§ 2. 430,000, Number of Land Forces.
§ *COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
I listened to the admirable speech of the Under Secretary of State for War with much interest, and there is one statement made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean with which I fully agree. He said the speech of the Under Secretary for War was charming, but that is an epithet which would apply for all his speeches. The charm in his speeches consists in what may be read between the lines. As the right hon. Baronet has pointed out, perhaps the reading between the lines could not to so readily detected yesterday as in his other speeches. I have heard military officers talk loudly about reform before they went to the War Office, but after they have been a short time within that establishment, except under the genial influence of the dinner table, the talk about reform went very much in the background. It has been the same with those who have been officially connected with it in this House, and there is no more, prominent example of it than the right hon. Gentleman who 776 leads the Opposition. He spoke yesterday of the steady progress which there has been in the Army during the last thirty years. I can only say to him that if he had spent those thirty years as a practical soldier anxious for the efficiency of the Army—which I am certain he would have been—he would look now with almost feelings of despair and hopelessness upon his own utterances on that subject of reform. I am quite willing to allow that this is no time for pressing reform upon the War Office, for any attempt at reform now would only tend to dislocate the military machinery. I believe that the War Office at the present time is doing its very best, and has done its very best ever since the war broke out. I believe those employed at the War Office are working conscientiously for the good of the country, and whatever faults may be found with the conduct and the preparations for the war I do not believe that they have been the result of any individual slackness or want of knowledge and determination to do well for the country, but from faults which were inherent in the military system under which our Army exists at the present time. I am sorry to say that the Government at the present moment are very undecided as to what they say about the possibility of reforming our present system. We heard somewhat grudgingly of the possibility of an inquiry. Well, we all know what an inquiry means. Whenever a storm of public opinion beats upon a Government we have a Committee formed from those who sit on this side of the House and those who sit on the other, and they always put up a good stout umbrella, which is named a Royal Commission, or a Committee of Inquiry. They sit down very comfortably under that umbrella, and from time to time one of the ministers gets up and looks outside. If he finds that the storm is still beating, he says, "Let us have some more inquiry"; and so they go on, hoping that 777 that storm will pass by and the sunshine of popularity again be spread over them. I am very much afraid this will be the result of this attitude of inquiry which the Government have somewhat unwillingly promised to take up. We are now successful in the war, and that success may go on until the conclusion. Then public opinion will be slackening in its attention upon the state of the Army. They may say that the Army has we these victories and been victorious, and if mistakes have been committed let them be put upon one side, and the sunshine of public opinion may again shine upon the War Office. But for the good of the country and the defence of the Empire we want something more than an inquiry. The Under Secretary for War spoke yesterday of the many lessons we shall have learned from this war. This seems to me to point to very little except inquiry. We are told that we ought to wait until the war is over. There is no doubt that for all matters of detail we ought to wait. We should wait for the experience of those generals who are now leading our Army so successfully in South Africa, in order that we may know what they think of our system. What we need at the present time, and what the country needs, is that there shall be a definite expression on the part of the Government that not only shall there be an inquiry, not only shall there be a study of the reforms suggested from the seat of war, but that the Government shall promise that there shall be a complete and far-reaching reform of our military system. I believe that no such reform can take place unless there is some readjustment, and even a division of the work at the War Office among the military advisers on the head-quarters staff. It seems to me that there are three possibilities with regard to that readjustment. There is the extension of the present system, which may be roughly called the same system as that which exists at the Admiralty Board. I am one of those who think that an extension of that system is possible, but if it is extended and made permanent there must be a distinct responsibility resting with each of the military advisers of the Crown. At the present time we have no such direct responsibility. The Secretary of State for War, when he is challenged about anything connected with the Army, is chivalrous and says he 778 alone is responsible. That is no doubt a very chivalrous attitude and good feeling which we all admire, but I do not think that this practice is one which is for the best interests of the Army. We want to know with whom rests the responsibility for the military advice, and unless the work is much more clearly separated than it is at the present time, it is impossible that there should be direct responsibility. Whether it be the case of the Commander-in-Chief, the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General, or any of the other advisers, the responsibility must be direct and it must be clear, and without that responsibility I am perfectly certain that we cannot obtain efficiency in the Army. The second mode of readjustment seems to me to be a compromise between the present system of the Admiralty Board and what may be called the one man management of the military side which was in existence before 1895. It is to make a Commander-in-Chief responsible jointly with a military administrator and divide the executive and the administration between them, but that would be very difficult. I must say that I cannot work such a scheme out, and I am doubtful as to the possibility of it. Then I come to the third system, that of making the Commander-in-Chief solely responsible for both executive and administrative functions. If you can get that system under—
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now discussing the constitution of the War Office, and that can only be discussed upon the War Office Vote, and is not relevant to this Vote.
§ *COLONEL WELBY
But the headquarters staff comes under this Vote. I think it is mentioned in the Vote on page 10, but I have almost finished, and I will not dwell upon that point at all. Whatever is done with regard to the headquarters staff, a new name should be given to the responsible heads. In the Army, an adjutant or quartermaster is a subordinate officer, and it seems tome to call an officer of such responsibility an adjutant-general or quartermaster-general is to put him in a false position in regard to the common terminology of the Army. I would press on the Government the desirability of considering this question. There is one other 779 great difficulty connected with this enormous force, and that is the difficulty of making it coherent and united, In the Navy you have a different kind of unit. You have a ship complete in itself, and the commander is responsible for it, and accustomed to work on his own responsibility. The men we are voting to night are really in small units; units of battalions, regiments and batteries, and in order to make them a mobile force they must be united under one commander. Therefore in all questions connected with making this large force efficient the necessity for combining all the smaller units by means of constant inspections throughout the country should be borne in mind, and if this cannot be done by the headquarters staff then it must be done by the commanders of the districts, and they must be regarded as absolutely responsible for the efficiency of the troops under their command. At the present time the General Staff is divided into a number of different districts, each equal to the others, though we have some tiny districts like the Thames and Woolwich, and some very large ones like the North-Eastern and the North-Western districts. This is the old fashioned organisation, and if the Government want to make the Army really efficient they must go down to the very root of the matter and must look into the organisation of the General Staff. I must protest against the system which exists at the present time, by which a great official, such as the Quartermaster-General, at the very time when the Army is mobilising and when he is most wanted at the War Office to superintend the preparations for sending the troops abroad, is taken away and sent to a command in South Africa. Not only has that been done, but the officer in charge of the mobilisation Department has also been sent away from the War Office to do duty in South Africa. It is not a new system, but I say it is an absolutely false one. If these great military officers are appointed to the War Office at large pay, surely the time of war, when all is confusion arising from the mobilisation and the sending out of an unexampled force, is the time when they are most wanted in their Departments. I do hope and trust that in future an absolute rule will be laid down that a staff officer who accepts any of these appointments at home accepts it of the understanding that he shall not, in 780 case of war, be detached from it. Much has been said about the short service system. I am quite in agreement that it is possible to make an infantry soldier efficient in three years, but it should be understood that the whole of that time is devoted to military training. I do not think that anyone acquainted with our camps and garrison towns will deny that the number of men detached from military duties for fatigue work—a work which the men hate more than any other work—is very great. In cavalry regiments the fatigue work is always done by paid men, and I do not see why something of the kind should not be extended to the infantry regiments. To detach men from their regiment is all very well if they have enlisted for their whole lives or for twenty-one years; such men could be sent on all kinds of duties. I have known a cavalryman attached to the general staff sent from Dublin to Kingstown to fetch a parasol which the general's daughter had left there. We must look deeply into all these questions, and we must insist that during the three years' service the men are absolutely confined to military training. I know to a certain extent that would interfere with the technical training of the men for teaching them trades, but if you meet their convenience by shortening their service, we must put all other questions aside and make military training the first and foremost duty the men have to look to. I should like to ask the Under Secretary for War whether he would say what preparation is being made to replace the heavy losses of horses and mules in South Africa. I am afraid the cavalry who were shut up in Ladysmith must be very short of horses, partly because of the casualties, and also because they had to be eaten. I met an officer recently who was invalided home, and he told me that the horses have suffered in a very peculiar way. So hot, dusty and dry has the veldt been that it has affected the hoofs of these horses, and I am told there is the greatest difficulty in keeping them shod. In many cases the hoof has broken in two, and under such circumstances the horse has become absolutely useless, and has had to be destroyed. In the brilliant work done by General French the wear of the horse must have been very great, and a great number of them will have to be replaced, and I think it would be interesting to know what steps the War Office are taking in the 781 matter. I may mention that I have heard that though ample stores had been collected the horses only got 8lbs. of oats and 8lbs. of hay. That may be sufficient for Cape ponies, but I do not think it is sufficient for our large English horses. I do hope that the Under Secretary for War will see his way to putting the battalions of Militia to be called out this year into brigades in order to give them something more than regimental training. I would suggest to my hon. friend whether it would not be possible with such a large force of Militia to carry out some such scheme as a supposed invasion of this country or the defence of London on a large scale. I was very glad to learn that there is a commencement of a breaking down of the wall of separation between the Regular troops and the Auxiliary forces. I think we have suffered too much from that in the past. We have been in the habit of looking down on the Auxiliary forces. We have quite enough men if they were only united and organised, and if the wall of separation between the Regular troops and the Militia and Volunteers were broken down. If that is to be one of the results of the war, as I believe it will be, a great deal will be done for the defence of this country. I hope and trust that some announcement will be given to the country that the Government intend to go thoroughly and deeply into all these different questions, and that they will not rest, whatever be the difficulties with which they may meet, until the Army system is as efficient as it is possible to have it.
§ MR. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
In the Under Secretary's speech yesterday he stated that he could not answer questions with the Speaker in the Chair. It is, however, the custom to have a general discussion on Vote A, and I understood at the time that was the hon. Gentleman's intention. I am afraid, Sir, after your ruling, that some of the matters which I desire to bring before the Committee would be out of order. With reference to the commissariat in South Africa, I understand that although everything had been provided along the railway it was until Lord Kitchener went out most deficient in not being able to move any distance from the railway line, and that on several occasions in consequence of the inability of the commissariat 782 to move from it our generals were practically tied to the railway. That at any rate is the impression all over the country, and I trust there will be some explanation of it. In the accounts I do not see any amount for bringing the troops home. There is no estimate for paying the troops for a whole year, and yet there is no estimate for bringing them home. I think that is rather a misleading statement and that there must be a further Vote.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
On a point of order, Sir, has it not been the general practice on Vote A to permit a general discussion on the statement of the Under Secretary of State, and is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman last night, before the Speaker left the Chair, stated that he would reply to the many questions asked him on this Vote?
I have no knowledge of what the hon. Gentleman says occurred when the House was sitting. All I can take cognisance of is what occurs in Committee of Supply. Committee of Supply is not cognisant of what is done in the House any more than the House is cognisant of what is done in Committee of Supply. With regard to the practice, the discussion is general in this sense, that anything may be discussed upon the first Vote which cannot be properly discussed on any of the other Votes; but if there is a special Vote for a particular matter that is the proper place to discuss that particular matter. There may be certain matters which may not be found in particular Votes, and the proper time to discuss them is on the first Vote.
Anything connected with the men may be discussed; but, for instance, the question of rifle ranges cannot be raised in this Vote. Anything relevant to the number of men to be voted for the British Army would, of course, be relevant to this Vote, and in addition a general discussion in the sense I have just indicated.
§ MR. WARNER
I, of course, bow to your ruling, Sir; but if we got a satisfactory answer to questions on this Vote it would not be necessary to put down reductions later on, which would mean that all the Votes would have to be discussed in detail. It will make the discussion exceedingly difficult, not only for Members, but I am afraid also for the Under Secretary of State. I think old Members will bear me out when I say that this is quite a new ruling, although it is absolutely within the law.
I must really remind the hon. Member that this is not a new ruling, but a very old ruling. An unfortunate habit has recently grown up of discussing on the first Vote of Supply matters which ought properly to be discussed when the Speaker is in the chair. That has occurred on one or two occasions, and I have protested against it. I remember on one occasion when there was a so-called arrangement entered into that a certain discussion should be taken, I distinctly disallowed it on the ground that it was contrary to the rules which govern procedure in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. WARNER
I quite recognise that the law is as stated, but it will be very inconvenient generally. Now I come to a matter which is within the Vote for the men, and that is the permanent increases. I observe that according to the Estimates there is to be no permanent increase in the medical service, the Militia, the Yeomanry cavalry, or the Volunteers, yet from the Under Secretary's statement it would appear that there is to be a permanent increase in all these. I understand that the medical service is to be put on a better footing, which will entail a permanent increase year by year. The Yeomanry are to be put in a different position, the bounty to the Militia is to be permanently increased, and the grants to Volunteers are to be also permanently increased. I should like to know whether these increases should not have been included in the permanent increases. I also wish to know whether the Royal Reserves are to be used for the forty-three new battalions which are to be raised. A considerable number of Royal Reserve men will be used in connection with them, and I should like to know what proportion of men will be trained 784 for permanent work with the new batteries. They will require a very considerable number of men, and I wish to know what arrangements will be made for their permanent working. I do not think these batteries will be a sufficient reserve of artillery, because the artillery has been short and is short, and the proportion of artillery to infantry will not be brought up to anything like the proper standard. With reference to the cavalry regiments, I wish to know, if the Reserve squadrons are to be turned into service squadrons, are officers to be also provided, in order that they may be made real regiments instead of paper regiments? With reference to the question of Militia depôts, I am very sorry that absolutely nothing has been done towards amalgamating some of the small depôts, where idleness is so prevalent and work so rare. I do hope something will shortly be done in this direction. In the small depôts the permanent staff is kept for a certain period of the year doing absolutely nothing, whereas they might be doing the real work of a depôt staff, if the department were put more under the control of the Militia officer, or the Militia more under the control of the depôt officer. If several of the smaller depôts were amalgamated it would save a great deal to the country, and the work would be carried out much better. Moreover, it would be a very simple thing to do.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
I quite agree with my hon. friend in praising the most eloquent speech delivered the other night by the Under Secretary for War. I also agree with him in regard to the disastrous influences which come over any Member of this House who has to do with the War Office, although my hon. and gallant friend knows more than I do on that subject, for I believe he has a relation long connected with the War Office. The Under Secretary entered the War Office, and with military enthusiasm thought he would have some influence in altering the course which had been pursued by the Department. But unfortunately the War Office has been too strong for him, as for so many others, and I am sorry to say that he holds out no prospect of any reform in that Department. [Hon. Members: No.] I do not think he holds out any prospects of those reforms which he referred to as desirable in July last. 785 We have listened to many eloquent speeches from the Under Secretary, but they do not seem to be convincing. I do not know why. It is, I suppose, because the War Office case is not a good one, although the Department appear to be able to get the most eloquent advocates to state their case in this House. I remember a speech made by the Undersecretary in the House in regard to the Guards. We were told that the change would not only be a good one, but would very much improve the condition of the Guards. I am sorry to say the critics on that occasion were right, and the Under Secretary was wrong. For what have we secured? The second battalion of the Grenadier Guards were ordered to Gibraltar, and afterwards, instead of being sent on to the Cape, as we all understood would be the case, they were despatched back to England. Now, one of the chief reasons for the change of service of the Guards was that by the service at Gibraltar they would be rendered more efficient, and able to go on any expedition. The hon. Member for West Belfast said that no organised units had left these shores for ten days after the declaration of war. I cannot help thinking that, if the Guards had been left in the condition they were in before the change, we should have had some chance of some organised units being despatched to the Cape at once. I had hoped that the Under Secretary would have indicated some scheme of having a few regiments of infantry ready for despatch and to take the field at a moment's notice, without calling on the Reserves. Some of the difficulties we have had in this war have arisen from the fact that we could not send out any artillery or cavalry without calling on the Reserves. Now in this matter we differ very considerably from Continental nations, such as France and Germany, which always keep a certain portion of their cavalry and artillery up to war strength. It would appear we have to get back to the colours the Reserves before we can send our cavalry or artillery to the front. I may remind the Committee that one reason for the inability of Lord Methuen to advance after a successful engagement was that the artillery and cavalry did not arrive in time. That was not so much owing to the lack of transport, but that we could not send them out in an efficient condition. I would like to 786 direct the attention of the Under Secretary to the question of the organisation of our cavalry. I may remind the Committee that in this country our squadrons are smaller in the number of men and horses than the squadrons of any other nation. Our war strength of squadrons comprises only 134 mounted men, whereas in France and Germany the squadrons consist of 149 and 150 mounted men respectively. The difference does not seem particularly great, but when it is remembered that these nations put four squadrons in the field as a regiment, and we only put three, then the difference becomes more marked. Further, when we consider that our regimental full strength is 407 men and horses, as against 668 in Germany, and 935 in Austria, and 995 in France, then I think a clear case has been made out for doing something to increase the strength of our cavalry per regiment. I hoped to see something done in that respect, but I cannot find in the Army Estimates any indication of a change at any kind or description that is going to be made. I cannot see how the emergency proposals can be carried out. We have been told that the reserve squadrons of every cavalry regiment that has gone to the front would be now made into service squadrons. I cannot see how a reserve squadron, composed almost entirely of recruits, with very few officers, and these very young, can possibly be made into a service squadron, and at the same time provide drafts for the regiment at the front. I had hoped that the Government would have proposed a permanent addition to the cavalry forces, and I am sorry that they should have attempted, if I may venture to say so, to throw dust into the eyes of the British subjects that they had created four more cavalry regiments. I see that the new squadrons of the Household Cavalry are not to have any new officers, there is simply to be an addition to the number of the men. I would remind the Financial War Secretary that something ought to be done to supply a much larger number of officers in the cavalry. At the present moment there is a very real and serious deficiency in the supply of such officers. I know some hon. Gentlemen have put that down to the fact of the expense of living in cavalry regiments. When we look abroad we see that the German Emperor issued an edict about the ex- 787 penses to which cavalry officers are put, but in spite of that very little could be done to keep these expenses down. I ask the Government to see whether something could not be done to change the leave system. That may seem a trifle, but I can assure the Under Secretary for War that that is one of the main factors which deters men from joining the cavalry. They used to get two and a-half months leave straight on end. That may seem too much; but what the officers chiefly object to is that three weeks are taken away from them in the middle of their leave, and they cannot settle down in any one place. I would suggest that the leave should be cut down, and that the system of breaking the leave in the middle should be abolished. I consider that the most interesting portion of the speech of the Under Secretary was that dealing with the employment of troops composed of natives of British India for service in Mauritius. That is an entirely new departure in our military history. I venture to ask the Under Secretary whether the two battalions recruited in India, and paid for by the Government, will be permanently stationed in Mauritius, or whether they will be interchangeable with other battalions of the Indian army. Then I call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that the number of officers with these battalions is only eight per regiment. In this connection it is worth while that the Government should remember what Lord Roberts said as regards the number of officers and the efficiency of native regiments. The Field Marshal said that the officering of native regiments was one of the most important questions the Government had to deal with. His words were—The officering of native regiments, nine to a cavalry, and eight to an infantry regiment, may be sufficient in time of peace; but that number is quite too small to stand the strain of war. Indian soldiers, like soldiers of every nationality, require to be led; and history and experience teach us that Eastern races (fortunately for us), however brave and accustomed to war, do not possess the qualities that go to make leaders of men, and that native officers in this respect can never take the place of British officers. It is, therefore, most unwise to allow native regiments to enter upon a war with a much smaller proportion of British officers than is considered necessary for European regiments. I have no doubt whatever of the lighting powers of our best Indian troops; I thoroughly appreciate their soldierly qualities; brigaded with British troops I would be proud to lead them against any European enemy; but we cannot 788 expect them to do with less leading than our own soldiers require; and it is, I maintain, trying them too highly to send them into action with the present establishment of British officers.Lord Roberts adds—During the Mutiny the casualties among the British officers with the Sixth Punjab Regiment, which saw the most fighting, amounted to 60 per cent.Well, when we come to consider that in a cavalry regiment at home the number of officers is twenty-three, on service twenty-six, and in India twenty-nine; and in the infantry regiments at home twenty-four, in the colonies twenty-eight, and in India twenty-nine, I think the number for the Mauritius battalions is too small. It may be said that the Soudanese regiments are in the same condition; but I do not suppose that these regiments are intended to fight against any but Soudanese. The West African regiment has thirty-nine officers, the West Indian regiment forty-one officers, and the Chinese regiment twenty-eight officers per battalion. Last, but not least, the British Central African regiment stationed in Mauritius has only nineteen officers per battalion. I hope the Government will consider this point, and also that the number of officers in the Indian regiments should be increased. Another subject to which I wish to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary is with what rifle these native regiments are going to be armed. It may not be known that at present they are armed with the Martini-Henry single loader rifle, while our own troops are armed with the magazine rifle, and the troops with whom they may be called upon to fight are armed with the very best rifles that money can buy. I trust that fact will be taken into consideration. Turning to the Volunteers and the emergency proposals, I am sure that these proposals, especially as modified to-night by the Under Secretary for War, will be gladly welcomed. I have three gallant regiments of Volunteers in my own constituency, and from what I have heard from them, the Government will this year be easily able to get the men to camp for fourteen days. Another part of these proposals will be cordially accepted, namely that the Volunteers and the Militia are to have a Deputy Adjutant General. One omission I noticed in the 789 speech of the Under Secretary, and that was, he made no mention of the Yeomanry. Now I hold that the Yeomanry are entitled to a great deal of the praise that has been given to both the Volunteers and the Militia; and I think it is a pity that the Under Secretary did not take the opportunity of recognising the good work that they have performed. But I would like to know whether the Deputy Adjutant General appointed for the Volunteers or the Deputy Adjutant General for the Militia is to look after the Yeomanry, or whether a Deputy Adjutant General is to be appointed for the Yeomanry alone. Now I come to the question of the permanent staff of the Auxiliary forces. The fact is that at the present moment both the Volunteers and the Militia have lost part of their permanent staff. In one regiment that I know of, no fewer than three of the permanent staff have gone to the front; and in another, two including the adjutant, have been taken away. Now, the Yeomanry and the Volunteers have been asked to go out in training for a longer period, and invited to recruit up to their full strength; and it is very hard on them that no provision is made to fill up the vacancies on the permanent staff. Everybody knows the difficulty of getting hold of good men to instruct young recruits. Is it too much to ask the Government to detach some non-commissioned officers from the Regular Army, for the purposes of instructing the new recruits in the Volunteer and Militia regiments? I can assure the Under Secretary that this point is occasioning great consternation in the minds of commanding officers. Another point to which I wish to direct attention is the appointment to commissions in the Militia. The right hon. gentleman the Member for East Manchester, who is Chairman of the Service Members Committee, alluded to boys in public schools being appointed to direct commissions above the heads of men who had qualified in other respects, and who are serving at the front. I hope some care will be taken in the allotment of these commissions. Only the other day I heard from an officer who has a son serving at the front, that his son had taken part in two engagements, and hat been well reported on by his colonel. A death vacancy occurred, and a general was appointed from the Militia from home direct into the regiment, and the 790 young officer serving at the front loses his seniority. I know that these appointments lie with the Commander-in-Chief, but I trust that in the case of young officers who went out to the front in the first instance, inquiry will be made so that their claims will not be prejudiced. There is another question, that of the Royal Reserve Battalions. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War in making his statement on the Supplementary Estimates told us that the Reservists were to be called back and asked to volunteer in the Reserve battalions, and that these were men who had done their twelve years service. He said—We shall allow men to come back, although they have served their twelve years. In that case we shall allow them to serve on for pension.The other day I asked a question whether these men were to be allowed so to serve, and I was informed that that was not the case—that they were only to be allowed to serve one year, and not to serve on for pension. I venture to think that it would be wise to induce some of these men to serve on for pension. I can assure the Financial War Secretary that this point is one which has been much inquired after by the men affected, and that a favourable answer from him would be much appreciated.
§ *Mr. BUCHANAN
said he did not wish to repeat the questions which he had put to the Under Secretary on the previous day, and in reply to which he had not obtained all the information he desired. He found that the statements he had made on the previous day were under rather than over the mark. What he complained of was that the Estimates submitted to the House did not fully show anything like the liabilities the country would have to meet in consequence of the large increase in the forces. The full truth was not revealed to the Committee. There were certain branches of expenditure consequential on the increase in the number of the forces which implied a small initial Vote this year, but which would involve great future expenditure; and in order to be frank and fair with the House the Under Secretary ought to have given them what would be the total liability to the country when the scheme came into full operation. The increased 791 number of men on the permanent establishment was 27,500, and he complained that no provision had been made for their barrack accommodation. He desired to know whether the Government intended to introduce a new Barracks Loan Bill, and if so whether it was to be done during the present year, and what the cost would be. According to the figures given by the Under Secretary of £120 per man, it would be three millions and a quarter, which was a very large amount. Under the head of the Vote for men there was an item under the head of Colonial Corps, part of which consisted of the colonial contingents now serving in South Africa. The remarks made by the Under Secretary rather pointed to the conclusion that the Government really intended in the future to organise a permanent force of these colonial contingents. Under those circumstances it was desirable that some explanation should be given as to the conditions under which they had been engaged, and whether they had been invited to undertake the extra work of garrisoning South Africa after the war had been brought to a conclusion, which seemed to be indicated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It had been suggested that when the war was over some of the colonial troops would be transferred to the service of the Chartered Company, who would use them for policing the conquered country. He hoped a categorical denial would be given to that suggestion. He could hardly imagine anything more unwise than to get a contingent from one self-governing colony to undertake such a duty in another, and in his opinion such a course would tend, more than anything else, to the disunion of the Empire. Apart from the colonial troops furnished for the purposes of the war in South Africa, he noticed on the Vote a considerable number of men voted under the head of Colonial Corps, and he found on looking back that that number was continually increasing. When the Government came into office these forces practically consisted of the Royal Malta Artillery, and other Artillery forces, and the infantry which came under the category was represented by two battalions of the West India Regiment, and one regiment at Hong Kong. From the time the Government entered office they had been constantly added to. The right hon. Gentleman denied that the recent increase was 792 due to Imperial expansion, but he had omitted to notice the fact that the increase of these corps had only taken place during the last few year. He deprecated the practice of charging the British Estimates with the cost of forces not British in character, and charged the Government with the responsibility of so doing. This practice, which had been adopted by the Government to an extent never before contemplated, in his opinion was most dangerous. For increasing colonial garrisons the aggressive and expansive policy of the Government was clearly responsible. He asked whether the Indian regiments were to be taken for the general reinforcement of the military resources of the Empire. Could they be sent anywhere? Were they to be absolutely at the disposal of the military authorities? It was important the Committee should understand what were the conditions under which the Indian Government had agreed to part with two of its native regiments.
§ *THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL WILLIAMS, Birmingham, S.)
remarked that it was not a question of the Indian Government parting with any existing regiments. New regiments were raised to replace those taken for service in Mauritius. Whether they would ever be asked to volunteer for service elsewhere if occasion arose was more than he could, say.
§ *Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not know that that agrees with what was said last night by the Under Secretary.
§ *Mr. BUCHANAN
said he certainly gathered that the Government intended to take from India two regiments for service in the Mauritius.
*Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS
pointed out that that was a question of the future; the immediate intention was to recruit two new regiments.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
thought that if two regiments were wanted for Mauritius in the present emergency the authorities would have taken two trained regiments, but what had just been said showed the extreme necessity for some further explanation on the subject. There was the further question of pay to be considered. Did the Government propose to pay the capitation grant for each recruit? At the present moment we made the Indian Government pay not only all the expenses of the British troops in India, but compelled them to hire British soldiers from the War Office, at £7 10s. per head. The Home Government was now going to recruit soldiers in India, but he could not find the cost of that recruiting in the Estimates. Was it wise from a military point of view that there should be an independent recruiting authority in India recruiting against the Indian Government? Such a suggestion would only need to be mooted to be disclaimed. It was a very questionable departure from the military system of this country to go to India as a recruiting ground for the British Army, and the result so far as India was concerned would be that when the financial aspect was considered India, as she always did when financial relations were discussed between her and this country, would go to the wall. The large increase of colonial corps was justified by the Government on the ground of Imperial defence, and looked upon in that light India is our largest dependency. If India were lost Great Britain ceased to be a great military Power. At the present time India discharged the whole of her military obligations herself, and in fact did a great deal more than her duty in the way of Imperial defence, and now the Government intended to take a great number of her troops for service in other parts of the Empire. He hoped some further explanation would be forthcoming upon the points he had drawn to the attention of the House.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
In the first place I should like to follow the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire in pressing one or two questions. In reference to the colonial native troops who 794 are to be used for employment outside India, it would be interesting to know what the duties of those troops are, and what are to be the methods and places of their employment. There is considerable doubt felt as to what the proposals of the Government in regard to the permanent additions to our forces really mean. As far as I can make out the scheme of the Government does not go much further, except in some particulars which I will mention, than that outlined by Mr. Stanhope in 1888. In many respects it is the corollary and consequence of the steps then taken. In a memorandum attached to the Estimates of 1887–8 it was pointed out that a general review of our available forces showed that with certain changes and additions they would be sufficient to provide men for all our home and colonial garrisons, and also to furnish two army corps of regular troops, together with a strong cavalry division, and the necessary troops to guard their line of communication, i.e. after providing for India and the Colonies. The two great deficiencies to be noted were in connection with our garrisons, and existed in the Garrison Artillery and in the Engineers. Therefore, if we take, as usual, the infantry as the guiding line of discussion, it remains true that Mr. Stanhope's ideal was two army corps of regular troops, with a strong cavalry division, and the necessary troops to guard their line of communication. The memorandum went on to say that the whole of the units necessary to complete this organisation were actually in existence in the year 1888, with the exception of some deficiencies in the departmental corps, which could, however, be rapidly filled up on an emergency. I need not labour that point, but I should like to compare that statement with the speech of the Under Secretary for War in February last.* Speaking of the mobile force necessary for home defence, he said—We propose to aim at three army corps and three cavalry brigades. This as been our aim for the defence of this country ever since 1888, and I think we have shown that practically we have recently reached that standard, because we have sent out more than two army corps, and have in this country the other half of the third.*See The Parliamentary Debates[Fourth Series], Vol. lxxviii, page 1271.795 The Under Secretary then went on to point out what, of course, was true—that by far the more serious aspect of this depleting of the country of troops is not that 128,000 Regular soldiers have been sent to South Africa, but that the permanent plant of two army corps has been sent away. He then said—Our proposal is—and this is a permanent proposal—to raise at once the Artillery, the Army Service Corps, and the Engineers for two army corps. That is to say, we propose to raise at once thirty-six battalions of field artillery and seven battalions of horse artillery. Our scheme is this—that there should always be in this country at full war strength those permanent parts of an army corps which it is difficult to improvise.Practically, then, as I understand it, the addition we are now making to the scheme at which he have been working for twelve years is that of the permanent increase of two army corps. As to the permanent increase of the Army, I understand the Government propose to add in this year 27,000 men, but it must not be forgotten that we are practically in the middle of another programme; we are in process of raising 25,000 men which were announced as the goal of the Government in this matter two years ago. It is very interesting to observe what has been done in regard to raising these men. In 1897 the Government put forward a programme adding to the military forces of the country 9,024 men. In the following year they extended that programme and announced their intention of adding25,083 men to the Army. We have now the proposal to add another 27,000, so that there has been a progressive increase in the proposed additions, with the result that it is now the purpose of the Government to add a total of 52,626 men. How far has this purpose been carried out? The increase actually obtained on the 1st January, 1899, was 12,636 men, but from that number must be deducted 4,500 men in the first class Army Reserve, leaving a net increase after the scheme has been in operation for two years of8,136 men. That is to say, on the 1st January, 1899, you had not succeeded in carrying out the first programme of 1897. According to my figures, we have still to raise, under the schemes of these three years, 43,490 men for the Regular Army. By the present scheme we have also to raise 76,000 men for the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers, 796 to bring up the battalions which we want for home defence. Beyond that we have a number of cavalry required to bring up to war strength the cavalry regiments we have here on a peace strength. We want men to bring up to war strength the three Household regiments which are minus a squadron each, and we have to bring twelve reserve squadrons to service squadron strength in order to form the four regiments referred to by the hon. Gentleman. Then we have a fourth item in cavalry—namely, the troop apiece from each Yeomanry regiment, which implies that we have to fill up the vacancies in the Yeomanry. I am trying to arrive at an estimate of the effort the country has to make both in men and in money to meet the demands of the Government, and how far the scheme is likely to succeed. In reference to the addition of 76,000 men for the auxiliary forces, I should like to ask the same question as I have asked before: Why is the Under Secretary so sanguine? Besides this permanent increase there are also temporary demands. You are calling up the artillery Reservists. I cannot help thinking that in the future organisation the 200,000 men connected with the twelve Royal Reserve battalions might be a very valuable source upon which to draw when an increase of forces for home defence was required. What is this very large demand going to cost? The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire calculated the cost of barracks for 25,000 or 27,000 men, but it is going to be more than that. There will be barracks for 40,000 men, and if you are going to do something to attract a superior class of men, the cost will probably be much more than the estimate of £120 per man. It means a capital expenditure of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 for barracks alone, apart from ranges, equipment, the initial cost of arms, the rearming of the Volunteer artillery, and the establishment of these forty-three battalions. It is just as well we should know what we are doing, because we seem to be drifting into responsibilities which we scarcely realise. Another very important question, apart from the cost, is, are you going to get the men? We have had most encouraging figures as to the results of recruiting lately. Both here and in another place the representative of the War Office has told us how month after month there has been a very generous 797 rally of recruits to the services. I may incidentally say here that it is very difficult to discuss these larger considerations in connection with the Army without having before us the report of the Inspector General of Recruiting. The whole question of whether or not this is a wise policy on the part of the Government depends on whether it is likely to be realised. How far does our experience of recent years justify us in the expectation that we should get all these men? In war time the enthusiasm and patriotism of the country runs high, and recruiting receives a great impulse, but what is it going to be when peace again reigns? There cannot be worse agents for recruiting than those men who will shortly return in such large numbers with the loss of a limb, or loss of health, or loss of capacity to earn a living. What has happened in previous years? Perhaps I may disregard the experience of the past four months, as it does not afford a normal standard. In 1897 the Government brought forward a proposal involving an addition of 9,000 men to the Army. By the 1st January, 1899, they had succeeded in getting 8,000. If it takes two years to raise 8,000, how long will it take to raise 40,000? It is a very serious responsibility for this House and for the country to accept the proposals made by the Government as the minimum consistent with the safety of the country, if at the same time the way cannot be clearly seen in the present proposals by which that minimum can be obtained. That seems to be the situation in which we stand. In all quarters of the House there is a certain amount of doubt as to whether the methods proposed by the Government will be successful in securing the end they have in view. Various expedients have been proposed, and I rather regret that some of them have not received more serious consideration. There is the question so often raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth as to the employment of marines in the place of military forces.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
The hon. Member is aware that the War Office has no power over the marines.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
Certainly. I am only pointing out that that expedient, 798 if carried out, would have the effect of releasing some battalions from the colonial roster, and of relaxing in some measure the strain at present put upon our Army system owing to the number of battalions we have to keep abroad. If you are going to give the present system of invitation a real chance you must increase the present inducements. The old inducements are not sufficient. In the first place, we must contemplate increased pay. I do not think it necessary that the initial pay should be increased, because at the age at which men enter the Army they do not consider the question of pay so much as at a later period of life. But it might be worth consideration whether the pay in later years should not be increased, and whether, as an incentive to join and as a reward for good conduct, you should not make the good conduct badges not only more valuable but more frequent. Another inducement which is necessary, if you are going to add to the attractiveness of the Army, is that you should add to the number of married men in a regiment. Our system is not so comfortable as in foreign armies, the study of which suggests that the proportion of married men in our regiments is not very great, and it is worthy of consideration whether the increase of that proportion to each regiment would not be an inducement to recruiting. I need not say a word about the elasticity of the service, for we seem to be making progress in that respect. There is one other matter that has been suggested to me by more than one officer, and that is, that the service, as a whole rather lacks a career for the best class of non-commissioned officers. It might be possible to increase the number of warrant officers throughout the service. Possibly, then, the senior sergeant-majors and the various leading non-commissioned officers who are now senior non-commissioned officers would be able to work up to the rank of warrant officers, and so you would open a career which would be of great value to the Army. Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word about the idea that there should be some training in civil life. I feel that it might be possible to facilitate and regulate the transfer of men from the colours into civil life, and to make the channel between the civil population and the Army more open. This could be done by some condition on leaving the service that when- 799 ever a man had done his drills and become a trained and competent soldier he should be allowed to go to civil life and be a soldier on whom you can call when required. Then there is another point, and that is what is the increase of our Army due to? The Secretary of State for War in his Memorandum has said that our growing Imperial responsibilities are the immediate cause of the present increase. That is perfectly true, but we must define what we mean by growing Imperial responsibilities. I suppose it would be equally true of the Navy to say that the great increase there was due to the same cause. Even in the present scheme the Under Secretary admitted that in providing fifty-two battalions for India and thirty-nine battalions for the colonies, making a total of ninety-one battalions, even then you have not the full number to keep up the balance of battalions at home and abroad.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The figures I used were fifty-two battalions for India, three for Egypt, seventeen for all the colonial stations including Gibraltar, and we now propose twelve for South Africa; that makes eighty-four, and deducting the three battalions of Guards leaves the total at eighty-one.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
But you do not get the 162 battalions, which is the multiple arrived at considering the number of battalions at home and abroad. I do not blame the Government for not having gone the whole length of 162 battalions, but I am pointing out with all our great efforts we do not arrive at the result which we want to attain. What is it that causes this increase in our military responsibility and the demands made upon it? Your colonial garrisons number fifty-nine battalions, but in the year 1888 they only numbered 29,000 men. When I speak of the colonial forces I am referring not to the Queen's battalions sent abroad, but to the various local forces raised in various parts of the Empire, and put on the Estimates under Foreign and Colonial Forces on page 11 of the Army Estimates. This great increase is supposed to be due to the great increase of our responsibilities in Africa, Asia, and different parts of the world. The First Lord of the Treasury says it is not due to the extension of our Empire in Africa and Asia, and that it has been 800 rendered necessary not by the foreign policy of the Government, but by the naval and military policy of other countries. That is very important, and I believe it is a very true statement, because it must be seen on the Estimates that so far as it goes the forces which have been called into being by our colonial expansion in Africa and Asia consist not of forces of the regular Army, but very largely of those colonial forces which are not in the Army Estimates, and also of the forces under the Colonial and the Foreign Office, which, put altogether, form a very respectable army. When we come to other portions of the right hon. Gentleman's statement I must confess that I am obliged to differ. It is perfectly plain that whatever may have been the naval and military policy of other countries, the naval policy of this country has had some influence in encouraging, if not actually leading the way for, an increase in the naval expenditure of other countries. I am afraid that may be the case with these Army Estimates, and if the country does not watch closely the increase in the expenditure on the part of the Army we may be led into the same danger. It used to be said that an increase in the Navy had nothing whatever to do with the Army, but whenever an increase takes place in the Navy an increase in the Army generally takes place with it. If this great increase in our military expenditure is not due to colonial expansion, it is due to our relations with other Powers. If we choose to cultivate a friendly policy and make it our aim and object to cultivate friendly relations with other Powers, that affords the only hope of moderating the naval and military expenditure of the country. There is an idea abroad that we and other countries must go to large territories and keep them as preserves for our trade. Everyone knows that that was the first idea of colonies, but it has long ago been exploded. I venture to lay emphasis npon the fact that the alternative and only method of checking an increase in our naval and military expenditure is to adopt a persistent and magnanimous policy which will preserve equanimity and magnanimity between those great Powers which compete with us in armaments. It is difficult to discuss these questions in view of the present South African entanglement. Upon this question it is difficult to dissociate one's opinions, 801 because we are all standing shoulder to shoulder to get the country out of the present difficulty. The Under Secretary for War tells us that on this side we have no middle course between denouncing the war and co-operating cordially with the Government in the permanent proposals which they put forward, but I venture to differ from that statement. I do not believe that the policy of the present Government has tended to reduce the necessity for armaments, and I do believe that if a proper, friendly, and self-controlled policy on the part of this country—which ought to be mindful of the aspirations of other people as well as our own—had been cultivated, and the country had been helped to adopt that policy, and public opinion educated in that direction, we should have gone a great way in the direction of avoiding what I believe to be a real danger in the future, and that is that without studying these questions and without going into them carefully we should be forced by an ill-informed public opinion to increase very largely our Army Estimates. It is well known that, upon this matter, there is a very powerful public opinion outside. If the Government have had abuse it has not been from this side of the House, but it has come from those outside who are usually the supporters of the present Government. Those are the people who have been disappointed because the Government have not adopted more extreme measures and resorted to compulsory schemes. In The Times to-day there is a repetition and reiteration of a proposal that we should have an Army League to hasten and bustle the public opinion of the country at a time when it cannot be said to be normal, and through the circumstances connected with this war compel the Government to adopt proposals of very great magnitude. I am extremely grateful to the House for allowing me to speak so long. I know it is too late to object to these increases now that we are deeply committed to them, but I raise my voice, humble though it be, in order to urge greater vigilance and more close examination of the proposals of the Government, and to repeat that, so far as the present war is concerned, I am at one with the Government in wanting to get it over and carried out to its final conclusion. I trace this increased expenditure not only to increased responsibilities abroad, but also to 802 the policy which the Government has pursued ever since it came into office.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has given us to-night, as he generally does, a somewhat interesting address. In the long address he has just delivered he has discussed the general policy of the Government, but he does not seem to recognise the fact that this country is now at war, and that what we care about in voting these Estimates is that we should have a thoroughly efficient army in South Africa and also an efficient force for home defence. Instead of discussing this the hon. and gallant Member has gone more into questions affecting the general policy of the country.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I stated distinctly that I wished to confine myself to the permanent increase in the Estimates.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
The hon. and gallant Member's speech from beginning to end referred to the general policy, but I wish to refer to the war policy, for I know the people do not care at present about the policy raised in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member opposite. The people of this country want to see our troops beat the Boers, and they also want a good army for home defence. We are asked to vote a very large number of men, and in that you have two new factors; one is the colonial army and the other the Royal Reserves. Amongst the remarks made by my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War last night, the remark he made about our colonial forces was particularly interesting to me. There is no doubt that we have in our colonial forces a very great source of strength to rely upon in the future. I happen to know this force, for I spent two years in Australia, and I was an officer in the Victoria Militia. I know the stuff those men are composed of, and I know that their Militia and artillery are perfectly efficient and excellently trained. I hope the Committee will allow me to say that I have read with very great regret of the death of that 803 able officer Colonel Umphelby. I knew that gentleman when I was in Victoria, and I can say that a braver or a more enthusiastic soldier of the Queen never wore a uniform. With regard to this question of our colonial forces I must point out that it is one which requires to be handled with very great care. Although all our colonies are loyal they are all exceedingly jealous of interference with their local forces, and do not desire to be connected with any Imperial scheme or official red tape. Therefore, we should be very careful indeed how we try to bring them in as part of our military system. That will perhaps be one of the things which my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary will be able to discuss with the Australian representatives when they come over here to discuss Imperial Federation. I listened to my hon. friend's speech last night, as I always do, with the greatest interest and attention, for he is always eloquent and amiable. I could not help thinking, however, that he was like the prophet Elijah, and I was like the young man, for my eyes were opened; but, unfortunately, when my hon. friend sat down that vision disappeared. Now, what are the actual requirements of the war at the present time? Two things are required. First of all we want a constant stream of drafts for our field force in South Africa; and, secondly, we require a mobile army for the defence of our country at home. I think when the Militia now embodied have gone out we shall then have quite sufficient units in South Africa. Our duty then will be to keep up a constant stream of drafts. To do this we have three forces. There are the recruits enlisted some twelve or eighteen months ago. Then there is Section D of the Army Reserves, and we have a certain number of men who are temporarily invalided for medical reasons, but who will be ready to go out again for duty in a short time. With these forces we should have no difficulty in raising 3,000 men every month as drafts for South Africa, which should be quite sufficient. I know that our losses at the commencement of the war were very heavy, but if we can keep up drafts of 3,000 men per month I think we shall do very well, and we cannot expect our losses to be in the future anything like so heavy as they have been during the past five months. With these drafts I think the Govern- 804 ment will be able to keep up their strength in South Africa. Now to turn to the question of our army for home defence. I do not propose for a moment to deal with the permanent proposals of the War Office. My view is that it is ideal to reform your Army permanently until you begin at the top and reform your War Office. I simply refer to-night to the emergency proposals of the Government. I am no alarmist, and I do not believe even in the possibility of an invasion of this country, although a raid is quite possible. I believe in that possibility, because our Fleet might possibly in the future meet with a temporary check, which in these days of steam power would be far more serious than under the old conditions. Another reason why we should have an army for home defence is that the stronger we show ourselves at home the less we have to fear from complications abroad. I think it was announced in the Army Estimates that we have a force of 400,000 men at home. I do not believe in the argument that this is a stage army. There is an army of 400,000 men which we are supposed to have at home, and I look upon it not so much as a stage army, but as magic lantern army. What we do want is a really mobile force at home which we can use not to repel invasions, but to repel a raid. I do trust that the Government will seriously take into consideration the question of giving up this useless idea of locking up a number of Volunteers to defend the forts around London. If the forts around London are to be held by Volunteers when London is being invested, it will be then time to haul down our flag. My hon. and gallant friend earlier in the session talked in an eloquent way of our gallant troops who were going to guard the heart of the Empire. As regards the Royal Reserve battalions there is a certain amount of justice to be done to the old soldier. A great many old soldiers who have joined the Imperial Yeomanry and the Volunteers and gone abroad have not received a sixpence of bounty, but these men who have stayed at home and joined for garrison duty have received a bounty. That, I think, is a gross injustice. When those proposals were introduced three weeks ago my impression was that the old soldier who was called to the colours would have participated—
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
The available number was, we were told, 170,000, and that the number expected to return was 45,000 or 50,000, and that the number that had returned was 17,000. The non-return of those who have not responded to the call is not due to any want of patriotism or loyalty, but is because they cannot afford it. A man with a family to support, who is in regular employment earning as alary of £1 or 25s. a week, cannot afford to throw it up. The bounty of £22 is too large and too small. It is too small to attract the best class of men—men who are in regular employment—and a smaller bounty would be sufficient to attract those who are engaged in casual labour. It is also a great mistake to form new Militia units. The second line which we have to fall back on for a mobile line in times of necessity is the Militia, and, as everybody knows, the condition of the Militia is deplorable. It is very well to take abroad battalions of Militia, but if you are going to embody them and depend upon them for national defence the proper thing would be to make a fresh battalion and to get Reserve men to join them. If old soldiers were tempted to join the Militia—if they were given a small bounty to join for a fortnight or a month's training, the Militia would be strengthened enormously. A small bounty of £4 or £5 might be given, and a great many old soldiers who could not leave their work for a longer period would train with the Militia for a fortnight and would make that body much more valuable as a mobile force in case of need. I think my suggestion is a feasible one. With regard to the suggestion to call out the Volunteers for a month's training annually, that in my opinion is fantastical to a degree. I have made inquiries of Volunteer colonels, and the universal opinion is that it is absolutely impossible. Neither employers of labour, officers, nor men could afford it. It is a strong demand to make on employers to grant Volunteers in their service a month's holiday in addition to paying war taxation, keeping their places open for Reserve men, and giving their wives half their wages. 806 I should suggest that, instead of having a month in camp, the Volunteers should have eight days in camp under military law and under Regular officers, and during the whole of that time should be kept at drill. Eight days of proper training under military law and Regular officers would do a great deal more good than the month's go-as-you-please that the Government proposes. All these schemes with regard to the Volunteers are in the hands of employers of labour, and the Government should endeavour to get the employers of labour on their side. If a man has a number of Volunteers in his service, it is obvious that his business must suffer while those men are away in camp, and that loss should be returned to him in some way. My suggestion is that as this is a temporary scheme, where an employer of labour can return half of his employees, between the ages of twenty and thirty, as efficient Volunteers, he should receive 50 per cent. abatement on his income tax, and I can assure my right hon. friend that if he adopts the eight days camp instead of the twenty-eight days camp, he would get back that money over and over again. I hope the emergency proposals of the Government will be a success, and that we shall have in this country a mobile force able to make our shores secure against invasion.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My hon. and gallant friend who has just addressed the Committee has brought into the discussion a great deal of experience and of know-which he has accumulated during a distinguished career. Some of his suggestions are points we have considered and reluctantly set on one side. He touched on the colonial forces, and he has had some experience of them, and he paid a tribute to them. He went on to express a sentiment with which I absolutely agree, and which I myself tried to express last night—namely, that we must not dictate to the forces of our colonies, that we must not look to the forces of our colonies to help us in the daily routine work of our great Empire. It is true we are supporting the largest burden; but how little it is considering the extent of our wealth and considering the fact that this House, after all, does in the last degree, 807 through the Government of the day, advise the Sovereign, who is the single link, the one symbol of unity of the whole Empire. But let us be careful not to trade on that fact. Let us use that advantage with the utmost tact and the utmost discretion. Let us never use that power of advising the Crown through the Ministry of the day in such a manner as to lead the representative Assembly of any dependency of the Crown to think that we wish to interfere, by dictation or even by suggestion, in a matter so intimately within the province of their own discretion as the force which they elect to raise and pay in any one year. I said last night, and I say it again, that after what we have seen we may believe that, if any other emergency arises which puts a strain upon the actual and potential forces of the Empire as a whole, the colonies will do in the future what they have done during the last few months, and we may expect that they will put themselves in a position to act when they wish to act side by side with ourselves. Then the hon. and gallant Baronet referred, and I was glad to hear it, to the exigencies of the present time. He said we cared more about the war in South Africa than we did about War Office reform. That is quite true. Everybody knows that when the chief military officers of the War Office are working during the hours and under the pressure that they are working now, it is not the moment to discuss or consider War Office reform. My hon. and gallant friend said that when the Eighth Division had arrived in South Africa the total number of troops in South Africa would be about 208,000, and that we ought not to increase the number of units. I quite agree. He also touched upon the question of drafts. Unfortunately, I have not with me the total of the drafts up to the most recent date, but up to January 31st we had sent out to South Africa as drafts to the Regular troops 12,061 men. What has sooften been lost sight of is that the losses have always been made good. Up to the end of January over 12,000 men had been sent out as drafts, and not as units to South Africa, and only 2,611 of them were drawn from the Militia Reserve. Therefore, the inroad made on the Militia Reserve is not nearly so large as has been supposed. If we can maintain that stream of drafts—and I know we can maintain it—it will be seen 808 that a good deal that has been said inside this House and outside it about the Regular troops left in this country is very highly coloured and exaggerated. I never pretended that the 109,000 men left in the country—now 101,000—were in units. I have always told the House exactly how many units there are in this country, in India, and in the Colonies, and I cannot give that table every time the matter is referred to. When I say that there are seventeen battalions in this country I cover the whole ground, and it follows that the men left in the country are largely made up of recruits and Reservists; but, as far as there are any Regular regiments and Reservists left, those regiments and those Reservists are every bit as good as those who have proceeded to South Africa and covered themselves with glory. No one can say that the Eighth Division is one whit behind the First or the Second, or any of those which have gone out. Passing from the exigencies of the situation in South Africa, I follow my hon. and gallant friend to the question of home defence. He says we must have a mobile Army. I do not any longer pledge myself to my own view as to what is a mobile army. I take refuge in the fact that everyone says you ought to have it; but in discussing the question my hon. and gallant friend ran a tilt against the Royal Reserve battalions. A mobile army to be mobile must be made up of troops who are proficient soldiers, and, therefore, in a year when we have sent so many of the trained troops out of the country, it is right and proper in our judgment, as an emergency measure for one year, to draw on this large reserve of men who are thoroughly trained and efficient, and who have done some seven years with the colours. My hon. and gallant friend says, "Your proposal is either too large or too small"; too large because it may give umbrage to men who are serving in the Militia, and too small because the bounty will not compensate the men for giving up the wages they are earning. When I hear my hon. and gallant friend say that our proposal is both too large and too small, I think I may believe that, perhaps, we have found the real mean which is described by the epithet "golden." My hon. and gallant friend said that our proposal is unfair to the man who has been a soldier and is now serving in the Militia, but a moment afterwards he 809 suggests that we ought to have invited such men to join the Militia. But if you were to compensate them for that you would not only have an injustice but a flagrant injustice, for you would leave the Militiaman in his Militia pay and the Royal Reserve man drawing much larger emoluments falling in day by day next to him in the ranks. That very proposal when carefully considered was set on one side because it was thought better to make the Royal Reserve scheme a frankly emergency measure, standing alone for one year, and I think, on the whole, that that was the wisest course. My hon. and gallant friend also touched upon the question of the Volunteers—on that point I must appeal from him to my hon. friend the Member for the Lewes Division of Sussex, who has been for so many years intimately connected with the Volunteer movement, and when he comes forward and tells us that our scheme is a sound one I am, at any rate, inclined not to despair. I may tell my hon. and gallant friend that all the questions he has put to me may be answered in the affirmative. The Government will provide camps and rations and pay, and treat the Volunteers in every respect on the footing of the private soldier.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Well, I do not think you can put Volunteers under military law unless they are working side by side with Regular troops, but in this case they will be working side by side with Regular troops more often than not. The hon. Member for For far has spoken at some length, and he takes a gloomy view of things. He harps upon two things: the difficulty of getting men on the terms we now offer and the necessity of retrenchment in the Estimates. He asked why we do not use the marines. The marines are all required when the Fleet is mobile, and of all the crimes against the Navy that of robbing it of the marines would be the most warmly resented. The hon. Member used what I thought a very unfortunate expression in regard to the colonies, in comparing them to other uncivilised countries; but I will not pursue that. The hon. Member sug- 810 gested that we ought to have more married men in the Army. Again, I reply that that will not favourably affect the cause of retrenchment, because, as has been pointed out, one of the most important ultimate increases due to any increase in the Army is the increase in the charge for barracks, more especially in the charge for married quarters.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I accepted the Government scheme, but I thought I had made suggestions which would have made the Army a little more attractive.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Quite true. The truth is, recruiting is at the bottom of the whole difficulty. We have been working hardly and patiently at the problem of recruiting, and our recruiting has expanded during the last three years from 27,000 to 40,000. The recruiting this year, I admit, with the adventitious aid of the war excitement has leapt up to 70,000. Are we then to despair on the road we are pursuing with such results, and when we have only begun during the last three or four years to tackle this problem of recruiting in a thoroughly methodical manner? No; that is part of our task which is the most difficult, but it is the part from which we hope to achieve the greatest results and advantages in the long run; and it is the only field on which we can work. "You ought to vote the establishment needed for the Empire," said an hon. Member, "and then get the men."
§ MR. WARNER
What I said was that we had certain sections of the establishment which were not intended to be filled up at all.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Well, I will not follow that up. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Taunton mourned over the development of my characteristics, since I was an attached officer in his regiment, due to the pernicious influences of the War Office, He told us there was a up as tree in the War Office, the mephitic fumes of which paralysed the brains of all who came near, so that however eager we may have been in earlier days for reform, from that moment not a word on the subject was heard from 811 us. Of course not. All that might be accepted without bringing in the up as tree and all those other allegorical appliances. The representative of the War Office cannot air his own ideas and fancies in the House. He cannot make the kind of speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for For far, for the Government would be accused of breach of faith if we did not set up forthwith barracks for married men. I can only indicate reforms and propound schemes which have been considered and decided upon, and for which the funds are provided in the Estimates. But I can assure my hon. and gallant friend that in hours of leisure my imagination plays over vast orbits which would satisfy even him. My hon. and gallant friend did make some suggestions of a practical character. A most valuable one was that we should diminish the amount of fatigue work placed on our soldiers in the Army. I quite agree with that, and we have taken some steps in that direction. The Committee will remember that in the Estimates of last year we took money for bringing back a certain number of reservists and pensioners to do such fatigue work in order to liberate the soldiers more to perform their proper military duties. I do not think we can press that reform too far. Then the hon. Gentleman criticised us on the score that certain members of the Headquarters Staff had proceeded to the theatre of war. That is a legitimate criticism, but I fail to see how the state of things of which he complains is to be avoided. It is one of the many cases in which the ideal conflicts with the practical in the management of our Army, and you have to make the best compromise you can. As to the question of remounts, I should hardly be justified in dealing with it fully, but in order to relieve apprehension I may say that we have sent about 12,000 remounts to the Cape in addition to the horses with the units, and that there are 8,000 more on their way. I do not think we need be anxious at all on that score, though, of course, on any one day, and in any one place, we may be short of horses for transport, or even for artillery. These are accidents that must at times overtake us when we are conducting military operations in a theatre of war about seven times as large as this kingdom. If I may pass a criticism on 812 this matter I must say that I cannot admit that the absence of cavalry or deficiency of artillery at a particular place, or on a particular day, is to be charged to the War Office. In speaking on the Address I pointed out that certain provision was made, to mature at a certain date, but that, owing to accident or misfortune, or, if you like, mistake, these plans were altered, and that undoubtedly Lord Methuen found himself without a proper proportion of cavalry. But if this charge is to be pressed home it ought to have been pressed home in October last, when we stated the exact conditions of the force that was to be sent out. I do not think the right hon. Baronet will say that for the 47,000 men then contemplated eight regiments of cavalry was an inadequate complement. The plan which we made was properly proportioned, but it was not on a sufficiently large scale. The whole plan was deranged owing to several incidents, but the defect has been remedied, and both as to the proportion of cavalry and guns I am prepared to attempt to convince the right hon. Gentleman that our case is a fairly good one.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
What I stated with regard to the number of guns had reference to the statement made by the Leader of the House at Manchester.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not think I will pursue that topic. It is hard enough to take up all the speeches made from day to day in the House and to conduct the ordinary work of my office without going into a defence of speeches delivered under very different circumstances three months ago. Of course I wish it to be understood that I have never said we had five guns for every thousand men under arms in South Africa, but that the forces in the fighting line would have five guns for every thousand. The number of field guns that we have in South Africa is 392. Reduce that and it gives you 78,400 men in the fighting line with field guns, and I do not believe that Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller acting conjointly or separately could ever put more than 78,400 men in line in front of the enemy. Including semi-mobile and siege guns there are 479 guns in South Africa, 813 and Lord Roberts is satisfied with that total. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-east Manchester has invited our attention to the steps we have taken in order to procure officers for the Army. His remarks have received and will receive the most careful consideration, but there are certain difficulties. We must get more officers for the Army, and the output, if I may so put it, of Sand hurst and of Woolwich is determined by their four walls. You have only one cadet for one room. You can increase the output by shortening the term, and that has been done. But a cadet could receive no military training at all unless he were retained there for one year, or at least for six months. Therefore we must go to other sources of supply. We hold that if a man, say of twenty-three years, has passed the examination at the university, or has now, under the great stress of the present circumstances, been selected by the Vice-Chancellor on his responsibility—we think that test gives us as good a qualification as we can find. That is really the whole matter; it is a question of demand and supply.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
I may remind my hon. friend of what I really did say. I pointed out that there were public schools which had no instructors and no cadets, and I said that it would be unfair to give the proposed new direct commissions in priority to men who had probably not undergone any military training in these schools.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
It might be that the men receiving commissions might have some other qualifications. A man might very well have failed two or three years ago in his examinations, and have gone into the Militia for military training; but, no doubt, some hard cases may arise. The Military Secretary, however, assures me that he has taken every care that in these particular cases every semblance of hardship and injustice should be avoided, and that candidates from schools or colleges should be widely distributed, so as to cause the least possible hardship. The difference is really so small that I think it ought not to be urged against us at a time like the present. I believe I have dealt with most of the topics raised on this Vote; and if hon. Members are 814 satisfied that I have endeavoured to meet them generally, I shall deal with any points that remain over when we come to discuss the hard practical details of each branch of the service.
§ *SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
I am anxious to obtain fuller information in regard to a subject to which I called attention on a former Vote, but was then informed it would be more regular on the Army Estimates. I allude to a statement which appeared in The Times with reference to a battalion of 800 natives which were taken from British Central Africa—a very low type of untutored savages, not even like the Zulus—and had been sent without their wives and families to Mauritius, which we may call a civilised country, the country of Paul and Virginia, and placed there in the position of a British regiment to perform ordinary garrison duties. Naturally the despatch of these savage men to Mauritius was taken by the inhabitants as an insult, and they were subjected to some persecution. When only a short time in the island they raided a village, wounded thirty-five men, committed theft, and outraged some women. The Times correspondent gays that great disappointment was felt at the want of success of that experiment. I cannot understand how anyone who knew the nature of these men could express disappointment at the failure of the experiment. They are good enough men in their own country against Arab slave raiders or recalcitrant chiefs, if allowed to live in lines with their wives and families; but they are quite unfit to perform garrison duties in a civilised country. I am anxious to know what has become of that battalion. I understand that when the raid took place in Mauritius the men were interned in a quarantine island. That was a cruel punishment. I asked on a former occasion what had become of those men, and I was informed that they were returning to Africa. I naturally believed that they would be sent back to their own homes, but from the statement which accompanied the Army Estimates it appears that they are on their way to Somaliland. I wish to have some positive assurance from the Treasury Bench on 815 this subject that papers will be laid on the Table of the House, and that the Government will not again attempt, as they did in Mauritius, to play the game of Buffalo Bill on so large a scale. I hope that if these troops are really going to fight in Somaliland, great care will be taken to exercise full control over them, and not allow them to commit any such atrocities as had been committed in Mauritius. And, lastly, I hope that the Government will at the very first opportunity send these men to their own homes again.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am not an authority upon the character of the various tribes of Central Africa. It seems that this regiment has been taken away from Mauritius because the experiment of placing it there was, in the opinion of the War Office, a failure, and its place has been taken by two regular regiments of native infantry from the Indian Army. I feel bound to inform hon. Members that there is another side to this story, and that this regiment does not deserve to be held up to public odium by any means. For some time they were subjected to prolonged provocation; they were insulted, stoned, and goaded into reprisals. When the hon. Member says he hopes that in Somaliland, whither they have been despatched, they will be under proper control, we can say that we will take that care. No great care is needed on our part, because, although these men did break out, and the extent of the wrong they committed is a matter of doubt, the moment their officers appeared on the scene they fell in and returned to the path of duty. The men were subjected to severe punishment, but we believe that they will form a useful battalion in the forces of the Empire.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
The hon. Gentleman used the expression that these troops were under the War Office last year, but he does not say whether they were sent to Somaliland under the Foreign Office. I ask whether a report has been received from the commanding officer in Mauritius, and whether that report will be circulated or laid on the Table of the House.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
These Central African troops have no uniform, and ought not to have been sent to the Mauritius. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us more particulars as to the engagement made between this Government and the Government of India with reference to the two native regiments? Are these regiments to be taken solely for Mauritius, or can they be sent to any other parts of the Empire?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member is probably aware that for many years past the British Government have recruited a native battalion in India which has been stationed at Hong Kong. Some objections had been taken to that proceeding, or at any rate to extending it; for it is never a good plan to have two people competing against each other in the same market. We have felt, however, that in some garrisons, particularly those in hot climates, there is a field for the employment of these admirable Indian troops, side by side with the British battalions. In order to avoid competing in the recruiting market in India with the Indian Government we fell in with the wishes of the Government and accepted two regiments from their roster of native infantry, for which we pay them, leaving that Government to increase their force by two regiments. As to the term of years for which we take these two particular regiments, that is a subject for future arrangements. As I understand it these two regiments are not ear-marked, for others would be glad to follow in their steps.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member will see that there is an elaborate book-keeping arrangement between the two Governments, and we do our best not to rob each other.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I wish to ask why men are appointed to commissions without any training, whereas the students at Woolwich and Sandhurst, who have some training, have been passed over.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
How much further would my hon. and gallant friend consider such a system should be carried? Would he say that a man who had been two days at Sandhurst would have a right to selection?
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
My point is that a man with six months special training should be given preference over a man who has had no special training at all. My hon. friend solemnly warned the House how extremely cautious it ought to be in making suggestions with reference to the colonies and the military defence of the Empire. I have looked into the question for many years, and what more than anything else has blocked the rapprochement between the colonies and the mother country is the red tape and obtuseness of the War Office. I feel bound to say that the War Office is missing a great opportunity. They have a large number of Volunteers from the colonies fighting at the front, and yet in filling up the commissioned ranks they have not time to give a thought to these men. Instead, the War Office is writing to the heads of universities and public schools to find officers to foist into the Army, while men who are qualified for the positions and are fighting at the front are not given a thought. I should have thought that if commissions are to be given away, the proper people to write to are the generals commanding in South Africa. There are certain to be a number of recommendations from generals commanding as regards men who have shown themselves fitted for commissions, and then the War Office will say that they deeply regret that all the vacancies have been filled up. It is by want of such forethought that so much harm is done. I have a motion on the paper with reference to the garrisons of Wei-hai-wei and Esquimault. My hon. friend can, however, stop me from discussing it if he states whether the present arrangements are to be accepted as the final decision of the Government.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The only indication I can give my hon. and gallant friend is that since I dealt with this subject last year we have had so many other important matters to deal with that I believe 818 no one has given a thought to Wei-hai-wei during the last five months.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
You get millions of money, and yet you don't know how they are to be spent. Have the Government at all calculated the cost of the garrison at Wei-hai-wei, and have they arrived at the limit which that garrison should attain? When an hon. Gentleman referred to the coaling stations, my hon. friend got up and said, "Oh, the First Lord of the Admiralty will tell you about that." I want to know what is the policy of the Defence Committee. Have the Defence Committee been unable to give a thought as to the policy they will pursue with regard to garrisoning naval stations? My hon. friend evidently has no policy. Is the policy of the Defence Committee to throw upon the Army naval work and naval responsibilities?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I said last night that there were seventeen British battalions in naval stations, and that is the policy.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
But there are no British battalions in these two places, only British artillery and engineers, and I want to know what the policy of the Government is. Are we to accept it as an emergency or a permanent arrangement that the Army should do naval work on naval stations? The greatest naval statesman England has had in modern years—Sir James Graham, who was twice First Lord of the Admiralty, once in peace and once during the Crimean War—has left it on record that the true policy of this country is that naval stations should be garrisoned by naval forces and not by military forces, and he spoke as a man of unique experience. We have now a new distribution of forces. We never before had a military force at Esquimalt. One hot night last July, I showed the very small way in which this new departure began and how it was manipulated, and I prophesied that if the War Office did not then and there check it there would be a considerable in- 819 crease in the Army Estimates. Last year there was no charge at all on the Imperial Votes for Esquimalt. For years we had Marine Artillery there and everybody was satisfied. There was a charge nominally on the Naval Votes, but the whole charge was repaid to the Admiralty by the Dominion Government. Now we have incurred a bigmilitary charge. That is the policy of the War Office, and it arises because under certain circumstances at the War Office a good deal more attention is paid to getting billets for friends than to bullets of the enemy. This matter began altogether by the desire of engineer officers to get to Esquimalt, and they finally succeeded, with the connivance of the War Office. I am quite satisfied that the Committee will see that my hon. friend shows the want of policy in these matters. He tried to get rid of discussing Wei-hai-wei altogether by the statement that he had not paid the slightest attention to it for many months. It is perfectly plain we have no policy in these matters. We are shifting responsibilities from the Army to the Navy, and back from the Navy to the Army, and both services suffer.
§ 3 £15,200,000, Pay, etc., of the Army (General Staff, Regiments, Reserve, and Departments).
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £555,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, etc., of the Medical Establishment, and for Medicines, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901."
§ DR. TANNER (Cork County, Mid)
said that the Vote had increased to an extent which was never expected, and there was consequently a certain amount of satisfaction in the medical schools throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He recollected when the number of candidates for the Army Medical Service were three or four times as many as the present number, but recently there happened 820 to be more vacancies than candidates. The pay of civilian medical practitioners as recorded in the Vote was altogether in advance of anything that had been done before. He found now that the doctors in the Army, instead of being called doctors were called lieutenants and colonels and majors and all that sort of thing; but was that a satisfactory remedy for all the grievances under which the Royal Army Medical Corps suffered? If it were he should have thought that young men in the medical profession would more extensively patronise the Army than they did. He would wish to know exactly at what rate the civilian medical practitioners had been employed. There was an increase in the item for pay of £41,800, which was rather astonishing. Then there was an increase of £120,000 in the pay of civil medical practitioners. He thought they should not have those large estimates submitted to the Committee without some explanation. He should like to know how many civilian medical practitioners had been employed in connection with the war in South Africa. He for one would not be in favour of cutting down the pay of civilian medical men when they were absolutely required, as unfortunately they were required, at present, because, of course, medical men were always supposed to stand to each other. But still there should be some explanation of these large sums. He could not understand why the extra expenditure on medicines and instruments should be £50,000. He had learned from friends and acquaintances who had returned from South Africa that the best instruments there had been provided by private resources and not by the Government at all. He could not see where all that extra money had been spent.
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ Adjourned at five minutes after Twelve of the clock