§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £11,500,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for Additional Expenditure, mainly due to the war in South Africa and to affairs in China, in respect of the following Army Services, viz.:—
|Vote 1. Pay, etc., of the Army||3,250,000|
|Vote 2. Medical Establishment: Pay, etc||350,000|
|Vote 5. Volunteer Corps: Pay and Allowances||500,000|
|Vote 6. Transport and Remounts||4,500,000|
|Vote 7. Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies||850,000|
|Vote 8. Clothing Establishments and Services||100,000|
|Vote 9. Warlike and other Stores||500,000|
|Vote 10. Works, etc.: Cost (including Staff for Engineer Services)||1,060,000|
|Vote 12. Miscellaneous Effective Services||140,000|
|Vote 14. Non-Effective Services, Officers||250,000|
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE TOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
The presentation of this Supplementary Estimate for eleven and a half millions has been designedly delayed until a late period of the session, because it necessarily includes provision for two purposes—the continuance of the war in South Africa and the military operations in China, the extent and cost of which cannot with any accuracy be gauged. Indeed, in spite of this delay, it has not been possible to make a forecast which approaches to the accuracy which the Committee of Supply very properly expects in an ordinary year. This estimate has been framed to meet all the charges that will come in course of payment until the end of February, 1901. It leaves the month of March open, so that when the House reassembles it will be in the power of the Committee of the House to revise or to confirm the provisions that we have made in such a way as to see that our books balance at the end of the financial year. This Estimate is the second Army Estimate which it has been my duty to submit this year. It is the fourth Army Estimate I have had to submit since the beginning of the war. In the statements with which I introduced those previous Estimates, and in debates, I have already said all that, as it seemed to me, could usefully be said on some of those wider questions of military policy which arise out of Estimates of this magnitude. I do not propose this afternoon to repeat what I have said. I think that would serve no useful purpose. My views on the efforts made by this Govern merit at the outbreak of the war, on the efforts made since to prosecute the war and provide for home defence, have been very fully laid before this Committee, and I should not be justified in travelling over the same ground again. But there are two other large questions of military policy which I have not yet discussed, and which I do not propose to discuss this afternoon. The first is the question of the operations of our Army in the field. At the beginning of the session it was generally felt that it would not be wise to criticise or discuss the strategy and tactics of our generals or the comparative value of the different arms of the service until the end of the war, and until the experience gained by the war had been analysed. There is another very important question which I do not pro- 1527 pose to discuss. It is sometimes called "reorganisation" for brevity, for the word is not very explicit. What we mean by it is the fitting of the whole of our military system, of the War Office, and of the Army to meet the needs of the Empire and the conditions of modern warfare. The opinion was very generally entertained and expressed earlier in the year, and notably by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean and by the Leader of the Opposition, that a time of war is not a time for attacking these large questions of reconstruction and reorganisation. I shared the view then expressed; I hold it now, and I hope it is still generally shared. But there is one important question arising out of this war which I have been charged with unduly neglecting, particularly upon one occasion, and which certainly has been elbowed out of our debates by more exciting topics—I mean the question of the finance of the war. I plead guilty to having said very little about that during this session. How much has the war cost? How much is the war going to cost? Hon. Members cheer, and they have perhaps in their minds the sum total of all the totals which have been asked for, but these questions are not so simple as they seem. Following our procedure—and I think very properly following it, for reasons I gave last October—the procedure of distributing the sums for which we have obtained sanction over the Vote, with which we are familiar, it is very difficult to extricate from any one Estimate the amount which is directly chargeable for war, and still harder to extricate the total from those four Estimates, and it is very difficult to distinguish the charges which are directly due to the war from the charges which are indirectly due to the war, which are mainly but not wholly due to the war; the charges which have nothing to do with the war, and the charges for the permanent increase of our Army, whether at home or in certain other parts of the Empire outside South Africa. But, before I come to this question of the finance of the war—I gather that some members of the Committee would be glad that I should do so—I must, if I may so put it, get China out of the way, not because it is not a subject of the most vital importance, but because in respect of China I am here merely as an accountant. In so 1528 far as the organisation of the military expedition is concerned, my noble friend the Secretary of State for India, I imagine, would be able to give greater information than I can, and so far as the policy that points to the despatch of such an expedition is concerned I must refer hon. Members to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. All I have to do with is to state how much there is for China on this Supplementary Estimate. In order to repay the prime charge and the recurring charge up to the end of February, for the force which India has up till now put at our disposal, a sum of £1,574,000 is taken on. various Votes in this Estimate. But recent experience has taught us that you cannot proceed in these matters on a narrow margin. There may be sickness, losses in China, and therefore the Estimate is increased in this Supplementary Estimate to the round number of £2,000.000. That leaves a margin for an expedition of the, size which is now proposed—about 11,000 combatants and 4,000 coolies, with transports and other munitions of war. But. would it be wise to tie our hands in such a manner that it would be impossible to send reinforcements? In the opinion of the Government it would not be wise. Therefore, in this Estimate a further sum of one million is taken as a second line of reserve in respect of China, and from the total of eleven and a half millions which appears on the face of the Estimate I must ask the Committee, before coming to the question of the finance of the war in South Africa, to deduct a round total of £3,000,000. These three millions are distributed over the Vote. That is done for reasons I urged last October, and it was, I think, very generally accepted that you cannot have proper account keeping if you pool all your accounts into a Vote on account during a time of exceptional necessity. It may be convenient to hon. Members that I should now recall to their minds the sums we have voted on previous Estimates in respect of South Africa—sums directly due to the war in South Africa. In the first Estimate in October last, the total of which was ten millions, the charges directly springing from the war were £9,434,000. In the second Supplementary Estimate introduced on 13th February, the sum for those direct charges was over £12,580,000. In the Estimates introduced on 12th March, the direct charge was a little over thirty-one and a 1529 half millions, and that was so stated on page 6 of the Estimates. Until now, therefore, the Committee of this House has sanctioned for charges arising directly out of the war in South Africa a total of £53,582,700.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make my statement in my own way. We cannot take the whole of the eight millions and a half for charges springing directly out of the war. I think it will be more convenient to deal first with charges springing directly out of the war, and then proceed with indirect charges, and then with charges that have nothing to do with the war at all. When I introduced the Estimate for the year for the war for thirty-one and a half millions I pointed out three things. I said we included nothing for what are called terminal charges, we included nothing for gratuities to troops in that Estimate, nor for the cost of transporting the troops back to this country, or India, or the colonies. In the second place, I said that those Estimates were framed under exceptional circumstances, that they partook somewhat of the nature of a "shot," and that it was impossible to present them with the accuracy which can be obtained in times of peace. In the third place, I pointed out that it had been necessary to divide what I have called war at full pressure from war at half pressure in a somewhat arbitrary manner. Of course, one merges by imperceptible degrees in the other, and so in turn does war at half pressure merge into what may be called military occupation when war has ceased. It is very difficult to distinguish quite accurately between these phases. In the Estimate of the year for the war, thirty-one and a half millions, the sum of half a million was taken for the huts in South Africa to accommodate the permanent garrison that would be left there, and that is a sum which cannot quite properly be considered a direct charge of the war. In this Estimate, omitting China, there is a sum of eight and a half millions. To that I will ask the Committee to apply the same consideration. It includes money for permanent charges, it includes money for the excess which has arisen from the fact that the first Estimate partook somewhat of the 1530 nature of a shot, and it includes a further sum for what I call military occupation. That is all it includes in respect of the war. I will deal with the terminal charges first. For transport for bringing the troops home we are asking sanction for £2,650,000. That is sufficient to take back the Indian contingent to India, to take the colonial contingent back to the colonies, and to bring 135,000 Imperial troops from Africa to this country. At this moment there are in South Africa 223,500 men in all, and of these 189,900 are Imperial troops and about 10,000 Indian troops. We are asking for sea transport to bring back 135,000 men, which leaves in South Africa about 45,000 men. The permanent garrison has been estimated by Lord Roberts at 30,000 men, and we have been advised from South Africa that some 15,000 men—Yeomen, colonists, and Reservists—may make their home there. Therefore no cause has so far arisen for providing for bringing back more troops than I have named. Then the other factor in the terminal charges consists of the gratuities. These have been calculated upon a basis of £5 as the unit. The private soldier will receive £5, and officers and others will receive multiples of that sum calculated in accordance with their rank. There is also provision made which will enable us to give a suit of plain clothes to every Reservist on his return, and further provision is made for the issue of a medal and other minor matters, into which I will go later on if I am asked. The total for gratuities taken in these Estimates is £2,950,000, which, added to the amount required for transport, gives a total for terminal charges in these Estimates of £5,600,000. Then I come to the second point, the question of excess over the Estimates for the year presented in March. Those Estimates were intended to meet the charges of the war for the financial year, for war at full pressure for six months, and at half pressure for the remaining moiety of the year, but of course they were framed some time before they were laid before the House, and before orders had been given for the 8th Division to proceed to South Africa. They were framed upon the basis of about 190,000 then being employed in South Africa, and the force there now, as I have told the Committee, numbers over 220,000. That being so, for what may fairly be called not a miscalculation, but a shortcoming in the 1531 Estimates submitted in March, we are taking now £1,090,000. But in these Estimates and in respect of the war there are other sums which come under the third head I have submitted, sums which partake of the character of provision for military occupation. There is one sum which I should like to explain, namely, £250,000 for rolling stock. When earlier in the session I said that Lord Roberts had asked for rolling stock, and that we had undertaken to provide it, it was held, somewhat unfairly, I think, that this was an oversight on the part of the Government. Rolling stock for a 3ft. 6in. gauge cannot be obtained within less than nine months, and there was no cause for providing it at the beginning of the war, and Lord Roberts applied to us on the ground that after the war the rolling stock would be exhausted to such an extent that for purposes of military occupation, it would be necessary to renew it to a certain amount. For that we are now asking £250,000. And then also under this third head of sums which fall rather under the head of military occupation there is a further £500,000 to provide huts for the garrison loft in South Africa, making in all £1,000,000 for that service. In these Estimates for the war in South Africa we are asking for £7,440,000, and it may interest the Committee to know that the total in all the Estimates for charges arising out of the war is £61,220,700; but that includes £1,000,000 for huts and £250,000 for rolling stock. That takes us, if our forecasts are accurate, to the end of February next year, and I do not think that any large sum in addition will have to be asked for when Parliament meets. But there are other charges which arise indirectly out of the war, and if the Committee care to have them I can give them. In the Estimates of October last there was a sum of £566,000 for the embodiment of the Militia and raising certain artillery batteries and cavalry regiments from the lower to the higher standard. That I call an indirect charge. In the February Estimate there was a charge of £400,000 for the further embodiment of the Militia. In the Estimates for the year we took £6,228,000 for what is called the emergency scheme for home defence, and in these Estimates we are taking £500,000. That charge arises out of the magnificent response made by the Volunteers to meet the facilities offered to them under that 1532 scheme. It may interest the Committee to know that there will be or have been in camp for fourteen days 59 Volunteer artillery corps out of 66, 26 engineer corps out of 28, and 203 infantry corps out of 216, or, in all, about 150,000 men out of about 240,000. I call that a magnificent response. All these are receiving allowances for transport which enable them to bring into camp about one-half of the transport they would require in war. Of course, the whole of the Militia has been embodied, and transport has been provided for the Militia out of Government stores and horses out of the Remount Department. It is entirely in consequence of the Volunteers that there has been this further sum of £500,000 upon the Estimate now submitted, and that sum ought to be credited to what I call excess, though the result of the expenditure is one on which I congratulate myself and the country. Then I come to the permanent charge in this Estimate. We are taking a further sum of £500,000 for huts in this country. When I introduced the Estimates of the year I pointed out that there might be some overlapping in consequence of the return of some of the troops before we were in a position to disembody the Militia; but even with that we shall be in great straits when the camping season comes to an end. We have 50,000 more men in this country than we can accommodate in barracks. Therefore it is necessary to increase the estimate for hutting in order to provide against overlapping. That is one of those services which it is rather hard to characterise accurately. In a sense it is part of the emergency scheme for home defence, because it provides accommodation for the Militia who have been embodied this year; but pains have been taken to secure a pattern of hut which will last for some time, and which will be available for housing some of the permanent increase of the Army; so the charge partakes of the nature of a charge arising out of the emergency scheme and also of the nature of a charge for the permanent service. I think the amount is very satisfactorily booked to disclose its nature, because, as the first part was put as an emergency charge in the Estimates of the year, I consider this part may be put as a permanent charge. Then in this Estimate there are three other services of a per- 1533 manent nature. The Committee will recollect that in the case of the Loans Bill of last year, in deference to views which were expressed, I put the schedule into the Act. I first submitted it as a Parliamentary Paper, but was asked to put it into the Act. That being so, it is impossible to begin a new service without coming to this House for Parliamentary sanction. There is one service I recommend with some confidence to the Committee, and that is for barracks at Khartoum. Sir Francis Wingate has recommended that it is necessary to have a battalion at Khartoum not only for the health of our troops, but also for the effect on the country we have recently settled, and that it is wise to build permanent barracks and unwise to put up huts or tents as having a tendency to show we had come to stay. Therefore in this Estimate we are asking for £35,000 for barracks at Khartoum; and we are also asking for £15,000 for barracks at Mauritius. Hon. Members may remember that when I introduced the Estimates of the year I said there was to be a new foreign roster on a small scale for the Indian Army. They were to raise two more battalions than they needed for India in order to provide a garrison for Mauritius. Then we take £10,000 in order that the men of the Reserve may receive 6d. instead of 4d. a day in consequence of the heavier obligations placed upon them. Thus in this Estimate we are taking £560,000 for the permanent services which have nothing to do with the war at all, £500,000 for the emergency scheme, more or less, £7,440,000 for the war in South Africa, and £3,000,000 for China. I must apologise to the Committee for having to ask it to follow me in these intricate figures. The £560,000 includes a small sum for a very important service, and, if sanctioned by the Committee, will commit this House—as far as one House of Commons can commit another—to heavy expenditure in the future. Perhaps I may be allowed to lead up to that by completing, in respect of the permanent increase, the task I have undertaken as regards direct and indirect charges. In February's Supplementary Estimate, the Committee voted £20,000 towards the permanent increase of artillery. In the War Estimates of the year we voted £1,925,000 towards the permanent increase of four battalions 1534 of infantry. That included, as I was careful to state at the time, a sum of £48,000 to enable us to begin setting up store-houses in different parts of the United Kingdom, because it was the intention of the Government to provide in larger quantities fixed reserves of stores, the cause of that being that it would not any longer be prudent, or indeed possible, to pile them up at Pimlico or Woolwich, and that it was desirable to distribute them at appropriate places throughout the United Kingdom. In that Estimate we took £10,000 to purchase some of the articles which are to be put in the store-houses. But that sum gives no indication of the size of our operations, because of a fact which I think I can easily explain. In the Estimates for the year we took £750,000 to provide the Volunteer artillery with 4.7 guns. The whole of that provision cannot be got before next year, and there will be a balance available which will enable us to lose no time in obtaining so much of these stores before the end of February. Therefore I am perfectly frank with the Committee. We have come to ask the Committee to confirm the sanction which it has indeed given by passing the sum of £48,000 in the Estimates of the year.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is a matter I shall now deal with. It is one of very great importance. Perhaps in reply to that question which has been put to me I may ask the Committee to consider what we mean by reserve of stores. We do not mean mobilisation stores. A confusion is often entertained upon that subject We have had in this country for many years past a complete mobilisation equipment for a large force—two army corps. By a reserve of stores you mean something more than that. You mean a reserve of stores which will enable an army once in the field to remain there without throwing an undue tax on the productive powers of the ordnance factories or trade. By a reserve of stores you mean you will have a fixed amount of these various articles, munitions of war and clothing, and maintain them at that fixed rate. That can be done by treating such a reserve as you treat a cistern or a reservoir. What you take out at one end you must put in at the other. That is 1535 very necessary, because there are two very difficult factors in the problem of providing reserves of stores for a military force. Perishability is the first. It is no use piling up stores and saying you will leave them there for ten or fifteen years. It varies in respect of different articles. Saddlery or harness will remain of value for a very much longer period, for example, than clothing. Another difficult factor in arriving at any policy of reserve stores is the expansibility of output of manufacture, whether at the ordnance factories or throughout the trade of the country. I know it has been said outside those walls that the Government are to blame for not having solved this problem more swiftly and at an earlier date. Is that a reasonable complaint? During several years, from 1895, the Government, with the assistance and support of the House, have been slowly and with difficulty increasing the establishment of our Army, and before there was any idea we were to go to war. Would it have been economical or sensible to pile up arms by nine battalions of infantry and sixteen batteries of artillery before the outbreak of the war, and before there was any idea that we were about to go to war? Would it have been economical or sensible to pile up clothing and equipment and great reserves of stores for a force which was not then in existence, but which we were seeking to create under circumstances of great difficulty, because raising the establishment in this country is a difficult thing, owing to the fact that recruiting varies from year to year? To plunge, without consideration, into the purchase of reserves of stores before you had reached the standard you proposed to yourself for the establishment of your Army would have been a thing no Government could have defended before the Committee. At the beginning of 1899 we were within measurable distance of reaching this standard in the establishment of the Army. The House has sanctioned since 1895 25,508 additional men; and when we arrived at the standard we proposed—namely, one which would enable us to mobilise two army corps—General Brackenbury became Director General of Ordnance. It became necessary to solve with every possible accuracy the question of perishability of material and the output of ordnance factories. A Committee was appointed which heard evidence not only 1536 from the contractors and the Director General of Ordnance and those who serve under him, but also from very nearly all the principal manufacturers in this country; so we had before us evidence which had to be sifted and examined if we were to hope for any proper solution of this very difficult problem of providing a reserve of stores. We propose to complete the equipment for horse artillery, field and siege artillery, and to increase the reserve of ammunition for these guns. The calculations have been made for the addition to the establishment of the Army of something like 25,000 men. There will be complete equipment for the artillery and a reserve of one battery to every four on the establishment. There will be machine guns for the infantry battalions and a reserve of 25 per cent. of guns and carriages. Now I come to the ordnance stores. What are they? The accoutrements, saddlery and harness, and all that is necessary for an army in the field. That has been calculated on the basis that we should have a reserve sufficient to maintain in the field for six months a force of three army corps, or 135,000 men. We might have an outbreak of influenza in a cavalry regiment, and the whole of the harness might become infected. Where, therefore, certain stores are subjected to higher risk, a higher rate of reserve has been calculated, and in respect of the ordnance stores for the force I have named a reserve will be provided for the whole establishment. As to clothing, the reserve is calculated on the basis that there should be sufficient to put into the field and maintain for six months in the field the force I have named, and beyond that there should be a reserve of six months clothing for the whole Army as a working margin, since the clothing is to be distributed at many different places. It is not possible to secure a reserve of clothing unless you can secure uniformity in clothing, and that is why the Government have come to the conclusion that the British Army will have to have one working dress for all branches and regiments of the service. Until it was possible to do that, and it has been found possible only owing to this war, it would have been insanity to pile up reserves of clothing of a pattern which no army would under any conceivable circumstances put on when it was called upon to fight. I think that is all I need say about this 1537 reserve of stores. With certain not very large alterations we have made in the Arsenal, in the way of shifting the. "danger" buildings away from the other sheds and so forth, the total provision for these reserves of stores would come to something like £4,692,711. I would like the Committee to concentrate their attention on this question of the reserve of stores—ordnance stores and clothing—for a force of the size which I have named. Naturally we cannot spend that sum all at once. It will take some three years to spend a sum of that magnitude. But in this Vote and in the grant of money allocated for 4.7 guns, which cannot be spent before February, we have enough to push ahead at a very rapid rate; and we intend to push ahead at a very rapid rate unless the Committee should refuse us Parliamentary sanction. I cannot expect such a vote from this Committee. We are often urged to fix responsibility upon individuals or upon bodies. It is very easy to fix responsibility here. The Director General of Ordnance, who has made his calculations and submitted them, is not responsible if they are rejected. The Army Board and the Commander-in-Chief, who have endorsed them, are not responsible; the Secretary of State who submitted them to the Exchequer is not responsible; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has most liberally undertaken to make the necessary provision, can never be held responsible. The only people who will be held responsible if this policy is not endorsed is the Committee of this House. I do submit to the Committee that it should endorse the liberal policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is true that one Parliament cannot bind another. But I ask the Committee to treat the Army in this matter as well as it treats the Navy. The Navy is allowed by Votes upon Estimates to begin services which cannot be completed until after a period of years. How can we expect the manufacturers of this country to fix their plant and their staff at a number which will supply the needs of the Empire in time of crisis unless we can go to them with some continuous policy? Are we to force them in the future as we have forced them in the past to look not to the needs of their own Empire, but to adventitious orders from South American Republics or barbarous States? That is the question. Unless you provide for the expansibility 1538 of output in a trade when the day of national crises comes this country will be unprepared. I respectfully submit this proposal in addition to the Estimates, and I trust the Committee will unanimously endorse the policy which has been adopted by the Government. I beg to move.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
The hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for War is such a favourite with the House that I am sure the Committee will welcome him in a now character. He has spoken to-night so exclusively upon finance that I almost thought I was listening to the annual Budget speech, and I am sure if in course of time the Chancellor of the Exchequer desires to change his office for another, we should find in the hon. Member a fit successor. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should concentrate our attention especially on the question of the reserves of warlike stores. There certainly can be no one in the House who attaches greater importance than I do to the arrangements for a proper reserve of warlike stores; but we shall have all next week in which hon. Members who are greatly interested in finance will be able to discuss the financial aspects of the proposals now before the House, whereas to-night is the only opportunity we shall have during this session for discussing military problems, and to-night is the proper occasion for so doing. The hon. Member, in his very lucid statement, was guilty of a few omissions, although, of course, he said he would be glad to deal with any questions which might arise in the course of the debate. I ventured to ask him across the House whether there were any savings upon several of the heads upon which money was taken in connection with the emergency proposals at the beginning of the present war, because the War Office, like the Admiralty, has the power to divert, with the leave of the Treasury, savings from one head to another, and money which we have voted for one purpose may be devoted to another.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I asked especially with regard to the statement the hon. 1539 Member made as to an excess of £500,000 on the emergency Volunteer proposal. But has there not been a large saving on that head in respect of the Royal Reserve battalions? Has anything like the amount voted by this Committee at the beginning of the year been spent for the pay and other expenses of the Royal Reserve battalions? The hon. Gentleman appeared to draw some distinction between the proposals which the Government make to the Committee and the proposals which the Committee agree to. He told us that the responsibility in these matters did not lie with the Commander-in-Chief or even with the Secretary of State, but with the Committee of the House of Commons. Our complaint in the past has always been—and I think with truth—that while the Committee of this House was willing to grant all that was asked for, and never refused anything that was asked for by the responsible Government for the safety of the country, the proposals made by the Government were often inadequate. I desire to ask also whether the hon. Member can give us to-night some information a little more definite and a little more reassuring than the perfunctory answers which have been given in both Houses with regard to the condition in which the Royal Reserve battalions have stood. We have eyes ourselves, and many Members have looked at these things for themselves, and seen the Royal Reserve battalions in Ireland, at Aldershot, and in London. A very large proportion of the men were left to loaf, they were not supplied with clothing or arms, and they were not in a condition to do their work or to help in the ordinary drill. These notorious facts have not been admitted with the frankness with which they might have been. We are all familiar with the well-known case of an Irish cavalry Reserve regiment which was left until June without any of the necessaries of a cavalry regiment, so that drill was impossible. These occurrences have proved the wisdom of hon. Members who expressed grave doubts as to this Royal Reserve battalion system for which we voted so enormous a sum of money in the original Estimates of the year. Another point upon which the hon. Member has not, I think, been frank with the House, but with which I have no doubt he will deal later on, is the question of the Army Medical Department. There is an enormous Vote here for that Department, 1540 but the hon. Member has not said one word with regard to it. Considering the interest taken by the House lately in this subject, I think he ought to have explained to us what proportion of the Vote is for China, what proportion is for South Africa, and to what the South African proportion is intended to be devoted. It is easy for the Committee to vote large sums of money for the Army Medical Department, but the utility of voting those sums and the possibility by their means of coping with difficulties such as have recently arisen is another matter. There is no ground for wandering about the world in search of the actual facts. The facts are now officially admitted. It is admitted that in recent operations the Army Medical Department transport has been cut down to one-fifth of the regulation allowance, and under these circumstances the scandals which have arisen have been but the necessary result of the course which was taken—a course which had never previously been taken by the great military nations, and which has not been taken even under circumstances of the most extreme pressure by Germany. Another point to which the hon. Gentleman omitted to allude is the question of the additional gratuities which may have to be given. I do not know whether money is being taken for that purpose or not, but the Government are pledged by the statement they made after the unanimous vote of this House on the subject to do their utmost in the direction of an extension to the Army of the principles of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Government said they could not carry out the actual terms of the resolution, but they promised to act in that direction, and to make a very considerable increase of the allowances, especially to the widow in cases of death. There is another matter which the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned except incidentally. He is taking money on this Vote for transport to take the white forces back to India, but he has not told us at what date the Government hope to restore those troops to India. At the beginning of the war the Government pledged themselves that it would be the first duty to replace the white forces. I understand that that arrangement continues, and therefore, as troops are withdrawn from Africa as occasion arises, the Indian forces will be the first to be with- 1541 drawn. But the objections which many of us entertained to drawing so largely upon India continue; they have not lost force in the time which has elapsed. The state of things on the Afghan frontier, for instance, is not such at the present time as to permit with safety such a great diminution of white troops in India as has taken place in connection with this war. The hon. Gentleman made a very interesting statement to the Committee with regard to one item in the accounts he has placed before us concerning the rolling stock. I understand that this rolling stock is to take the place of rolling stock which may have been worn during the war. There is a fact in connection with that which I think is not well known to the Committee—namely, that we have paid throughout this war the fare of every soldier or horse conveyed by the Cape Railway. No soldier has been allowed to be moved, even under the most pressing circumstances, in the course of the military operations without the money being paid, so that this wear and tear of rolling stock has already been paid for, and it may be urged after the war that in replacing this rolling stock we are paying twice over on this point. The hon. Gentleman has deprecated the raising of questions of strategy during the war, and he has repeated what he said in the earlier part of the session as to the unwisdom of debating such subjects during the progress of the war. But I would point out that this is the only occasion we shall have for asking questions and calling attention to certain matters as to which we have no knowledge at the present time, although such knowledge necessarily bears upon the future reorganisation of the Army. They are matters upon which we cannot press for knowledge at any given moment, but we must point out the danger there is, if we leave these matters entirely in the hands of the Government, that that moment may never come. In the first debate on this subject in the present session some of us called attention to the successive checks and reverses, in many of which we have left prisoners in the hands of the enemy. Frequent questions have been put about them in the House. This war has been marked, as everybody knows, in a most extraordinary and entirely unprecedented degree, as far as the British Army is concerned, by the frequency of surrenders of small posts 1542 and unwounded prisoners. When we called attention to these matters in February last there had been two armoured trains, with two guns and 100 men; 300 men of the 18th Hussars and mounted infantry were captured after Glencoe; six companies were taken at Nicholson's Nek; then there was Farquhar's Farm. There was also the Stormberg reverse, with the loss of two-guns and over 600 men; and there were the operations of Lord Methuen and Sir Redvers Buller, who lost eleven guns and 800 men, besides the disaster to the Suffolks. The same thing has continued since, and there is a necessity that at some time or another we should know, for the sake of the future training and recruiting of the Army, where the blame is to be fixed.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The greatest writer who has written on military questions has said—Artillery and prisoners are at all times regarded as the true trophies of victory as well as its measure, because through these things its extent is declared beyond a doubt. Even the degree of moral superiority may be better judged by them than by any other relation.During this war we have in an extraordinary number of cases lost unwounded prisoners to the enemy, which must be the result of the grossest mismanagement, or must bear essentially on our system of recruiting. We have also failed to capture the guns of the enemy in the same degree as they have captured ours, which shows a defect in the conduct of the operations of our cavalry. On the 10th May† a Conservative Member of this House asked a question which led to an exchange of views upon this subject across the floor of the House, which was considered thoroughly satisfactory at the time, but which seems to have become a little weak ever since. In a question on, the 10th May, as in a question to-night, reference was made to previous cases of surrender, and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary said that by the Queen's regulations a court of inquiry in every case would be held as soon as possible after the return of the prisoners to duty. In that case the Under Secretary answered "yes," but in answer to† See The Parliamentary Debates, Vol. lxxxii., page 1,235.1543 a similar question to-night he has been less clear. He has stated that some sort of inquiry is to be held, but I begin to fear that unless the Committee presses the Government we have no security that these matters will really be probed to the bottom at some time. These prisoners returned to their duty in June. In answer to a question as to a particular surrender of Yeomanry, the Under Secretary said that an inquiry could not be held because the prisoners, had not been recovered. In the case of the vast majority of prisoners at Pretoria they returned to duty and had been employed in war since. Some of them had been captured again, not by their own fault, but because they were armed with an inferior rifle. On the 10th May last the Under Secretary was asked what form the inquiry would take, and he used these words—In the first instance the inquiry will be by the Commander-in-Chief at the theatre of war.I confess I gathered from that that the matter would afterwards be reviewed by the Government, and the country would be informed of the result, if it was thought safe, in order that we might have that knowledge which has so essential a bearing upon the training of the Army. Instead of using the words "in the first instance" and "at the end of the war," which were used on the 10th May, they have assumed that some sort of inquiry may have been held without anybody knowing anything about it.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands the nature of my answers. My answer to-day was that we have not the information.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I only want to enforce the necessity of having this information at some time or other.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
We do not want to worry Lord Roberts and interfere with his discretion in any way, but we do want to be quite certain that sooner or later we shall have these facts before us. The Leader of the House the other day, in the course of the debate, appeared to think that substantially no great harm had been done by the censorship, and he seemed to think that the country knew 1544 everything already because there had been no censorship of letters. He spoke of the correspondence, and when somebody asked him a question about censorship he said there was no censorship of letters. But surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that in many parts of the theatre of war there has been a very strict censorship of letters.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
There was a censorship of letters for a time; but since February there has been no censorship at all of press letters from the front.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
There was a censorship on letters from Ladysmith till February, at any rate; and while everybody knew exactly what happened at Nicholson's Nek on "mournful Monday," no one knows what happened on the same day at Farquhar's Farm, simply because of the censorship. We know that the troops were afterwards shut up in Lady-smith, and during the siege every letter had to be posted open.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
Experienced correspondents like the late Mr. Steevens and Mr. Bennett Burleigh knew what they might write at a given time. But all letters were posted open during the siege of Ladysmith, and consequently they were read by the censor, and passages were struck out. I do not pretend to say that that was an improper practice in a besieged town, but that throws greater responsibility upon us at a later stage to see that these lessons are not lost, and that we should face the facts. Some of the facts did get out. A very admirable letter appeared in the Calcutta Englishman on 24th April after the censorship had been removed. Alluding to what passed at Farquhar's Farm on "mournful Monday" the Calcutta Englishman says—One cannot speak too strongly on the subject. To remain silent … after our experiences in South Africa is to court a national disaster.I should not quote those words unless I entirely agreed with them, and I make that statement after having seen several officers who share my view, and after having had the advantage of reading the letters of two officers concerned in these operations, who were afterwards killed, 1545 and whose letters have come home since. What occurred there is a matter which it is essential to investigate in order that we should know the truth, for it has an essential bearing upon the training and the recruiting of the Army; and further, it is one of those cases which, if not kept in view, might possibly escape attention, because it is not a case of the surrender of unwounded prisoners. These facts bear not only upon the general training of the officers and staff, but also upon the power of handling troops of all arms and upon the necessity of not isolating detachments of infantry without any guns or cavalry. Upon such matters as scouting and entrenching, the failure of our troops has been officially admitted. The House will remember that at Spion Kop in order to entrench it was necessary to send for the Royal Engineers—a thing which could not have happened in any other Army. The Under Secretary was asked to-night a question with regard to the great loss of prisoners which has continued since the war was said to have come virtually to an end. Since our last discussion upon the subject there have been constant instances of this kind There was a surrender of convoys in February and in March, and the operations of the 31st March at Koorn Spruit or Sanna's Post, which resulted in the loss of seven guns and over 400 men. The incident at Sanna's Post shows the way in which, unless constant pressure is kept up here, information is forgotten to be given. We have had very full information with regard to the successful portion of that operation; four Victoria Crosses have boon most properly given for conspicuous gallantry, and the account of that gallantry is rightly given. But, on the other hand, it is necessary that we should know how it came that there was such an extraordinary deficiency of scouting and military knowledge as to have led to so unprecedented a result. Then there was Reddersburg and 400 men; in May there was a squadron of Bethune's Horse with a Maxim; in May also there was the surprise of Sir Charles Warren—a surprise which cannot be alluded to without remembering that Sir Charles Warren was an officer who had been given high command without having had any recent military experience, and an officer in a position so high that I take it—I am not sure of this, but I take it in accordance with precedent—that his appointment was a Cabinet appointment. 1546 Sir Charles Warren was probably employed in South Africa on the strength of his successful Bechuanaland Expedition. But that was an expedition in which not a shot was fired, and the surprise of Sir Charles Warren in May is a matter which deserves inquiry. Then there was the surrender in June on two occasions of Yeomanry, alluded to to-night in the question of the hon. Member for Wands-worth. Then, also in June, there was a convoy with 160 Highlanders and the surrender of the Derbyshire Militia—a surrender which seems to me to reflect great discredit upon someone concerned with the staff arrangements there. To send a regiment of Militia by themselves without guns to occupy a position in face of an active enemy seems to me really to court disaster. A matter of this kind, which is almost without precedent, does seem to me to require attention. On the 14th June there was the most distressful incident of all, because it led to a repetition at Pretoria of those hardships which had been experienced by the army at Bloemfontein. We all know what the hardships at Bloemfontein have been, and they have been repeated at Pretoria. I do not say they have been repeated in all their incidents, but repeated as regards lack of food and extreme pressure and strain. The incident I refer to is the capture of the mail train and sixty men on the 14th Juno, when there was a destruction of an immense amount of ammunition, of the whole of the mails for a very long period, and of the warm clothing of the men. I imagine that money was also captured on that occasion, because it is undoubtedly the ease that the troops at Pretoria went without their pay for some time, which is most unusual in the British Army. Then in July came Nitral's Nek. The affair at Nitral's Nek is a very remarkable occurrence of a wholly different kind from others we have known. The case of Nitral's Nek is almost the only one in which there was a detachment of all arms captured. There were a squadron of cavalry, two guns, Royal Horse Artillery, a number of mounted infantry, and a number of infantry in this surrender. The two last incidents, about which at present we know nothing, are the surrender of the supply train with 100 men and the surrender of another supply train with 200 Welsh Fusiliers. This is a distressing catalogue, but it is a catalogue to which we must not shut our eyes. It is a catalogue known in every country in the 1547 world, and written about by every military writer in the world. The facts must be fully inquired into; they must not be hid; their bearing on the character of the training of our Army must be ascertained. The only point as to which at the present moment I should like to ask a question, arising out of the recent surrenders, concerns the horses—the remounts. The Under Secretary made a very full statement with regard to the responsibility of the Government in the matter of remounts some months ago. While it was undoubtedly most difficult to get horses up to Bloemfontein when there was great trouble on the lines of communication, and while now it may be very difficult to get horses up to Pretoria—I believe that at this moment the cavalry and mounted infantry at Pretoria have only one-fourth of their proper number of horses—it would seem on the face of things that there ought now to be no difficulty in having a full supply in the Orange River Colony. Yet, if there had been a full supply in the Orange River Colony, it would not have been necessary to send the Derbyshire Militia without guns and without cavalry, and probably the disasters on the lines of communication would have been avoided. I should like information on that point. The foreign writers who have written on these surrenders have not, as a rule, been unprejudiced men; and they have not in all cases been the best men in their various services, but there have been among them two men of very considerable standing, one of whom, General Von Blume, is peculiarly competent to write on the subject. He was Moltke's second assistant, he was an assistant in strategy, he wrote a great book on the operations of the German army from Sedan, and he has written recently the greatest of modern books on strategy. General Von Blume has answered conclusively what he calls "the conventional lie" that these troubles of ours have been due to new conditions of warfare. He points out the reasons which induce him to believe that every difficulty could have been foreseen, that there was nothing we ought not to have expected, and that the mistakes which have been made, and have had the results I have described, have been mistakes on immutable and permanent principles, and not because of anything new or peculiar in the present war. We are a military nation and have the military spirit, and I believe if we are 1548 told the truth in regard to these matters before interest in them has gone we shall be able to take the lessons to our hearts. There need be no asperity between the War Office and its critics upon these subjects. One of the great testimonies to the ability of the Under Secretary of State for War is the fact that, while we may have our differences with his Secretary of State, when he speaks in this House we are always inclined to believe that he really agrees with us beforehand, and that we should be in a better position if he had his way. I do not know whether that is so or not, but he gives us that impression, and we always speak with the feeling that we are speaking to one of ourselves. I do not wish to attack him in any way; we are all anxious to train the Army for war. We believe that the Army has not been properly trained for war in the past, and I doubt myself whether it is being properly so trained at the present moment at Aldershot Camp. I am bound to say from what I have heard from far better authorities than I can pretend to be that I very much doubt whether the training at Aldershot Camp even in this critical year has been of a nature really to prepare the Army for war. We are all determined that the training should be better in the future. After Lord Roberts and the men who have been of the most assistance to him on the staff have come home we shall be able to back them in any efforts they may make for improving the training of the Army for war; but we shall back them only if we have full knowledge, not if we are left in a condition of ignorance. I have two practical suggestions to throw out on that subject. I hope Lord Roberts will not be employed upon civil duty and so kept from giving us the full benefit of the enormous knowledge and the experience he has acquired with regard to the training of the British Army, but that he may be asked by the Government to write a general Report upon the points in regard to which he thinks the war has shown defects in the training and constitution of our Army and the respects in which he thinks it may be improved—how and why. In addition to that I hope the Government will propose to the House—which never refuses, as the Under Secretary seemed to think it might, the proposals of the War Office—a large contribution to the expenses of the Intelligence Department for a military history of the war. This work cannot be undertaken 1549 on the funds at present allocated; it cannot be done rapidly until there is a special Vote for the purpose. I would suggest there should be a Vote of £10,000 for the purpose of doing that which no private individual can do—of making, with full knowledge, a history of the war as sound and as frank as the Prussian official history of the war of 1870–71—a history brought out rapidly instead of years afterwards, when all interest in the subject has evaporated except to students. I believe such a work would do much towards bringing about the end we all desire—namely, that at the termination of the war we should not lose the whole of the benefit of its lessons in mere congratulation.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I desire to call attention very briefly to the remarkable policy of concealment adopted by the Government in reference to one or two very important matters at the seat of war during the last few months. I altogether fail to understand a policy which, to my mind, is Chinese and ostrich-like, and which, while making unpopular in the country a Government which, in my opinion, deserves the support of the nation, is doing no good whatever. I have heard of people running their heads against brick walls, but until now I never knew people to erect the brick wall to run their heads against as the War Office have done in this particular matter. The hon. Member for South Donegal, a little while ago, put a question to the Under Secretary for War in reference to one of these occurrences to which reference has been made, and he was told that no information was available. I, with some temerity perhaps, ventured to put a supplementary question to the hon. Gentleman, and was told that nobody knew the circumstances of the case except the Commander-in-Chief and the headquarters staff. That showed at once to my mind how badly the hon. Gentleman is served by his friends and subordinates. Everybody who knows anything about a camp knows that it is the home of all sorts of rumours and stories; it is impossible to conceal anything in a camp; and yet we are told that the hundreds of thousands of men in South Africa do not know what I know to be common knowledge. If there is one thing in which the British private soldier takes the keenest possible 1550 interest more than another it is in what his generals and officers are doing; and the hon. Gentleman takes up a considerable portion of his speech with references to the question of stores and equipment! That very question makes me very doubtful as to the possibility of the Army or the War Office being reformed within any reasonable time by the present Secretary for War. What did the Secretary for War tell the country the other day? He said that the stores and equipment were not sufficiently maintained. Again, he said three months ago at a public meeting; that he was struck by the fact that there was a considerable deficiency, amounting to four and a half millions. This is a gentleman who is no irresponsible critic. He has been at the War Office for five years, and has been able to do absolutely what he liked. When he took up the fiddle, the rest had to dance to his music until he had finished. And he comes to Parliament at the eleventh hour and says that he is aware that the stores and equipment are deficient! How can we expect anything from a statesman, the Secretary for War, who is so absolutely unprepared for circumstances which must occur, as Lord Lansdowne has shown himself to be in this matter? The Under Secretary for War told us about the system, and he said he hoped in future to put as much into the system of reserve stores and equipments as he took out of it. It is common knowledge that that ought to have been done during the last six years, and not to have thought of it at the last moment. To the Secretary for War, and those higher than he, we look for the reorganisation of the War Office. The noble Marquess the head of the Government told us the other day that the defence of the country was not the business of the War Office, and he proposed to hand it over to the Grand Councillors of the Primrose League. Then we were told that Lord Lansdowne proposed to wait till these distinguished soldiers came back from South Africa. But what do these distinguished soldiers know of the War Office and its reorganisation? They are not bureaucrats; they are soldiers. They know nothing about the distribution of clerks in Pall Mall. It is not to the soldiers, who do not know that these misfortunes have come upon us owing to the disorganisation of the War Office, that we should look for reorganisation. Anyone who wants to know what is wrong with the War Office, 1551 and what we ought to do, need not wait till these soldiers, distinguished or undistinguished, come home. All he has got to do is to read the Report of the Hartington Commission, and then take up the Report of the Committee presided over by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs of three years ago, and he will see that it is absolutely impossible to have a reformed Army with an un-reformed War Office. We are told that when the Army comes back from South Africa we shall be in a position of safety. But it is no use living in a fool's paradise or leaning on a broken reed. The other day the Under Secretary for War stated that 204,000 men had been sent out from this country to South Africa, and in addition to these there were 29,000 colonial irregular troops. Out of that total of 233,000 you have to deduct 28,000 in round numbers who have been killed, wounded, are sick or invalided home. Then you must deduct 12,000 more—the Yeomanry, Volunteers, Militia, and Army Reserves, who must return to civil life. Then you must further deduct the 10,000 men stolen from India, and the 15,000 withdrawn from the Mediterranean, and the permanent garrison to be left in South Africa, which the hon. Gentleman puts at 45,000. The result will be that instead of being, as the Secretary for War stated in public recently, able to have a body of 160,000 trained soldiers to do what you like with, the whole number of men would not amount to more than 30,000. We are told about the Reserve battalions, some of which, however, have not rifles or even belts, and which must be automatically dissolved in a few months, and cannot be sent out of the country, and which have cost two millions of money. That is not much to fall back upon, especially when, after the French Exhibition is over, it is possible we must look more closely to our defence. I have always been unable to understand the plans of the War Office as presented to this House. The War Office take the Reserve and, instead of that body being used as a reserve, it is thrown into the fighting line. Then the Militia are supposed to be for home defence, but they are sent abroad. The Militia Reserve has nothing to do with the Militia, but is sent as Regulars to duty at Gibraltar and at the home stations. These are among the many conundrums propounded at the War Office which I fail to understand. 1552 Again, when the war is over one plan is to take the Reserve elsewhere, leaving the Empire to be guarded by an insufficient force—as it has been ever since we took over Egypt in 1882. Then we are told that the ballot for the Militia means carrying destruction to every cottage in the land and driving the people to emigrate. I think the noble Marquess who said that cannot have a very high opinion of the patriotism of this country. The most sensible plan, in my opinion, would be to raise the pay of the Regulars and the Militia until we get the right sort of men to join. If any gentleman desires to know what will ameliorate the condition of the soldier and induce him to enlist, I recommend him to read an excellent article in this morning's Daily News, which used to be considered the organ of the Nonconformists and Liberals, but has always taken a strong view of the Army. There is another course which I would like to recommend myself: that is to eviscerate, or rather to exterminate, if possible, the whole of what Sir George Chesney used to call the epitome of organisation run mad in Pall Mall—the War Office. I am afraid that will not happen in my time. If it did, nobody would be more delighted than myself, and I would be able to sing Nunc dimittis.
MR. PRITCHARD MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I have only one observation to make. It is that I have had most reliable information that the British Minister and all the Ministers in Peking were safe on the 24th of this month.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I take it that my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War is in full sympathy with the demand for an inquiry into events in South Africa; but I think it would be desirable if he gave a really distinct, explicit, and binding assurance on the part of the Government that the inquiry will be taken in hand. I entirely agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean as to voting a sum of money for a complete history of the war, but I trust if that is done it will not be used as a lever to postpone the inquiry. As I understood my hon. friend, the gratuity to the returned soldiers is to an average of £5 a head. And then he proceeded to say that the privates were to receive £5 and officers a multiple of £5. I cannot see how that would make £5 per unit.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
What I said was that the gratuities were calculated upon a basis of £5 as the unit. That is a technical term. The private soldier will receive £5 and the officers multiples of that sum calculated according to their rank.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
I am glad of that explanation. There is another point which the Government would seriously have to consider—the principle of the new departure to be made in regard to old age pensions for every man who has fought for Her Majesty. I urge that that is the principle which ought to be adopted, because if the Government comes down here with a proposal for meeting the necessities of the Empire in respect of inducements to recruits, I cannot see how this question can be approached with any chance of success unless one of the inducements offered to the men is old age pensions. The only other point I wish to refer to is in connection with the reserve of stores. I do not think anything shows more completely that in the past the War Office has neglected its business than the fact that we have had no reserve at all. It is to the credit of my hon. friend that the Government have at last announced their intention of establishing a system by which there will be maintained for the service of the Empire an adequate proportion of surplus stores. That I congratulate the Government upon doing. My hon. friend to-day pointed out how essential this was. We all agreed with his desire to bind the House to this principle. I confess I wish the Government could bind the House a little more like naval programmes. We have the assurance of the Under Secretary of State for War that the Government intend to establish this system of reserves, but these words do not really establish as a principle of our military organisation the continuance of these. I am sorry that they do not come forward and spread the money necessary over so many years, and commit this House to a certain expenditure for so many years. [Mr. WYNDHAM signified that was the intention.] I am glad to have that principle accepted, because otherwise I should be entirely dissatisfied, and I should have little hope that after the excitement of this war is over that reserve would be sufficiently maintained. With regard to stores, equipment, and armaments, the War Office and my hon. friend deserve great credit for tackling this necessity 1554 and being prepared to deal with it, and at all events I think it indicates that it is more than probable that next year the Government intend to proceed on such lines as to define publicly the amount of stores that are to be provided. That will be extremely satisfactory. With regard to the distribution of the stores I have a word to say. You are still dealing with the question of stores as if you were an island without an empire at all. We are told that you are to have storehouses in different parts of the United Kingdom, and at one place in Ireland. I do not think it is sufficient at all to localise all your stores and supplies in the four corners of this United Kingdom. I wish to point out a most important matter. My hon. friend has shown that it would take so many years of the producing power we possess to bring up our store-houses to the standard we ought to maintain. He calculates it upon the amount required for three army corps, and the line of communication. But that is only calculated for the forces of the United Kingdom. All over the Empire, in any great war which this is supposed to be preparation for, you would have to place troops. Where are your stores to come from? You are calculating as if there was nothing outside the United Kingdom at all.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not feel justified in going into details in this matter, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it has been considered.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
I do not like to see this question treated as if we were still an island and not an Empire. A matter that must be looked in the face is the present limitation of your productive power for armaments and stores to the United Kingdom only. Has the War Office in its mind that we ought to distribute the producing power? With your great colonies and great possessions you must extend your productive power in proportion to your needs. Why is it to be bottled up in this island? If you are going to deal with the future of the Empire, you must look abroad not merely for places to store supplies, but for places to produce them. Except in India, and to a small extent in Canada, you cannot produce a cartridge outside the United Kingdom. That is an unsatisfactory position, and it is not consistent with your exist- 1555 ence as an Empire. It is the devolution of your producing power and the distribution of your storage that in these days are most important. I for one regard the matter as one of great significance. We have heard to-day that the War Office at last is going to establish a system by which sufficient surplus stores will be maintained, but we shall not know till next year whether it will become a regular system.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I do not mean to detain the Committee more than a few minutes. I wish at once to say that, as far as I am aware, there will be no objection to the Vote of money which the right hon. Gentleman has demanded. Although it is not easy to follow in all its details the statement he made in his analysis of the military expenditure, yet I think that, on the whole, the country will be satisfied with it and with the general estimate that he has formed. He laid great stress, and very naturally, on, perhaps, the most ambitious part of his scheme, and that which was most in the way of pledging the future—namely, the forming of considerable reserve stores. I entirely agree with that policy, if it is done, of course, as he said, with discretion and wisdom. He named one or two formidable considerations that must be taken into account—first of all, the question of the perishable nature of stores, and then the question of the power of manufacture, which may vary from year to year almost in some cases. There is another point—which I think, perhaps, he includes in the term perishable—namely, change of pattern. That is a very formidable matter, and although it is very much at the discretion of the military authorities themselves, still they may themselves sometimes by their own action, and very properly and of necessity, render comparatively useless a large portion of the stores they have obtained. All these things make it by no means so easy a matter as it would seem to follow out the plan which the hon. Gentleman has sketched. But I have no doubt at all that something in that direction ought to be done. The hon. Gentleman directed our attention almost entirely to that side of the question—to the financial effect of the War Estimates that we have had laid before us, and to this question of the 1556 future reserve of stores. But what the country is more concerned about just now—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean in that—is as to the war itself and the circumstances and events of the war. I quite appreciate that it is a difficult matter to discuss events of that kind in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, what we complain of is that we have no opportunity of discussion and, perhaps, of distinguishing ourselves by expressing very summary and badly-founded opinions regarding matters. As representatives of the nation we are at least entitled to know what the events were. In that respect I think that the House of Commons and the public at large have never been so badly informed as they have been during this war. The hon. Member, with regard to the despatches of which we have spoken so much, has been in the habit of answering questions in a way that has amazed me. He seemed to think that it was a complete answer when an hon. Member asked for the production of a certain despatch to say, "I cannot really, by an answer in this House, fetter the discretion of the Secretary of State." But he is the Secretary of State so far as this House is concerned. He has no raison d'être here except as representing the Secretary of State. For him to say that he must reserve that for the discretion of the Secretary of State, is to say that he reserves it for his own discretion. Clearly we cannot be put off with such palpable fallacy as that. The House of Commons is entitled to have the information contained in the despatches laid before it earlier, when it is not positively prejudicial to the public service that it should be done. Something has been said as to the censorship. I think there are a great many Members of the House of Commons who want to know a little more of the censorship. I have often said, in speaking on this subject, that I recognise the necessity of closing the sources of information against our enemies, though all the censors we have had in operation have not been successful in doing that in this case. But I think we are to know who are the officers who discharge the duty of censorship, because they go very-far beyond military facts and the distribution of troops. They go into matters of opinion. That is a thing which is 1557 abhorrent to the people of this country. There are other characteristics, such as the blotting out of whole sheets of a newspaper. I have seen this process applied by this so-called censorship. They were on matters of no consequence. I have known one or two cases where actual business messages have been refused for transmission on account of the censorship. The hon. Gentleman is responsible for the military censors, although he does not direct their operations, and we should like to know who they are, under what rules they act, and the nature of their instructions. We should also like to know whether it is owing to those instructions that their operations have been carried to an extent they have never been carried before, either in the Crimean War or in any other big war. In consequence of that, we are undoubtedly in a state of ignorance as to certain outstanding events in the campaign with which we ought to have been fully acquainted. Now we are told that there will be a great inquiry at the end of the war; but the worst of an inquiry at the end of a war is that all interest in it has evaporated. It was my misfortune to be a member of the Committee which inquired into the conduct of the Abyssinian War, and it was like sitting on a coroner's inquest on a man who had been dead twenty or thirty years to find out why he had died. It was very unpleasant, and the result was positively nothing. It was in every way disagreeable to the members of the Committee, and of no use whatever to the country. We were promised at the beginning of the session that there should be an inquiry. Hon. Members will recall the circumstances under which me met. We met under the cloud of certain reverses, and there was an idea that there would be a demand for an immediate inquiry into the conduct of the campaign, the generals and what not. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address used these words—We wish to examine and investigate the causes of the reverses and the failures, if they may be so called, which have occurred in our campaign. I am here, perhaps, on delicate ground, but I think I may say this: we may ask ourselves with advantage whether our weakness or our failures, if I may use that word, are due to any deep-seated and inherent national weakness, or to temporary and removable causes. I think the latter can only be the answer. The Empire and the resources of the nation were never stronger than at this moment, but our power does not 1558 lie on the surface—it is deep seated; and the causes which we have to inquire into, if they are temporary and removable, must be inquired into with the view to their being removed. I feel sure that no obstacle will be thrown in the way, but that the Government will welcome inquiry in any form which may be agreeable to the House, and which will enable us to discover the causes of the difficulty and to remove them.The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address had not been without communication with the Government, and these are obviously words put into his hand to say, because no one would venture to say off his own bat that the Government would welcome inquiry. He does not doubt it. I have not the slightest doubt that the Government suggested he should say so. That was really and practically a promise on the part of the Government. I have other quotations here of what took place in the House of Lords on a similar occasion, but I do not think I need quote. The hon. Gentleman has assented again and again to the demand of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean that an inquiry should be made into all the circumstances which he recounted. We want to know in what way is this inquiry to be conducted. As my right hon. friend said, we do not want the military authorities out there to be worried about matters of this kind. What we complain of is want of information. If blame is to be apportioned, and if we are to have such an inquiry as will lead us to discover what the serious reverses may have been due to, what will the nature of the inquiry be? I quite agree that an inquiry will be necessary. I think it ought not to be too long delayed. I feel sure that it will be necessary, not only for the satisfaction of the public, not simply for the satisfaction of idle curiosity and the appeasement of those whose feelings have been interested in the matter; but still more—and this is much more important in the view of the House of Commons—in order that the country should know where is the weak point, or what are the weak points, and what it is we should address ourselves to rectify for the future benefit of the Army.
§ * Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
I hope there will be some really effective inquiry into the matters which have been referred to in the course of the debate. Of course, I do not desire, and I do not think anyone desires, that it should take the form of an inquiry by newspapers, or that it should be anything but a military 1559 inquiry; but it is prima facie right to assume that it is a disgraceful thing for British soldiers with arms in their hands to surrender. It is a presumption which may be rebutted, but until it is rebutted it exists. I think it is perhaps true that it would be a good thing if we were to come back to the spirit which certainly was much more common in the country formerly than it appears to be now. I remember the story of Admiral Calder, who sailed out of Portsmouth with a fleet of rotten ships, engaged a superior French fleet, fought them to a standstill, and took four ships. There was a court martial, and he was severely reprimanded for not taking the whole fleet. That is a much more satisfactory, spirit than the spirit in which, I fear, we have approached some of the incidents of this campaign. Although it is rather presumptuous for anyone here to express opinions as to the merits and demerits of men who are risking their lives, I think it is a fair and reasonable tiling in the interest of the British Army, whose reputation for bravery is so splendid and so high, that there should be an inquiry—not an inquiry into everything in general and nothing in particular, but a definite and specific inquiry into the surrenders which have taken place. I accept the assurance in the fullest way of my hon. friend that such an inquiry will be held, and that it will be effective. I accept also with the greatest satisfaction the statement of my hon. friend that we are to have a great reconstruction of the system of supplying stores for the Army. I confess that I wish the House of Commons in its majesty was more largely represented than it is at the present moment. I think it is rather unfortunate that there should be such small interest taken in what ought to be the most important discussion of military matters of the present year, because I think, unless the country understands how important the statement made by the Under Secretary is, it will very much miss the lesson it ought to learn. I think it is fair that we should ask for a little more than the assurance that has been given. We want some security as to the nature of the reforms to be made, and I think I can give some evidence which warrants me in feeling some doubt on the subject. The question of stores is not a new one at all. On 12th February, this year, Lord Lans- 1560 downe, speaking on this question in the-House of Lords, said—My Lords, among our other proposals now being carried out is one dealing with the question of the stores and munitions of war of all kinds. As to that, I do not think I need say any more than that we have adopted it for our policy not only to replace the large inroads which have been made upon our stores of all sorts, but also to build up the reserves upon a much ampler scale than has hitherto been authorised. We have been struck by the inadequacy of our reserves of stores, and we are determined that we shall no longer be open to that reproach.That is a very serious statement. This deficiency may have been a new fact to the Secretary of State, but I will undertake to say that it was not a new fact to any one of us. It has been a perfectly notorious fact inside and outside the House for many years past, and I say that when we are told merely that this policy is to be reversed, we require more details in order to make us perfectly happy. It appears to me inexplicable that the Secretary of State, after six years of office, should be allowed without protest to get up and make a statement of that kind in the House of Lords. It appears to me intolerable that a great State servant, speaking in regard to a matter respecting, which the country has entrusted him with absolute power, should, after six years of office, got up and say, "We have been struck by the inadequacy of our reserves of stores." What is the deficiency? My hon. friend talks about £6,500,000. I venture to think that even this does not represent the whole measure of neglect. Let us turn that deficiency into what the money is going to buy. It represents a deficiency of nearly 600 guns alone, and nothing, so far as I am aware, has happened in the last year, or the last few months, which has altered the situation with regard to the necessity for guns except what was known beforehand must happen, and what has been proved to demonstration by the progress of the war. We are told that we are to have other great changes. We are told that the Militia is to be put on a better footing. We have all been hoping for that for a long time, but what guarantee have we? I find that the Secretary of State for War, speaking of the Militia in the House of Lords on 20th February said—The Militia is below its establishment, and nobody regrets it more than I do. But it has been more or less below its establishment for many years past. We are no worse in that 1561 respect than we were last year or the year before.For six years past the Secretary of State, it appears, has been regretting that the Militia is 30,000 below its strength. This is not a new thing. What has he done? Nothing, absolutely nothing, during that time to amend the error he so greatly deplores. I think we want something more than an assurance, because what has turned this regret into an active policy has been not conviction or intelligence, but simply the pressure of this war. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for War was recently attacked in the House of Lords for allowing filthy clothing to be supplied to the Militia. This seems, perhaps, to be a matter of detail not bearing on any great principle, but it is an example of what is done. The facts were represented to him by the Duke of Bedford, and the Secretary of State said—Then we come to the delicate question of Militia clothing. I am not surprised that the statement made by the noble Duke produced a very considerable impression upon your Lordships, and I must say that if it were to be shown to be the case that worn clothing, dirty and disreputable in its character, was re-issued to the Militia, I do not think the language used by the noble Duke was at all too strong. I should be very glad to have any allegations that he brings to my notice thoroughly gone into.These allegations were inquired into, and a few days later we are told—I come to the question of the clothing of the Militia. I promised the Duke of Bedford that I would make inquiry into the subject, and I admit that, as a result of the inquiries I have made, I am satisfied that in the matter of clothing we have allowed what I suppose I might call considerations of frugality to prevail rather too much, and that clothing has been issued to the Militia which one could scarcely ask a British soldier to wear without some injury to his feelings of self-respect. Action will be taken without loss of time to remedy that grievance, and I will undertake that in the future clothing shall be issued to the force which shall make it impossible for any colonel to make such a complaint as that which was made by the noble Duke the other evening.What is the lesson to be drawn from this? The complaint has been made by many other Militia colonels. Why is the matter now remedied? Because the Militia is brought under the public eye and because this demand was made in the House of Lords by a noble Duke. This example is one of scores in which the antiquated and unsatisfactory nature of the Militia clothing has been insisted upon in season and out of season, and yet 1562 the Secretary of State for War has done nothing to remedy the state of things which he now admits is incompatible with the British soldier having any proper feeling of self respect. Yet the noble Lord has been in office for the last six years, and has had the power to alter all this, but not a hand's-turn has he done to remedy these defects. A good many of us have deplored the fearful waste of the present system of the Army, and, apparently, we have not been alone in doing so. Upon the 25th May the Secretary for War also deplored it. He said in another place—To my mind one of the greatest drawbacks in our present system is to be found in the fact that of the men who do enter the Army so large a number waste away and disappear in the first years of their service, giving us neither the full period of their service with the colours nor the advantage of their presence afterwards in the Reserve.That is a doctrine which has been preached in season and out of season for the last five years, but it has had not the slightest effect. No notice has been taken in this House, but now it is admitted that it is one of the greatest evils of the present system, by the Secretary for War. Let me give yet one more example of the extraordinary attitude of this great official who is established in his office to carry out the plain duty of spending the millions entrusted to him to procure the best defence for the country. He was asked the other day by the Duke of Bedford how it was we had so many soldiers at home who were useless. He said—I told the House that we had about 100,000 Regular soldiers left in this country, and he said, 'Why is it if you have so many Regulars at home that you are obliged to fall back upon the Militia, and to send out Militia battalions to South Africa?' I think the answer is obvious, and that from the tenor of the noble Duke's remarks, he knows what the answer is. These men—they now number not 100,000 but 92,000—are, of course, in no sense a field army.Have we been paying millions in order to have in this country 92,000 men who are in no sense a field army? These men are perfectly useless—they are provided with neither guns, stores, nor clothing; it is all quite true. But why should we be told we have a large number of men in this country so useless that we have to fall back upon the Militia? These are samples of the way in which these duties are performed, or rather left unperformed. In any other business but the great business of the State a declaration of that 1563 kind, after a long period of service, by the head of a great department would have resulted in some other head being sought for and put in his place. I am unable to comprehend how a Minister can get up in the House of Lords and make such statements as if they were quite the ordinary thing to say and could not possibly be objected to? I do not blame Lord Lansdowne only. None of the Secretaries for War of recent years have taken their duties seriously, and until we change the whole attitude of the War Office by some drastic reform, I must treat the promises made this evening as having no value beyond mere expression of good intentions. There is one special matter which indicates the necessity for giving effect to a reform of the War Office of a sweeping character. When we consider the dangers that threaten us in every part of the world, the problems we have to face, and the lessons we have learnt, or might have learnt, from the present war in South Africa, it is positively dreadful to remember that there is no Department of State—no organised Department—in the country to which is entrusted the duty of organising the defence of this country. I challenge anyone to contradict my statement, and I say there could not be a more serious state of things for this country. The protection of the Empire by land and sea is a problem far more difficult than that which confronts the War Office of any other country in the world. It is a problem peculiar to our Empire, and being peculiar it requires special study. But who is charged to deal with it? The Intelligence Department is a small, underpaid, and undermanned Department; in no sense does it pretend to be an organised Department for the defence of the Empire. There is no co-ordination at all between the different Departments for the defence of the Empire. The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth said something about the desirability of getting some uniformity in the supply of stores, and my hon. friend said the Indian stores were already complete. Take the Indian stores. Only this session we had proof of the failure of one point of contact between the Indian War Office and our own. And this may lead to the most disastrous results. I was told that the Indian Government and the War Office were unable to come to terms. I asked a 1564 question, and the answer given was so illusory and absurd that I almost wonder that it was given at all. It was a question as to the pattern of some guns. There were two sets of guns made of different patterns, not because it was desirable to have two different kinds, but simply because one strong man said he must have a 5.4 howitzer, and another strong man said he must have a 5-inch, and there was no Department to compel these men to agree. With regard to Imperial defence. One sham creates another, and this appears to be so with regard to the Committee of the Cabinet for Defence. That Committee, we are told, never keeps minutes. Why? Because, forsooth, it is a Committee of the Cabinet. The Cabinet itself is a constitutional fiction, and this Committee in its turn is a fiction also. Any person that wrote a book on the subject would have to say—"The only body charged with the defence of the Empire is composed of the head of the Education Department, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Secretary of State for War, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and this body, which is alone charged with the great duty of organising the defence of the Empire, can get through this enormous work, in addition to all its other business, without going through the formality which a lodge of Odds fellows would go through, and which every company does go through. It does not keep minutes of its proceedings." I believe that my hon. friend will endeavour, so far as he is concerned, to carry out the promises which he has made, but I fear he will not be able to accomplish half that he promises. Until we have a proper organisation for the defence of the Empire, promises to do what is the primary business of any War Office are of no great value. Some system ought to be introduced which will not leave us open to a repetition of these painful demands on the part of the Secretary of State for War, who has been compelled to acknowledge, after a long period of peace, that he has failed during that period to do any of the things which he now declares to be essential.
§ * SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
I see a considerable amount of money is being devoted to the medical establishment and to pay and materials 1565 for strengthening the medical department of the Army. That is a question very much in the mind of the public just now, and I hope before the conclusion of the debate we shall have some detailed statement as to how this money is to be applied, what improvement is to be made in the Army Medical Corps, and how it is proposed to reinforce the medical department in South Africa. At the present time the medical department in South Africa is composed of two sections of medical men—the Royal Army Medical Corps and civil surgeons. With regard to the civil surgeons who have been sent out, I think the War Office to some extent was limited somewhat unwisely in its choice. There was an age limit which was not altogether wisely chosen, by which many valuable practitioners and experienced men were debarred from the duty, for, after all, it was men of established experience who were wanted rather than men fresh from the hospitals who might know more of surgery but less of medicine. We have sent out to South Africa many men of considerable ability and distinction, but I think the War Office would have been better advised if they had widened their area of choice, and selected men of greater age and experience than many who have boon sent out. With regard to the Royal Army Medical Corps, the hon. Member will be obliged to confess that the strength of that corps is at present dangerously low. I said in a previous debate that it was dangerously low even for a peace establishment, and at the present time it is only about 900 strong. There ought to be considerably more than that. About fifteen or twenty years back there were 1,200 medical men in the corps, but now it is down to 900. The Royal Army Medical Corps is so diminished in numbers, and the force is so starved as regards medical equipment that if we sent out a division, or a part of a division, to China, and a German division of the same strength was sent out, it would be found that the Gorman division had probably 50 per cent. more medical strength than our division. That is a condition of things discreditable to the country. The country has shown the greatest generosity both in voting supplies in this House and in giving freely of its private funds for the purpose of seeing that the men who went to fight for the Empire were well treated. The men have not been as well treated as they deserved; we have lost many hundreds of brave 1566 fellows through the want of proper medical appliances, and I am anxious that the money which is voted to-day should be applied in a direction which will ensure for these men more attention than they have hitherto received. I should like the hon. Member to tell us how much of this Vote as regards medical matters is to be devoted to China, and how much to South Africa. In China we have a great danger before us, just as we had in connection with the South African campaign. Everybody who know anything about South Africa knew that almost every village in which the troops might be stationed or kept for a few days was liable to typhoid fever, and yet adequate preparation to meet that danger was not made. When we send our troops to China we shall have there a danger even more serious and loathsome than enteric or typhoid—namely, the danger of the plague. Our troops in China will be exposed to sanitary dangers of the gravest kind, and I hope the War Office will be wise enough to take some precautions against an outbreak of such a serious disease, or at all events to minimise the danger as much as possible. I should also like to know what is proposed in regard to increasing the number of nurses in connection with the Army Medical Department. I think the rigid rules regulating the number of female nurses in connection with that Department are unwise; they ought to be more elastic; the whole constitution of the Department should be more elastic. When you have a campaign in a country where you are liable to a lingering malady such as enteric fever, which, above all maladies, requires the delicate and constant attention of female nurses, we ought to have some means by which there could be a much larger number connected with the Army Medical Department. Enteric is a disease which is not only grave in its incidence, killing at least one-fifth of those attacked, but it disables oven those who get over it for about three months. That is a terrible strain on the fighting force of our Army, and going on as it has been in South Africa with thousands and thousands of cases, and in almost every place occupied, we ought to have such nursing at hand that the men may make as quick and as speedy a recovery as possible. It would be very advisable to institute some system by which we could have a reserve Army Medical Corps in this country for the 1567 purposes of a war such as we are now engaged in. It would not be difficult, I think, to get a large number of young medical men who would be ready under easy conditions to accept service in case of national necessity. You might got, possibly, many hundreds of the pick of our medical schools enrolled under some system by which the War Office would be able to call upon them in time of necessity, and that would be much better than looking for a surgeon here and a surgeon there in various parts of the country when the time of stress came. Then there is another point. I believe that in all these matters prevention is better than cure, and that when an army goes into the field the means of preventing disease are much more important than the means of treating it. In the case of the present war the War Office reinforced the Army Medical Department with operating surgeons. That was a wise step, which was generally approved; but they would have taken a still wiser step if they had reinforced the Department with a number of physicians in the same way. There was more necessity for such men under the conditions of disease which exist in South Africa, and the department would have been greatly helped by the experience of men who had been attached to the fever hospitals of this country. More attention should be paid to the sanitary aspects of a campaign. It is true that the military medical officers are trained more or less in sanitary science; it is true that some of the best text-books on the subject have been written by Army medical officers. But in spite of that, judging from the results of this campaign, we cannot consider that their efforts as sanitary experts have been satisfactory. We have had disclosures as to the treatment of the sick; we have had evidence as to the outbreaks of great epidemics of typhoid fever, which might have been lessened and many lives saved if wiser sanitary arrangements had been made. I am told on the authority of friends of mine who have been through this campaign, that over and over again troops marching to the front have been allowed to camp on ground which has been left by previous detachments and fouled very often by serious disease, such as typhoid fever. The consequence is that body after body of men have come under conditions which made disease rife among the troops. These things would 1568 have been prevented if you had wise sanitary supervision along the line of march. I want to have sanitary supervision not going ahead of, but with the Army. I am sure if the hon. Gentleman can see his way to carry out the suggestions I have made he will do something to preserve the lives of many of the Queen's best subjects, and he will give the country the great satisfaction of knowing that the brave sons who are sent out to fight its battles are not to be lost by the neglect of such scientific precautions as ought to be at the command of every medical officer in the country.
§ * MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
I rise to say a few words on the subject to which the hon. Member has just addressed himself, but I should like first to refer to the censorship. No one can realise better than I do the necessity of striking out from correspondence or telegrams anything that could in any way affect the strategic or military interests of the Army, but I do not think that those limits include statements with regard to the condition of the sick and wounded. A short time ago there was a facsimile of a despatch from a correspondent published in a morning paper, and several sentences which he had inserted with regard to the unhappy condition of the wounded were deliberately obliterated by the censor. I know another case in which a long despatch was written on the same subject, and the whole of that letter was censored. A somewhat amusing incident happened to me out there. A telegram was sent to me—a domestic telegram—written in Italian, and containing some such phrase as" tempo magnifico" or "dolce giorno." It was detained twenty-four hours while the censor was endeavouring to find out what horrid foreign plot was being hatched. May I point out what I think is a great mistake with regard to the censor. The same official who censors despatches has the whole control of the movements of the correspondents. He controls their passes, can give them orders, tell them where they can go, how long they can stay, and altogether exercise the most draconic authority over them. The two offices ought to be separate; the striking out of what is not considered proper in a despatch should be done by one person, and the 1569 movements of correspondents controlled by another. If that were done there could be no suggestion of a correspondent being prejudiced by anything he had put in a telegram. Moreover, the censor should be a military man. My own experience is that when civilians get into khaki they out-Herod Herod in militarism. They are the counterparts of the gentlemen who stay at home and indulge in vicarious heroism, and who think they are very brave when they say that the British soldier ought to endure every possible hardship whether it is avoidable or not. I listened to the very able speech of the Under Secretary of State for War, and I noticed that in his division of this money into expenditure for immediate and for permanent purposes he did not give any information about this very large additional Vote for the Army Medical Department. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean referred to the cutting down of the transport of the Royal Army Medical Corps, but I think the real point is that the Department does not possess any transport of its own, and without transport of its own it never knows what it can do, what it will be able to do, and is never able to make proper preparation for pressure in this place or that. I would venture to illustrate this fact by the very remarkable service that has been performed in this campaign by the medical units which had their own transport. One was the private hospital known as the Irish hospital. Owing to having its own transport that hospital was of the greatest possible service; at Bloemfontein it supplied nearly the whole of the transport, and the ambulance wagons and mules were constantly at work for the Government hospitals and the town and field hospitals. A still more remarkable case was that of the New South Wales field hospital and bearer company, which was found to be so efficient and so valuable that it was broken up from time to time into three or four units, and was looked to in every emergency. One of its great advantages was that it had its own transport, and consequently was always ready to go where it was wanted, and to do work which other medical units were unable to do. With regard to these extra stores, I think it is legitimate to ask what proportion of them are to be medical stores. The Committee may not quite understand the position of the Army Medical Depart- 1570 ment or the Royal Army Medical Corps in a campaign in this respect. The Royal Army Medical Corps possesses nothing of its own except medicines and drugs. It has to draw the whole of its transport, food supplies, and so on from the Army Service Corps and the whole of its equipment from the Ordnance Department. It would be interesting, therefore, to know whether the necessary equipment for the Royal Army Medical Corps forms a part of these extra ordnance stores. I do not myself think that the difficulties and the, to my mind, disastrous results which have arisen in South Africa in connection with the medical service have been caused so much by an absence of equipment as by an absence of men. Everybody who has been out there—every consulting surgeon and other authority—has called attention to the fact that the Royal Army Medical Corps has been fatally undermanned. To that fact has been owing the circumstance that great numbers of the sick could not get proper attention. The service has been undermanned in doctors, in orderlies, and in nurses. It is, therefore, fair to ask whether anything is to be done with the portion of this Vote which is for permanent purposes, to secure a better state of things for the future in the Army Medical Department. Although I realise that the Army Medical Department is too small, I do not make so much of that. I quite realise that it is perfectly impossible to maintain in time of peace an Army Medical Department equal to the strain of a great war, and, therefore, you must have some system whereby you can at any moment, when occasion arises, call for skilled aid, whether it be of doctors, orderlies, or nurses. My great complaint has been that there is no such system in the Department at all; there is no system of reserve; there is no effective system of an auxiliary medical force attached to the Militia or to the Volunteers, although there is a small beginning of a Militia medical system. In this connection I would like again to refer to the New South Wales field hospital. That magnificent medical unit, so splendidly equipped and disciplined, and able to meet the greatest emergencies at the front, was composed entirely of civilians. Some of the most famous Australian doctors gave their services voluntarily, giving up the large incomes they were deriving from their practices in order to serve in the field. It seems to me that if a medical 1571 service of that kind could be established through the machinery of the Militia, with a month's training and field days now and again, that would be a model upon which might be based a very effective improvement of the Army Medical Department. There is no practical elasticity about the Department. Putting aside the question of the Militia and the Volunteers, they have no system by which they can call upon carefully selected medical men for the purpose of sending them out to a campaign. As to orderlies, I think it would be very difficult for any system to create a sufficient number of nursing orderlies to meet the needs of a great war. There are the St. John Ambulance orderlies, and very admirable work they have done in this campaign. But it must be remembered that they have no practical training of any kind, and the general opinion in the Army Medical Department is that it takes at least six weeks to accustom even a theoretically trained St. John Ambulance man to the efficient handling of a patient. I have heard Army medical officers say that it cakes three years to train a nursing orderly properly. No system of theoretically trained orderlies will supply what you want in time of war. What is the alternative? If you cannot keep a large number of men nurses in time of peace ready and sufficiently skilled to go out to a war, you have always at your disposal female nurses all over the country, and one of my great complaints has been that, starting from a theoretical and very obstinate objection to female nurses in the Department at home, there has not been anything like a sufficient supply of nurses to meet the cases of sickness and enteric fever. I think that objection in the Army Medical Department at home ought to be erased. We ought to accept at once, in any campaign carried on in a civilised country such as South Africa, where women are respected in every way, the principle of having a very large number of female nurses certainly at the base and stationary hospitals. The Boers themselves have female nurses in their field hospitals, and very admirable nurses they seemed. I do not, however, insist on female nurses going with field hospitals, but I do think they ought to be with field hospitals when they become stationary hospitals. The lack of elasticity in the system can be best illustrated by looking 1572 for a moment at one of the base hospitals at Cape Town. Military base hospitals are very admirable institutions, but it must be remembered that each one has a staff of 166 men, including doctors. These base hospitals are strategically safe. If there was any elasticity in the working of the system, when the pressure came the whole of the staff of a base hospital could be pushed up to the front where they are most needed, being trained men—Army medical surgeons, trained orderlies, men belonging to the military contingent—and their places could be supplied by putting in their tents a completely civilian institution. There would have to be two or three officers and a small staff at the head to keep up communications with the military authorities, but all that concerned the medical and surgical treatment of the patients could be done as well by a civil as by a military staff. I might illustrate the point further by referring to the private hospitals sent out to South Africa. There were eight or nine such hospitals, and each, with the exception of one Army medical officer to keep up their connection with the military system and to send in the returns, was a purely civil institution. Would it not be as possible for the Army Medical Department as for private persons to create and to send out a civil institution such as that? I have ventured to make these few remarks to the Committee to indicate the line which I think the expenditure of money now to be voted for permanent as distinguished from immediate purposes should take, and I think I may be pardoned for urging upon the Committee some improvements of the system which would, at all events, result in having at the seat of war a sufficient personnel to avoid much of such suffering as has occurred in the present campaign.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I regret we have not had some definite announcement as to the stops the Secretary of State proposes to take in order to profit by the lessons of the war. I understood the Under Secretary to say it was premature to do anything of the kind until Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, and other generals came home. A very large number of officers are coming home now, and it is perfectly certain that Lord Roberts has written full despatches on many of the incidents of the war, and 1573 there are many facts concerning the campaign which are absolutely well known. The teaching on those points could perfectly well be put into operation. I very much hoped that a Committee would be appointed to receive suggestions from all arms taking part in the campaign, with-out distinction of rank. It would be a large business, but it would not be difficult to tabulate evidence of that character, and some very important testimony might possibly be forthcoming. If such a Committee could be under a civilian chairman it would perhaps be better, so long as every arm was represented on the body. There are one or two matters about which I think we ought to lose no time. I was disappointed at not hearing any definite announcement as to the better provision of field guns. It is perfectly certain that in several cases our artillery has been outranged, and the sooner our field artillery is put upon the very latest modern system the better for the country. Then as to the armament of the infantry. There can be very little doubt that in many ways the Mauser rifle is the superior of the Lee-Metford. To take one point alone, the Boer rifle is superior with regard to the way in which the magazine is charged. The whole of the five cartridges are put in at once with one clip, while there is nothing more difficult to the inexperienced soldier, especially in the heat of action, than to load the magazine of the Lee-Metford rifle. Then as regards musketry training. Are we profiting by the musketry and shooting lessons of the war? We already have another war on our hands, and what is the use of delay in this matter? There is ample evidence now forthcoming as to many of the defective points in our musketry training. The National Rifle Association is not connected with the Government, but only last week they had competitions for standing at 200 or 300 yards—as if there was the slightest possibility of standing in the face of an enemy at that distance! Then again, there is the practice of the Army at the present time. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who made a most interesting and moderate speech, with a great deal, if not the whole, of which I entirely agree, doubted whether the training at the present time at Alder-shot had been improved at all by the lessons taught by the war in South Africa. To take musketry alone; nothing is more certain than that firing by volleys 1574 is absolutely ineffectual. The rifles are discharged at word of command, and the object is to have spontaneity of noise rather than accuracy of shooting. That practice is actually continuing at the present moment. It is perfectly impossible for expert marksmen to fire accurately at word of command. With every desire to give all credit to the War Office —and no one is more anxious than Lord Lansdowne to do everything possible to improve the Army—I really do not see any substantial evidence that any of the lessons of the war are being put into effect at the present time. The right hon. Baronet spoke about entrenchments. At Aldershot there is one wretched field, a sort of rubbish field, to which the battalions are supposed to go in turn, if there is room for them, to learn how to throw up a trench. That is not proper instruction of any sort or kind. I am quite aware there have been difficulties. Government land is limited, and even on Government land there are many restrictions designed rather to improve the beauty and character of the country than to effect an improvement in military training. There can be no doubt whatever that at Spion Kop our troops were hopelessly outmatched by the Boers in the matter of entrenchments. They find themselves really without instructions and without proper tools for entrenching. If you take the present drill-book you will find plates illustrating shelter trenches in which the soldier is represented as showing the whole of his head, his shoulders, and the greater part of his body over the top. It is perfectly obvious that if you show the smallest tip of your head, the probability is that you will be shot. I see very little, if any, instruction in the important matter of entrenching being carried out. The same applies to scouting. I know that instruction in scouting requires a great area of country. The Germans can have much better training in scouting because they have much larger areas to go over, and in case of damage to private property they pay only nominal compensation. I know there is considerable difficulty in the matter, but the one complaint from every general in South Africa, from Sir Redvers Buller downwards, has been about the scouting. There is no necessity to wait for the return of Lord Roberts in the matter of cavalry and mounted infantry training in regard to scouting. I would 1575 ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean not to place too much confidence in what German writers say about the conduct of the war in South Africa.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I fully admitted that they were written with prejudice, except in the case of Generals von Blume and von der Goltz.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
The information of these German writers has been largely derived from the Boers, and therefore, as the hon. Baronet admits, it comes from prejudiced sources. No German officers have ever had to conduct a campaign in so difficult and vast a country as South Africa, and it is almost impossible for them to form any idea of the extraordinary military difficulties which had to be faced. Therefore, we should not pay much attention to theoretical military criticism from Berlin, and from people not acquainted with the local conditions. I am quite sure that—with all respect to the German writers—the right hon. Baronet will be the first to admit that the majority of those writers have never seen any active service at all, and therefore their statements must be taken with a very large grain of salt. I earnestly press upon my hon. friend the necessity of making reforms in the training of the British soldiers, and those reforms should be instituted at once. When the war is over we must profit by the lessons of this war, and we know perfectly well that unless these things are done at once they never will be done at all. I cannot resume my seat without saying a word or two as regards the censorship. I should not be at all surprised if the newspaper correspondents said they had suffered from the censorship. I know something about this question in foreign campaigns, and perhaps the best censorship I ever knew was by the Russian army in the advance upon Turkey in 1877. The censors there were people of considerable experience, and they were always to be found in their office. You could always find them when you wanted them, and there was no difficulty about it. In South Africa, no doubt, the censors have been constantly changed, and whenever anybody wanted something to do, and there was nothing particular to give him, they made him a press censor. I know of one case where the newspaper corre- 1576 spondents were put to considerable inconvenience by the censor never being in his office when he had said he would be there in order to revise telegrams. I think the hon. Member for Westminster was a little in error in saying that there was any censorship of letters.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
I know that when Lord Roberts got out to South Africa he sent for the newspaper correspondents, and he said to them, practically, "Write what you like, because it is by your writings that I shall see what mistakes have been made." The relations between Lord Roberts and the newspaper correspondents have always been of the most cordial description. If there has been any censorship of newspaper letters I have not heard of them, and I know that there has been very free criticism in many of the letters sent by the newspaper correspondents for the Daily Telegraph, The Times, and other papers. As for the censorship of private letters or telegrams, I never heard of it while I was out in South Africa. You can understand such telegrams as those to which my hon. friend the Member for Westminster alluded being delayed, because that was obviously a cypher telegram.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
It was in a foreign language, and that is perhaps why there was delay in sending it off. I want to ask one other question. The Under Secretary will remember that when the last Estimates were on a wish was expressed by hon. Members on both this and the other side of the House that greater mobility should be given to the regiments at home. My hon. friend expressed great sympathy in the matter, and he said it was perfectly absurd that there 1577 should be such an enormous amount of baggage when the regiments were moved from one station to another. I see that there is £100,000 in this Supplementary Estimate for transport in the United Kingdom. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us now that he has translated his sympathy into actual practice, and that something is being done. How necessary it is that this should be done no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman himself. The heavy cost of transfer from one command to another frequently prevents the most able general being sent to a particular district. To take over the Aldershot command costs something like £3,000. That is a scandalous thing, and it is clear that a general may be admirably fitted to train troops up to modern requirements, and yet he may not have the £3,000 which is necessary to furnish Government House at Aldershot, and to incur the heavy initial expense of taking up that command. If a general has just installed himself in a house at the cost of £3,000, if he has had to furnish it from top to bottom, naturally he is unwilling to be transferred to some other sphere of activity, and he has some just ground for complaint if the Government desire to transfer him to another station. I will not trouble the Committee further, but I hope my hon. friend in his reply will give some definite assurances that the lessons of this war will be taken to heart by the War Office and enforced throughout the Army.
§ MR. WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)
Most hon. Members who have spoken have dealt with the question of medical stores in the Army and with munitions of war. I wish to press upon the Under Secretary a question which, in my opinion, is quite as material as either good weapons or good medical equipment, and that is the proper feeding of our troops. I have to-day received two letters, but I shall not weary the Committee with reading the whole of them. They are from men at the front who are unknown to me, but they show that the troops have not been well looked after, and if they had had proper commissariat we should not have had the same amount of sickness. One of these letters is from a constituent of mine, whoso son wrote to him as follows—I have had some strange experiences out here. What do you think! I have gone from 1578 door to door in some towns asking and begging for bread, and been thankful for a dry crust. I have gone for weeks on end with only one biscuit a day, sometimes without even that.The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary will recognise that these letters are at his disposal if he wishes to see them. The other letter is somewhat of the same nature and is to this effect—For the last month weariness and hunger have been the only sensations we have been capable of unless it is a surly dogged determination to see the thing through, which has helped our men along on their dreary foot-sore tramp, and has kept them in the ranks when sickness and fatigue would otherwise have forced them to fall out in sheer despair. It has been want of food that has been the heaviest burden we have had to bear. We were hungry after we left Winburg; we were hungrier still when we reached Kroonstad; but from Linley to Johannesburg we have been hungriest of all. For months we have had no bread, for many days no biscuit, and for the last few days before the battle of Florida Heights we have received no bread rations at all save a pinch or two per man of coarse ground mealie, which will not make dough, but can only be boiled into a gritty, tasteless, indigestible porridge.I do not propose to read these letters at any greater length. Of course, nobody expects that, in a campaign such as we have been engaged in, the troops will not have to undergo some hardships, but I do say that if, instead of giving out this dough and flour, they had given oatmeal it would have had very excellent effects. If this had been done I think the health of our troops would have been far bettor than it has been through this campaign. I could have given many other instances, but I will refrain at present from giving any more extracts from letters which have reached me. I have received letters from quite independent sources in which they say that our troops have been half starved. If the troops had had oatmeal instead of this queer mealy stuff there would not have been the same necessity for the strain upon the Royal Army Medical Corps. I do hope the hon. Member the Under Secretary, who always listens with courtesy to any suggestions which are made, will see that sufficient oatmeal is sent out to South Africa to supply the troops.
§ * SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said he should like to say one word in regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member opposite. He had given many details in regard to the hardships which the troops had undergone, but he thought it would be found on investigation that many of those hardships were 1579 due to the unfortunate capture of convoys by the enemy. They all knew that in war such accidents would happen, and he did not think anybody would complain seriously of matters like that, which were purely the incidents of war. He thought they would be wasting the time of the Committee considering hardships which wore inevitable, although if they were preventable and someone had blundered it would be a different matter. There must be minute inquiry into many of the incidents of this war. There was a general opinion that there had been many failures and much unnecessary loss of life in some of the initial stages of the campaign; indeed, it was difficult to understand how men high in authority, who had previous experience of war in South Africa, could have made certain recommendations as to the constitution of the force to be employed which surprised people less well informed. Those were matters which would no doubt be inquired into. It was impossible to imagine that earnest men in charge at the War Office would not take to heart the lessons of the war. He confessed that he could not share the words of depreciation thrown out against those charged with the heavy responsibility of this war. In the case of men like the Secretary of State for War, who had gained a high reputation in other very important positions, those charges would have belied his former history. He ventured to say that there had never been anyone in office in this country who had been more painstaking, more earnest, and more ready to hear suggestions from all quarters than the present Secretary of State for War. He believed his courage was equal to his patience and skill, and if they only considered how much had been accomplished by the War Office he thought they would be more inclined to make allowance for any shortcomings. At the same time he agreed with those who urged that their system must be largely remodelled, and that the country must be better prepared in the future for great emergencies than they had been in the past. It would never do for them again to send men out so hurriedly, and put them in uniform with arms which they did not know how to use. They should be better prepared in the future, and the lessons of this war must be taken to heart. With regard to the Army Medical Department, there could be no doubt that they had been short-handed. His hon. 1580 friend who represented the War Office had acknowledged that they had been short-handed, but it was to a large extent only for a time. Not only had they been short-handed, but the doctors had not been in the places where they would have been most useful, and there never was a time when the great change made in the composition of the Army Medical Department some years ago had been more clearly proved to be a mistake. Under the old system the medical officers used to gain a thorough knowledge of the regiments to which they were attached, and they knew exactly the requirements and the character of the men they had to deal with. It was only natural that medical men who were moved about from one regiment to another, who were here to-day and gone to-morrow, could never gain a thorough knowledge of the requirements of the regiments to which they were attached. That change was made in what had been described as the halcyon days when the Estimates were lower and when everything was pared down closely. He remembered the time when a saving on the Army Estimates was made at the last minute by reducing every company by ten men, but as the regiments were not up to establishment it only made a difference on paper. At the time many of them argued against this change in the composition of the Army Medical Department, and he did not believe there was a medical officer in the Army at the present time who would not say that the change was very much to be regretted. He had never met an officer who had anything to say in favour of this change; and what could be expected in the case of a regiment who went out on active service with medical men who had only lately joined them? He had very good reason to believe that, very often some of the most necessary appliances in field hospitals were wanting, because the medical officers in charge of them were afraid to speak out. He had good reason to think that very often the deficiency in articles of the first necessity was due to the fact that the medical officers themselves knew that they would make themselves unpopular with their superior officers if they pressed for those articles. That would not be so if the medical officers had a settled position from which they could not be displaced except for some grave failure in their duty. He thought if the 1581 inquiry to be held went deeply into this question, and if the medical officers engaged came forward and stated what they thought, he was sure it would he found that this was a weak spot in the Army Medical Department which would have to he obviated. No doubt to a great extent the Army Medical Department was on its trial in South Africa, and he should be surprised if it did not come out of it successfully, because it was largely composed of men who were anxious to do their duty, and who were ready to devote themselves at any sacrifice to carry out their work as well as they could. He believed that in nothing which Lord Lansdowne had done had he shown more wisdom than in the raising of the character of the Army Medical Department. No doubt the question would be dealt with courageously after this lamentable war had closed, and no pains would be spared to remedy those faults so that in time to come their gallant soldiers would have to suffer less than they had done in this campaign.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON ( Aberdeenshire, W.)
said he agreed with a good deal of what the hon. Member who had just sat down had said. As one who had served in the Army, he knew the ties which previously existed between the doctor and his regiment. Nevertheless, he concurred with the present arrangement because he thought it had been found that the old plan was quite unworkable under present modes of warfare, and the short service system rendered the old methods not so necessary. A doctor in the Army used to be expected to know exactly the constitutions of his patients, and he used to know who wore the malingerers. Lord Lansdowne had raised the status of the Army Medical Corps by giving them their proper Army rank, and what had just been said bore that out. There was an impression that a simple doctor would not get such good terms for the men under his control as he would if he were a major or a captain; that if he had his proper rank he would get better terms in the field from the transport. He was in accord with the hon. Member for Westminster to some extent. The hon. Gentleman called attention to the starvation of the Army Medical Department. Those who had followed the debates in the House would be aware of the way in which the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, the hon. Member for 1582 West Belfast, and himself had, over and over again, pointed out the paucity of the ranks. When it was proposed to send out two army corps, it was pointed out there was not sufficient medical service for one. A good deal had been said as to the deficiency of nurses, but the hon. Member for Westminster did not give sufficient credit to the male nursing. Those male nurses might not be so well up in scientific nursing as female nurses, but there was a sense of comradeship between them and their patients, many of whom would prefer their ministrations to those of a trained female nurse.
§ * M.R. BURDETT-COUTTS
said he had no desire to discuss the respective merits of male and female nursing; all he said was that in war time if nurses were required they must be female nurses, because no large supply of male nurses would be available.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said there should be a larger reserve of medical officers. He was not quite satisfied with the answer of the Under Secretary a few days previously, in which he said a large number of well-trained men had been employed in this campaign.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said in that case his observations were not to the point. He concurred with the hon. Member for Westminster as to the necessity of an independent transport for the Army Medical Department; it was well known that during all these great campaigns the exigencies of the military purposes were given first place so far as transport was concerned, and he hoped that one result of the inquiry would be to lay down a principle of some arrangement of this kind. He wished to know whether anything was going to be done at the end of the war with regard to the Indian Bearer Fund. He could not admit, as the hon. Member for Westminster had stated, that the results of the campaign were disastrous. No doubt it was sad to see men suffering from enteric fever lying on the ground, but the results of the campaign were admirable when one considered that there was only 20 or 21 per cent. of deaths as against 17 per cent. in civil life.
§ * COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said one thing which those in- 1583 terested in this matter ought to know was what the Army was formed for. The Army was organised by Lord Cardwell to send 60,000 men abroad, yet in the case of this war we had sent more than three times that number, and had had to find supplies for more than four times the number. Had any Continental nation been subjected to the same difficulties they would not have been able to meet them in the way in which our Army had met many of the difficulties of this campaign. When the whole conduct of the war was inquired into it would be found that the War Office would come out far better than many others who had had to deal with the question. The organisation for sending out troops had worked so smoothly and well that it had rather escaped notice. Although he had spoken generally in favour of the War Office he was not one of those who was satisfied with army organisation as it is at home now. Every District Command should be organised as an army corps, or division, and embrace every force within it. The old theory was that in the field anything up to 100,000 men should be organised in divisions, and anything over that should be organised in army corps. Too much pressure had been put upon the chief of the staff by the organisation in the present war. He objected to engineers being turned into clerks of works. He ventured to urge that an engineer officer should be attached to every infantry and cavalry regiment for a short period of time for the purpose of teaching rapid entrenchment, which undoubtedly was one of the things which the war had shown to be necessary. Then there was another important point, and that was with reference to the Reserves. He would strongly urge that an option should be given to men of fair character to receive twopence per day extra, and to be called "furlough reserve men," who could be recalled to the colours by a simple order from the Horse Guards, or from the officers commanding their regiments, so that whenever a regiment was wanted for a small war it could take these men with it. That would enormously increase our strength. If the Army had to meet men armed with modern weapons it should consist of regiments the men in which were accustomed to act together, actuated by that esprit de corps which makes a man do more if he is working with men whom he knows Another point with which everyone would 1584 agree was that arrangements should be made whereby the Reservists should have shooting practice every year. In conclusion, he strongly urged the Committee to recollect what had been done in the way of sending an enormous force which, on the whole, was very well equipped, to South Africa. Of course, the War Department had to buy horses all over the place, and had to extemporise a large portion of their medical Department; but when the matter was fully analysed it would be found that the War Office had done well, especially in connection with the Militia and Volunteers. He hoped the War Office would publish a statement as to what had been done throughout the whole of the campaign. Everybody must feel that what the Army had to contend with was not only the extraordinary improvement in small arms, but also in the power of moving guns of position with a field force. He felt sure that if any other nation were placed in the same position it would have suffered quite as much.
§ MR. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
At the outset I desire to say that I admire the manner in which the Under Secretary for War has always answered us in debate. I have a great admiration for his assiduity and hard work, and I regret that I am put in a position of having to make a protest against the War Office. I think, however much we may like an individual, and however good the work of individuals may have been, still the whole conduct of this campaign has been so bad that some protest should be made, and I therefore shall move a reduction of this Vote, as a protest against the recent grave mistakes of the War Office, and also to call attention to the need for military reform. The only speech during this debate in which the War Office was not condemned, was that just delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Before I go into what I consider the graver mistakes that have been committed, I wish to ask one or two questions. The first is about the huts. In this Vote £500,000 is taken for huts in the United Kingdom. How many men will they accommodate, and whereabouts are they to be situated? Then I should like to ask a question as to the Royal Reserves. I have seen a great deal of them, and I have seen their absolute inefficiency up to the present time. 1585 They have been cavalry without horses, infantry without rifles, lancers without lances, artillery without guns, and altogether a practically useless body. They have also been deficient in officers. When I asked a question a little while ago I was informed that the average proportion of officers to men was 14 per 1,000 in the infantry. Anyone who has done any soldiering at all will know that when you have got to drill men who have for years been unaccustomed to drill, when you have got to lick a regiment into shape, 14 officers to 1,000 is a ridiculously small proportion. It is much less than the proportion in foreign armies, where the officers are worked much harder, and where there are very many more non-commissioned officers than we have in the Reserve regiments. The result is that the Reserve force is of very little use either for foreign service or for the defence of this country. Then there is another question. There is an item in this Vote for medicines and instruments. I saw a letter from a medical man who had been out at the front, who complained that the medicines provided were not sufficient or varied enough, and that the instruments were not good enough for field and stationary hospitals. I should like to have an assurance as to the quality, quantity, and variety of the medicines sent out for the troops, and I have no doubt it can be given. There is an item also for small arms. I would like to hear that efficient small arms are issued to all the troops in South Africa, or who are now in training at home, and that they are not compelled to shoot with rifles that are worn out, and cannot shoot straight. Thousands of men are supposed to be going through their course of musketry instruction with worn-out rifles, that will not carry straight. Is there any hope of the new rifles being given to the men within a reasonable time of the ending of the war? I hope to see them issued or ready for delivery by Christmas. Then, with regard to guns. Three millions are put aside for the Chinese Expedition; but I do not see any sum for more guns. I believe that 572 guns were ordered at the beginning of the year, and were included in the Army Estimates; but if there is to be a Chinese Expedition, more than these 572 will be required. I should like to see more position guns and field guns. One of my complaints against the War Office is that they knew that guns of position were 1586 used in the field at last year's German manœuvres. We had representatives there who ought to have reported, if they did not report, upon them. I do not want to hark back on the ridiculous blunder of the War Office saying to the Australian colonies that they wanted infantry and not cavalry; but to this day we are suffering from a shortness of mounted troops and a shortness of horses. One initial mistake was made from which we have suffered enormously. When the Government knew that we should have something like 60,000 well armed and well equipped men to fight against, they only sent 10,000 from India and none from England. These 10,000 men were overwhelmed by superior numbers. Natal was invaded, our enemies were increased by rebels from our own colonies, and we had much greater difficulty than if the War Office had sent much greater forces at the beginning. They ought, at the very start, to have sent 10,000 troops from England in addition to those from India. The Commander-in-Chief said that an army corps was ready as soon as the transports, and we had more transports here than in India. We have been promised reforms in the War Office over and over again; yet two years ago it was found that there were serious deficiencies in the land transport. At the autumn manœuvres, the War Office thought they could do with amateur transport, and they got an energetic private firm to undertake it. But it broke down utterly. At that time, therefore, the War Office knew that they had not land transport for 30,000 men in England. What happened? Whereas the 10,000 men sent from India had transport and everything necessary, the moment troops were required to be sent from England there was a great deficiency of transport.
THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
There was not.
§ MR. WARNER
I can prove it thoroughly. The first thing that Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener found when they went out to South Africa was that the regimental transport was utterly deficient. The officers' transport was reduced, and by great strain sufficient transport was managed to be obtained to make an advance—but an advance only along a railway—not transport sufficient to enable 1587 the army to march independent of the railway. Lord Methuen and other generals said over and over again that they had no transport sufficient to allow them to leave the railway. This want of transport has been the cause of the most serious reverses; the generals were compelled to make frontal attacks, which cost so many lives, instead of flank attacks, which they could have done had there been sufficient transport. Then, the sort of transport was wrong. So enamoured were the authorities at Woolwich of their wagons, that when Australia offered to supply transport for their own contingents they were told that the wagons must first come to Woolwich to be inspected. Of course, Australia did not send wagons to Woolwich. It was rather a long way round to South Africa. The last proof I will give of the failure of transport is that one of the greatest difficulties of the Royal Army Medical Corps was that their transport was reduced to one-fifth of what it ought to have been That was an absolute crime—something akin to shooting the wounded—or it is a proof that the transport was deficient. I do not myself think it was a crime. The Royal Army Medical Corps did the best they could, but the transport was inefficient. We had letters read to the House in which it was stated that the troops had been fed on one biscuit a day. The greater proportion of Lord Roberts's army were on half rations not for one week or a month, but for nearly three months. It is not a question of the hardships that have to be endured in war. These must always be faced and suffered, and occasions must arise when, owing to temporary shortcomings in the transport, they will have to go on short commons; but for the main army in the field to be kept permanently on half rations, not for a week or two but for three months, is a shame. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Yes; the evidence is coming home gradually. Man by man, invalids and wounded soldiers are returning from the front telling the same story, and that story will be retold in the constituencies. One other difficulty the troops have been under which shows that the transport was not quite perfect, and that is that the money payments to the troops have not been forthcoming. I believe the greater part of the troops have not 1588 been paid for three months. I have seen a letter from a brother officer of mine who enlisted, in which he states that the men have not been paid; and I have seen many other letters which declared that there had been difficulties about the payment of the soldiers from March till June. I do not make these statements from hearsay; I have seen the letters, and that is proof that communications have been very badly kept up. There have been constant complaints of the failure of our artillery. What was my surprise to turn up the other day an old paper, printed in June, 1897, in which Lord Salisbury, in reply to a memorial from the Service Members in regard to the condition of both horse and field artillery, said—May I beg you to convey an assurance that I will, in conjunction with my colleagues, consider carefully the points to which you have directed the attention of Her Majesty's Government.These points may have been paid attention to in theory, but not in practice; and the result was that we went into the war with only two and a half guns per thousand soldiers, whereas every foreign Power provides five guns per thousand. Then, we went into the war without guns of position, whereas Germany had got guns of position mounted for use in the field. We must have inquiry not only in regard to the artillery, but into the surrenders of our troops, as to the reasons for our defeat after defeat, in which we lost guns and prisoners. We know that our men have not lost their pluck, that their shooting has not been at fault, that the generals have been very good; but there has been something deficient in the organisation. When we were told that there was to be an inquiry, of course we expected that it was to be before the dissolution; but the Government are putting it off until another Parliament is elected, and the sound of war has ceased, and the people are no longer anxious about sons who have been wounded, and have almost forgotten the relatives they have lost. We want something done sooner, out of which there may spring, not tinkering reforms, but reforms which will prevent breakdowns in the commissariat, in the hospitals, and in the line of battle. In the old phrase, somebody has got to be hanged. We will have to get a victim; but the day is seemingly to be put off before we find that victim. We say something must be done at once, some remedy found for 1589 this crying evil; and some assurance must be had that this new war for which we are asked to vote three millions to-day is not going to be carried on with the same blundering as in South Africa.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a reduced sum, not exceeding £11,499,900, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Courtenay Warner.)
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I wish to ask one question, but unfortunately there is no one present to ask it of. It is a little awkward when you have a question—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Dr. TANNER, Cork County, Mid). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ MR. BARTLEY (continuing)
I wish to ask one question on the subject of this Vote. It has been announced that there will be a very full inquiry into all the circumstances connected with this war. I am sure that the country will demand a very full and searching inquiry into all the details, and I have no reason to suppose that the Government will in any way shirk this. There is much that has been done to their credit, and I am sure much will be done by the inquiry for the benefit of the country. But there is one thing which has puzzled the man in the street a good deal, and that is what I want to ask about. We do not want the despatches published yet, but we think they ought to be published as soon as it is possible to do so. What we know is that the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief has been given on certain officers. Certain officers have been sent back from the seat of war to England. We must presume that that has been done for some reason which the Commander-in-Chief thinks of sufficient importance. What I wish to ask is this: how does it come about that officers who have held high command in South Africa, who have been sent home to England because they have evidently not been competent to carry on their work, are given high command when they come back to England, and are considered just as if they had been successful in the campaign from which they have been sent by the commanding officer? I think that is a matter in which a great number of people are interested. People do not like exactly to be personal. I myself do not know a single one of those who have come back, 1590 but I say that it is demoralising to talk about an inquiry into the losses, and into the actions which led to the disasters, when some of the officers who have been responsible for those disasters come home by the order of the Commander-in-Chief and at once take commands of high position in this country. That does seem to me a very extraordinary position. It seems to me that the duty of an officer, and especially a commanding officer, must be to be efficient in the field, and if these officers are sent home because they are not considered competent in the field, it is vital to the prestige of the Army, as affecting the recruiting and the position of the Army at home, that officers who are not fit to take command at the scat of war, should not be given high commands when they come to England. I am not a soldier, and I do not profess to know anything about it, but I know perfectly well that in any other line of life such a result would not be possible. Whether it is owing to the system of the War Office or some other reason I cannot say; but I should like to have an answer from the Under Secretary of State, if he can give it, how this comes about, because I can assure him that it is talked about in many parts. It is absurd to talk about the reorganisation of the War Office and putting things in order if, when a man has shown himself not to be efficient and is sent home, he is given a position of responsibility in this country. I do not wish in any way to say that anything personal has been charged against these gentlemen; I have no doubt they are excellent men and brave in all respects; but, when they have been held to be unfit to remain in their commands on active service, it is demoralising to the service altogether that they should be given as high positions in England as if they had been successful in the field. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give some explanation of this before the debate is over.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
No one will contest the principles laid down by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. It is difficult for us in some of these cases to form a judgment at present, but I venture to support the request he has made that the Under Secretary of State should give us some information on the point this evening. There are one or two other questions which I should like to ask the Under 1591 Secretary arising out of this. In the first place, can he tell us whether the £500,000 referred to in the Vote has been spent?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
There have been two sums of £500,000. There was the first £500,000, and the one now under consideration.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us about the sum for settlers, and what the probable annual cost of the garrison in South Africa will be? Are the settlers part of the garrison or not? What steps are being taken, if any, in the direction of this colonisation plan? For myself, without prejudging the matter, I cannot help confessing to considerable doubt as to whether any large enterprise of this kind is likely to be successful. I only hope that it may be found possible, because it will mean that that portion of the world would obtain a valuable ingredient to the population. For the guidance, of the public it is very desirable in any enterprise of this kind that we should know whether or not the hopes of the authorities concerned are really based on anything solid and substantial in regard to the matter. It must be a matter of interest to know for how long a period it will be necessary to maintain the garrison in South Africa, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman to translate into figures what the annual burden will be. An hon. Gentleman who spoke a short time ago hazarded the statement that in his opinion we were not very near the end of the war. Everyone who has studied this Estimate must realise that it is based on the assumption that we are near the end of the war. On this question I do not mean in any way to pin the hon. Gentleman or the Government to any definite opinion they have not expressed; but surely it is reasonable, when we are considering an Estimate which provides for gratuities, a large sum for medals, and other what may be called terminal charges for the whole enterprise, to assume that in the view of the Government at any rate, as Parliament is going to rise, we ought to look forward to those charges. The total sum taken for these terminal charges is £7,500,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us in the spring when bringing in the last war Estimate that he had estimated for the current expenses of the war until 1592 30th September. If after that Estimate we have in the end of July an Estimate making provision for what are largely terminal charges, does not that imply to an ordinary man who looks at the matter that the Government at any rate do not think there is any obligation on them to look forward to any very long continuance of the current expenditure?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member is really going off' the rails. He has alluded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he ought to keep in mind that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's announcement referred only to the actual money required. In Committee of Supply we have taken provision for war at full pressure for two months, and war at half pressure for six months, and this is the Supplementary Estimate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will have again to come to the House for Ways and Means, which is quite a different matter.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I am sure his explanation is perfectly clear to those who understand the intricacies, but to the ordinary man who is told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that provision has been made for the war to the 30th September, I think the inference is that the Government do not look forward to a long continuance of the expenditure after that date. It must be remembered, no doubt, that the burden of the war since the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his statement has been greater than he or anyone expected The statement was made before the great outbreak of enteric, before the great loss of life by disease, and before the reinforcements necessary to replace this loss were sent. I must confess to considerable surprise at finding that we have now provision for the war being carried on at full pressure for two months and at half pressure for six months, and that we have "terminal charges" as well. I trust most sincerely that the estimate of the hon. Gentleman will not be exceeded, and I am sure that every Member in this House hopes that no further burden will be laid upon the Government or the country. I am not concerned myself to-night to criticise the War Office. For my part, I agree very largely with the hon. Member who said that the administration of the War Department had done a 1593 great deal more than we had any right to call upon them or expect them to do. I will reserve my right to criticise afterwards when we have fuller information. I can say that certainly on this occasion, just as on every other occasion since the beginning of this lamentable war, when the Government have come to the House for supply, I shall vote for the prosecution of the war. One reason why I think it very difficult to criticise what has been going on in South Africa with any judgment at present is the entire lack of official information. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said he did not want the despatches.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I quite realise what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I regret that decision more than I can say. I think it is the greatest mistake from the point of view of the confidence of the country in the administration of the Government in carrying out this war. I do not want the despatches produced in order to give critics an opportunity for making attacks upon the Government in the very least. I daresay it will not be believed, but I say it honestly and frankly that I do think it is the greatest mistake in the world that the Government can make not to give us from time to time the despatches containing the intelligence in regard to what is going on in South Africa. The hon. Gentleman in a speech not long ago referred to certain proceedings which the Government had been obliged to undertake, or, at least, to encourage, in order to stimulate the patriotism of the country, and to produce a sufficient number of recruits. He described the proceedings which took place, and I agree with him that they would be considered insane in any other country. I cannot help thinking that some of the people of this country considered them insane, or, at any rate, open to criticism. If you want the people of the country to form a sound and wise judgment as to the war, keep them informed. It is one of the liberties and rights of the country that they should be informed, responsible as they are in supporting the Government. It is the greatest regret to me that the Government have been so reticent in this matter of the publication of the despatches. I am sure it will have one effect—however much 1594 future proceedings may re-establish it— and that is, it must undermine and impair the confidence of the country in the Government, and if anything is necessary in such a matter as this it is that the Government should be strengthened, not by the artificial means of withholding information, but by full and unsparing intelligence. Our complaint is not confined to the non-publication of the despatches. It refers also to the censorship. Censorship which is purely military and for military purposes no one has any title or right to object to. It is absolutely necessary to an army in the field, and we must submit to the discretion of the Commander-in- Chief, whoever he may be. When the censorship is no longer military but is also political—because that is what the censorship in South Africa has been—I believe it becomes a great danger. Again I say that we cannot speak with full intelligence. I can produce to the Committee a number of telegrams which have nothing whatever to do with military operations, but relate to matters of business—communications going from this country to South Africa, entirely apart from military operations, which could not influence tactical or strategical operations in the least degree—which have been subjected to the censorship. That is the portion of the censorship to which I object in South Africa.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I complain of suppression. I have no doubt there has been delay. I complain not only of delay and suppression, but of editing and altering.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that to my knowledge there has been absolute suppression—that is to say, there has been suppression of parts of telegrams. This may have been necessary, but it is a very strong step to take, and it shows what a serious business this has been. It shows the self-restraint which has been exercised in the country when attention has not been more freely directed to this. It is common knowledge that a meeting took place some months ago at which some 1595 twenty Members of Parliament were present. I was not present, and therefore am not concerned personally. A message was sent out to South Africa reporting that the meeting had taken place. It was not merely curtailed and altered, it was suppressed.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I wish I had brought the papers here to give full information to the House. The meeting was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel and was attended by twenty Members of Parliament, who expressed their views on South African affairs, which I imagine they had a perfect right to do. A message reporting the result of the meeting was sent to South Africa. I have evidence which I shall be glad to submit to the hon. Gentleman. I have a letter from the telegraph office saying that the telegram was not delivered, and whether it was ultimately delivered I cannot say.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think the hon. Member will see that a charge of that kind should not be brought in this way. I do not think he ought to say that a message was sent to South Africa conveying the result of a meeting unless he gives the contents of the message.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I shall be very glad to do so. I am not fully prepared, as I did not intend to speak on this subject, but the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who preceded me suggested it to me. I shall be very glad indeed to give the Committee the facts. Let me look at the other side of the question. Not only has there been a great restriction of news going from here to South Africa, but there has also been a serious restriction in South Africa itself. I call attention to these matters because I think they should be known in order to give people materials for forming a sound judgment on the matter. I am not in a position to do more than complain about these matters. Question after question has been put during the whole of this session on these matters—questions which were not hostile and which were not put in an inimical spirit—to which frank, straightforward answers would have immediately silenced criticism. I can now read to the Committee the telegram to which I referred a few minutes ago.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
The whole of the message. It is dated February 14th, 1900. This was sent to "News, Cape Town," which I understand is a telegraphic address.To News,Cape Town. Feb. 14th, 1900.Influential conference Westminster to-day many Members Parliament delegates all parts support Bannerman, vigorous Liberal policy enthusiastically voted following Conference desires express appreciation strenuous efforts peace made by Cape and Natal Ministers, testifies deep sense difficulties forced upon colonists, especially severe strain inflicted upon Dutch by war with which Dutch entirely out of sympathy.That is the message, and no one can say it is military; it certainly seems to me to have no tactical or strategical importance. This is the letter which came from the Eastern Telegraph Company, Limited, dated "London, 28th February, 1900."Dear Sir,—We have received advice from Cape Town to the effect that your telegram of 14th inst. addressed 'News, Cape Town,' has been stopped by the Government censor.I will give the hon. Member another instance, and that is a telegram of condolence sent to Lady Symons by the late General Joubert. The telegram as it appeared in the press was as follows—Maritzburg, 26th Oct.The following telegram was received by the General Officer Commanding at Lady-smith to-day from General Joubert: 'In answer to your telegram of this date with reference to General Symons, I must express my sympathy and have to inform you that he was unfortunately badly wounded, died yesterday, and was buried. I trust the great God will speedily bring to a close this unfortunate state of affairs in which so many valuable lives have been and are being sacrificed, such as that of General Symons and others. I express my sympathy to Lady Symons on the loss of her husband.'The telegram, as sent, ran in this way in the latter portion—I trust the great God will speedily bring to a close this unfortunate state of affairs, brought about by unscrupulous speculators and capitalists who went to the Transvaal to obtain wealth, and in order to further their interests misled others and brought about this shameful state of warfare over all South Africa, in which so many valuable lives have been sacrificed, etc., etc.,to the end, as published. That was a telegram in which General Joubert expressed his opinion—an opinion in which no one here is called upon to 1597 share. I do not, by reading this telegram, commit myself in the least to the opinion therein expressed, but I think it proves that the censorship has not been purely military, but has extended to matters political. I have other instances i could bring before the Committee, but I think these are sufficient for my purpose, my sole object being to prove the existence of what appears to me to be a very serious state of things. The Government may have thought themselves entitled to take these very grave steps; I only wish they had been frank with the House and said at a very early stage, "Well, we have done these things; we have felt obliged to do them; but we are perfectly willing to bear whatever responsibility may attach to our action." We find in South Africa, also, the prohibition of newspapers under martial law. At the present moment, two newspapers, and two newspapers alone which took a side opposed to the war—Ons Land and the South African News—have their circulation prohibited, not only in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, but also in large districts of Cape Colony. That seems to disclose a most serious state of things.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
The hon. Gentleman is too experienced and far-seeing a man not to know that the liberty of the press is one of the essential liberties of persons living under the British constitution. You may be doing a very dangerous thing in suppressing all expression of opinion, and you may be furthering your policy in but a very slight degree if you take such stringent and severe measures as these. But I brought these matters forward simply to justify my statement that we are not in a position properly to criticise the Government because of the severity of the censorship. While I am perfectly ready to vote the money the Government ask for to-night, so far as the main purpose is concerned, I wish to say that I reserve my criticism in other-respects. We have had very little information about China. We are asked to vote £3,000,000 for China. I do not want to be one of those who urge the Government to be aggressive in China—I know a little of the difficulties of their position at the present time; but if the 1598 hon. Gentleman can give us any further information as to how this money is to be spent and whether the Government have any grounds for believing that the limits of our expedition are known or can be estimated in any degree, I am sure it will be a satisfaction to the Committee. The Under Secretary drew a picture, perfectly justifiably, of the activity of the present Administration in regard to Army affairs. But there is another side to all that. We must not forgot what this Administration has brought in other re-pects. It has brought us an expenditure of £62,000,000 on this war; it has brought us in South Africa a state of affairs which is nothing less than a military despotism; it has brought us to the beginning of a foreign roster in connection with the Indian Army. The balance, therefore, is not all on one side. I do not lay these things solely at the door of the present Government, but I believe the spirit on which the Government, have relied has been largely responsible for bringing us into these difficulties. This being the only opportunity we have of criticising the action of the Government, I have ventured to avail myself of it, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will give us some information in regard to the 15,000 men who are to be settled in South Africa, the 30,000 who are to be the garrison, and the expenditure with reference to the hutting.
MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
I have no wish to follow the hon. Member into his general discussion of the relative merits of particular parties, of the censorship, or of the publication of despatches, but I must say that any abuse of the Government for withholding despatches comes with extremely bad grace from any gentle man sitting on the benches opposite. There has been but one fierce and determined attack by the Opposition upon Her Majesty's Government, both in this House and in the country, during the whole course of the war, and that was made because they published certain despatches. The less, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen opposite say about the withholding of despatches the more it will redound to their own credit. But I rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for War if he would answer a couple of questions. The first is whether he can give us any idea as to how many of the Militia regiments now embodied will continue to be embodied during the autumn. It may 1599 be quite impossible for the hon. Gentleman to answer, but it would be a great convenience to both officers and men if he could give some idea. The other question is whether he can give the Committee any information as to the intentions of the War Office in regard to the Volunteers and Imperial Yeomanry invalided home. I have no doubt the War Office will treat them with every consideration, and I hope, as far as possible, they will be enabled to go to their homes and their friends. They enlisted for the war, and they have suffered very great hardships, to which, although they may have been unavoidable, no one expected they would have been subjected. They are therefore entitled to every consideration, and I cannot help thinking that questions of this kind are of more interest to the country than any general abuse of Her Majesty's Government.
§ * MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
Until the speech of the hon. Member for Forfarshire there had been no reference in the course of this debate to the important question of the provision for military operations in China between now and February next. Important though the affairs relating to South Africa may be, I venture to say that we are face to face to-day with a still graver situation in the great Eastern Empire of China, with its 400 millions of people. As I understand the explanation given by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, there is provided in the Vote under discussion a sum of £3,000,000 for military operations which may be necessary in upholding British rights and interests in China between now and next February. I cannot help noticing the enormous difference between the preparations made in the case of South Africa and in the case of China. To assert British rights and interests in the South African Republics, with a population numbering less than that of the city of Manchester, it has been necessary to send out 200,000 men. In regard to China, where our commercial interests are of infinitely greater importance than in South Africa—we were told the other night that of the £70,000,000 of import and export trade of China to-day the share of the British Empire is no less than £43,000,000, with unlimited opportunities for expansion in the future—provision is 1600 being made for sending out only 11,000 troops and 4,000 coolies. I venture to express grave doubts as to whether that is an adequate provision for upholding our just rights and interests. I desire no aggression upon China. The policy I advocate is that of preserving China for the Chinese, with equal opportunities for all nations to trade with her. With regard to what will happen when hostilities are over, and the question of settlement arises—which I hope will be in the direction of setting up an enlightened and stable government of Chinese to govern the Chinese and the opening up of the country to the trade of all nations—I put this case to the Government: If we stand on one side now, and if Russia has 50,000 troops on the ground, Japan 50,000, and France and Germany between them perhaps another 50,000, and Great Britain with her £43,000,000 out of the £70,000,000 of trade only 11,000 troops, how much regard will these other nations pay to the opinion of Great Britain as to what the terms of that settlement should be? If we are to have a proper influence in deciding what that just and equitable settlement should be it is incumbent upon us that we should take a proper share in the task of restoring order in that great Empire. My object is not to slay the Chinese or to advance upon Peking, as the German Emperor would have us do, as a matter of revenge. My object rather is that we should be to China what the most enlightened and patriotic Chinamen have expected us to be—namely, the friend of China, the friend who would help China to resist unjust aggressions of nations like Russia and Germany on the integrity of the Chinese Empire. It is on these lines that I say it is the duty of this country to have an adequate naval and military force in China—in the great Yang-tsze region, where, I believe, we have in the Viceroys of Nankin, and Hunan, and Hupeh, enlightened and patriotic Chinamen, who are doing their level best to maintain order, and to protect foreigners in the enormous territories over which they rule. What is required is that a British force should be there, not only to assist them to maintain order, but to guarantee to them full protection in their persons, official position, and property, should there be at the close of hostilities any attempt made to subject them to punishment for their friendly, patriotic, and enlightened action. It is for these 1601 reasons I believe the provision to be inadequate. I should have been much relieved if, instead of 11,000 we were going to send the full 22,000 men provided for in the Vote; I should have been encouraged to hear from the Under Secretary of State that Her Majesty's Government had included in this Vote the cost of transport for 10,000 British troops from South Africa to China; I should have been glad to hear that, as in the case of South Africa, Her Majesty's Government had made, if we cannot spare a sufficient number of native troops from India, an appeal to the Reserve forces—the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers—of this country to offer themselves for service in upholding British interests in China. I am glad to see that New South Wales, without waiting to be asked, has undertaken to send a certain number of troops to assist in the military operations in China, and Her Majesty's Government might well have given our other patriotic colonies an opportunity to assist in upholding what are the commercial interests, not of England alone, but of the whole Empire. The fact is that we earnestly hope that these serious disturbances which have arisen in China will remain local and will die out as quickly as they arise. But who is there here who can confidently predict that this outbreak of the Chinese against the foreign intruders will not assume larger proportions? I greatly justify the action of the Chinese because they have been exasperated beyond the limits of endurance by aggressions upon their territory from Russia and Germany, and those aggressions, in all probability, would not have taken place if Her Majesty's Government had adopted a firmer policy. These complications are consequent upon the want of a firmer policy on our own part in regard to our responsibilities in China, and it is a duty that rests upon us now to give all the necessary backing and assistance to China which we can, so that at the end of the trouble, this nation, at any rate, will have borne a worthy part in upholding that just principle of non-aggression upon Chinese territory, and thus show to the world that our only desire is to preserve China for the Chinese, and equal rights for all the nations to trade there.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
said he intended merely to refer to some of the military questions which had cropped up 1602 in the course of the debate. One of those questions was the surrenders of British troops which had taken place in South Africa. Those surrenders were one of the most unaccountable things connected with this war, and it was a question which should be most thoroughly inquired into. He believed that in many cases these captures resulted from the want of fire discipline on the part of the men who had been isolated, who wasted their limited supply of ammunition. With magazine rifles their ammunition supply was very easily fired away. In many of these surrenders the British troops seem to have expended their ammunition somewhat recklessly, and instead of being able to hold their positions by steady firing and the careful preservation of their ammunition, a very great deal was wasted, and consequently the men were put at an immense disadvantage. But, whatever the causes might have been, it seemed to him that the commanding officers who surrendered with those troops, and who were responsible for taking up those positions, and for the disposition of those troops, and making the preparations for the advance, should most unquestionably be court-martialed; because in a court-martial they got evidence which was sworn, and they could go thoroughly to the root of the whole question. He did not mean to say that officers who had been temporarily in command should be tried, but whoever was responsible for taking up the position and the disposition of the troops in the place where they were surprised or captured should be tried by court-martial in the same way as a captain was tried for the loss of his ship. He believed that that rule in the Navy had been of the utmost importance in maintaining that firm determination to die rather than to surrender. With regard to the treatment of their men in South Africa, whatever failure there had been was the result of having to put something like 220,000 men in the field when they were only prepared to put perhaps 30,000 or 60,000 men in the field. Therefore, it was clearly attributable to their faulty system. If there had been unnecessary suffering for want of proper medical treatment it was clearly the fault of their system and not the fault of individuals. Personally he believed that their medical officers did the very best that was within their power. It had 1603 been found necessary to attach young doctors to the service to meet the emergency. In any future reorganisation of the Army Medical Department he trusted that those responsible would take into consideration the advisability of giving to the Army medical officers more experience in the treatment of the various diseases and of wounds than they had in the past. He would suggest that in the future the Army Medical Staff should be able to go to the London hospitals or hospitals in other towns in order to increase their knowledge; where they would be face to face with the teachings of modern medical science and so increase their knowledge and improve their power of taking care of the officers and men in the Army. The hon. Member for Central Sheffield had referred to scouting. He wished to say that if scouting was to be properly done they would have to adopt an entirely new system. As one who had been a commanding officer he could say that not only was there no proper encouragement given under the present system for training in this most valuable part of cavalry manœuvres, but there was no proper time set apart for this important work. Scouting meant that they must use their horses and travel over a very large extent of country. He knew a case where a commanding officer was exceedingly keen about scouting, but when his regiment came to be inspected he was not praised for his scouting, but he was blamed because his horses were not in such a good condition. Practical scouting work meant incessant work for both horses and men, for they must be out all day, and they would have to put aside a great deal of show. Regiments were never praised for scouting work, and they never got any credit for it. If they were going to teach their cavalry how to scout well, and their infantry to shoot well, and to teach both how to use a spade and to be able to shelter themselves behind entrenchments they must entirely change the whole system, so that commanding officers would be encouraged to train in this respect. They would have to change the generals who were to judge these commanding officers. They required an entire change of system, and they must put aside something of the show of the Army and look more to the practical side and judge regiments more by their real work. Many 1604 clouds were rising on the horizon. The Secretary of State said that we have no field army at home. He unhesitatingly said that the money which had been spent in forming Reserve battalions had been simply wasted. The Under Secretary had spoken of the men who would soon return to this country from South Africa. We might find ourselves face to face with a war against a great continental nation. Therefore, it was necessary that those men should take their places immediately in a great framework. Those troops would return to this country simply as battalions, and there would really be no proper field force in this country. Nobody could doubt the ability of the Under Secretary for War, and the War Office could not have found a more able and brilliant advocate, for they all recognised his ability. They all recognised his power and his devotion to the work, but he would go so far as to say that he believed, in this critical time, when they had a great war on their hands in South Africa, and when there was a possibility of a rising in China, it would have been better for this country if no such able advocate as the Under Secretary had been found to defend the War Office. In that case the War Office, in all its nakedness, would have been before the country; but the hon. Gentleman had, by his skill and gift of language, thrown a screen over the War Office and over its misdoings which to him was a proof of his great ability and his great talent, but he ventured to say that those abilities might be to the detriment of his country.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
Several hon. Members who have spoken have made a demand that some guarantee should be given by the Under Secretary with regard to an inquiry into the mistakes that have been made in the course of the South African campaign. The demand for that inquiry has been made not from this side of the House alone but also from hon. Members on the opposite side, and this demand is shared by all parties in the State and by public opinion outside. There have been mistakes in the course of this campaign in South Africa which have been absolutely inexcusable. We have had surrenders, disasters, and mistakes which, to put it mildly, call for the closest inquiry. In my humble judgment the Government are not to be blamed for tactical mistakes, but they are to be blamed if they do not 1605 realise that there is an opinion outside which demands a fuller inquiry than that which has yet been promised into these disasters. The Magersfontein disaster and others present themselves vividly to our minds. Some well-informed persons hold the opinion that those disasters could have been avoided, and they also consider that the enormous number of men who have surrendered is something extraordinary and demands an explanation. We are entitled to demand before this debate closes some assurance from the Government that those generals who have made these mistakes will have to pay the penalty of those errors which have resulted in the loss of so many valuable lives. My complaint is that, instead of making these inquiries, the men who have made these mistakes have been given important appointments simply because they have made those mistakes. Some of them have been given most important commands over here. Do the Government think that that is going to satisfy public opinion? Here you have men who have undoubtedly been the cause of these disasters in South Africa, who have been recalled, and they have been given most important commands over here. No doubt the War Office may be able to give a proper explanation of their attitude upon this matter, but public opinion outside is entitled to say that, until we know that the inquiry has been held and its result made known, and until we know what evidence has been given on behalf of these men, they certainly ought not to be entrusted with important commands in this country. We have not had a full and square promise from the Government of any such inquiry into these mistakes. It will not do to let this matter go on for a year or two. The public opinion of Scotland will not be satisfied about Magersfontein until we know who is responsible for that great mistake. And so with the other unfortunate disasters of the campaign. One fact which this debate brings home to our minds more clearly is the gigantic nature of the task which this House committed itself to when it passed £10,000,000 for the South African campaign. It has shown us that we must not attach too much importance to what Gentlemen say from the Front Bench as to what a war is going to cost. The Leader of the House has said that upon this subject the Government knew no more than the 1606 man in the street. They asked us for £10,000,000 for a start, and here we are nine or ten months afterwards, and we have got up to £61,000,000, which we are told is required to provide for the campaign up to the end of February next. I have one or two questions to ask about that. We ought upon such an occasion as this to have, with the sources of information at their disposal, something like a reliable opinion as to how long this war is going to last. I notice that the Under Secretary smiles at that question, but we are generally treated with a smile when we ask for information. If the Minister responsible comes down here and asks for another £11,000,000 after the war has been going on for eight months, is it too much to ask whether he considers this amount is going to be sufficient?
§ MR. DALZIEL
I have read the Parliamentary Paper, and I could not possibly have made that mistake, for I have heard the different interruptions made by the hon. Member in the course of this debate. I did not assume that all this money was for the carrying on of the war, but what I want to know is whether the hon. Gentleman intends coming down again for any additional sum for the South African campaign. Will he promise us that we shall have no more demands made upon us for this war?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Upon the introduction of this Estimate, I stated that there were two factors which could not be determined, and they were China and South Africa. I stated that in regard to these two factors it was impossible to give an accurate forecast of our requirements beyond the end of February.
§ MR. DALZIEL
The hon. Member says that he does not know, so far as China is concerned, what is going to happen, and we are all painfully aware of that fact. We shall know more about it when this Parliament is a little older. The hon. Member will not, of course, be able to give us an absolutely authoritative opinion as to how long the war is going to last, but we have a right to expect, now that we have both capitals in our hands and over 200,000 men on the spot, an opinion as to whether or not we are to be asked for another Estimate. We 1607 are asked to pass this money, and in the view of the Government it will provide for the campaign up to the end of February. But why to the end of February? I presume this House will meet again about the middle of January, and why should we provide to the end of February, when most people expect that the House will before that time be called upon to vote that money if it is found to be necessary? The Government have no right to make such a demand upon the House of Commons. They have a right to ask for sufficient money to provide for their requirements to the end of this session, and until the ordinary time which Parliament assembles. I should like the Under Secretary to give us a little more information on that point. With regard to the gratuities, I do not know whether they are intended to be a complete Estimate so far as this campaign is concerned. I trust also that the War Office will give their close attention to the question of the treatment of the sick and wounded on their return from South Africa. Anyone who goes about very much must have noticed the sickening spectacle of so many wounded soldiers and officers who are to be met with everywhere, and who bring painfully to mind the effects of this campaign. I think the Government will be supported by public opinion and by all parties in anything they may do to provide for the comfort of these men in the future. We know that at present there is a lot of sympathy for them, but not much money, and I desire that the Government should appoint a special Committee to inquire into the manner in which these wounded soldiers are to be provided for when this campaign is over. It will take a great deal of money to provide for these unfortunate men in a proper manner. We all know that, at the time a large number of these deaths took place in the war, almost invariably a certain amount of money was due to these soldiers. I wish to ask what steps the Government take in the case of privates to whom sums of money are due at the time of their death. I understand that the practice has been to advertise in certain newspapers, which are not always read by the people who should benefit by the amount that is due to these privates. I would suggest to the Under Secretary that he should give his consideration to this question, in order to make it easier for the relatives of deceased soldiers to 1608 know what amount of money can be claimed. With regard to remounts, I should like to ask whether proper precautions are taken, in connection with the purchase of horses, to see that they are satisfactory from the point of view of the country to which they are being sent and the nature of the campaign which they have to undergo. I know that in certain parts of Scotland certain gentlemen paid prices for horses which were altogether beyond the mark. A large number of the horses purchased on behalf of the War Office were sent to Liverpool, and a large number of them were never shipped at all, but were rejected upon arrival at Liverpool. I should also like to know whether the Under Secretary is prepared to meet the demand which has been made in reference to this disparity in the pay of the soldiers in South Africa. It is a curious thing that Tommy Atkins, who has gone from this country, only gets about 1s. 3d. per day, whereas if he happened to have enlisted in South Africa, he would have got something like 5s. or 5s. 6d. a day. I do not wish to underestimate the loyalty of our Colonial troops, but if a Colonial soldier is paid 5s. a day for doing the same work as Tommy Atkins, I think there is a case made out for an increase in the pay of Tommy Atkins. I should like the Under Secretary to tell us how it comes about that our Colonial troops are paid so much more than our own privates, and I should be interested to hear whether he can give some increased pay to these men who are so nobly fighting our battles. I have only one other question to ask, and it is whether the Under Secretary contemplates that there will be complete provision made for China so far as this Vote is concerned. I asked this question before, but I did not receive a satisfactory reply. It seems to me that the Government have totally failed to realise the importance of the situation. If the Government had been fully alive to the situation I do not believe that the present state of affairs would have occurred at all. I do not believe, if the Government had shown a little more foresight, that all this valuable time would have been lost, which has resulted, it must be feared, in the unfortunate massacres at Peking. I do hope that the Under Secretary will give us some sort of assurance that the Government are fully alive to their responsibilities in regard to China.
§ * MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said he wished to call attention to the treatment of the 13th Imperial Yeomanry, commonly called "The Duke of Cambridge's Own," who were captured at Lindley and taken prisoners by the Boers. No doubt they had to surrender through no fault of their own, but they did expect that when those men had been captured they should be treated with a little humanity by the enemy, for all Boer prisoners had been treated by this country with great consideration. When the 13th Imperial Yeomanry arrived at Kroonstad they received an order from General Colville at Lindley to proceed to join him at Lindley, which was forty miles distant, on the following day. They had already ridden fifteen miles, but they set off immediately and rode through the whole of the night and arrived at Lindley on the Sunday morning. The advance guard entered the town without seeing any of the enemy and expected to find there the general who had sent for them. But no such general was there, and they had not been given a word of warning. The Boers had obscured themselves inside the houses and they waited until the advance guard arrived in the market place when they deliberately fired them down. The colonel saw his advance guard in trouble and so he withdrew his force and secured a good position behind two kopjes. There his little band of between some 300 and 500 men, who had started out with only one day's rations, had to fight for four days and four nights against the Boers without the assistance of artillery, although the Boers used artillery against them. At last all their ammunition was spent and they had to surrender. During those four days Colonel Spragge sent off messengers to where he supposed Colonel Colville would be to tell him he was in trouble. His message was conveyed to Lord Methuen, who arrived at Lindley only to find that the rebel forces had left and had taken the Yeomanry as prisoners off to Reitz. They were then taken across the Vaal into the Transvaal and they crossed the line before General Buller arrived there. They must have been taken a distance of about 150 miles, and they had heard nothing about them since. It was some seven weeks ago that this surrender took place, and they had no information up to this very date as to whether these English prisoners were 1610 compelled to march the whole of that distance on foot, or how they got there at all. They knew that a great many of them were weak and sick, and had to be left behind. The prisoners who were left at Reitz were put over the Natal border, and arrived at Ladysmith in a starved and naked condition. They had been credibly informed that there was nothing like adequate medical service where the British prisoners had been confined, and that the food supplied them was inferior and insufficient. It seemed to him that they ought to be able to alleviate all this suffering in some way. In the same papers which told them of this want of information in regard to these prisoners they were informed that from day to day Boer prisoners were well treated, and that even the Boers were able to obtain medical assistance and medical comforts for their wounded from the British troops. He knew that the Under Secretary had sent a telegram to the Boers.
§ * MR. KIMBER
said he was aware that if an English messenger was sent unarmed he might be refused admission, and might be shot as a spy, but had the Foreign Office made any real effort? Was the Foreign Minister willing to give him a letter if he would undertake to find someone who would try and get it through to the enemy? It was an extraordinary thing that seven weeks should have elapsed without being able to get any information as to the condition of those unfortunate prisoners, and he thought they were entitled to expect some better effort on the part of the War Office. If the War Department could not do it why not try another department? He trusted that some method would be found by which information could be obtained in regard to those unfortunate prisoners of war.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I am most unwilling to add to the long list of question's which the Under Secretary has to answer. We have had three Army Estimates in which the expenditure relating to the war in South Africa has been dealt with, but I have not been able to gather from the statement made to-night what will be the total normal expenditure on the Army for this year apart from China and apart from South Africa, and I also want to know what is the normal expenditure which we may expect next year and the year 1611 following. I daresay the hon. Member will be able to give us that figure without much trouble. We have lately been discussing the Navy Estimates, and we know that this year, taking into account the expenditure on naval works, the Navy expenditure amounts to £30,000,000. I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us in the same way, including the expenditure on military works, what he estimates to be the total expenditure of the Army for this year. We want to know what we have got to look forward to. That is the only specific question which I wish to address to the hon. Gentleman, but there are one or two other points upon which I should like to say a few words. A good deal has been said about the necessity of an inquiry into the general conduct of the war. My right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke in a rather depreciatory manner of inquiries which were made under similar circumstances, but he showed very clearly that the Government began with what was equivalent to a promise that there should be a general inquiry into the whole conduct of the campaign. I will assume, for the purpose of my present argument, that this war was inevitable, and that the diplomacy of the Colonial Secretary had nothing whatever to do with it, and that it was forced upon us by actions for which we in this country were not responsible, but of which we had an intelligent anticipation. One of the subjects of such an inquiry would undoubtedly be the preparation made for this "inevitable" war by those who twelve months ago were in charge of the destinies of the Empire. I have endeavoured to procure some evidence bearing upon that point, and the hon. Gentleman has answered the inquiry I made by the Return which he gave the other day about the amount of warlike stores which had been borrowed by the Army from the Navy. That Return was estimated to the end of the year, and, therefore, I am not surprised that the amount is very small. I thought the Army had borrowed from the Navy to a much larger extent than this account shows. At the bottom of the Return there is a note which says—"No information has been received as to the amount of ammunition, stores, spare parts, &c, transferred in South Africa." Until we know how much the Army had to borrow from the Navy in South Africa, we are not in a position to say how much the Army was behind its 1612 proper state of preparation and how much it had to depend on the Navy at the beginning of the campaign. About six months ago we not only had to borrow naval guns for land service, but we had to borrow searchlights, and the hon. Gentleman could not give me any information as to why the Army had to borrow searchlights. Therefore, until that Return is made complete by including South African borrowings as well as others, we cannot say how much the preparations of the Navy contributed to make up for the want of preparation of the Army in the initial stages of this war. If there is to be a kind of general inquiry, this ought to be one of the subjects to be inquired into. Surely when the opinion of the country has got to be taken upon the policy of Her Majesty's Government in South Africa, one of the things upon which the country should be advised is not merely the state of your medical arrangements, upon which you have appointed a Royal Commission, but also the general preparation of the Government for this campaign and the general conduct of it. I do not see how this House can come to any conclusion on the subject unless that information is before us. Not only is a general inquiry desirable and necessary, but if I may venture to sp3ak of the examples set by the little connection I have had with the sister service, I should say there is a case for demanding a special inquiry into these disasters.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
If one of Her Majesty's ships is lost or stranded, that is a crime on the part of the officer whose negligence has caused it, for which that officer can be put on his trial. It is a crime followed by severe punishment if any person deliberately or by negligence loses or hazards one of Her Majesty's ships. There is another provision which says that where no specific charge can be brought against any officer or man the charge is to be preferred against all of them, and all of them may be called upon to answer that charge. I do not know enough about military law to say whether there is any similar provision for the Army, but I cannot for my life distinguish 1613 between the losing, hazarding, or stranding of a ship and the loss of a convoy or a regiment, or one of those disasters which have occurred so often in the course of this war. Let me take a specific instance. One of the earliest disasters in this war was the disaster at Nicholson's Nek. Sir George White, the commander in charge there, most gallantly and honourably took upon himself the whole responsibility for that failure. I well remember the vindictiveness with which the disappointed stockbrokers and halfpenny newspapers attacked Sir George White when all that was known of the facts was simply that the disaster had occurred and that Sir George White took the whole responsibility. Sir George White was afterwards locked up in Ladysmith, but that does not do away with the necessity for an inquiry. What has happened since? I will not dwell upon the jingo ovations which Sir George White received upon his arrival in this country from those people who formerly denounced him, which I think he accepted much too readily. Surely the man who was responsible for that disaster should not have gone about receiving these compliments for what he had done. Surely something is duo to the Army and the country in a matter of this kind. Sir George White, having gone through these ovations, has now been appointed to a high command, and I do not believe there has been any inquiry into this loss at Nicholson's Nek, which is on all fours with the loss of Her Majesty's ship "Victoria," which was commanded by Sir George Tryon. I notice that there are some hon. and gallant Members present who have been connected with the Navy, and I would ask them what would have happened if Sir George Tryon had survived the terrible disaster in the Mediterranean? Supposing he had come forward and said, "Nobody is to blame but myself," would he not have been put on trial? Would there have been no inquiry? Not only would there have been an inquiry, but every officer on board would have been put upon trial. This is the discipline of the Navy, and I do not know why similar discipline should not prevail in the Army. If discipline in the Army is the same as discipline in the Navy, then I would ask why that which would undoubtedly have taken place in the Navy has not taken place in the Army. Has it taken place or is it going to take place? I do not 1614 know whether any hon. Member will say that there is any real difference between the responsibility of an officer at Nicholson's Nek and the responsibility of a naval officer on the "Victoria," which was lost six years ago. I will leave the point where it is, trusting that the hon. Gentleman in his reply will say something about it. The only other observation I want to make relates to the status of officers in Her Majesty's Army. I addressed some observations to the Committee on that subject six months ago, at the beginning of the session. At that time disasters like that of Nicholson's Nek were fresh in the memory of the people, and had made a vast impression on them. They had made the impression that however good the rank and file might be the officers did not appear to be adequate to the work. It was not my impression, but I could easily refer to the journalistic literature of the time to show that that was the general impression. I call the hon. Gentleman's attention to this, that vastly important as the duties of an officer of the Army are, we appear for many years past, although purchase has been abolished, to have limited ourselves to a smal class of the population for recruiting the officer staff of the Army, and we have done so by the most reprehensible and the most vulgar of all possible standards. We have established between the safety and honour of the country and the Army an ignoble and detestable standard—the money competency of the officer. We know that, in the main, our system up to this point has apparently been that no man shall serve the Queen as an officer unless he has, in addition to the meagre pay provided for him in the lower ranks, an income of his own sufficient to defray the customary expenses of his position. I say, from the information I have, and which I believe still to be true, that we pay salaries to the officers which are too small, and that in the face of these small salaries we permit and even encourage expenditure which is incompatible with life in the service. No man but a rich man can enter the Army—no man, I believe, who is not in a position to have something from his parents or relations in addition to his pay, and the hon. Gentleman himself was candid enough to acknowledge the truth of this indictment, so far as the cavalry is concerned. I venture to doubt whether the hon. Gentleman remembers it, because he has shaken 1615 his head. I remember very well, with regard to the cavalry, he said it was a scandal that a man could not be an officer unless he had £500 a year. Has he done anything to amend that state of things? Has the Government, which through him acknowledged this scandal in the cavalry six months ago, done anything to remove that scandal? The hon. Gentleman is apparently inclined to deny my right to refer again to the matter. The cavalry is an important arm, and the weakness of the cavalry is one of the causes of the disasters we have suffered in this war. and in the face of history I am entitled to repeat what I said before. Now we know that that which was an admitted scandal six months ago in the cavalry is a scandal still, and unless we have some assurance on that point from him I must assume that it is the intention that it shall remain. The cavalry is not the only branch of the service in which this so-called scandal obtains. I consider it is a scandal in any branch of the Army if an officer from his earliest days is not able to live on his pay so as to meet all the expenses which are customary and proper. I should like to impress upon the House that this is not a matter of scandal merely, but it is a matter of safety. I have seen many letters in the newspapers on the subject, and one in particular struck me. It was from one who described himself as "A Country Gentleman." It was a groat grievance to him that he could no longer afford to pay his family in the Army. It goes far beyond that. Not only has a country gentleman the light to send his son into the Army, but the country gentleman's gardener or any other servant has the right to do the same, and if a young man has the right to take that position he should be paid in a manner to enable him to live. If you do not do that you are barring talent out of the Army, as in so many other branches of the public service, on the vulgar ground that the person possessing it has not money enough to support the position. I want to press the hon. Gentleman for an answer on this matter, which I pronounce to be not only a scandal but a danger to the public safety.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think those who have listened to the last speech, and who remember what I ventured to say in introducing this Vote in the afternoon, will almost agree with me that I was well advised in making a self-denying ordi- 1616 nance when I said that I did not intend to repeat the things I said on the previous Estimates. What is the use of such repetition? This question of the pay of officers in the Army, and more particularly of the cavalry officers, I have dealt with on the Estimates at an earlier period. Moreover, I have gone further than the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the Committee, for I have made a calculation by which I find that, quite apart from any expenditure on pleasure, the cavalry officer who lived the life of a convict, and never went out of his barracks, would have to spend about £130 a year out of his own money, in addition to his pay, in order to discharge his obligations. The hon. Member has, if the term is not an un-Parliamentary one, made an Old Bailey point. ("Hear, hear," and cries of "Order.") I thought I was entitled to use that expression. The hon. Member said "What have you done?"
§ MR. WYNDHAM
And therefore by that it appears he means that the Committee are to hold that a Supplementary Estimate is the proper instrument for bringing forward a legislative proposal which affects the Estimate of the year; he knows perfectly well, however, that there is no precedent to justify the bringing forward any proposal—such as, for example, the granting of a further allowance to officers in their quarters or any similar proposal which might diminish the charge falling on them, except upon the Estimates of the year; he knows perfectly well that until the Estimates of the year fall in no Minister would tell the Committee in one financial year what the department were likely to propose in the next financial year. The whole of the last six minutes of his speech were devoted to a point which I really do not think ought to be made in that Committee when they are assembled here to deal with another matter. I should like to thank my right hon. and gallant friend the Member for North-east Manchester for the generous and most just reply which he made to certain attacks which have this evening been directed against the Secretary of State for War. I think that the language he used was so good that. his sentiments [laughter]—yes, it is not an easy thing to repel attacks of the kind that have been delivered. [Mr. MACNEILL interjected a remark which 1617 did not reach the gallery.] I hope that the hon. Gentleman opposite will not interrupt me. The words which fell from my right hon and gallant friend were, I think, echoed in the sentiments of all those who listened to him. Let us consider the nature of these attacks. It is said that the Secretary of State for War has been in office five years, and that he has not achieved everything which ought to have been achieved. But during the whole of the debate Member after Member has risen and said that my noble friend has done more than any of his predecessors upon the very question of the Army Medical Corps, which has been in the forefront of the discussion. One Member said, "You should return to the regimental system" Another said, "You should not have given titles to the Royal Army Medical Corps." Proposals have been made, but they have been diverse and even opposite. We have the assurance from the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire that more has been done for the Royal Army Medical Corps by the present Secretary of State than any other. Then, again, I ask, what is the use of coming down with all this against the Secretary of State for War because the establishment of the Army Medical Corps is not adequate to the situation? He has proposed an establishment higher than ever previously existed and has not been able to obtain the number of officers he requires. It is said that the rewards that are offered are not sufficient, but, acting on the advice of his military advisers, he has gone further than any of his predecessors in the way of offering inducements to tempt young physicians to enter the Army Medical Corps. When it is a matter of common knowledge that the great medical schools have boycotted the Royal Army Medical Corps for years in order to exact, if I may put it so, military rank, and when their wishes have been met by the Secretary of State for War, is it fair to attack the Secretary of State because he has not sufficient officers to meet the situation? I will not dwell upon this, for the point has already been threshed out, and what is to be said on either side is well known to every member of the Committee. In view of the efforts made to increase the Army Medical Corps, in view of the fact that the establishment voted has not been reached, I myself am convinced that this is one of those questions of reorganisation which demand from us our most 1618 careful attention and most strenuous effort at the end of the war. But we cannot do this now. In my belief no increase of pay, no exaltation of rank can be expected in time of peace to attract a sufficient number of young, keen and ambitious men to fill up the places that must be filled up in time of war. You might offer a young man £500, £700, or £800 a year, but he is not going to bury himself under a cloud in time of peace at any military centre to attend a few hundred men suffering from the customary ailments of this country. He wishes to work in the country. He is perfectly ready to work for little or no remuneration in the slums of a great city or in the wards of a great hospital. He wants the practice and experience necessary for a successful career. Therefore, I have myself come to the conclusion that instead of striving to expand the establishment of the Army Medical Corps in time of peace to be adequate for the time of war, it will perhaps be necessary to have a very efficient and highly trained Army Medical Corps, and to make application to the great hospitals throughout the country to know in time of peace what men will be ready in time of war, or when you have a great concentration of troops in camp, to come forward and work for the Army as they would work in a great city in time of pestilence. I do not know whether this is the opportunity for submitting such conclusions, but some such idea as that must underlie the whole of our future policy in respect to the Army. If it is impossible in time of peace to secure men for your establishment it will also be difficult in time of war. You must secure doctors and chaplains in time of peace by means of a retaining honorarium, and claim their services in time of Imperial crisis. After what I have said, I think hon. Members generally must feel that the attacks upon the 'Secretary of State are most unjust. Since he has been responsible for the War Office, before the war or the rumour of war, my noble friend, with the Under Secretary, now at the Foreign Office, was able to persuade Parliament to increase the home establishment by 25,000 men; they secured the great measure for acquiring land on Salisbury Plain at a great cost; they have provided more money for rifle ranges than any of their predecessors; they undertook the question of coast armaments, and millions have been voted year 1619 by year to give the country modern guns in place of the obsolete armaments we found when the present Government took office. I could go on, but I have travelled over that ground before, but I do feel that it is unjust and unfair to attack the present Secretary for War, who in his period of office has really done more than any of his predcessors in the way of bringing points before Parliament and getting them settled. There is really nothing to add upon this, but there is another point upon which I have a word or two to say. Rumours have from time to time reached me, and I am glad at last to know what really is the charge made against the exercise of the censorship in South Africa. There has been a great deal of mystification over it, and when I said in the debate the other day that letters of pressmen had not been censored, I was rudely interrupted. In order that the House should be in full possession of the facts the correspondence as to the exercise of the censorship has been published, and it contains a very clear letter from Sir Redvers Buller, in which he said that no man liked interfering with the correspondents less than he did, but that he found that without the censorship his plans were invariably disclosed, but that when it was applied a few days before an important operation his plans were not disclosed, and were therefore successful. Can it be said, when the total of our casualties amounts to 20,000 or 30,000 men, that such an exercise of the censorship is unreasonable? So far, the hon. Member for Forfar agrees with me, I believe.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was on my motion on behalf of an hon. friend that that correspondence was produced?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Yes, after I had offered it three or four times. Although many questions of a vague character were addressed to me about the censorship no very great keenness was exhibited to come down to the facts; and I am not surprised, for what are the facts? This correspondence was published, and the hon. Member has to-night disclosed the whole of this atrocious business. He said there had been a political meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel, attended by twenty Liberal Members, and that a message was sent to South Africa and had not been delivered there. I at once interrupted the hon. Member, and said that if these charges were made they must 1620 be made specifically; that the Government must be told what that message was; and the hon. Member was good enough to read the terms of that message.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, did he not know that the question I addressed to him to-night had been put on the Paper of the House addressed to him?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I did not remember that, but I am very glad the hon. Member has given the terms of the message tonight. I cannot really carry them all in my head, but some of them were to the effect that twenty Liberal Members of Parliament in favour of a vigorous Liberal policy wished to express their sympathy for the Dutch in the strain to which they were subjected.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
If the hon. Gentleman quotes, perhaps he would be kind enough to quote correctly. The terms were "Dutch colonists," "subjects of the Queen in South Africa."
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is the whole point of it. The hon. Member asks whether there would be any objection to such a message being published in this country. None at all. It is in terms to which we often listen in this House; but if the hon. Member were himself the censor in South Africa, and he found 10,000 of these very Dutch in a state of rebellion, and some 30,000 or 40,000 more trembling on the verge of rebellion and being persuaded to take the fatal step by precisely that kind of inducement, would he not have hesitated before publishing it? Of course he would. He would have said "This is not a telegram which ought to be published at Aliwal North." The hon. Member gave another illustration. He said that a telegram from General Joubert to Lady Symons had been presented in an altered form. He read the telegram in the form in which it was received. No word which redounded to the good judgment and good heart of General Joubert had been omitted. The words omitted were those which declared that the whole of the war was due to the unscrupulous operations of speculators on the Stock Exchange.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member for South Donegal has made himself responsible on more than one occasion for that preposterous statement.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It does no harm in this country, but in Natal, where the loyalist farmer was having his farm burned down, where he was being told that the game was up and that the Dutch were going to sweep the British into the sea, that the British were an effete race and had no soldiers at their command and were the mere tools and playthings of these imaginary speculators, the effect would be very different, and I ask again, would the hon. Member, had he been censor, have permitted that message to be published?
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
The hon. Gentleman asked whether I would have allowed the first telegram to be published in Aliwal North. That means, would I have allowed it to be published in a district under martial law. That does not meet my point at all. That telegram was stopped altogether, and was not published at all. I quoted it to prove that the censorship was not merely military, but was also political.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman interrupted me. It is a perfectly clear issue. He thinks the message to which he referred ought to have been delivered. On the other hand, I think it ought not. I do not think that hon. Members can persuade the House that messages of that character should be published, and I am glad to find that there is no more in the suspicions that have been entertained. Now to come to the broader question of an inquiry. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean appeared to agree with me that the time for an inquiry and the publication of the despatches had not arrived. But, as to the censorship, the right hon. Gentleman said that the press messages as to the battle at Nicholson's Nek and Lombard's Kop, in the earlier stage of the war, were censored. I have no doubt they were, and I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me that, if Sir George White had permitted information as to the extent of the loss sustained by an army that was being invested, and which, as a matter of fact, was invested for four and a half months, to be given to the outside world, and the straits in which he was placed, he would not have been able to keep the enemy at bay. These questions are not so simple as they seem. They cannot be deckled by laying down a broad proposition and by saying this ought to be published and 1622 this ought not. Some amount of discretion must be vested in our officers. It may be asked, did they exercise that discretion wisely?
§ * SIR. CHARLES DILKE
I only used that fact regarding the censorship as showing that we knew none of the facts with regard to the battle, and that we did not know them now.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I think what was said with regard to the letters from Lady-smith rather completes the case as to the censorship. Whether hon. Members thought that the military authorities were right or wrong, no doubt such communications as those referred to by the hon. Member for Forfar were suppressed as well as communications as to the state of the Army in Ladysmith. That was the story of the censorship, and on the facts as stated by the Opposition, I say the proper course has been followed. The right hon. Baronet asked, however, and quite rightly, "Are we never to know the real state of the case?" Of course we are.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member for South Donegal has Koorn Spruit on the brain. I do not mind taking Koorn Spruit as an illustration of my argument. The hon. Member for South Donegal believes that the Secretary of State and myself have been in possession during the last few months of a mass of detailed information on everything that took place at Koorn Spruit. Although the War Office promised a despatch on the subject two months ago, no despatch arrived until about a week ago. The reason given for not sending the despatch earlier was that although a Report had been received from General Broadwood, Lord Roberts did not feel justified in commenting upon it until he had made personal inquiries into all the facts among the officers engaged.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Might I ask, then, how it comes to pass that in connection with the engagement at Koorn Spruit no fewer than four Victoria Crosses were advertised a fortnight ago, with all the details set out, if we know nothing about the despatch?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It is a matter of universal practice to confer the rewards for individual acts of gallantry on the 1623 field on the immediate recommendation of officers. There can be no doubt about the gallantry of men who risk their lives to save the guns, when that act is witnessed by one hundred and fifty persons; but as to the action itself there may be the gravest doubt as to the apportionment of the blame, if blame has to be apportioned, between the general in chief command and the subordinate officers. The Commander-in-Chief was well advised after receiving General Broadwood's despatch in waiting for the opportunity to examine the officers commanding the regiments of cavalry and the battery of artillery. It does not follow that because Lord Roberts's despatch was received a week ago that this is the moment for publishing it to the House and to the world. I do not think it is. The despatches do not arrive in chronological order; and there is a great deal to be said against publishing the criticism of strategic and tactical operations in the field, while the officers concerned still retain the confidence of the Commander-in-Chief. Whether we are right or whether we are wrong, the Government do not propose to publish these despatches until the end of the war. ["Oh!"] At the end of the war there will be a full publication of all that bears upon these points which are of the greatest interest, and more particularly on the point that there have been very large surrenders on the part of out men. That is a question which must be most carefully and searchingly inquired into. No one feels that with greater conviction than the Government, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Adjutant-General; but that being so, how unfair would it not be to do anything which might prejudge the conclusions at which we should arrive? I do not think it will be found that our men have failed to show the stubbornness which characterised their forefathers; but whatever might be the result in the interests of the Army and the nation, the question should not be prejudged. The right hon. Baronet asked me pointedly whether there had not been a saving in connection with the Royal Reserve regiments which might be used as an appropriation in aid. There has not been any such saving, and the Reserves will cost all the money taken for them in the Estimates. I do not propose to reargue the question of the equipment of the Reserves. I have admitted that 1624 there have been hitches in supplying equipment and armament, but I have also said that these hitches have not been due to the fact that the equipment and armament were not obtainable, but to the fact that the applications had not been made at the proper time and to the proper quarter. It is a fact that in some of the military districts requests are not put forward with that promptitude and accuracy which are necessary, largely, because general officers commanding districts have been left so long without any responsibility and without the right to move a finger on their own behalf that the sense of responsibility and initiative is only coming to them somewhat slowly. In respect to one or two articles of equipment a portion of the delay has been due to the difficulty of getting supplies from the trade, but the greater part of it has been due to what I may call want of practice in the proper working of the powers conferred under the new system of decentralisation. I hope I have made that point clear to the Committee. The right hon. Baronet also asked a question as to what was being done in order to carry out the avowed intention of the Government with reference to making some provision for the widows of the men who have died in the war. That question is being worked out de die in diem, but it has not been possible to arrive at a solution or to frame a scheme in time for the present Estimate. The question will, however, be dealt with in the Estimate next year
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The point I put was a specific point as to the shortness of horses at the present time in the Orange Colony.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Now I recollect the right hon. Baronet's argument. It is not easy to carry all these arguments in one's mind. The right hon. Baronet's argument was an inference. He inferred from the disposition of the troops that had there been more remounts greater progress would have been made. I feel hardly justified in offering another set of hypotheses. All I know is that we have sent an enormous number of remounts to South Africa, and we have no reason to believe that we have not sent all the horses asked for. We have sent in all 111,000 remounts, including cavalry and mounted infantry horses. I see the Leader of the Opposition in his place. 1625 He asked me some questions in reference to our policy of reserves of stores. I would be glad to enter into the matter at greater length more gallant friend the Member for, Great Yarmouth, and, indeed, I think it is a subject which well deserves the attention of the Committee. I will not argue again whether the War Office has been in fault in not putting. this policy forward sooner, and I have shown it is not the outcome of this war, because it was commenced before the war. The policy is on all fours with the policy pursued in respect to the Navy—that is to say, a sum will be asked for in the Estimates next year as the first instalment of a total to be spread over three years, and when that sum is voted by a Committee of the House it will be held in respect to the Army as a sum is now held in respect to the Navy, and the Government and Parliament will be honourably pledged to the manufacturers of this country to continue the orders given to them on that basis. Having established that reserve by that means, the other part of the policy is that it should be automatically maintained at that level, and if that is done we will be in a better position than ever before if Imperial danger or emergency arises. If hon. Members who have not asked questions will bear with me, I will answer the hon. Members who have, although the answers may only be of interest to the particular hon. Members who put the questions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman for South-east Essex referred to what he called a policy of concealment, and also stated that the responsibility for the Koorn Spruit affair must be a matter of common knowledge to the troops in South Africa. I submit to the Committee that the fact that Lord Roberts himself, as Commander-in-Chief, was not able until the other day to come to a conclusion and felt it necessary to take a considerable amount of evidence on the matter shows that there has been no policy of concealment. Then my hon. and gallant friend entered into a somewhat pessimistic analysis of the number of troops whom we may expect to return from South Africa, and I think he took an unduly gloomy view of the situation. We have in South Africa now 150,000 Regulars. Of course a certain number of them are in the Reserve, but they will all return. Then as to the force at home. We have almost 1626 118,000 Regulars, 72,000 Militia, 8,000 Yeomanry, and 250,000 enrolled Volunteers. A good deal has been said in the course of the debate that the force at home is not a field force. In a sense, that is quite true; but did anyone expect that there would be a field force in this country when more than two army corps, a cavalry division, and troops for the lines of communication had been sent out? These are sometimes called admissions on the part of the Government. They are not admissions; they are statements of fact within the common knowledge of every Member of the House and of every man in the country who takes the slightest interest in military affairs. The fact is, we are approaching the standard of establishment which will enable us to send two army corps out of the country towards the end of a great naval struggle with a first-class Power. If we have sent that number of troops out of the country, it follows they do not remain in the country, and that the troops which are in the country are largely the machine which created that army, and which created and maintains the army in Egypt, India, and the Colonies. That machine is capable, stiffened as it is by the Royal Reserve— which for that purpose has been most valuable—of being moulded into a field force. On the question of the Army Medical Corps I think I have said all that need be said. Then my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Lincoln addressed a few questions to me. He asked me if the Volunteers and the Imperial Yeomanry would be allowed to go to their homes when invalided home. Yes, Sir, certainly. I may say that invalided soldiers come back automatically to hospital, and when they reach the convalescent stage they have the choice of either going into a convalescent home or returning to their own homes. A sum on account is given to a man in this position—not as a rule the whole of the arrears due to him, because it has been proved by experience that it is better to give a man £7 under such circumstances than to give him £15 or £20. The hon. Member for Wandsworth put a question on a subject which fills many of us with great concern, and which must command the marked sympathy of all. We know how many there are at present whose nearest and dearest relatives are in the sad situation of being prisoners in the hands of the Boers and the hon. 1627 Member, not at all unnaturally under the circumstances, asked whether the Government were doing all in their power in the matter. Yes, Sir, I think the Government is doing all that lies in its power in order to get correspondence and comforts and clothing to these prisoners. The question is not a very easy one. The hon. Member asked me why the War Office did not co-operate with the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office. That has been the procedure which has been followed since the very outbreak of the war for this very purpose. At the outbreak of the war President Kruger—acting, of course, well within his rights, since diplomatic relations necessarily ceased—declined to permit any emissary of the Government to have access, direct or indirect, to any British prisoner in the hands of the Boers, although he allowed Mr. Hay, the representative of the United States, to act as an intermediary—a concession which he was not bound to make. He also laid down that if any Government assistance were sent to the aid of the prisoners the Government of the South African Republic would no longer allow private assistance to reach them. Largely, however, through the efforts of Mr. Hay a better understanding was arrived at, and the conditions were somewhat modified. Consul General Croal, at Lorenzo Marques, was also able to be of great assistance as an intermediary, but, for reasons not within his knowledge, the President of the South African Republic would no longer permit Mr. Croal to act in that capacity, and stated that he wished all representations in respect to the prisoners to reach him through Lord Roberts. That being the wish of President Kruger we have asked Lord Roberts to spare no effort to secure the object which the hon. Member and all of us have so much at heart. With regard to China and the expeditionary force of 11,000 men which we are sending there, I have already explained that the money taken in this Estimate is sufficient for the prime and recurring charges of such a force, and an equal sum has been provided in case the situation in the Far East should demand considerable reinforcements. As to the question of policy, that is not one on which I am prepared to embark.
§ MR. WARNER
The discussion has travelled over such very wide grounds 1628 that I do not think it would be wise to press my motion for a reduction as a protest against the mismanagement of the War Office. I should, however, have liked to receive an answer to my accusation against the transport system in South Africa. It would have been more satisfactory if the Under Secretary for War could have contradicted my charge. I gather from letters I have seen that the majority of the forces under Lord Roberts have for the last three months been on half rations and without pay. That, I think, is evidence of a serious breakdown-Transport difficulties have also been responsible for a great reduction of hospital accommodation, and apparently, through some serious, some criminal mistake, the whole transport has been miserably inadequate. That is the charge I have made, and I am sorry it has not been contradicted. I should have been glad to press my motion for a reduction if it could have been taken as applying to the negligence of War Office officials and the Government, but, as the debate has. ranged over much wider grounds, I do not feel justified in pressing it, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
wished to say a few words as to the treatment of prisoners by the Boers. He thought the information recently received would scarcely tend to reassure the relatives in this country of prisoners held by the Boers. The hon. Gentleman had told them that communications with respect to prisoners must pass through Lord Roberts, and, if the statement was true that Lord Roberts had turned thousands of Boer women and children out of Pretoria, and driven them into the field of battle, it was very much to be regretted. They had been unable to get any information from the Government on the point, but he ventured to assert that such a barbarous and inhuman practice was altogether outside the usages of civilised warfare, and he doubted very much if ever before such a thing had been done by a civilised people. No one could doubt Lord Roberts's. courage, and no one had hitherto doubted his humanity, and he could only say that such conduct as this, if the charge were true, was the conduct of a panic-stricken 1629 soldier. The country ought to be reassured on this point, especially if we expected the Boers to extend decent treatment to the British troops they had captured. The Committee was now asked to vote a sum of eleven and a half millions. As to Members who had no expert knowledge of military affairs, it was impossible particularly as so much interest has been shown in it by my hon. and that they could pass any judgment on the details of the expenditure on Army organisation. But he, for one, did doubt very much whether we had got value for the money we had expended on our Army in past years. That expenditure for the past five years had ranged from seventeen to twenty millions annually, and the material result of the outlay was now concentrated in the Transvaal. Not only had we all our Army out there, hut we had got in addition large numbers of Yeomanry and colonists. Let the Committee contrast the results of our own outlay with what we saw our opponents doing in the Transvaal, and then he thought it would be admitted that everybody concerned in Army administration in this country ought to hide their heads in shame. The Government were now asking for exactly double the sum which the Transvaal Government had spent on its army during the last five years. That expanditure was £80,000 in 1895, £495,000 in 1896, £386,000 in 1897, and in no year had it been over a million. But, taking the total at five millions, it sufficed to enable the burghers to collect sufficient war material to hold the entire British Army at bay for ten months—an Army on which we had spent a hundred millions in the same period. And in addition we had incurred a war expenditure of sixty millions. We had been told that the Transvaal Government was a corrupt oligarchy, which pocketed half the money voted for public purposes. Therefore, half the five millions must have gone into the pockets of President Kruger and his colleagues, and that made the contrast all the more striking. We ought to bring this war to a speedy conclusion, not so much on account of the Boers, but to spare England the humiliation she was suffering in the face of the whole world by reason of the lamentable position of affairs in South Africa. It was admitted that we had 220,000 troops out there, while the Boers had only about 20,000. We had drawn 1630 our supplies from every country in the world; and our fleets were bringing them across every ocean, whereas the Boers had only the armaments and food supplies they were enabled to collect before the war started, and had only had five millions to spend on them. Yet they were still holding us at bay; they had frequently out-generalled us, and had often defeated us. He thought that the best thing this country could do would be to endeavour to come to honourable terms of peace as soon as possible, and to engage some of the Boer generals, like do Wet, to re-organise our Army and endeavour to place it on a more satisfactory footing.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said that, although the debate commenced at half-past four, that was the first opportunity Irish Members had had of voicing the views of their constituents, among whom were to be found the relatives of Irish soldiers whose lives had been so mercilessly, so cruelly, and so wickedly sacrificed in this atrocious guinea-pig war. He would be the last man in the world to complain of the attitude of the Under Secretary for War, who discharged his duties in so able and often-time in so sympathetic a way, but he did complain of the difficulty experienced in getting clear answers to questions, some of which he had repeatedly asked during the last sixmonths. The hon. Gentleman has been congratulated on his powers of splendid evasion. He believed the compliment was richly deserved. Splendid evasion has been the manner of the hon. Gentleman in answering the questions he had addressed to him. Splendid evasion! If he were less courteous he might describe it by another word. In order to show the hon. Gentleman that he was not afraid to speak what he could only insinuate through the medium of questions he would tell him what he meant in the plainest manner. He believed the War Office to be a hotbed of favouritism, corruption, and pollution. He, that afternoon, asked the hon. Gentleman whether the command of the Royal Irish Rifles, which had been rendered vacant by the death of the gallant soldier who led his regiment at Storm-berg and was fatally wounded, would be given to one of his Irish colleagues or to an Englishman. The hon. Gentleman would not tell him what it was proposed to do in the back parlour in Pall Mall against Irish soldiers. Was he justified when he said that it was an atrocious 1631 thing not to give the command to a compatriot of the officer who fell on the battle-field? This was the way that Irishmen in the field were treated. He wanted to put it plainly to the House. There was something to be said for passing over officers of the Royal Irish Rifles. They were Irishmen drawn from the small professional class. They were common fellows like himself, and they were passed over. He was justified in saying that the War Office system was one of corruption. The Irish Rifles were not the only persons who had something to complain of in connection with this unjust war. When the Inniskilling Fusiliers left Queenstown they were 1,145 strong, and he saw from the jingo prints that when the regiment turned up at Colenso, three weeks ago, there was only a remnant left. Two colonelcies became vacant, one by the death of Colonel Thackeray. Who received the rewards of valour in the field when these vacancies were filled? They were not Irishmen. The War Office was a sink of pollution. Now he came to another item. He was much obliged to the First Lord of the Treasury for not moving the closure. He was sure they would be pleased that he had something to say in favour of the right hon. Gentleman. The Under Secretary struggled in deep water about the Military Press censorship. The censor was a Whip of the Conservative Party, and so the office was well manipulated for political purposes. On the 6th March last Mr. Winston Churchill telegraphed from Natal that he had had an interview with Sir George White immediately after the relief of Ladysmith. That telegram was published in the Morning Post on 8th March. Sir George White said in that interview that he had been shamefully treated by the War Office; that he had been intrigued against by the War Office, and that he had been kept in his position by the most gallant Sir Redvers Buller. He asked the right hon. Gentleman about that telegram, and he assumed a mighty tone and would not answer. Sir George White had never denied that he used that observation, and Sir Redvers Buller had never stated that he did not protect Sir George White against the intrigue of the War Office. Was that the reason why Sir Redvers Buller was mentioned with censure in the Spion Kop despatches? These things were extremely interesting. He regarded Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary of State 1632 for War, as a gentleman who ought not to be entrusted with any public office. He would tell the Committee why. A gentleman who suggested to Sir Redvers Buller to re-write a despatch in order that the English public should get a garbled account of a transaction was unworthy of public confidence. As long as that gentleman occupied that position he did not consider that the life of any common soldier was in any degree in security. He believed that everything that was suppressed in the despatches was suppressed, not for strategic, but for political purposes. He supposed there was no man with a year's experience in the Army who did not believe in his heart and soul that Lord Methuen, the hero of Magersfontein, was a miracle of incompetency. The despatches that he first sent were never published. They were revised and edited in the War Office for public consumption. On 5th July the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, replying to the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth, said that many of the despatches in reference to the war would be published in a fortnight. Now they heard from the Under Secretary for War that the despatches were not to be published until the end of the war. That meant that they were not to be published before the General Election. The people were not to know how the campaign had been mismanaged. The Under Secretary had a kind of hankering after Koorn Spruit. Who was the officer guilty of the Koorn Spruit disaster? Their curiosity had been whetted by the Spion Kop despatches. The hon. Gentleman did not say it at the time, but it appeared that some great man had been involved in it. Who was the Koorn Spruit hero? Was not Lord Kitchener himself the Koorn Spruit hero? Why had Lord Kitchener's name been kept back? Why had not Colonel Long's despatch and his vindication of himself against the censure of Sir Redvers Buller not been published? It was scandalous that it had not been. On the first day of the engagement at Paardeberg there were 1,500 men disabled. It was the most disastrous day of the whole war. Lord Kitchener, and he alone, was in supreme command, and Lord Roberts' comments on Lord Kitchener had never been published. Lord Kitchener considered the lives of common soldiers just as an engine-driver 1633 considered the coal put into the furnace to be consumed in order to proceed a certain number of miles. As they were aware, medical officers protested against the insufficiency of ambulances, and wounded men had to travel down to the base hospital in Capo carts without springs. He felt he must apologise for pressing the hon. Gentleman for information on one matter. The hon. Gentleman was the last person in the world with whom he would like to quarrel; for he behaved in a manner of singular nobility to a political opponent some years ago when he was the subject of an abominable charge, and went into the box to support the evidence as to character. But would he not now do for Colonel Long, who was a gallant soldier, what he did for a political opponent in the Law Courts? Why had not Colonel Long's despatch been published? Would not Lord Lansdowne allow it? Sir Redvers Buller, in his despatch with reference to Colenso, censured Colonel Long, but said also he was too ill to give his own account. Well, Colonel Long had recovered, yet his account had never been published. On the previous day he gave the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord from memory an account of the various surrenders and captures of British troops by the Boers, from Nicholson's Nek down to Roodeval. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that some of the men so captured had been released, and were now actually engaged in hostilities. He was asked if before the men went back to duty an inquiry was held into the causes of their surrender or capture. He got no satisfactory reply, and he ventured to tell the right hon. Gentleman that if no inquiry had been held then there had been a gross violation of the Queen's Regulations. Was Lord Lansdowne, because he happened to be an Irish landlord, and a bad one, to be allowed to ride rough-shod over the Army Regulations? There was another instance he would like to inquire into. Just before Magersfontein a certain colonel refused to obey a command of Lord Methuen—"dashing Methuen," as he was called. The ground of the refusal was that his horses were worn out and that the men had long been without food. That colonel Gough had never been court-martialled, lest it should compromise Methuen. What influence was there behind Methuen, whose policy had resulted in a sacrifice of 1,500 human lives, in addition to the maiming of 3,000 men? Why was 1634 he being kept in office? Again, General Sir William Butler was kept in office solely because he would then be unable, without a breach of military discipline, to disclose the nature of the despatches he sent home in September last, describing his fears as to the campaign, and prophesying the calamities that would come from it. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, had shown delightful optimism throughout. In order to qualify for his office he was for some months a sub-lieutenant in a domestic regiment. He also went out to the Egyptian War and behaved very gallantly -but he must say he could not understand how anyone who had seen and realised what war was could talk so lightly, he had almost said so unfeelingly, of the miseries and trials of the men, and the tortures and agonies of their relatives at home. It was all owing to his hero worship of Cecil Rhodes. It was hateful to any man of sensibility that the lives and fortunes of our gallant fellows should be treated as mere pawns on the chessboard in the hands of incompetent and corrupt officials of the War Office, and that this should be done in the interests of society, and not of the people. He-remembered the delight shown in Radical circles when abolition of purchase in the Army was brought about, but he failed to see that the good anticipated had resulted, and he grieved to know that the lives of his fellow-countrymen had been sacrificed by the disastrous incompetence of an abominable, corrupt, and belated War Office.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said that when a. Vote was brought forward to increase the sum granted for war expenditure to. sixty-one millions, it was time that the Irish Members—the representatives of a. people and of a poor country wholly opposed to the war—should, even at that late hour, raises their voices in protest. The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in regard to the sacrifices involved in this war took his mind back to the days of Nero and Caligula. He could well imagine Nero in his palace, before ordering the wild beasts to be set free to spring upon the Christians, saying, in reply to some remonstrance which might have been addressed to him by one of his Ministers,. "What does it matter about the suffering of the people?" This was a question whether Paganism or Christianity was right; and we now had the Paganism of the 1635 twentieth century delivered by the Oracle at Birmingham. The Irish Members were asked that night to give their votes in favour of the continuance of a war founded upon most debased principles, and to vote for the war, although it had been proved that their countrymen had been among the bravest and the best. Let it not be supposed that in the protest they were offering they were insensible to the part which Irishmen had borne in the war. They regretted that the places of those who had fallen were not taken by comrades of their own blood, and that the promotion should be snatched by strangers. They also regretted that gallant soldiers—and this was a matter that must occupy a prominent place in the minds of Irishmen—who found themselves for a moment under a cloud had been hustled home and had not received the justice to which they were entitled under military law. Men who bore the scars of conflict, men in the position of Colonel Gough, had been driven into silence, while men who ordered the massacre of soldiers were allowed to remain in command. He did not blame the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War. He passed no comment on his conduct. He knew that no man could sympathise more than the hon. Gentleman with a gallant soldier, whether private or commander. Before he took the position to which he had been elevated he had known what it was to have a soldier's portion. Nor would he offer any criticism upon Lord Lansdowne. The noble Lord was an Irish landlord, and it might be supposed that in his criticism he might be influenced by the hostility that prevailed towards him. For his part he would never sever himself from any Irishman, whether Protestant or Catholic, Liberal or Tory. He was for Irishmen, and he said that no man who had the suggestion or shadow of disgrace placed upon his name should have been denied justice. They awaited justification. Fancy a man in the position of a commander of cavalry, having won his spurs on a hundred fields, being placed upon half-pay by the British Government, and denied the trial to which he would have been entitled if he had committed the lowest fraud known to a pawnshop. Where was the justification for this? He passed no criticism on Lord Methuen or Lord Roberts. He was not able to do so. He had not sufficient knowledge of 1636 military tactics, never having been with a squadron in the field, to say where the blame lay in these matters. He had read in The Times of the previous day a letter, signed "A," about the treatment of the Irish regiments at a place called Lindley. The writer said that his son was in that engagement. "A" was the initial of Lord Ashbourne, and that noble Lord had a son in an Irish Yeomany regiment. That Irish regiment, consisting of 800 gallant young men, on reaching Lindley found the place in the possession of the Boers. They held out for four days, being obliged to live on one spoonful of jam and two cups of coffee in the twenty-four hours, and in the end, when their ammunition gave out, they were obliged, after the loss of seventy five or eighty men killed, to submit to the last resort of brave men—surrender. This writer in The Times asked why it was that on board one of Her Majesty's ships the smallest matters were made the subject of court-martial, while in regard to matters of Army discipline high placed officials were simply ordered to return to their homes? He did not know. Whatever their political views might be, they were entitled to ask for executive justice, and, if necessary, for punitive justice in regard to all these matters. Let it not be supposed that, however much Irish Members were opposed to the war, their hearts did not thrill either with the defeat or victory of their fellow-countrymen. Much as he deplored the miseries of the war, much as he hated the very name of annexation, the conduct of the Irish regiments in the British service was as much a portion of the fame and glory of the Irish race as if they fought in the service of Ireland herself. Were all these matters to be passed over? He did not blame the Government when he came to the smaller matters of detail. Whether a wounded soldier had a blanket, or a waterproof sheet, or no sheet at all, was a matter that might be accounted for. If there was no doctor or stretcher-bearer at the moment, he was quite aware that there might be an explanation of their absence. But when they got an offender home in the cool of Fall Mall, a man under a cloud, why was his conduct not to be investigated? That was his presentation of the demand, and upon that matter he would say no more. He did not believe but that there might be exceptions, but, 1637 taking Ministers in the mass, they had no desire to turn this war to the benefit of the election. He believed if they took English Ministers for generations they would find that there was a tradition which descended to them and prevented them from availing themselves of the mere strategems of war for Party purposes. He passed from that and he came to the charge which fell upon Ireland in consequence of this Vote. He protested against it, firstly, as a charge which they should never have been called upon to bear, and secondly, as a charge out of which Great Britain had all the profit and Ireland all the loss. He would not go minutely into this question, but he thought it would be a profound stigma on the Irish name if they did not. when opportunity arose, offer some word of protest on this subject. Ireland could have no gain, no advantage, or honour from this war. We had spent £62,000,000. Where had the money gone? To every nation in Europe, to almost every nation under heaven. They had all gained some little thing out of this war, except Ireland. We had gone to Bohemia, Chicago, Germany, Austria, Franco and Italy, and we had even gone to Spain, but from the nation from which our most gallant soldiers were drawn we had bought an occasional horse when we could not buy one elsewhere. Outside of that, not a sixpence had been spent in Ireland. What was the inference to be drawn from these facts? Khaki tunics and cartridges could not be ordered, for some paltry excuse, and although Ireland was linked to this country it was not to be allowed to supply any of the goods for the purchase of which it was so heavily taxed. The Moors were linked with Spain for 700 years, but were put out in the end, and in a similar way the union between Great Britain and Ireland would be terminated unless the former changed her policy in these matters. They had been told that night that it would be necessary to maintain a garrison in South Africa for some years of 40,000 men.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Well, 30,000 men would, in future, have to be maintained in the Transvaal. Ireland would have to pay a proportion of the cost of that. They would have to pay for horses and provender, and for worsted stockings and khaki jackets for the use of men 1638 nurtured at the breasts of Irish mothers; but what were they to get out of it? If the war was a commercial investment what would be Ireland's share? The idea of a tax on the mines had been repudiated. The Government had now to take their orders from the mining classes. When the war broke out we were told there was something like a thousand millions of gold in the Transvaal. Two and a half per cent. on that would largely help to pay the cost of the war, but the Jews rose up and forbade that, so the people of this country were to be made to pay. Was Ireland to gain any advantage from this war? If not why should she be asked to pay any share of the cost? She had already paid dearly with blood. Ireland was involved in an unhappy partnership, and he wanted to see her put in the position of Jersey and Guernsey—allowed to grow her own crops and to have her own Parliament. Great Britain recruited her Army in Ireland and extracted out of the necessities of the people a heavy contribution of flesh and blood. Why not be content with that, and refrain from imposing this horrible war tax upon them? He begged to move to reduce the Vote by eight millions.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a reduced sum, not exceeding £3,500,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
said he wished to join in resisting the Vote for war expenditure. Irish Members had been consistent throughout in their opposition to the war—they had continually protested against it; and bearing in mind that ten months had elapsed without any substantial success having been gained by our troops, he thought it would be admitted that the Irish Members were right and that the Government were wrong. The Irish had special claims to resist this unjust and iniquitous war. They were taxed out of all proportion to what was their fair share, and yet they were being asked to vote money for gratuities to the troops engaged in that miserable strife. What value were they to get in return? Irish money had helped to pay for the training of the officers, but what credit had they proved to this nation from a military point of view? Under the present system the great object of our military training was to see that the men's hair was properly cut, and that the cook-houses were kept clear. A couple 1639 of years of that work was sufficient to turn any officer into a prig of the first water, and it was not to be wondered at, therefore, that there had been so many disgraceful surrenders of large bodies of our men to bodies of Boers inferior both in numbers and in arms. At one place, after ten men had been killed, 500 officers and men surrendered; at another, after three officers had been killed, another 500 officers and men surrendered, and at a third, after seven had been killed, eighteen officers and 400 men surrendered. And then when our troops did gain a victory they utilised their triumph for the purpose of wreaking merciless vengeance on the unfortunate inhabitants of the district, and he had seen heartrending descriptions of the manner in which our troops had treated the inhabitants of the two Boer Republics. He supposed that some of the money voted by Parliament would be paid as gratuities to officers-the men responsible
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.1640
§ for waging war on helpless women and children and the burning and looting of houses in the manner described by English correspondents whose letters had been quoted. We talked about Chinese horrors, and the savagery of the "Boxers," yet he thought the troops of this Christian nation were committing acts in the Transvaal which were equal to anything that had been done by those wretched fiends the Boxers in Peking. Half the money they were asked to vote that night was to suppress the Boxers. If there was such a thing as equal law and justice, instead of voting money to suppress the Chinese marauders they would be voting money to suppress the outrages in South Africa. He protested against any money being voted for the continuance of such infamous proceedings.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 12; Noes,87. (Division List No. 246.)1639
|Crilly, Daniel||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Tully, Jasper|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Healy, Timothy M (N. Louth)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Mr. Patrick O'Brien and|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Mr. Donal Sullivan.|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Plunkett, Rt. Hn Horace Curzon|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J.(Manch'r)||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W(Leeds)||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale||Purvis, Robert|
|Beach. Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Hazell, Walter||Rasch, Major Frederic Came|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Bethell, Commander||Keswick, William||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Kimber, Henry||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Brodrick. Rt. Hon. St. John||Knowles, Lees||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Lawrence, Sir E During-(Corn.)||Round, James|
|Caldwell, James||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Russell. T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire)||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Smith, James P. (Lanarks.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J(Birm)||Leighton, Stanley||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen(W'rc'r)||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Charrington, Spencer||Macdona, John Gumming||Talbot, Rt Hon J.G (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Malcolm, Ian||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Curzon, Viscount||Monckton, Edward Philip||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Morgan, Hn Fred.(Monm'thsh.)||Welby, Lt.-Col. ACE (Taunton)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon Sir William Hart||Morrell, George Herbert||Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r)||Morrison, James A. (Wilts., S.)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Finch, George H.||Murray, Rt. Hn A Graham(Bute)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hon. E. R.(Bath)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Wylie, Alexander|
|Flower, Ernest||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Wyndham, George|
|Gedge, Sydney||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredrk.||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Penn, John||Sir William Walrond and|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Percy, Earl||Mr. Anstruther.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 16th day of this instant July, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at half after One of the clock, till Monday next.