HC Deb 08 March 1901 vol 90 cc1052-92

Order for Committee read.


I rise to make a motion which has never before been made by a Minister in this House, and I trust will never require to be made again—namely, that you, Mr. Speaker, do now leave the chair in order to consider Army Estimates amounting to close upon eighty-eight millions of money. It is just five years since I rose from this bench and in some degree apologised to the House for introducing Estimates to the extent of £18,000,000 in a time of profound peace. The progress of events has singularly dwarfed the Estimates which were presented in 1896. In 1898 it was my duty to ask for £19,250,000, with a further liability, which appeared on the Estimates of 1899, that brought them up to £20,500,000. In 1900 my right hon. friend the present Chief Secretary for Ireland moved for Estimates which, at the then rate and with the addition as to men, raised the £20,500,000 to £25,500,000. I have now to submit to the House Estimates for the year, apart from the war in South Africa, but including provision for reserves of stores which will not accrue for the next three or four years, amounting for the normal Estimates alone to £29,685,000. I propose to-night to devote myself mainly to a consideration of the normal Estimates. As regards these larger figures the House of Commons has almost become inured to them. They would have been regarded some years ago with perturbation; they are now accepted almost, I think, with relief, because they tend to show that we are taking steps which must lead to nearing the termination of the war. And even in respect of these large figures the House of Commons has been, in my judgment, corrupted and debauched by the graceful oratory of my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, for he succeeded in so veiling his proposals last year that, although lie was making such great demands, he managed to preserve an appearance of moderation, and even of abstemiousness, which caused many Members as they left the House, when they heard him move for £50,000,000, to express their regret that he had not gone as far as £75,000,000. To-night I believe I shall best be consulting the interests of the House by dropping, except for a very few words, allusion to the War Estimates. We have had long discussions upon them, and I do not propose either to vindicate the policy of the war or to prophesy as to its duration. All I would say is that what we, have taken as the cost of the war is what we regard as being the full sum that we are likely to have to ask from the House of Commons. In taking so large a figure it is an earnest of our intention to pursue the war at all costs to a conclusion. We are sending out the reinforcements which we believe are necessary to that end. We have stinted the generals on the spot in nothing. On the other hand, though our demands are so large, and though our intention is absolutely determined as to the pursuance of the war, there are no Members of the House who will be as glad as the Members on this bench when it is possible to relieve the country of the cost of the war, and of all the Members on this bench there is none who will more gladly than the Minister who is now addressing the House welcome its termination.

If I may take it that the House agrees with me that we may devote ourselves more to the large and, I admit, increasing cost of our normal military establishment, I propose to leave altogether aside the stale controversies with regard to the war—as to its conduct, as to who began it—and to go to the root of the matter with regard to the future organisation of our Army. I want to ask the House to consider what our Army is organised for. Is it in strength and character capable of fulfilling its proper functions? Are, we to pull down the existing system and build it up anew, or can we found on the existing system what is necessary to secure our home defence and our foreign obligations? We can do that to-night calmly and with out any degree of panic. But I would like to remind the House that this is not the first time that this House has been invited to consider the system of its Army. During the last century there were three occasions on which the whole Army system of the country was brought under consideration. The first was after the Great War, in which it took us years to provide the Duke of Wellington in the, Peninsula with the force which was necessary even to hold his own in a defensive position against the great force which was arrayed against him; and ultimately, I think, the extreme amount of the efforts of many years and of immense expenditure was that we were able to find him 65,000 men. But after that experience, when a partial disarmament began in 1814, we had profited by our experience so badly that in 1815, although there were something like 210,000 troops voted for that year, with the most supreme effort we were not able to provide the Duke of Wellington with more than 40,000 men in Flanders. As every one knows, this country, like other countries, went to sleep for forty years afterwards in military matters, and our organisation became so rusty in the later years of the Duke of Wellington that in the Crimea we were found deficient in everything that was needed to make an army except the bravery of our troops. We had not enough men; we had not enough horses; we had no commissariat and supplies; our officers were untrained, and our generals were inexperienced. Even after that experience, we took so little heed of our position that there was no time during the last century in which the British Army was weaker than between 1860and 1870. It was not only the army in this country that was insufficient, but the army which, after the Indian Mutiny, and after the great awakening in India, should have been maintained in that country was constantly short by hundreds and thousands of men, and, as is well known, with absolutely no reserve at home to draw upon.

The third and last awakening came, in 1870, the period of the Franco-German war. We then had a real reorganisation of the Army. We had then great changes, the effects of which, I venture to say, have never been appreciated until the war which is now going on. But it is a most remarkable fact that so unpopular is Army reform, so wedded are the people of this country to past associations and prejudices which may be considered antiquated, that, whether it was some fault in the presentation of the subject, whether it was the personality of the man, or whether it was the general unpopularity of touching things to which men had long been accustomed, I have never in my experience heard a single cheer in this House when the name of the man who abolished purchase and who first started short service in the British Army has been mentioned. The unpopularity of Mr. Cardwell in respect of these matters was great at the time.


Not in this House.


The right hon. Gentleman has the advantage of me. He was in the House at the time. I am glad to hear his statement. I am thinking more of the country than of the House. I cannot help feeling that we owe something to Lord Cardwell's memory in view of the use to which we have put his great reforms in the course of the last few months. Surely the proudest inheritance of a statesman is not in the immediate cheers with which his fellow-countrymen may greet a popular but perhaps not altogether successful movement, but in the fact that after thirty years that system, with but small modifications, gave us 80,000 reservists, of whom 96 or 97 per cent. were found efficient, which has enabled us to keep, apart from Volunteers and Colonials, an army of 150,000 Regulars in the field for fifteen months, and which gave us those manœuvres which were too long dropped by successive Governments, and which are in the opinion of all our military leaders absolutely necessary in order to get an acquaintance with the practice of war. Now we have another great awakening, or rather a discovery, that there are many flaws and imperfections even in those portions of our Army system which were deemed to be best. I should like to state that, though I am here to state the views of the Government as to the changes that are necessary, I should like that it should be felt that the greatest change which has taken place with regard to our war policy is not in the Government but in the House of Commons and the people. I have over and over again endeavoured to persuade the House of Commons that it was necessary for us to organise our forces on the principle of being able to send two army corps abroad. I have had the scantiest attendance and backing of the House for these proposals. For home defence everybody was willing to act; but home defence in the minds of a great many Members represents not an organised army, not even with regard to our auxiliary forces, no compulsion with regard to drill, but simply the acceptance from every man of that amount of service which he desires to give—various proposals that are very pleasant and which can be reeled off easily—but which really mean the organisation of your Army on the system of the Boxers, an idea of a military system that every man should shoulder a rifle and stand in front of his own door. Not only have there been failings in regard to organisation, but there have been many doubts as regards the numbers. When, in 1898, I asked for 25,000 additional men I remember a question from that Bench and a great deal being said as to whether these numbers were necessary.

What has been our experience in regard to organisation and numbers has also been our experience in regard to manœuvres. I have extracted from the House, with the greatest reluctance, compulsory powers in regard to manœuvres. They may be an imperfect preparation for war, but, in my opinion, they are better than no preparation at all. All our proposals in regard to manœuvres have been cut down largely by the House. With regard to ranges, we had need to fight a battle upstairs before Committee before we obtained power to close the smallest footpath, just as we have now, if we want to take property by compulsion, to run the gauntlet of judges and others, under whose auspices we pay, I say without hesitation and without fear of contradiction, on the average 50 per cent. more than the land is worth. I could give instances to prove it; and, as I see that hon. Members for Ireland take some interest in this question, I may say that in Ireland it is still worse, for there you have to deal not only with the landlord, but with the tenant. The result of all that is that up till now there have been the greatest possible difficulties placed in the way of the Government—not theoretically, because I admit this House has never refused demands for men or for money—but in all the accessories, in all that goes in the way of spending the money well and making the men efficient, this House has been reluctant to trespass on private rights or the feelings of individuals. I often hear hon. Members boast that we are by nature a fighting race. I can only say that we may be a fighting race, but it is only by accident that we are a military nation. Now we have to consider how we can turn that accident into a permanent opportunity.

I should like to detain the House for a moment on the lessons which this war has taught us. In the first place, I think the House will agree with me that we can no longer lay to our souls the flattering unction that we have not got to be prepared to send two army corps abroad. I think the events of the last fifteen months have proved, first of all, that we must be prepared to send more than two army corps abroad; secondly, that these army corps must be better organised; and, thirdly, that, when you have parted with the force which it is necessary to send out of the kingdom, you must have a sufficient organisation at home for our own protection. In addition to that, it has been made obvious that our artillery is insufficient, and that our field artillery requires to be supplemented by heavier field artillery. Sir, it is also perfectly clear that the exigencies of modern warfare, the greatly extended positions which are held, and the necessity of rapid movement make it necessary that we should be provided with a much larger body of mounted troops. There is, as I have already admitted, a reform also needed in our Army Medical Service, and in our transport service. But there is another question, not so much of money and of men; we want a reform of our drill and training. We want less barrack square drill. We, want more scouting, we want more independence, more indi- viduality amongst the men. All these things will give us plenty of food for thought, and will give Lord Roberts a wide arena in which to exercise his great talents. But, having said so much as to the defects which have been brought to light by the war, let us, before passing, congratulate ourselves that, in the war, we, have still found the spirit of our troops as excellent as it has ever been. If our officers have not been trained to the highest professional pitch, no man in the world, whether he be our friend or our foe, can deny that they have shown the greatest bravery and gallantry on all occasions. In addition to that, we may also congratulate ourselves that both our gun and rifle practice has been good; and I think we may say this for our system: that, whether it was prepared or not prepared for all emergencies, it has shown marvellous adaptability in hastily providing a home defence which gave us more men in barracks in the course of last year than we had at any time of profound peace. I think that those who administer the Service may well be grateful to the country at large for having borne the very unexpected reverses with a patience and calmness and self-possession worthy of the greatest praise.

In approaching the subject of reform, I would ask the House to allow me to mention two points on which we differ from any other nation in regard to the problems we have to face. In the first place, we have got to keep an enormous force abroad, quite apart from war, in a time of peace. We have got to provide, to equip, 115,000 men in India and the Colonies, mostly in tropical stations, and we have to attempt to do that, which no other Power attempts, relying entirely upon voluntary enlistment. If we arrive finally at a decision that we can build up on the present system, it will not be for want of consideration of what other systems can do. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has impressed on the attention of the House more than once the desirability of having a separate Indian army.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

That is putting it too strongly. A separate system of enlistment rather than a separate Indian army.


I have always thought that the right hon. Gentleman rather favoured that view, and have felt that the fact of my never having been able to find any way to accept it was the key of a good deal of his want of confidence in my fitness for the post I now occupy. At all events, I might explain to the House why we cannot accept the idea of a separate Indian army. In the first place, we have 75,000 men in India. If you are to have a separate Indian army, you must train the recruits before they leave this country. You must also have them at a certain age, because we never send men to India between eighteen and twenty years of age. The recruits require to train two years at home in order to fit them to go to India. That means you must keep two years drafts; and experience shows that if you want to keep a regiment of 1,000 men in India you must keep as drafts between 400 and 500 men in England who belong to no regiment, who are enlisted solely for the Indian Army, who are only partially trained before they leave, and who form a force accountable to nobody, and form no part of a unit at home. If, instead of these 400 or 500, you raise them to 800, and form them into a battalion at home, you will have the nucleus of battalions which with Reservists added makes up regiments. Reservists have given satisfaction to every general under whom they have served in South Africa. If you were to attempt a separate Indian army, you would not only have a much greater cost on your active list, but you would have men serving nine or ten years in India, and you would incur a greater expense for pensions. You would have a no more effective army in India and a less effective one at home. We therefore reject the idea of a separate Indian army. The next question is, Is our Army in future for home defence to be a voluntary Army, or is it to be recruited by compulsion? I am perfectly aware of the delicate ground on which I am treading in respect to the question of voluntary or compulsory service. I know very well how easy it is in this House to win cheap cheers by a proud declaration about adhesion to the voluntary system. I think the voluntary system for home defence is not a thing to be proud of, unless you get an efficient defence. I do not doubt that man for man a voluntary army is better than a, conscription army, but mass for mass a trained army of conscripts is better than an incompletely trained army of volunteers, and especially if it happens to outnumber them. Therefore my adhesion to the voluntary system is strictly limited by our ability to obtain under it a force with which our military authorities can satisfy the Government that they have sufficient force to resist invasion and can maintain it to their satisfaction. At the same time the Government fully recognise that, while the country is willing to pay heavily to escape invasion, it is incumbent on the Government to exhaust every means before coming forward with any such proposals, and especially under the circumstances of the present time.

We have never had such recruiting as we had last year under the influence of the warlike spirit that pervaded the country and the conviction that the war was just and necessary. That war spirit has brought us the largest number of recruits to the Army in any year in any period of our history. The recruits for the Army were 46,000, and for the Militia, deducting those who went into the Army, 30,000. Ten thousand Yeomanry enlisted last year on the cavalry rate of pay, and 57,000 additional Volunteers joined during the year, making a total of 140,000 men who came forward voluntarily for service during 1900. Be it remembered that a large majority of these were recruited for service in the war, to which those who joined the Army were liable. Thirty-five Militia battalions offered for foreign service, and were at disposal for South Africa; 10,000 Yeomanry went and 10.000 Volunteers, and we can have another 10,000 when we want them. I think, then, that any proposal that did not proceed on voluntary lines would be, as it were, applying spurs to a willing horse; although I fully realise what the difficulty may still be in keeping up the required force with the advantage which is possessed by nearly every other nation in the world.

I think the first thing to remember is that our Army must be a national Army, and any step in a direction which is contrary to our previous policy should not be taken until it receives the support, at all events, of the vast majority of the country. To take a step of that kind, which a future Government might feel it to be their duty to go back upon, would be, I think, disastrous to the Army and the country. On the other hand, perhaps I may be allowed to address one word of warning to the House with regard to that. I do not believe that this great spirit of recruiting will continue with the same intensity after the war is over. I am not at all certain that the ease with which money is obtained now will be borne out by the pleasure with which the taxation necessary for it will be paid. I never come down to the House of Commons without being subjected in the lobby to the demand that we should increase the pay, or that we should add to the expenditure in some direction in regard to the war or at home. I hardly ever get a letter from a Member that does not invite consideration of some great and, to his mind, undoubted hardship suffered by somebody or some class of individuals. There is no section of the various component parts of our national defence which has not been the subject of representation to me in some form or another in the last few weeks with a view to a great addition of expenditure. But I know also that if at this moment I am attacked for parsimony, I think the day is not far distant when I shall be attacked for extravagance: and I can well realise that among those who are loudest in calling for expenditure there may be many who would feel the pinch very heavily in years to come, and I even think, as I pass the lamp-post in Palace Yard, there will be plenty of people who would be glad to hold on to one end of a rope if they could only be persuaded that I myself or the Chancellor of the Exchequer was attached to the other end.

Our proposal, therefore, is to lay down what is necessary for the country to obtain. We know that we can equip any force that is necessary, and let us see if we cannot train them. If we lack recruits, if the war fever is followed by a peace collapse, I think we shall be very pusillanimous if we do not make further proposals to the House. Remember that what we ask the House to do is to ensure us a system of defence for which not only our own forefathers made great sacrifices but for which our neighbours, whether they live under a democratic or despotic government, consider that at this moment no sacrifice is too great. I am, therefore, not going to accommodate the organisation I propose to our existing resources. I am going to consider how we can find proper resources for the organisation that is necessary. If I may trouble the House for a few minutes longer on this subject, I shall endeavour to lay down what it is for which we ought to prepare. In the first place, when we talk of home defence, let us not confuse our minds by considering the position and action of the Navy. The Navy is obviously our first line of defence, and if all naval matters were matters of certainty, we might dispense with an army for home defence altogether. I quite agree that invasion may be an off-chance, but you cannot run an Empire of this size on off-chances. We are bound, with Army and Navy acting together, to provide a proper system of home defence. I must also lay this down—we must have proper provision for foreign war. If five years ago I had tried to persuade anybody in this House that we should be sending three army corps to South Africa I should have been the object of ridicule to those who belittle our power of sending troops abroad, and I think I should have been the object of contempt to those who belittle the power of our opponents, especially in South Africa. Well, we have not only had to send three army corps but six army corps to South Africa—I mean the equivalent of six army corps. I trust we shall never have to send that number of troops abroad again; but we must remember that Africa is not the only continent on which we have great commitments. On two other continents we have commitments, and we must realise that we have interests there we are bound to defend. It may be contended—I do not deny it—that a wise foreign policy may go far to keep us out of enterprises and entanglements. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, but we have to recollect that we have great possessions, and great wealth, and that those possessions and this wealth, however peaceful our own inclinations may be, must at times be objects of enterprise to our neighbours. Let us lay to heart what was said to Crœsus in old days, "Remember that if any man come who hath better iron than you he will be master of all your gold." Do not let us build up our military policy on such a quicksand as the goodwill and forbearance of foreign Powers. I will not entertain the question of a European war, but I think no man in the House will be so bold as to say that under all circumstances we shall be able to keep ourselves free from European entanglements. The Government of 1880, which came in with probably the greatest peace policy of any Government, found themselves not merely at war in Egypt, but in 1885 on the verge of war with Russia. We cannot shut out the possibility of having to send a large force to defend our own possessions, nor can we suppose that if ever we should become unhappily entangled in a European war we can limit our enterprise solely to the defence of our possessions, and to the action of our fleet. It stands to reason if we have allies that none of them would be prepared to turn out every man they could muster and allow ours to rest at home. Therefore my proposition is that besides home defence we ought to be ready at any moment to send abroad three army corps with the proper cavalry divisions, in fact a force of one hundred and twenty thousand men; and the proposal which I submit to the House to-night contemplates that we should hold such a force in readiness with a proper admixture of reservists, and still provide ourselves with the power to defend ourselves at home when that force is gone.

The proposals I have to make to the House are as follows: I propose to reorganise the Army on a new system, of which the bedrock will be that the whole country will be divided into six army corps by districts, that each district in time of peace will have the same relative proportions to the various arms that are necessary to make up the corps, and that they will be under the commanders who will lead them in time of war. This will be a great change on our existing somewhat haphazard system. It will be a great measure of organisation. But there will also be a great measure of decentralisation. My object is to centralise responsibility, but to decentralise administration. The army corps will no longer be a paper force. The British army corps of the past, as has been often pointed out, is got together in a moment of emergency. Commanders have been summoned and hastily appointed. Their staffs have often never seen their commanders. The brigade has been made up by taking a regiment from Malta, another from Edinburgh, a third from Dublin, and a fourth from Shorncliffe. These four have been dumped down together in South Africa or elsewhere, the colonels not knowing each other, and perhaps none of them knowing their brigadier. That is an organisation which cannot be considered an organisation at all. If you want to make troops work together, they must have some knowledge of each other and of their commanding officers. We propose that in these army corps districts troops shall be within reach of each other, that the different arms shall be complete, that the officers, as far as peace duties justify it, shall be appointed, and that we shall have a full staff as far as peace duties justify it. The stores will be massed with each army corps in the army corps district; the troops will not be immediately adjoining, but will meet for manœuvres. The transport will be arranged and will be under the commander of the army corps; each army corps will be complete in artillery and mounted troops. We hope by these means to obtain not merely greater efficiency, but some esprit de corps in these army corps.

But the two cardinal points to which we look for the greatest advantage are the appointment for peace command; only of those officers who are certified by the military authorities to be fit to command in war. [Cheers.] I am glad to hear that expression of opinion by the House, because of all the proposals I have to submit there is not one which will call for so much support of Ministers by the House. All the forces of good nature, all the forces of prejudice, all the pressure which can be exerted will be exerted to induce us very often, I fear, by question or by motion in this House, to reappoint to positions for which they are not fitted, officers against whom no actual failure can be proved. I will not come down to this House and ask for these large Estimates in order to raise and equip troops who can be made efficient and then be made a party, for the sake of peace and quietness, to putting them under the command of inefficient officers. I feel most strongly on this subject, and the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, has decided that in future appointments will be made, not for five years but for three years, with power of extension, so that it may be possible for him at the end of that time to review the action of these officers and, if necessary, to replace them by others. That is the more necessary, because the second great advantage which we expect from this system is that we intend to delegate to the commanders of the army corps a very large amount of the authority which is now exercised in Pall Mall. I believe that the desirability of doing that, if it can be carried out, as I believe it can, is so patent to everybody that I need not labour it. But I do say this, with all the confidence of some experience, that these two steps, the appointing of men in peace, even if they are younger and more active, and even if it ends in our having to exclude men whom we should like to employ on other grounds—I believe that this is the only way by which we can secure the proper leading of our troops in war, and I believe that the proper delegation of authority is the only means by which we can redeem our military system and our officers from the paralysing effects of relying for every detail of their task in time of peace on a central establishment in Pall Mall.

Perhaps the House would like to know where these army corps will be planted. The first three army corps are intended for foreign service, or, of course, for home defence in the first instance. The first army corps will be at Aldershot. It will be complete in every particular, except Reservists. It will include among the infantry a brigade of four battalions of the Guards. The system by which the Guards have acted as part of the garrison at Gibraltar will not be further followed. Arguments which had great force four years ago have, in one respect, less force now. I think I am right in saying that four years ago skirmishers were hardly divided from each other by a distance the breadth of this table; skirmishers in South Africa under modern conditions have been divided from each other by the length of this House, and the training of troops in a limited space has become infinitely more difficult now under the new conditions than it was when we first considered the garrison at Gibraltar. Under any circumstances, I think that it would be both useful for the Army and useful for the brigade of Guards that a brigade of Guards should be permanently stationed at Aldershot. The second army corps will have its headquarters at Salisbury Plain. We are building large barracks on Salisbury Plain, and the land acquired there is of inestimable value for the training of troops for musketry and for other purposes. By planting these two army corps at these particular centres we shall have them not merely in the best possible positions for the defence of the country, but also at the easiest points for embarkation and in the most facile position for manœuvring. Therefore those two are ideal centres for our first two army corps. The third army corps, which will also consist almost entirely of Regulars, will be quartered in Ireland. The barracks there have always been kept up on a considerable scale, and with a certain readjustment will completely house the troops necessary for that army corps, with the exception of three Militia battalions. The three Militia battalions, should the army corps go on foreign service, will, of course, be replaced by other troops.

When I come to the fourth army corps I come to a subject which I think will be of great interest to the House. That army corps will have its headquarters at Colchester. With the full concurrence, I might almost say on the initiative, of the Commander-in-Chief, admitting for the first time that picked Militia and Volunteer battalions can be ranged with Regular troops in the first line, we propose to employ altogether in the last three army corps sixty battalions of Volunteers and Militia, which have been carefully selected. The Volunteer battalions will have special training, they will be invited on special terms to undertake special training liability each year, and if they cannot come up to those conditions, and if on the inspection each year, which will be by no means a formal inspection, any particular battalion is not found equal to its work, it will lapse from the army corps, and another battalion will replace it. We go further, we propose for the first time to give the Militia and Volunteers, within limits, a certain number of field guns. I have lived through, and so has the right hon. Gentleman opposite, three sets of opinion at the War Office. The first was that it was very desirable to have Volunteer artillery—Volunteers liked to join—but that it was not necessary to find them in guns. I think the right hon. Gentleman was at the War Office when it was decided that they might be entrusted with the handling of heavy garrison guns. I know that I was at the War Office when we persuaded the military authorities to go a step further and allow them to take heavy guns of position into the field. But that system halted there for twelve years. Lord Roberts is willing to make a great and final step in advance, and to agree that with certain training he will rely, from the experience of this war, on Volunteer batteries, a certain proportion in each of the last three army corps. The admirable practice made by the C.I.V. batteries in the Transvaal satisfied Lord Roberts that that step could be taken without danger. Therefore, in each of the last three army corps, while there will be a considerable proportion of Regular troops, and in each fourteen batteries of Regular artillery, one-third of the army corps, that is seven batteries, will be found in each of the last three army corps by the Volunteers and Militia. The army corps with its headquarters at Colchester will have attached to it some of the best London Militia and Volunteers. The fifth army corps, which will be stationed at York, will draw on the best Volunteer and Militia battalions of Lancashire and Yorkshire. We propose to house the sixth, and last, army corps in Scotland. I feel that the War Office owes so much to Scotland that Scotland ought to obtain a special place. Our Scottish regiments, even in comparison with others, and notably our Irish regiments, have done magnificent work in this war. As we all know, there is a great national feeling in Scotland, and I think that both by their patriotism and by their contribution to the national finances they are entitled to some consideration at our hands. Some part of our barracks loan will be spent in building necessary barracks in Scotland. The headquarters of this army corps will be placed in Edinburgh.

The House will see, I think, that we have not adapted our organisation to our existing resources. I shall have to call on the House to produce the necessary result by giving us the necessary troops. The first difficulty in which I am placed is whether or not I am to ask the House to add to our Regular forces. I am reluctant to do so. In the last three or four years we have added between 40,000 and 50,000 men to our Regular forces, and I am not at all sure that we have not reached the limit of our recruiting power under present circumstances. In any case I should like to see the regiments already proposed to be raised, and the larger number of batteries that we added last year, and which are now to a considerable extent manned by Reservists—I should like to see their fate assured after the Reservists return to their homes before I ask the House in any respect to add to the Regular Army. But that does not prevent our needing more Regular troops; and I propose, therefore, that we should obtain those troops, not by raising fresh ones, but by freeing some of our Regular troops who are shut up in garrisons from the duties in which they are at present engaged. We propose to take three steps in that direction. The House may have seen—because it was necessary to put out an Army Order a few days ago—that in the first place we propose to raise eight garrison battalions. If we are to use to the full extent the military power of the country, we have got to take military opinion as to the longest period for which the men can properly serve and utilise the services of those who are willing to continue in the Army. There is nothing in the least degree repugnant to the spirit of short service if, having obtained the services of the man with the colours and in the Reserve, we proceed to utilise any further services he is willing to give to the country. We propose to form these garrison battalions of men of more than fourteen years service, and in some cases of twelve years, limiting their services, except in rare cases, up to twenty-one years, when in the great majority of cases they are still under forty years of age. I think the House will see the common sense of this proposal. When you are placing men at stations like Gibraltar and Malta, where at the outside they can only be a few miles away from their own barracks, it is not necessary to have so rigid a standard of the extremest physical competency as you require from men who may have for many weeks to undergo the hardships of a campaign. I think men between thirty and forty, and some perhaps even a little later, would be admirably qualified for that service. Lord Roberts has gladly consented to select from the large available force of men who leave the colours and Reserve every year enough men to make up eight garrison battalions. The terms we offer will, I. hope, prove sufficiently attractive. I will mention one point of special interest to the House: we give them the hope of a pension. That pension I wish to place on a wholly different footing from the pensions which have been given hitherto. Up to the present a man has got 10d. or 1s. a day on leaving the colours, and has got that amount until he dies. That is too much. It is not needed by a man when he is in full vigour of health and earning full wages, but it is too little when he gets to old age. To give a larger sum would be an enormous charge on the Exchequer. After all, many men will have earned it in the very prime of life, when they have still a long time in which they may hope to labour. We propose to give a pension which will be equivalent to what a man would have earned if he had been in the Reserve—namely, 6d. a day from the time of his leaving the garrison battalion—and to make that 6d. up to 1s. 6d. when he has attained the age of sixty-five, thereby, I hope, establishing a system of old-age pensions.


May I ask whether these will be men who have completed their Reserve service?


Certainly; we do not mean to impinge upon the Reserve in any way. Some men serve twelve years with the colours, and those men will not go into the Reserve afterwards, but may be possibly allowed to go into the garrison regiments if they desire it. But, incidentally, let me remind the House that this will meet a want that has often been spoken of in this House, that with the limited number of men who do want to give long service, we shall provide a man who enters the Army, subject to good conduct, with the certainty of a future career.

That will give eight Line battalions for field service. I get five more by substituting at certain fortresses five Indian battalions, who in the tropics are equally efficient for the work and would save us sending five battalions of young soldiers into a tropical climate. We pay India for raising these five battalions. Already two or three of them have taken up their duties. We propose to raise those to five in the present year. By that means we gain thirteen battalions.

I come now to a subject upon which I have a very strong feeling myself, but on which I cannot give an absolute decision or pronouncement to the House. The War Office view is that the time has come for the smaller coaling stations to be taken over by the Admiralty. I do not mean fortresses like Malta and Gibraltar, but the smaller stations, like Singapore and Colombo and others, which are not attackable from the land, and in regard to which, therefore, you would have this gain, that you would not have two authorities in the island, but one. You would have the Admiralty supreme in their own domain and you would not lock up our infantry, and, with a constant change of ships, you would give the Admiralty a chance of relieving some of those men and providing others as the exigencies of the service might demand. But that subject requires a great deal of examination, and the First Lord of the Admiralty has not yet seen his way to give a final decision. But if I am able to prevail, and I trust I may, we shall then have five more battalions, making eighteen in all available to be added for home service. The distribution will now be in the future—allowing twelve battalions permanently in South Africa and making provision for the coaling stations—seventy-nine battalions of the Line at home and seventy-seven abroad.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

Will that include the Guards?


No; the ten battalions of the Guards are separate.

I come now to the Militia. The Militia is a great problem. It is the old constitutional force. It has not only been a great stand-by in days gone by, but in this war it has practically helped us at moments of very great difficulty. Thirty-five battalions have gone abroad voluntarily, and by embodying others we shall of course have to start a nucleus for our reorganisation at home. The Militia should be 150,000 strong, but it is only 100,000 strong. There is something worse than that. We take in Militia recruits every year from 35,000 to 40,000 men. Deducting those who go to the Line, we have still left nearly 30,000 Militia recruits. They are engaged for six years, and by a very simple computation the House will arrive at this fact, that at the very least these 30,000 men, engaged for six years, ought to give us a force of from 150,000 to 180,000 men. As a matter of fact we have to take and train about 30,000 each year, and we only produce 100,000 of a total force on the six years engagement. The reason is very simple. The inducements we offer the men are not sufficient to keep them. The Militia service has always been on the principle of making it very easy for a man to come in and go out. By a very cheap system of purchase he can find his way out when he is tired of serving. We mean to make things better for the Militia. It is perfectly true that some men are lost by desertion, who probably come in to drill when they cannot find work; but there are others, and Militia officers tell me by far the larger number, who honestly think the Militia service is not good enough, and, especially when they marry, they decide to leave. Martial ardour and marital ardour do not seem to run together in the Militia, and we want to give them an inducement to get over that critical moment until, after two or three years of matrimony, they may be willing to contemplate a little war in order to get a little peace. With the object of getting them at the critical moment, we propose to make a special arrangement for them. In the first place we shall give the Militia in future the Army ration, the extra 3d. a day for rations which was given to the Army three years ago. In addition to that I propose to reconstruct the old conditions of bounties. At present the trained Militiaman gets a bounty of £1 10s. when he leaves; we propose to give him a sovereign at three other times in the year — £4 10s. in all; so that the net gain to the Militia will be 3d. extra a day during training and 3d. extra a day after training and in the intervals. We therefore hope we shall make our service more attractive in that respect.

But we have another and much larger scheme. I propose also to establish a Reserve for the Militia. I propose to abolish the present Militia Reserve for the Army. I do so on two grounds. In the first place these men who have taken a pound a year hitherto and never expected to be called out to join the Army have given their services in South Africa in the most uncomplaining fashion. I doubt whether there are many of them who will take a pound a year for the liability of such service again. Therefore I propose to abolish the Militia Reserve; the more so as I think it most unfair to the Militia that they should themselves be forced to go into action after they have been denuded of a good many of their best men. In substitution of the Militia Reserve I propose to have a genuine Reserve of Militia, to be composed of two classes of men—Militiamen who have done ten years service in the Militia, and Line men who have done fourteen years service with the line colour and Reserve. A man after he has done fourteen years' service will have an opportunity of going into a garrison regiment or going into the reserve of the Militia. The Militiaman is to have two periods of service—that is to say, ten years, and an opportunity of enrolling his name as a reserve for the Militia. He will be obliged only to be called on for shooting training on such occasions as may be necessary. We propose to give this Reserve 4d. a day. We anticipate that their liability being only to serve inside the country—Great Britain and Ireland—the opportunity will be largely availed of. I have every reason to believe that, having fixed this, figure, we shall be able to get 50,000 men for the Reserve of the Militia, who will be available in case of the Militia being embodied for the defence of the country. That will make up the Militia from 100,000 to 150,000, without adding a man to those who are at present serving or calling upon the country for a single additional recruit. I believe that to be not only an inexpensive course, but that it will bring the Militia up to strength and fit it for the duty we propose to assign to it.

Although I fear these proposals are very lengthy, I am afraid I must trouble the House at some little length further about the Yeomanry. The Yeomanry is our sole mounted force. Up to now it has accompanied the Volunteer reserve of this country. It has been drilled as cavalry in shock tactics. It has remained at its present figure of 10,000 to a large extent owing to the difficulties as regards expense, also to the fact that while our national wealth has so greatly increased, the agricultural classes from which the force is drawn have not kept pace with that increase of wealth. We mean to have in the Yeomanry a nucleus of that much larger body of mounted troops which is now required by the exigencies of modern warfare. You have now greater distances to cover, and flanking movements must be carried out by mounted troops, and scouting has to be done on a wider plan. Our artillery has also to be protected to a much larger extent. We believe that it is not only absolutely necessary to obtain more mounted troops, but that, under more favourable conditions, there are very large numbers of men in the country who would rather serve the King mounted than on foot. Our experience during the last few weeks, during which we have been able to raise 15,000 mounted men for duties in South Africa, shows there is no disinclination for that form of service. May I say one word in recognition of what the Yeomanry have done in past years in equipping and bringing together the Yeomanry force which has gone to South Africa, and which, without exception—except, perhaps, the colonial troops—have been of the greatest service to Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener? I feel so strongly the value of the services they have rendered, and the desirability of re- leasing them as early as may be possible, that I have asked Lord Kitchener, in view of the large number of mounted men who are now on their way out, to consider the hard cases amongst them, men who really have lost or may lose their employment, and he has undertaken as quickly as he can to deal with such cases, and release such men as soon as possible.

Now, we intend to put our money on the Yeomanry, and we expect great results. I am glad to say we shall have some support for the changes we propose to make from the ranks of the Yeomanry themselves. I asked a number of Yeomanry officers to form a committee, which gave us a most excellent report in January last. They propose changes in drill, changes in uniform, and changes in the organisation of the force. They went at their work in a broad and enlightened spirit, and, as befitting men who ride horses, they took an extremely cheerful view of everything, even including the character and disposition towards them of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I cannot honestly say that I shall be able to follow them in all the recommendations for expenditure which they made. But Lord Roberts, who has carefully considered their report, has come to the conclusion that we ought largely to increase them, and the title under which we propose to do it is the Imperial Yeomanry, now consecrated to us by excellent service in South Africa. Their uniform will be khaki, giving them a proper interval in which to change the present uniform at a minimum of loss. I say nothing of the officers, who may, perhaps, require to keep their mess uniform. We do not want to interfere with these old arrangements, but there must be a change of arms. It is impossible for us to contemplate training, the Yeomanry for sword practice, and Lord Roberts is strongly of opinion that the sword must be given up. He wishes them to be armed with a shortened rifle and bayonet. The officer will probably retain the sword, and in the further arming of the Yeomanry it is a question whether we should substitute the revolver for the sword. There is a great difference of opinion on that subject, but I will not detain the House by discussing it to-night. When I suggested to a friend, a Member of this House, that a revolver was more than an equivalent at close quarters to a sword, he said, "If you had to try it you would not think so." I invited him to bring his sword into Hyde Park the following morning, and I would come there mounted and with a revolver, and we would see who was the better man. I am bound to say that, although my friend did not accept the combat, he turned my flank, for he said, "It is all very well when one is pitted against one, but it is a very serious thing to go into a charge with a lot of men with revolvers in their hands," and he instanced the case of an officer in the charge at Omdurman who succeeded in putting a bullet into one of his own troopers and another into his colonel's horse. Consequently I do not propose to solve the great question whether Yeomanry should be given revolvers or a sword.

The reorganisation will be on these lines. We shall train them for eighteen days, of which fourteen days will be obligatory. They will be trained in camp. The pay will be 5s. a day, with ration allowance and forage. The officers will receive cavalry Army rates and a consolidated pay of 10s. for rations and forage. But the greatest change we make, and which we think will bring in a large number of men, is the giving to each Yeoman who brings a horse of his own £5 a year. In the case of those who have not got horses of their own, we propose to provide them with a Government horse, which we believe we can do by developing that excellent system of registration by which for 10s. a year we obtained 14,000 of the very best horses on the very day we required them. We propose to extend that system by paying £5 a year to obtain a month's use of a horse as well as the registration. That will enable us to find mounts for these Yeomen who are unable to find horses for themselves. We propose that each regiment shall be of four squadrons making 500 men, and we propose to keep up all the county associations, to retain distinctive titles, and we shall try through the lord lieutenants of counties to form fresh regiments in other counties. We propose to bring the force up to a total strength of 35,000. Before I leave this subject I wish to say that I trust the day is not far distant when some of our colonial brethren who have given us mounted assistance during this war will be willing, subject to the consent of their own Government, to keep up mounted contingents, also under the title of Imperial Yeomanry, who, when occasion demands, will be available to join our own Yeomanry should they ever volunteer to go abroad.

Now we come to the Volunteers. I am not going to speak at any great length about them. Everybody knows what their past has been; and do not let it be supposed that I am wanting in appreciation of the Volunteers when I say that what we desire in the Volunteer force is not so much numbers as efficiency. Those Volunteers who are to be members of the army corps must be efficient, or they will be absolutely worthless. You cannot brigade men with regular troops unless you get a certain training from them. What we are going to do with the Volunteers is this. We shall offer that each of these special twenty-five battalions of infantry shall attend camp for thirteen days, exclusive of their coming and going, and we shall give each man a daily grant of 5s., paid to the corps, and to each officer a daily grant of 11s. 6d. We shall require that every man shall have attended ten drills before he comes into camp that year, thirty, of course, if be is a recruit. We shall also require that every man shall have done his musketry for the year. We propose to give them such training in manœuvring and reconnaissance as will make them really valuable members of the corps. We propose to give a special train-ting to the fifteen batteries of field artillery which will form part of the army corps, and we have ordered, and I hope shall be in a position to place in the hands of the Volunteers before very long, in substitution for their present heavy guns, which are not of sufficient range, 4.7 guns, which will be placed in the positions selected for the defence of London. The remainder of the Volunteers will have the opportunity of going to camps as heretofore, but under rather more stringent conditions. We shall also require of them to have done a certain number of drills before they go into camp, and in future, not this year, we shall require—instead of thirty drills in the first year, thirty in the second year, and twelve in the third —thirty in the first year, thirty in the second year, and twenty in the third year. If Volunteers cannot fulfil these conditions, then we think we are better with a rather smaller force in camp, but a more efficient one. There is one other remark which I must make. There are at present a certain number of Volunteer companies of mounted infantry. They are very useful in their way, but we cannot have two forces of dissimilar description grouped together. After this year we shall have to ask these Volunteer mounted infantry either to make themselves a nucleus of the Imperial Yeomanry or attach themselves to one of the regiments.


Are you doing anything to improve the training of Volunteer officers?


We shall take steps by means of schools, but this is one of the numerous questions which have been before us. We fully realise that officers in both, the Militia and Volunteers will require further opportunities for training. When they are being trained all their expenses are to be paid.

*SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

What is the proportion between the Line regiments and the Volunteers in the last three army corps?


I think there will be one division of the Line and two divisions of Volunteers.

*MR. M'CRAE (Edinburgh, E.)

Is there any proposal to pay Volunteers going into ordinary camps? That is very important.


They will get a rather larger sum, 2s. 6d. instead of 2s., and the officers will get 8s. instead of 4s., but we shall put them under rather more stringent regulations as to the time they stay in camp.

Therefore the net result of our proposals is this. We free a very considerable body of Regulars from garrison service for field service; we make up our Militia to war strength; we provide adequate artillery and mounted troops for all our army corps; we train better the Volunteers, who are to be given special grants. We shall have an additional number of Regulars — namely, 11,500; we shall have 50,000 more Militia in the new Militia Reserve; we shall have 25,000 more Yeomanry; and we shall have 40,000 more trained Volunteers. The net addition, therefore, under my scheme will be 126,500 men, and that, even allowing £60,000 for the staff of the new army corps, will be achieved by an expenditure of a little under £2,000,000. Before I say a word on central organisation I should like to clear away some mistakes which have entered into people's minds with, regard to the efficacy of our present arms.

Questions as to the number of men are for politicians to decide on the advice of experts; but when you come to the range and power of artillery and the efficacy of rifles, obviously we have reached a point at which experts must be our sole guides. I have asked Lord Roberts to give me his opinion on the efficacy of our artillery in South Africa. His views are as follows— The testimony of generals in command and of our artillery officers, in which opinion I coincide, is that our field artillery gun is on the whole a good and effective weapon. It has powerful shrapnel; it has accuracy; it has moderate weight behind the teams, all of which are important elements in artillery guns. It is entirely satisfactory in these respects. The open country and clear atmosphere of South Africa have shown that, as regards range and power, an improvement is necessary. This has, to a certain extent, been effected during the war by the provision of slow-burning fuses. As regards rapidity of fire, some improvement is certainly necessary, and the matter is now under consideration. Our horse artillery gun needs improvement in several respects, and a Committee is now sitting to consider how its shortcomings can best be remedied. I may here say, with regard to these matters, that I have put some £50,000 into the Estimates with a view to meeting any immediate provision which the Committee may suggest. A want which has been brought to light by the war in South Africa is the necessity of having a proportion of heavy guns to accompany the Army in the field, to be worked not as guns of position, but as a more deliberate and slowly-moving field gun. A good deal has been said about the impediment of such guns on the march. No doubt they do take up room, but they have the compensating advantage of a heavy shell at long range, and that outweighs the disadvantages. We have already put on order 200 of the 4.7 guns, which are. I believe, of the precise calibre which it is desired to use as heavy field artillery. I hope they will be coming in very shortly. The House will see that Lord Roberts's opinion, subject to that modernising which all artillery is undergoing at the present time, is that we have no reason to be dissatisfied with the artillery gun, which I remember was accounted by our experts about three or four years ago still to be the best field gun in Europe. Then I have asked Lord Roberts to give me a Report as regards our rifle. We have heard a great deal about the Mauser rifle and its advantages as compared with our own Lee-Metford. I believe that these ideas have received no confirmation by the war. Lord Roberts says— Our rifles have stood the test of the campaign admirably as regards range, accuracy, mechanism, solidity, and thoroughness of their manufacture. But they would he still more suitable for Army purposes if they were a little shorter and a little lighter, because they could then be used by cavalry as well as infantry. These changes can, it is believed, be made without in any way affecting their range and accuracy. Experiments have been tried with an improved sight on a shortened and lightened rifle. I have read these opinions verbatim, because I believe they will be very reassuring to the House.

But I realise that, even if we provide the Army with a proper number of men and efficient weapons and good officers, it would be absolutely useless unless we can to some extent meet the defects which have been shown to exist in the drill and training of our troops. I said just now that we hoped to get less barrack square drill, and I should like to add that, if possible, I hope we may get less sentry-go. I believe that sentry-go is the most paralysing effort of the soldier's life. It is certainly not good for health, and not of any advantage to the young soldier. With regard to drill, in which I am somewhat out of my depth, I believe the German manual exercise has got three positions and that our manual exercise has ten positions. I cannot help thinking that the fewer positions and more musketry training you can give to our soldiers the better. And I think this bears also on the question of getting recruits. There is no doubt that this increased training of the soldier does to a great extent make his life during the time he has to be trained a harder one. I do not propose to deal again, as we did three years ago, with the question of the soldier's pay. I have myself the gravest doubts whether any increased pay we could give, unless we gave something like double, would really bring in a different stamp of recruit. It has often been said how recruits are attracted to the Army, but a great deal of it is due to locality and to association. It may interest the House to know that I have received from a high quarter a Return of the benefactions made by her late Majesty last year to those families who have got the largest number of sons serving in the Army. I find that of three sons in the Army in one family there were no less than 100 cases; four sons, 176 cases; five sons, 142 cases, six sons, 74; seven sons, 20; eight sons two; nine sons, one case; and one instance of ten sons serving in the Army. I think that shows that there is a considerable military feeling in certain families and in certain localities. What we are doing for the soldier this year is that we hope to make his life easier; we hope to give, by means of Garrison Battalions and Militia Reserves, something like a career for those soldiers who wish to go back to the Army.

Lord Roberts is very anxious—and I entirely agree with him—that we should also try in some of our new barracks the experiment of cubicles, and in other respects see whether we can give more comfort in barracks. We also propose to change the dress of the Army this year, leaving the full-dress, which is absolutely necessary for the attraction of recruits, but having the same dress for fighting as for other work in this country. That will give the great advantage that when a regiment is ordered abroad it has in its possession, except its full-dress, the exact dress required for fighting in all circumstances, instead of having to be completely re-equipped. In doing this we have considerably improved the material and have added some underclothing as well.

But if the difficulty of training the men is great, the difficulty of training the officers is much greater. I am not altogether satisfied that Woolwich and Sandhurst provide us with all the training we ought to expect in an officer. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn put to me a question of a very pregnant description when I was answering questions one day last June on behalf of the Under Secretary to the War Office, in which he wanted to know the precise dates on which Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, General French, and three or four other generals had left the Staff College. I was not able to oblige him. The dates had escaped my memory at the time, and Lord Roberts has not been able to refresh it. I am afraid there is no doubt, without saying a word against the Staff College, that it has been proved that men without a Staff College training have made a very fair hand at military affairs. Although I do not in the least degree prejudge what should be done, I do feel that the time has come to ask a small Educational Committee to report to us on the education given at Woolwich and Sandhurst and to consider whether or not any change in the system of admitting candidates to the Army should now take place. This is not an immediately pressing matter, for this reason—we must give commissions to a large number of men this year, and I hold, and I believe the House will hold, that the first claim on our attention for commissions in the Army are the men who in various capacities have gone out with the Militia and Regular troops to serve in South Africa, and have given satisfaction to their commanding officers. I propose to put at the disposal of Lord Kitchener a very considerable number of commissions this year, to be allotted on the reports of the commanding officers; and I beg here to make this statement, because I know a deluge of letters will reach mo otherwise, that I have no influence whatever with Lord Kitchener. In all probability it would rather go against the man if I were to interfere on his behalf. When we come to the drill and training of officers I do not want to be misunderstood. We say most distinctly that we shall require from officers in the future a larger share of professional spirit in the Army. I do not want to say a word against the accomplishments on which young Englishmen pride themselves and which add to their courage and endurance—whether it be polo, or hunting, or steeplechasing or cricket or any other manual acquirement. I clearly realise what the ad- vantages of those acquirements are to the Army. But it is not enough that our officers, when they get into action, should be brave or should be willing to volunteer to rush to the front. We must make it clear that professional requirements are to come first. While we will do our very best to get the cream of the youth of Great Britain into our Army, we must get out of the Army those who do not mean to enter it in a professional spirit. Before I leave this question of the training of officers, let me say that I must come to the House and ask for facilities for the carrying on of manœuvres—facilities which are in the interest of the country, even it at the expense of private individuals—in order to make things more easy than they are at present. We must at least give the officer a chance of learning his trade.

There is one subject which is of interest to the House on which I must say a word. That is, the restricted field we have for obtaining officers by reason of the enormous expenses to which they are put. Nothing could be more difficult to deal with than this subject. I do not myself believe in sumptuary laws. They have been tried by many monarchs, but they have never succeeded; and to lay down that no mess is to charge more than 3s. for dinner, or that no one is to drink champagne is absurd. But there are some things that you can do. There is, first, the ridiculous expense of dress in the Army. If the House will pardon me I will give the chief prices of our uniforms and of those in the German army. I take prices of uniforms in the German army, in the stores of this country, and at a fashionable tailor's. Trousers in the German army cost. 25s., in the stores in this country 66s., and at the tailor's from 55s. to 105s. The highest price of tunics in the German army is 54s., the lowest store price here is 125s., and at the tailor's 108s. The great-coat of the German officer costs 70s. Our store price is 118s., and at the tailor's 168s. The forage cap in Germany is 5s., and £1 here. The items which approach each other are dog-skin gloves, which are 4s. in Germany and 4s. 3d. here, the difference perhaps being accounted for by the tax on dogs. The result is, that the cost to a second lieu- tenant entering the German army is £18 12s. 6d.; here at the stores the cost is £48 12s., and at the tailor's £86. I propose to establish a system of getting good cutters and makers, by which officers will be able to get from our Government establishments uniforms at cost price. The difficulty about that, again, is the same difficulty as besets us about the expenses of chargers. In a smart regiment I do not think that a Government tunic would be looked at. In the same way a Government horse is never taken in some regiments. We have supported the excellent arrangement by which an officer bound to provide himself with a horse is entitled to take one or two chargers by paying £10 to the Government for each horse—an excellent bargain to the officer. I think what we aim to do in these matters cannot be done by legislation or by Army Orders, but it can be done, we think, by influence. I think that Lord Roberts is prepared to call together the colonels of cavalry regiments when they return to England and put before them the difficulty which we are under of getting cavalry officers, owing to the enormous expense. I think we shall find that expensive corps do not always mean efficient colonels. In cases in which we find that young officers are unable to enlist because of the extravagance on the part of the corps, we may have to revise the arrangements as a whole, leaving aside the fact that a very rich man must always be allowed to spend his money as he likes if he does not infect others.

Now we come to the next and, to many Members, the most interesting part of Army reform, and that is the reform of the War Office. I am not in a position to-night to enter into that engrossing topic the Order in Council. A good deal has been said about it lately in another place, but I am not able to go into it at length for two reasons. In the first place, Lord Roberts, who communicated with me on this subject before returning to England, entirely concurred with the Government in believing that at this moment, with all we have upon us, it is more important that we should carry on the business of bringing the war to a conclusion, preparing the Estimates, and getting ready our scheme for this year rather than in occupying our minds in mending the machinery by which the scheme is to be carried out. In the second place, Lord Roberts, not having before been at the War Office, was willing and anxious to have the experience of the War Office before he made up his mind as to whether any and what change was necessary. I will ask the House, therefore, to defer the subject for a short time. I have myself no strong preconceived opinions in regard to some of the points at issue. In the first place, I cannot contemplate any sort of struggle between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State for predominance. As far as Lord Roberts is concerned, when I was at the War Office before and he was not, I think that on almost every occasion of any difficulty I asked for his advice. I asked for it when he was in command in Ireland. My own feeling is that outside the charmed circle of the War Office there is almost as good advice to be got as is to be got inside, and I think the Secretary of State has not merely a right, but a duty, to make himself personally acquainted with a large number of officers. I myself have always endeavoured to see, without distinction, any officers returning from South Africa from high commands there. The position at this moment as regards the supervisional control of the various military officers is one which must be considered as time enables us to consider it, and we shall not unduly put it off.

But to my mind, far beyond all regulations, and all laws, and all arrangements for division of duty, is the consideration that there should be hearty co-operation and mutual understanding between the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief; and I, of course, am specially fortunate as Secretary of State in having to deal with a Commander-in-Chief fresh from the command of 220,000 men in the field, who has got at his fingers' ends every detail of the military problems and has seen the work in the field of every officer he may have to appoint. Happy is the Minister who finds himself in such a case; and I have no fear that, in respect to reform of the War Office, anything will suffer from deferring for a short time the solution of these problems. But, Sir, let the House of Commons under- stand that the predominance of the Secretary of State in War Office matters is not nearly so much a predominance which he may desire himself as that which is forced upon him by the House of Commons. Take the last day or two. I could not come down here and say even that I have left to Lord Kitchener the arrangements with regard to prisoners and refugees without myself being urged to interfere with Lord Kitchener. I had to argue a week ago the question of courts-martial and other important questions of that kind. There was a general desire on the part of the House that the power of the civil Government should make itself responsible for the action taken by the chiefs of the Army. The main amount of interference with military affairs is caused by civilians in the House of Commons itself, who desire the personal influence of the Secretary of State in all departments.

Before I leave the War Office let me say that I have myself asked for a Committee to advise us as to the changes that are necessary. I believe great changes are necessary. I am prepared to make them. At the same time I do ask that different and divergent questions may not be mixed up with any mistakes of the system there may be in the War Office. I hear nothing and read nothing but these unmitigated indictments of all that has been done by that Department— ascribing to the War Office all the failures that have occurred during the war. I believe that to be a grave injustice. This House and the Government and various Governments have told the War Office to organise with a view to a certain state of things. They have had to provide for sending double or treble the men abroad contemplated under their organisation. During the last fifteen months I believe the supplies for our Army have not been equalled in our history or in that of any nation in any war that ever took place. Lord Roberts himself states that the supplies sent to South Africa were ample in all respects for men as well as animals. Lord Roberts states— My wishes were always forestalled with regard to them. It is true that men did not always receive full rations, but that was caused by the length of the lines of communication and the difficulties of distribution.' I think that is a very considerable testimony. I think the fact that, without breakdown, the organisation, against great difficulties, has dealt with this war during the last eighteen months requires some consideration from the House, and I think it would be very hard if the House does not associate with this result the services of the Adjutant General, Sir Evelyn Wood, who has managed to find men as fast as they could be shipped; the Quartermaster General, Sir C. Mansfield Clarke, whose department has never been found wanting: and, last but not least, the Director General of Ordnance. Sir H. Brackenbury, who has had to meet demands never dreamt of in the supply of military stores and has never yet fallen short. It would be hard on them if they were not associated in the commendation of the House with those civilians who had worked not only from morning to night, but until advanced hours of the morning, to see that the War Office was not found wanting.

But I entirely concur with those who think that the system of the War Office should be remodelled. I believe the great unpopularity of the Department is due to the fact that it is dilatory and too much tied up by regulations. It may be that the War Office system of dealing with letters is a dilatory system. The number of letters delivered at the War Office is 3,500 a day, which requires to be dealt with—a correspondence which is on a scale unexampled in any other Department, and, I believe, in most private businesses. It needs an admirable system to work operations of that kind. I have, however, laid down a variety of reforms which I trust may have some effect. In the first place, I have laid it down that all letters that do not involve reference to other Departments must be answered on the day. Secondly, I have largely stopped the Minutes from one person to another, holding, as I do, that if people cannot agree by writing a Minute on either side, they had better meet and settle the question. But I am sorry to say we have yet to teach officers at a distance that business habits are as essential as good military discipline. Perhaps the House will allow me to give one or two illustrative instances of what I mean. Shortly after I took office I received a letter from a Reservist who had made application to join the South African Constabulary, and who for two months had waited without receiving an answer. I made inquiry, and I was told that the man ought not to write to the Secretary of State, and I quite agree with that; but it is difficult to debar a man from taking some means to get an answer. But I wished to know whether the man was to be allowed to go or not, and I waited a considerable time for an answer. I waited a fortnight, and, hearing nothing, I wrote again, requesting a prompt reply, for which I waited another week. Then I sent a telegram saying that I must know, and still nothing came. At the end of the fourth week I thought the time had come to exercise my authority. I indicated to the authorities that if I did not receive an answer on the following morning somebody would go on half-pay. I got an answer the next morning. The application had gone about among military officers, but meanwhile the man's case was not settled, as it should have been. In consequence of the multiplication of such cases as this it became necessary that the Adjutant General should lay down a regulation that all officers should open their own letters. I do not mean that they should not employ clerks, but that each officer should be responsible for seeing the work done. I certainly think that the interest of the public service demands that a man under discipline who makes such an application should have a prompt reply. Here is another case. A paper came before me last November, and that paper was in relation to the question whether a particular cottage should be shut up, or pulled down, or repaired at an expenditure of £130. Then I ascertained the history of that paper. It started in 1896, and came to me in November, 1900. In the interval it had been touring about between three military officers. In the second year it reached the War Office, and the Assistant Under Secretary sent it to the Commander-in-Chief, who gave certain orders. Then, as officers had been changed meanwhile, it went again on its peregrinations, and the result was that, after four years, the matter stlil remained unsettled. I sent it to Lord Wolseley, requesting him to see that whatever orders he gave were executed. Making a little more inquiry, I learned the result, which reminds me of the trial of the pig in "Alice," for deserting his sty, the pig being found when sentence was pronounced to have been dead for some years. So, in this case, I found that the cottage over which all this had taken place had been shut up three years ago by order of the sanitary authority. Dealing with such cases, I cannot but remember that we have got to teach a body of men to whom we delegate large powers, which some of them use admirably, that business habits must be enforced.

But I realise fully that neither rewards or penalties will carry us as far as we should go in this matter. You will not secure loyal service unless you retain the confidence of those who servo you. Too long there has been supposed to be a distinction between the civil and military departments at the War Office. There seems to be an assumption in the Army that duty to the Commander-in-Chief does not include the service of the War Office as such, and that the saving of money was not the saving of the country's money but the War Office money. Now, I wish to do everything in my power to remove this feeling. Lord Roberts is working with me in every respect, and I with him, to make the Army feel that loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief means loyalty to the War Office also. We cannot get rid of the civilian element, and I do not wish in any way to reflect on the admirable service of the eminent men who have served the War Office. Among the younger men, especially with high attainments, there is an ambition to render the best service in their power; still I think that the hard and fast line between the civil and military elements at the War Office should, so far as is consistent with the interests of the public service, be broken down. For many years it has been the custom of the Secretary of State to be, as it were, in laager encircled by civilians, with a civilian Under Secretary, a civilian Parliamentary Secretary, a civilian Financial Secretary, and a civilian private secretary; and through this hedge it was difficult for a military officer to approach him. Now, I have done what I can to break down this division. In the recently appointed permanent Under Secretary—Colonel Ward—we have a man of recent brilliant military experience, and recommended by Lord Roberts as the best military organiser for the post that he knew. I think myself most fortunate in having secured him. In the Parliamentary Under Secretary we are so fortunate as to have an officer who has served in the Guards and is one of the best Militia colonels, and who has ever taken the greatest interest in the service. Then, as the House well knows, as Financial Secretary we have my noble friend, whose services we are happy in securing after his recent South African experience, and who brings a fresh breezy atmosphere into the War Office. My private secretary is an officer of South African experience, and renders me the greatest possible assistance. We wish to carry this principle as far as we, can; and I. think there are many posts that can be most usefully filled by officers who can no longer go on active service, and more especially among those who have suffered in the war. I hope to take further steps in this direction, but for any general change in business I must wait to hear the conclusions arrived at by the, Committee which has given so much time and attention to the subject.

To pull together what the House has allowed me to say, our object is to re-organise the Army, giving full equipment and stores, by strengthening the Regular military force, by bringing the Auxiliary forces up to strength and improving their training, by changes in drill and uniform, by training, by reform of War Office administration, the Medical service and the Transport service. On some points I cannot undertake that we will move in the present year. I have any number of cases brought before me every day involving what I may call immediately unproductive expenditure—the maintenance of schools, of cadet corps, the establishment of Volunteer reserves, the encouragement of rifle clubs—all these involve expenditure of large sums of money, and which, however ultimately desirable, do not conduce to immediate efficiency of the Army, and I must be content for the present to do as I have said. We shall ask the House to main- tain an Army of about 155,000 at home, a Reserve of 90,000, Militia 150,000, Yeomanry 35,000, and 250,000 Volunteers at least, allowing for some deductions under the more stringent conditions of service. We ask the House to take on the Estimates 680,000 men, the Field Army absorbing 260,000, the garrisons at home 190,000, the Volunteers for London defence 100,000, and the various staffs 4,000, so that in all we have 560,000 men allotted to various positions, giving a margin of 120,000 for recruits not trained, the sick, and other deductions in time of war. It is an organisation that may well tax the best energies of the War Office.

I know there are many gaps in the details of ray statement and much that I have omitted. What I have aimed to do is to establish a standard up to which we can work and by which we can know what remains to be done. I must ask the House to look with favour on what I have attempted. I have been but four months in office, and I have had the advantage of Lord Roberts's advice for only half that time. During this time we have had to maintain 200,000 troops in South Africa and to equip and despatch 30,000 additional troops and to keep up the stores and supplies. The various reforms I have sketched out have involved an enormous amount of work at the War Office and a prodigious amount of correspondence. Added to this there have been more questions in the House and more debates in the House than ever War Minister had to engage in within such a period of time. The claims on my time have been great, and I mention this in. no tone of complaint, but rather to secure the indulgence of the House towards any imperfections they may find in the scheme I have placed before them. Moreover, there is at all times to be dealt with the current business of a great Department, which I have seldom been able to take up before the evening. Complaint would be out of place, for no man feels more than I do how much every effort which we can make is due, and how small that effort is compared with the efforts which we have required of our troops in South Africa in the last fifteen months. And when I think of the 10,000 or 12,000 men whose lives have been given for the country in this war, and the much larger number of men who have come home suffering from wounds and disease, I cannot help feeling that by far the highest monument which we can raise, and the best recognition which we can give to their heroism is by founding on their experience an army system adequate to defend their countrymen at home, and to fulfil the demands necessarily made upon us for our colonies abroad. It is because I have been fortified by this feeling that I have felt that we should shrink from no labour, that we should shirk no difficulty, and fear no criticism, and I have a profound conviction that it is possible to build up an army that will be adequate to our needs. And I cannot but hope that, long after the discussions which divide us with regard to the war and to other political topics have been forgotten, it may be written in the history of this Government—yes, and of this Parliament—that they have unflinchingly set their hands to the great national work of the reform of the Army, and thereby gained both for the Government and for Parliament the abiding gratitude of their fellow-countrymen.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."— (Mr. Brodrick.)


I propose to ask leave of the House to withdraw the motion in order to carry out the pledge I gave yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman opposite.


That will be in accordance with the understanding. May I say that I should ill express the feeling of the House if I did not congratulate the right hon. Gentleman not only on the substance, but on the manner of the statement he has made.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the of Supply.—(Mr. Balfour.)

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]