§ 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.)
§ COLONEL BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
What I principally notice in connection with the question now under discussion, is the very satisfactory increase of interest which the House now takes in this particular class of subject. Yesterday, even the hon. Member for Northampton was heard to admit that it might be necessary to keep some troops in this country, while the hon. Member for Gateshead complained that the amount asked for was a mere bagatelle, and, in his opinion, not half enough. I was also very glad to note that my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War, in his statement, appreciated the general drift of public opinion, and was fully aware of the facts of the present situation. Some speakers expressed disapproval, because the statement did not contain more on the subject of South Africa. But my own view is that the complications there form only one incident, and that the real question which we have to deal with is the general improvement of our whole military system. With regard to the changes that the hon. Gentleman forshadowed, very few Members will 1383 deny that they are in the right direction, and I am sure we all wish them every success. The main doubt I entertain on the matter is whether the hon. Gentleman is not a great deal too sanguine as to the practical effect of the proposals he has made. He was careful in the early part of his remarks to disavow having any recourse to compulsion, and I noticed that this disavowal was received with ominous approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I have observed—it may only be a coincidence—that when anything that is doomed to ultimate failure, and deserves such a fate, is referred to in connection with the War Office, the right hon. Gentleman invariably gets up and gives his blessing to it. He has been described as a Tory in the worst sense of the term, and I think that the word accurately expresses his attitude on all questions of Army reform. In disavowing any recourse to compulsion my hon. friend adumbrated a very large increase in both the Regular Army and the Auxiliary forces. Although I am one of those who would much rather not have compulsory service, I must say I do not think that Ministers should go out of their way to encourage the idea that it is impossible. Nothing could be more creditable to this country than to supply the immense number of men now required without compulsion. But there are circumstances which may account for my hon. friend feeling rather too sanguine. To begin with, it is amply demonstrated that the present war is a very popular one with the masses of the country, who are offering their sympathy in a practical form by going out to take their share in the fighting. But we might at any time be confronted with a war exceedingly unpopular; and in such a case I think we should, in trusting to the voluntary system, find ourselves leaning on a broken reed. My hon. friend called his general proposals a "scheme of invitation," and obviously that implied that his proposals might either be accepted or rejected. My earnest hope is that they may be accepted and that the country may respond to his invitation, but I venture to repeat my wish that he had not appeared to commit himself against the possibility of having recourse to some form of compulsion. There are some Members of this House who like the compulsory system of 1384 military service for the sake of the thing itself, but personally I do not think we should regard either the voluntary or the compulsory system otherwise than as a means to an end, that end being the efficiency and mobility of our forces. With regard to the more important general proposals of the Government, I usually associate myself with my hon. friend the Member for West Belfast, and his opinions. But I fear that his experience in this House has rather tended to make him a little hypercritical and sometimes unfair with regard to propositions that come from the Government. I certainly do consider it unfair for him to exercise his satire at the expense of the 109,000 men who have been referred to as being at home. Of course we all know that they are largely composed of young and immature soldiers. But everything must have a beginning, and we cannot expect that men under twenty years of age shall be as fit for foreign service as older men. I believe that if my hon. friend could see these men dressed as blue-jackets he would say that they were, on the whole, a very useful body. With regard to the proposals relating to our Auxiliary forces I think the whole country will be disposed to congratulate my hon. friend and the Government on having at length decided to give some official countenance to the Militia—that much-neglected but useful military body, which, in season and out of season, has borne the heat and burden of the day for many years past, and has always been found willing to do what is required of it in an unostentatious and unadvertising way. The increase of pay and the provision of transport for the Militia must be admitted to be substantial improvements, but when my hon. friend goes on to propose a training of not less than three months every year, I am again inclined to say that he is showing rather too sanguine a temperament. I think that the class of Militiamen who can find time to go out for three months in the year might just as well join Line battalions at once and become Regular soldiers. Probably that is the intention. But the old-fashioned Militiaman will, I think, find it very difficult to go out for three months; while as to the officers, the difficulty will be still more formidable. Of late years the officers of the Militia have very largely ceased to be drawn from the ranks of the country gentlemen. They are to an increasing 1385 extent recruited from professional men and men of business, stockbrokers, &c., who go into the force not exactly in a spirit of leisurely patriotism, but rather with the idea of getting a short holiday, and at the same time of gaining some acquaintance with the profession of arms. My hon. friend expressed a hope that the country gentlemen would help him with respect to the officering of the force. I live most of the year among country gentlemen, and my opinion of them as regards the patriotic duties they are ready to perform is a rather low one. In many parts of the country, no doubt, they are behaving very well under the excitement of the present crisis, and are joining Yeomanry corps, and so on, but I fear that for the ordinary uninteresting military work of peaceful times we may appeal to them in vain. The idle young men who have least to do always complain that they are most busy, and it is impossible to obtain their services. The Government may be quite right politically in banishing the idea of applying compulsion to the working classes, but if they could only apply a little of it to the classes from whom the officers are recruited I believe no complaint would be heard, and that it would be for the good of the social community at large, and especially of the young men principally concerned. It would make them do their duty when they fail to do it of their own accord. As regards the Volunteers, I could have wished that some systematic attempt had been made to deal with the question of field artillery. It is, I admit, a very difficult question, and there is much to be said on both sides of it, but I hold the opinion that it would not have been impossible to provide the Volunteers with field artillery by borrowing a little from the Continental system, and giving them the assistance of Regular soldiers in the most difficult part of their duty—that is, driving. But as the Government have announced the very substantial addition of thirty-six field batteries and seven batteries of horse artillery to the Regular Army, I do not think we should make any further complaint on the subject of artillery in the immediate present. With regard to the Infantry Volunteers, I am sure that many of the proposals will be hailed with great satisfaction by commanding officers of battalions. They will be extremely pleased with the permission to recruit to a higher limit. I 1386 do not, however, quite understand whether that means recruiting in their existing stations, or whether it means that they may go further afield, which would involve the appointment of additional instructors and the coming to Parliament for more money. Whether it will have the effect of popularising the Volunteers at the expense of the Militia, too, is a matter for the Government rather than for Volunteer officers to consider. Undoubtedly the Volunteers now absorb a large number of men who, from an abstract point of view, ought to be serving in the Militia. I do not think that the latter force attracts a sufficient number of the lower middle class, whom it would be very desirable to draw to the colours, and the only plan I have ever heard proposed to secure the desirable end of grouping our possible soldiers in their proper places is that of creating double battalion regiments composed of men of a particular class. The sanction for Volunteers to train for one month a year instead of a week I hail personally with the greatest satisfaction. I think it is an admirable boon, but I fear that many of my friends will find it extremely difficult to carry it out. What is easy for one Volunteer corps is very difficult for another, and what suits a man recruited in a city would not do for a man living in a rural district in Scotland. I should have thought that a little elasticity might have been provided under the management of the general officers, so that different localities—so long as they did not spend more money than they were entitled to—might settle matters as they pleased. I was glad to hear my hon. friend, in speaking of these concessions, state that they are to be accompanied by stringent conditions. I am anxious to hear what those conditions will be, for I have too often found that they only have reference to some detail as to shooting qualifications, and I think that Volunteers have long outstepped that period of their existence. I miss now, as I have done in many previous Army statements in this House, any reference to discipline. The Volunteer force is still suffered to remain very much, in many substantial respects, in the same state with regard to discipline as when it was first established in the evil days of 1859. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no!] I say it is so, in spite of itself, and that the authorities have not 1387 levelled it up or made it advance with the times as regards discipline. Let me refer hon. Members to the extraordinary regulation which prescribes that meetings of all ranks of a corps shall be held—meetings at which a proposition may be made by a private, seconded by a sergeant, and opposed by the commanding officer. Of course, there are ways and means of getting out of this ridiculous regulation, but I see no reason why it should not be expunged. At present it only constitutes a standing subject of ridicule from Regulars and Militia. These meetings are thoroughly pernicious, and I speak with some experience on the subject. While in some quarters there is a desire to stereotype these absurdities in the Volunteer service, the Volunteers themselves resent them more perhaps than anyone else. Again, I think it will be necessary before long for the authorities to draw up some precise regulation as to volunteering for active service. I think it would save a great deal of trouble if a register were kept of the men willing to act as regular soldiers in case of emergency, instead of only asking for volunteers when an unexpected emergency arises. Almost the most substantial concession contained in the very encouraging announcement in regard to the Volunteers is the intention of occasionally presenting them with a commission in the Regular Army. That is a privilege which should have been conceded long ago. I cannot help thinking that the present moment—or during the progress of the present war—would be a favourable one for reviving among the Volunteers the practice which at one time prevailed with regard to the Militia, under which any officer bringing in a hundred men to join the Regular Army was rewarded with a commission. Many officers would have done this in the present emergency, and I think some of the results would have been more satisfactory than under the present system, and that a now means would have been found to assist recruiting. I think we ought to regard with extreme satisfaction the manner in which our Volunteers have come forward to join their territorial regiments, and those who find fault with the territorial system ought to recognise that this is one of its advantages, that it forms a closer union between the Regular and the Auxiliary battalions. Nothing was said in my hon. friend's 1388 statement with regard to the War Office, which leads to the suspicion that it is going on like the old four-wheeled cabs in London, for another quarter of a century. The hon. Gentleman has disarmed a good deal of criticism by the tactful way in which he has made his statement, and by the remarkable gift he has exhibited of showing between the lines of what he says what he would also personally like to say. I regard his proposals for home defence, making due allowance for what is too sanguine, as the most important and most satisfactory that have been made for many years past—probably during the present generation—and I wish them every success.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I do not want to discourage or depreciate the merits of the statement which the hon. Gentleman made last night, which I admire; but I think it has been received in the House with an almost universal sense of disappointment. That expression of disappointment has been as strong on the other side of the House as on this, and if we have been disappointed, what must be the disappointment of those outside, who called upon the Opposition to abrogate its principal functions because, forsooth, while we were debating the Address we were supposed to be standing in the way of something that was to be proceeded with on the part of the War Office? We have been subjected to that sort of criticism by persons—or at all events by one person, who appears to have transgressed and broken the rules of the high public office now vested in him. I certainly did not expect to hear such a statement as I have listened to to-night. We expected some detailed account of what the Government were going to do in the prosecution of the war which is now in progress. We have had instead a statement which dealt with the projected reforms, or rather with a permanent increase in our military system, and the Estimates which have been submitted to us, like the statement of the hon. Gentleman, are divided between the provision for the war which is now going on—as to which no objection comes from me—and the provision made for this permanent increase of our military forces. But whilst £13,000,000 of this Estimate are to be devoted to the war, the greater part of the hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted 1389 to the provision which is to be made for the permanent increase of the military forces. In the few observations which I propose to submit to the Committee I wish to address myself first of all to that part of the subject which deals with the South African question. Whatever my feelings may be about the war, I do not propose to object to a single farthing of the money which is now being asked for for the purposes of the war, and there are only two questions which I desire to submit to the hon. Gentleman, who will no doubt give us the information I desire before the debate closes. First of all I think we ought to have a complete statement as to the extent to which the Army has, during the progress of this war, been obliged to borrow guns from the Navy. We know that some thirty-eight guns have been borrowed from the Navy up to a certain date, and the process has been going on. There is also another minor point. I understand that the searchlights, which have been so useful on many critical occasions in South Africa, have been borrowed from the Navy. I think the hon. Gentleman would do well to tell us to what extent that has taken place, and how it comes about that an army engaged in such a war had to borrow searchlights even from the Navy.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
I am not aware of it.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The searchlights used by the Army have been borrowed from the Navy, and that certainly requires explanation. I will finish by asking how is the borrowing of guns and of searchlights to be made good to the naval service? They must be replaced, I imagine; and I should like to know whether the borrowed guns are to be a Navy charge or an Army charge? In connection with the progress of the war I should like to know the status of the colonial troops who have been engaged. I take it that while these troops have been to some extent equipped by the colonies, their pay is to be a charge upon us, and forms part of the £13,000,000 now being asked for. I understand also that the colonial troops are to be paid at the same rate as the Imperial troops.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
They are paid by the 1390 Colonial as well as by the Imperia Government.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The understanding with the Canadian and Australian authorities is that we should give the men arms and ammunition, pay them Imperial rates, and take them home.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
What I am driving at is the alleged inequality of remuneration—I don't care from what source—between the Colonial troops and the Imperial troops. According to my right hon. friend they are getting paid from two sources, as compared with our own troops, who are only getting our own pay. That, no doubt, will be explained.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It is for the Governments of self-governing colonies to give the men what they please.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I do not know that it is a satisfactory service to have two sets of soldiers belonging to the same rank, and one of them getting a different rate of pay to the other. I should like to say a word or two about the permanent provision which is being made in this Estimate for the increase in the Army. I object altogether to the manner in which the proposal for that increase has been submitted to the House. How has it been submitted? We have had a vast new scheme involving a large permanent addition to our forces laid before us in a Supplementary Estimate, a large proportion of which deals with expenditure for the war. I have protested more than once in this House against this way of abusing Supplementary Estimates. A year and a half ago the First Lord of the Admiralty came down to this House with a proposal for the increase of the Fleet without a Supplementary Estimate at all, and he obtained Parliamentary sanction for a large increase in the shipbuilding programme of the year. I think that was bad enough, but I regard the mode of procedure now adopted as, if anything, worse. I do not think that it is a proper use of Supplementary Estimates to use them for the purpose of launching a vast new permanent scheme of military defence, and at the risk of making myself wearisome to some of my hearers, I will venture to repeat once more a sentence which, two years ago, I quoted from 1391 a speech made by Mr. Gladstone, in which he said—To render Parliamentary control effectual it was necessary that the House of Commons should have the money transactions of the year presented to it in one mass and in one account. If Supplementary Estimates were easily resorted to, the House would be pledged, in self-defence, to appoint a permanent Finance Committee.I am not betraying any secret when I say that that sentence is the golden rule of all Administrations, and I doubt if any man has ever held office in a spending department who has not been made acquainted with the rule. I think it was broken in spirit a year and a half ago by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think it is now being broken in spirit by the War Office when we are asked to sanction, in such a debate as this, a large Supplementary Estimate like this, making the great permanent addition to the Army which they are now seeking. It is impossible that this House can sanction these proposals in the manner they are now submitted to us, and for my part, I reserve all rights of criticism, and even of opposition and objection, if that should seem necessary. Usually, if this House once sanctions a Vote, that sanction is taken at something like the Second Reading of the Bill, which carries with it the approval of the House, but a proposal like this cannot do that. I have no objection whatever to this Vote if the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, will undertake to treat this £420,000 merely as a text from which he was able to preach his sermon last night, and not as something done with Parliamentary sanction, which would justify the Government in proceeding to execute a large scheme involving a permanent increase in the Army. I quite understand that the Committee was impatient to hear the military proposals of the Government, and that a certain sum should be put down to make the statement intelligible; but if any more serious significance is to be attributed by the Government to the amount, I for one will not be bound by it without fuller information, and I will reserve all rights of criticism, objection, and opposition. As I have said, I am not called upon now to enter into the merits of the scheme which has been submitted to us. A permanent increase of the military forces of the country ought to be justified by some permanent change in the condition of the 1392 country. I ask any hon. Member whether any case whatever was made out by the Under Secretary for War or those who supported him for any permanent addition to the military forces of this country. I submit there was none, and I do not think the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Estimate professed to set up any change in our condition such as would necessitate a permanent addition to our forces. There is also another objection. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth in the criticism he passed last night on these proposals. The point is one which has often been taken, and I believe it is perfectly sound. It is that we should not enter upon the consideration of the defence of this country without considering all through both the naval and military position. I will not enlarge on the hon. Admiral's views or on the merits of the "blue water" school of politicians. I am satisfied of the soundness of the principle laid down, which I believe Members on both sides will endorse, that it is waste of time and futile to ask this Committee to consider military proposals without considering also the naval position. Until I know where the Navy is to be put in the joint scheme of defence—because it must be a joint scheme—I cannot offer any support to these proposals. You propose a great increase in the forces of this country, and you have indicated certain changes in detail, but I venture to say you have overlooked the one thing which at this moment is giving the country concern. There was not a whisper of real Army reform in the speech of the Under Secretary for War. What the country wants is not merely that the number of men and the amount of money should be increased, but that the whole Army from top to bottom should be subjected to a radical reorganisation. If I may presume to speak for the country—and it is a very difficult thing to speak for it nowadays—I think it wants to be assured that our Army, whether large or small, is a business army and a scientific army.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says it is; but many people who certainly have not his experience believe it is neither a business army nor a scientific army. 1393 What we want is an assurance that the Army shall be reorganised from that point of view. I will take one example. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who just now objected to my statement will not deny that the public are not satisfied that we get the best class of man for the rank and file in the Army. My own belief is that the first reform should be to increase the pay of all ranks. Until you increase the pay of the private you will not get the best men to enlist. I believe also that we should open up a larger field for the admission of educated private soldiers to commissions. I am quite sure that is the popular opinion—at all events I would approve of such a change; but I believe that the misgiving in the public mind refers even more to the class of officers than it does to the class of privates. In my opinion, the financial question, as in most public matters, is at the bottom of this matter. I believe the Army is too cheap—although that may seem a paradox. I believe you do not pay any rank at a sufficiently high rate of remuneration, and that you bar out the great majority of your countrymen by the enormous expense with which you saddle a military career. That, I am certain, is a point which must have consideration when the Army comes to be reorganised. I have here a paper written by a well-known military expert, not a military man, I mean Mr. Charles Williams, who discusses the war every morning in the columns of the Morning Leader. He makes the following statement, which I cannot vouch for, but which I accept on his authority. Speaking of a young officer he says—His military and mufti outfit would be cheap at £200, and it would be indispensable to provide an annual allowance for at least ten years, or until the rank of captain is attained. Taking one consideration with another, the average young officer by the time he becomes captain has cost his relatives not far from £3,000, and in many cases much more.If you handicap your Army in that way you cannot get the selection you otherwise would. Why should not every able-bodied and able-minded young man, no matter what his rank, have access to a career which is to many the most desirable of all? You are barring out by the vile and ignoble structure of money you are raising between them and the Army 1394 men who possibly would make your best generals. My idea of the British Army is an army in which every young man physically, mentally, and otherwise fitted for military service should be encouraged to enter, and that from the earliest moment he should be able to support himself and not be obliged to depend on subsidies. I should insist further that every kind of expensive amusement which by custom is now made obligatory in the rank of officer should be stamped out with a stern hand. [Laughter.] I hope hon. Gentlemen who object to the metaphor will not object to the substance of what I say. I do not object to the amusements themselves, but to the exclusive effect which they have on candidates who might otherwise enter the Army. I believe that the country is not satisfied that we are dealing fairly with the Army, that we are not going the proper way to get the best men, and that if we get the best men a proper career is not open to them. These are some of the many points which the Committee should consider before any permanent increase in the military system of the country is sanctioned. I will only say, in conclusion, that while we do not object to the amount of money asked for, we do insist on holding open for consideration the question of the permanent increase of the Army. We shall give freely all you want for the prosecution of the war, but you should wait until your Army Estimates are ready before asking for an increase in the military establishment. The Navy Estimates are ready and placed on the Table of the House, and the Army Estimates ought to have been in the same forward state.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am sorry to intervene, but so many questions have been put and so many arguments addressed to me that I feel unless I rise every now and again I shall never be able to reply to them all. The hon. Member who has just sat down asked me as to our borrowings from the Navy. We have borrowed 35 guns and 1,100 men. This misdemeanour, if such it be, was covered by the general explanation I gave the other day. The borrowings will be made good by the simplest possible method of all, by handing back the same number of similar articles to the Navy. We have been doing that already. We are purchasing a number of guns now and transferring 1395 them to the Navy. As to the pay of the colonial troops, I do not think this is the moment for entering into considerations of that kind. Things are going very well. Nobody watches them with a more loving eye, if I may venture to say so, than myself; but we do feel that the success we have gained has been largely due to the fact that we have not fussed over the offers the colonies have made to us, but have met them in that spirit of the warmest acceptance which they deserve. We have not been urging our own suggestions and views upon the colonies; we wished to hear from them in the first instance. It may be that the colonial troops who have fought side by side with the men from home may like in the future to claim, if not some active share in the work of our Army, still some recognised right to share in that work in times of Imperial danger. I hope that may be so; but to discuss at this moment the different rates of pay that prevail in this or that part of Her Majesty's dominions would not conduce to, but rather retard that consummation. An hon. Member has taken us to task upon the ground of financial purity because we have proceeded by Supplementary Estimates; but we have an absolutely clean sheet this time. This is a genuine Supplementary Estimate. These are new charges, and all the money has been spent. If we had waited for the permission of the House before taking the steps which we have done we should have received the condemnation of the country, and we believe we shall get the sanction of the Committee for the steps which we have taken. The hon. Gentleman said a good deal with which I cordially agree. I do not think, to pass to another point, that we ought to proceed to drastic measures in order to put something in the pockets of officers in the Army, or that it is necessary to trample anything down with our hands, or to stamp it down with our feet, or whatever the treatment may be which commends itself to the hon. Member, but I do think some effort should be made not to close the door of our Army, and certainly not the door of our cavalry to every man who does not enjoy an income of £150 a year in the one case and £500 in the other. In view of this crisis it is nothing less than a scandal and a danger to the Empire that we cannot get young men into the cavalry unless their fathers or their friends are able to give them incomes to enable them 1396 to live. I may tell the Committee that we have been working at that problem. An important committee sat during last winter, presided over by General French, who is gathering fresh laurels every day in South Africa. That Committee has dealt in great detail with this very subject, which is one of the greatest public importance. I was glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Rye hailed with satisfaction our proposals for giving Volunteer regiments facilities for training during one month, but he went on to say that the proposals ought to be more elastic. That criticism is due to some misapprehension. We offer facilities; we do not exact services from the Volunteers, and I tried to make it clear that we should consult the peculiar conditions of the several corps in the matter. We wish in all these matters to work in consultation and co-operation with hon. Members, like the hon. and gallant Member for Rye, who are well qualified to speak for that force. I may say that what I stated as regards the Volunteers holds good in respect of the Yeomanry. I have been asked several questions about the Yeomanry. I happen to know that a number of Yeomanry commanding officers are to hold a meeting next Friday. I have seen some of them, and we have invited the fullest expression of their opinion both as regards the Volunteers and the Yeomanry. I have to say that the proposal that they should encamp for one month is only fixed on our part as a desirable thing for this year. It is an emergency proposal, though we think a very necessary one, but it is one of those measures which I venture to call instructive experiments. If it turns out that such a period of training is not only useful to the force but also appreciated by it, then that would be one of the very best reasons why it might with advantage be continued in the years to come, though, perhaps, on a modified and reduced scale. I shall now go on as briefly as I can to the many questions addressed to me yesterday. I could not complete my reply last night to all the points then raised, and was obliged to bivouac on the field of battle. Taking up the thread of the debate last night, I have a personal correction to make of a statement I made in reply to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. I said we had borrowed eight battalions from India for the war. That 1397 was the number we borrowed not only from India but from the Mediterranean; we only borrowed four from India. With regard to the question asked by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, whether we are going to overhaul the armaments and ammunition of our forts in this country, I have to say that we are, but I purposely left that out in my speech last night, because we propose to lay our scheme before Parliament later in the session, Regret has been expressed that we have not attempted to form an army corps of Auxiliary forces. It is under consideration at this moment whether that is or is not a practical proposal, and therefore I should not be justified in discussing it this afternoon. The right hon. the Member for Ilkeston asked whether we are making any addition to the Royal Army Service Corps. Yes, Sir, we are. We are offering instead of 30 commissions 100 commissions, and we are estimating for an increase of 250 non-commissioned officers and men. I am asked for further particulars as to the terms that will be given to the Yeomanry, more especially in the matter of horses. That is one of the questions which will be carefully, and I hope liberally, considered in consultation with the Yeomanry commanding officers. We came to an arrangement satisfactory to both parties in respect of the mounted infantry which have been sent to South Africa. That being so, we hope we shall not fail to solve what, after all, is a much easier problem. We are now considering very carefully all the provisions for giving bounties to the Militia. We have not yet arrived at a definite conclusion, but the trend of our opinion is that the bounties and the conditions are too various and complicated; that it is an anomaly, and not wise, to have one man getting £3 10s., another £2, and a third £1. In any case, we shall not offer for three, four, or five months work a sum considered adequate for one month. The hon. Member for South-East Essex made a statement in respect of the guns to which I must take exception. He told us that our guns could only fire five rounds a minute, whereas the guns of foreign armies fired ten and fifteen rounds. Well, that is not so. In this matter aimed rounds are the only rounds that count. For the German guns only five rounds a minute are claimed. With our present guns we can fire almost five rounds a minute; but the 1398 new guns which we have ordered with certain improvements, which make them practically quick-firing guns, will fire eight aimed rounds a minute. We have ordered guns of that type for the forty-three batteries, and the only reason why we do not order more is that we wish to profit by the reports which we shall receive from South Africa before plunging into a re-arming programme. It is quite clear that when the bulk of the artillery has been engaged in a long war you are approaching near to the time of re-armament, and we must profit by the experience of the war. If we find that we can better those guns which fire eight rounds a minute, they will be a sort of transitional weapon, and they will be given to the Auxiliary forces when the Regular forces are armed with weapons of greater value, and I think the Auxilliary forces will be very glad to hear that at any rate they will differ materially from those now in use. The hon. Member for Northampton asked me whether we proposed to raise Volunteers in Ireland. No, it is not our intention. He also asked me what the scheme would cost, and several hon. Members have asked for greater detail in respect of the money portion of this Estimate. I tried to show that it was not an easy question to answer. Part of this programme is permanent in every sense of the word; part of it is permanent, but subject to contraction in certain contingencies. The fifteen battalions are permanent. Although the men have been voted, money has not been taken for them in previous Estimates; and therefore in respect of money we must regard the fifteen battalions as an increase of the Line involving a permanent increase of £750,000. We want depôts, which will cost £35,000, so that the permanent up-keep may be put at £785,000. There will be a capital charge for barracks, which I would put at £1,500,000. Then there are what I may call semi-permanent provisions—namely, the batteries. When, as now, you have two army corps abroad, and these added batteries for two additional army corps are in full blast, the full charge of their up-keep will be on the Estimates. Taking seven batteries of Horse Artillery at £15,000 and thirty-six batteries of Field at £12,000, there will be an annual charge of £535,000. But it is impossible for me to say what the annual charge would be when you 1399 had reduced these batteries, because that is a question of policy which cannot be debated on this Supplementary Estimate. We can hear what hon. Members have to say to that when we come to the Army Estimates of this year and the year in which it is proposed to reduce these batteries in consequence of the artillery having returned from South Africa. An hon. Member wanted to know how the 120,000 men were made up. He is aware that such a number really has no relation to the forces in the field. They are made up in this way. Gross excess on original estimate, and also further demands made that will give us in respect of the Army Reserve recalled to the colours 55,000 men; in respect of the Colonial forces we are asking for 26,000 more than the 9,000 originally asked for; Yeomanry and Volunteers, 20,000; European troops moved from India, 2,500, in addition to the original 6,000; native Indian troops moved to garrison at Mauritius, 3,500; and an estimated further gain by recruiting up to 31st March, 13,000. If you add this to what was done in October you get the gross excess over the original estimate of 155,000 men. We have asked for sanction for men borrowed from India for any purpose, and every colonial soldier in receipt of Imperial pay. The speech of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Wellington Division of Somerset was a very able and interesting speech; but I failed to make my meaning clear to him. He took exception to the fact that there are now 109,000 Regulars in this country, and he went on to say that I had connected them in some direct manner with the field army of three army corps and three cavalry brigades. If I left that impression on his mind I bungled my job yesterday. I thought I had made it clear. I tried to do so. I explicitly stated in the beginning of my remarks that I was only putting before the Committee the raw material in mere numbers we had at our disposal, and I tried to make it clear what were the methods of organisation to which we have recourse in order to get a mobile army out of that mass of raw material. We have in February 109,000 Regulars, and we expect to get 30,000 more. We have 28,000 Auxiliaries, and we expect to get 50,000 more, the total of Regulars and Auxiliaries at the end of the year being 517,500. As far as organisation goes the plan of the Govern- 1400 ment is, while training these men to greater efficiency, to make out of that number a field army of three army corps and three cavalry brigades of 340,000 men. It may be asked, "Why do you make these proposals for home defence instead of submitting proposals for the reinforcement of India and South Africa?" As this field army is formed it is available, and the quickest way of doing that work is to set our hands to the task of collecting the units, placing them in the barracks, and giving facilities for proper training. The hon. and gallant Member said the best thing in the debate last night. He described our scheme as being one of "invitation and imagination." It is very witty, and I will admit that it is perfectly true. But I waited to hear his alternative; and I do not know on what better method you can proceed. If you set compulsion on one side you must turn to some method of encouragement. It is a scheme of invitation. We do invite, and I hope we invite cordially. It is a scheme of imagination, because we suggest as an exercise of the imagination that it is a scheme about which we all ought to think a great deal, but, perhaps, talk as little as possible. It has been said, also, that I had been guilty of heresy in respect of the Navy. We are hardly allowed to manage military forces for home defence without being accused of forgetting the existence and the importance of the Fleet for the protection of the country—the policy of the "blue-water school." I belong to that school. I do not regard the military force as being important to anything like the same degree as the Navy in this matter. I am ready to whittle down with the best whittlers. I will put it as low as this. I do not look upon this as a defence against attack. I regard it as an insurance against the fear which might spring from a threat. That is putting it low enough. All the same, we ought to have that insurance. I think that if the Fleet were sent away, and we had no military system of defence, you might have a panic which might turn out a strong Government or force the hands of a weak Government; and this might be courting an Imperial disaster.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
There is no doubt that the war has brought out grave shortcomings in our military system. I care very little for 1401 these reforms so long as we get the substance for the Navy and Army. An hon. Member who spoke just now seemed to condemn the military department because it had been compelled to borrow from the Navy guns, men, and search-lights. There is no room, I say, for such criticism as that. The whole of the service on South African stations are proud to be of service in this war. It is quite true that the Navy lent heavy guns, and it is quite true that a clever officer, Captain Percy Scott, designed the carriage for them, but there is nothing in that. It is our duty to render assistance, and when Sir George White applied for our assistance he got it. I understand the Admiralty have sent more guns out to replace those which were lent to the Army, so that where the War Office has to repay I fail to see. I am not prepared to support the hon. Member for Dundee in his view of this military programme, and that this is not the proper time for proposing a vote of this nature. The hon. Member seems to cast aside the fact that we are at war, and to suggest that we should wait with dignity until the Estimates come on in their regular course before we embark on any scheme of this kind. But I would remind the hon. Gentleman that time is the essence of the whole business. If there have been shortcomings on the part of the Cabinet, the Ministers concerned have been candid enough to acknowledge them. They have confessed their faults. But the faults do not, in my opinion, lie with the War Office, but with past Parliaments and past Governments. I will prove my words. The Navy was in the same condition in 1885, probably in a worse condition than the Army is now. And why was that? Because the Government, like Governments before and since, were too anxious to square their budgets with popular feeling, irrespective of the needs of the services. Two years ago there was a reduction in the duty on tobacco which meant £1,250,000. Had that £1,250,000 been preserved and handed over to the War Office we should not have been in the plight we are in now. We should not be asked for £750,000 for new battalions and £530,000 for new artillery. The tobacco tax would have met the whole of the expenditure. Nobody asked that it should be taken off. I was entirely opposed to it. Public opinion did not demand it; but the nation does demand 1402 that our naval and military efficiency shall be maintained. You cannot have your cake and eat it. Now you are called upon to spend money like water; whereas if you had pursued a sound policy and the Government had had the courage of its convictions we should not have been in the hole we are in now. I have listened with great attention to the able statement put forward by the Under Secretary of State for War. He referred to the "blue water school," but whatever he may say about us he must admit that the present expedition to South Africa was only possible because the Navy is strong. Sir, when the "red school"—the military school—can point to a result similar to that achieved by the agitation of the "blue water school" they will have something to be proud of. Get some distinguished man to "stump" the country and agitate for the redress of your military grievances, just as Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby did in our behalf, and the nation will very soon give all you ask. When I am addressing the House on these questions I regard the two services as one. I do not put one before the other. The only rivalry between them is as to which of us shall die first for our country, and in that matter I am quite willing to grant precedence to the sister service.
§ MR. F. W. WILSON (Norfolk, Mid)
said that one of the first things to be taught the men of this country was the way to shoot, and he would like to ask the Under Secretary of State for War what steps were to be taken by the War Office to secure the reopening of closed rifle ranges. He was afraid that much could not be done unless some compulsion was applied. He knew of a case where a single squatter's cottage and the convenience of its inmates had been put before the benefits of an adjacent rifle range which had to be closed. Again, at such an important centre as Colchester the range was closed for years because of the objections of the lord of the manor, and no doubt the lord of the manor was a very magnificent person. Musketry training at short ranges only was not enough. Long ranges must be opened and compulsory powers secured for that purpose in the future. As to the mounted infantry being raised in connection with the Yeomanry, he would like to know whether it was to be insisted on that 1403 candidates should have the cavalry seat instead of the splendid hunting seat which men had been accustomed to in their youth. It seemed to him that when they invited country gentlemen to join they put a great obstacle in their way by insisting on the cavalry seat. The hon. member also thought that the Volunteers should be drilled in the art of taking cover. One of the reasons of the Boers' successes was that they did take all such cover, and refused to fight in the open. With regard to the reopening of rifle ranges he urged that there should be full charge ammunition and full range, as the Volunteers had found the half-charge ammunition hopeless for rifle shooting. He hoped in the rearrangement of Army matters this question of rifle shooting would not be overlooked, but it could only be dealt with satisfactorily by the putting into force of compulsory powers.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigtonshire)
If I understand the hon. and learned Member for Dundee aright, he wished the Committee to believe that we were not to rely upon our land forces for defence. I should be the last man to underrate the importance of a strong fleet. The Fleet must of course always be our first line of defence, but the Fleet is not enough unless it is supported by an adequate mobile land force. There, is at least one instance within this century to which I may appeal as evidence in support of that view. It was not long after the beginning of this century, about six years after the battle of the Nile had been fought, and when the maritime power of England was paramount, that the Fleet very nearly failed us for defence. I do not for the moment remember whether Mr. Addington or Mr. Pitt was Prime Minister; it was after the year 1804, when Napoleon had 150,000 men lying at Boulogne, with a flotilla ready to bring them over to this country if he could but lure away our fleet. Cornwallis was watching one French fleet at Brest, Nelson was watching the combined French and Spanish fleet in Cadiz. The combined fleet managed to get out of Cadiz, gave Nelson the slip, and got five days start across the Atlantic. Nelson followed, and was six months absent. That combined fleet escaped back again across the Atlantic, and had it not encountered another British fleet under Sir James Calder in the Bay of Biscay, it is my 1404 belief that the army which Napoleon had at Boulogne would have been able to make a safe passage across the Channel. It may be said that that did not come off, that the Fleet proved effective. Yes, but it was too near to be pleasant, and it is our duty to see that we do not run any such risks in the future. I, therefore, hope that my hon. friend will receive, as he no doubt deserves, the heartfelt thanks of this country for the able and lucid propositions he has laid before the Committee. I have not enough to contribute to this debate to presume to stand before the Committee very long, but there is one branch of the service with regard to which I can speak from experience, and which I would press the hon. Gentleman to consider well before he makes any far-reaching changes in it—I allude to what is now spoken of, but with very little reason, as the "old constitutional force," the Militia. It is a remarkable thing, but it is not present to the mind of everyone that we have not a single Militia regiment left. We have nothing but territorial regiments. The old Militia has been so far incorporated with the Army that the name "Militia" has disappeared from the Army List, except within brackets, and the old county Militia regiments have become third and fourth battalions to the Line regiments. I believe that was a change in the right direction, my only complaint being that it did not go sufficiently far or deep. I would urge upon my hon. friend the expediency of altogether abolishing the misleading title "Militia." It is a discredited title—I say it with pain, for I served for more than twenty-one years with the Militia; I was very fond of the service, and always hoped to see it put on a proper footing. It is a discredited title, being always associated with inferiority to something—to the Army it used to be, to the Line battalions of the same regiments as it is now. Of course, I do not claim that a force which is brought up for only short periodical training can be as efficient in any respect as a force always under arms. It is impossible that it should be so. What I mean is that whatever force you have you must make it something with which those of whom it is composed, whatever their rank, can take a pride. They must not always be reminded that they are inferior to regular soldiers. If they are so reminded you will not draw the best class of officers, nor 1405 get the best kind of recruits. During the time I served with the force the point which impressed itself most upon my mind in the way of discouragement was the system of Militia Reserve. Ever since, at all events, the commencement of this century, the Militia has supplied the Army with a very large number of recruits. During the Crimean War it sent 30,000 to the Line regiments. At that time every officer who brought 100 recruits from the Militia to the Line received a commission in the Regular Army. That was altered under the territorial system, and although the Militia still supplies a large number who join the Line battalions, those men do not join under their own officers. They are taught to look upon their officers as fit only for drill purposes, and when there is real work to be done you draw away the best men from the Militia battalions and send them to the Line. The effect of that is two-fold. It deprives the men of all respect for their own officers, and it prevents the officers taking any pride in their work. What I would like to see done is this—not that the present Militia battalions should be put on an equal footing in regard to privileges, and esteem, if you like, with the Regular Service, because they do not earn that, they do not work for it; but, in so far as the Militia contributes to the efficiency of the Line regiments, let all ranks share alike; send the men to serve under their own officers—for it is well known that men always serve best under their own officers—and exact from those officers a higher standard of qualification. At present there are schools all over the country for the instruction and education of Militia officers, but there is no obligation for those officers to take advantage of them. That obligation should be made a very strict one. I would like to see every officer compelled to justify his right to wear the Queen's uniform by passing a certain standard of efficiency. Until that is done it cannot be expected that the men will have a proper degree of confidence in and respect for their officers. I do not think I need labour this question any longer. I am sure my hon. friend, a soldier himself, has enough sympathy with the Auxiliary Services to ponder well the changes he proposes to make. As far as I have been able to follow those proposals they are in the right direction. But I am not quite sure whether he has 1406 realised the strain he is about to put, by greatly extending the period of training, on the class of men from whom the ranks of the Militia are recruited. Perhaps I have not correctly gathered his idea, but as far as I understand it he proposes to embody and encamp Militia regiments for a period of six months.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
For this year only. Then I have no doubt they will heartily respond to his call, as they have already responded to the call of duty. But I would ask hon. Members, never to forget the strain which has been put upon the men in the ranks of the Militia by that call. There never was a time when men of all kinds were so well paid or work so plentiful as the present, and yet the Militia have come forward almost to a man. I hope that that will be reckoned to the credit of the Militia force in the future. Hitherto they have had no credit for what they have done, although it is quite true that they have shed their blood as freely on the battlefields of Europe as any soldiers of the Queen ever have done, but they have done it as units, and not under their own officers. Now, for the first time, Militia battalions have been sent to the front, and I am not afraid of the way in which they will bear themselves. At the same time, that is not the work for which the Militia was intended, and I do not believe that hon. Members think it is desirable that the present system of allowing battalions to volunteer for the front should be continued. A soldier's duty is to go where he is sent, and not where he wants to go, and until you get that spirit you will not get out of the men all they are capable of. May I express a hope that the rest of this debate may be a little more practical than a great part of it has been in the past. We are a very peculiar people. We sit in this chamber and we consider ourselves in camera. We discuss the most delicate problems, and we make out to our own satisfaction that the War Office has been asleep, that our generals are incompetent, and that the whole administration of the affairs of this country is in a state of muddle and embarrassment. There is not much harm done here, and it may be very edifying to some of our foreign critics. But it may also be a little misleading, and it does not tend to 1407 smooth the path of our relations with other countries that we should always be washing our dirty linen in public.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
I have been somewhat struck with the proposals of the Government. I do not think it wrong that the Service Members of this House should take this opportunity of indulging in a little self-pride in regard to the results that have been achieved, apparently by their continual pegging away at the objects they have had in view. We have heard Members asking for an increase of infantry in former times, and we have heard hon. Members, above everything else, pointing out the enormous necessity of increasing the amount of artillery. Some of us have pointed out the mistakes that were made in recent alterations, and we have expressed our desire for more cavalry. Upon every one of these points we now find that the Executive Government is in accord with us, and therefore I hope and trust that the somewhat cheap and silly attack levelled at us colonels and military critics by the hon. Member for Northampton will cease, now that the country has taken up in earnest the practical points which the colonels in this House have been urging all these years. I do not at all agree with all the criticisms which have been made from the other side of the House. I think we have wasted too much time in taking credit to ourselves and identifying ourselves and our own judgment with the position in which the Government is placed under these proposals which are now offered for our acceptance. What are the chief points on which I think the country is looking most anxiously to this debate? I do not think we are wrong in saying that probably the chief point which the country wishes to know about is the number of reinforcements which are available for South Africa. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for War assured the country that 50,000 men were now under orders or on their way to South Africa. I believe the number of men indicated in that statement is as many as the generals wish to have under their command, and as long as that number can be maintained so long will the military exigencies of the case be met, and the country will derive much satisfaction from that statement. Now I come to the other point dealt with by these proposals. Some people, both 1408 outside and inside this House, seem to think that these proposals are aimed at the fear of an invasion from a foreign country. I think that is an unwise view to take of the situation. I have faith in the position which the Fleet holds, and it is certain we shall at all events have considerable notice and warning of any possible attitude of invasion or any possible preparation for such an invasion. How much notice does the country think would be wanted to bring not 500,000 men, but quadruple that number of men into the field, ready to defend this country in case an invasion were imminent, for the purpose of repelling any such invasion? I take leave to say that the number of men in this country who know how to use a rifle and who are capable of falling into line instantly for this purpose can hardly practically be estimated. If the Government have plenty of rifles, and take care that opportunities are afforded for practising rifle shooting, the men would be forthcoming in hundreds of thousands for the purpose of repelling invasion. Therefore I regard this cry of invasion as more or less of a bogey. There are people who lay stress upon this idea of an invasion, and it is probably quite right that that section of public feeling should be assured by the measures put forward. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition announced that this policy would dictate an increase of the armaments in foreign countries. Possibly the policy of foreign countries dictates our policy at home. I think the right hon. Gentleman should not take shelter under that dictum without considering to what extent it may be developed. This subject before us may be arranged under two heads—emergency proposals and permanent proposals. Without professing to have any particular authority for saying so, I myself believe that these proposals are, on the whole, the best that could be made. I believe they take advantage of the best resources at our command for the immediate present, and that they deal with those resources on the whole in the most practical and rapid way in which those resources could be utilised. If that is so there ought to be universal satisfaction with these proposals from that point of view, and a general desire to give effect to them, and see them carried into active practice. With reference to these emergency proposals 1409 there are some points which should be dealt with, but they are matters of detail which will be elaborated bit by bit as the scheme works out. With regard to the Militia I do not wish to dwell upon that point beyond saying that I agree very much with what fell from my right hon. friend who preceded me, and I am glad to notice that full attention is to be paid to that branch of the service, and that it will be developed in a way satisfactory to them and to their feelings of pride. With regard to the Volunteers, I hope and trust that with the feelings now existing in the country the people will respond to the invitation of the Government. I only hope the full strength of the Volunteers will be maintained, not only during the progress of this war, but after it is over, when we shall have to establish things upon a firmer footing for the future. I do not wish to dwell upon this point in detail, but I think that in the case of Volunteer corps belonging to counties and country districts it will be very difficult to get those men to come out for any length of time under canvas. You might be able to develop what would be a very popular movement among the Volunteers, and that is to give a certain amount of money and support to officers commanding companies to undertake field days on their own account in the districts in which they live. Opportunities would be willingly granted by the local landowners, and such experience would be of very considerable value. The country generally would take an interest in seeing these manœuvres going on amongst them, and this would help to engender a military feeling in the Volunteers much greater than people would imagine. Like everyone else I attach the greatest importance to what the Government intend to do in regard to providing rifle ranges. Although the long ranges are necessary, yet short ranges would be extremely useful, and I hope the Government will take full advantage of opportunities for getting short ranges. If you can teach men to use the sights on the rifle you will have gone some distance towards getting them to make the proper use of the rifle and getting the best possible results out of the weapon placed in their hands. But these, I understand, are mostly to be treated as emergency proposals. Personally I should not be so much interested in these emergency proposals if I did not think they would 1410 lead up to those more permanent proposals which I hope are in the mind of the Government at the present time. The immediate permanent proposals are not very large. I think on this point the whole tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee was exaggerated throughout. He talked of vast changes, enormous expense, and so on. With regard to the permanent proposals the changes are not vast and the expense is not enormous. They are large, but it is using exaggerated language to talk of this addition to our permanent Army as vast. Those of us who have been desirous of seeing the fighting forces of this country put upon a proper footing welcome these proposals as an indication of a permanent increase in some important points. We are delighted to see that so large an addition is to be made in our artillery; we are delighted that there are to be more cavalry and more infantry battalions taken under this Vote. But why do we want all these? It is not because we are so interested in the defensive scheme which some people talk of, or that we wish to see our home defences permanently increased on these shores, but because we recognise in this permanent increase in the Army an addition which will give to us a stronger mobile and striking force. I am anxious to see these emergency proposals carried out to the full, not for the moment, but because they lead up to the increase of the permanent force in the future, greater mobility and striking power which most of us believe to be absolutely necessary to our military organisation, and which all military authorities ought to aim at. It seems to me as if some hon. Members have talked rather as if they were inclined only to have had emergency proposals and put the others by, and few of them are men who recognise the necessity of greater striking power. We should welcome this addition, and also this better system by which these forces shall be utilised in the future. Let us get the men and be thankful we can get so many, because this increase will be one of great value, and I hope it will lead up to a greater and a more permanent increase in the future. It is apparent to all that for the immediate moment it is wise to stiffen our Auxiliary forces by improvements of a permanent character, and if the ideas of the Government are successful—and I hope and trust 1411 they will be—just in proportion as they are successful so will they be able to utilise more and more the Regular forces in directions which we think are of paramount importance. I do not wish to speak at length upon these points, and I do not think it will be wise to enter into minute criticism for which we shall have a future opportunity. I think, however, we may say broadly that, under the circumstances as they exist at this moment, the proposals of the Government do meet the immediate necessities of the war, and they also indicate a resolution to deal with the larger questions in the future in a broader spirit than they have been dealt with hitherto, and they will result not only in an increase of the forces of the Army, but they will also give us an opportunity of remodelling our organisation so that every single fighting man in this island may be taken advantage of to the utmost of his capability. What we want to secure our position even more than a well organised defensive force is a force so organised, so mobile, and under such command that it can leave our shores with the greatest rapidity whenever it is required. I think these proposals tap the best sources which the Government could tap, and I wish them hearty success. I think we ought to be grateful to the Government for gauging public opinion so accurately, and for doing their best to give effect to it.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
So far as the emergency proposals go, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that they deserve our heartiest support. However great the disappointment may be in some quarters of the House because the Government have not gone in for a more radical scheme, that course would have been open to the most damaging criticism. To swop horses at such a time as this is entirely out of the question, and in taking such steps as are necessary to consider our position by proceeding on the old lines and developing those lines the Government have done all they could to receive and claim our support. So far as home defences go, my own opinion is that the result of this debate will be rather to further the impression that if we are at present in a position of embarrassment and humiliation it is not upon the War Office or the military authorities of the country that the respon- 1412 sibility should be laid. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War practically said that in his speech upon a former occasion, a fortnight ago, when he said that you cannot hold the War Office responsible for the diplomatic policy of the Government. For my part, holding as I do that our military system, with all the criticism which has been levelled against it, and with all its defects, is the best system that has hitherto been shown to be workable in this country, I can only look with satisfaction at the way in which the War Office has performed a task far greater than certain people ever expected it was able to do. Another point of great importance is the question of the home defences. The Cardwell system has always subordinated the home defences of this country to our interests abroad, and I am delighted that this opportunity has come to do what is necessary, and that is to put the home defences upon a right basis. It is perfectly true that it involves expense, but if you spend a certain amount of money and get an inefficient machine, you had better spend the complement of that money and put your home defences upon a proper and a satisfactory basis. Then there is the question of the permanent addition to the forces, and the Government have been criticised for mixing up their War Estimate with the permanent addition to the defensive power of the country. I should have thought it would have been quite possible, knowing that the House would have sanctioned what they have done, to have presented us with their whole scheme at a later date, and so focus the discussion, and enable us to discuss from a more general point of view the whole problem. At the same time, recognising the enormous amount of work laid upon the Under Secretary for War, there may have been difficulties in bringing forward the whole scheme. I cannot help feeling that, in spite of all the satisfaction that is felt with the proposals of the Government, there is considerable disappointment and anxiety as to the future. I do not mean as to the proceedings in South Africa or home defences, but I cannot help believing that altogether there is a conviction that this must of necessity be a very tentative proposal. The hon. Gentleman pointed out with satisfaction that if these schemes were realised it would be possible for the Government to proceed to 1413 still larger schemes. For my part, I should regard these larger schemes with great seriousness. How are you going to effect by your present system any great extension of your voluntary forces? Last year we discussed at great length the question of recruiting, and it was evident from every side that in spite of every effort that had been put forward by the Government to increase the forces of the country, the total addition to the Army last year was only between 5,000 and 6,000 men. Now you are going to add by your present scheme 25,000 men, apart from the additions to your Volunteers, Militia, and other services, all of which increase and multiply the drain upon the resources of the country. I should very much like the Under Secretary to give us some grounds for his markedly sanguine anticipations in this matter. More than once in his speech last night he repeated his own personal belief—founded, no doubt, largely upon the belief of others—that this would not present an insuperable difficulty. Every atom of experience that we have seems to me to show that we have very nearly exhausted our present supply of recruits. You may do what you like in additional facilities, in pay, in barracks, and in clothing, but if you want to make any serious addition, you are going to have an enormous addition to the cost of your Army, because you have got to go right into the labour market and compete with unskilled or skilled labour, which is very much higher paid than your soldiers. This is a very old story, and I do not want to go into it at length. But after all, if we are to look at this question seriously we have got to look ahead, and if the scheme of the Government fails, what then? It seems to me that you have only two alternatives—you have either got to increase the pay of the Army or adopt some other form of enlistment. Every sixpence paid to your Army of between 220,000 and 250,000 men means a couple of million pounds. How far are you prepared to go—that is, apart from the barracks, ranges, ammunition, frequent rifle practice, ordnance, rifles, and so forth? The other alternative is some form of compulsory enlistment, which has been hinted at in the House here. It is not necessary to discuss this, but we must keep in mind on occasions such as this these alternatives which are staring us in the face if the present scheme of the 1414 Government fails. We are bound to face these contingencies. People talk as if there were no difficulties in the question of compulsory enlistment. It would involve an entire change of system not only in our military organisation but also in our civil life. Conscription means an elaborate means of enrolment; it means that no man can leave his country without notifying his change of address, and it is altogether foreign to the ideas, habits, and customs of this country. Apart from all that, it is only too well known that such modified attempts at compulsion as were tried in this country did not meet with success. I wish to press my request on the Under Secretary for War that he would give us some ground for hoping that the proposals of the Government are likely to meet with the success which we all desire. There are only two alternatives: we must either increase our Army by this or other means or modify our policy. The hon. Member for Dundee expressed the view that no increase was necessary. It is, however, a fact that an increase is urgently necessary. The responsibilities we have incurred abroad during the last twenty or thirty years, responsibilities of coaling stations and other important points in different parts of the world have, although I regret and deplore the fact, necessitated a limited and moderate increase in our military forces, if our system—the Cardwell system, as it is called — is to work smoothly. I only hope myself that that extension will be kept within moderate limits, and that we shall not only maintain the Cardwell system in regard to the home establishment, but that we shall also remember that a complement to that system is to allow the colonies whenever possible to rely on their own forces for defence, so that we may concentrate our home force as much as possible within these islands.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
As a Volunteer of something like twenty years standing, I wish to congratulate the Government upon the position in which they have placed Volunteers by these proposals. When one reflects upon that position in years gone by one is impressed by this wonderful alteration. In 1863, when a guard of honour of Volunteers was offered, it was stated there was a rule that no guard of honour was ever furnished by Volunteers 1415 to the Royal Family. However, I noticed the other day that a guard of honour of Volunteers was furnished at Osborne to Her Majesty the Queen. That shows the difference between the status of Volunteers in years gone by and at the present time. As regards the business of war, the essentials of an army are equipment and mobility. I will not allude to mobility, but with regard to equipment I am extremely glad that our Volunteers will be armed with modern weapons and that adequate range accommodation is to be provided for them. In connection with that I would suggest that further railway facilities might be given to enable the Volunteers to travel more rapidly and at a cheaper rate greater distances from our centres of population, and thus they might be enabled to obtain ranges at a cheaper cost. At Salford our Volunteers travel for an hour by train and have a most excellent range on a grouse moor at Crowden. That idea might be followed out, perhaps, in other localities. It is a question of expense for the executive Government. I am glad that our Volunteers are, so far as is possible, to be brought under further military discipline. I think that it will be beneficial to the country, that it will improve the health and develop the muscles of our men, and teach them regularity and obedience. I should also hope that some means might be adopted whereby garrison duty in addition to camp life might be provided for the Volunteers. Many Volunteers have business engagements, and it seems to me that the Governmont ought to make friends with the employers of labour throughout the country. At the present moment the employers are showing great self-denial, and are doing all they can in connection with the Volunteer movement. I believe the more real you make the service of the Volunteers, the more popular it will be in the country. It must not be forgotten that they have really done some good work. It has been admitted in debate that some of the best shooting has been done by them, and even from a scientific point of view much good work has been done by them. I remember, for instance, that a member of a Volunteer corps recently invented an improvement in the matter of signalling. It has been already said that there is an immense amount of material to be obtained in the 1416 country. In Salford, with a population of 200,000, we could easily double our battalion. I think also we should not forget the cadet corps, and we would have a most excellent shooting force if our police were able to practise at ranges and become marksmen. It is said that there is a want of Volunteer officers. When I was at Cambridge I remember I thought, "I can go in for rowing, cricket, athletics, or any kind of sport at the university, and when I go down I can join a Volunteer corps." In my time, therefore, the Volunteer corps at the University was not so popular as it is now, and the effect was that when men came down from Cambridge it was difficult to induce them to take commissions in other Volunteer corps. I think something ought to be done to popularise the Volunteer corps at our universities and public schools. I think also it would be a very good thing if there were a kind of rotation in and out of the ranks, as men in these corps are all gentlemen and of equal social position. I am the only man in the House of Commons who, as a member of the Inns of Court Volunteers—usually called "The Devil's Own"—had the honour of marching past the Queen in the Jubilee year as a private and the right-hand man of my company. Another matter I am particularly keen about, and that is to bind together, if possible, our regimental territorial families. I think we ought to do everything we can to induce the Line battalions to take an interest in the Militia battalions and the Militia battalions to take an interest in the Volunteers, and each in one another. We are trying to do that in my county, and we have recently started in Salford a compassionate fund for the benefit of the three branches of our territorial regiment. At the present moment the Lancashire Fusiliers have three Line battalions out of the country; one at the front, one at Malta, and one at Crete, and the Volunteer battalions at home ought to look after the interests of the Line battalions abroad. I think, also, we ought to do something to induce our Volunteers to pass into their own battalions of the Line. I think there must be some way of doing that. I believe that one reason why Volunteers are inclined sometimes to pass into battalions of another regiment is that they think they cannot be followed if they leave debts behind them. I think that the territorial 1417 family ought to be bound together into one united whole, and that some sort of privilege should be given to Volunteers and Militiamen who pass forward to a Line battalion of their territorial regiment. I myself wrote to the War Office some time ago on the subject, and suggested that in our own case we should like to pass on a company from our Volunteers and name it after our town. When men from it came back to Salford they would be able to return to their old friends, and might be able to use our headquarters as a kind of club house. The military authorities recognise the necessity for strengthening the tie between the Army and the Auxiliary forces, and the more they combine them together, the better for the Army and the State. The War Office have adopted my idea to some extent, for they recently raised companies of Volunteers in cases where their Line battalions are fighting in South Africa. They apparently recognise that it is desirable for general efficiency that Volunteers should take a special interest in their battalions abroad. In this matter we have with us the interest of the Commander-in-Chief, who recently wrote me a letter stating that he took a deep interest in the Volunteers' movement and their future.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
The hon. and gallant Member for Forfar at the beginning of his speech praised the War Office system very much, and said it was the best that could be devised for our requirements, and that it had done better than was expected. The country, however, expected that the War Office would be able to defend the Empire, and I say in that respect it has to a very great extent failed. If anyone were to state in this House that the Navy were not efficient to defend the Empire, I think such an imputation would be very much resented. This war is one that was common talk for many years, and surely it is a war which might have been prepared against, and all the plans of which should be considered and prepared, just as the Navy would have done. I desire to join with those who have congratulated the Under Secretary of State for War for the able speech in which he set forth the measures which are going to be taken. I am only sorry that I am obliged to state that I was much disappointed by the 1418 contents of that speech, because it strained at securing an increase in our forces rather than better organising the forces we already possess. As a military critic I am of opinion that instead of increasing the number of troops we ought to make our forces more efficient. I believe we have already a sufficient number for the defence of this country and for any operations in which we are likely to be engaged. What we are deficient in is organisation, and I am sorry indeed that the hon. Gentleman representing the War Office should have been obliged to lay stress upon the number to be added to the Army rather than upon an increase of efficiency. He has said, and said rightly, that we cannot possibly have compulsion to provide soldiers for our garrisons and services abroad. But how is this very great increase which is proposed going to be provided? I ask where are the men to come from? Even in this time, when recruiting is popular, I doubt, in the present state of the labour market, whether it is possible to procure a larger number of men except by offering them a considerable bounty. There is no question as to the importance of the forty-three batteries about to be added to the Army. I can only say that when, after the war is over, it is intended to reduce them to cadres, I should prefer, if they have to be reduced, that they should be reduced to a peace establishment rather than to cadres, because I believe the former would be much more efficient. With regard to the Infantry to be added, I would ask the Under Secretary for War whether in view of the wonderful enthusiasm shown by our colonies to take a part in the Imperial Army it might not be possible to raise some of those new infantry battalions in our colonies. There are certain Imperial ports, like Halifax, which might well be guarded by such troops, thereby setting free the Imperial troops supplied by this country. I am afraid the only result of this proposed infantry increase will be that after the war is over the battalions will be reduced, and that we will have a number of half pay officers going about the country very discontented with the treatment they have received from the Government. The filling up of the battalions of Militia and Volunteers seems to me to be only what was to be expected to happen in time of war, but I understood from the 1419 hon. Gentleman that if any Volunteer corps 1,000 strong found it had a considerable number ready to join it could add another battalion to its strength. I would urge the hon. Gentleman before another battalion is created that there should be a very careful inspection of the members of the existing battalion both as regards military and physical efficiency. I would also ask him whether it would not be better, when a wave of enthusiasm is passing over the country, which may easily decrease, to increase each battalion to twelve companies of 100 each. With regard to the Yeomanry, I am one of those who cannot favourably regard the proposed alteration. If it were a very large force, one likely to be reckoned by tens of thousands, I would say by all means let them be trained as mounted infantry; but it is a small force, and by the conditions of the country it will always remain a small force. Men who are brought up as cavalry soldiers always do cavalry work better than men brought up as mounted infantry, and it would have been better to have retained the Yeomanry as cavalry. The whole of the preparations which the hon. Gentleman foreshadowed seem to me to be influenced by what is called "passive defence." Under that system 96 battalions of Militia and 75 Volunteer battalions are allocated to seaport towns. I would ask what those battalions are going to do in the event of war. Are they for the purpose of preventing an enemy landing? If they are, we should want something more; there should be field artillery attached to such a force, and they would want ammunition columns. If it were intended to repel the landing of an enemy's whole force at, for instance, near Dover, it would be no use sending these battalions without artillery, columns, and brain. The sending of these battalions to these seaport towns is a very pernicious system, and it would be much better to organise a large field force and have it thoroughly mobile. The hon. Gentleman has referred to three army corps, a very difficult thing to define. He says an army corps, as he means it, is a proportion of the three arms and services, upon which all military critics agree, and seeks a name to describe it. I am afraid there is not a name which could be applied to that force which would not be misleading, because any special name given to it would pre-suppose special organisation, 1420 which the hon. Gentleman himself says cannot be supplied at the present time. I would put the term entirely out of consideration. I believe it is exceedingly misleading. I think it has misled the First Lord of the Treasury, and I am sure it is misleading the outside public. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that an army corps is not a separate unit itself, but that it is made up of two or more units which are in themselves independent. In our system we have three divisions, in the Continental armies there are only two, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether in his scheme of defence he would not talk of divisions, and, instead of three army corps, talk about nine divisions. As soon as we have got the divisions we can group them together by threes into army corps, give them a general and staff and call them army corps, but to talk about an army corps which is not specially organised is really misleading to the country, though, of course, I do not say that the hon. Gentleman wishes to mislead. It would be a very great advantage to organise this field force by divisions instead of an army corps. If we organise it by divisions we can adapt it to the organisation we already possess. Many of our present districts, each with a general and a numerous staff, are very large in their areas, and contain a large force of Militia and Volunteers, while others, like the Thames, Woolwich, and South-Eastern districts, are very small. I would ask whether in organising this field force it would not be possible for every large district to prepare a division of its own, and to make use of the general and the staff already in existence? If we were to have these divisions of Militia and Volunteers with guns it would be of inestimable value to the units of the battalions which belong to them; and it would give experience to the staff and to our generals. We all think that our generals have not had a fair chance of studying their work in the field on a large scale in this country before taking command on active service. It would be far better to put on one side the use of the phrase "army corps," and to organise the whole of the troops which are going to be mobilised into divisions, and, as far as possible, to put one division in each of the existing districts. If that were done there would be thereby provided a force which would be efficient in the almost 1421 impossible contingency of an invasion of this country, and efficient also for reinforcing the war in which we are now engaged in South Africa.
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
I want to emphasise the enormous importance of improving the rifle shooting of Her Majesty's forces. I listened to the speech of my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War with great interest, and noticed that he only proposed to give increased facilities for rifle practice to the Volunteers. That is a most excellent object, but he did not say anything in regard to increasing the facilities for rifle practice and rifle training by the Militia and Regular forces. I take personally great interest in rifle shooting, and it seems to me that there was something wanting in the hon. Gentleman's speech, and that he did not appear to fully realise the enormous increase in the power of the modern rifle, and the necessity of educating Her Majesty's forces in using the rifle. In the days of the old "Brown Bess" there was not such a thing as practice at shooting at a mark; no man could do more than hit a haystack. The qualities necessary in a soldier were different then from what they are now, and the men did not require to be educated up to the skill now necessary in using modern weapons. Our Army is now armed with an almost perfect weapon, except in some minor mechanical details, which in that respect make it inferior to the rifle possessed by the Boers and the French. Our rifle throws a bullet with as marvellous accuracy as any modern weapon, but I do not think our military authorities have grasped the enormous importance of educating our men to the use of that rifle, although I have not the slightest doubt that they have learned a good deal of late about the power of modern firearms. Let me give an instance. I heard a story of what happened in the days of the Martini rifle. A coat-of-mail was sent down to Woolwich to be tested, and a company of soldiers were told off to fire at the coat-of-mail, but not a single shot struck it. Let me give another instance. At the battle of Ulundi twenty years ago, our soldiers were armed with the Martini rifle, and, firing at a comparatively short range, they killed 1,000 Zulus and won the battle. But it is calculated that only one in fifteen of the shots fired hit a Zulu at all. 1422 Now, if we had had good shooting we might have dispensed with a large proportion of the men engaged and their transport. I quite agree with my hon. and gallant friend who has just sat down that it is of more importance, from a strictly rational business point of view, that we should provide quality rather than quantity in our soldiers, especially in their shooting powers. I think if the British soldier were properly trained he would be just as good a rifleman as is to be found in the world. I am informed that the utmost number of days in the year which the ordinary soldier devotes to musketry practice is sixteen, and that he does not fire, at the outside, more than 250 rounds in that period, including company practice. The Militiaman has only three days rifle practice, and only fires sixty rounds. The Volunteer, unless he chooses to provide his own ammunition, does not fire many more rounds in the year. I contend that it is impossible to produce good rifle shots under these conditions. It cannot be done. Unless you give facilities to our soldiers to fire a great many more rounds in the year, and to practise at long distances, and at unmeasured ranges, you will never turn out shots like the Boers or the cowboys on Western ranches. These latter, owing to the conditions of their life, and the country in which they live, can go to their front door almost and practise firing from there. Of course, we cannot get such facilities in such a crowded country as this; still a great deal more might be done than at present, and I think we should hear a little more on this subject from my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War. I have no doubt it may seem presumptuous on my part, who am not a soldier, to offer these remarks to the Committee, but I sometimes think there is a danger of hon. and gallant Members of this House, old soldiers, being influenced by the hide-bound traditions of the service. They have been brought up in a school that thinks everything of drill and the smart appearance of the regiment on parade, but not in the school in which it is considered as all important that the men should be good shots and that some inducement should be offered to them to make themselves good shots. I happen to be one of a body of gentlemen engaged at the present moment in recruiting a company of sharpshooters for the Yeomanry force, and I may tell the Committee that the men I have come 1423 across have been very largely attracted to this company because, as they say, they want to belong to a corps in which all the men will be good shots. "We want," say they, "to know whom we are going into action with, and whether the man on our right side and on our left can use his rifle effectively. That will strengthen us in action." It seems to me that if some inducement of that kind were offered in some of the regiments of Her Majesty's regular forces, it might be of very great use in attracting the best class of rifle shots—men who would be proud to belong to a distinguished corps of sharpshooters. If I have a fault to find with the proposals of the Under Secretary, it is that they are not large enough. I am glad, however, that they are so large, and I hope that, when the proper time comes, the military authorities will not grudge the expense of making our soldiers the best riflemen in the world.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
As I am not a military man, I ought, perhaps, to apologise for intervening in this debate; but my excuse is that, although the Estimate is for £13,000,000, only £420,000 has been explained to us as necessary for reorganising the Army. It is a pity so much has been made of that £420,000. While quite willing to provide all that can be needed for the war, I should like to ask one or two questions in regard to the twelve and a half millions which have to be applied to South Africa. Will that sum be all spent on the 31st March? The Under Secretary in his speech stated that the ten millions voted in October was "based on expectations" as to what the war would cost, but these had been disappointed. Most of the expectations formed by the Government in reference to this sad business have been disappointed. If the hon. Gentleman can assure us that the sum of £23,000,000 will be sufficient to meet all the expenses up to the 31st March, he will do something to allay an uneasy feeling widespread throughout the nation. We have not sufficient details of this large sum and I ask, when will these fuller details be supplied? There is an additional sum of five millions, making ten altogether for transport—when will the particulars of that be supplied? I ask these questions, because these moneys will not be printed in next year's Estimates.
§ MR. LOUGH
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not mean to say that the House of Commons will not have an opportunity of considering the details some time or other. Another question which we should consider is, whether the War Office is open to the charge made by supporters of the Government in the House and in the press of having fallen short of its duty in the national emergency through which we are passing? During the short recess there was a great explosion of public opinion, and the parties into which the Government supporters were divided threatened to tear each other in pieces. I hoped, as an opponent of the Government, that that criticism would take some form in the House; but it has not. Now, I am one of those who thought that there was no definiteness in that attack. It sprang from those who desire a great increase in our annual expenditure. I think the War Office has deserved well of the country. It has raised a far larger force than was believed to be necessary, and has done the work wonderfully considering the difficulties with which it had to deal. The hospital service has won the encomiums of the great civil surgeons who have gone out to Africa. There has also been criticism of that mysterious body called the "Committee of National Defence." None of us know exactly what that body is; but we understand that it is a small Committee of the Cabinet. Years ago we were told that its great function was to establish harmony between the War Office and the Admiralty. That function has been well performed during the last three or four months. The War Office and the Admiralty have worked extremely well together, and everything I have said in praise of the War Office may also be said in praise of the Admiralty. It may be asked why, if both discharged their duties so well, is there so mush disappointment in the country? I think that disappointment is very unreasonable. If there was to be disappointment it should have been with this House, and it arose from the policy adopted. The fact is that the War Office and the Admiralty—the former particularly—have had to face a far greater undertaking than this House realised. We did not know the magnitude of that task, nor had it been realised 1425 by the Government and the nation. The Boer preparations were greater, and the Boer fighting powers far larger than were supposed. A good deal has been said about the spirit of the nation during the present crisis. In some ways that spirit has been admirable. There has been a great willingness—too much, I think—to provide the Government with help of all kinds; and the Government have been a little too ready in accepting voluntary offers. I think there has been too much sending round the hat to provide our soldiers with food, clothing, luxuries, and all that sort of thing. That is a system which deserves, and should receive, more attention from the War Office. Our soldiers in the field, who o[...]er their lives for their country, are worthy of the best support of the nation in every way, and the taxpayers would be willing to provide everything for their comfort. I have been surprised to see how many offers of contributions have been accepted, and I think the Government ought to examine into this matter. If these clothes and comforts are necessary, the War Office ought to send them. It seems to me that some regiments may be a great deal more popular than others, and these will get a good many things which are not sent to the others. Where all behave equally well all should be treated alike; and the War Office should see that each regiment is treated in this respect as well as another. I believe that it is such questions connected with the war that we ought to discuss under this Vote, and not the reorganisation of the Army; and, like others, I have been placed in great difficulty by the mode of procedure of the Government. There has been mixed up with the necessary war Vote, which we all want to grant, suggestions which require a great deal more consideration than we can possibly give to them at the present time. The hon. Gentleman may say that some of these questions of reorganisation are urgent at the moment, but he has not made that clear. The hon. Gentleman said at the commencement of his speech that nothing would be done of a permanent character by the Government at the present moment, except what was necessary in connection with the present war. [Mr. WYNDHAM dissented.] Some statement of that kind was made, at any rate. We ought not, in the emergency 1426 in which we are placed, to undertake an elaborate permanent scheme for the reorganisation of the Army. The only tendency of such action is to raise unduly our already extravagant expenditure without any guarantee of greater efficiency. We ought to have more time for consideration, and the House and the country should have a better opportunity of looking into plans than can fairly be expected now. The hon. Gentleman says we must get more men, but he has himself met that difficulty by admitting that the War Office has got as many recruits as it wants. No reasonable objection can be made against the proposed increase of pay to the Militia and Volunteers, but we could freely consider it at a later time when the present emergency is over. I conclude by again hoping that the hon. Gentleman will give us fuller explanation of what is taking place in South Africa, and of the details of the expenditure incurred.
§ CAPTAIN PRETYMAN (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said he wished to say a few words in connection with the proposals laid before the Committee in regard to the artillery, and especially in regard to the division of work suggested as between the Regular and Volunteer artillery. The Under Secretary for War has made a proposal which appeared to him to be, of all the excellent proposals laid before the Committee, the most excellent and necessary—namely, a proposal for the increase of the Regular artillery by no fewer than forty-three batteries. He happened to be an officer in one of the old horse artillery batteries, and the first time he entered the precincts of the House he sat under the gallery and heard the motion made for the reduction of that arm, which was so bitterly condemned both by military opinion and by the country, because that was a force which could not be improvised, and could not be efficiently provided by any Volunteer force. He had examined the proposals laid before the House of Lords by the Secretary of State for War and compared them with what had been said in that House, and it was not clear to his mind that it was not proposed to use the Volunteer artillery as a mobile force. He believed—and he had had some experience with artillery—that the Government could not get better value for the money which it spent on Artillery than 1427 that which it spent on the Volunteer artillery in giving them guns of position for coast defence. It was a remarkable fact that all instructors and officers, both in the Volunteers and in the Regular service, bore testimony to the shortness of the period in which a Volunteer artilleryman became proficient in his work. He had also a particular knowledge of the district in which he was situated, and as to how it would be armed in case of war. If they compared the cost of a regular garrison battery of artillery with the cost of a battery of a Volunteer corps, the House would realise that it got better value for the small sum it spent on the latter than from what it spent on garrison batteries. In the case of Regular field artillery they had to have specially trained gunners and drivers, and no driver was efficient until he had served at least two years. He did not, therefore, think it was possible to make a mobile Volunteer field artillery. He had noticed from the statement made in the House of Lords that the Volunteers were to be provided with 15-pounder field guns, and that was the reason why he had risen to press the point; it was not a question of detail, but of policy, and he welcomed the statement that forty-three regular batteries were to be raised, which would be allotted to the new army corps, largely composed of auxiliary forces. He hoped that when details came to be worked out, every encouragement would be given to Volunteer artillery corps in every district where we had defences, and that they would be trained in the defence of their own district. He hoped that nothing would be done to check manifestations of military zeal, and that the War Office would do all they could to encourage the formation of Volunteer batteries. He suggested that there should be a nucleus of Reserve men in such batteries. He wished to press upon the House the importance of having the Regular batteries kept up to their full strength, and said that in the Egyptian War of 1881–2, in order to make up a battery to full strength, they had, on an occasion that came under his notice, to emasculate six other batteries in order to do so. That was a destructive criticism of our military system. But it must be borne in mind that on that occasion no Reserves were called up. At present, by calling up the Reserves, they could have all the seven 1428 batteries at full strength, and that, he thought, was an answer to a great deal of the criticism they had heard. As to the Volunteer system generally, everything showed that the Government was thoroughly alive to the necessity of strengthening the efficiency of the Volunteers; their weakness, he thought, lay in the small supply of officers generally, and he suggested that that weakness could be met by giving more encouragement to large employers of labour in our towns to form corps out of their own workpeople, and to officer them. In order to do that they must remove some of the expenses which fell on Volunteer officers, and also let them feel that they were real soldiers. He believed they would welcome any extra demands that might be made on them for efficiency, if they felt they were treated as real soldiers. As to the scheme now proposed, he reminded the House that it rested solely on voluntary effort. There was no doubt we had sufficient men in the country, and if we could not get them by voluntary effort, we must get them somehow; but all would agree that every effort should be made to get them voluntarily. They must, therefore, give them inducements to volunteer. As to the criticism on the War Office, he believed that the Department had done the best it could with the materials at its disposal. They set up no claim to perfection, and he believed they would consider all suggestions made to them. He considered it an encouraging feature of that discussion that no serious criticisms had been made of the proposals of the War Office, although they had not departed in any material particular from the system on which they had been working for the last few years. It was a system which could provide what we wanted—a mobile field force, and one which was capable of almost indefinite extension. As to our want of success in the present war, so far it appeared to be due to the fact that we had not realised at the beginning the real strength of the forces arrayed against us. He suggested that some reform should be made in the matter of the interchange of staff and regimental officers; young officers were frequently taken on to the staff and when promoted to positions of responsibility were often deficient in regimental training. There should be a constant interchange between the officers of the staff and those serving with the regiments, so as to bring about 1429 more mutual confidence when they came to work together in time of war, and combine the special knowledge of both in order to produce the best results. He hoped that on both sides of the House the fullest support would be given to the proposals of the Government, both in the matter of carrying on the present war to a successful issue and also in the matter of providing a permanent increase in the defensive forces of the country.
§ SIR E. T. GOURLEY (Sunderland)
contended that the main object of the Government in bringing forward this scheme was, firstly, to meet the exigencies of the situation in South Africa, and, secondly, for the purpose of home defence. His view of the matter was that the whole of the War Office required to be put into the melting-pot. The permanent officials constituted the portion of the War Office which required to be reformed, and in that portion Parliament ought to apply the pruning-hook. In the present crisis supports were sent out to South Africa consisting entirely of infantry, without either cavalry or artillery, and afterwards, when artillery was found to be required, it was sent out by the slowest transports that could be obtained. Had it been sent by the transports then ready, the artillery could have got to the Cape of Good Hope by the date at which it eventually sailed from England. Had it been sent out by swift vessels it would, in his opinion, have made all the difference in the battles of Colenso and Dundee. It would, he thought, have saved the situation. With regard to the question of horses, they could have been purchased in South Africa to a large extent, but the War Office instead purchased them in this country and sent them thousands of miles over the sea to South Africa before they were fit for service. It stood to reason that native horses, which could have been obtained at the beginning of the war, were worth far more than horses sent from home, which had to be acclimatised before they could be used. Again, if at the commencement of the campaign the Government had accepted the offer of mounted infantry which they had since been so glad to avail themselves of, we should not be in the difficult position in which we find ourselves at the present moment. The House was told that the Government underestimated the resources of the Boers, but such a thing 1430 should never have occurred in the most expensive War Office in the world. There was no excuse whatever for the blunders and conduct of the War Office in the preparations for the war, especially with regard to heavy guns. With regard to the scheme put forward, it was not clear whether the Militia was to be embodied for four or five months this year or every year. He took it for granted that it was only this year, but even in that case it might, and probably would, disorganise the trade of various districts if so large a body of men were called out for so long. In the district which he represented no less than 2,000 men would be affected, and it was hardly to be expected that the employers of those men would keep their positions open until they were disembodied. He would like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that what we want in the Volunteers is efficiency. At present, about one-third of the men in our Volunteer regiments resign annually; and in order to obtain the capitation grant the new men were hurried through their exercises, but it was almost impossible for them to become really efficient. What was really wanted was a change of something like this character: Instead of a Volunteer being allowed to engage himself for, say, six months, and then to send in his resignation, he should bind himself for twelve months, and during that time to make himself efficient by a proper attendance at battalion drill and shooting exercise, otherwise the proposed increase of the capitation grant might be money misspent so far as ensuring efficiency was concerned. Again, by way of encouraging the men to become efficient, he held that those who had to leave their employment early to go to a distant range should be allowed their full expenses, and also the part pay they had sacrificed in consequence of leaving their employment. He would suggest that in order to maintain a force in a state of efficiency, and by way of counteracting the enormous number of annual resignations, it would be well to offer those men who had passed a certain stage of efficiency in battalion drill a retainer after the fashion adopted by the Naval Reserve. Another point he would direct attention to was the cost of officers' uniforms. At present it was an exceedingly costly item, and it should be borne in mind that Volunteer officers were not as a rule wealthy men. They were comparatively 1431 poor; and it would be well, in his judgment, if the War Office could see its way to find nearly the entire cost of the Volunteer officers' uniforms. Now the hon. Gentleman in the very able speech which he delivered last night seemed to think that occasion might arise when there would be a temporary absence of the Fleet. He could only say in reference to that, that whatever policy the War Office might pursue, whatever policy the Admiralty might be guided by, he trusted that there would be a good understanding arrived at as to the position of our first line of defence. The Fleet should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to leave the Channel. So long as we held the Channel there could be no fear of anything whatever in the shape of invasion by a foreign Power. To illustrate his meaning, we had engaged, in connection with the present war, something like one hundred transports. Having regard to the use we had made of them in the conveyance of the British Army to South Africa, we could calculate how many transports would be required to bring an army across, say, from Calais or Antwerp. They would require something like a hundred large vessels to transport to England an army of 100,000 or 150,000 men with all the impedimenta belonging to munitions of war. Well, given our Fleet a proper strategical position, in its present high state of efficiency, it could effectively arrest and deal with such an invading force as that, and the bogey of invasion would have no terrors for us.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL
The question of compulsory service has recurred often in the course of this debate, and we may have to come to that some day; but the time is not yet. What I rise most particularly to do is to ask the House to pause before it consents to condemn our army in South Africa as not a good one. My humble opinion is that our army in South Africa is quite equal to a force of similar dimensions that any European Power can put into the field. You may ask, Well, what about the great reverses we have met with already? I will tell you. Our army has been confronted with an entire change in tactics, and with an enormous development in the power of rifles, Maxims, Nor-denfeldts, and other small arms. We have known a similar case to our own occurring in the war of 1870, when the 1432 Prussian Guards at St. Privat were absolutely paralysed by the deadly effect of the rifle then possessed by the French troops. One of their generals in attacking before Metz had an enormous number of men swept out of action by that weapon. What did the King of Prussia do? He did not trouble himself about his War Office, but he at once issued an order to his officers that they must conform to the conditions of modern fire in their dispositions. In the same way, Sir Redvers Buller, I doubt not, has profited by the lessons which the present campaign has taught him. Sir Redvers Buller is a man as brave as his sword; to him the temptation to push on at Vaal Krantz must have been terrible, but he withdrew his troops when he found that the fire they would be exposed to made success impossible on that line. I feel certain that the sequel will show the country that we have an army which understands its business as well as the army of any Continental Power.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
This debate has resolved itself into a discussion between military experts and those who consider themselves military experts. I, as an unmilitary expert and a mere humble civilian, venture to oppose this Vote, because the issues at stake are confounded between the justice of carrying on the war and the condition of the Army; and as regards the latter issue, after the powerful speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast—to which we all listened with such awe and respect in his powerful indictment of the War Office—I could not find it in my heart to vote in support of a single demand of the War Office until it is purged of many of its sins. To come to this House and blindly vote £2,500,000 of money when the military experts are divided as to its expenditure seems to me an unreasonable demand. I cannot see how the Government can justify it, and I and my hon. friends will oppose the granting of a single additional penny, because we are convinced that the war is unjust, unnecessary, cruel, and a gigantic conspiracy against liberty. I have witnessed a remarkable change come over this House. At one time the party that was dominant was that of peace, retrenchment, and reform; but we seem to have passed to the very antithesis of that. We are all 1433 for fighting—fighting for everything and fighting everybody. The irony of it all was seen when England sent a representative to the Peace Conference at the Hague, where a representative of the Orange Free State sat also. Now when the opportunity of arbitration offers it is rejected with scorn. The cry is for more war, more bloodshed, and fresh sacrifices of hundreds and thousands of gallant lives. Then there is another matter. The Government of the country are willing to take the Irish Militia regiments; and the question arises whether these regiments included the North Cork Militia, who were reported to have gone voluntarily to the front. I am informed by friends in Cork that they were told their services were required at Malta or Gibraltar; but now it is reported that they are going to South Africa. We are asked to vote £2,500,000 in support of a movement like this; but the Irish party flatly decline to do anything of the sort. The business of the Financial Secretary is not so much to look after the War Department as to see that no Irish meat is supplied to the troops. Meat must be obtained from Canada and Australia, and hay from the Patagonian Islands. That is the work of the Army administrators, and then at a time of national crisis people are amazed that they do not understand military tactics. It is not to be surprised at. On Votes 6 and 7 we shall have to expatiate on this present campaign, but in view of the acknowledged incapacity of the War Office, and the proved incompetence of its instruments, and above all, in view of the great blunders of its officers from highest to lowest, it is the duty of the Committee to refuse this Vote.
COLONEL WILLIAMS (Dorset, W.)
I do not desire to unduly prolong this debate, but I wish to say a few words about the Volunteers. I should not have troubled the Committee by going into details if the hon. Gentleman had not invited suggestions; but points of detail are so vital in regard to the Volunteers that I may certainly be pardoned for saying a few words on that subject. I want first of all to recognise very frankly the way in which the Under Secretary for War has grasped a good many of the conditions of Volunteering, which are essentially different in the country from those in the town. I think the difficulty 1434 which many hon. Members do not perceive is that whereas a Militiaman and a Yeoman give up a definite portion of every year to military training the Volunteer is a man who cannot afford to give up a long period of time, but is willing to devote the odds and ends of his spare time to do what he can and train himself for the defence of the country. I am one of those who deprecate the sending of too large a force of Volunteers out on foreign service. I quite appreciate the motive which led to these Volunteers being employed abroad, and I appreciate the spirit in which it was done, but I am bound to say that that force was recruited for home service and not for foreign service. I do not believe that the sending out of Volunteers will encourage recruiting, because many of the men who would be willing to give up a considerable portion of their spare time to Volunteering will consider twice before they enlist if it comes to be understood that they are to volunteer for active service, or that it will not be lightly regarded if they do not volunteer. With regard to the men themselves there is no doubt that the Volunteers are now taken from a much lower stratum of society. It is exceedingly hard in times of peace for men to leave their employment for any length of time for military training. I should, however, like to say a word of praise for the spirit in which employers of labour have met Volunteers. I have had ten years experience in command of a Volunteer battalion, and I can very faithfully say that employers are always ready, although put to considerable inconvenience, to give the men the time to attend instruction and so forth. But the essential weakness of our Volunteers is the want of money, and I am extremely glad to learn that we are to have a larger capitation grant, and also that part of the increased money is to go to enable them to form transport. I must express my satisfaction with the proposal to utilise this money for transport purposes. I think there is more than one Volunteer battalion which has undertaken this duty, and it has been proved that, given a sufficient grant, it is quite possible to organise from the material at our disposal—from the carts and wagons freely lent—what would be a very efficient transport for a force of Volunteers. With reference to camping out every year, and the invitation to Volunteers to 1435 attend instruction for a month, I fully realise the value of that if we could do it, but I fear there are very few Volunteer regiments who could go into camp for a whole month at a time. If the grant was given upon a certain number of days attendance, and they would not all be taken away at one time, perhaps it would be possible to arrange matters. I have seen the increasing difficulty of men getting leave for so long a time. In my own battalion it has been the custom to devote the 10s. allowed by the Government to paying the men the wages which they lose, because the employers, although they give the time freely, cannot be expected to pay the men's wages as well. Therefore, if the camps are maintained for a longer time than a week, I hope great care will be taken that men are allowed to attend as they can, and not too large a number of men are expected out at the same time. The difficulties of battalion drill in a country district I know from experience are very great. Take my own battalion for instance. I have ten companies scattered over the whole of one county, and it costs me something like £50 to bring my battalion together. It is true that the Government grant now goes some way to meet that, but unless I can get at least half the battalion together it is very hard to get that grant. Although I should very often like to get two or three companies together for battalion drill, at the present time I cannot do it, because I do not got the grant for less than half the battalion. I trust, therefore, that an increased allowance for attending battalion drill may be given, and also, if possible, that some slight addition will be made to the travelling expenses to provide the funds for other purposes than travelling, which at present have to come either out of the corps funds or the officers' pockets. My remarks apply still more forcibly to shooting. I am very grateful for the promise to provide more ranges. I hope, however, it will not always be considered necessary to make those ranges up to a thousand yards. A man who can shoot well at 500 yards or 600 yards will not do badly at 1,000 yards with a little practice. A man in my own battalion who shot very high up in the Queen's Hundred, who had only fired at 800 yards a few times in his life, and never at 1,000 yards, managed to get 26th or 27th place in the final stage of 1436 the Queen's. That is a proof that a man who is a good shot at 600 yards can easily accommodate himself to the longer ranges. In reference to travelling, I know of men who live seven miles away from a range, and it takes them about half a day to get there and back, for they have no railway to help them, and the necessity for an increased travelling allowance to the range is a very vital one. I know that the Government are providing more ranges in different places, and these may be a very good thing for those who live near to them, but those who live a long way off require travelling allowances. May I say a word about recruiting? Volunteers are to be invited to raise their numbers to 1,000, and if possible to arrange for a second battalion. I am in the position of always being well up to my 1,000, and I could, at the present moment, raise two more companies in new neighbourhoods, which would make my battalion up to twelve companies. I do not think it is advisable to have in one battalion much more than 1,200 men, but there are cases in which it would be advisable to allow a colonel to raise one or two extra companies rather than have two battalions which must be composed of smaller units more scattered. I thank the Committee for listening to what I have said, and I hope the Under Secretary for War will realise that I have only spoken in order to give him, as he asked, some idea of the difficulties Volunteers have to meet.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I desire to say a few words chiefly in relation to the Militia and Volunteers. Under this Vote the increase of the Volunteers appears to be an essential condition; therefore anything which bears upon that question seems to me to be relevant to the proposal now before the Committee. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Government proposals said that he relied upon a large increase of recruiting in the Volunteer force. I have heard doubts expressed upon that subject, but anyone who is familiar with what has taken place recently in the Metropolitan Volunteer corps will be of the opinion that the hopes of the Government will be realised. I believe that if the Government had not, unwisely, issued their special Army orders against any excess of the establishment, 1437 the present numbers would have been considerably exceeded. Even now many companies are recruiting very largely, and have no difficulty in doing so. As one interested in the Volunteer force, I am glad that the time has now come when they are being treated with greater encouragement and greater help, and the hon. Gentleman has stated that the conditions of service will be made more exacting. I think there has been a gradual and sure increase of efficiency in the Volunteers since their formation, and they have never refrained from any reasonable liability to secure this. Therefore, if there is any comment to be made on this subject, it is that the Volunteer force, after forty years' existence and encountering financial and military difficulties, is only now being really recognised on a proper scale, and receiving that complete equipment and those modern weapons which are absolutely essential for the performance of their duty. What the Volunteers think is that if they do their duty to the State the State is bound to do its duty to them. I will take the case of obsolete guns. Not only is the use of those guns an unwise military course of action, but it has discouraged the men, because they knew that they were purposely wasting their time and learning to fire weapons which could not possibly be of use in time of war. The question of transport is one of the chief difficulties, and altogether the Volunteers have not had those conditions of success which would have led to their being in a far better position than they are to-day. One hon. Member, in addressing the House, said that it was their great object to induce the Volunteers to realise that they were soldiers. I venture to say they must be treated in all respects as soldiers, and if they are I am quite sure they will realise their position. The hon. Gentleman was not quite clear as to whether he was going to give a commission to each battalion of Volunteers, but he mentioned specifically the Militia. That would be a very great service, and every step which convinces Volunteers that they are being assimilated to the Regular Army is of the greatest value to the force. I think the proposal to enlarge the scope of the university candidates is an excellent one. I do not know why it has hitherto been restricted, and in the University of London a good opportunity has already been offered us as to com- 1438 missions in the Royal Artillery, and we have met with much success in the presentation of candidates. There is one other matter which may perhaps be regarded as a minor one, but it arises upon the question which has been raised by an hon. Member as to the recognition of the social status of the Volunteers. I understood the last speaker to say that it had not improved, but deteriorated since the formation of the force. I do not altogether agree with that. In the first few months of the force it perhaps was so, but there has been a tendency, certainly in the towns, towards an improvement in recent years. On the other hand, I would like to ask why there has not been more social recognition of the force. Why should we, very rightly, give to the chairmen of vestries and district councils by virtue of their position commissions of the peace, and not give them to those who are performing services to the State as commanding officers of the Volunteers? There is a real reason besides the social one why commanding officers should be placed on the commission of the peace. They have to swear in recruits, and often have to run about to find a justice of the peace. It would be a proper recognition of their position, and it would be of great value, and be valued if that honour were conferred upon them. One point has been constantly urged by some of us in this House in regard to the Volunteers, and it has not even yet been accomplished. I am speaking of the subject of providing more and better ranges. I know the difficulties in the way in London and in the great towns, due to a great extent to the use of modern weapons of precision and long range. But, as has been said before, what is the value of any soldier if he cannot shoot well? If we do not take care to give every facility for our Volunteers practising shooting we shall be relying upon a broken reed, and they will be simply a force on paper which will not be effective in the end. I am glad that additional facilities are to be offered, for under existing circumstances the wonder is that they have been able to get a knowledge of shooting at all. Up to the present they have often been obliged to take the most inconvenient days to practise, and have had to go long distances. The Military Lands Act proposed to give additional facilities to our municipal corporations to acquire ranges, and this is distinctly a local question. Proximity is 1439 the essence of it, and if the War Department were to appeal to the corporations to apply that Act more generally, I believe that not only would they be willing to do so, but I have some reason to know that many of them would be willing to provide the funds necessary for that purpose. For instance, Nottingham has set a very good example by helping to find a range for the Sherwood Foresters in that district. I have only one more word to say, and it is one of regret. It provides an illustration which I think is pregnant to this proposal, and it is that throughout the very able speech of the Secretary of State for War he said very little about a Volunteer Reserve. He dismissed that to the official limbo of favourable consideration. [Mr. Wyndham: "No, no."] I am very glad to see the hon. Gentleman rather repudiates that suggestion, but he said very few words about it. He dismissed it in two sentences. As a matter of fact it is no new suggestion, as the Undersecretary for War seemed to suppose on the part of Lord Wemyss, for the proposal exists and has been in the archives of the War Office for the last ten years, and all that time it has been supposed to be under favourable consideration. The then commanding officer of the Volunteer Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment made a definite and detailed proposal to the War Office so long ago as the period I have mentioned. That has received really no attention, and it is to be regretted that a system which would not only retain a large number of efficient Volunteers in connection with their regiments, but which would have the great additional value when a Volunteer removes from one town to another of keeping him still in contact with the force, should not have been applied. I hope that what has now been suggested will be carried out at no very distant date. The higher capitation grant is, of course, very acceptable, and will remove a great burden from the pockets of the Volunteer officers. I confess I have some doubts whether the great majority of the Volunteers can afford to spend a month in camp. I have also this to say about that subject. The proposals now made are to make the Volunteers an absolutely essential part of our national defence. Why, then, when they are in camp for a month or a week, should they not be paid like other embodied troops? They make a sacrifice of their time at other periods, and that is all they 1440 should be called upon to give. I know the sacrifices which both the officers and men have had to make, and if the Volunteers submit to the more exacting conditions for the benefit of their country, why should they not receive pay when they are embodied? I shall be told that the cost is great, but why should one portion of the community, who give no service, escape the cost and put the burden upon those who are willing to make this sacrifice of their time? The Government, quite rightly, at any rate for the present, though I think the Militia ballot might soon be applied in some modified form, have decided to forego compulsion or conscription, but if the burden is to be cast on the Volunteers only and others are to render no such service, but are to escape any contribution of either time or money, it is an inequitable treatment of the Volunteers. I would strongly urge that, giving their time as they do, they should at any rate be completely recompensed for any expense to which they are put. The rise in the Militia pay is also most satisfactory. I have the greatest reliance on that force, especially in relation to the defence of our commercial harbours, to which the Under-Secretary referred, when the defence may well be left solely to the Militia and the presence of the coast battalions of Royal Engineers and Royal Artillerymen may be safely dispensed with, and so some seasoned men put at the disposal of the War Office. I have only to add that, for the emergency, at any rate, the proposals put before the Committee by the Government are entitled to every consideration; they were introduced in a most able speech, and I trust they will be carried out, and carried out completely, in the same spirit in the War Office.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
We, as Irishmen, object to the principle underlying this Vote. In fact, we would not interfere in the matter at all were it not for the fact that in order to raise the money for these extra men you will send your tax-collectors to Ireland to collect a portion of the sum necessary, although we get none of the benefit of the expenditure and have no Volunteers in Ireland. We are not allowed to form Volunteer corps in Ireland, but we are expected to bear a portion of the cost, and I think Irishmen have a right to protest against such 1441 treatment. In Ireland we have no possible interest in this war. None of us have shares in South African mines, and in the event of your succeeding, which does not seem very probable at present, in defeating these two Republics, very few of our people will benefit in any respect. Very few will emigrate to South Africa; very few will be found under the British flag if it ever floats over Pretoria; if they emigrate they will go, as they have always done, to the free soil administered by the United States. We have therefore no earthly interest in the war; we regard it as unjust and unnecessary. You complain that you cannot get enough soldiers to fill your Army. Looking at the statistics, there never was a time in your history when you had fewer Irishmen in the ranks than you have at present. I would contrast that with what has happened when the existence of another country was at stake. When the unity of the United States was threatened Irishmen flocked from all parts of Ireland to the support of the Stars and Stripes. When the American Civil War concluded there were over 100,000 Irishmen among the soldiers who were disbanded—some of the finest fighting material the world has ever seen. I think you would give your very eyes to be able to get 100,000 such men to rally to your flag and fight for you in South Africa. All I say is that if instead of spending these millions we are called upon to vote on the war in South Africa you spent them in conciliating the people of Ireland, in giving them a grip in their own land, you would probably have more chance of getting some of that fighting material. I cannot, as an Irish Member, regard these proposals as such as should commend themselves to the Committee. We look upon the war with minds filled with different ideas from those held by English Members. You think you must win simply because you are English. We look at the facts of the situation with our minds not filled with any such preconceived ideas. We do not think you must win simply because you are English. Up to the present, when the war has been going on for five months, you have not shown yourselves able to make any substantial headway, and we think the proposals to add 120,000 men to your Army are utterly inadequate if you wish to win in this conflict. We read in your own papers the remarks of foreign military critics, and 1442 they say that your plan of campaign in South Africa is altogether wrong, and that with the men and the matériel, the bad guns, bad rifles, and bad generalship at your disposal you have no possible chance of succeeding under present conditions. I therefore object to the proposals as being entirely inadequate from your own point of view of success, and I believe, as some of the papers state to-day, that the scheme is simply an elaborate hoax, and that it does not mean anything serious in regard to your position in South Africa. I also object to this Vote as being a wasteful Vote, because when you look at the facts of the situation there is the possibility that perhaps in a week or a fortnight the news may come in that Lord Roberts has had a similar experience to that of General Buller, and then you will be coming down here in a panic demanding many more men and much more money to carry on this iniquitous war. Another reason for my objection to this Vote is that you are holding out inducements to get more men for the Army and for the Militia. I heard the Under Secretary for War state last night that among the additional inducements to Militiamen was the threepenny mess. I do not know what the threepenny mess means, as we are not allowed to know anything about military matters in Ireland—it is treason if we do; but from the treatment you have given Irish Militiamen, I do not think you are likely to get many more recruits in Ireland under existing conditions. You called up a number of Irish Militia, regiments and drafted them over to England, and all the special service men who could be induced to sign were sent off to the Cape. It was no part of the bargain of those poor men that they should go to South Africa to fight under the English flag, and certainly they were surprised at being trapped into such a position. The treatment meted out to the friends of these men is something equal to that experienced by the veterans of your Crimean campaign. A number of the men who have been suddenly drafted off to South Africa had their parents dependent upon them, and when they have applied for some of the sustentation money, they have been told that the War Office regulations would permit of no money being given them. I know, as chairman of a board of guardians in Ireland, that in our union we are actually supporting a number of parents of men who are fight- 1443 ing at the front in the Connaught Rangers at Colenso. I also know the quality of some of these Militiamen whom you have called up. Some of them have actually been taken out of the union hospitals, where they have been classed as infirm; they have been taken out, clothed in the red coat, marched off to the station, and I suppose they are now figuring on the War Office sheets as effective soldiers of England. If you go on offering these further inducements you will get more of this wastrel class that are no good for anything. Another reason you are not likely to get many more recruits in Ireland is the treatment the families of these men are experiencing. Not only are the parents deprived of assistance from Government funds, but the other relatives who do get such assistance are being treated in a manner which certainly does not commend itself to my judgment. Under the recent Act I happen to be constituted a magistrate by the votes of the people, and on the few occasions I have attended the local courts I have seen the wives, brothers or sisters of these men—who, on reading the accounts of the battles, had become a little excited, though not more excited than people in your own streets on a Saturday night—sent off to prison. As a Nationalist, opposed to the war, I have protested against that, but that is the work of magistrates supposed to represent the English garrison in Ireland. To show you how worthless that garrison is to you for all practical purposes, I was reading in the Pall Mall Gazette the other day a description of the squadron of Imperial Yeomanry that was raised in Ireland. It was stated that almost the whole of the recruits came from the west and south of Ireland, and that very few were obtained in the north. And that is the garrison for whom you have made so many sacrifices! And yet you have rejected every claim we have put forward for justice to our people. It has been said that the Under Secretary for War is the first Minister to raise the spectre of invasion, and to use it as a means of getting additional men and money. You are trying to raise volunteers here in England to protect you from invasion, but yet you deny us the right of raising volunteers in Ireland. I should like to know the meaning of that. Does that mean that if we are invaded by Germany or Russia we must 1444 turn either German or Cossack? I object to that. We ought to have the right to arm and defend ourselves in case of such an invasion. On all these grounds I object to this Vote, and shall join my voice with the voices of other gentlemen from Ireland in resisting at every possible stage these proposals for more men and money to carry on this war.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I confess I am somewhat disappointed with the statement of the Under Secretary of State for War, because I had hoped that after several months deliberation Her Majesty's Government would have taken some stronger steps towards bringing the military forces of this country to a greater state of efficiency, and to more readily and adequately increase their numbers. As far as I understand the scheme, the Government propose to increase the Army by invitation. My only hope is that their estimates of the numbers of men to be obtained and the rapidity with which they can be trained to be a useful force may be right and my estimates wrong. I am rather afraid that some evil counsel still prevails at the War Office. It is quite plain, from the magnitude of the scheme proposed, that the Government consider the present crisis not dangerous, but deserving some special effort. There is a vote for raising some 120,000 extra men, forty-three batteries of horse artillery, twelve fresh cavalry regiments, and seventeen battalions of infantry. As regards the forty-three batteries of artillery, I am afraid it would be a very long time before they or even any large proportion of them could be made efficient. I myself have no actual knowledge of artillery training, and am, therefore not qualified to speak of the difficulties involved in raising such a large force. But when we come to the question of raising twelve cavalry regiments I am afraid I cannot share the optimism of the Under Secretary for War. One of the parts of his proposal was that the three regiments of Household Cavalry should at the present moment be brought up to war strength. I heard on very good authority that in one of those regiments of House-held Cavalry there exists at the present moment thirty trained men. I am quite willing to admit that there are some sixty or seventy recruits in addition, and a 1445 fairly large number of non-commissioned officers, but I certainly do not believe that recruits have been falling into those regiments. It seems to me that to get those three regiments up to war strength of 600 men, at the present rate of increase, would take some four or five years. As regards the recruiting for the infantry, I suppose it is pretty good at the present time; but there is one point I should like to bring before the Committee. The Under Secretary, in supporting his scheme, in order to give some proof that his estimate would be fulfilled, quoted the number of recruits received during the month of January. He told us there had been some 6,000 recruits during that month—some 2,000 over the number in the previous month; and another part of his argument as to how recruits would fall in was the readiness with which men had volunteered for service in South Africa. As regards the 6,000 recruits of whom the Under Secretary was so proud, I think he has overlooked the fact that during that month we also, unfortunately, had some very heavy casualties. While it is perfectly true we had 6,000 recruits, yet from that number has to be deducted some 3,000 casualties, so that it cannot be said that those 6,000 will in the course of the next few months go to increase the numbers of the Army. Large numbers will have to be found not only to fill up the casualties which are sure to occur in South Africa, but also to fill up the regiments in India and the colonies. The second portion of the hon. Gentleman's estimate was based on the fact that so many men came forward for the Volunteers and the Imperial Yeomanry, and also from the Militia, for service in South Africa. I will only refer to that in passing by saying that when the hon. Gentleman spoke first of all in this House on the South African question he stated that there was no denying the fact that in this country there were thousands of men who would be perfectly willing to soldier if they were to go on active service, but that, unfortunately, among his countrymen there was a rooted dislike to doing guard and barrack drill. I am very much afraid that those men when they see that this increase would largely be left at home will not flock to the standard in the large numbers anticipated. There were three courses open to the Government, namely, to go on as they have always gone on—that is, to try to get soldiers by invitation; secondly, to try to increase the Army 1446 and the land forces by better pay; and, thirdly, by compulsory service. We are told that compulsory service would never be stood in this country, but I am inclined to think that if the Government were to come to this House and say we were in national danger, compulsory service would be accepted and freely given by the people of this country. But I do not suppose that at present the Government can tell the House the country is in grave national danger. We are, however, in a grave emergency, and I think the Government ought, by some means, such as offering better pay, to have tried to raise a field force among men who at the present moment are partially acquainted with military exercises. Judging by the success which attended the recruiting for the Imperial Yeomanry, I believe that if the Government had called on the Volunteers, offering good terms and pay, they would in a very short time have secured an efficient field force of 50,000, if not 100,000 men, with a certain amount of knowledge of the duties they would have to perform. By the method in which you are proceeding at the present time every recruit will have to be taught to ride and shoot, and all the special duties of the particular branch of the service which he joins. By adopting the plan I have just suggested, I believe you would have obtained an enormous number of men, and you would have created a greater feeling of security and rest in the country. There is one other point to which I should like to refer, namely, the question of the instruction given to our Auxiliary forces in the past. I was extremely pleased to hear from the Under Secretary for War that the instruction given to officers in the Auxiliary forces is to be improved. I remember when I first joined the Auxiliary force, there was a school at Aldershot to which Yeomanry officers went, and many Yeomanry officers made themselves efficient in their drill at that school. That establishment, however, was done away with, and some other scheme started, by which Yeomanry officers were sent to different cavalry regiments to learn their drill. I do not wish in the least to disparage present officers of the Auxiliary forces, but, from my own experience, I am perfectly certain that since these schools were abolished the officers are not nearly as efficient as they used to be. It is a great necessity of this country that we should have a large body of officers who 1447 are, at all events, partially acquainted with their work, who could officiate as instructors, and also help when their country was in difficulty. I would only add that I hope the Government will see their way, when they again start these schools for Auxiliary officers, to give those officers also some education in military training However important it is that officers should know the words of command, it is even more important that they should have some knowledge of how to pitch a tent, or to throw up a shelter trench. From what I have heard—never having been in the Army—I believe this training is very much neglected, even among officers of the Regular forces. As far as digging a trench is concerned, they are probably sent to dig it on a piece of ground where hundreds of men have dug trenches for the last twelve months. I do not think that in such a way an officer can receive a good and thorough military training. Another point is that a larger permanent staff is absolutely necessary for the Auxiliary forces. The Government have tried for economical reasons to cut down that staff. I speak from experience, for at the present moment, in my own Yeomanry regiment, which at the last training turned out the strongest in the whole country, the best squadron leader has gone to South Africa, three or four young officers have gone, fifty of the best troopers have gone, the best sergeant-major has gone, and the adjutant has gone back to his regiment. If that is typical of the other regiments throughout the country, then, if we were trusting to the Auxiliary forces for the efficient defence of the country, we are leaning on a broken reed. I should be pleased to hear that some of the 109,000 troops who the Under Secretary says are in this country are men who thoroughly know their work and are capable of being sent off to augment the regiments in South Africa. I am rather afraid that it will be some time before the 9th or 10th Divisions can be put into the field. It would have been much more reassuring to the people of this country if the Government had come down and stated boldly that they had taken measures by which the 11th and 12th Divisions were to be speedily equipped and made ready for the field. I can only say, in conclusion, that I hope the view I take on this matter is wrong and that the Under Secretary is right, that men will flock to 1448 the standards and recruits pour in, and that he will be able to raise the additional regiments he requires. On the other hand, I cannot disguise from myself that we are passing through a critical stage, and therefore I would have liked to have seen stronger proposals put forward.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
An hon. Member opposite said that at the end of the War of Independence in America there were 100,000 Irishmen fighting for America, and that he wished that only that number of Irishmen were in South Africa. I most cordially echo that wish. Everyone who has watched the course of this war has been struck with the courage and heroism displayed by the Irish regiments. My esteemed friend asked some question as to why the Irish Militia were sent to this country and not retained in Ireland. It was suggested that it was because these men were rebels. Never had a more unfortunate statement been made. Whatever may be the political feeling of Irish Members, and to which they may give expression in this House, I am perfectly certain that it would be impossible for men of whatever nationality to show more courage and devotion than Irishmen have shown in South Africa. I admit that, at the fag end of this debate, it is very difficult to say anything new, but I wish to assure the Government that so far as I can gauge their intentions, I cordially approve their proposals. It is true that there is nothing novel or revolutionary in these proposals; they are merely an expansion of what already exists. There is no compulsion, no ballot even for the Militia. I do not myself approve of conscription. We have always found the men we wanted by other means. Still I differ very much from an expression which fell from the Prime Minister when he said that not the youngest man now living would see conscription. There is a feeling rising in quarters not expected in favour of conscription or the ballot. Manufacturers and employers of labour see that the Germans, who have conscription, are outstripping us in industrial pursuits, and they are asking how it is that the nation which is entirely a military nation is able to thus outstrip us. In considering the proposals of the Government we have also to keep in view the previous proposals made during the last three or four years for the increase of the Army. In 1896 the Under Secretary proposed that there 1449 should be added to the Army 81 guns, or 15 batteries. In 1897 he proposed to further add three new infantry battalions and two new Colonial regiments, one battery of field artillery and 3,500 garrison artillery. In all, between 1896 and 1898 there have been added to the Regular forces no fewer than 28,000 men. In the very remarkable statement made by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, then Under Secretary for War, in 1898, he said that the force which, if it ever were needed, we could put on board ship was 75,000 men, and that no such force had ever been embarked before by this country. But only two years after that statement had been made we have put on board ship 150,000 men—a fully-equipped army in every respect—without counting the Colonial troops or the troops already in South Africa. It is difficult after that to level criticism at the War Office. It is now proposed to add to these numbers 258 guns and twelve battalions of infantry, and I believe that such is the spirit of our country, these men will be raised, and these guns will be ready in a very short time. The suggestions which I rose to make are, I hope, of a practical character in regard to home defence. First of all, there is the question of rifle ranges. After the new arms were supplied to the Volunteers and Militia a great many of the ranges were discarded, and now they are very few. Now no one can doubt the value of shooting, especially at unknown ranges, but if you have only short ranges, with rifles sighted up to 1,500 or 2,000 yards, it is impossible to train our soldiers, Volunteer or Regular, in firing at unknown distances. I venture to suggest to the Under Secretary for War whether it might be possible to lay upon County Conncils the duty of providing ranges throughout the country. These know more of the local circumstances, they are acquainted with the owners of the land, and they would be better able to carry the matter through than the War Office. These ranges would be available for the Volunteers and the Militia and the Regular troops quartered in the district, and also for the shooting of rifle clubs, which it is desired to encourage at the present moment. These ranges could take the place of those at which our bowmen and yeomen of old used to practise. I regret very much that amongst the items of the scheme 1450 submitted by the hon. Gentleman there is no provision for the drilling of our boys in the primary schools. There are at present in many of these schools instructors of drill, but the War Office in conjunction with the Education Department should see to it that every school obtained the services of an old soldier to drill the boys. Nothing would do more good physically than military drill, and nothing would interest them more. As to the length of training of the Militia and Volunteers—if the Government hope that, in this time of emergency, the Militia will give up three months and the Volunteers one month to camp training, that may be done. Whatever the difficulties, the men both of the Militia and the Volunteers would make the sacrifice of their time; but that would be only for this year or the duration of the war. And unless that is made perfectly plain I do not believe that the Government will be able to obtain the men. The men have to consider not only themselves but their employers, and I ask the Committee to consider whether the men in our manufacturing centres can be spared, year after year, for three months, or even for one month, from their industrial employment.
§ COLONEL MILWARD
I am very glad to hear that; but it must be made plain that this is only for one year, and that hereafter we will revert to the old conditions. I believe that the conditions respecting the Volunteers should be made more stringent than they have hitherto been. No man has a right to join the Volunteers who is not physically fit, who means to go only for one or two days to camp, or put in a few drills. We want to make the force a real military force, and it must have real military training. I would like to say a word or two as to the officers. The real root of the difficulty both in the Militia and the Volunteers is that there is too great a paucity of officers; and I am glad to hear that commissions in the Regular Army are to be offered to the Militia and Volunteers. In the Militia the difficulty is not as to first and second lieutenants, but as to captains and majors, for the former hope to pass into the Regular Army, and they leave the Militia if they do not succeed. A great deal might be done through the Lords Lieutenant of 1451 counties. I believe that the Lords Lieutenant have more local influence than any other person, and are much more likely to provide officers from the country gentlemen. That is a point at which I would put on compulsion. Noblesse oblige. There are comparatively few men in this country available for such positions. As soon as they become married they are under the influence of their wives. The wives say to their husbands, "When you go to camp what am I to do? I want to go to the seaside or elsewhere for a holiday, and the money you spend in camp would take me and the family there." That is not a mere argument, but a fact, as I know perfectly well. Of course, if you are going to call up these men for a month or three months the difficulty will be increased. It should be remembered, also, that an officer of Volunteers has to give up his time night after night, and on the Saturday afternoon to go to the rifle range, and that when he goes to camp he has to pay his whole expenses. The question of expenses is, I am perfectly certain, a most important one. As it is absolutely necessary that we should have officers for the Militia and the Volunteers, I would adopt the course of taking the ballot among a certain class of the community, say income tax payers, in order to provide officers if they will not come forward from motives of patriotism. I am very pleased to agree to almost all the proposals which come from the Government. The Volunteers and the Militia have been regarded by their friends as the backbone of the defence of this country, and by their critics as a military sham. These forces are anxious to prove they are the one and not the other; and I am certain that the more you call upon them, and the more desire you show to make them an integral part of the Army, the more results you will get from them, and the more will they become a force which may be relied upon for the defene of this country in time of danger.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
It is quite evident that there is some little confusion between the proposals intended for an emergency and those which have to do with some permanent alterations in the administration of the War Office. I am prepared to vote for the men or measures with which the Government propose to carry out this war 1452 to a speedy and triumphant issue. One of the hon. Members opposite expressed disappointment that the Under Secretary for War had not brought forward some larger and wider scheme of War Office reorganisation. I congratulate him on not having done so. I think it would be a highly imprudent thing to do in the midst of this war. After the war has been brought to a triumphant conclusion we can quietly consider what ought to be done, irrespective of the strain placed at present on the patriotism of the country. I do not see any necessity for making any large permanent additions to our Army. Of course, writers and speakers, ranging widely through the unknown, have dilated as to what a combination of foreign nations might do against us. I have always been sceptical as to what foreign nations could do. We have got to take the statements made by the accredited representatives of those nations, who are living on friendly terms with us, and speak of us in terms of brotherhood and equality. But if ever the necessity arose to enlarge our military forces, I take no despairing view about recruiting in the future. We have heard that the last year or two have been record years for recruiting, and is there any reason why that should not continue? The most popular man in the country is Tommy Atkins, and there is no reason why he should not continue to be so when he comes back covered with glory from the Transvaal, and that popularity will have a great influence on recruiting. We know that employers of labour have come to the front in aiding the military authorities in bringing Reservists up and in keeping their berths open for them while they are on active service; but I look forward with some apprehension as to what view employers of labour will take of their workmen being removed into camp for three months every year. I am very glad to hear that the Militia is now to form an essential part of the military constitution, but I want to know what permanent arrangements are to be made to increase its popularity. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke of the influence of the Lords Lieutenant of counties in securing officers for the Militia. In Aberdeenshire there is no difficulty in getting officers, because our regiment is popular; the great difficulty is in getting men. Lord Aberdeen called a meeting of the tenants to consider the very alarming drop made in the rank and 1453 file from 800 to 200 or 300. A great deal of discussion took place as to what the reasons for that were, and one suggestion was that the Militia recruits no longer got the old bounty. I would ask the Under Secretary for War whether the old bounties are to be restored, or whether the bounties he now offers are to be of a temporary character.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think I have informed the Committee several times that we are not prepared at this moment to state the exact terms, but we are considering the desirability of altering and consolidating the various bounties of the Militia, and that would not be a temporary but a permanent measure.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
I am very glad to hear that, because all the tenants said that the small number of recruits was owing to the withdrawal of the bounty. The fact is that in Aberdeen we are going to make up the necessary sum if we cannot get it from the Government, and in that way we hope to restore our regiment to its old numbers. Another point which was brought forward by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen was that the military authorities do not study enough the time for the embodiment of the Militia. If you embody a regiment when the hay or corn harvest, or any principal agricultural operation is in full swing, it is natural that the men will not come forward. The time for the annual training should be suited to the exigencies of the industrial occupation of the men. If you consider and study the convenience of the rank and file, it will be more popular. My hon. friend also said that commissions were to be given to the universities and the public schools, and the Militia. I should like to know, are the candidates to be examined for what we call the literary examination?
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
I am glad to hear that, because I think those examinations are rather overdone. I have seen some of the questions, and I could not get within twenty yards of answering them, and any of the young gentlemen in order to answer such questions must be a walking "Encyclopædia Britannica." In conclusion, I will just say it is a very great satisfaction to me to hear that my hon. friend is going to considerably increase the Army Medical Department. That department has come out with its reputation simply untarnished; notwithstanding the great 1454 strain of this campaign, everything has been done admirably for the benefit of the troops. I have to thank my hon. friend for the sympathetic answer that he gave the other day when I asked him to contradict some injurious statements which had been made in The Times upon this subject. The department has done its work well, and I am glad it is going to be increased.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
In the few words I desire to address to the Committee at this time I would like to begin by congratulating the Government and the War Office upon the scheme put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary. The hon. Member for West Islington a short time ago found fault with the War Office for having accepted too many offers from various sources in this crisis of our country. I, on the other hand, rather complain of the War Office for not having accepted some of the offers from the North of Ireland. The City of Derry Grand Orange Lodge offered to the War Office 200 good marksmen and good riders, but in the communication I received from Lord Lansdowne the noble Lord regretted he could not accept the offer, so that Great Britain lost the services of 200 men who would have upheld the honour of the British flag.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
I have listened patiently to adverse criticisms of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and I claim a fair hearing. I forwarded an offer from the Newry Orangemen, to form a Volunteer corps for home service, from among their 700 members. I regret the answer given to a question I put to the Treasury some time ago. I did not get a favourable reply to my question to the First Lord of the Treasury to my offer to raise Volunteers in Ireland; the right hon. Gentleman regretted he could not accept the proposition. The country has witnessed with great approbation the magnificent assistance given by the colonies, and I venture to say if an opportunity had been given to those for whom I speak, they would gladly come forward, and would do their best either at home or abroad for the honour of our flag. If permission was given, 10,000 men in Belfast, alone, could immediately be obtained to enrol themselves in a Volunteer force to maintain the integrity of the British Empire. I 1455 know it is not a subject which commends itself to hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent Ireland; those who sympathise with the enemies of England on all occasions are not likely at this time to support the honour of our flag. I venture to call attention to a report of an entertainment given in Belfast on Saturday last where 300 of the Ulster Yeomanry were assembled, who, although the idea was only started a month or two ago, have passed the requirements of Colonel Graves and have already been enrolled. I should like to read, from the Belfast Newsletter—
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
I apologise, Mr. Lowther, for having produced one. I would merely say that in a speech made by Lord Londonderry, the newly-appointed Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, he said, although 300 had passed under Colonel Graves to go out and fight in South Africa, more than double that number could be easily obtained. Colonel Graves told them they went out as Ulstermen as well as Irishmen, to do honour to the country to which they belonged. In conclusion, I venture to appeal to this House to permit at least the loyal Irish to rally round the flag of England, and I implore the Government to consider the application made by me a short time ago, and permit them to become soldiers of the Queen.
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
, who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say: This was not the time to put the Army into the melting-pot—to reorganise either the Army or the War Office. He was glad that the Government did not propose to introduce compulsory service. There were many reasons against compulsory service, the chief of which was that it must lead to great delay and opposition. But whether it might not be necessary eventually to fall back on some form of compulsion was a question that could not now be decided. Some hon. Members on the other side said that no case had been made out for the permanent increase of the Army. That was not the opinion of the military advisers and of independent experts in this country, who held that the Army was entirely insufficient to fill up gaps in foreign stations, and to meet the needs of the Empire. He heartily welcomed the proposals of the Government, although he doubted whether 1456 the required number of men would be forthcoming. If the men were to be obtained, the Government would have to offer more inducements. They would have to pay them better, make the Army more attractive, and, above all, to devise proper employment for men after they had left the service. He expressed the hope that there would be no more of that veiled hostility to the employment of old soldiers in Government offices. The soldier was a working man just as much as the navvy, and was entitled to as much consideration. To supply the deficiency in officers he thought we should take a lesson from the Germans, who had a large reserve of officers who were regularly trained and were ready to fill up vacancies at any moment. When down at Aldershot that day seeing some regiments off to South Africa, he noticed they were no less than six officers short. What would be the condition of those regiments two or three weeks after the casualties of a campaign? He wished to know if it was the fact that our artillery was inferior to that of the Boers, and whether the Government had sent out to South Africa disappearing platforms such as the Boers were apparently using. He expressed the opinion that the Intelligence Department was underpaid. He hoped when the reorganisation of the Army took place the Council of National Defence would be reorganised too. The Council of National Defence was, he thought, improperly constituted in respect that not a single expert had a seat in it. He hoped that this would be remedied when the work of reorganisation was undertaken.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
It is true, no doubt, that the War Office has done a great deal in the exercise of its organising powers in regard to the present war; it is true that they have transported a large army across the sea, and it is true that that army has been very well equipped, and that the hospital arrangements have been admirably executed; but what the nation has a right to demand of the War Office is that they should organise victory at the front. The real reason why we have not been more successful in South Africa is owing, in great measure, to the faults of our system, and at this late hour of the evening I am not going to enter into an attack on our Army system. It has been discussed at very great length already, and all I can say is that I hope 1457 one result will be that steps will be taken to alter the system. On the whole I think that there is a great deal to be said for the proposals of the Government. They have recognised for the first time the importance of the Volunteer and Militia forces. I would suggest that an appeal should be issued to the Lords Lieutenant of the counties to strengthen the Militia, because this is not the time for the Militia ballot. Then there is the danger of locking up men in the Volunteer force to the detriment of the Militia. I hope some statement will be made as to the provision of Volunteer transport, and I wish that the Government had proposed a permanent increase in the cavalry. Our weakness in that arm makes it doubtful whether it is wise to convert the Yeomanry into mounted infantry. The change may seriously affect the Yeomanry, especially in view of the fact that mounted companies are to be raised for the Volunteer battalions. I am glad that the Government have at last shown an inclination to recognise the utility of the reserve of officers. The only such officer within my acquaintance who has been employed was required to pay his own passage to the Cape. I am also glad that we are going to get more officers from the colonies. We all admire the way in which the officers have come forward from the colonies, and I hope the authorities will see their way to induce the colonies to enter into some permanent arrangement with our garrisons with a view to permanent service in other parts of Her Majesty's dominions.
§ MR. ABEL SMITH (Christchurch)
said that as an amateur he did not propose to criticise these military proposals; but he welcomed most cordially the changes which had been indicated by his hon. friend with regard to the Auxiliary forces. He suggested that recruiting for the Yeomanry would be assisted if a system of registering horses such as was applied for cavalry and other purposes were put in force. Numbers of young men who were ready to serve Her Majesty abroad would gladly join the Yeomanry if they could furnish their own horses. A system of registration would enable them to have horses in readiness. He was perfectly certain that if the War Office took commanding officers and others into their confidence, and were willing to accept suggestions, they would do much to increase the 1458 strength and efficiency of the Auxiliary forces.
§ MR. DALY (Monaghan)
From the different standpoints from which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have put the Army and Navy before the Under Secretary of State for War, I would not be surprised if, after listening to them all, the hon. Gentleman has a pain in his head by this time. We have heard admirals, generals, colonels, and lieutenants by the score. As far as I am concerned, I do not agree with the very large scheme which the hon. Gentleman has brought forward, because, from the Irish point of view, this large demand upon Parliament is, I think, quite unnecessary and quite uncalled for. As an Irish Member, I feel called upon to enter my protest against it, and when the time comes to go into the division lobby I shall vote against the Government on this proposal. Sir, we have heard a great deal of the loyalty and the inconvenience that Englishmen are prepared to put themselves to to help the Empire; but I have scarcely heard one hon. Gentleman, whether a baronet or lord, whose first word and last was not "pay, pay, pay." There is to be increase of pay, increase of rations; and the Volunteers and the Yeomanry are to come in for their share of this increase of pay. This is where your great patriotism comes in. You must give better rations and better pay or you won't get a single man to help you. Mr. Lowther, I am not a military man, and I am glad I am not, but I have not heard a military man in this House that agrees with the scheme that was brought forward last night. What I am surprised at is that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War did not in the first instance invite them all to a friendly party to canvass their views, and secure something like unanimity amongst them on this subject. Now, I believe, Sir, that from start to finish this war has been largely a war for the Stock Exchange. I have never made any other distinction of it than that. I wish to say that I entirely disapprove of this large Vote of men and money for the purpose of crushing a very small State. What seems to me most remarkable about the war, after what we have heard of the great deeds of English soldiers, is that, although there are only 59,000 Transvaal Boers and Free Staters in the field, this country has pitted against them an army of 200,000 men. That is the brilliant British Army. Well, 1459 I don't think it very creditable that it should take four Britons to beat one Boer, and now we are asked to vote a further 120,000, which will increase the number in the proportion of six to one. It is no small wonder that I raise my voice against this proposal, coming as I do from a down-trodden country, seeing that the British forces are arrayed against a little force with the object of overwhelming them by sheer brute force. Up to the present I have heard a good deal of General Buller going forward. But now I see he is going backward. A large sum of money is now being voted, but the poor farmers in Ireland, who supply the best produce and the best horses in the world, will not benefit by it to the extent of a penny. The War Office buy hay in Patagonia and get their bacon from Russia, and it is not the slightest wonder that the soldiers in South Africa have not been able to fight, and have been practically no use in the field. I feel it my duty to oppose this Vote, because I believe the war is unjust and unnecessary, and that it is a war which we will have to contribute to largely without receiving any recompense. We will have to pay the piper, and all we can do is to protest and object in every possible way. Seeing that such a number of Army men in this House object to this scheme, I would advise the hon. Gentleman—he may take my advice, although perhaps if he does not he will not be far wrong—to drop the scheme altogether, which is opposed by his friends on his own side of the House as well as by his friends on this side, and to introduce another scheme, which may be received with more favour.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
A great deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed in the course of this debate with the proposals laid before the House by the Under Secretary of State for War. I venture to hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take these expressions of dissatisfaction too seriously. It is very natural, I think, that the service Members in the House should have hoped to see advantage taken of the present wave of excitement to advance reforms which for many years they have advocated and which they have much at heart; but I think if these hon. Gentlemen will reflect for one moment they will be disposed to admit that it would be a miracle if in so brief a time the Government have been able to present to the House a cut and dried 1460 scheme which would include not only the reform of the War Office but also the reform of the entire military system of the country. Any such scheme must be maturely considered and carefully thought out in all its details. The hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated upon the moderation of the proposals which he has laid before the House, and on the fact that they are mainly applicable to the emergency with which we are at present face to face. The moderation of the proposals will commend them to the country. It certainly commends them to many hon. Members of this House, who have not the intimate knowledge of military matters possessed by the service Members, and who would not be prepared at a moment's notice to approve of a large scheme hastily introduced. I hope that the proposals of the Government will have the strong support of the main body of the Opposition. In saying that I am not so much moved by a consideration of the gravity of the war in the Transvaal alone. Deplorable I consider the war, but I feel confident that in the end this country must triumph. I am influenced by other and far wader considerations. Rightly or wrongly, I cannot rid myself of the apprehension that our present difficulties may be made the opportunities of those nations who envy us our vast possessions and grudge us our worldwide commerce. Already, apparently, Germany, taking advantage of the situation, has carried off Samoa after many years of vain intriguing, and we have further humbled ourselves to her by apologising for the exercise of a maritime right which every belligerent enjoys by the law of nations. Then in China and Persia we have interests which seem to be incompatible with the vast ambition and far-reaching designs of Russia. We have grounds of quarrel, too, of old standing with France in Egypt and Newfoundland, and now it seems as if another cause of trouble were looming up for us in Morocco. From these sources what complications may await us in the near future—may be sprung upon us, perhaps, while our hands are tied in the Transvaal? Holding these views, constrained by these apprehensions, it seems to me desirable that we should convince the world that we are a united people when confronted with an emergency, and I venture, therefore, to express the hope that the great body of the Liberal party, however justly they may have found fault with the want 1461 of foresight or with the want of preparation on the part of the Government in the initial stages of this campaign, will strongly support the proposals which the Government have now laid before the House. I will not attempt to criticise the details of these proposals; I make no pretence of military knowledge such as would entitle me so to inflict myself upon the patience of the House. I merely embrace this opportunity of assuring the Government at least of my support in respect of these particular proposals, which, in the circumstances, appear to me to be reasonable and to indicate a commendable calmness of judgment.
§ MR. GRAY (West Ham, N.)
I will not weary the House by discussing the minute details of this scheme, because I do not feel myself competent to form a judgment on it; but one thing I am convinced of is that outside this House there is a great and steadily growing opinion that every able-bodied adult man should take some part in the defence of the Empire. It is impossible for any man to move from one end of the country to the other, particularly during the progress of the war, without seeing evidence of that opinion in every direction. I have found that there are probably many thousands of men anxious to take part in the de-fence of their country, but who, owing to the state of their business, are quite unable to spare the time to join a Volunteer corps; there are thousands who would be perfectly ready to make themselves skilled marksmen if facilities were only offered to them. There are tradesmen, many of them old Volunteers, who are anxious to keep up their shooting skill, and most desirous of being ready to serve should the need arise, but who are quite unable to spare the time to make the necessary drills and become efficient in a Volunteer corps. There is a steady movement throughout the country for the formation of rifle clubs, which would include a large number of expert shots. I have seen such clubs in the rural districts of Austria, where village after village has its own club, and I see no reason why the Government should not encourage these clubs by offering prizes for marksmanship, just as plates are offered for horse-racing.
§ Mr. GRAY
Were the Irish peasant left free to form his own judgment I certainly would. I have watched peasants 1462 and tradesmen in Austria taking part in inter-village competitions, and showing the results of their marksmanship with considerable pride. There was a time in England when a large part of our defensive as well as our offensive force depended on the skill of the Yeomanry as marksmen. I see no reason why that time should not recur. There are, of course, many difficulties in the way, such as the cost of providing rifles, the securing of the necessary ammunition, and above all the obtaining of ranges. But all these difficulties are not insuperable if the Government would only help. It is only right that this movement should be countenanced, and I hope that the War Office will look with favour on it at this juncture. The Government have a great opportunity now, owing to the enthusiasm throughout the country, which may not recur for many years, and if they would only grant men such as I have indicated the right, under proper conditions, to use ranges, if they would loan them rifles and provide them with ammunition at cost price, I see no reason why we should not have in this country a defensive force of many thousands, something in the nature of the Reserve. I do hope that before the debate closes some statement may be made by the Under Secretary for War on this subject. I am perfectly certain that a large number of men are anxiously awaiting some lead from the War Office in the matter. There is just one other topic to which I would wish to refer, namely, the suggestion that lads in our public schools ought to receive a certain amount of military training. It may not, however, be generally realised that very young children cannot stand the ordinary form of drill, and it may not be known that physical exercises—known as Swedish drill—are now compulsory in every county, and there are very few schools in which time is not devoted to such exercises every week. That form of physical drill is more beneficial to young children than ordinary company drill, which places too great a strain on the muscles of a young child. Under proper conditions, however, no doubt much might be done in the direction of military drill. I have looked at school children drilling in Battersea Park under sergeants in the Guards, and they presented a very creditable appearance. The movement, however, is one which must be developed cautiously and on the right lines, and I hope 1463 that we shall not rush at once at compulsory military drill in schools. I rejoice greatly that the Government have decided to put aside conscription. I am sure the country is not ready for it, and I consider that the Volunteer movement, if properly encouraged, will lift us out of our present difficulties and make us stronger and better prepared to meet difficulties in the future.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
The hon. Member who has just spoken has urged the importance of every adult man in the United Kingdom volunteering in defence of the Empire. What does the hon. Member mean by the Empire? Does he mean that every able-bodied man in Great Britain and Ireland should volunteer for the purpose of going abroad to support an expedition set on foot by a Jingo Government? If he only means this country, then we all agree with him, assuming that it is necessary to defend it. This country has not been invaded for over eight centuries, and we are not likely to have another invasion for eight centuries more unless we interfere with other people. The hon. Member cited the example of Austria, but Austria is in daily fear of invasion, or at any rate is daily liable to invasion. Nothing but an imaginary line drawn across the map distinguishes its boundaries, and on that ground it is necessary that it should have a strong defensive army for the purposes of repelling an invasion. There is not the slightest possibility of any attack on us; therefore I say our home defences are sufficient. I dissociate myself also from what has been said by my hon. friend the Member for the Wick Burghs. He said he would support the Government in all their proposals with respect to this war. I am not able to do so, and I will tell the Committee why. If I agreed with the proposals of the Government, then I would agree with the policy which necessitated this increase. I disagree thoroughly with that policy. I consider the war is absolutely unjust, and I believe it is our duty in honour and conscience to bring it to a close as soon as we can, but I am not willing to vote for an additional single man in order to carry it on. As far as my vote goes it will be given to indicate that it is our duty to open negotiations at once, to confess that we are in the wrong, and to dismiss the Colonial Secretary and his satellites from the service of the Crown, as a guarantee that we do not intend to interfere 1464 with the independence of the Transvaal in the future. There is no necessity for this abnormal increase of the Army as long as we carried out the foreign policy practised by the Liberal party almost for generations. The Army is ample, and it would remain ample if we continued the foreign policy of Mr. Gladstone, not meddling or interfering in the concerns of other people, and especially not making aggressive movements or organising jingo expeditions against other countries. In that case no country in the world would raise a finger against us, and the Volunteer and Militia forces alone would be quite sufficient for defensive purposes. This war has proved that for defensive purposes our Army is not only big enough but too big. If 40,000 farmers in the Transvaal have proved themselves capable of resisting the whole force of the British Empire, surely the 6,000,000 able-bodied men in England would be able to do so with the regular Army, if they were given the same cause to fight—namely, in defence of their own homes.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again"—(Mr. William Redmond)—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.