§ 1. £10,000,000, Transport and Remounts.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I wish to say a few words with reference to our transport system. In the opinion of a good many members of the Committee the present system of obtaining remounts leaves a great deal to be desired, because under that system we got untrained horses, and pay a considerable price for them. Now, I should like to suggest to the War Office that they should adopt the transport system which is in vogue in Austro-Hungary. The system, briefly, is this. In 1866 the Emperor Francis Joseph established ten stud depots in Hungary and eight in Austria. Stallions of the best quality were purchased and sent to these depots, and from thence they were sent out at regular intervals to particular centres in order to serve the mares of farmers at nominal prices— say, a few shillings. The only bargain made by the Government with the farmers was that the produce of the mares should be available for the Government at a settled price. That price varied from £16 to £32. It works out at about £25 per horse, the highest price paid for cavalry horses being £32, and for draught horses £22, No horse is bought by the War Office under five years of age. Anyone 450 who has taken an interest in the horsing of our cavalry regiments knows well that, although a regiment may be 350 strong, only about 180 horses can be put into the line on the occasion of a review. The other horses are either young horses which have to be left in barracks to be walked round in circles by recruits, or else they are old and useless horses which are simply kept for drill and other purposes. In our service we are supposed not to buy horses under four years of age, but practically we buy them at three years old, and that is why their services cannot be utilised on these occasions. It is an absolute fact that in our service we retain a great many old horses which ought to have been cast long since. Some years ago the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean called for a Return of the horses over fourteen years of age, and it was found that an extraordinarily large number of these animals were in use. I would suggest to the Government that they should try to establish remount depôts and studdepots. Ireland is about one of the best horse-breeding countries which can be found in the world. You cannot get better pastures than are to be found in Westmeath and in Tipperary. But unfortunately the Irish farmer cannot afford to buy good stud horses, and so he has to put his mares to cheap stallions, and the result is that the produce is not worth anything like so much as would be the case if the farmers had good stallions. Further than that, the money which should go into the breeders' hands too frequently is pocketed by the middleman. I should like to call attention to the system of reserves which obtains in Austro-Hungary. Out of every 100 horses only fifty are at once taken, and the remaining fifty are lent out in the neighbourhood to the farmers and dealers. The horses are brought up every year for four weeks training, and are examined by Government inspectors every spring. If the horses are looking well, the farmer or dealer gets a small bonus; if not he is fined. At the end of five and a half years for draught horses, and six and a half years for cavalry horses, the farmers and dealers are allowed to retain the animals for their own use. I suggest that is a very cheap way of having a reserve of horses, and I think it will compare very favourably with the system adopted by the English 451 Government, who take 'bus horses and cab horses, and all sorts of animals, as they have had to do lately. It is false economy to take young horses at the price we pay, because we are not able to utilise them. It is a fact that we retain in the service a great many old horses— relies of antiquity, as many of my hon. friends in this House will be able to confirm— simply for the purpose of economy, and these horses ought to have been cast long ago. The War Office should try to establish remount depots and stud depots in Ireland, and if the Government will endeavour to follow the system of reserve of horses which obtains in Austro-Hungary, I believe they will do a good turn to English and Irish farmers, and at the same time secure a good class of horse for the service. I think in the interests of common-sense the Government should take this matter into serious consideration.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
I have to move a reduction of this Vote, in order to call attention to the immense; waste of the taxpayers' money in connection with remounts, brought about mainly by the defective state of the Army Veterinary Department. We have at the present moment in South Africa 150,000 animals, the value of which at a low computation would be something like a quarter of a million sterling, yet all these animals are placed in charge of forty-seven veterinary surgeons. Notwithstanding that some time ago I drew the attention of this House to the fact that this Department was far below its proper standard, and that there was a difficulty in obtaining men—
The hon. Gentleman is taking exception to the Veterinary Department. That comes under another Vote, and any criticism of the Department should be taken on that Vote and not upon this.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
Am I not in order in referring to the defective management of the Remount Department, and in pointing out that, owing to the deficiency of veterinary surgeons, large numbers of these horses were lost on the voyage out, and more perhaps have been lost in South Africa owing to there being an insufficient number of experienced veterinary surgeons?
This seems to me to be a matter which is relative to the Vote for the Veterinary Department.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I wish to support what my hon. friend has said with reference to the general question of remounts. It appears that after all we have a use for our Army, and we therefore require cavalry horses for that Army. So far as I can make out, we have only a proportion of one-third horses to men. That is not the system which was relied upon in past years, for we find that Charles XII. of Sweden adopted a very different plan, with the result that he was able to cover with his cavalry ninety miles a day from day to day. His system was exactly the contrary to that which is in vogue in the British Army for, instead of having fewer horses than men, he had twice as many horses as men. The fact was that he had two horses for each man, whereas the British Army has twice as many troopers as horses. I am conscious that when you have so large a number of horses you have to deal with the difficulty of providing forage, but, after all, that is a transport difficulty with which we need not trouble ourselves. What we want to look at is the mobility of our force, and as far as I can make out the best way of securing that mobility is to have more horses than men. I do not feel at liberty to enter into the details of this matter, but I am bound to say that in our recent purchases we have acted on a very bad system. We wanted a large number of horses for South Africa, and we had to send for them to all the four quarters of the world. We had to send, for instance, to the Argentine Republic, and there we bought, I believe, all the wrong horses. We bought the horses from the plains instead of the hill horses, and assuredly the latter were the proper class of animal to have been purchased for operations in South Africa. I wish to impress upon my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War that the time has arrived when we must buckle to on this question of remounts, and consider whether we cannot adopt some such system as that which exists in Austro-Hungary. That system may not be exactly adequate to our re- 453 quirements, but I believe it is one that is perfectly well adapted to the needs of this country. Under our present system we buy horses without any opportunity of examining them as to their condition, and the result is we purchase from Jew contractors, who make enormous profits on them, horses which are not fit for our purpose, and which are put on board ship and afterwards die during the sea voyage. This can only be avoided by the adoption of a plan to provide the country with remounts on some such system as has been suggested by my hon. and gallant friend, and I believe that if some such plan wore put in force it would he a valuable addition to one of the most important branches of our Army.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I have no intention of posing as an authority on the question of the purchase of horses. The question of remounts for the Army is most complicated, and I am sure that the representatives of the War Office will welcome any suggestion that can be made by those practically acquainted with the breeding of horses, and with horse markets generally in this country and elsewhere. I also cannot vie with the hon. Gentleman opposite in his familiarity with the proceedings of Charles XII. of Sweden, but there is one point to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and to which the hon. and gallant Member for South-east Essex also drew attention, upon which I do know something from my own point of view. They spoke of the system in vogue in Austro-Hungary. Now, I have for years past visited that country, and I should like to point out to my hon. and gallant friend that in those countries they have this great advantage which we do not possess here— namely, that the horses used for agricultural purposes are precisely the class of horses which are required for the cavalry. I have often wondered how the horses used in that country could do the work put upon them in view of the condition of the roads over which they have to pass. But I would like to point out that the horses used for agricultural purposes in this country are of an entirely different character, and are not suitable for cavalry work. I think possibly that will be found to lie at the root of the system in Austro-Hungary. Whether or not the Government of that country encourages 454 the use of this particular class of horse for agricultural purposes I cannot say, but I repeat that there the military authorities have an immense advantage which we in this country would not enjoy.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
The hon. Member for King's Lynn has referred to the discrepancy between the number of men and the number of horses in the cavalry regiments. But I think the statements in reference to this matter are too often misleading. People are apt to forget that in a cavalry regiment men are employed in other capacities than as troopers. There are the waiters, stores-men, and the clerks. These men are not mounted, and yet they are absolutely necessary for the service of the regiment. They could not attend to horses if they were supplied with them. Many of them, as a matter of fact, do not follow the regiment into the field. Probably the only ones who do are the cooks, who are, of course, necessary. Then in regard to the historical reference indulged in by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, I should very much doubt whether Charles XII. of Sweden troubled himself very much about the way in which his horses were groomed. In this country, however, we make a tremendous point of that, and the commanders of regiments are judged upon that matter. Now, if each man had charge of two horses it would be very difficult for him to attend to them properly. We have to remember that men go into hospital, and that in the winter time they expect to have their furloughs, and I would suggest, after all, that if a man took two horses into the field he would not be able to give much attention to the enemy, especially if the animals were not well trained to stand under fire. I believe that if we insisted upon every man having two horses it would be absolutely impossible to get men to join the cavalry. Undoubtedly, the remount system constitutes a very weak point in our cavalry system, and I would urge that the particulars given in the Estimates should show the exact number of trained and untrained horses, and of those unfitted for the field. I can remember a case in which a certain regiment which had a strength of 420 horses was able to, on one particular occasion, put 400 on parade, and it was admitted to be something wonderful. I think it would be a very great 455 pity indeed to cast all horses over fourteen years or sixteen years of age, because a large number of these horses prove very useful until they reach nineteen years. In regard to the employment of middlemen in the purchase of horses, I quite agree with my hon. friend that it is undesirable to encourage such a practice. Then I come to the suggestion that we should adopt the system of Austro-Hungary in regard to the supply of horses for the Army. That may be a very good plan, but I am not certain that it is suited to the circumstances of this country. It appears to me that the only alternative is for the Government themselves to set up breeding establishments. I am afraid that under our system nearly the whole of our best horses produced in Ireland are taken away by foreign Powers. If foreign nations choose to give a pound or two more, we cannot expect English farmers to do otherwise than sell them to foreigners. The only way to meet the difficulty would be to subsidise the farmers who rear the horses, although I cannot say that I am altogether in favour of adopting that course. Failing this, we must fall back on Government breeding establishments, which seems to be the only alternative. There is one small matter I should like to ask a question about, and it is in reference to the food. We all remember the unfortunate incident that took place at Aldershot, resulting in the loss of the lives of several of our soldiers. A good deal of blame has been thrown upon the commanding officers because upon that day the men had not had a proper midday meal. Supposing that bread and cheese had been allowed upon that occasion, would the transport have been provided? In cavalry regiments this allowance is all right, but I am told that in nearly all the infantry regiments the cart in which the midday meal is carried is provided at the expense of the soldiers by the canteen. If so, it has really been provided for out of the men's own pockets. I think it is a question which really wants to be looked into. If we are to blame commanding officers for anything of this kind, we ought to see that the Government provide everything which is necessary.
§ *SIR HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigtonshire)
As a civilian I feel some diffidence in taking part in a debate of so 456 technical a nature, and I will not detain the Committee for many minutes. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, has given very fairly the reason for not relying upon any good results from the adoption of the Austro-Hungarian system by this country. Everyone must recognise the truth of what he said as to the general character of our agricultural horses. I hardly agree with my hon. and gallant friend who has just sat down that we should rely entirely upon supplying our remounts within the limit of these islands, for we can only do so if the Government undertake large breeding, establishments. That is the only way in which the supply can be made regular, sufficient, and of proper quality.
§ *SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
I have no doubt the farmers will offer no objection to the subsidy suggested, but I doubt whether the supply from that source will be rendered uniform or regular enough even by the application of subsidies. What I want to ask my right hon. friend to consider is this: We pay some penalty for living in an island; it has many advantages, but we have some corresponding disabilities, and among them is the impossibility of producing; horses on valuable land at a reasonable price. I want my hon. friend to consider whether there are not within the limits of this Empire vast areas not only capable of turning out horses of the best quality, but which do at the present time turn out such horses. Of Australian horses I know nothing, but of Canadian horses I have had some experience. One of the best hunters I ever had in my life was a Canadian horse. I would ask my hon. friend if he is acquainted with the quality of the horses which are imported into this country in large quantities by some of our large corporations for tramway purposes? Take Glasgow, for instance. These horses are sound, of good constitution, good-looking, and quite well bred enough for the purpose. Apparently the supply is unlimited, although I cannot quote the average price now; but I know that the price a few years ago was exceedingly moderate. I am unable to answer the problem propounded by my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bowles)—namely, 457 how a good supply of horses could be secured for this country without crossing the sea. Of course, they must cross the sea, and some means must be found of keeping up a regular supply. Wherever these horses have to be used they must cross the sea, and all I have to ask my hon. friend is to consider the enormous resources of a country like Canada for supplying horses of the quality required.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
I desire to thank all those hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion up to the present for the spirit in which they have approached these questions. I quite recognise that we are now discussing very important matters, but if I may be allowed to make one appeal it is that we should get through our work as fast as possible this afternoon, because this money is actually wanted at once. Therefore it is of great importance that the money should be voted to-day, as there is absolute need of the money for the war. I believe that we can thresh out all the details if we address ourselves to the debate in the same spirit which has characterised the speeches of hon. Members so far. I think the right hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire put his finger on the consideration which underlies all this controversy when he reminded the House that we live in an island. Those responsible for the provision of horses in Austria and France know with great accuracy where and under what conditions the cavalry of their army may be expected to fight. But who could say where the cavalry of England might have to fight? Let me ask hon. Members of this Committee to reflect on what has taken place during the present war. I will give a few figures as a starting point to this discussion. During the course of the present war we have shipped to South Africa altogether up to the 12th of June 91,600 horses. The number of horses shipped to South Africa excludes altogether the number that has been purchased there. Would anybody, on the ground of common-sense or economy, or on the grounds urged by the Member for South-east Essex, ask any Government to maintain an expensive remount establishment and a stud in England, which is the most expensive country in the world, with the prospect of taking the horses so reared a long sea 458 journey at a cost of £35 per horse, as against the very much lower rate charged for horses from Argentina, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere? That lies at the bottom of the whole economic argument, and although I do not press the economic argument too far in this House—I have always been prepared to say that we ought to spend our money to get a good article—still there are limits, and when we find that the sea transport of horses from this country costs more than the horses themselves delivered free from other parts of the world, I doubt whether we should be justified in raising horses in this country to meet the needs of a great war. That consideration must underlie all our purchases. I know very well the great studs at Saumur, in France, and for my part I should be delighted to see such establishments in this country. There these establishments are arranged with 1,700 horses always standing together with their veterinary departments attached, and with different breeds of horses, including the English thoroughbred. I should be delighted if we had in this country such an establishment, but I could never honestly recommend it to the Committee of this House, knowing that horses raised in that manner in this country would cost infinitely more than our horses now cost, and they might also prove to be totally unfit for the various physical conditions of the country to which they might be sent. Of the 91,600 horses shipped to South Africa a certain number of them were sent from this country; others were sent from Canada, from Australia, India, and from other sources which, following the example of my hon. friend, I do not care to name. The Australian horses have cost us, delivered on the beach in South Africa,. £45 each; the Argentine horses cost, delivered on the beach in South Africa, £26 each. But the mere passage of a horse from England to South Africa costs £35, and we cannot get the English horse, even under the conditions which now prevail, for less than £35 or £40; so that the total cost of the English horse delivered on the beach in South Africa is from £70 to £75. If you consider the colossal losses which must fall upon the horses in any campaign; if you consider that, after all, the cobs of 14-2 hands which you buy in Argentina or Australia will do your work, and serve your purpose under 459 the conditions of modern warfare just as well as the expensive English horse—for as food for powder one horse is as good to die as another—should I be justified in asking this Committee to pay three times as much as is necessary for an article which is so perishable? That is my answer on the ground of economy. We do not know beforehand the physical conditions of the country in which our cavalry will have to fight, and it is just as well to keep our hands free to purchase horses suited for a particular campaign, and which can be conveyed to the theatre of war most expeditiously and in reasonable numbers. It is not true that the War Office has proceeded in a hugger-mugger way with regard to the provision of remounts. There are officers who have been chosen because of their acquaintance with horses. Officers have been out since July last, not purchasing, but marking down all the good horses in the market and getting options for purchase. That we believe to be a common-sense and an economical plan. Our greatest difficulty in the cavalry springs from the enormous amount of work which the young recruit has to do. We have been going into that very urgent and somewhat melancholy question—namely, the great number of men who have purchased their discharges shortly after joining the Army. Inquiries have been made in Ireland as to the men who have purchased their discharges, and the overwhelming majority of the replies were to the effect that the men liked the cavalry, but did not like the amount of stable duty that had to be done. It has been suggested that there should be two horses for every man, but conceive a regiment in which there were two horses to every man. After each man had done duty as a soldier, and all the necessary work falling on an individual in a community, he would then have to buckle to in order to do the work of a helper. I do not suppose there is any stable in which a helper would be required to mind more than two horses; but after looking after two horses the cavalryman would have to clean his clothes and perhaps have to take part in a field day. The suggestion is absolutely impossible and out of the question. Again, many horses must be purchased more or less after the war comes on, and why, therefore, should we have in a cavalry regiment more horses than we 460 need, in order to mount the men for the fullest parade or field day? Where is the sense and where is the economy? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Taunton says we do not mark off the young horses from the old; but every hon. Member who has spoken on the subject, and who has taken an intelligent interest—as so many hon. Gentlemen do —in this question knows all the facts. I admit the facts, and I maintain that they are reasonable, and that the system which prevails is the best and cheapest system. It has also been asked whether the Department has considered other portions of the Empire. The Department has considered that question, and I admit to very great personal disappointment when I discovered that two or three year old horses bred or bought in South Africa, and raised there for use in South Africa, would possibly cost more than if we had been able to import them. Nothing is more expensive than keeping horses, and to buy a horse that is not going to be used for two years is one of the most expensive things in the world. That is my answer to the attack which has been made on the Department for purchasing through middlemen. When we purchase from middlemen no doubt we pay more than if we purchased direct, but the middleman has taken the risk of buying the horses subject to illness or accident, and he gives us a finished article and derives a legitimate profit. It is not the case, however, that the Department purchases horses only from middlemen. I was present myself when a gentleman representing the War Office bought four horses from farmers who had bred them. We have experts all over the country who are in touch with sellers of the horses best suited for cavalry purposes, and I do not think it is possible to mount our men in time of peace on any other principle than that which has guided the War Office during the last twelve months.
§ MR. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I do not wish to prolong this debate in any way, and I agree with most of the things that have been said during the discussion. There is one point, however, connected with the Vote which I do not think has been taken into consideration, and that is the question of remounts not only for the cavalry but also for the artillery and transport. These are heavy 461 horses, and I wish to press on the War Office authorities the necessity of having lighter carts than the usual regimental transport is supplied with. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Taunton has touched upon what happened at Aldershot. The enormous difficulty of supplying transport for purposes such as taking provisions into the field would be lessened if there were lighter carts, which would also be better for the horses. There is a great waste of horseflesh under the present system of heavy wagons now used. When these heavy wagons were taken to South Africa it was found that they were not as useful as the smaller and lighter carts. I think some system of lighter carts ought, therefore, to be considered at an early date for all light purposes, both regimental and transport. There was the case of New Zealand offering carts to the War Office. The War Office replied that they would be delighted to accept them, but that first of all they should be sent to Woolwich to be inspected. Of course, the New Zealand Government did not send the carts to Woolwich because, possibly, they would have been returned. There is one other question I should like to put, and that has reference to registered horses. I should like to know what number has been taken, and whether the system has proved to be a success. I should like to hear the War Office opinion on that subject, because it is one of con-considerable importance. I would wish to know whether it has really been put into practice to the greatest possible extent, or if only 100 horses have been taken out of say every 1,000 registered. There is also an item in this Vote for expenses for the removal of troops at home. I hope that as little money as possible will be spent in this direction during the present expensive year. I find the case of a Scotch regiment of Militia which was sent to Glasgow, then to Aldershot, then back to Glasgow again, and afterwards to Ireland. That seems a very great waste of money, and I hope that as few such cases will take place as possible. Of course, it is necessary to send regiments into camp for training, especially regiments recently embodied; but I hope that great economy will be practised in the removal of regiments during the present expensive year.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I should not like this Vote to 462 pass without acknowledging the enormous services which have been rendered by the transport department in South Africa, and also the services rendered by the War Office and the Admiralty in conveying troops, horses, and stores to the seat of war. The country is enormously indebted to the Army Service Corps for the extraordinary loyalty with which they carried out the transport reorganisation in January last. It was very trying to many of the officers concerned, and it is to their great loyalty and hard work that a great deal of the success of the campaign is due. There is a very strong feeling among officers of all arms that the regimental and brigade system of transport inaugurated by Sir Redvers Buller, and for which we are mainly indebted to him, should not be abandoned in favour of the old general system of transport under which regimental officers were enabled to get what they wanted and when they wanted it. Although it was necessary for Lord Kitchener to institute the system at present in force in South Africa, the feeling is general throughout all arms that the regimental and brigade system should not be abandoned. It has been productive of very great benefit, and it would be extremely unpopular if any permanent change were effected. A great deal has been said as to the cavalry remounts. I visited most of our remount establishments in South Africa, and I can fully bear out what the Under Secretary has said regarding the ability shown by the officers selected to purchase horses for the army. It is perfectly extraordinary that such an enormous number of horses as 91,600 should have been landed in South Africa with so few accidents. I wish I could say that English horses had proved more suitable than Canadian, Australian, or Argentine horses, but I must endorse the view which has been expressed by my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War. The English horses were as a rule too big, and they suffered dreadfully in the voyage out, first from the rough sea in the Bay of Biscay, then from the great heat in the Tropics, and again from the change of climate when nearing Cape Town. Another thing which militated against them was the system of docking their tails which prevails in this country, though not in Australia, Canada, or the Argentine. A great deal of the mortality among the English horses was due to the 463 enormous suffering they endured because they had nothing to protect themselves against the pest of flies. One of the criticisms heard in South Africa against our administration was that there was too much grooming and curry-combing of cavalry horses, which prevented them from being protected by the natural oil in their coats from the plague of flies, which no one can understand who has not seen it. The horses sent from this country in many cases suffered severely when there was a bad voyage, and in some cases, though I will not mention names, slings were not provided. Certainly the only horses which I saw arrive in decent condition at the remount establishments in South Africa were those of the C. I. V. Artillery. They had been exercised on board for twenty minutes twice a day, but of course that could not be done on smaller vessels. The Argentine horses have been very successful indeed. They have been of the right size. I think one of the great lessons which this campaign has taught us is that big horses which are difficult to mount are quite unsuitable for mounted infantry. These ought to be furnished with smallish horses, which are easy to mount. With big horses when an enemy suddenly appears the men have difficulty in getting on horseback, and the saddles frequently slip round. Not a few of the casualties in killed and wounded in this war have been due to the excessive size of the cavalry horses. The Canadian horses have also done exceedingly well, and in some respects the Australian—but by no means all. They are frequently much too big. The 14.2 horses from the Argentine and the 15 hand horses from Canada have been invaluable. I wish to say one word in regard to home transport. If anyone sees a regiment move at home he must be struck with the enormous amount of baggage which is necessary, and how much its mobility is thereby reduced. When I was in the Army I thought it quite easy to increase regimental mobility, if the Government would only furnish the officers' quarters, and charge them with a rent. Of course, officers might add, at their pleasure and own cost, to the furnishings afterwards. I think officers are entitled to six hundredweight, but that amount is invariably exceeded, and an entire train is often required to carry the officers' furniture. 464 They must have it, because they have to go into rooms absolutely unfurnished, with no beds, no furniture, no curtains, and if they do not take furniture with them they would have nothing but the bare boards to sleep upon. I most earnestly urge upon my hon. friend, who is anxious to do everything that he possibly can in the direction of improvement, to consider whether the efficiency of the Army as a whole, and its mobility and capability of moving from one garrison to another, might be increased by furnishing officers" quarters, mess premises, and canteens. I believe that, apart from first expenditure, the Department would make a profit on it; at any rate they would pay a very decent interest on the outlay. The object of the Government ought to be to make the Army as efficient as it possibly can be made. The hon. Member the Under Secretary for War knows perfectly well that when it is a question with the. Horse Guards or the Quartermaster General's Department about the moving of a regiment from this station to that, it is not always the need of the service which is considered. They say, "We cannot move this regiment so soon. Just look at the expense that the officers were put to in moving so recently; and it is not right to make them incur that expense so soon again." In connection, with this matter there is the case of the married men, especially the noncommissioned officers and men of the Household Brigade. The cavalry regiments of the Household Brigade move every six months, and these unfortunate people have to pack up their furniture and move from Knightsbridge to Albany Street, and from Albany Street to Windsor. We all know that if we move furniture at all—I do not say there is a leakage on every occasion, but there is a breakage. Things go wrong, and it must necessarily be so in a greater degree in the case of the married men in a regiment of the Army, who are not able to 'superintend the packing of their luggage, or of necessity have to do it in a rough and ready way. If it is necessary to move a cavalry regiment of the Household Brigade once in six months from one barrack to another, or from one station to another, or across the street, I earnestly entreat my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War to endeavour to do something to furnish the married quarters, something for the mess premises, some- 465 thing for the canteens, and something for the officers' quarters. If he does so he will I do a great deal to increase the efficiency of the Army and the comfort of the officers and men.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
I wish to say a few words in reference to the transport. I believe every word that has fallen from the Under Secretary of State in reference to remounts. It is quite clear to those who have considered most the conditions of modern warfare, that we should take the nearest and handiest supply of horses when the occasion arises. It would be absolutely impossible to have stud establishments in this country sufficient to supply such a demand as has been made recently. But that brings into greater prominence than ever the necessity for perfecting our system of transport with reference to horses. Previous to the case of the ship "Rapidan" there was no veterinary officer on the Board of Selection for Transports. I am aware that that has since been remedied. I only deal with the point incidentally in order to show the necessity for having proper veterinary officers on board ship to prevent the loss of horses during transport by sea, which is much too great at present. The "Devonia" was sent out to Naples to take mules to South Africa. A veterinary officer was in charge who is now the second senior officer in the Army Veterinary Department in South Africa and a thoroughly competent man. That officer superintended during the voyage the fitting of the ship for the embarkation of the cargo of mules, but no sooner was that done than the mules were placed in the charge of a subaltern who had been sent out to Naples overland. If an illustration was wanted of the necessity for giving veterinary officers the stuff rank that they demand, that is one.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
I am merely showing the necessity of putting veterinary officers in charge of the transport of horses and mules at sea. If that is not done a large number of remounts are lost, and the country put to great expense. On the 7th June the "Lake Erie" left London with 350 remounts, and there also a Militia officer had been put in 466 charge of the horses, while the veterinary officer was only held in a minor degree responsible for the health and welfare of the horses. I hope the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War will see the necessity of giving some status to the Army Veterinary Department, in order that the horses during transport at sea to the seat of war may be better cared for than at the present time.
§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
said he had visited all the remount establishments in Germany, and had also had the advantage of taking part in two campaigns in South Africa. He therefore could say that no matter what our remount system might have been in this country it would have been wholly impossible for the Government in the present crisis to furnish remounts for the cavalry and mounted infantry in South Africa without having recourse to foreign horses. He could also bear out what the hon. Member for Sheffield had said, that both in the Zulu war and the Transvaal war English horses were found wholly unsuitable. They wore unaccustomed to the forage, and became skeletons in a short time after they reached South Africa, and the saddles turned round. In every way foreign horses were much more suitable than English horses. The hon. Member for Southeast Essex spoke of having remount depots in this country, but the expense would be ruinous. It had been carefully calculated that if the Government started remount establishments in this country each horse would cost over £80. The German system was entirely different from what we could possibly carry out here. In Germany a large number of stallions belonging to the Government went about the country, and the Government had the first call on the produce, the foals being all marked. Then the young horses were sent to farms for two years before being drafted into the army. That was a very expensive system, and it would be perfectly ruinous if we were to start stud farms in this country. It was almost impossible to buy horses in this country after they exceeded the age of three or four years, and horses when bought at three years old were not fit to pat into the ranks. He suggested to the Under Secretary that there should be a certain number of farms in Ireland where the horses could be sent and kept until 467 they had attained the requisite age. When he was in command of a regiment the commanding officers had to buy all their horses, but in his opinion the present system of remounts worked exceedingly well. He supported the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War in his remarks, and believed the present system was the best that could be devised.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
said he rose for the purpose of asking two questions of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote, the first of which was as to the price of horses. The Under Secretary had stated on a previous occasion that the cost of a horse from Argentina landed at the Cape was £26, while the cost of transport of a horse from this country, excluding the cost of the animal, was £35. That seemed to him a very great difference having regard to the mileage between Argentina and the Cape and London and the Cape. He would be glad of some further explanation on the point. He would also like to know why the first instalment, at any rate, of the Return with regard to transports, which was agreed to by the House as far back as 6th February, had not yet been presented.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said that, as far as he could gather, it was the general opinion of experts that the kind of horse sent to South Africa from this country had not proved adequate to the needs of South Africa. He believed, however, that if the breeders in this country know what kind of horse was required they would be able to produce it. It was not impossible to breed a stamp of horse with greater stamina, of a coarser kind, to meet the requirements of the Army. He suggested that the Government should send round to the agricultural shows one or two typical animals so that breeders might see what was required. If that were done they would get a cobbier and more bony animal with less blood, which would be more satisfactory. He wished also, in support of the remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, to call attention to the matter of regimental baggage. The officers had now to carry about a perfect mass of luggage and furniture because, when they were moved from station to station, the barracks were handed over to 468 them as bare as a cell in a prison. It would, he was sure, be more economical if the barrack rooms were kept decently equipped, and the outlay might be met by charging the officers of each regiment occupying the barracks a reasonable rent. Young officers naturally desired to have as good furniture as their comrades, and went to very great expense in this matter, and he was of opinion if the item of barrack furniture were struck off it would lessen greatly the burden of expense east on young men joining the Army.
§ MR. WARNER
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would give some explanation as to how far the War Office had been able to supply the Royal Reserve regiments with horses.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
was of opinion that horses purchased for the Army at the present time were taken at too young an age. Every horse purchased should be fit for immediate use, which was very far from being the case under the present system.
§ *GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said the suggestion made that horses should be purchased in Canada, where the horse used by the farmer was just the horse required for military purposes, owing to the method adopted had not produced good results. He had had some experience of Canada and the methods adopted there. He knew the difficulty of getting horses in England, but the methods adopted in Canada had not been such as would give the best Canadian horse to the British Army. In Canada the remount officers gave notice of their intention to visit a certain place, with the result that the American dealers also attended, and directly a horse was passed as suitable the remount officers were always outbid by the American horsedealer. He suggested that remount officers should not be sent out in this way, but that the horses should be obtained from the producer through a middleman.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member for Lichfield asked whether the Government were considering the advisability of using lighter carts. Yes, Sir; our experience in South Africa has shown us that lighter carts are necessary, and we are 469 now replacing the present cart by a lighter one. With regard to the question as to the horses, I have not by me the exact number of registered horses, but the omnibus horse is a registered horse, and hon. Members will be glad to hear that he has been twice mentioned in despatches. General Sir George Forestier-Walker stated on 13th March, in reply to inquiries, that the Australian cavalry Horse and the English omnibus horse were most satisfactory, and in reply to more detailed inquiries he placed horses in the following order of suitability:— Cavalry horses, the large horses— Australian first, English second, best Argentine third; mounted infantry, cobs Cape horses first, Indian and Australian second, Argentine third. He also stated that a few Arab horses from India had proved very satisfactory, as well as the English omnibus horse.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
Might I ask if a similar report has been received from the front? I take it that report came from the base.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The reports sent from the base are reports which come from the front. We get all our reports through the base. Referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Lich field Division, this year, particularly, it has been necessary to place the troops in close proximity to rifle ranges, and I believe great satisfaction has been given to the Auxiliary forces in camp by the fact that they have had no difficulty in that matter. But there is another reason, and, of course, it is also familiar to the hon. Member—namely, that our barracks are only suited to hold regiments of a certain size. The hon. Member asks as to the number of horses already in possession of the Royal Reserve regiments. I have not got the figures with me. I may say, however, that from all these questions it appears that hon. Members do not quite appreciate the fact that these are very young regiments, and that you cannot supply horses until the men are there to groom them. But the average number of men in these regiments is satisfactory, and there is no difficulty in getting horses now as fast as they are needed. I am personally gratified to find that it is possible in this country to get so many horses of the very stamp we need for about £35. My hon. and 470 gallant friend raised an interesting question in regard to the best mode of transport for horses. I do not think I quite agree with him. He referred to the abolition of slings for horses. It is a matter quite open to argument, but the evidence of the recent operations on the sea is not conclusive either way. There have been two bad accidents entailing, grievous losses. The accident happened in one case on a vessel fitted on the new model, and the other on a vessel where the fittings were on the old model. It is, for the jury to decide, but the change from the slings to the new fittings has, been made in view of the practice of the great trading firms who carry an enormous number of horses every year from Argentina, or Australia, to the markets here. They have found that the statistics of losses prove conclusively that the new style of fittings, which allow the horses, room fore and aft, are on the whole the best. It has been found that with slings horses are apt to sit down in rough weather for several days together without raising themselves on their hind legs, and that induces serious results. As to the question of baggage that has been raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield and the hon. and gallant Member for the Newport Division, I sympathise very much with the view which, they have put forward. I thought my hon. and gallant friend in raising the question, by importing the word "mobility" into his plea, might mislead those who are not closely following the discussion into thinking, that we are not attending to mobility for the purposes of war. Of course, that is a totally different thing. This is a plea put in on behalf of the British officer that he should not be put to so great expense as he is at present by being asked to fit up a room, from floor to ceiling and then to convey the whole of his goods and, chattels at each of the many removals entailed upon, him. I am glad that the question has been raised, because some remarks which I let fall earlier in the session upon the urgent need of reducing the cost to his- parents, of the young officer have been held outside this House to mean that the young officer is as a rule extravagant. I do not think that that is- the case. He may be in certain cases extravagant There may be room for a certain amount of, I shall not say sumptuary legislation, but sumptuary pressure, but in my opinion it must be 471 accompanied by some relief of the burdens which we place upon him. It is not fair to say to the young officer, "You are not to waste your money in this way," and at the same time to force him to devote so large an amount of his private funds to buying his bed, poker, and fender.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
If we are to have a reform, I think it ought to be a bilateral reform. With the need for sumptuary reform there is a need for greater generosity towards the young officer, who has so many charges placed upon him.
§ *MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)
The hon. Gentleman has stated that he can get as many horses as he wants. I know a cavalry regiment which has only 200 horses, and I know for a certainty that there are many men in that regiment who were never on a horse. There must be something radically wrong. Why, there are cavalry regiments where there are about three men to every horse. One hon. Gentleman has said that we ought to have two horses to every man. Most of the cavalry officers would be very glad if every man had his horse. There are regiments where recruits are absolutely unable to get a mount at all. If the horses can be got, why are they not got? As to the suggestion that farmers should be subsidised on condition that they sell their three-year-olds at £30, I should be sorry to see that introduced, as the price would be too low for the pick of the young horses. In regard to the supply of horses there is no doubt that we cannot get the supply we require in England at the prices paid. The Austrian horses to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred are simply half-bred animals similar to those employed in Ireland, and they can be bred much more cheaply. They are light horses, which are used in farm work, and as hon. Members know these mares can go on working to within a few days of foaling. If farmers were to be subsidised in the way proposed they would have to be much more highly subsidised than in Austria if we are to have the same thing here as in Austria. That would add greatly to the Army Estimates. The farmers could not be expected to breed horses in England at the same prices as in 472 Austria or Ireland. I hope that my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War if he can get horses in the unlimited manner he describes will see that the necessary supply is obtained.
§ MR. WARNER
There is no difficulty about getting horses, and therefore the remount system is in no way to blame. The difficulty is that the regiments have not got them. It is the supplying of them to the regiments and the application for them that has gone wrong.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £13,100,000, Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies.
§ COLONEL WELBY
pointed out that the present arrangement in regard to the supply of bread and cheese was not satisfactory. He urged that where the provision of bread and cheese was necessary it should be supplied by the Government instead of being paid out of the money which really belonged to the men. All these little things were talked about throughout the country, and they tended more or less to make the Army unpopular
§ MR. WARNER
stated that according to the regulations for forage allowances the lieutenant-colonel of a regiment received an allowance for his horse, and so did the major when in England, while the second in command had no allowance.
§ *MR. JEFFREYS
I should like to call attention to the way in which food is passed into the various camps. The meat has to be passed by a subaltern, who generally knows absolutely nothing about the subject. How can he possibly know anything about it, seeing he is not trained for such work? The duty requires men who have been specially trained. At present, a subaltern is told off every day to see whether the meat is good or bad, and he naturally does the work as quickly as possible, as he wants to get away to his own business or amusements. That certainly is not a satisfactory way of examining meat. The men sometimes complain that the meat is not good, and we hear a great many complaints as to its insufficiency. There ought to be a radical change in the way this duty is performed; some properly qualified man should be appointed—either a military man or a civilian. Very often a civilian 473 would do better in this matter, but, at any rate, there ought to be some man with special knowledge of the subject to pass all the meat that goes into camp for the use of the troops. I should like to call attention also to the way in which forage is passed. The forage is brought in in wagons, in which form it is passed by a superior officer. Those wagons are taken into the particular camps, where subalterns are told off to look at the oats or the various trusses of hay, and see whether they are good or bad. Again, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the subaltern has no special knowledge of what forage should be. It is quite a joke amongst contractors that subalterns look at the hay and frequently send back good hay and pass bad. Unless somebody who has a far better knowledge of the subject is told off for this duty we shall not get the troops properly foraged. The Government pay a sum of money sufficient to obtain good forage, and they are supposed to get it, but as long as this duty is detailed to subalterns who know nothing about the matter the present state of things will continue. We have heard to-night about the horses having to carry heavy loads. It would be a great deal better for the horses if they had good forage. No horse can work hard on bad forage. These are the two points I desired to bring before my hon. friend. First of all, I would ask him to make a change in the way in which meat for the troops is passed into camp; and, secondly, I would strongly urge him to appoint inspectors with a special knowledge of the subject to pass or reject the forage necessary for the horses.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
drew attention to the large increases in the amount allotted in the Estimates under this Vote for the purpose of sweeping chimneys, and "lime and other contingent expenses." He could understand how the increase with regard to the latter, which was three times the amount of last year, might occur, but he could not see why the amount for sweeping chimneys should be four times the amount of last year.
§ MR. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S. W.)
I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the item, "allowances to wives and children of soldiers when separated from them." 474 There is, first of all, the case, which is a very hard one, and which the War Office has promised to consider, but with regard to which we have not yet had any definite answer, namely, that of the man who has married without leave. My hon. friend is probably aware that the allowance is paid to the wives of all the men who have married with leave, and are on the strength of the regiment. It is also paid to the wives of all Reservists who are called upon to rejoin the colours. The only class who do not receive the separation allowance from the War Office are the wives of the men who have married without leave. Whatever reason there may be during time of peace for not recognising these women as legally married, there can surely be no reason for not doing so when the husbands are away on active service. I think my hon. friend will admit that, whatever may be said as to the necessity of maintaining discipline in the Army, no question of discipline can really enter into consideration when it is a case of the wife of a man serving his country at the front. There is also another point. Some few weeks ago I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the War Office with regard to the payment of separation allowances to the wives of the wounded. I was then informed that the War Office were paying those allowances, but the hon. Member could not say how long that practice was to be continued. I think my hon. friend will admit that it is but fair that those concerned should know whether the War Office intend to continue to pay these allowances, and, if so, for how long. There is one other case I have to bring forward, to which I am sure my hon. friend will listen sympathetically, and I hope he will be able to agree with the view I am going to put before him. I want to ask whether the War Office cannot consider the very hard case of the mothers of many of the Reservists who are called up. I may be told that it is very difficult to draw a line of demarcation, and that you must draw the line at a man's wife. But I do think that the War Office might well consider whether they could not pay to these mothers, if not the same as to the wives, at all events a smaller separation allowance during the time their sons are at the front. When these Reservists are called upon to rejoin the colours it frequently causes the loss of the means of subsistence as far as the mother is concerned, and 475 the War Office might well consider this matter. My hon. friend has been most kind in regard to cases I have brought before him, but I am now referring to the general policy, because when individual cases are brought before the authorities they always say they cannot go outside the instructions which the Secretary of State has given. I therefore hope that my hon. friend will be willing favourably to consider the three points I have brought forward, and assure us that, if not in the case of the present war, at all events should we be unfortunately engaged in any future war these matters will not be overlooked.
*GENERAL SIR F. W. FITZ WYGRAM (Hampshire, Fareham)
was understood to suggest that all cavalry officers should in every second year of their service be sent for a week or ten days to Aldershot for a thorough instruction in forage at the veterinary school. There is the school, and it ought to be made more useful than it is.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I should like to say a word with regard to the subalterns passing meat. It is quite true that the subaltern frequently knows very little about it, but the quartermaster who is with him knows a good deal, and the odds are that he knows rather too much. In reference to forage, I think that if the curriculum of young officers who are trying for admission included, instead of the useless nonsense now to be found, the study of a book such as that written by the hon. Baronet below me, on horses and forage—a book which is about the best of its kind that I have read—it would remove much of the ignorance which is sometimes found in officers in regard to hay, oats, and straw. Perhaps I might be permitted to say half a dozen words with reference to the meat ration. Three-quarters of a pound is too little. The addition of a quarter of a pound means—I think it was so stated some time ago—something like a quarter of a million of money per year, but when from three-quarters of a pound of meat you take away the bone and fat—and no soldier with any respect for himself, as everybody knows, will eat fat if he can help it—theration is brought down to the size of a small sausage, and that really is not enough for a growing man. I have been told that a horse master brought a horse to exist on one straw a day, and I think 476 the experiment of giving the British soldier three-quarters of a pound of meat —which, when cooked, is rather less than half a pound—is really more or less in the same direction.
§ MR. STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman can give us any explanation of why practically the whole of the hay which has been used during the present war has been obtained from Argentina or elsewhere abroad. I remember the answer of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, that he could not state the price paid, and also that there were difficulties as to transport and the cost of transport. But I think we should have some explanation of why large sums of money have been expended abroad when it is quite possible that that money might have been spent in this country. I can assure the hon. Gentleman there is a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst farmers in this country, especially in the west of England, with the way in which the Government, to a very large extent, have ignored them in regard to the purchase of hay for our horses in South Africa; and I hope the hon. Gentleman will think it worth while to give us some explanation.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Taunton raised the question of the refreshments supplied to the troops, and he took exception to the fact that such provisions had to be paid for out of the canteen accounts. That goes to the root of the whole policy of providing for the soldier, and another part of the same question has been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for South-east Essex, who stated that the meat ration is insufficient. All those who are conversant with the matter know that the ration at home is 11b. of bread and ¾lb. of meat, which is increased to 11b. when the troops are under canvas. But in addition to that a clear 3d. has been given for messing, and the canteen system turns upon the way practically in which the soldiers manage and finance for themselves the amount of money which is pooled and which is derived from that source. Many of the hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion have been to Aldershot, and they know the conditions under which the soldiers live. But those hon. Members who have not been to Aldershot have no idea of the 477 amount of money which has been sunk by the public in canteen and recreation rooms. There are theatres for sing-songs and other entertainments; there are rooms for recreation and games, with libraries attached, and the whole of this fabric is earning money for the soldier The officers take a good deal of interest in the conduct of these places, the accounts are audited for nothing, and a great deal of money can be made, thanks to the supplies and assistance which are voted by this House. It is out of the money so made that the soldier provides himself with the meals which are really necessary in view of the ration which is given. I am not prepared to argue whether the change suggested would be better or not, for I prefer to give no opinion upon it; but I am anxious that the system should be thoroughly understood. I think that there is a great deal of misapprehension as to the breakfast of the soldier. The hon. Member for Lichfield asked me a question about the officer in command which it is impossible to follow across the floor of the House. As to the remarks made by the hon. Member for the Basing-stoke Division, he contends that every officer in the Army ought to be an expert on the quality of the food supplied to the men and of the forage supplied to the horses, and he advocates the employment of civilian experts.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My contention is that every officer in the Army ought to be an expert on the quality of food supplied to his men and the quality of the forage supplied to his horses. I listened with great interest to the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Fareham Division, and I feel sure that in the cavalry regiment with which he was connected any young officer who did not know good forage from bad would have received very short shrift from him. If this is true in regard to forage, it is equally true with regard to food. The point, however, is one of regimental discipline, and I am convinced that in any well administered regiment there is very little room for the abuses suggested by the hon. Member. A good commanding officer would no doubt have his meat properly inspected while a bad commanding officer would probably fail in that respect. The hon. and gallant 478 Baronet has asked why the items rof barrack expenditure have increased so much, and why they are higher than hitherto. The barracks have never been fuller in the history of this century than during the last month, and the greater expense is a necessary consequence. The hon. Member for the South-west Division of Manchester has brought up a question in which he has taken so great an interest, for he has made himself the champion of the dependents of our soldiers who are fighting abroad, and personally I thank him for the interest he has taken in this subject. But as the hon. Member has hinted, it is not possible to alter the basis of the whole system of allowances. The allowance he refers to is given in lieu of rations in the married quarters, and that is why it is given to the wife when the husband is separated from her. The theory that the Government should provide lodging, food, and fuel for all the dependents of our Army is a proposition which we could not entertain. I think my hon. friend will see that it would be extremely difficult for the War Office to undertake what he has indicated. The only other question raised is the one put forward by the hon. Member for South Somerset, who asks why so much hay has been bought out of this country. I do not know whether the hon. Member was present during the debate in regard to the purchase of remounts, but precisely the same principle underlies the purchase of hay which must underlie the purchase of all articles for our Army. We must got the best article at the most moderate price, and it is a fact that you can get hay from Canada and other places which is considered to be the very best forage for this campaign at a price infinitely lower than you can get hay, as a rule in small quantities, from individual farmers in this country. I am sure the hon. Member would be the last person to say that we should use this! great emergency as an occasion to benefit one class, and we must regard it as a business transaction.
§ MR. STRACHEY
Will the hon. Gentleman state what the price per ton was of the hay bought in Argentina?
§ MR. STRACHEY
I quite admit the force of what the hon. Gentleman has 479 said, but the Government have repeatedly refused to say what price they have been paying for hay. It has been stated that they have paid as much as £8 or £10 a ton abroad when they could buy the best hay at half that price at home.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
The statement made by my hon. friend that the cost of English hay would be £4 or £5 a ton more has quite convinced me that the purchases made were the most economical. It is a fact that shipowners do not like to carry hay because it is likely to set on fire. It is also a very bulky article, and the cost of the carriage out there is double what the hay costs here. My hon. friend said that the soldiers ought to be able to tell good forage from bad. The fact is that they do not know how to inspect forage. Perhaps they knew it twenty years ago, but they do not know it now. They are not instructed in it, and they do not inspect the forage in a proper way. I did not advocate that civilians should inspect it, but I said that somebody, either civilians or soldiers, should inspect it, and what I hoped that my hon. friend would say was that he would see that the forage was properly inspected. I think that in this most important duty of inspecting not only meat, but forage, some instruction should be given.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
said that when the Government of Bombay had to supply the Army in Egypt with enormous quantities of forage, the best forage was found to be that which was purchased in Austria.
§ COLONEL WELBY
said that in regard to the inspection of meat, he had known butchers to differ as to the quality, and one of the best means he knew of obtaining good meat for a regiment was to put the butcher into the water cart.
§ *GENERAL LAURIE
There is one point which has not been satisfactorily answered by the Under Secretary, it is as to the increase of the meat ration. I am aware that as he stated messing allowance has been given, but that was intended to provide the soldier with an evening meal instead of requiring him to provide it out of his own pocket. The question has become more urgent now than in former times, because then we had a comparatively small number of young recruits in a 480 company composed mostly of grown men. The old soldier did not use all his allowance, so that a surplus went to the young lad, for whom the ration was not sufficient. We are now talking about getting three years soldiers, and that means that we must have more growing lads. If so, then we must give them enough food to make them into healthy and strong men, and the meat rations ought to be increased.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 3. £4,680,000, Clothing Establishments and Services.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
said he thought that something ought to be said upon this Vote about that great defect which had been so painfully illustrated last week at Aldershot. He alluded to the practice of exercising the soldiers in very hot weather such as they had recently experienced without any proper covering to their head. At Aldershot many soldiers fell out of the ranks, many were taken to the hospital, and a certain number died. It was common knowledge that an enormous number of men fell out of the ranks during the manœuvres last Monday week. Four of the men had died, and his contention was that those lives need not have been lost, and those casualties need not have occurred at all had the men been properly equipped. We were sending men out to drill year after year in the extremely hot sun without any better covering to their heads than that absurd garment known as the forage cap, which some people called "smart." In his opinion the forage cap was a useless and ridiculous head-dress. The forage cap was much too small to keep off the sun, and it had to be worn cocked on one ear. He did not see why the smartness of the British Army should depend upon having a very small hat cocked on one side of the head. The German; soldiers and the soldiers of other nations wore hats with a good broad top to keep the sun off their heads, and why the British soldier should be bound to wear a little hat stuck over one ear he could not understand. In India such a thing would not be allowed for a moment, for there they took very good care that the head was covered. He thought that it almost amounted to a crime that soldiers should be sent out on a hot summer day, wearing forage caps, simply to be struck down by 481 sunstroke. He could not conceive why the War Office had not long ago adopted a more sensible cap.
§ COLONEL WELBY
thought the explanation of the wearing of forage caps at Aldershot was to be found in the fact that it was necessary to clearly distinguish the troops during the manœuvres. The soldiers were very much alike, and if they had not worn their forage caps there would have been no distinguishing mark at all. He was perfectly certain that it would be found that the reason the forage caps were worn was simply to enable the forces to be distinguished at some distance from each other. They all knew that at Aldershot things would get terribly mixed up during these manœuvres if all the forces were dressed exactly the same. Allusion had been made to the necessity of providing a proper forage cap. They had had many new forage caps, but none of them were really of any practical service. It was a remarkable thing that they never saw anything designed by the War Office in common use, for they were generally patterns forced upon the soldier. He could not understand why a proper forage cap could not be designed. His own belief was that the one worn by the German soldiers was the most practical. He knew that they did not like to copy other nations, but still there was a great deal to be said in favour of them from a practical point of view. He had been informed that the helmet served out to the troops had proved very unserviceable in South Africa. For one thing, the men could not lie down comfortably wearing it. The only practical.head-dress in South Africa was the soft hat worn by the Yeomanry and City of London Volunteers. There were some difficulties in regard to a provision of a practical head-dress, but he hoped the changes to be introduced into the Army, arising out of the experiences obtained in the war, would include the provision of good practical head-dresses which would afford proper protection from the hot sun.
§ LORD EDWARD MANNERS (Leicestershire, Melton)
said he agreed with the remarks of his hon. and gallant friend as to the extremely unsuitable character of the forage cap. The helmet which was issued to the infantry of the Line at home fitted too close to the temples, and had no brim to afford protection to the eyes 482 and the temples from the sun. Besides this the helmets were extremely uncomfortable, and those supplied to the London police were much better and of a more practical shape. He fully endorsed the remarks which had been made by his hon. and gallant friend as to the extremely unsuitable character of the forage cap, and he hoped that steps would be taken to provide the soldiers not only with a good forage cap, but also with a more suitable full-dress head-gear.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I very much question whether the intelligence of the War Office is capable of devising an ordinary rational suit of clothes for the British soldier. The hon. and gallant Gentleman alluded to fashion, and said some caps were not liked because they were not smart enough. Are we to sacrifice everything, even the lives of our soldiers, to fashion? It is perfectly possible to invent a rational head-dress for the British soldier. The British Army is the only one in the world which has not got such a head-dress. Why does not the hon. Gentleman take an example from the Navy? The Navy cap is very much like the cap worn by the German soldier, and there is nothing smarter. Let the hon. Gentleman take courage and put his foot down and override all these questions of taste, smartness, and fashion. I do not know anything more ridiculous than a Guardsman walking about London with a little tin pot perched on one ear. You cannot lie down comfortably in it, and when a man stands up he appears to my mind a semi-idiot. It is the most ludicrous head-gear ever put on the head of a human being. For the undress forage cap the sailor shows the way. He looks smart in it, and there is no reason why a cap of essentially the same pattern in either red or blue cloth should not be given to the soldier. As to the full dress cap, there is the large slouch hat tied up on one side which is used in Australia and South Africa. It is the hat which the Cavaliers wore when they fought the Roundheads, and which the Roundheads wore when they fought the Cavaliers with such vigour and effect. It is essentially an English invention, and if the hon. Gentleman or the Commander-in-Chief wants to add a little millinery to it, there are ostrich feathers, cocks' feathers, gold lace, and buttons, and whatever is done to it, it will not cease to be comfort- 483 able and workmanlike. That is the hat for the British Army. Let us go back to the seventeenth century, and take the hat worn by our great-great-grandfathers. As to the forage cap, the sailor's cap is practical and useful. He uses it in all sorts of climates; he does his work in it, and goes aloft in it, and practically it has never been found to fail. It will, therefore, be to the credit of the War Office, now that a number of men have been killed through their incapacity, if they go back to the Navy for a suitable cap, and to the last century for a full dress head-gear.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
This subject lends itself, no doubt, to humorous treatment. It is easy to be amused over the eccentricities of costume which have been the theme of the satirists of every age, but the subject comes before us to-day because of a most melancholy catastrophe, to which I have alluded once before. I can assure every hon. Member in this Committee that no one feels more deeply than I do how deplorable it is to have to chronicle the deaths of four men at our own doors at Aldershot in addition to the men who are dying day by day in South Africa. The War Office is approaching this subject in all seriousness, and every step has been taken to see that such an occurrence shall not take place again. I would prefer not to go into the question as to the exact distribution of blame between individuals for the death of these four men. No one is more deeply sensible of their loss than those who directly or indirectly may have contributed to the catastrophe. I could adduce a number of reasons to show that although there may have been negligence there had not been what I might call culpable negligence of such a character as to justify this Committee in taking action when action has already been taken. Although it may not appear so to civilians, I think every soldier in the Committee will agree with me that for the Commander-in-Chief to intervene in a divisional command and to publicly notify his regret that certain things had happened and to direct that they shall not occur again is a rebuke of a very practical and severe character, and I may add that the directions sent to Aldershot have been repeated in identical terms to all the other commands where there are numbers of troops in camp. Our 484 duty ought to be to take steps of a. practical kind, and not to try and fix blame on this or that individual.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Yes, but I cannot altogether ignore what takes place outside. I think there has been regrettable criticism outside this House on the part of people who, unlike the service Members of this Committee, are not competent to decide who is responsible, and they frequently make grave errors and inflict cruel injustice on deserving officers who are in no way to blame. I now come to the question of the clothing of the British. Army. A great deal of criticism has been, offered regarding the forage cap. Let us admit it is not a good cap, but my point is that you should not expect a cap to do duty for a hat. I think that it is better that we should concentrate our attention on two forms of head-dress—namely, a, cap and a hat, rather than on the question of turning a cap into a hat or a hat into-a cap. That has been at the bottom of many of our errors in the past. The cap ought to be worn in the early morning or in the evening when duty is over. Then it is said that it does not protect from the sun, and an attempt is made to make it like the hat. The hat must be of some weight and resistance if it is to be a protection, from rain and sun, but then it is said, "It is too heavy; let us try and make it like, the cap." What we want is to get either a cap or a hat. When we come to the question of a hat we are face to face with difficulties not entirely connected with fashion or mode. How many headdresses are there in the British Army? and how many corps are prepared to give up their own head-dress? Will the Scotch Greys give up their bearskins or the Highlanders their bonnets? Theft we have busbies, astrachan helmets, Highland bonnets, and different kinds of helmets, and you cannot lay a finger on any one of these articles of head-gear without really damaging the sentimental, traditions of some particular corps. It is not a question of mere fashion. I am often amused at some of the criticisms heard on this subject. In one capacity the commonsense critic says, "Why not. adopt a plain, sensible head-gear?" but in his other capacity as a proud parent of a young son in a crack corps he asks, "Why 485 destroy the head-dress of that corps which was perhaps worn at Fontenoy or in other battles more than one hundred years ago? "We cannot afford to ignore that altogether. It is part of the capital on which we run our army. It might be said that this or that was a ridiculous hat. So it might be, but it reminds the men who are in the corps at the present day of things which are of great value to them and of great value to the nation in securing troops under the voluntary system. I am not prepared to defend the forage cap, but the cap was not intended, and ought not to be intended, and was not designed as a protection from the sun. The fact of it is, that to wear a cap under a hot sun is a mistake. I am prepared to confess that we have not a full supply of full head-gear for all the troops. I make that confession, and I do not think it reflects in the least on the Department or the Director General. We have sent out an immense number of different kinds of helmets to South Africa, and we can only get a. limited number from the manufacturers in this country who are sometimes themselves interfered with by the trades union connected with that manufacture, who object to the use of apprentices, and so on. Our path is full of difficulties. We have sent this enormous number of helmets to South Africa, and the result is that a portion of our forces at home are for the present without helmets. The lesson to be learnt is that we must in future have a far greater reserve of such stores than we ever had before, and that is part of the policy of the Government. Now we are aware of what ought to be done and we intend to do it. As I said we cannot expect from the manufacturers all the head-gear we require for the moment, therefore as an emergency measure we are prepared to at once issue, without prejudice as to what finally the head-dress of the Army ought or will be, 52,000 light canvas slouch hats for the Militia and Royal Reserves which have to be drilled. We can get a large quantity of this class of head-gear, but it is not to be taken as the final form of the slouch hat. Let me put another consideration before the Committee. Many Militia corps are affiliated to Scotch regiments. Are we to supply them with the feather bonnet? Why should we sink an enormous amount of money in that class of head-gear? It costs more than the 486 helmet, though it lasts longer; but who is going to stow them away for eleven months out of twelve, when they should last about 144 years, and become a kind of stud for moths. It will be seen, therefore, that the matter is not so easy as it may seem. We are feeling our way towards securing a suitable head-dress for the whole Army. A smart head-dress, which I would prefer to call the traditional head-dress of the regiment, will be provided for full-dress and holiday occasions to remind the men of the history of their regiments, and, in addition, there will be a workmanlike head-dress to be worn by regiments in any part of the Empire or out of the Empire. On that we have been at work for a long time. Sometimes we have been criticised and laughed at for taking so long at the War Office, but it would be a great mistake and a fatal error to decide on a new head-dress that would not be acceptable to the soldier. That would throw back this reform for years. We cannot force these things on the Army, but the reform can be effected if we secure an article which will be satisfactory, and I hope that that will be obtained without any great delay. We have got to consider tint, texture and weight, and as between tint, texture and weight we have to strike a mean suitable to the climate of this country and South Africa.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The hon. Gentleman has in a most interesting and eloquent way laid down certain principles which are very useful to the Committee. The Committee should bear in mind all the difficulties in the way of securing a uniform and practical head-dress for almost every condition in a soldier's career. I think, however, the hon. Gentleman is aiming at too much if he thinks he can find a head-dress which will suit every climate to which the British soldier may be sent. The great difficulty in our Army is that we never know where a soldier may be employed, and under what conditions. As to the question of head-dress, I confess at once that I think that the present difficulty is mainly owing to the slight which was put some years ago by a countryman of mine, on the Glengarry cap. Then the present cap was invented. I am not quite sure whether it was not adopted when I was at the War Office, but I do not think my heart approved of 487 it, even though my hand did. I believe it was the result of long cogitation and experiment, and was supposed to be very successful. There is one point with regard to head-dress which ought to be remembered. A cap is not likely to be very successful if it is not worn on the place where a cap ought to be worn. If a cap is worn on the nose or on the back of the head it is not much good to the top of the head, and I think that the exaggerated angle at which the British soldier is apparently encouraged, for the sake of a smart appearance, to wear his cap, is the cause of many of the evils attributed to the cap itself. I think hon. Members will recognise the difficulties connected with this matter if they consider the great difficulty they themselves experience in finding a suitable head-gear for their own use. The question is not by any means as simple as it looks. There is the ordinary silk hat, of which I am an advocate myself, but I have read columns and columns in the newspapers attacking and defending it, and it is certainly a debatable point whether it is good or not. For the purposes of a more free and easy life the universal practice now is to wear a cloth cap close to the head, which has always seemed to me, although comfortable, to be one of the hottest head-dresses anyone can wear. We change about ourselves from one kind to another, and there is no necessity for uniformity in our case. We have plenty of ingenious people in the shops who provide us with what we want, though I doubt if any hon. Member finds any one of the head-dresses usually sold for use in private life a really good headdress. Therefore the difficulty connected with finding a suitable head dress for the soldier—who is not so free, and who has more strict conditions imposed upon him—is not at all surprising. An hon. Member spoke, very properly I think, of the necessity of considering the traditions of the Army and those little peculiarities and customs which are commonly associated with great events in the past. No one can attribute anything of that kind to the helmet or cap of the present day. Both are the creations of our own time. Now the hon. Gentleman has told us that the War Office is engaged, and has been for some time engaged, in considering this question. I only hope that he will apply the excellent rule he has laid down to-night. I think the War Office is sure 488 to come to grief in its efforts if it attempts to do too much, or if it thinks that absolute uniformity can be applied to all the circumstances, climates, and conditions under which the British soldier serves.
§ MR. WARNER
I have worn all these caps, and I think that the worst of them all was the hard cap. The War Office is to blame for not having supplied the Royal Reserve regiments and certain of the Militia regiments with some similar head-dress. The Under Secretary for War has stated that it was impossible to provide a suitable head-dress for all cases, but he might have supplied a head-dress for drilling in the sun. If the troops at Aldershot had had slouch hats the sad accidents that happened there would not have occurred. I want to draw attention to a question which was the subject of a serious debate in another place, where there was a consensus of opinion that the War Office were doing wrong. I allude to the practice of putting Militiamen into old cast clothes. That is not the way to get good recruits for the Militia. It is said that the Militiaman gets one new suit of clothes. That is hardly the case. He gets one which may be new or partly worn, and one that is not fit to be put on; and this he has to wear for years. I hope the War Office will take into serious consideration the subject of giving the Militiamen at least one decent suit of clothes instead of the old worn things which they get at present. It is a perfect disgrace and a hardship to have to put such clothes on, although I believe it is quite true that they have been boiled and cleaned and made wholesome. A similar complaint may be, made against the accoutrements. I saw the other day some what were called valises, which were to a certain extent serviceable, but they did not match the others in the regiment. They had been worn by another regiment, were at least twenty years old, and had been sent down to replace those that wore falling to pieces. In the same way worn-out rifles are served out. I hope that some more care will be taken in supplying Militiamen with new clothes, new accoutrements, and new rifles.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I am very glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War is paying some atten- 489 tion to the clothing of the Army, and that the soldier is to be supplied with one smart suit for full-dress occasions, and another to wear when work is to be done. The Under Secretary speaks of historical uniforms, but I should say that in future sentiment will run in favour of loose tunics which will recall the glorious deeds in South Africa. I am sure that the young ladies would be better pleased to see their sweethearts and brothers dressed with some reasonable relation to the work which they are called upon to do. Reference has been made to the tight tunics and tight stocks of old days which destroyed the soldiers' health. I remember a Committee upstairs which investigated this matter. In those old times the tunics were so tight that the heart was affected, and the soldiers were attacked by diseases which were despaired of by the Army doctors. Since then the clothing of the soldier has been much more sensible, and irritable heart and aneurisms, and all that class of cases directly due to the cramping caused by the tight tunic and stock have almost entirely disappeared. If you give soldiers a sensible dress their health will increase in due proportion. The "man in the street," who is a man of common-sense, has a right to expect that common-sense will direct the movement of troops at Aldershot and Other parts of the world. I am glad that my hon. friend has taken a grave view of the sad affair at Aldershot. The serious results of sunstroke are not to be measured by the number of deaths. There are many cases in which the man never says anything about it. But a man who has had sunstroke is never safe; it affects him for the rest of his life; and he is easily upset in a variety of ways, familiar to those who have travelled in tropical climates. When I was about to travel in the tropics twelve years ago, the first thing I did was to go to a friend who had experience and ask him what precautions I ought to take. He said the only danger was from the sun striking the head, and the best thing to do was to put up an umbrella whenever the sun came out. This I did, and I was all right. If men do not put on a proper head-dress when the sun is blazing, they are bound to get sunstroke. I would ask.my hon. friend the Under Secretary if he will lay on the Table of the House the.results of the full inquiry that has been 490 made into these sad events at Aldershot' of the gravity of which the hon. Gentleman has taken a very proper view. I am sure that that would relieve apprehension and remove misconception.
LORD BALCAREES (Lancashire, Chorley)
My hon. friend seems to lay the entire blame of what happened at Aldershot on the War Office, for the want of sun helmets. I rise merely to say, in one sentence, that I am personally acquainted with certain cases where the regimental officers made a request for sun helmets, and the War Office made no difficulty in supplying sun helmets or slouch hats.
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hampshire, New Forest)
I wish to give my experience of the heat wave on the field day at Aldershot, and some ideas of mine as to how unfortunate occurrences of this kind may be avoided in future. It is quite true that an excessive heat wave came on in the middle of the day, which no amount of prevision could have anticipated except a previous communication with the clerk of the weather. I attribute the cases of sunstroke on that day to the fact that neither a helmet nor a suitable head-dress for a hot day was provided. I am certain that if any soldier in the Army or Reserve force were asked, he would say that the helmet, as at present designed, is not a suitable head-dress. It is almost impossible to shoot with precision in it. If I had to choose between helmet and forage cap, I would prefer the forage cap, which is much more comfortable. On that particular day it was necessary that the Aldershot force should march a longer distance than the eastern force, but even in the latter a large number suffered from the heat, although they wore helmets. The best solution of the problem would be the provision of a headdress similar to that given to the various irregular corps we lately sent out to South Africa. It is a great mistake to say that the sun in England is less powerful than in South Africa. I have felt the sun on Salisbury Plain far harder and more trying than I ever did in South Africa. Therefore, when my hon. friend is designing the cap of the future, he should design something soft, and which will not necessarily obscure the vision, as the helmet does.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Under the adroit management of the 491 Under Secretary for War we have drifted into a discussion of the best military head-dress of the future. While I admire this adroitness, I think we should have some sort of explanation as to who is responsible for what took place at Aldershot. As a matter of fact some soldiers died, and a great many suffered from sunstroke. How did that occur? A large number of men were taken out to manœcuvre, when the thermometer was above 90 degrees and a hot sun was shining, without practically any covering to their heads, and made to march great distances. Someone must have been responsible. The hon. Gentleman says that there was no culpable negligence. I do not know what he means by culpable negligence. I do not suppose that any officer went out with the intention to destroy life; but there was negligence, and that negligence was palpably culpable. This is not the first time it has occurred. We have had like stories before, and each time we have been told that something is to be done in the future. I want to know who is responsible. The hon. Gentleman says the War Office sent an enormous quantity of helmets abroad, and consequently there were none at Aldershot.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Yes; but if that be the case some general or commander is responsible for what has occurred. After all, we credit a general with some modicum of common-sense which we civilians have; and we know that if we send men out to walk a long distance when the sun is shining, without any head-covering, there will be some accident. I should like to know whether some officer at Aldershot should not have the right to say: "The day is unsuited to take these men out for a very long march, and therefore they should stay at home, or the effect will be the sickness of a great many men." I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that we ought not to ask who is responsible, but ought only to discuss what is to be a fitting head-dress for our soldiers in the future. I daresay there may be some soldiers who take a great pleasure in having a very bad and uncomfortable hat because the like was worn at the battle of Minden. But the world has progressed since that battle, and 492 probably the latest hat is the best under all the circumstances. But that is not the question of the moment. I want to know what are the powers of the Commanding Officer at Aldershot, and how it was that that commanding officer, knowing what the heat of the day was, did not prevent that march.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member for Lichfield has brought forward a question that has been urged in the House before by himself, and also by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire— namely, the great desire on the part of the officers of Militia that their men should have new clothing.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I will not argue the question again, but I may say that the Militiamen gets two suits which, theoretically, have to last in wear seven months in ordinary times; whereas the regular soldier gets two suits and a tunic which, have to last two years.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the clothes ought to last at least more than one or two trainings. It is clear that to give a brand-new outfit in each case would entail a great cost compared with that of the Regular Army. In my own mind, and that of Lord Lansdowne, the plan of issuing old clothes to the Militia has been pushed much too far, and a remedy for that grievance has been: considered. But hon. Members will remember that at the beginning of the session I had to withdraw any permanent proposals with regard to the Militia. I trust, however, that Lord Lansdowne may be in a position, after the experience of this summer, to arrive at a conclusion in regard to the matter before the end of the session. The other speeches have turned on the casualties at Aldershot. I have really nothing to add to what I have already said. The hon. Member was not in the House when I gave a narration of the facts. Directly the heat came on the "cease fire" was sounded, and the men were ordered home. But it was then too-late. When I put forward all the facts I am sometimes accused of representing; that such a catastrophe was inevitable. 493 I did not say that at all. I say that such an occurrence can be avoided, but only by experience and practice. With the Royal Reservists and many new Militia battalions and new officers, it is impossible to expect that everything will go as well as when some one General has commanded a division for three or four years in succession. It is not fair, in such circumstances, to pick out for blame one officer who has done his best, and say "You, and you alone are responsible." The War Office is responsible certainly for having followed the policy of many years in not having a large supply of 150,000 helmets in store. We did not adopt that policy, nor did our predecessors; and I do not believe that anyone without the experience of South Africa would have questioned the policy we did adopt.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I would like to ask just one question as to the sanitary arrangements of the Royal Clothing Factory. For some time past the workpeople have made complaints of the shocking state of these arrangements.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £8,000,000, Warlike and other Stores: Supply and Repair.
§ MR. WARNER
I wish to ask a question on the state of the rifles throughout the country. I know the difficulty at the present time of supplying rifles and replacing those that are worn out. But many of the rifles given to troops that may be sent abroad any day are quite worn out, and some of them are obsolete.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
I wish to call attention to the grievance felt very strongly by soldiers who have deductions made from their pay in connection with what is called barrack damages. I have a note from an officer in command of a battalion 900 strong in South Africa, who had served upon him a demand for one penny! That demand was sent 6,500 miles, all the way to Bloemfontein, and sent back the other 6,500 miles, and the sum of one penny has to be divided between 900 men! I have seen another demand for a halfpenny, which has also travelled the 13,000 miles involved in 494 the journey to and from South Africa, and yet another for 2s. 6d., which has to be divided amongst five regiments! It is comforting to know that while we are spending so many millions on the war the War Office authorities are economising in regard to pence. This is, though small, a serious grievance.
MR. BROWN (Shropshire, Wellington)
said he had heard that the ambulance wagons were not at all what they might be expected to be, and he suggested that experiments should be made with the object of securing a more convenient wagon, and one which could be more easily drawn.
§ MR. F. W. WILSON (Norfolk, Mid)
said it would greatly assist the formation of rifle clubs if rifles and a. certain number of rounds of ammunition were granted to members on more favourable terms than at present.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
asked the Under Secretary for War whether he had considered the possibility of utilising the large number of Mauser rifles which were coming into our hands in South Africa, and also some part of the ammunition which had not been destroyed, for the benefit of rifle clubs. Even if it were not considered advisable to give the rifles for nothing, the members of rifle clubs might be allowed to purchase them at a small cost.
§ MR. ALLAN (Gateshead)
asked the Under Secretary where the War Office was purchasing its field guns. Twelve months ago the Financial Secretary to the War Office, in reply to a question put by him, said that the authorities were converting some of their present field pieces into so-called quick-firing guns, and also that they had under consideration a quick-firing field piece, which, no doubt, would be the best—as usual. But from that day to this we knew nothing as to who was making these guns. He asked, therefore, who was making these guns, and where they were being made, and why this great increase was necessary; also, whether the guns were made in this country or abroad; whether they were our own design; whether they were converted guns, converted from the old slow-firing field pieces, or whoso design they were. He respectfully put these questions to the hon. Gentleman, and would like to have an answer thereto.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Not only the guns, but in the stores we shall receive at the termination of the war, there will be many articles in a much worn condition, and that undoubtedly will necessitate their replacement by others which we hope will be an improvement. We hope to profit by our new experience. A great part of our ambulance stores went to South Africa, and it has been found desirable for the future to build lighter ambulance wagons for use on rough ground. With regard to the small claims, as soon as the War Office discovered the system they stopped it as far as possible; but you must have a method in these matters, but in every system there should be a certain amount of elasticity. Rifles and ammunition are supplied to rifle clubs at the cost of production, and cannot be supplied cheaper. The gun licence has also been withdrawn upon all rifles belonging to rifle clubs, and beyond that we are not prepared to go. It is not the intention of the Government to supply those clubs with rifles free when the wants of the Army and the Volunteers have to be attended to. With regard to field guns, as to which the hon. Member for Gateshead asked a series of categorical questions, I do not think I ought to say where they are being purchased, but as to the type of gun, I think I can show him in a few words the type of gun we shall get. The new guns which have been ordered embody all the latest improvements, some of which come from the type of one manufacturer, say Vickers, and others were evolved at Woolwich. This gun would fire eight rounds per minute instead of five, and we only ordered a sufficient number for six or seven batteries of horse artillery and thirty-six batteries of field artillery. This will afford an experiment on a large scale, and if the gun turns out to be the best that money can buy, the artillery will be armed with it.
§ MR. ALLAN
again asked whether the guns were being made in this country or purchased from abroad. Was the War Office still in the arena of experiment with field guns for the Army, and would the right hon. Gentleman say upon what ground he based the expenditure of £802,000 of public money in this way?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I have already answered these questions. I am not pre- 496 pared to go into details on the subject; but the majority of the guns have been ordered from manufacturers in this country, and some from the arsenal at Woolwich. When the hon. Member asks if the War Office is still in the arena of experiment, my answer is that they always are and always will be.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
Will the rifle clubs be allowed to purchase the Mauser rifles, thousands of which are now coming into our hands in South Africa, at a reasonable price?
§ *SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said he would like to ask two questions. The Vote before the Committee was to provide for current wants, and he wished to know whether the War Office fixed a standard of reserve with regard to the various armaments and equipment which should always be maintained. He presumed a reserve was kept, but he wished to know whether these items under discussion meant that when an extra strain was put upon the country our reserve of armaments and equipment entirely disappeared. He asked the question in order to afford the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of an explanation. The reserve cavalry regiments had been lamentably deficient in saddlery if he could trust the information which he had received, and which had come from well-informed sources. The second point he wished to refer to was the growing expenditure by the War Office for boats and vessels. That appeared to him to be more a matter for the Admiralty, but he noticed under Sub-head E an item of £45,000 for boats and vessels. He objected to the item because soldiers were not the proper persons to take charge of boats and vessels. Under Sub-head I. there was an item of £80,000 for a similar matter, "including vessels and for repairs." He desired some explanation of these items, as it appeared to him that inside the War Office a miniature Admiralty was growing up, and he objected to the principles.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
pressed for an answer as to what was being done with the thousands of Mauser rifles coming into the possession of our troops in South Africa, whether they were to be sold in South Africa, or whether they would be sold in this country for the benefit of rifle clubs.
§ MR. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
pointed out that although the Yeomanry were taken to different places in order to be trained, and to acquire greater skill in shooting, it was rather late in the day to allow them to shoot with obsolete weapons. He drew attention to the carbines now being issued, and asked whether the old form of carbine was being manufactured and issued, or whether it was intended to arm the Yeomanry with an improved and more modern weapon.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Baronet the Member for Great Yarmouth has really raised a very large question. As to reserves of armaments and equipment, of course there are reserves in this country, but they are not, in the opinion of the Director General of Ordnance, at all adequate to meet our needs, nor do I think that a fixed standard of reserve has been arrived at or maintained in respect of many articles. It is a very important question, and one upon which the Director General was at work long before the war broke out, and a Committee has been engaged in collecting a great deal of evidence on which the Government will act. As, however, I shall have to explain the programme adopted to the House, I would ask the hon. Member not to anticipate the explanation now. But the principle of a fixed reserve has been accepted. The War Office is not going to enter into competition with the Admiralty in the matter of vessels and boats, but there are cases in which money is saved bv the Army having its own boats, as, for example, to tow targets, to carry coals and stores from one shore to another. We recognise the necessity of arming all the troops with the most recent weapon, and as soon as a better carbine is obtained it will be supplied to the Yeomanry.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
asked whether, when the hon. Gentleman came to the House with his proposals, he would be in a position to say who was responsible for the present condition of things.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £2,670,700, Works, Buildings, and Repairs. Cost, including Staff for Engineer Services.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
desired to know what was being done as to the erection of the new barracks in Millbank. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury no doubt knew this subject by heart, as he had been bombarded by questions upon it. He (Dr. Farquharson) was very anxious upon the question, having regard to the fact that the St. George's Barracks abut on the National Gallery. He wished to know when the War Office was going to do its share towards the preservation of the very valuable pictures of the nation, from the risk of being destroyed; and when people might lie down at night without the reflection that a fire might dissipate the whole of these valuable pictures acquired at great expense. The strong argument against removing the barracks appeared to be that this was a great recruiting ground; but if the right hon. Gentleman had been down to the barracks and seen the way in which the recruiting was done he would admit that nothing was so likely to chill the early military ardour of the recruit as taking him to this barracks, which was a deadly, dreary, depressing, dirty hole. The first thing to be done was to clear the barracks away, and put them where they ought to be, at Millbank. There was only eighteen inches of brickwork between the Turner Room in the National Gallery and the canteen room of the barracks, which might be filled with inflammable materials, and what possible precaution could be taken to protect the National Gallery from fire or smoke, volumes of which would be projected in at the windows if the wind was blowing in a favourable direction? The hon. Member also asked what was being done to make the Piershill barracks more sanitary. It was unfair that young people should be compelled to live in such a very insanitary place. He also pressed for information as to the working of the sewage farm at Aldershot
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
said that perhaps the Financial Secretary would be able to say what steps, if any, had been taken with regard to the improvement of sanitary arrangements at the factory at Pimlico. Very grave complaints, he was informed, 499 had been made with regard to the sanitary arrangements there.
§ MR. WARNER
noticed that in the Vote there was no sum put down for huts or anything of that description. A very large number had been ordered, and he thought their cost ought to appear in this Vote. Wooden huts were essentially temporary matters, and that item should appear.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
asked what progress had been made in the provision of cubicles in barracks. He drew attention to the fact that considerable interest was displayed in this subject in the previous year, and it would be interesting to know what steps had been taken. Another subject to which he drew attention was the lighting of the barrack rooms, which in a great many cases, especially in the sleeping rooms, were lighted with only one gas burner, and that very often a very bad one. Anything more depressing could not be Conceived. He wished to know whether there was any intention to instal the electric light in barracks.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB
asked why no provision was made in this Estimate for the accommodation of the garrison at Wei-hai-wei. He also called attention to the fact that for the first time a sum of £25,400 appeared in these Estimates in respect of the garrison at Esquimalt. Under the old system the cost of the garrison at Esquimalt was defrayed by the Government of Canada.
§ MR. ALLAN
asked why in this Vote there was nothing allowed for the defence of the river Tyne. There were no fortifications there for the defence of the river, which was second in importance to none in the Empire. It had on its banks what was practically the principal arsenal in the Empire, even excelling that of Woolwich. He should be glad to know why there was nothing on the Estimates for the defence of the river.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The defence of the Tyne and the accommodation of the garrison at Wei-hai-wei were provided for in the loan of last year. The Government are taking £500,000 for huts in South Africa, and £500,000 for huts at home. It is quite certain that a certain number 500 of troops will remain in South Africa, and very probably a certain number will come back before there is barrack accommodation for them in this country. Therefore, we are making provision for the supply of huts. There is also a sum of about £47,000 for putting up storehouses in which the reserve stores will be placed. With that exception there is nothing in this Vote which raises any new question of policy. With regard to the Esquimalt garrison, an arrangement has been come to between the Colonial Office and the Government of Canada in accordance with which Canada will eventually contribute £12,500 of this money. If the hon. Member for West Newington can point out any grave defect in the sanitary arrangements at the Pimlico depot the matter will be attended to. As to the question of cubicles, it will be recollected that the Government undertook to build barracks so that the cubicle system could be introduced. That has been done, and experiments have been made, but the last six months has not been suitable for these experiments.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
asked where the enormous number of huts to be provided in this country were to be put up.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
The exact localities have not been definitely settled. The question as to the National Gallery should have been addressed to my right hon. friend at the head of the Office of Works. There is no actual contact between the National Gallery and the St. George's Barracks. But as soon as the barracks at Millbank are completed there will be a removal from Trafalgar Square to them. The work at Millbank is being pushed forward as rapidly as possible, but I cannot say when it will be finished. As regards the barracks at Piershill the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The barracks at Piershill may not be the most comfortable, but they certainly are not such as to be wholly condemned. The sanitary condition of the sewage farm at Aldershot is first rate, and it is undoubtedly an advantage to the camp to receive supplies from it.
§ MR. ALLAN
May I call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that it 501 is well known that Piershill barracks are insanitary, notwithstanding what he may say to the contrary. I dare say it is simply because they happen to be Scotch barracks that you are not interested in them. It is well known that they are the most insanitary barracks in the whole of Scotland.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
stated that residence in Piershill barracks was harmful to the health of the men. He also remarked that there was no use trying to get away from the fact that the canteen room of St. George's Barracks was separated by only eighteen inches from the National Gallery. He could state on the authority of the President of the Royal Academy that the National Gallery was subjected to great danger in that way.
§ COLONEL WELBY
stated that on account of the insanitary condition of Piershill Barracks it would be far better instead of spending money on them to remove them right away to another place.
MR. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS
promised to take the opinion of the Director-General of the Army Medical Department as to the actual sanitary condition of the buildings and site of Piershill barracks.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 6. £113,800, Establishments for Military Education.
§ 7. £66,900, Miscellaneous Effective Services.
§ 8. £1,611,000, Retired Pay, Half-Pay, and other Non-Effective Charges for Officers, &c.
MR. BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
drew the attention of the Committee to the manner in which Line officers serving in the Militia had been treated with reference to retired pay. It had been the custom of the War Office to try and attract Line officers into the Militia by giving them extra pensions or additional retired pay if they served a certain number of years in the Militia. On embodiment, however, the retired pay was taken away altogether, so that during the whole of the embodiment the officers merely received the ordinary pay of a Line captain. There were other instances in 502 which the treatment of the officers was absurd. It would be said that the officers knew perfectly well that they would not receive retired pay if the Militia was embodied, but from the point of view of broad policy he denied that it was wise to deprive the officers at a time of national emergency of money which really represented pension for past services. He hoped that this matter would be very fully considered, and that the War Office would treat these officers not merely with bare justice but with liberality.
§ MR. ALLAN
This Vote is entitled "For half-pay and other charges for officers," and the total of this Vote represents £1,611,000. If I am not at all diverging from the point, I should like to ask the reason why that sum of money is voted for officers, while there is a less sum of money voted for the non-commissioned officers and men.
*MR. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS
With regard to the question just raised, the answer is a very simple one. The conditions of service which the officers accept, and which the men accept are provided for in this Vote. The officer accepts a commission on the condition that he is entitled to a certain pension. The soldier, on the other hand, accepts service in the Army on a different condition. The one condition results in the charge provided for in this Vote, and the other in the charge to which the hon. Member has also referred, and which is on another Vote. Turning to the question raised by my hon. friend the Member for Tonbridge, I think he has put his finger upon an anomaly. He points out that the officer who has retired with a pension has the whole of his pension stopped whilst the Militia with which he is serving is embodied; while on the other hand, another officer who has retired on a gratuity has the advantage of the interest on that gratuity without any stoppage as was formerly the case. I think that is an anomaly, and I will call the attention of my noble friend the Secretary of State to the matter with a view to taking his opinion as to whether something cannot be done in regard to it. With regard to the general question, however, I do not think my hon. friend has made out a grievance. A retired officer joins the Militia on the condition that he should receive a certain pension; embodiment takes place, and during 503 the period of embodiment that officer is certainly peculiarly better off than he would be if he were receiving only his pension. The difficulty in the way of his receiving his pension at the same time that he receives full pay is that he may be serving alongside a brother officer who would not be receiving anything like as much for his services as the retired officer serving with the Militia would get, if he got not only his full pay but his pension also. I think that is the answer to my hon. friend, and he can hardly expect under such circumstances that any change will be made.
May I point out that the man who takes a gratuity receives the interest on that gratuity in addition to his pay. The other man asks simply that he should get the equivalent to that interest, otherwise he is not really getting full pay, as a part of the pay comes from the Government and the other part really out of his own pocket, because during embodiment he is losing the whole of his pension.
§ Vote, agreed to.
§ 9.£1,379,000, Pensions and other Non - Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, and others.
§ 10.£186,000, Superannuation, Compensation, Compassionate Allowances and Gratuities.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £63,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Ordnance Factories (the cost of the Productions of which will be charged to the Army, Navy, and Indian and Colonial Governments), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The hon. Gentleman, I think, was about to rise to a point of order?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am given to understand—though it is not for me to 504 say—that the Ordnance Factory Vote is included in the Army Estimates. I suppose, therefore, in the strictly technical sense it is down for to-day. But I believe in ordinary practice it is taken separately, and if objection is seriously taken to it the Government will not press it. At the same time, it would be a convenience if we could get it to-night.
§ MR. CALDWELL
It is one of those Votes upon which there is always a considerable amount of discussion, and it is always put down separately. That is the reason I objected; not that I wished to hinder progress at all.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.