to point out to the Committee, the analogy which is being drawn between this and the Crimean War. I see it often stated that we are in the same position that we were in during the Crimean War. I remember the Crimean War well. There is no analogy whatever between the two cases. In the Crimean War everything broke down—the transport and medical services broke down, the commissariat did not exist, every service connected with the Army failed, and the efficient strength of the Army itself almost vanished during those dreadful months of the first winter in the Crimea. What do we find now? We see an army of 180,000 men sent, not to the Crimea, but to the other side of the world, without hitch or difficulty, an army well found, well fed, well armed, well hospitaled, if I may coin the word; we hear no complaints of the manner in which that army has been provided with all that is required for it. There is no comparison between the two cases. All that can be said of the present army is that it is not large enough for the task it is called upon to perform. But let me point out that that may be a fault of the task quite as much as of the army, and therefore I ask that whatever we do we shall not, in our realisation of the facts now before us in South Africa, in our discovery of the difficulties we have to meet there, rush into some great project of future military development, which, I believe, would be the very worst thing that could happen to our country. I am glad of the moderation which I discern in the proposals of the hon. Member; he has not taken the advice which has been so freely given him in the public prints. So far as, I can judge at present, I by no means find fault with his proposals as going too far, but on looking into them and when we hear from him, as I hope we shall, 1282 some estimate of future numbers and cost, we shall be better able to judge whether the scheme of the Government tends in the direction to which I have referred, and which, I believe, the whole feeling and sentiment of the country will oppose in the strongest manner possible.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
Agreeing as I do with what has fallen from the Leader o the Opposition—namely, that we ought to distinguish between the general reorganisation of the Army and the prosecution of the present war—I must dissent from the encomiums passed on the War Office. Having said that, I shall say no more on that point; we shall discuss it later. War is a bad time for reorganising the War Office, and we should avoid as far as we can this session general propositions for Army reform and reorganisation. I cannot refrain from expressing considerable disappointment with the tone of a large portion of the statement of the hon. Gentleman who introduced this motion. There was in that statement far too much about fixed defences, home Army, home defences, and invasion, and far too little contemplation of the real military problems of the country which he has to face; and although at the conclusion he did something to remove the impression he had made, the earlier part of his speech does give support to the heresy that this country could, in regard to invasion, or home defence, rely on something other than its Fleet. The Fleet of this country must be its main protection, and it is rather from the point of view of the effect produced upon foreign nations by the existence of weak parts in our armour that we should consider this question. These proposals produce enormous numbers of men rather than an army in the correct sense of the term. At the end of his speech the hon. Member mentioned figures amounting to 600,000 men, but I confess that I should have listened to him with more pleasure if I had seen greater evidence of a determination to form a more mobile force. There are many points upon which a number of questions are necessary for the elucidation of the statement which the Under Secretary of State for War has just made. After his introductory remarks he alluded to home defences, and the proposals to turn the Auxiliary forces to 1283 the best account. He also spoke of the measures which would be necessary for the prosecution of the war. As I understand this vote which is now before us, it is very largely concerned with the prosecution of the war. By far the largest figures in this Vote are for the prosecution of the war, and yet not one word of explanation was given to the House as to how these figures are arrived at, or, what is more important, what are the further steps which the Government still feel it necessary to take. The situation in regard to the war has somewhat changed since the hon. Member addressed the House on Monday last, and the hopes expressed of the probability of an early termination of the war have not turned out to be so well founded as many of us hoped at that time. Therefore, I think the country will be somewhat anxious to know what are the further steps which the Government are taking with regard to the prosecution of the war itself. To my mind the statement made by the hon. Member plays too much into the hands of those who believe in fixed or passive defence, rather than those who believe in building up a strong striking force. As regards the future, all the hon. Gentleman's suggestions must be considered, by those who have taken an interest in these subjects, from the point of view of how far they suggest to the House the line upon which future organisation is likely to proceed. The hon. Member very rightly told us that he did not presume to tie our hands in the future. He also said that the suggestions he did make must be considered by the Committee, so far as they projected into the future, inasmuch as certain proposed changes which were now indicated by him would last for all time. One of those changes was a change in the direction of further elasticity of the conditions of service in the Army. He stated that the three years service system was to be increased, but he did not say to what extent. He did not state—and it is a most curious omission — whether the three years men were to have what a great many Members asked for at the time when this system was first initiated here, namely, the same pay as the other men. At that time the Leader of the House protested fiercely against the opinion that you must pay them the same as the other men, and he said that all the men would want to serve three years only if that were 1284 the case. But you can easily limit their numbers if you wish to, and there are many ways in which a limitation of numbers can be effected—for example, by the adoption of a higher physical standard. At the present moment the numbers are strictly limited to some battalions, and in those battalions to 150 men. Now I should like to know in what degree is that three years service to be increased, and are they to have the same pay, because to-day the Government have announced that the Militia are to have the same pay as the Line—including the extra 3d. Do you intend to pay the three years men serving in the Regular Army only the rate of pay retained for them two years ago, or do you mean to raise their pay so as to give a fair chance to this three years system? It is not a mere question of the pay of these particular men. Those members of the Committee who have listened to our discussions know that the elasticity of the conditions of service lies at the base of this whole question of recruiting. You are only taking power by this proposal to raise a little over 30,000 additional men for the Army as permanent men, including an increase of twelve battalions in infantry of the line. The main increase as regards numbers, apart from this, is an increase of forty-three batteries of artillery. With regard to this increase we are told that they are to be rolled up when the Army comes back from South Africa; therefore, we cannot tell what the numbers of the actual increase will be, because we do not know how many men are to be rolled up. So that the numbers are not at all clearly explained to the House. We know it has been put at about 30,000 men. All those who have carefully studied the reports of the Inspector General of Recruiting know exactly what the difficulties are in times of peace. It is very easy in time of war to add so many battalions to the Army and increase the military strength of the establishment, but the difficulty of obtaining them in time of peace remains. This lies at the very base of the whole of your permanent proposals, and should be considered by the Committee. But we cannot settle that question in any way now. We cannot decide it this session, but we can ask the Government to give the fullest details in this matter. The hon. Member, in his speech, has told us of the increase in the three years men, but he has not 1285 told us anything about that very vital matter of their pay which lies at the base of a fair treatment of the system, and we cannot, therefore, judge to what extent the Government are proposing, as regards the future, this elasticity of service to which many of us attach so much importance. With regard to the next matter to which the hon. Member alluded in his speech—for I think it will be most convenient for me to follow the order which he maintained in his speech, so I will now come to the next point upon which he laid stress—he spoke of how we were to turn our Auxiliary forces here to the best account, and the first suggestion he made was the very frank adoption of the main criticism which hon. Members of this House who have taken an interest in this subject have urged against the Government for years—namely, the total inadequacy of the artillery force at home for the large number of men. He proposes to convert a large number of obsolete batteries into batteries armed with modern guns. I see the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place, and no doubt he is painfully conscious of the difficulties in the way of manufacturing guns for the Navy. May I ask this question: Have the Government considered how the guns are to be rapidly obtained which this new departure will require? Have they considered whether the manufacturing power of this country is sufficient, or are they prepared to give guarantees to manufacturers to secure them that permanence of orders which is necessary in their business? Is the manufacturing power of the Government sufficient to produce these gnus, or are the resources of the Government sufficient to manufacture these guns without diminishing the rate of supply of new guns to the Navy? This matter of the guns for the Navy is one of the very highest importance. The Members of this House who take an interest in this question of our defences are painfully aware that one point in which our Navy is weak is the difficulty of manufacturing the most modern guns. As regards these most modern guns, there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not we are sufficiently supplied, but we are undoubtedly hopelessly behind foreign nations as regards the number of modern guns in our batteries and among our guns used for the purposes of drill. The Government are being pressed to supply these 1286 deficiencies, and there is no doubt they will be supplied. But are we quite certain that in making this attempt the supply of guns to the Fleet will not suffer in rapidity in consequence? The next point which the hon. Member raised was the question of the future of the Yeomanry, and his suggestion was that the intention of the Government was to convert this, force more into mounted infantry rather than cavalry. For years past the critics in this House have spoken upon the Yeomanry vote, and it has been, opposed by military Members of this. House on the ground that the Yeomanry were being trained as a cavalry force, and that the conditions of their service were such that the Yeomanry could never possibly be an efficient cavalry force, and should be made a mounted infantry force. We have seen during the operations in this war in South Africa how necessary that has been, for we are now trying to turn the British Yeomanry, who have been trained as cavalry, into mounted infantry. That is a tardy acceptance of what many hon. Members have been urging upon the Government for years, and now the War Office have very tardily come round to the views which have been expressed for years in this House. I come to the hon. Member's proposal with regard to the new battalions. Here we come upon the political rather than upon purely military ground. Why an increase of twelve battalions to the regular Army? Why have any increase at all? Why not a larger increase? Not one word has been vouchsafed to the Committee upon this subject. Does it mean that a survey has been made now, at the present period of the war, of what will be the necessities of South Africa after the war is over?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That has been taken into account, but we do not propose to increase the Army to a number which would enable it to discharge that duty without strain for all time, because we imagine that duty will be a diminishing strain.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
We were told the same story by the former Under Secretary for War; in fact, he used the same word. Many hon. Members of this House are not in favour of a revolutionary change of system: they are rather in 1287 favour of patching up the system, and they pointed to the linked battalion system to which they said you are not giving a fair chance, because the number of your battalions abroad is greater than the number at home. The Government have tardily come up to the requirements put before them, and they have stated that it is their intention to increase the Army up to the limit of the permanent strain. They did not absolutely meet the full figure because they thought that the strain was temporary and would be a diminishing strain. If the House is to retain the existing military system; if it is to retain the linked-battalion system, then we must have a battalion at home for each battalion abroad, otherwise the whole of the recruiting system breaks down. How do the Government meet this? They make no proposal for it, but they do make a proposition to increase the Regular Army by twelve battalions of infantry, and that means six battalions abroad and six at home. That means that you are to have six additional battalions abroad for all the new strain which is likely to arise in the future. If you are postponing a settlement of this problem until after the war is over it is another matter, but if you are pretending to face it now do not tell us that six battalions, or even less, will be the garrison which South Africa will require. The Government tell us that this will be a diminishing strain, but they do not meet the full demand which the linked-battalion system involves. We hear the old story of the diminishing strain, but all I can say is that six battalions for South Africa is too little to put before this House, and is not adequate to the circumstances of the case. The hon. Member, in answer to a question I asked him, said the Government had in view the case of India, but throughout the whole of his address the word India was not mentioned once. There was not the faintest refererence to the fact that they had largely denuded India of a garrison which was thought necessary by every military authority in this country and in India. I put a question the other day as to the extent to which the Indian garrison had been reduced, and the facts are fully known to the House. The time has come—and it is more important because the garrison has not been too large—when it is necessary to replace the troops which you have 1288 taken away. Otherwise you will be unable to meet the demand for a permanent reduction of the garrison in India. Surely you do not believe that that garrison has been much too large for the purpose. While you are speaking of the contribution of the colonies, it must be remembered that the expenses in India are on an enormously higher scale than those of the colonies. The colonies have contributed generously at all times, but their contributions have been voluntary. It must be remembered that India has been made to contribute whether she wished to or not, and she has contributed upon an enormously higher scale. The first act of the present Government was to reduce the contribution from the rich colony of the Straits Settlements to the Imperial defence of Singapore. The contribution of India is enormous, for she contributes upon a gigantic scale, and this contribution has been kept up at the present rate ever since the increase when the late Lord Randolph Churchill was Secretary of State for India. Do you defend that, and do you believe it is only an adequate garrison now? If so, how can you come to this House and explain what you are going to do while this war continues without saying one word as to the replacing of the troops brought from India which are now shut up in Ladysmith? Besides this, you have also drawn troops from India within the very last month. Surely the Government ought to recognise that it is one of their first duties to remedy the amazing disproportion in our Army at home of cavalry and artillery to other arms. The official statement of the hon. Member led us back again to the words with which he began. He led us back in his last words to the 600,000 men that we should have in this country, but he did not say one word which pointed to the rapid organisation in this country of a mobile force. Have we contemplated the possibility of our getting into war in what the hon. Member rather proudly and rightly called the present position of the British Fleet? Surely it is not an invasion of England that we stand in fear of. Surely our need would much more likely be for a mobile force and an army which can strike a blow. There are also demands in South Africa which may still be made upon us for a mobile force. The whole speech of the hon. Member was devoted 1289 to the piling up in this country of what we have here already, that is of hundreds of thousands of men. It is not a paper army, because the men exist, but it is an army which is not an army in the proper sense of the word, because it is insufficiently supplied with all the necessities for a great military force. It has at present no cavalry or artillery, although this deficiency in artillery is to be supplied. That deficiency is one which cannot be overlooked, and I admit the Government are doing the best they can. The last fifteen batteries of artillery which have gone out to South Africa have gone out in a condition which is not creditable to our military authorities. The batteries which are being made up now in advance of the decision of the House in this country are woefully deficient, for the Militia and garrison artillery have been put into those batteries, and they are not even supplied with officers capable of really training the men, for they are largely made up of men drawn from the garrison artillery. I admit freely that the Government cannot do better than what they are doing in this particular way, but it certainly proves the justice of the criticism which has been laid before the House and against the Government that it is impossible to improvise artillery in time of war, and that in this country, in spite of the enormous military expenditure upon land forces, the War Office has never faced the real preparation of army corps.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Once again the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War has made to the Committee a very lucid statement. I have watched the hon. Gentleman's career with great satisfaction, and I have often wondered why Her Majesty's Government left him out so long in order to take on other Under Secretaries coming from a party not its own. I confess that I have listened to this statement with some surprise. I came down to hear what measures the Government were going to take in reference to the Army in South Africa. I had expected to hear that they were immediately preparing another 50,000 men to go out, and perhaps that they were going to call together the remnants of the Militia so as to find material for another force. I formed that opinion because the majority of the 1290 items in this Vote — amounting to £10,000,000 out of £13,000,000—are concerned with matters which can only have to do with the Army in South Africa. The whole of the speech of the hon. Gentleman himself, however, was devoted to home defence, and to listen to him one would imagine that there was no war going on in South Africa. I should have thought that the first subject with which his speech would have been concerned was first of all South Africa; then that of India, which has been alluded to by the right hon. Baronet opposite; and last of all home defence, which presses least. The defence of India is extremely important at this moment, because it is impossible to forget that we have there a Viceroy who has announced in the House of Commons that his policy is to join the Russian frontier, and that Russia having brought her troops to the waters of the Oxus we should take ours there also. In addition to that, you have recently sent out to the Presidency of Bombay a new Governor without any administrative capacity. [An HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] I beg pardon, I mean experience—whatever, and who distinguished himself by rising in this House to propose an increase in the salary of the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman raised the question of invasion. I do not know that it is greater now than it ever was, though I am not sure that it is not a little nearer. But let us clear our minds upon this question of invasion. You cannot defend this country by soldiers; you can only defend it by sailors, and if your fleet and sailors are sufficient you have no reason whatever to fear an invasion of this country. The hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech suggested the proper use to which to put the fleet. That is to keep off the coasts of the enemy, and to take care they do not get out, or, if they do, to destroy them. If that be done I cannot see how anyone can consider an invasion of this country possible. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman through his very luminous and interesting statement. I am not a military man, and I have not yet gained an adequate idea of what the effect of his proposals would be. I have only risen to express the hope that he will supplement his statement by telling the Committee what the Government immediately intend to do to reinforce the 1291 Army in South Africa. That is the most important point. There are two other points I would wish to mention. One is with regard to the new force about to be raised. I do hope the hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance that less time will be spent in drill and more in shooting. To my mind we have gone wrong ever since the time of Frederick the Great. We have worshipped the false god drill, and have forgotten the ancient tradition of our country, which was to win battles by shooting straight, a tradition by the aid of which we destroyed the best chivalry of France at Crécy, and on other fields. Even in the Yeomanry there seems to be little trouble taken to secure accurate shooting, without which I believe no modern army will be able to do its work. I therefore trust that we shall have some assurance on this point. Then there is the matter of home defence which ought to be looked into. Do the Government intend to overhaul the forts, to provide garrisons for them, and above all to overhaul their stock of ammunition? This I believe, is a point which requires very keen and special attention. I confess I am still without the knowledge which I came down to the House hoping I should obtain, namely, the knowledge that Her Majesty's Government have realised the enormous importance of keeping up the supply of men in South Africa, and that they were about to take immediate steps to raise another force. We have not heard that to-day, and I trust that during the course of the evening we may hear what after all is the real purpose of the statement of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down appeared to think that the Under Secretary for War should not have called attention to the question of home defence. I think, on the contrary, that the Under Secretary was welcomed by the House when he directed attention to what is perhaps the most serious issue which the Committee can consider at present. Undoubtedly there has been a feeling, not of alarm, but of serious anxiety at the depletion of our means of home defence in case of any European complication arising. In this discussion I will not attempt to enter into, the South African question or the conduct of the war. The ques- 1292 tions which the statement of the Under Secretary has raised are questions of vital importance, which can be discussed without introducing political considerations, which perhaps are best left alone at present. I listened with great satisfaction to all the hon. Gentleman said with regard to the Auxiliary forces, until he came almost to the end of his statement; but I must say that the attention which I have given to the subject leads me to believe that the Government would act more wisely if, instead of suggesting a very large and permanent increase of the Regular Army and organising all the subsidiary parts of an army corps, they had adopted the policy of going further in the re-organisation and relative combination of the Auxiliary forces. They would then be doing something to meet the desires of the country, and would perhaps ultimately provide better machinery for national defence than by permanently organising three additional army corps. The hon. Gentleman said that the Volunteers are to be armed with modern weapons; and that guns of modern and effective type are to be provided for their use in this country. I also heard with great satisfaction that each battalion of Volunteers should be encouraged to form a company of mounted infantry. When we have gone so far as that, would it not be a more practical course to go a step further and meet the wishes which I know are at present entertained by some of the most intelligent Volunteer officers. Instead of merely continuing the present system of Volunteer battalions, which are practically isolated, and therefore of no really effective use in actual operations, instead of turning, as is proposed, most of the Yeomanry into equally isolated squadrons of mounted infantry, would it not be possible to combine together and to train so that they may act together all the several branches and arms of these auxiliary forces; so that they might form, in some sense, Volunteer Army Corps, which might be ready for actual use? I venture very respectfully to submit that suggestion to the Committee. I would support in the heartiest way the expressions which fell, very wisely it seems to me, from the Leader of the Opposition when he entered a caveat against any large and tremendous scheme for the re-organisation of the military system of this country. So far as I have been able to 1293 follow the figures of the Under Secretary, his proposals practically foreshadow the doubling of the Regular Army of this country.
§ MR. CHANNING
I am very glad the hon. Gentleman shakes his head. At any rate, I should deprecate, and would be prepared to oppose, any large increase of the permanent army of the country. In carrying out this scheme it would be wise to deal with the Volunteer force as a whole, to bring its several branches together, so that they may be used as an army corps in defence of the country, and not be treated as in the past as isolated units, which can only have a relatively small value.
§ MR. BIDDULPH (Herefordshire, Ross)
I should like to say one word with regard to the question of the Yeomanry. If the Yeomanry are to be made of any use they must be put on a different footing than they are at present. The expenses of the uniforms, which in Some cases are enormous, will have to be reduced, and also the expenses connected with training. There are some officers in the Yeomanry who think when they go for a few days training that they may go to any expense, not only for mess but also in gambling. I hope the commanding officers will be told by the War Office that they must restrict the young men in the Yeomanry from gambling and other excesses, which prevent other young men of moderate means from joining these corps. I quite agree that something should be done to make the Yeomanry a more serviceable and reasonable corps, but until the expenses are reduced I am afraid that nothing can be done. The experiment of trying to improve the Yeomanry is well worth adopting, but until you reduce the expenditure and introduce a more businesslike footing I myself despair of seeing any great use being made of it.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
I desire to criticise the statement of the Under Secretary, but only very briefly and in the most friendly spirit. As a Radical, I must say it is a great satisfaction to me to find that the hon. Gentle- 1294 man was able to develop a scheme which in the opinion of the military authorities would be sufficient both for the defence of this country and for the Empire at large without having recourse to conscription, which I am certain would not, in the long run, have as good results as the voluntary system. It seems to me, looking at the scheme broadly, that if it is carried out on the lines proposed the expense is almost bound to be, in the long run, something enormous. Having no figures or facts at my disposal—only the bare outlines of the scheme—I am unable to criticise it in any detail. With reference to the question of recruiting, I frankly admit that the scheme has tapped every possible source, but I do not know whether in the future, especially if the garrisoning of South Africa is taken into consideration, it will be possible to maintain recruiting at a sufficiently high standing. I regard the suggestion to extend the number of three years men as very valuable. I believe if they can be largely increased it will place us in a very much stronger position than we occupy at the present moment. I am bound to admit that the hon. Gentleman scarcely touched on the question of India. Those of us who have been in that country know that every available unit there must be an absolutely mobile force, and that troops not up to the highest standard are practically valueless. I do not think the hon. Gentleman foreshadowed how a sufficient garrison was to be kept in India. It cannot be denied that after this war some troops will be required in South Africa, and that you will have to return to India the troops you have withdrawn from that country. As regards the mobile force in this country, so far as I can judge, there would be some difficulty in making it sufficiently mobile, because the hon. Gentleman did not foreshadow that the army corps which he proposed to constitute in this country should be a real army corps; that is to say an army corps kept in a state of readiness with a permanent staff and with artillery and cavalry accustomed to work together. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, as far as the defence of this country is concerned, we must absolutely rely on the Navy, and the mobile force kept in the country will be required for quite another purpose. It will be required for the only purpose in which such a force would be of use to us, 1295 namely, to be thrown in a moment into the most vulnerable part of our enemy's territory. Therefore, if it is not of a mobile character it is of no use. As regards the Yeomanry, the proposal to convert them into mounted infantry is certainly a move in the right direction, as their value as cavalry is practically nil. The move is most valuable. The hon. Gentleman furthermore suggested the utilising of ex-soldiers in this country. I am confident that that will not only produce a very valuable force, but will have a marked effect on recruiting, and will tend to popularise the Army throughout the length and breadth of the land. The future of South Africa is also a question which will have to be faced. May I point out that there was one flaw, if I may so speak, in the statement of the hon. Gentleman? He referred to our tapping the colonies for officers, but he made no reference to our making use of those valuable recruiting grounds as regards men. I am disposed to think that in Canada, Australia, and elsewhere there are valuable recruiting grounds untapped, and in the present patriotic state in which the inhabitants of the entire Empire are, I think use might be made of them. I am glad that there is no great alteration proposed as regards our Army system as a whole at the present juncture. This is not the time for it. When this war is brought to a successful issue, as I believe it will be brought in a comparatively short space of time, we may then consider the reorganisation of the Army—I whether we should not have a long service force for India and the colonies, with a mobile force at home, and with the remainder of our defensive land forces consisting of short service men, the Reserve, and a standing force of sufficient cavalry and artillery. That is a question which I hope will be brought to a successful issue by the present Government.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I do not desire to indulge in any speculations regarding the army of the future. We have quite enough to think of at present, and the proper time to discuss that will be when the war is over. As regards the troops we have drawn from India in this great emergency, we are all agreed that they shall be returned. India supplied a force which could not be got from any other place at a particular 1296 juncture. It arrived, in the words of one of Her Majesty's Ministers, "in the nick of time." Had we not got that force from India the chances are that the Boers would have been able to come down to Durban. The heroic garrison of Lady-smith checked the invasion of Natal, and has earned the undying gratitude of the country. It is a very serious matter that this country, in which so many valuable interests are at stake, and which ought to be so strongly protected, has at the present moment only a small regular force within its shores. There are unlimited resources to draw upon for service abroad and at home, and I do not think that many yet realise the full extent of the patriotism which is being displayed just now. The number of men who are ready to give their lives for their country at the present moment is practically unlimited. To-day I took part on a Committee to organise an additional branch of the Yeomanry corps, to be entirely composed of first-rate rifle men. The men who presented themselves as candidates for officers' commissions were not only thoroughly trained, with long experience in the Auxiliary forces, but they had left flourishing businesses. While we have such a fund to draw upon we know that this country will not be found wanting in a time of emergency. It is not a question whether the country will be found wanting, but whether it will be found organised. Without organisation the most patriotic nation may be helpless in presence of an organised enemy, and some will doubt whether the organisation now proposed is really adequate for the occasion. There is so much of invitation, hope, and conjecture in the scheme that it is hardly of the solid and reliable character which the country expected in the present emergency. No doubt the Government are making a call on the Committee which will be very freely responded to. One or two hon. Members have referred to conscription as an expedient which could not be entertained Conscription is no doubt foreign to our British ideas; it has never been resorted to even in times of greatest necessity But is it conscription that the nation at large should be called upon to defend itself? Would it be contended that the Swiss system is conscription? I have known it and admired it for a great number of years. The Swiss are the 1297 freest nation in Europe; they are self governed, and they have organised themselves into a nation in arms. If their territory were threatened they would be found to be a nation in arms, just as the Boers are. A small book was recently issued by the Intelligence Department concerning the Swiss Army. All the Swiss are required to join in the defence of their country; they are thoroughly organised and put in line as if against any European army. Perhaps that is the conscription which hon. Members say would be foreign to our ideas; but the Swiss are required to be members of their defence force for twenty-five years, and how much of their time do hon. Members think each Swiss must put in during those twenty-five years? He only gives 135 days to the service of his country. Well, surely that is hardly conscription, and that is a state of things which deserves discussion here. Moreover, every Swiss boy learns his drill at school as an essential part of his school course, and that has had excellent effect on the physique of the youth of the country. Again, they learn rifle-shooting at the Tirs National. That is not a compulsory service, but the emulation is so great that every Swiss lad joins the Tir National. The only considerable tax on his time is in the first year's service, when he has to put in forty-five days drill. If we adopted a system something like that we should have an army of a domestic character which would really be equal to the defence of the country. The Swiss force embraces both artillery and cavalry, and the gunners and drivers are thoroughly trained. Every Canton takes an interest in the annual army manœuvres, and foreign military attachés think them so important and so well deserving of study that they go to see them. I think that, as in 1858, the Government have lost a great opportunity in not proposing a scheme of a general local militia. In the interesting statement of my hon. friend there were two points which did not appear to me wholly satisfactory. In the first place, he stated the number by which the Auxiliary forces fell short of the establishment to be 76,000, and that he expected to make up 50,000 by recruiting; and then he proceeded to suggest that that would be a substantial addition to the defence of the country. But this is problematical. Another point on 1298 which a good deal is wanting is in the instruction department. At the present moment we are a good deal short in trained officers in this country. My hon. friend said that there are 106,000 men of the Regular Army in this country at the present time; but most of them are either unfit for active service by reason of infirmity or of being too young to put in the field. These are for the most part added to the Militia, which has already too few officers. That is a most unsatisfactory state of things, and must lead to a want of discipline. I am surprised that more use has not been made of Reserve officers. I may point out that it would be extremely desirable if a system were introduced by which officers could be speedily trained to supply the manifest wants of the country both in the Regulars and in the Auxiliary forces. Many men would make good officers who are too old to be put among cadets, and not old enough to be entirely superannuated. The Staff College is at present shut up. It should be opened specially, and retired, or Reserve officers employed in training the young officers both of the Regular and Auxiliary forces. I believe the Militia ought to be, and will be, the backbone of the defence of the country. We have neglected it for a good many years, and treated it as the milk-cow of the army, and now we have to fall back upon it to fill the places of the regiments in the field. My hon. friend says that the Auxiliary forces are to be put on a better footing, and that the Militia are to be better treated and better paid. I remember when the men in the Militia were of a different class than now. They were men of settled occupation, who came out to the training in the summer time as an amusement and a holiday. After I left the Army I was myself for fourteen years in command of a Militia battalion. That battalion then consisted of ten companies; then they were reduced to eight; and latterly it was threatened to reduce them to six companies. It came to Aldershot the other day only 450 strong, and of these 150 went out to South Africa, and some regiments are even weaker than that. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. While the proposals are not the best, and while they depend upon invitation here, and conjecture there, I nevertheless hope they will be sufficient 1299 to give a substantial addition to the defences of the country.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I am bound to say that I listened with considerable interest to the very clear statement which the hon. Gentleman made in introducing his Estimate; but I also must admit that I listened to that statement with some amount of disappointment. We are face to face with great national difficulties, and these arise from the fact that we are fighting this campaign under entirely novel conditions. I think these novel conditions in South Africa ought to have induced the Government, in laying this Estimate before the House, to give us something different from the old lines on which they formerly proceeded. We must remember that we are fighting against a people with a population not equal to that of a second-rate provincial city in England, and able to put a fighting force into the field of considerably less than 100,000 men. It is inconceivable to me, that a great Empire like this, governed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, can be reduced to anything like an extremity of difficulty, by having to conquer a nationality of only about 300,000 souls. It is almost incredible that the difficulties which have arisen might not have been averted. The truth is we have gone into a modern war very much on ancient methods. We have been meeting forces that have infinitely greater mobility than our own, and armed with artillery considerably superior to ours. The conditions brought about by new methods of warfare are conditions with which our methods are not able adequately to cope. That has been shown in every fight we have had. Although our men have exhibited as much bravery and pluck as ever before, they have not had the success which they deserve; and that is because they are fighting against weapons with which they have not had previous experience. We must meet our difficulties with new methods. I do not see in the statement of the hon. Gentleman a sufficient amount of imagination, if I may say so, in reference to existing needs and the necessities of the case. When he wants to increase the military forces of the country, he goes on the same line of policy as we have been pursuing in the 1300 past. If the necessity arose at any time to defend this country from an invasion, it would require to be done very much on the same lines as the Boers are taking in South Africa, and our troops would require to be trained very much like the Boers in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. But I do not see any adequate provision in the suggestions which the Under Secretary for War has made to bring about that end. It is true that he calls out new regiments of the line and more militia, but he gives us no suggestion that these are to undergo a different training from that given to our soldiers in the past. What we want is, that the new force or forces should be trained on the lines of modern warfare, rendered absolutely necessary by new weapons of precision, with which an enemy will be armed in the future. For that purpose three things are necessary. First of all it must be a very mobile force—a force of mounted infantry to a large extent, and that will not be supplied by the conversion of the Yeomanry, as has been suggested. We want also a very much better training in rifle shooting than; we have had in the past, and for that purpose we want facilities given all over the country for practising rifle shooting. In addition to that we want a great improvement not only in the strength, but in the character of our artillery. If these proposals were carried out, then the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman might be adequate to the needs of the country. The hon. Gentleman wants to apply a certain amount of the money he proposes to raise in the increase of the pay of soldiers and Militia. It is obvious that if these men are to spend a considerable amount of time away from their ordinary avocations their pay must be increased, and, so far as that goes, this is a step in the right direction. I hope the hon. Gentleman will carry out his proposal with regard to the Volunteers in a generous spirit, especially in the encouragement of rifle shooting, for I am sure the country would gladly consent to any generous methods of treatment of the Volunteers. Again, we have a great reserve of able young men, full of pluck and daring, who are prevented by straitened means from going into the Army as officers, and if the hon. Gentleman would give these some encouragement, by offering higher pay, he could secure a much better supply of officers, and of better material, than in 1301 the past. I hope, likewise, that steps will be taken to fill up the gaps in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and to attract young medical men from the schools.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
The proposals of the Government are only a temporary expedient, and it is fortunate they are so. We have tried raising an army by voluntary enlistment and by making the Army popular, but we are now trying to raise an army by invitation and imagination. The country had looked forward with intense anxiety to the declaration of the Government about the Army, and, as far as I am concerned, I had a feeling of disappointment in listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War. What the country wants is, first, a scheme of home defence; second, an adequate force for reinforcements in South Africa. As to the latter, we are told by the Government that we have at home 109,000 men. What are they—Reservists, men medically unfit, men under age, or recruits? If we have 109,000 men, how is it we only have seventeen battalions of Infantry? As to the home defence, what the country asks for is a sufficient force to make us safe from invasion. One party among military and naval experts thinks that our Fleet is our first and only line of defence, and that in the event of our Fleet failing it is only waste of money to provide an army to defend our shores. If the Fleet should be annihilated, that is true, but then we may have checks and reverses at sea. In the event of such a check an army at home would give invaluable time to enable our Fleet to recuperate. One lesson from the war is that whatever else we waste, we cannot afford to waste time. The Government scheme of defence is, first an active mobile Army, ready to strike a blow at the invader; and, second, the occupation of certain strategic points for passive defence. The second without the first is useless, yet we depend for active defence on battalions, batteries, and cavalry regiments, not only not yet raised, but only shadowed in this Vote. Why not organise your active defence from the material you already have in the Militia and Volunteers? What the country wants is an army, not a mob. The Volunteers have no staff, no proper 1302 organisation, and no proper training. If they are to occupy certain strategic positions for home defence they ought to be exercised in those positions by the officers they will have to serve under; to learn the country, the ranges of positions, and the roads leading to them. It is knowledge of that kind which has enabled the Boers to hold their own. As to the sources from which the numbers required are to be drawn they are: First, Section D of the Army Reserve. Now Section D cannot be called out till Sections A, B and C are called out. The consequence is that when tradesmen, artificers, and so on are wanted for the Engineers and Artillery, they, being in Section D, cannot be called out until the whole of A, B and C—thousands of whom are not wanted—have been called out. The consequence is that these men are now living on furlough at full pay. I hope that an alteration will be made in the Act so as to prevent this in future. The second source from which the numbers are to be drawn is the Volunteers — magnificent material, but not trained or organised. They have been snubbed by every Government, and are now approached with invitations. They are not properly drilled, trained, or organised, and their shooting as a whole is indifferent, which is not their fault, for they have no means of improving it owing to the lack of ranges and the small amount of rounds allowed, and the expense of getting to the ranges. It is a mistake to suppose that in these respects any comparison can be made between the Volunteers and the Boers. The Boers are a highly drilled and well trained force, with every facility for learning manœuvring and shooting. The Under Secretary for War said that the Volunteers and Militia were to have every opportunity of improving their musketry practice. But where are the ranges? They could not be improvised in a few weeks. What the country wants is an army for home defence at once. The scheme of the Government will produce some sort of army in nine or twelve months, by which time the war will probably be over, and the result of the present scheme and the future reorganisation of the Army will be absolute chaos. The country is ready to accept almost any proposal from the Government in order to make home defence secure. It would have taken much more than the present scheme with great 1303 eagerness. But though these proposals fall short of what is necessary, they are those of the responsible Government, and as such must be supported by everyone in the House.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
The speech which has just been delivered has expressed many of the sentiments and thoughts which have passed through my head as to the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War. Everybody has been anxiously looking forward to this statement, and expecting to hear that in the shortest possible time another army corps would be prepared to go abroad or defend the country, as might be required. But this scheme apparently does not do that. There is one point I should like to refer to—the increase in the artillery. That increase is not to be permanent, but is to be reduced as soon as the war is over. The increase in the artillery, taking all the guns we have got, and putting down all the forces as they have been mentioned to-night, will be only one gun per thousand men, instead of five per thousand as in foreign armies, and if we are to reduce that number still further it will make a very small number of artillery when we include the Reserve forces. What is needed at the present time is a mobile force that can be used for defence or sent abroad at once. It is quite possible that we may have another check, although I hope we shall not, and it is possible that we may have to send out further troops. We cannot send the Volunteers, who stand on the chalk hills to defend London, or the Militia, which is not yet embodied. Some people say the Militia is embodied; yes, for the reason that the country is almost denuded of trained troops. Had they been embodied sooner, we should have had a further 50,000 trained troops now. The Militia ought to have been embodied sooner, so that trained troops might be provided ready to hand. As to the Militia, there is one question which I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman. He said the Militia was to go into camp and be trained during the summer. Is he going to train any to take the place of the seventeen battalions ordered abroad?
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
The reason for that is, I think, because most barracks are full. I think it would have been better to have broken up the battalions by placing them in the cavalry and Regular barracks notwithstanding the fact that there might be a little overcrowding. That is one of the ways in which we might have had infantry and garrison artillery at the present time. Another curious statement is that with regard to the cavalry. That is an arm most needed of all. We cannot increase the guns more quickly because it takes, I am told, three months to make a gun; but a cavalry soldier takes some time to make, and according to this scheme the cavalry is not to be increased to any extent. The recent gaps in the cavalry are to be filled, and a full squadron of the Household Brigade is to be made up by a flying squadron, and one troop is to be taken from each Yeomanry regiment in the country. But that depends entirely on the capacity of Yeomanry regiments to supply it. We shall have some mounted infantry, it is true, and that will make up to a certain extent the first force to be mobilised; but there will not be sufficient mounted men to form a large reserve force in the country. This force is talked of as an army on paper, and this force will have no cavalry. The mobile force will have mounted infantry instead of cavalry. There are two questions I should like to ask upon that. With regard to the one month's training of the Yeomanry, one difficulty in the Yeomanry is the horse. To provide a horse for a month is a great tax on the men. What are the Government going to do as to providing that? It is difficult to get officers and mounted men at any time. Has the Government thought about providing the horse? The other question is as to the Militia. It is to be embodied for six months this year and to get extra pay. Is that beyond the extra 3d. which the Army get, or is it the 3d. we got last year, and which I am grateful to the Under Secretary for having given? One 1305 last question I wish to ask is this. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said the Militia was short of officers and men; but it is not quite so bad as he makes out, because many battalions are short of men and not short of officers, and many are short of officers and not short of men. A great deal, I think, might be done if they were all trained together so that they might to an extent be amalgamated. I hope, in spite of this statement, we shall hear of something more being done to prepare troops to be moved. A little while ago the service Members of this House approached the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, and asked that a force including infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and a train should be prepared at once. No such force, so far as I am aware, has been prepared for the last three months, and although the country, it is true, is prepared to go to almost any length to get such a force, this statement is, I think, open to the objection that, although a large number of men will be trained, they will not be sufficiently trained.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said he always had a robust faith in the reforms proposed from the Government side of the House. His faith in the simplicity of this reform was increased, but he doubted its practicability. The truth was there was very little scheme about it. It relied for its success on the patriotism of the country, and on the power of obtaining the number of recruits asked for. We had been trying to get 30,000 men for some time, but they had not been obtained yet. We were now asking various classes to serve, but the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had omitted to say what they would get for serving. He congratulated the Government upon not having given way to the craze for compulsion, the enforcement of the ballot for the Militia. He did not believe in compulsion, and, though it might eventually be forced upon us, the day of the adoption of such a system was yet far distant. What the nation wanted was encouragement, and not compulsion. He was pleased to hear of the proposed change in the drill of Yeomanry to make them more fit to act as units. The Militia was to be called up for six months. Of all the Auxiliary forces this was the one which had been most neglected in the past, and would certainly require more 1306 encouragement, and should be liberally dealt with to make up for that neglect, which they would be a long while in forgetting. If Volunteers were called out for considerable periods of time he hoped the voluntary character of the force would not be overlooked, and that their expenses would be met in a generous spirit, and that officers of the Auxiliary forces would not be called upon to pay as they had paid in the past, charges that should be defrayed by the Government. Over and over again officers of regiments had been called upon to pay sums which they should never have been allowed to pay. Upon the question of rifle ranges, the use of smokeless powder, and other matters raised during the discussion, more information would, he hoped, be forthcoming. He should support the measures foreshadowed, though he regarded them as meagre, and practically constituting no scheme beyond fresh enlistment.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
, who was imperfectly heard, was understood to say: I believe in training the Army as quickly as possible, and in getting a mobile force as large as possible prepared to be sent out to South Africa and possibly elsewhere. From the remarks that have been made it is evident that great reliance is going to be placed on the Volunteers. With regard to that force I desire to add a few remarks to those which have been made. It does seem to me that the words which fell from my hon. friend, who spoke as to the Swiss system, are very applicable to the present time. If the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had not mentioned the Volunteers I should not have spoken to-night; but if you are going to rely on the Volunteer force, then the War Office ought to take the force seriously into its consideration. The Volunteer force at the present time has in its ranks men ranging from eighteen to sixty, and although that force is most patriotic, and so far as it goes a good force, it is in my opinion not properly organised. It wants organising, and I would suggest that we should adopt some system where every man over twenty-one up to twenty-six should be obliged to be enrolled in the force. I would not call it a Volunteer force at all, but a Regular force, something like the Swiss force. By that means you would get many advantages of the conscription, and get rid of 1307 the disadvantages. You would get rid of the barracks, and the men could work steadily at home at their business; they could attend three or four times a week in the spring, summer, and autumn, and every Saturday could drill. After the age of twenty-six they could go into the Reserve force and rest as they do in Switzerland. It seems to me also that Volunteer officers should go through examinations, and if you were more strict with them you would give them a better status in connection with the Line, which is what ought to be done. One thing which is, in my opinion, necessary is that the brigadiers of Volunteers ought to be continually looking them up. Volunteer battalions only see their brigadiers for seven days in the year, and that is not what ought to be. The brigadiers ought to be efficient young officers, and they ought to look up their brigades and see that the men are soldiers in every respect. It may be said that you would not get the people to do that, but, in my opinion, you would get them to do so if you gave them shooting ranges. Every Volunteer regiment ought to have a shooting range close at hand; and it seems to me that a short shooting range could be constructed as on the Continent, with a target 200 yards away, with arches every 20 yards to keep the bullets from straying. It is quite true that many of the Volunteers are not good shots; because they do not practise. Well, the question arises—how is it to be done? It is clear that this is the best time to do it. The country is moved to its centre with enthusiasm and determination, and there should be no trouble in bringing forward a workable and acceptable scheme at a time like the present. I think this one is the very best, because you will secure the youth of the country in the Volunteers, and you will give them something to do, something that will take the place of football and cricket. They will turn their attention to the rifle and make shooting their hobby. What is the use of giving a man a rifle out of the rack if he does not know the sighting of it? It is impossible to make good shooting without practice. Now, I say also that the scheme is a little too vague. This question of the Volunteers wants taking up by the War Office; and if you do not introduce some scheme of this kind, you must have conscription. If you have these Volunteer battalions and brigadiers to look after them, 1308 and each of them is attached to a Line battalion; if you organise the youth of the country properly under such a system, you will be able to draft from the Volunteer battalions first-rate shots in time of war. You will be able to get hundreds of such men and to draft first-rate soldiers into the Line battalions at the front. I should not have troubled the House with these remarks on the Volunteers were it not for the prominent part they have played in my hon. friend's speech; but I feel deeply on this subject, and I am perfectly certain that unless you take some such steps as these you will not make the Volunteers the effective force they might be. Select your brigadiers wisely, and put them over these men, and they will tell you what is best to do with them. I would suggest, too, that you should take away the name of "Volunteer," and put them under military laws. They could still live in their own homes, pursue their daily labour, and so the industrial forces of the Kingdom would not be depleted.
§ MR. C. J. MURRAY (Coventry)
said in regard to the Volunteer proposals that he would give men the opportunity of serving for three months, and as many of them (he referred especially to the Artillery) would be drafted from the working classes, and it was impossible almost for them to give their whole time to the duties, he would ask his hon. friend to consider whether or no they should be placed under Service conditions as regarded pay and allowances.
§ MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
For some considerable time past there have been floating about rumours that in the statement of the Under Secretary for War the adoption of some form of compulsion, if not actual conscription, would be announced. It was, therefore, a very great relief to me to find that the Government have abandoned the fatal idea of introducing a system so alien to the traditions of the British people. The Under Secretary for War, in almost his opening sentences, said there was no modified compulsion in the scheme, and that the Government had not even considered such a proposal. It was fully expected that hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite would not welcome that omission, and those anticipations have been 1309 far more than realised. Almost every hon. and gallant Gentleman who has addressed the House has regretted to a greater or less degree the fact that there was not some form of compulsion proposed. One hon. Member desired the very name of the Volunteers altered, and that all men from twenty-one to twenty-six years of age should be compelled to serve in this newly named Auxiliary force. Another hon. and gallant Member stated that the country was at present in such a patriotic mood that the Under Secretary for War had only to ask and he could have whatever he wanted. I was rather surprised to hear a complaint of lack of information in the statement of the Under Secretary for War, seeing that to the lay mind it seemed to state in very clear terms the number of troops at our disposal. How that hon. and gallant Member could ask for the statement to be carried still further and to be told how many of that total number were, from some cause or other, non-effective, passes my comprehension, as I should have thought that hardly patriotic. Another hon. and gallant Gentleman advocated the adoption of the Swiss system, and in doing so expressed his conviction that conscription could never be introduced into England. He is doubtless quite right in his view about conscription, but I am very pleased the Government are not prepared to bring in even the thin end of the wedge under the guise of the Swiss system. Speaking with some little knowledge of the working people of England, I say that while it is quite true that the present is a most favourable moment for playing on the patriotic feeling of the nation, and while you might just now get temporary support for some kind of modified compulsion, the Government have far too much sagacity to trust a great reorganising scheme, such as any form of compulsion would be, to the fleeting passion of the moment, which might afterwards leave them stranded, and make their last state worse than their first. It is all very well to argue for conscription or some kind of compulsory service, instancing some Continental State as an example; but it must be borne in mind that you cannot speak of our Army as being for home defence in England at all. It is true you may set apart a certain portion of your forces for home defence, but such an arrangement is completely upset by the 1310 example we have had of the use to which a purely Volunteer force—supposed to be, and, so far as the law is concerned, being, entirely for home defence—has, by methods often amounting in their pressure almost to compulsion, been put in South Africa. I believe I am voicing the sentiments of the great masses of the country when I say that, no matter how glittering may be the prospect of dominion and empire, anything, I do not care what, which turns or attempts to turn, England into a great military nation after the pattern of Germany will be accounted by the people of this country as dear at any price. The Government have been far too much deceived by the newspapers in connection with the present unfortunate war; but I am glad they have not, so far at any rate, allowed themselves to be misled by those newspapers, morning and evening, weekly and monthly and quarterly, which are assuring the Government that the great masses of the working classes have only one ruling passion, and that is to go to the front. No greater mistake could be made, and again I most heartily congratulate the Government on having resisted the temptation—and it can have been no little one—of including in their scheme some form of compulsory service. I was also very glad to hear, though I do not think the scheme altogether bears out the statement, that the Under Secretary desired to avoid all attempts at panic, that he did not wish to set up the cry, "The country in danger." I was sorry and somewhat surprised to find than an hon. Member on this side of the House evidently regretted that that cry had not been set up, because he was most enthusiastic about embodying the Militia. For my part I think the Government have acted very wisely in doing nothing of the sort. With respect to the scheme as it refers to the Volunteers, I say very candidly that I hate militarism in any form; but if we have—and I am aware that we have to have—armed forces, I very much prefer Volunteer forces to Regular forces. Volunteers remain at least to some considerable extent a citizen force, and that fact consoles me in some degree, because as a citizen force they would not be so completely subservient to the ruling classes and the Government of the day—a state of things which in certain emergencies might be a very bad thing for the workers of this country. I was also very pleased that in dealing with 1311 the Volunteers the Under Secretary for War again gave the Committee the clearest indication that compulsion was not in his mind, because when he referred to the three months training he would like the artillery to undergo, he said in a very useful aside, "Of course, we shall not make this compulsory," a statement which was greeted with dissent by those who favour conscription. Here again, apart from any theoretical opinion about compulsory service, I am quite certain the hon. Gentleman was acting in the interests of his own scheme, because I know very well the sort of men who join the artillery Volunteers. They come in the main from a class who are strong trades unionists, men who in the towns earn very good money, and who, by training and tradition, are very independent. The very moment you let them know there was compulsion about this three months training you would lose a large number of the very men you wish to obtain. Therefore, even from the point of view of expediency, I am sure the Under Secretary for War was right in that particular. I do not quite understand the hon. Member who sits for one of the divisions of Essex, who seemed to twit the hon. Gentleman about the vagueness of his scheme with respect to the remuneration of the Volunteers. He said that unless they had some very solid comforts offered to them very few would volunteer. I do not think that is true. What is the fact? No doubt workmen must get something like an equivalent of their earnings, but beyond that I am certain it would not enter into their minds. But when we come to the addition of 30,000 Regulars, I am bound to say the faith of some of us is sorely tried. This is not a mere war vote; this is more than a mere vote of men and money to prosecute the South African campaign. Some of us in this House—and I am one—conscientiously believe that the war in which we are engaged is an unnecessary one, but we also realise—and this fact has shaped our action hitherto—that the Government has got the country into one of the greatest calamities of the century, that the Boers hold British territory and by all appearance are likely to hold it. [An HON. MEMBER: No!] I bow to the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member; I hope he is right and I am wrong. But the fact remains that the Boers are on British 1312 territory now, and therefore, much as some of us are against the war, we have not been able to vote against the men and money required to get the Boers off British territory, and if this was a mere vote for that purpose I for my part should follow the same course as hitherto. But this is more than that. Under the shelter of a great national calamity, which has caused considerable excitement, we have proposals of a permanent character, proposals not merely for an emergency. We are face to face with the fact that we are going to add enormously to our permanent military forces, and I say here that this is not caused by the necessities of the nation. This addition is not because England is in danger, but it is the result of a mischievous and mistaken—I almost said a fatal—policy. Therefore I shall feel perfectly free to act towards this demand altogether apart from the situation in South Africa. In conclusion, I solemnly protest against a dangerous militarism, the outcome of a mad Imperialism. The conviction is growing deeper and deeper in the minds of the poorest of the working classes that—it may be all right to supply material for inflated rhetoric or to provide matter for leading articles in the newspapers—they are getting absolutely no return from this vast outlay to which you are putting the country from time to time. Do not mistake me. I do not mean by "outlay" merely a material something; the workers are never materialistic. But you are neither freeing oppressed peoples nor are you on the material side giving the people new markets, a point of which the Colonial Secretary made so much a few years ago. I say here, much as I may be misunderstood, I have a real and a growing fear of this encroachment of that bad system of militarism which does not stop in the inflated Budgets of Governments, but permeates the very life of the people.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I for one regret that on Supplementary Estimates to provide for the extra expenses within forty-one days, namely, before 25th March and the exigencies of a temporary war, we have brought before us a scheme of a more or less permanent arrangement. I can hardly believe the Government fully realise the effect of that procedure upon 1313 some of their supporters. The feeling and the absolute determination of the country is that this war should be prosecuted with all the resolution and energy and resources of the nation, and be brought to a successful conclusion as soon as possible. Almost every man in this House is ready to vote any money for forty-one days or forty-one months to accomplish that object. But now, when under cover of this temporary emergency we have proposed a permanent plan of alteration of our military forces, to make them, in the opinion of the War Office, adequate to our needs, what is the position of a member of this House? Of these 120,000 men we are now asked to vote I cannot understand how many are asked for for South Africa, for a reserve for over-sea requirements, or for sitting down at home. Therefore, objecting as I do to a passive policy, but determined as I am to give the Government the fullest support in all things that will help to end this war and to make us ready for any emergency over-sea, how can I move a reduction of or cavil at this vote? We are all trapped by the War Office—I do not use the word offensively; we are obliged to swallow a sketch and a scheme of an alteration of our military system under cover of a sort of Supplementary Estimate to meet certain expenses within forty - one days. I extremely regret this step; I think it is unfortunate in every way, but it is doubly unfortunate in one way. I should object to the Government coming forward with any scheme of Army alteration or reform to meet the needs of our Empire under circumstances where the discussion must be confined purely and simply to military questions, and excludes questions of broad policy. I object to such a course most strongly. My hon. friend, whose ability, courtesy and talents we all admire, incidentally threw in a phrase about a certain blue water school. The necessities of Empire and the conditions of Empire know no school. This is a broad question, a question of the number, quality, need and extent necessary for home defence. The nature and extent of home fortifications depend absolutely upon the naval policy of the country and the fulfilment of its naval demands. How therefore, can you, on a Vote supposed to be for the prosecution of a purely military war in South Africa, enter upon or discuss the question of home defence? You cannot do it. I confess I am 1314 extremely disappointed, because I do not think it is the proper way to treat the defences of this Empire at present. I would first of all like to ask for an explanation when my hon. friend rises to reply of exactly what is to be the net permanent addition to the cavalry and to the field artillery for over sea service. I confess that, for my own part, I strongly believe that the niceties of arrangement in time of peace of the relative proportion of arms is an unsound policy to follow. Taking all things into consideration, I think we should maintain our cavalry and field artillery above all proportion to the infantry in time of peace. If this war shows anything, it shows us how rapidly infantry forces can be created, and how difficult to create artillery and cavalry. This war shows another thing, and it is that we were shamefully deficient in field artillery and in cavalry. The very first checks which our arms inflicted would have been converted into routs if we had had the cavalry and artillery necessary to follow them up, and we are now paying in blood and treasure for the deficiency in these arms, which were reduced in 1887 on what we were then told was the advice of the military authorities. I propose to ask my hon. friend to give the names of those military authorities who gave this advice in 1887, because it is high time that we should have some understanding as to who the military authorities are. Those who advised the Minister for War in 1887 to reduce our field artillery are practically responsible for the disasters, which have happened in South Africa. I mention this because I think that, in any scheme to provide for the military needs of the Empire, the subject must be approached upon broad and well-defined principles, and not by tinkering with alterations here and alterations there. What we have to do in dealing with this question is to study history and facts. The War Office does not seem to study either, because it comes down here and talks about home defences without having understood the principle upon which home defence should be undertaken. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean has pointed out, we want the supremacy of the sea and we want a mobile army. You must, of course, have a certain amount of force, at home, but it must be associated as 1315 closely as possible with the mobile force, because by association it will become so attached to it that when the hour comes, as has been proved by this war, it will join it over sea; when the demand for a military force comes from over the sea, the advantages of the association will be fully recognised. That is a principle which we should bear steadily in mind. My hon. friend has put in the front of his military programme passive defence. I object to that absolutely and entirely, because I think it is a false principle and a dangerous one. I would ask what is the lesson of this war? Why, it has broken down every theory of passive defence not only in this country but throughout the Empire. Up to the outbreak of this war the whole of our colonies were following our example, and were relying upon passive defence. This war, however, has shown us all the absolute futility of passive defence. This has been brought home to every colony, and for common safety they have had to break through all the self-imposed ties of passive defence, and they have volunteered to send their money and their men where-ever our Empire is attacked. I want to know when the people of our Colonies read my hon. friend's speech what will they think? Why they will see that the War Office is in the same old rut as it was in 1870–71. They will see that the Government are not approaching this question from a broad principle of Imperial consolidation, but are simply tinkering with it here and there. They have admitted that the principle of passive defence is wrong. To-morrow the people all over the Empire will read that the War Office and the Government of this country attach the first importance to passive defence.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think the hon. Member must be in error, or I must have expressed myself with great obscurity. I pointed out that under the defensive scheme we looked to the Auxiliary forces for that form of defence. I clearly defined that in the future we should look to them to take part in a more active form of defence.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
I am extremely glad of those words from my hon. friend, but I cannot help thinking that all over the Empire the general effect of his speech will be that he attaches more importance 1316 to the principle of passive defence than to an active and mobile force. I shall be extremely glad if that is an incorrect view. I hope that my hon. friend when he replies will make it perfectly plain that the policy of this country is a policy of reliance upon our Fleet for the security of all our dominions, and that the great military requirement to be met in the interests of our Empire is the establishment of a mobile army adapted entirely to our own needs, and not blindly following the example of Continental countries whose position is unlike our own.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I think we are somewhat at a disadvantage in this discussion, because the Under Secretary for War, in the interesting speech he has just delivered, did not dwell exactly upon the subject which many of us anticipated he would deal with. We were told last week over and over again, both inside and outside of this House, that by carrying on the debate on the Queen's Speech we were preventing the country from knowing what the Government were going to do with regard to the prosecution of the war in South Africa. That was continually being dinned into our ears, and now, when the opportunity comes round, the hon. Gentleman makes a very able and interesting speech, but from the beginning to the end of it he never mentions South Africa. With regard to the subject matter dealt with by the hon. Gentleman, I cannot speak with the same knowledge as my hon. and gallant friend who has just sat down. But I have listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and from a purely outside point of view I have drawn one or two general conclusions. I should like to ask; him what is the number of men under his new scheme that he proposes to add to the permanent establishment of the Army. I gather that there will be twelve or fifteen battalions of infantry, but I could not make out the number of cavalry, and there will also be forty-three batteries of artillery.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
We propose to raise fifteen battalions of infantry; but the House has already voted three, and we are now asking the Committee to vote another twelve.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I think it is desirable for the general information of hon. Members of this House that we should have it clearly stated what is the net amount of the permanent addition to the armed forces of this country. Then again, from beginning to end of his speech, the hon. Member did not say a single word about pounds, shillings, and pence. What is all this to cost? We want to get an idea of the cost of this permanent addition to the Regular Army, and what it will add to the Estimates of the year, supposing this scheme is carried out. He told us in the course of his speech that the Army Estimates last year amounted to £20,750,000, but the hon. Gentleman knows that the military expenditure of the country was considerably more than that. There was £1,000,000 upon the Colonial Office Vote, and £1,750,000 under the Military Works Loan Act. I think it would be very useful if the hon. Member was able to state the permanent increase in the forces of the country, and the amount of increase in the permanent expenditure. There is one other point I wish to make. I say with all submission that it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman's speech would have been better delivered upon the introduction of the Army Estimates. He has already told us that in this Estimate out of £13,000,000 there is only £420,000 for purposes which he explained to us in his speech. I think it would have been more to the convenience of the House and the regulation of business if this scheme had been set forth upon the introduction of the Army Estimates. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us when the Army Estimates are to be introduced—whether they will be introduced at an early date, and whether in the memorandum he will see that there is set forth a complete description of the scheme which he has laid before the House this evening, and then we shall be able to judge better of the details. I should like to refer to the other part of his speech relating to the Estimate now before us, and I ask him to give us some further information as to what we are voting this evening. It will be within the recollection of the House that last October, when we passed a similar Vote, the hon. Gentleman, in a very interesting speech, explained to us with considerable detail the way in which the 35,000 men were made up, and he gave us a number of details with 1318 regard to the items in the Vote. I should like to hear from him something of the same sort this evening.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
Last October the 35,000 men included 21,000 Reserves. Does this include the whole of them?
§ MR. BUCHANAN
The hon. Gentleman gave us an estimate then, and I think it would be convenient if he also gave us one on this occasion. I should like to know if that 35,000 includes those in Natal and also the native Indian troops moved to the Mauritius. With regard to the colonial forces in South Africa does that 26,000 men include all sorts of colonial forces serving now? I am afraid that I do not make my question quite plain, but I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able to explain what troops are included in this 120,000. But besides this 120,000 men he has got another 14,000 men to play with, and we should like to know whether he has raised these men, or whether he proposes to raise them during the present financial year. I think the Committee would like some information from the hon. Gentleman as to what the Government have been doing, are doing and are going to do for the prosecution of the war in South Africa. What troops have they been sending out, are sending out, and are going to send out? In his speech the hon. gentleman stopped his narrative on the 17th of December, and from that date he did not give us any particulars as to the course which the Government propose to take. As we are asked here to vote £13,000,000, we ought to have some information from the responsible Minister in this House as to what they propose to do with it. I do not want to say any- 1319 thing about the war; but everyone will agree that, although it has denuded our defensive forces, this danger will be diminished if the war is quickly brought to an end and prosecuted with vigour; and the more overpowering the numbers of our troops are in South Africa the more quickly will the war be brought to an end. We want to get from the hon. Gentleman some particulars upon this subject, and the public will be very much disappointed to-morrow morning if he does not give these particulars. We should like some further particulars about this £13,000,000, but perhaps I had better postpone my question upon this subject until we come to that Vote. If £10,000,000 was to be the complete Estimate for the forecast of the war on the 10th of October last, I cannot understand for the life of me how £13,000,000 is likely to be enough up to the 31st of March, in view of the largely increased forces in South Africa.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
Before making my few remarks I wish to compliment the Under Secretary for War upon the very excellent statement he has made to us with regard to the Government proposals for home defence. I do not for a moment, however, suppose that these measures will be entirely satisfactory to the country, although I regard them as an instalment in the direction so much desired. It will be within the recollection of the House that in the autumn of last year a vote was taken for a sum of £10,000,000, and then it was supposed that a force of 75,000 men would be adequate for dealing with the military situation then before us. But what is that situation now? We are confronted with a force supposed to be about 150,000 men, armed with the best arms in Europe, commanded by able strategists from Russia, France, and Belgium, besides Transvaal officers, and a large force of German artillerists who are occupying positions which have proved hitherto practically impregnable. It goes without saying that in the face of these facts the number of men and the amount of money supposed at first to be sufficient must now be very largely supplemented. Hon. Members on the other side of the House, in speaking upon this question, have, in some cases, stated that the requirements have been over-estimated; in point of 1320 fact they indicate, to some extent, that the sum asked for was excessive. The opinion, however, which I have formed from those with whom I have been in I consultation in various parts of the country is that the people do not care what sum of money the Government ask for, but they do ask that there should be provided an adequate force in the country to defend our interests both at home and abroad. I therefore welcome the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War in which he proposes to put the forces at home in a condition adequate for home defence. There were objections made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and my hon. and gallant friend below me, who said that they thought the policy of passive defence was a wrong conclusion. I understood the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War in his speech to indicate that we had a force of 328,000 men of all arms in the Auxiliary forces at home, and that in addition to this we had a force of 109,000 Regular soldiers in the country at the present time available for home defence, making a total force of 437,000 men. I do not mean to say that they are organised into righting units. They are not yet told off into Brigades, Divisions, or Army Corps, but I welcome the statement of the Under Secretary of State for War because it shows that the Government have to some extent realised the position of affairs. They have so far grasped the situation as to enable us, in case of foreign complications, to have an army here at home in, it is hoped, a reasonable time, which will be reliable for home defence. It will, in addition to forces for the defence of strategic points, give us a mobile force that we can move from time to time to where it is required, and once having got this mobile force under arms and under canvas, we may say that we have begun to meet the danger of foreign interference. There were, however, one or two points in the speech of my hon. friend that met less with my approbation. One was the action of the Government in deciding that there is to be no compulsory military service at present; and I beg to add my expression of regret to that of the hon. Members who have addressed the House this evening, and who in some form or other have deplored the decision that there is to be no com- 1321 pulsory military service. I consider, Sir, that whatever measures we take at the present time to meet the exigencies of the moment, the question of the adoption of compulsory service in the Army of this country is only a question of time. We shall have to choose between some form of compulsory service and defeat at the hands of a foreign enemy. We shall have to choose one or other of the horns of this dilemma. This is not merely my opinion, but that of the highest military critics on the Continent, who have predicted our fate in the event of our being engaged in a very serious war, unless we adopt compulsory service for our Army in some shape or way beforehand. Well, Sir, we are at present engaged in a very serious war, one which will tax our military resources to the uttermost, fighting, as we are doing, an enemy 6,000 miles away from home. But it would be a very different thing fighting a first-class Power, or a combination of two first-class foreign Powers in Europe, where, in case of defeat, it would mean the invasion of this country and its occupation by a foreign army, and the payment of a fine—a humiliation compared with which a little mild compulsory military service would be as nothing. I would remind the House that compulsory service in the Militia Force is the constitutional law of this country at the present time. No man, under the British Constitution, can be compelled to serve in the Army; but every man between the ages of 18 and 40 is by the law of England subject to serve in the Militia, that is to say, if the Militia Ballot Act were put into force. Just now, the Act is hung up; but it can be brought into effective operation by a resolution in this House any evening; and, then ipso facto, every man between those ages would be liable to serve. This form of compulsory service has existed in England from the time of King Alfred to the present day. I do not say that the force we are to have may not be adequate to our needs. The Government is going to try an experiment, and if it does not succeed, we can then fall back upon the Militia Ballot Act. Another point that I take exception to is that the twelve new Line battalions to be raised are to form part of a scheme for increasing the number of battalions of certain regiments to four. Well, 1322 that I regard as a continuance of the pernicious system of linked battalions—that bad system of Lord Cardwells which has ruined the British Army, and has entirely broken down now, under the strain of this present war, so far as the linked battalions are concerned. It is impossible that there should be continual changing of officers from one battalion to another without loss of efficiency. The only advantage of the four battalion regiment is that the officers can exchange from one battalion to another without losing their place in the regiment; and I may remind the House that an officer who exchanges has to go to the bottom of the cadre when he goes from one regiment to another. What we want to get is a true connection between officers and men, so that they become known to each other, and this object is to a considerable extent frustrated by the continual changing of officers from one battalion to another, even in the same regiment. Therefore, I say, let the officers serve their whole period as far as is possible in the battalion to which they belong. The four-battalion regiment is faulty as a military institution and ought to be abolished. We have now a splendid opportunity of putting our offensive and defensive forces into a condition commensurate with the military needs of the country. We may never have such an opportunity presented to us again. Taking all things into consideration, I regard the war in South Africa as a providential opportunity for preparing the means of saving the country from future disaster. [Cries from Irish benches of "Oh, oh!"] That is the opinion which I hold, and we cannot be too thankful that this opportunity has come to us now in time to show the country its military weakness, and to make us alive to the necessity for placing our military forces on a footing commensurate with the needs of the country. The next time we are faced with a crisis like this it might be in a war with a European Power, and we should then have neither the time nor the opportunity to set our house in order before we were committed to a fight for our very existence which we can now prepare for, as we have a breathing time given to us for it, but if we neglect the present opportunity we have only ourselves to blame for the inevitable consequences of our neglect of military foresight and preparations.
§ MR. ALLAN (Gateshead)
said that while he was bound to criticise the Government's latest proposals he must congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War on his speech that night. At the same time he was bound to say that while he listened to that speech he felt grievously disappointed. He had heard no elucidation of the mystery of what was going to be done in South Africa, and for what purpose the £13,000,000 was required. It was stated that £420,000 of this money was to be spent in home defence. Well, he looked upon that as a mere bagatelle; but he was left in utter ignorance as to what was to be done with the balance. He further directed the attention of the Committee to certain facts in regard to the expenditure of this money, which he did not think was fully accounted for. He wished to know from the Under Secretary of State for War why it was that this great Empire—voting between £21,000,000 and £22,000,000 per annum for military purposes—was brought face to face with the stress and strain we were now experiencing in South Africa. Why was it that Great Britain was compelled to go down on her knees and be driven to buy guns—not directly, but through an Italian agent—in France? Why was it that we were compelled to buy shrapnel and shell from Germany? How was it that we had been compelled to seek aid from countries with which at no distant date we might be at war? He wanted to know what we were getting for our twenty-one millions. He asked what they were doing at Woolwich in the Arsenal, and why they were now calling in all the ammunition from the Volunteer depôts. Could it be possible that we had not enough ammunition to carry on this war? He could remember a Government being turned out of office for a deficiency in the store of cordite, yet here they were now, in the first few months of a serious campaign, obliged to send to France to buy guns through an Italian agent, and to Germany for shell and shrapnel. He naturally asked under such circumstances how the £13,000,000 was to be spent. The speech of the hon. Gentleman told them nothing on that head. Then, again, as to the question of quick-firing guns they were told last year that the military authorities had con- 1324 cluded a series of experiments with these guns. He objected to them at the time as a waste of public money. Well, what was our position to-day? We were obliged to buy elsewhere, for we had no quick-firing piece fit to cope with the arms of the enemy in South Africa. Where were the millions going? Let the House ask the moribund lot in Pall Mall. [Laughter.] This was no laughing matter. Our country was going through a grave crisis. England had never received such a humiliation as she had received in South Africa since the battle of Bannockburn. [Laughter.] Nevertheless, it was absolutely true. It was a historical fact. Now, the money had been voted. Where, then, was our ammunition? Where was our artillery? Practically all the guns we possessed were muzzle-loaders. ["Oh!"] They were not quick-firers. We were only making them now. Again, as to the question of home defence, the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for War said £420,000 was required for that purpose. Why were the batteries around our coasts equipped only with muzzle-loaders? Yet in face of facts like these, it was only proposed to spend £420,000 on home defence. No doubt, at the end of March another forty or fifty millions would be asked for. Turning next to the subject of the Volunteers, the hon. Member said he happened to be an old Volunteer himself, and he declared to the House, that in his opinion the treatment of the Volunteers of this country had been shabby in the extreme. They had no rifle ranges to resort to except those at a great distance. No wonder there was difficulty in getting men to join. Why was it? We must look again for answer to the War Office—to the gentry in Pall Mall, where they had no idea whatever of encouraging the citizen soldier to practise the art of defending his own country in the hour of need.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I am entirely in agreement with the remarks of the hon. Member for Gateshead on the subject of our field guns in South Africa; everybody knows that they are not quick-firing guns, such as are used in France and Germany. Our guns fire 1325 about four shots a minute, whereas the guns in Germany will fire from ten to fifteen shots per minute. I would like to say, Sir, that it is rather difficult to be in agreement with the speech of the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition, who holds a brief for the War Office, as right hon. Gentlemen in his position always do. The right hon. Gentleman said he was not in accord with the suggestion made as to conscription. The Under Secretary of State for War has said nothing about conscription. But I do believe that this country will be obliged to have recourse to the ballot for the Militia, if we do not have some other form of compulsion. Of this I am certain, that unless we feed and clothe our Army better and find the men some employment after they have left the service, and give them some hope of promotion from the ranks, there will have to be some sort of compulsory service if we do not have conscription. Although the speech of the Under Secretary of State for War was extremely instructive, it did not convince me. It appeared to me to be a speech which this House has heard several times before; and the scheme it foreshadowed was extremely like that introduced by Mr. Cardwell in 1876. The hon. Gentleman told us that there are 109,000 Regular troops in this country at the present moment; but surely the hon. Gentleman knows that the Regulars in this country now are immature and inefficient, otherwise they would be out in South Africa and not at home. They have no regimental organisation; and there are practically no batteries, although they have a certain number of guns. Now what does the hon. Gentleman say as to the Militia? He proposes to give them transport and extra pay, and if the hon. Gentleman knew the Militia as I have had an opportunity of knowing them for the last half dozen years he would acknowledge that these suggestions have not come too soon. A considerable proportion of their battalions is made up of recruits who are not available for service, and they do not anything like represent the numbers as they appear in it he Army List. As to the Volunteers, it is about time that their Artillery should be equipped with new guns. The 40-pounders they have now are practically useless. I should also favour the capitation increase; but I think it would be more simple if the men 1326 received, say, 6d. an hour while at drill or on duty. Personally, I do not see much use in enlisting large masses of undisciplined men. What is the use of doing that, if you have not the necessary ranges? What you want, of course, is a disposable army corps, composed of forces which are capable of offence, which is practically the vital principle of defence. When Kruger sent his ultimatum there were no troops in the country which we could send out at once; whereas if we had had a disposable army corps at Aldershot four months ago we would not now be seeing General White fighting with his back to the wall at Ladysmith. I also think that the proposal to allow old soldiers to reengage is a good one, and that officers in the Reserve should have a chance of serving in the Regular forces. As to the Yeomanry, I have never been an enthusiastic admirer of that branch of the service, although I am bound to say that I admire very much the way in which the Yeomanry have come to the front during the last few months. I believe if the War Office took them in hand and turned them from cavalry into mounted infantry they would regain the reputation for utility which in recent years has been denied to them.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Mr. Lowther, since I have had the honour of being a Member of this House, and no matter who has been the War Minister for the time being, I have always noticed that the colonels who sit in this House criticise the military proposals as those of a set of imbeciles and incompetent men. Now, my hon. friend the Member for Gateshead wants to know what the money is to be spent for. If my hon. friend had taken the trouble to look at the Estimate he would have seen for himself. As far as I am able to read it, the £13,000,000, with the exception of the £420,000 to be spent on home defence, is to be spent on the war up to March of the present year. Well, Sir, a person may consider this war absolutely unnecessary and absolutely unjust; he may consider that the objects aimed at are undesirable in the interests of the country; but that does not alter the fact that the war does exist, and that this Vote is practically for money expended. If we choose to send men out to Africa, we are 1327 bound in honour not to deprive them of the money we have engaged to pay them. Under these circumstances, although I have my own view in regard to the war, I do not object to this Vote. Moreover, I do not object, when we are at war, and have denuded the country of nearly all our troops, to provide for the defence of the country in case of attack by some foreign Power. But what I do object to in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War is that he has grafted on to his demands for the present emergency a scheme for the permanent increase of the Army. I could not follow the hon. Gentleman in all the details of his scheme, but his figures seemed to show a plan for taking troops from one force and adding them to another. As a matter of fact, the hon. Gentleman did say that there was to be a permanent increase of our soldiers by something like 32,000 men per annum.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I said the present proposal was for an increase of 32,000 men, but I also certainly said that when the army came back from South Africa their services would not be required, and the Army would be reduced to the peace establishment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Well, we ought to know definitely what the Government scheme is, and by how many men the Army is to be increased. I take it that the increase will be not less than 20,000 men. Although I say that we ought to be ready to grant this Vote for the money which has been already spent, it must not be taken that we assent to a permanent increase in the Army; and I do not see how far the hon. Gentleman was entitled to engraft on the Vote of money for the present emergency a scheme for the permanent increase of the Army. I have followed this question for a considerable number of years. I remember the time of the establishment of the Volunteers. We were told then what an excellent thing that was, and that it would not be necessary to increase the Army. Then we were told, when we were asked to vote a large number of additional ships for the fleet, that we would not have to be asked, for an in- 1328 creased Vote for the Army; but ever since then the numbers and the cost of the Army have gone up by leaps and bounds. The idea was that we ought to have troops for the defence of this country and for the defence of our garrisons abroad, and 40,000 or 50,000 men to send to a foreign country in the event of war. The War Minister himself has said that we cannot expect to cope with the great Continental armies, or dream of being able to send an army abroad sufficient to fight the army of France or of Germany; but at the present moment you have sent an army of 150,000 to South Africa. Are we to consider that our normal military establishment should be such that we shall be able to send abroad an army of 150,000 men, and yet have a sufficient army at home to defend the country? I hope occasions like the present will never occur again; but if you adopt that policy, it is very obvious that we must have a perpetual increase to our Army and Navy. Now I am opposed to that policy. The Under Secretary for War says he hopes that the patriotism of the country will enable him to fill up the ranks. I have no doubt that a sufficient number of men will come forward in defence of their country if it is attacked, but I very much doubt if you can have such a number of men in times of peace without conscription. I gathered the other day from an admirable speech by Lord Rosebery that his Lordship considers conscription will shortly be necessary, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down took the same view. We must look all these facts in the face, and I am perfectly convinced that if the present policy is persevered with, within one or two years we shall have conscription. I hope I have made my position clear in this matter. I am not going to oppose the Vote, because I believe that, the money having been, spent, it would be most improper that the bill should not be paid. But I do protest against the representative of the War Office interpolating in a proposal for the payment of this money a scheme for permanently increasing the Army. It must be clearly understood that when that scheme comes on for discussion on its merits we shall be free to approve of or to reject it irrespective of the present Vote. There are one or two questions I would venture to ask the Under Secretary for War. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the 1329 Volunteers, and said he was going to increase their pay and the extent of their organisation. Does he intend to apply that to Ireland, or to the United Kingdom alone? [IRISH MEMBERS on the Irish Benches: Hear, hear.] That is a most important question, and I am curious to know whether it is so or not. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War professed the most wonderful contempt for money, as if this Vote were so many halfpennies; he said that patriotism was everything, and that the money would be given freely. That is all very well when you talk of the present war; but when we go into a new scheme we should ask what that scheme is to cost, and if the hon. Gentleman will not tell us, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to inform the Committee what that scheme is to involve. I know that some gentlemen want the English Constitution changed, and declare that the Treasury ought not to control our expenditure: but I do not agree with that. Before we have a scheme adopted, we should have some notion as to what it is to cost. Another question is, whether this £13,000,000 we are asked to vote now will represent the total expenditure up to the 31st March, or only a portion of it?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The total expenditure up to the 31st March; but, of course, the operations in which we are engaged involve very heavy charges besides.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The hon. Gentleman distinctly tells us that it is the total expenditure up to 31st March, exclusive of terminal charges, by which I suppose he means bringing back the troops. But will the total expenditure for the war that is due be covered by this £13,000,000?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, West)
We have an estimate before us, which deals with many millions of pounds. The Under Secretary for War has spoken in great detail about a portion, a very insignificant portion, of the Estimate; but £10,000,000 of the whole Estimate refers to the expenditure in connection with the war in South Africa, and, 1330 if my memory serves me right, the words "South Africa" did not once fall from my hon. friend's lips, and no particulars of any sort or kind were given in regard to the expenditure in South Africa, or on any other item of the budget which my hon. friend presented to the House. It seems to me that that is rather a topsy-turvy arrangement. I do not know whether I am out of order—I think I am not—in departing from the arrangement of the discussion which my hon. friend proposed; but, so far as I can understand, this debate is almost the only occasion on which we can raise the question, very important to many of us, of the expenditure of the money included in the major portion of this Vote. When I heard my hon. friend make his speech, I did not know whether to laugh or cry; to laugh, because there is something rather comic in the proposals my hon. friend made to the House. I think we must all agree that the Under Secretary has been proposing to us measures which are of the nature of emergency measures, and that if we leave that fact out of sight we shall entirely misapprehend the appeal he made to the House. I admit, then, that what he proposed is an emergency measure, that it is the best, perhaps, that can be done under the circumstances, and that it is our duty, as patriotic men, to give credit to the War Office for their desire to get us through the emergency. But, after all, we have some sort of responsibility as individual Members of Parliament, and I think it is reasonable that, before giving carte blanche for these emergency measures, we should make some sort of inquiry into the question of whether these emergency measures will satisfy the need that we all admit exists. I think I may justify my frame of mind. I said that I felt half inclined to laugh because I heard my friend get up and propose point after point as essential for the country's need, which has been the commonplace, year after year, of that small number of hon. Members who have taken the views I have endeavoured to expound in regard 1331 to the necessities of the Army. It was laughable that my hon. friend should have discovered at this, the eleventh, I may almost say, the twelfth hour, that there was some reason, some method in our proposals: that two and two did make four; and that the time had at last come when it was necessary to admit our facts. There was a melancholy side to the proposals of the hon. Gentleman—a very melancholy side. Here is an expenditure of £13,000,000, which does not nearly exhaust the total expenditure, on the purely military preparations of the country. Now, it is melancholy that we should be confronted with a demand of this kind in a war with a small Power, that we should be told that so inadequate were our preparations for that war, with all our enormous resources, that we should consider it a reasonable and fit thing for the Under Secretary to come down to the House and ask us for—what I am sure we are ready to give—a blank cheque to enable him to discharge the very elementary duties of the office of which he is so distinguished a member. We have been told that it is absolutely essential that more batteries should be provided. Of course, it is essential; everybody has said that it was essential for years past. We are told that guns of position should be supplied to the Volunteers, and that these should not be obsolete, but guns of the most modern description. We have said so for years. The other day, I read an account of how two nine-pounder guns at Mafeking were found to be outranged by the Boer guns by 2,000 yards. These guns were the guns of the Natal Volunteers. That is precisely analogous to the armament we have given to our own Volunteers. We have never regarded the Volunteers seriously. It was the same War Office which comes down now and asked for the most modern guns for the Volunteers which provided for our excellent and well-intentioned Volunteer gunners the guns which under the stress of war would fail as the guns failed at the siege of Mafeking. We are told that we are to have a number of three years men. Of course we are, because it has been obvious any time during the last ten years that that was the only way you can get men under the conditions of recruiting, so as to make up a large reserve. But the three years system was at one time anathema with the War Office. There is another development, side by side with 1332 the recruiting of three years men, we are to have the recruiting of long service men. We have already got back to twelve years long service men to the extent of 5,000, but now, apparently, we are to have a full return to long service and pensions. I do not know how these changes have come over the spirit of our dream, but I do know that three years service men, long service men, and pensioned men used all alike to be anathema. I want to know whether it is reason, or the pressure of emergency, which has changed the opinion of the War Office in these matters. And then, in regard to Yeomanry, I was astonished to find, for the first time, what an extraordinarily valuable body the Yeomanry were. I remember when a member of the present Government said that, in his opinion, the kindest thing the Government could do would be to disband the Yeomanry, but now we are told, with regard to this very force so described by the Minister for Agriculture, that there is no such body in the country. I have had a great deal of correspondence with officers of the Militia, and their opinion has always been that the process applied by the War Office was killing that force, is destroying the ambition of the officers and the efficiency of the men. Year after year officers of the Militia have complained of the way they have been treated when they applied for some recognition of the force. But now we are told that the Militia is the one force on which we are to depend, and we are to go round the country gentlemen, who have been doing all that in them lay to try and get some recognition from the War Office, begging them to try if they cannot furbish up the Militia in order to meet the needs of the War Office at the present time. Only last session I was rebuked for saying that £20,000 was a ludicrous vote for ranges for the Volunteers, but now we are told that the one thing essential for the Volunteers is the provision of rifle ranges. Cavalry officers told us again and again that we were departing from the best Continental models in organising our cavalry regiments in three squadrons; but now we are told that we and they were right, and that the old system is to be re-established. These are facts. Now, as to the Household troops. We are told that they are to be brought up to their proper strength. I do not know whether 1333 the country is aware that only one regiment of the Household Cavalry has been made up out of three regiments for this war. How is it that the sound principle has been departed from that a regiment should remain unbroken? The reason is that not one of the three regiments of Household Cavalry could supply two squadrons from its own composition. These are all things that I complained of years ago, and which are now to be remedied, and I want to know why all these things have changed their aspect within the short period of three months, and why what was unreasonable and ridiculous, amateur, and impossible then has now become necessary? The only solution that I can think of is that the War Office have had applied to these contradictions, impossibilities, and incompatibilities the touchstone of war. Never, during the last twenty years, has the British Army been organised by the War Office for the purpose of going to war, and the moment you apply that touchstone all these fads and fallacies and preconceived ideas which we were told were essential to the system vanished, and the stern realities prevailed. And now we have my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War coming down to the House stating that these very things we demanded are essential if we are to be saved from the difficulties into which the War Office has plunged us. I say this, not from a desire to embarrass the Government, but because I do think it is necessary that the Committee and the country should be careful indeed how they entrust to this same organisation the vast sums which are now asked for and the vast powers demanded to be conceded. My hon. friend the Under Secretary said a great deal about the muscles and the ribs and other anatomical parts of the body being a protection to the heart and the lungs, and something also about the mailed list, but he said nothing about that part of the body which, after all, plays a very important part—the brain, which directs the fist and gives an impulse to the muscles. In my opinion that is what the country is particularly anxious about at this moment. I suppose there is no man in this House, or out of it, who is disposed to deny to the hon. Member the credit he deserves for his proposals. But there is a very large number of men who agree with me, that, if these proposals 1334 are to bear the stamp of permanence they ought to be opposed. Nay, more, that they ought to be criticised, opposed, and thwarted until we have an assurance that the organisation and the brains which are to control them are something totally different from the brains and organisation which have exposed us to the calamities which have made all these things essential. I regret that my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury has thought it necessary to subscribe to a eulogy of the War Department as strong as that which he felt it his duty to pronounce the other night. I think that eulogy would have been almost excessive if pronounced on a committee of archangels directing the movements of the heavenly hosts before the battle of Armageddon. But whether that be so or not, I think that though perhaps as grateful appreciation of strenuous service by able men under the pressure of an emergency it was permissible, it was not exactly appropriate to the present situation. Of course, whenever you get a number of English officers and gentlemen in an emergency, and when the country is in danger, they will do their best—neither sleep by night nor rest by day—until they have done all they can do. But I do not know that the attitude and mind of the country towards the War Office at the present moment is exactly that which the right hon. Gentleman seems to have imagined. With all its application, all its good intentions, with the purse of the country freely open to it, and the support of the country behind it, the War Office has landed us in a state of things which it is lamentable to contemplate, and in a series of mishaps and entanglements which, happily, have not been common in the history of this country. I intend to postpone criticism of that organisation to another day, but I think it most important that the myth which the First Lord of the Treasury has gone a good way to create should be dissipated before it assumes a solid form in the minds of the majority of the people of this country. I am prepared, when the appointed time comes, to demonstrate that the great success which the right hon. Gentleman claims for the War Department has been a very moderate success indeed. That they have foreseen the difficulties which they would have to contend with, that they have made any adequate preparations for the performance of those, duties, I am prepared to deny, and, 1335 believe, to prove. I must say that I regret the right hon. Gentleman should have thought it necessary at the present time to put the matter quite as high as he has done. I am sure there is no Member in this House who admires more, and who would be more ready to sympathise with, the spirit that always stands up for a Department which is attacked than myself, and I personally would have been perfectly willing for a long time to come to abstain from criticism of the details of the work of the War Department, but I do think it is absolutely necessary at the present time to say a very little about what the War Department has done. The Under Secretary for War spoke to-night about 106,000 Regular troops in this country. I regret that he used that expression, because though it is literally and absolutely true, and I think I could enumerate every single unit which makes up that total, that expression will go forth to-morrow as a statement made on authority by the Under Secretary of State. Yet as a military organisation that 106,000 men have no existence at all. It is an unorganised and incoherent body, and, as an hon. Member said just now, if it were anything else it would not be in this country at this moment. We have entrusted enormous sums to the War Department, and yet what have we got in return? At the beginning of this war 185,000 men were being paid for by the country as Regular soldiers in the Army and the first class Reserve. Yet what do we find? That when we come to squeeze the sponge, when we attempt to get what value we can out of that 185,000 men, it resolves itself into 84,000 or 85,000 effective men for the service of the country. This is a very serious state of things, that we should be paying so much and getting so little. It is a crowning mercy for this country—and we have had many to be thankful for—that this lesson should come at a time when we are still able to profit by it. I do hope that we may not be misled by optimistic views of our present situation into neglecting this lesson and failing to profit by it. Let me ask the Committee to consider for one moment what would be our present condition if we were at war, not with two small inland States, but with some serious European Power? Should we be able to do then what we have done now? My hon. friend spoke of 124,000 regular 1336 soldiers being in South Africa. But he omitted to tell the Committee, though I should like to do so, where those men came from. He omitted to tell the Committee that we have depleted the garrison of India by 7,000 men; that we have swept the colonial garrisons; that Malta, Crete, Cyprus, the Mauritius, Singapore, the West Indies, and, I believe, Halifax, Bermuda, and Ceylon, have been called upon to provide their contingents to make up that body of men; that even of the considerable number of men whom he correctly says have left this country several battalions have been brought back from the Mediterranean and despatched from this country. What would be the case in a real, a serious war? I think I may challenge contradiction when I say that if we were engaged in a serious war our first call would be to provide not reinforcements but troops to the extent of nearly 20,000 to bring the garrison of India up to a war footing. So far from depleting our Mediterranean garrisons, we should have to reinforce them, and every movement of troops would have to be made in face of a vigilant navy, and of the possibility of having our transports interfered with. We were told that the Guards were to be sent to Gibraltar as the part of the spear always ready for action, and a great deal of excellent eloquence was expended in this House in proving the value of sending the Guards to Gibraltar. But what happened? The moment this war with the Boer Republics broke out a battalion of the Guards were called on. What was the first evidence of the activity of that battalion of the Guards? A transport arrived in Southampton Water with 300 men of the battalion of the Guards at Gibraltar incompetent to take part in any war at all, and who were consequently shipped home. Again I ask the Committee what would be the condition of this country if we had not been given this lesson, this trial of our resources, but had been engaged at this time in a real war? I have frequently been found fault with because I have said that our present system, the very system which my hon. friend now asks us to perpetuate and to exaggerate, was not a system suited to the needs of the Empire. I regret that we are asked sans facon to add twelve battalions to the Army. Except as an emergency measure I will not consent from my own personal point 1337 of view to any addition of the kind. The mere addition of battalions will not do this country any good at all, and whereas the last additions have not helped this country so future additions will not help it, unless we have an entire change in the administration of these battalions. I do not want to talk vague generalities to this Committee, as they have other things to talk about, but I do want to put one or two very pregnant facts before them. I will ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War to contradict me if I am wrong, but I say that between the 1st July and the 20th October—nearly a fortnight after the issue of the ultimatum by the Transvaal—this country was unable to send and did not send to the assistance of General White, hardly pressed as he was in Natal, one single brigade of troops. Such is the organisation of our army which we are asked to perpetuate. What is the fact? We did send a contingent. We sent one battalion, the 5th Fusiliers, which was here by accident because of an international agreement by which the garrison of Crete had been reduced by one-half, and that battalion were here en route from Crete to the West Indies, still in their khaki uniform, and were sent to the Cape. What was the other battalion? The other battalion was a very weak battalion of the Munster Fusiliers from Fermoy; it was sent off, and, I believe, at the present time is engaged in guarding prisoners on board the "Manilla" in Simon's Bay. The only additional troops beyond those were one brigade division of artillery which, to my certain knowledge, had been under orders for twelve months at Aldershot. In the stress and emergency of this Empire, out of the 109,000 men on our pay rolls at home, and out of the 77,000 men on our Reserve rolls, we were able to send only 1½ battalions of infantry and a brigade division of artillery. I shall be told that that is a mistake, that we sent 10,000 men. What did we do? What we did do was this: we took 5,000 men from India, which I have said before, and now repeat, was a most illegitimate and dangerous transaction; we took men from four of the Mediterranean stations; we took in a hurry 200 men from the garrison of the Mauritius; but the contribution from the 106,000 Regular troops in this country was, as I have said, 1½ battalions of infantry and a brigade division of artillery. And even a fort- 1338 night after the ultimatum of the Boer Government was issued we were able to send from this country only a balloon section of the Royal Engineers and a troop of New South Wales cavalry, of whom, I believe, a considerable number went home when they reached the Cape. Here I want to come to a point in which I do trust the Committee will follow me. I have always said that the gross error of our system was that, given the conditions of our Empire, we were not able to meet the sudden calls that were certain to be made upon it. I have said, until I am weary of saying it—[Several HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] I am sorry if I have wearied hon. Members opposite. [Several HON. MEMBERS: No, no! go on.] I have said, until I am weary of saying it, that our battalions as they exist are unfit for any purpose whatever except to serve at depots. I have produced figures again and again to prove the justice of my remarks, and have been told that my figures were incorrect, and that my conclusions had no relation to facts. I have here before me the actual facts with regard to ten battalions at Aldershot. They are not ten selected battalions, but ten battalions taken at random, and the proposition I want to prove is this—that if we had desired, as we ought to have desired, to send troops to General White at the commencement of this war, we could not have done it, and we could not possibly do it without calling out the whole of the Army Reserve. Here are ten battalions which alone require 5,830 men to bring them up to war strength. That is no fancy figure. I will give, if desired, the actual figures, battalion by battalion, of what are called the "details"—the War Office always calls matters of principle matters of detail. Out of those ten battalions, 3,185 men were left behind, and are still in this country as unfit to go. I go back to my proposition, and say that these battalions could not have gone. You have a battalion of 770 men, you deduct from it 381 men, and you require 693 men from the Reserve. I say that the remainder of that battalion, 389 men, rank and file, non-commissioned officers, pioneers, and so on, are not a battalion at all in the parlance of any military nation of the world; and that you could not send one single battalion of the whole of the Aldershot Division without calling up the Reserves. The result was that 1339 you had to wait, week after week, until the 20th October, when the first mobilised battalion sailed in the "Roslyn Castle" to the Cape. That is not a system which is compatible with the exigencies of the Empire, and I again ask the Committee to note that that is one of the points on which we have been flouted and contradicted over and over again in this House. Those figures can be verified by anybody; they are not selected figures. But they do point to the fact that the War Office, having had this enormous power and this enormous responsibility, have not prepared us for the emergency which they knew we should have to contemplate. I have said many things in the past about the incompetence of the War Office to despatch troops when emergency arose. I have nothing to retract on that matter. I have said, and I repeat—not what has been attributed to me, but what I did say, and what many of us have said—that if the equivalent of two army corps were sent from this country the whole of our military organisation at home would be destroyed. It has been destroyed. I go further, and I say that two army corps were not, in fact, sent from this country, and that the break-down of the second army corps was exactly and precisely the break-down we had anticipated. Let me give the Committee one instance. We have always said—I remember saying it ten years ago—that in the one particular of an ammunition train—an essential portion of an army corps—there was no organisation. What happened? The first army corps went out complete, with all its batteries and with an ammunition train. Officers, all anxious to go to the front, volunteered to form that ammunition train. The result was that when you came to form the batteries and the ammunition train for the second army corps you were all at sea; you had not the officers for the ammunition train, and ever since that there has been one lengthening chain of deficiency in those batteries, until now at this moment, there are subalterns of eighteen years running batteries at Woolwich. There are now a number of skeleton batteries which have no existence except on the War Office books, and the failure has been more and more pronounced as every battery has gone out. I did not intend to go so far into detail to-night, and I apologise to the Committee for having done so, but I do so fear the myth which the right 1340 hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has set up about the efficiency of these transactions. I do want the Committee to understand that in order to produce this force abroad we have absolutely destroyed the whole of our military organisation, not only at home, but in the colonies and in India, and that we have performed an operation which, in the event of a real war with a first-class Power, would have put this country in jeopardy greater than any it has been in since the time of the mutiny of the Fleet at the Nore. What is my conclusion? My conclusion, perhaps, is not so irrelevant to the subject of this vote as some hon. Members may suppose from the way I have apparently diverged from the actual matter which the Under Secretary for War has submitted to-night. But I do not know that I need apologise, because I think I am well within the four corners of the Vote in discussing these matters. The hon. Gentleman elected to deal with one portion—no doubt a very interesting portion—of this Vote, represented by £400,000, while I have elected to deal, most inadequately, with a portion of the Vote, representing some £10,000,000 or £12,000,000. Therefore, I think I have not been going altogether outside my rights. In conclusion I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to this, that we must be very careful how we entrust this power to the present organisation. To my mind, and the conclusion has been borne in upon me for a succession of years, we are not rightly served in the War Office. I do not desire now to impugn the action of any individuals. The real difficulty, the real danger of the situation is that we are, so to speak, criticising an administrative jelly-fish, that there is really no person who is responsible; the curse of the situation is that no one is responsible. My hon. friend would himself admit that all he desires is not accomplished, and that it is not within his power to accomplish all that he desires. I would only say in passing, with regard to the personnel of the War Office, that there are—this is plain truth—officers at the War Office who have greatly adorned the military profession, and who, in the opinion of some persons, are equally capable of adorning private life. But whether or not that be so, whether or not we have the right men in the military side of the War Office, is a question about which there may be many opinions, but 1341 that there ought to be somebody who, at a time like this, should take the responsibility upon his shoulders there can be no doubt at all. I propose to ask every assemblage of my countrymen whom I may be able to address, as I have already asked my constituents, whether they are content to go on indefinitely with this organisation or want of organisation that leaves us exposed to a crisis of this kind. Though we have been talking in a very quiet way in this Committee, we ought to realise that there is a solemn fact behind it all, namely, that we are being asked in the presence of the enemy, at a time when no man knows from day to day to what extent these dangers may develop, or how far they may overwhelm us—we are being asked to do exactly those things which common sense and common prudence, and the general voice of the public, have demanded should be done at any time during the last twenty years. And now, when we make this demand, what are we met with? This seems to me to be the most disquieting feature of the whole situation. We are met with declarations that it is the inevitable destiny of this country to muddle through the first days, or the first weeks, or the first months, or the first year of a campaign, and that if we muddle on long enough, all will at last be well. I do not subscribe to that doctrine. I take quite another view of the position, dangers, and future of this country. I look back to some forty or fifty or sixty years ago, and I find that every European country was committed to a system of feudalism, and that this country, learning a new lesson, devoted itself to the policy of "go as you please" and laissez faire, and by adopting it we placed ourselves far in advance of the feudally organised countries of Europe. But, meanwhile, the years have gone by, and those Continental countries which we have passed in the race have found a new doctrine; they have found the doctrine of scientific methods, and the application of scientific methods to produce complete results, and they have distanced us as certainly as those who are armed with modern arms of precision have distanced those who are armed with the old "Brown Bess." I shall never rest as long as I am a Member of this House, or indeed as long as I am alive, until we have some recognition that this truth must be applied to our Military Service, 1342 indeed, to every branch of our public organisation. I have kept the Committee too long, but I would implore them to listen to one further illustration. We have our Army organisation; we I have our War Office, whose melancholy confession of improvidence and incompetence has been voiced to-night through the pleasant expressions of my hon. friend. The measure of what we are asked to do now is the measure of the neglect and incompetence of the past. We have that strange body, the Council of Defence. I should belie every feeling which is implanted in my breast if I were to say one word in disrespect of those who compose the Council of Defence, but I do say that it is something like a joke that at this time, in the nineteenth or the twentieth century, whichever it may be, the fortunes and fate of this country should be in any way dependent upon an organisation of that kind. I recognise, and I am sure all constitutional Members of this House recognise the need of some channel of communication between the professional heads of the great services, and the constitutional heads of the Government. To that extent I not only admit, but I rejoice in the existence, and welcome the creation of this somewhat anomalous body. I only wish, I confess I do wish, that that body was not so ethereal by virtue of its being a sub-committee of the Cabinet, that it keeps no minutes, and has therefore nothing to remind it of what had taken place at the former meeting, because, so far as my knowledge goes, these meetings take place at considerable intervals, and it is conceivable that in those intervals the members of the Committee may have forgotten what took place on the previous occasion. I should only like to urge that members of that Committee should be more constant and enthusiastic in the performance of their duties than they at present are. But I do think it is a serious reflection that that is practically the only organised body charged with providing for the enormously complicated and highly specialised task of the defence of this Empire, the preparation for the defence in times of peace, and the execution of the measures devised in times of peace in time of war. In a great country which is organised not only for peace but for war, we have quite a different state of things. In Germany a member of the general staff is taken at the age of fourteen; from that moment 1343 he is devoted to his profession; he is taught everything it is necessary for him to know and all that the experience of 100 years of successful warfare can suggest, until he is turned out a full-blown member of the general staff. Even then no hour is considered well spent unless he is further qualifying himself for the task he is to perform. It would be an exaggeration if I suggested that the Cabinet Committee of Defence had studied these problems to the extent and in the way considered necessary in other countries, but I do not think it is too much to demand that there should be some educated specialist body in this country to whom this enormously complicated task should be entrusted. I do not for one moment believe that any progress whatever — I will not say "no progress whatever"; that is probably an exaggeration—but I do not believe that any substantial progress has yet been made towards realising the ideal which the Duke of Devonshire's Committee set before it, namely, to provide some regular method of communication between the services, and to provide a system of organised defence. I see no signs of it; but from what has taken place during the last few months there are absolutely certain indications that no such system exists, because what has taken place is absolutely imcompatible with the existence of such a system. I do hope that we shall learn the lessons we have got to learn in a time when we can profit by them. The days are dark, but they may be much darker, and if we are to be met by the cheery optimism of the First Lord of the Treasury, if we are to be told that all is well when all is not well—
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I welcome that admission. I will not say anything that may appear unjust and exaggerated with regard to the First Lord of the Treasury. I know perfectly well that he cares as much about these matters as I do; but I think—and I believe the opinion is shared by many others besides myself—that the optimism he has displayed and the tone he has adopted with regard to the complications in respect of 1344 which we are now asked for this enormous expenditure, are not at all appropriate to the moment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman is interpreting the views I have expressed in a manner which I cannot tolerate. I have not gone beyond this statement of fact—that the War Office have contrived to send to South Africa a fully-equipped body of men larger than was ever sent from the shores of this country before. I have said that criticism of the Government of this or any other country in their warlike policy has been directed to the fact that they were not able to carry out the promises they made. The War Office have performed every promise they ever made. That is not optimism, but a naked statement of fact.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and welcome it as an earnest, not that he shares my opinion—that would be too sanguine a hope—but that he admits there is a fair field for inquiry, and a great possibility of improvement.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That is all I desire to express to the Committee. I hope an opportunity will be given at a later stage for some qualification of the statement that has been made. I care little for that, however, but I do care that we should jealously guard the vote we are asked to give as far as the scheme is permanent. As far as it is temporary I shall enthusiastically support it. But when we come face to face with this problem of how we are to provide for the defence of the Empire in the future, we should ask whether we are justified in acting without inquiry, and the most searching inquiry, into the credentials of those to whom we are asked to entrust this great duty.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I hope I shall not be considered discourteous to those hon. Gentlemen who have risen at the same time as myself in intervening at this stage of the debate; but if I remained silent longer I might forget some of the arguments used and the questions asked, 1345 and then I would be guilty of even greater discourtesy to the hon. Members who have preceded me. I think I had better first of all address myself to the long and interesting speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast, who takes such an interest in these matters. I will do the hon. Member the credit of believing that he knows he has raised questions and issues upon details of fact, and that he cannot seriously expect me to-night to argue out with him once again the old battle over the system of short service and Reserve. It no doubt sounds very convincing when you listen to it put forward as a haphazard and therefore a fair illustration of what is taking place, when the hon. Member says, "I take ten battalions and I find that with six you had to leave 600 men and with the other four 400 men," but it really has nothing to do with the case. The hon. Member said we did not and could not send troops to Sir George White from this country. It is true we did not, but it is quite untrue that we could not. We had a scheme before us. As I informed the Committee in October, and again the other day, there were two alternative plans—one to send 10,000 men from this country and the other to send 10,000 men from India and the Mediterranean garrisons. As a matter of fact, we sent the men from India because the passage was somewhat shorter. The battalions were selected after the Reserve had been called out. Had we intended to send eight battalions—the number we sent from India and the Mediterranean—without calling out the Reserve, we should, of course, have taken the eight battalions which were most ready to go on foreign service. I must decline altogether to argue this question again on matters of detail. These young lads in the battalions at home would be of the same age if they were not in those battalions. They must grow. It reduces me to an absurd position, but I have to assume that position, and I have to inform some hon. Members of this House that if you allow a man to enter the Army at the age of eighteen it takes two years before he arrives at the age of twenty, and the only question between us is what you will do with him during those two years. You can, we admit, put him in a depôt. In that case he has what we consider an inferior chance of being properly trained, and he is not available in any event for any form of 1346 military service. Or you can take the course that we have pursued, and put him in a home battalion which is linked with another battalion on the foreign rota. Then you have the Reserve to fall back upon—the Reserve which we have openly stated to be part of our first line. All you do is to take men, thoroughly trained, put them in that battalion in which they have served seven years, and send them off to the front with their own officers. Meanwhile, the younger man who enlists at eighteen has the benefit of the traditions of that battalion, and the benefit of being exercised in an effective unit on Salisbury Plain or in other manœuvres, and when he reaches the age of twenty he is every bit as good as the men who have preceded him to the seat of war. We think the merits of the case are on our side, because you do two things at one time, and that is the great art of getting on in any profession in life; you train your men at home, and you have your foreign battalion at the same time. That is economy. Although I admit economy is out of fashion, and although I have been accused this evening of bringing in a large Estimate, the third in one year, without dwelling on finance, still we do care about economy. It is better to train young men in that way, because they get a more efficient training, and it is more economical. Not that mere cheapness is economy, but when cheapness is combined with efficiency, that is economy. We know this system is sound, and we believe it is economical, and when the hon. Member alarms the Committee by picking a battalion here and there, and stating that they cannot fight without leaving 600 men behind, he does not touch the remoter fringe of this question. His statement of facts is rather argumentative, and he will take it in good part, I am sure, if I say that in part his arguments seem to lack something of consistency. He said he was prepared to withhold the permanent part of the scheme until he was sure, by some anatomical illustration, that there were brains to direct that force; but he must not oppose a great part of our scheme, because only five months ago he was impressing with some reiteration upon the Committee that he himself had urged upon the Government some five or six of the proposals which we are now submitting to the House. Therefore we need not wait for the brains, we have them 1347 already—we have in fact followed his leading in respect of some of our proposals. Then, again, I cannot allow the hon. Member to say that we have treated these proposals in earlier days as being unsound or baseless. We said there were other proposals which ought to be attended to first. Consider for one moment the talk we have had this evening about the obsolete guns of the Volunteers. Will any hon. Member assert that it would have been prudent for this or any other Government to have supplied the Volunteers with the most modern guns before we had succeeded in raising the batteries for three army corps of the Regular troops? We have been told over and over again that our first duty was to have a mobile force, and our first care therefore was to provide that mobile force with its necessary complement of guns. The hon. Member knows as well as I do that when we came into office in 1895 we had not the guns for three army corps, and, therefore, we should have been unable then to send two army corps out of the country. That we have been able to do now. I feel I cannot dwell longer upon the speech of the hon. Member, because I believe I shall employ the short time left to me more fittingly in trying to answer some of the questions put to me in the course of this debate. The right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition took exception at the start to the fact that I did not dwell sufficiently on the important part—the overwhelming part, I would say—which the Fleet plays in our home defence. Well, I put in the Fleet at the beginning of my speech, and I put it in at the end of my speech; but although I spoke for an hour and a quarter I was only able to dwell upon one aspect of the Estimate. The right hon. Baronet also asked what was the amount for home defence, and the amount for the prosecution of the war. £420,000 is for home defence and the remainder for the war. The fact that we asked the Committee to consider our scheme as a Supplementary Estimate has been the subject of criticism. What else could we do? We ask, I will say frankly, for a covering sanction for things that have been already done. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland asked in his speech last week if the action then taken by the Opposition impeded the Government in taking steps 1348 to build up a home defence, and I honestly told him it did not. As the Executive of the country we have been engaged for some time past in carrying out our scheme on the broad lines which I have divulged this evening. Therefore we have incurred expenditure; we must pay for that expenditure, but we cannot pay for it without first obtaining the authority of the House before March 31st, and therefore there was no other course open to us. I have been asked—What are the numbers of men permanently added to the Regular Army? Since we have abandoned any idea of proceeding by compulsion, it follows that our scheme must be a scheme of invitation. That, of course, is the essence of the voluntary system. You say, "If you give your services, we will give you certain remuneration." Unless we proceed by compulsion, that must be the basis of our scheme. The question, therefore, is not very easy to answer. I gave all the facts necessary in order that hon. Members could form as good a notion as I could on that subject. What we are doing is to raise fifteen battalions of infantry—three already voted by the House, but not raised, and twelve now to be voted and raised. We are adding forty-three batteries of artillery. We are strengthening the Army Service Corps, and we are strengthening the Royal Engineers. If and when we get back from South Africa the Army that is there—[An HON. MEMBER laughed.] I do not think that is a laughing matter. Whenever we have in this country the three full army corps at war strength, then we shall, more or less, fold up the artillery, the engineers, and the Army Service Corps of two army corps in such a way that they may expand when again necessary into the artillery, the engineers, and the Army Service Corps of two army corps. That is one permanent feature of the plan I have endeavoured to explain, and I commend it to the consideration of the Committee. Whereas in times past we have always aimed at the maximum of three army corps, from this forward, if the House sanctions the scheme, we will aim at a maximum of five army corps. That is a very considerable permanent addition to the military defences of this country. The right hon. Baronet also raised a question of great importance with respect to the guns of the Volunteers. He said we ought to consider the importance of not competing, so 1349 to speak, with the Navy. I can assure the Committee, on the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty and on my own knowledge, that the Navy has not been put, and will not be put, behind the Army in any respect. The right hon. Gentleman also dwelt on the fact that we had borrowed troops from India. Of course, we will repay what we borrowed at the earliest possible moment. But what has been the extent of our borrowing? Four regiments of cavalry out of nine—that is heavy borrowing, but, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the native cavalry is numerous and efficient—two batteries of horse artillery out of eleven; three batteries of field artillery out of forty-two; and although we have borrowed eight battalions of infantry out of fifty-two, we have already paid back some, for the battalions in India now stand at forty-seven, so that there is only a loss of five white battalions. It is one of the first duties we shall discharge, just as we are already taking steps to pay back the guns we have borrowed.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The men are, I admit, a very important point, and one which requires a little further consideration. The right hon. Baronet says we now propose to take a greater number of three year men, and the hon. Member for West Belfast also brought that point against us. But it is very easily disposed of. You must have in the home battalion about 700 seven year men in order to feed with drafts the linked battalion in India, and the number of three year men you can take in the home battalion depends absolutely upon the number by which your home battalion exceeds that figure. Last year our home establishment exceeded that limit by 100, and we agreed to take 100 of these men. We now propose to increase the home battalions this year again, and that will allow us to take 200 three year men on any battalion in the home establishment. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn deserves an answer, as he was the first of several 1350 Members who argued, "You have come down to us with a plan for organising three army corps for home defence; but we want to hear how you are going to reinforce India if it should need reinforcing, and how you are going to reinforce Lord Roberts if he should need reinforcements in South Africa." Well, Sir, we believe the best way to do that is to do what we are doing now—namely, to engage in the work of organising these three army corps, and if one is required abroad we can send it away and set to work to organise another. The Committee is aware we have a division ready to embark at a moment's notice, and in the course of a few weeks we may have an army corps ready to embark, and when that embarks we will go on with the next. That is really the only practical manner in which this problem can be approached. The way to provide troops ready to take the field in South Africa or in India is to work them up to the highest point of efficiency as a first step at home. The hon. Member for the Ross Division of Herefordshire, referring to the Yeomanry cavalry, said it would be necessary to reduce very much the expensive character of that force. I agree with him, provided that we do not break down its traditions altogether. But I cannot let pass, as one who has served twelve years in the Yeomanry, his allegation that the officers spend the whole of their training in gambling and amusement. I have never seen a card during the whole time I have served in the regiment to which I belong, and I know no body of men more zealous to get the utmost benefit they can out of the opportunities given to them. Then the right hon. Baronet the Member for North East Manchester dwelt at some length on the Swiss system of Militia. I know the Intelligence Department of the War Office has recently published a short book on that subject. No doubt it is a most interesting one, but it has this difference from the system we propose, namely, that although as the right hon. Baronet declares, there is no conscription in the Swiss system, there is compulsion, and compulsion does not merely give you all the men you want at a certain age, for a certain pay, and for a definite number of days, but it also enables you to work them as hard as you like during those days. That is a most fundamental difference between the two systems, and, if we 1351 attempted to apply not to our Volunteers or Militia but even to our Regular Army the course of drill which is applied to recruits obtained by compulsion, the recruiting returns would fall down in a manner which would be most disastrous.
§ The hon. Member was still speaking at midnight when, it being midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.